Bathrooms with a view
By Charlie Earthman, Daily Texan, Date 12/11/1989
How many times have you read the old and molding
restroom rhyme beginning, "Those who write on bathroom walls ..."
or "For a good time, call ..."? You know, the ones that appear in
the stalls of every Dairy Queen bathroom in the country.
For the vulgar majority of the bathroom graffiti
in the nation, intellect does not reign supreme.
However, in the clubs and bars in the city of Austin,
things are done a little differently.
Bathrooms have become more than just a necessity
of life, but rather a sort of reflection of society, with graffiti
ranging from simple hygienic rituals to satiric political commentary
mixed with passionate artistic expression.
Of course, we are talking about bars, and it would
be a gross understatement to say that Austin doesn't possess its
own share of what we'll refer to as, say ... "dick" jokes. It does.
However, due to space con/-straints and vulgarity
considerations, we'll overlook this massive segment of Austin graffiti,
concentrating on the finer aspects of restroom expression (besides,
I don't know what the words "snizz" and "cooze" mean).
Right about now, broken-hearted lovers of vulgarity
are probably asking, "what's left?"
Well, for one, bathroom walls have become one of
the largest and strongest bastions of anonymous free speech around.
Where else might you find a Marxist criticism of
capitalism next to advertisements for the best lay in town? Satiric
social commentary abounds on the walls of many restrooms around
Quackenbush's women write "Get damned today! By
the god of your choice," while the Hole in the Wall men scribble
"Austin Police wuz hear."
Word play is always popular with bathroom graffiti
artists. Favorites include, "Urine the money" at the Hole in
the Wall and Yucatan Dan's "You can lead a horticulture, but
you can't make her drink."
Of course, not all bathroom graffiti exactly make,
well ... sense. You know the kind. They're the ones you read 10
times just because they're so weird.
This category would include Quackenbush's "Safety
pup is the antichrist" as well as the Cannibal Club's one-eyed monster
smoking a cigarette believed to contain Elvis Presley's toenails,
with a subsequent caption reading, "R. Malice has just flushed himself
down the toilet to earthquake land." Definitely not the type of
stuff a drunken barfly might understand.
However, it is sometimes these seemingly random
bits of thought that generate the most interest and continuity.
A Texas Chili Parlor female graffitist points out,
"A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle," which
is responded to with, "I can think of a lot more things to do with
a man than a fish can do with a bicycle." This is followed by, "Oh
yeah? Like what?" being finally put to rest with, "I think someone's
missing the point."
One of the most fascinating aspects of Austin's
bathrooms is the amount of surrealistic artwork that appears on
the walls. The best example is the rather large monster drawn on
the south wall of the Hole in the Wall men's room. The creature
covers almost half the entire wall, reaching to heights that even
standing on the toilet seat wouldn't reach.
Similarly, both the old side of Maggie Mae's and
Quackenbush's men's rooms boast rather large eyeball drawings guaranteed
to make you nervous.
The most colorful art can be found at Mercado Caribe,
where the club's reggae image definitely comes off in the painted
Caribbean decor of the bathroom. The women are treated to an ominous
silver moon in a black sky as well as a fiery sun setting on the
ocean, while the men enjoy circling palm trees interlaced with dark
green and red vegetation.
Poetry has similarly found its way onto the walls
of Austin's restrooms.
Lengthy, deep and meaningful poetry is becoming
increasingly common. For example, women at the Hole in the Wall
can read about a "silver sun shining on the sea reflecting off
the flying fish ..." How's that for bathroom talk?
In additon to the always interesting graffiti,
the increasing presence of various functional items painfully demonstrates
that all bathrooms in Austin are not created equal. In this world
of big business bathrooms, condom machines reign supreme, and for
good reason. In today's world, condoms are a necessity for safe
Fortunately, most of Austin's night spots have
seen the light and installed these machines, but some have not.
Similarly, although many are, not all of Austin's bathrooms are
equipped for handicapped patrons - a stipulation that has been long
Interestingly, the difference between masculine
and feminine tastes is reflected in the composition of some of the
bathrooms on and around Sixth Street, most notably at 606. Both
male and female restrooms are immaculate, and these people pay great
attention to detail. For one, the liquid soap in the ladies' room
is a nice pink, while the soap for masculine patrons is clear. Although
pink and clear are both common colors for liquid soap, why the difference?
The condom machines are a different story.
Women at 606 can purchase the Lady Triom condom,
choosing either contoured or non-contoured from the pink machine
while the manly men can use their quarters to purchase Savage Bliss,
the condom with "35 stimulating ridges." You be the judge.
The important point here is that bathrooms perform
other functions in addition to being an excellent medium for graffiti
(and of course, housing toilets).
So the next time you find yourself in a seemingly
disgusting bathroom, simply glance up at the walls, remembering
what one insightful philosopher at the Texas Chili Parlor believes:
"Beware of graffiti - once you read it, you really