For a Good Time, Call
Photo by Jeanne RiceIf ever you choose to spend an evening trolling Orange County looking for good bathroom-wall graffiti, do not start your evening at Alta Coffeehouse in Newport Beach. You'll only be disappointed: the graffiti is gone. In its place are abysmal patches of fresh white paint that don't even match the restroom's otherwise ecru walls. Think of all the Whitmanesque prose now silenced. Think of it, suffocating under a patch of oppressive white paint, never again to fulfill its graffitic destiny, never again to announce to our full-bladdered brothers and sisters just exactly who was here and who loves whom and who gives good head and who's a motherfucker. Never again! The Man has had his way with the graffiti. The Man has made the graffiti his bitch, if you will. And you will. It's sad, really.
"Anywhere else you want to go?" asked my frustratingly unruffled friend Anthony.
Anthony was on hand not only as a fellow swashbuckling adventurer but also to check out the status of the men's rooms in situations where mere biology (i.e., the lack of lack of ovaries) might preclude me from doing so myself. Clearly he didn't understand the gravity of the situation. It's not his fault, though. He doesn't love bathroom graffiti the same way I do.
I still remember that crazy rush of inspiration I'd get each morning in high school when I'd walk by "Ron Howard is a masteurbator [sic]." You can't pay for that kind of wisdom! But I went one way and graffiti went another; it's as if I forgot it existed until years later when, drunk in a bathroom in Austin, Texas, I fell in love with graffiti all over again. I copied pages and pages of graffiti into a notebook. Sure, I can't find that notebook now, and sure, I can't remember at all what it said, but the important thing is that I'm sure it happened. (Pretty sure.)
I love graffiti! I love its air of self-importance. I love the way it often tries to tell you how to live your life, as if it's your mom! I love that someone felt anything so strongly and deeply that they thought it would be a good idea to whip out a pen and write it on a wall—and not just any wall, but a bathroom wall! "Jesus kicks booty," you say? Indeed! "My friend Carmen let me write on her tits, love Emma," you claim? Sure, why not? Who am I to argue?
But back to the Alta debacle:
I briefly considered asking the woman behind the counter if she could point us in the right direction, but the logistics of this seemed insurmountable. What would I say?
Scenario One: "Hello. I'm looking for graffiti in bathrooms. Do you know where I might go to find some?" She eyes me suspiciously, assuming I'm heading up some sort of undercover bathroom-graffiti sting operation. She clams up, not wanting to rat out her friends. "Gosh, I don't know," she says, wiping down the counter. "There really isn't that much around here. Maybe you should try Los Angeles." Scenario Two: "Hi, do you know where I might go to find some bathroom graffiti?" She eyes me suspiciously, assuming I'm some sort of slimy bitch. "Gosh, I don't know, you freaky, slimy bitch," she says, wiping down the counter.
We were on our own, so we went to Cassidy's where (yet again) we were thwarted by what appeared to be a recent paint job. What the hell? Oh, sure, there was some graffiti: "See Pussy," "LaTour needs Viagra," "Peach, Sunshine I love you," "Crabby Kenny's HB Rocks," but nothing like what we were expecting. Where, oh, where had our summer artists gone?
They were not to be found at the Newport Beach Brewing Company either. "It's too clean," Anthony surmised. "People there would be like, 'Why would I want to write on the walls? That's what e-mail is for.'" Anthony laughed heartily at his own joke.
We sat on a bench outside Crabby Kenny's and had a long heart-to-heart about bathroom graffiti. Had either of us ever seen anyone in a bathroom, pen in hand, creating graffiti? No. And yet you can always find a bathroom (except tonight, apparently) where someone has scribbled on the walls. When does this happen? How does this happen? Why does this happen?
"Oh, God! Wooo, you gotta smell this," I said to Anthony as I held open the bathroom door at the Little Knight.
"Uh, I, well, I don't . . . uh," Anthony stammered, backing away.
"No, it's not that; it's the paint," I explained. "They must have just painted."
It was unmistakable: tangy, pungent, quite fresh, a bit noxious. Unbelievable!
Anthony went into the men's room—also freshly painted—and found the irrefutable remnants of things carved into the wall. Yes! We felt heady and triumphant, probably the same sensation archaeologists experience when they dig into the ground and find fossilized dung. We'd dug into the bathroom and found "Get Beat," "Deez Nuts" and "Your Mom."
Hearing the faint flgelhorns of victory in the distance, and knowing that we were on a bathroom-graffiti winning spree, we stopped at Goat Hill Tavern, where I found the mother lode of bathroom wall graffiti. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, every type of pen imaginable. There was matrimony graffiti: "I love my husband." Anti-matrimony graffiti: "Fuck yourself." More anti-matrimony graffiti: "My friend Chris is getting a divorce. THANK GOD! XXOO, KC." There was posturing: "I AM PUNK ROCK." There was advice: "Little girls shouldn't treat little boys they happen to meet like little gods." There was lots of love for someone named "Goat Hill Dave." There were multiple personalities: "Crazy Girl, Naughty Girl & Funny Girl were here and we rock!" And then there was the kind of stuff that seems to speak for us all: "Quack, Quack." How many times have you found yourself saying the same exact thing?
Oh, sure, you think you don't care, but don't you see? Bathroom graffiti is our history. It's our connection to the past. How else are we to know what some drunk idiot was thinking on Tuesday? By asking him? Bah! Feh! If only it were that easy! You think you can unlock such mysteries of the universe as "see pussy?" or "deez nuts" just by asking? I think not, my friend. You think you can grasp, really feel the way "Crazy Girl, Naughty Girl & Funny Girl were here and we rock!" by just hearing it? Maybe for a little while you'll get it. You'll see pussy and you'll feel it and you'll know deep inside you what they were talking about, and maybe you'll fully grasp the enormity of "deez nuts" or the pure rockingness of that nutty trio affectionately referred to as Crazy Girl, Naughty Girl & Funny Girl. But soon enough you'll go back to your boring corporate existence just like all the rest. And we don't blame you. No—hey, if you can't handle it, that's fine. Few can.
But someday . . .
Someday you'll be out there, and maybe you'll have had a few too many liquids, and you'll really need to pee, perhaps like a racehorse, perhaps like a duck, and you'll go into the bathroom and see the walls, and it'll all come rushing back. I just hope you're ready.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Orange County art and theater scene.