Sushi Samba, Seventh & Christopher, in the oh-so-hip West Village
The bathroom at this disturbingly self-important restaurant is many things one does not expect a bathroom to be: confusing, cost-inefficient, involving of interpersonal contact, and quasi-coed-communal. Some questions that sprang to mind when first encountering the Sushi Samba bathroom experience are "why are there sinks that are in barrels?" and "why is there a curtain of leaves surrounding a cluster of sinks that are in barrels" and, perhaps most importantly, "why is this cluster of leaf-shrouded barrel-sinks sitting in the middle of an open space in the basement of the restaurant, and where the heck are the actual toilets?"
To answer the questions:
1) because apparently barrels are common to both Japan and South America, which are the two broadly-defined cuisines fused together to create the Sushi Samba kitchen philosophy.
2) because leaves are apparently also common to both cultures.
3) because it is sort of neat to have a communal sink area, and the toilets are off to your left, each to a private room behind a nondescript door. The private rooms in question are clean, quiet, and painted a lovely shade of teal. There are mirrors in the private rooms but no sinks, which is problematic when one has issues touching one's hair or adjusting one's makeup without having washed one's hands.
Perhaps the most exciting (and disconcerting) thing about the Sushi Samba Bathroom Experience is the guy by the sinks. He turns one of the barrel-sinks on when he sees you leaving your toilet-room, and as you approach the faucet he pumps a little bit of soap into your hand. Once you've rinsed, he opens a towel and gives it to you. He might want to wipe your hands for you, but I was freaked out and pulled away. Protocol, as I understand it, is to put a dollar into the plate in the middle of the barrel-sinks, as gratuity for the hand-washing. In this sense, it is not an entirely free bathroom. But I would say a dollar is worth the amusement.
My experience at Sushi Samba lead to two encounters with things I otherwise doubt I would have ever seen, each of which is a Questionable Bonus Point.
Questionable Bonus Point 1: Involuntarily seeing the naked breasts of the seating hostess, who seriously needs to reconsider wearing a plunging neckline without double-sided tape.
Questionable Bonus Point 2: Claire Danes, in a white YSL dress and silver strappy pointy shoes, getting out of a cab a block from the restaurant looking angry and resentful at the mere mortals standing between her cab and a fabulous party, and seemingly unaware of the extraordinary existence of sinks in barrels not a hundred yards away.
Sushi Samba, Seventh & Christopher, in the oh-so-hip West Village
I was walking home tonight and passed a group of kids - maybe 7 years old - sitting around a fire hydrant playing a foot-counting game. This prompted a number of thoughts, not least of which is "what parents let their children play outside unsupervised at 11pm on west 85th street?" The other, more important thought was that we really do not use foot-counting games often enough when it comes to decision making, and it is my personal responsibility to address this lack.
Foot-counting games, also known as counting-out rhymes, are much much more than your standard eenie-meenie-miney-moe makes itself out to be. The game these kids were playing was "bubblegum," and it goes as follows (with each syllable identifying a different foot going around the circle): Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish / How many pieces do you wish? At this point the person whose foot corresponds with "wish" says a number, and the counter counts that number around the feet. Of course, if you're a brilliant adult like you or I, you know that it's easy as pie to just prethink what number you'd pick so that it lands on you (or doesn't, as the case might be), but for these kids it's truly random. They haven't yet figured out that saying "seven" in a group of three will always wind up with the person to their right, and in a group of four will always be the person to their left. We used to believe we were increasing the randomness by lengthening the counts, so a simple "eenie meenie" sequence grew a tail of "my mother told me to choose the very best one and Y-O-U spells you and out you go go go go go." Obviously.
