Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sparky Town

324 Burnet Ave., Syracuse, NY 13203
Grade: A-

This men's room does a lot with an extremely small space. The facilities are clean and functional, but I really love the little touches such as the exposed brick around the door. There is no wall-mounted paper towel dispenser, but the metal basket used for holding the towels on the back of the toilet is nice. I definitely appreciate the inclusion of a box of tissues, as many restrooms ignore this option and leave you to blow your nose on harsh toilet paper.

The only minor drawback is that it is quite a reach from the toilet to the roll of toilet paper. Also, I would like to see some more color in the walls, as opposed to the simple white and cream tile arrangement they currently have. The tiles only cover the lower half of the walls, so the upper half could potentially be painted. All things considered, though, this is a nice, cozy bathroom.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts (Outside of the Alumni Concert Hall)

5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Grade: A

I'll wrap up my leftover Pittsburgh coverage with this restroom outside of the CMU College of Fine Arts Alumni Concert Hall, where I went to see Sleigh Bells this May. Now, the restroom itself probably does not quite deserve the generous grade above. It is a functional, clean, old university bathroom. There are some nice touches: the brass sink hardware, the strange recessed window, the dorky shadow puppet hand-washing decal that reminds you that, after all, this is CMU.

I will admit to some serious bias here; the grade I've given is more for sentimental value than anything. A sequence of scenes from "Wonder Boys" (one of my favorite movies, and one that will of course always give me nostalgic thoughts about Pittsburgh) takes place in the hall directly outside of this restroom. A perhaps not-so-interesting fact: in the film, Robert Downey, Jr.'s character (Terry Crabtree) drags Tobey Maguire's character (James Leer, who is nearly unconscious on codeine and whiskey) out of the lecture hall and towards the bathroom, where he can vomit in peace. In the film, they move away from the direction of the actual restroom.

The Sleigh Bells shows was actually the first time I had ever visited that building, and it slowly dawned on me as I was standing there that this was where the scenes had been filmed. I knew at the time that I would be leaving Pittsburgh--my home for the past seven years--in a little over a month, and it was a very bittersweet moment.

So there you have it. Bathrooms apparently have the capacity to make me emotional.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Remedy Restaurant and Lounge (2nd Floor)

5121 Butler St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Grade: B-

I'll continue my coverage of Pittsburgh spots (based on leftover photos that I've never utilized) with Remedy's second-floor unisex restroom. This falls into the category of crappy bathrooms that are supposed to be that way, man. The facilities themselves are sort of not the point; to be honest, the place is so dark and covered with so much graffiti that's it hard to tell how clean it really is on any given night. There's a toilet, urinal, sink, and roll of paper towels (that almost always falls off of its poorly-designed wall-mounted holder when utilized). The door locks, and though there is usually a wait the line tends not to be too long. I have, on occasion, seen the customary pump bottle of soap replaced with a squeeze condiment bottle. People get drunk here, dance to occasionally crappy (and occasionally brilliant) music, and use this bathroom. It does its job.

The huge graffiti skull that covers the restroom's only window is a signifier for the obvious--this place invites wall tags. To complain about the copious graffiti would, perhaps, be missing the point. No one is going to be scrubbing tags off of these walls unless it is something offensive to the establishment's relatively liberal (do I generalize?) clientele. My problem with this is that they don't seem to carry the concept quite far enough. If you are going welcome it, why not promote even more creative and colorful wall art? The vast majority of the tags are in black or silver ink, and with the bathroom's dark green walls, the overall feeling is just sort of drab and unimpressive when it could be fun. I'd like to see more stuff along the lines of that skull, but that's just me. Right now, it sits on the border of actually crappy and cool crappy, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming the owners at least mean for it to be cool.

Remedy has a third floor restroom which is truly crazy, but I somehow lost all of the pics I had taken during my last visit. Next time I'm in PGH, I'll get those photos and post an update.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Colonial Laundromat/Original Italian Pizza (Downtown Syracuse)

489 James St., Syracuse, NY 13203
Grade: C-

First of all, let me say that it is nice that this laundromat has a restroom in the first place. A surprising amount of laundromats I have frequented do not have restrooms, which is quite the inconvenience when you are waiting for your laundry for several hours. Granted, this laundromat is attached to an Original Italian Pizza (as are many Colonial Laundromats in CNY). Still, I appreciate it.

That said, this is a fairly run-of-the-mill unisex public restroom. There is a single toilet and the door locks. The sink does provide good water temperature control and pressure, and the soap is of the foam variety. The facilities do give off the impression of being cleaned fairly frequently, but still feel somewhat rundown (see photo of the cracked door-mounted mirror below, as well as the battered toilet paper dispenser).

