The Joy of the Broken Urinal Blues


Half the world has no idea what it is like for a guy to piss in a rock and roll club.  Women are better for it.

Last week I went out to see my buddies in the band Volcker.  (Yea, the former Fed Chair.  They sling their rock with intellectual asides.)  The venue was the soon to be torn down Ash Street Saloon.  As what passes for civilization marches through Portland, one great club after another it being replaced by expensive housing.  Two whiskies in I needed to use the facilities.  Mid-stream I realized that when these clubs go, so do the unique men’s restrooms.  So, being a 21st century man I recorded the passing of a classic rock club men’s room.

As such restrooms go, the Ash Street wasn’t bad.  All the plumbing worked.  There was no line.  The floor was mostly dry.  The art work and graffiti were generally non-offensive.  I have seen worse.

The much lamented punk club Satyricon featured a device known to regulars as the “piss trough.”  Don’t ask.  For reasons I have never understood, some drunk men decide to work out their anger in club restrooms.  Some dude took the cover off the toilet at the old Mt. Tabor and used it to pulverize the rest of the plumbing.  This would have been a passing strangeness but for years after the broken porcelain remaining in service, more or less.  At my 90’s favorite La Luna, the doors were ripped off the stalls and not replaced.  Once in awhile the staff painted over the walls with deep red paint allowing another layer of graffiti to appear.  Note, I believe that site is now a restaurant.


The penis is a sketchy fluid delivery device. Generally dependable but lacking in accuracy.  Compound that with a wall lined with uninals, a few hundred men and a few thousand beers and…well…you get the picture.  A common feature of men’s restrooms in clubs is a layer of urine and water on the floor.  Roseland is especially known for this phenomenon.  Ever notice the wet trail from the restroom.  Now you will.  I sometimes look at women leaving their facilities with dry feet and sigh.

Once at a Marshall Tucker Band show in a park in Southern Maryland when the line finally let me in the room I discovered that creative drunk souls had adapted all the sinks as uninals.  I wish I could say that this was an outlier of male behavior, but it wasn’t the last time I saw such creativity in the the face of “having to go so bad!”  Yea, men are barbarians.

I am not really sure why the men’s restroom has long existed at the junction of artistic expression and aggression.  Possibly the reigning king in Portland is Dante’s.  Besides the art and broken fixtures there is an amazing series of improvised fixes.  A replacement wooden door to a stall seemingly gnawed by giant termites gives one pause.  As each new chuck of the door disappears, a new coat of black paint is slathered to salve the wound.

There is a massive upside to all this degradation.  Be honest, sometimes, after a few beers  there is a visceral satisfaction to a long, closed-eyed piss.  Many times in the midst of just such a moment I pause to consider what I am hearing all around me.  My “moment of zen” is realizing that I have the joy of relieving myself with some of the best artists in the world playing live behind me.  How often to you get to go to the restroom with Buddy Guy or BB King or Sleater-Kinney or the Foo Fighters as background music.  Honestly, for such a mundane bodily function does it ever get any better?

Just watch your step on the way out.

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