This is brilliant, of course. This is something we should use more often. It's a more complicated, less sophisticated, more ironically post-hip coin toss. It appeals to the same sentiment that inspired the resurgence in Sea Monkeys, Chia pets, and Slinky coil t-shirts. It involves feet! It involves counting! It incorporates athletic cliches not heard since the mid-80s! (when, after all, was the last time you saw someone play double-dutch?) If you get creative, you can turn jump rope rhymes into foot-counting games! (Cinderella, dressed in yella . . .) It's a conscious return to a time when putting your right foot into the circle was the fairest, most straightforward, most obvious way to figure out an answer. I honestly believe it could replace the United States government. Foot-counting games for president!
posted by Helen at 23:43
Included on the list of of Things That Are Hilarious are the content-related ads powered by Google at the top of this page. Just because I've decided to write about bathrooms does not mean my potential readers are interested in purchasing an "elegant mobile restroom." Unless we're talking really elegant, in which case I guess it's a possibility.
posted by Helen at 12:49
I just started work as an editor/money manipulator for an independent magazine with a moderate distribution, a sarcastic editorial tone, and a liberal bent. This probably doesn't come as a shock to anybody who knows me in the slightest, but the kicker of this particular Very Cool Job is that the magazine in question is Jewish. Or, rather, is geared at Jewish people. As such, a large part of my responsibilities as money manipulator is the asking of money from other people. Today I spent most of the afternoon on the phone with synagogues all over the country, in theory asking for funds but in practice having a prolonged out-of-body experience in which I watched in horrified fascination as my voice rose a half-octave with every phonecall I made (I think it had to do in part with the chipper smile I was wearing on behalf of sounding peppy and upbeat), culminating in a squeak so profoundly high-pitched that a synagogue secretary (named Mary. They are all named Mary. This is something I entirely fail to understand) in San Antonio, TX (a place where I was unaware Jews had infiltrated) was forced to ask me to repeat "hello" six times. Once my voice descended into the range of human hearing, I botched the pitch and was hung up upon.
In more encouraging news, I have decided to start compiling a list of the best places in Manhattan to use the bathroom. This is inspired in equal parts by my previous post to this site, the book "The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms" by J.P.Dunleavy, and my general loathing of public facilities. Thus,
Good Clean Fun, installment the first
The women's restroom at the main branch of the New York Public Library, on the reading room floor (is it 3?).
Clearly a bathroom that has not been renovated in three quarters of a century, it is nonetheless (or possibly to be expected) a wonderful place of heavy porcelain sinks, dark wood framings, and muddled plaster walls. Almost manly, in this bathroom you can feel the age of the building, and can imagine your grandmothers reapplying lipstick in the mirror before going back to the reading room to stare across the green-shaded lamps at the man who will become your grandfather. It is always - always - cold. If you were four years old and couldn't sleep because your covers were too hot, you would go to this bathroom and lie down on the floor. If Gertrude Stein were alive and had to pee, she would use this bathroom. And then write an indecipherable poem about it, which others would declare brilliant. There is soft toilet paper, and the soap smells like almonds.
Bonus points: if necessary, there is ample reading material on hand.
posted by Helen at 23:33
I've been thinking a lot lately about various things (one thing happens to be how I really abhor blogs [certain self-possessed arrogant ones in particular], but that's neither here nor there), and at this point figure that I might as well get them written down in some place or other. Here is as good as anywhere, because this way I don't have to repeat an idea or thought or cause for rage several times to several different people - I can just post the thought, direct my friends to this site, and save myself yet again from the tedious gestures that comprise the maintenance of friendship. Really, who needs social interaction when you have the ability to be a self-published diarist?
Today's brilliant little gem [somewhat gross in scene]:
At the movies this afternoon, as is the case when one has consumed 64oz of diet coke in a one-hour span, I had to use the facilities with some urgency. Of course the bathroom was packed, and I waited in line for a bit before getting my own stall. Since the stall in question had been so immediately occupied, the toilet seat was still warm.
Now let me tell you, a cold toilet seat is no picnic. Far from it. But few things are grosser than the knowledge that your bare behind is currently touching something that some total stranger's bare ass was touching mere seconds before yours. That is gross, ladies and gentlemen. Not gross enough to keep me from using public restrooms, but gross nonetheless. The grossness is compounded when you consider the reason the bare asses have been touching this toilet seat. Truly, the reality of the expulsion of waste matter into a communal receptacle is totally, utterly, and completely gross. And yet we do it all the time.
The moral of the story: don't stop to think. Icky.
posted by Helen at 21:31