There is an automated "Xlerator" hand dryer, which I always love. Also, for some reason the door is for some reason about 1.5 times the width of a standard door, though the image below doesn't really do this justice.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Taco Bell (Fairmount)

3500 West Genesee St., Syracuse, NY 13219
Grade: C-

Strictly utilitarian. Gray wall/floor tiles, automatic hand dryer, manual sink, great water temperature control, locking door. Reasonably clean for a fast food establishment. This might be the definition of a solid C grade if the urinal flushed rather than just filled with more water.

I've been to a lot of Taco Bells and pretty much know what to expect from their restrooms. I'm waiting for the day a Taco Bell men's room wows me with decorative tiles, plants, cinnamon sticks...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Neighbors' House

Hawley Green District
Syracuse, NY
Grade: A+

This is how home restroom decoration is done. My neighbor affectionately referred to it as a "drag queen bathroom." Comfortable and stylish, but not at the sacrifice of functionality.

PJ Dorsey's

116 Walton St. Syracuse, NY 13202
Grade: B+

I can feel my love/hate relationship with Armory Square beginning to form already. Love: close (about a $7 cab ride), large concentration of bars/clubs, good place to go if you want something more upscale than a dive and, at the same time, would not like to be shot. Hate: Basically an abbreviation of Pittsburgh's South Side with all of the interesting "alternative" bars taken out, no dance opportunities outside of your typical Top 40 fare, and the whole area feels very college-y.

PJ Dorsey's is pretty much the typification of everything listed above, and I don't know that I'll ever feel truly comfortable hanging out at  a place like that. What can be said, though, is that their men's room is far nicer than I would have expected. There are plenty of facilities available (three urinals and a toilet stall), and the room is clean with a very modern feel. The tile rises above the utilitarian sort by adding a pleasant earth-toned color scheme.

The soap dispenser is located on the wall behind the sinks, past the hand dryer and next to the door. This means you have to reach a ways back at an awkward angle while washing your hands, and as a result there is a constant pool of water on the ground. I don't see why the dispenser wouldn't have fit along the wall at the sink.

Someone seems to have edited the sticker on the mirror so that instead of "Wash hands after using the toilet," it now reads "Wash hair while using the toilet." I can appreciate this sort of clean humor, when so many men's room walls are covered in crude (albeit often hilarious) garbage.

Also, the framed "Zen Sarcasm" poster on one of the urinal dividers. As far as I can tell, none of the quotes on the poster actually adhere to the definitions of sarcasm with which I'm familiar. This seems to back me up. Gee, what a super clever poster.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Half Penny Pub

321 West Fayette St., Syracuse, NY 13202
Grade: D+

I understand that one shouldn't presume the facilities in a punk/hardcore venue to be absolutely top notch, but can't we at least get a locking door? As I was taking pictures, a gigantic dude with head tattoos opened the door and just stared at me. While using a restroom anywhere, I expect a certain level of privacy from gigantic dudes with head tattoos. Plus, the bathroom is so small and right off of the bar area; if someone were to open the door while you were actually using the toilet, you'd be rather exposed.

The + comes for the stickers on the bottom of the toilet lid.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Half Price Books (Robinson)

219 Summit Park Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15275
Grade: A-

I've got some catching up to do on Pittsburgh spots, so I'll start here...

A book store (and a used book store, at that) has no right to have such an excellent restroom. I pushed open the nondescript white door to find my absolute favorite sort of bathroom - what I have referred to several times already as the "pleasant surprise." I was expecting a typically rundown sloppily-painted white cave in the rear of the building, and instead there were decorative tiles, clean modern facilities and friendly stickers reminding the occupant to conserve paper towels and electricity. The door locks for privacy, which is important because this is (if I remember correctly) a unisex bathroom.

If you're anything like me, your trips to used book stores can last up to two hours at the very least. With such an excursion, a clean and functional restroom is a necessity, and I laud Half Price Books for recognizing this and making an effort when they could have easily ignored it. I would not, however, recommend bringing books into the store's restroom for reading material. Though they are used, so who knows where they've been.

I found out later from the cashier that the restroom had been recently renovated, and she added the disclaimer that it wouldn't stay that way for long. If that's the case, then this is worth checking out while it lasts.

My New House

Hawley Green District
Syracuse, NY
Grade: B+

It's been a minute, but I want to get back into updating this thing on the reg. I've got a whole new city's worth of restrooms to explore!

I'd like to start with the house that we're renting. It was built in 1896 but has been amazingly well maintained. The bathroom itself is a little small, but there are wood floors, plenty of counter space, lots of cubbies for storage, a modern shower head, and vaulted ceilings on one side. Overall, it is charming and cozy.

Usually I stick to public facilities, but I figured to jumpstart the Syracuse adventure I'd give you a peek into where I'm going to be doing the majority of my business for the next year. Stay tuned... there's lots more to come. I promise.