photos by chris ryan
The Portland Mercury Investigative Drinkery Toilet Investigation Squad (PMIDTIS) is a free service for the alcohol-imbibing community of Portland, Oregon. Dedicated to forging a relationship between said community and the restrooms it calls its own, PMIDTIS understands that toilet facility usage is an imperative element of the public drinking experience, and is committed to maintaining the quality of said facilities through dialogue regarding drinkery bathroom units in the greater Portland area. Founding PMIDTIS members Mr. Erik Henriksen and Mr. Justin Wescoat Sanders III--both of whom are rigorously trained in the arts of alcohol consumption and toilet usage--base their evaluations on four separate yet interconnected guidelines: "Cleanliness," "Aesthetics," "Quality of Resources," and "Overall Pizzazz."
KENNEL OR CRAPPER?
This beloved dive bar comes replete with a Bram Stoker's Dracula pinball machine and no fewer than three different dogs roaming the greater bar area. Still, even canine bar patrons expect, and deserve, a topnotch bathroom experience, and on that level, Matador's facility delivers. For a place that Mr. Sanders described as "crassly decorated" and "boasting mangy curs as a significant portion of its questionable clientele," the restroom was surprisingly clean, with an unorthodox commitment to artistic excellence.
JWS III: Did you notice the stall with the duct-taped toilet blocked off with an orange construction cone? 'Twas a brilliant homage to the German conceptual art movement of the early 1960s. Just brilliant.
EH: That was just there to keep people from using the toilet.
JWS III: Yes, that crossed my mind, too, but then I spied the archaic pull-down rotating cloth towel drying device, which rounded out the theme of dated period authenticity.
EH: Those pull-down rotating towels suck. Using one's like drinking someone else's backwash with your hands. Especially when I used the towel to wipe my mouth. Plus, the entryway to the bathroom is way too visible to the general public.
JWS III: I believe they call that "stage fright"? Mm, yes. Heh. Mm.
EH: Fuck you, Sanders. I'm sorry if I have trouble getting things going when there are three chain-smoking women leering at my fine ass.
JWS III: No, I'm not in disagreement. I felt vulnerable myself.
EH: You felt what?
JWS III: Vulnerable. You know, exposed.
JWS III: Look, it was a small challenge to the private side of my masculinity, but I wouldn't expect a homunculus like you to understand such matters.
Not the cleanest, but relatively speaking, pretty damn good. A-
Whether intentional or not, a fascinating homage to '60s-era German conceptual art. A
QUALITY OF RESOURCES:
Pull-down rotating cloth towel dispensers are stylistically intriguing, but a big no-no for actual hand (or in Mr. Henriksen's case, mouth) dryage. C
OVERALL PIZZAZZ: C+
YOUR HOME FOR THE UTILITARIAN TROUGH
A staple of herd-style bathrooms in huge public venues like ballparks and concert arenas, the trough urinal is a rare commodity in Portland, where lowbrow, smalltime watering holes rule. Still, this ancient plumbing apparatus is worth seeking out, if only to witness firsthand the resourcefulness of its design scheme, still unparalleled in thousands of years of human urination. It ain't pretty to look at, but it works, even beneath the most dire conditions. Come rain or snow or sleet or plumbing disaster, the trough will collect your booze-fueled urine in an efficient and timely manner. PMIDTIS is aware of only one other drinking establishment in Portland with a trough--Slabtown--but it pales in comparison to Sassy's unparalleled focus on what Mr. Sanders refers to as "aesthetic beauty" and what Mr. Henriksen refers to as "naked girls, and lots of 'em."
EH: Sassy's rules! They've got a ton of beers on tap and not one, but two naked girls! Dancing! Yes! I declare Sassy's the winner!
JWS III: I don't believe designating "winners" and "losers" is part of the PMIDTIS mission stateme--
EH: The winner, I say! The trough! Didn't you see the trough?
JWS III: Yes, I saw the trough, that cesspool of sweating, jostling manflesh. It's the slaughterhouse of the bar bathroom world. Also, the stainless steel, while functional, is quite aesthetically bereft of--
EH: All the athletics you need are wrapped around the strip pole, man!
JWS III: Not "athletics," aesth--
EH: I LOVES ME SOME STRIPPERS!
JWS III: I don't think "strip pole" is even a word. Now, while Sassy's provided a more-than-adequate, if somewhat impersonal, restroom experi--
EH: It's perfect for going in, getting out, and then getting another beer from the hot bartender! It's rad! I declare it the winner!
JWS III: Yes, Erik, the restroom is very effective, however, I must say that I consider myself an enlightened gentleman, and the moral quandary of sexual exploita--
EH: Shit, you're just mad because you tried to buy a condom from the condom dispenser in the bathroom, and what came out was that awesome heat-activated picture of a naked lady.
JWS III: That picture was a travesty!
EH: C'mon, man. That shit was hot.
JWS III: That's beside the point, Erik. There are drunk people in that bar who rely on those condoms to practice safe sexual intercourse, and what do they get? A cheap joke! It's not even funny.
EH: Why were you buying a condom anyway? It's not like you were going to get laid.
JWS III: I believe one of the, er, "dancers" was giving me "the eye," as it were.
EH: The one who was crazy about doing the splits, or the one who lip-synced "Lowrider" with her labia?
JWS III: On to the rankings!
It's a strip club, what do you expect? We're just happy there wasn't any jizz on the walls. B
Troughs ain't pretty, but naked ladies sure are. A+
QUALITY OF RESOURCES:
If by "condom" you mean "heat-activated picture of naked lady," then D. Otherwise, D-.
The trough can't save an otherwise highly unmemorable facility. B-
THE GLEAMING FACILITIES OF THE YEAR 3000
In the glorious history of the PMIDTIS, there has never been a more perfect marriage of style, function, aestheticism, and hygiene. This ultra-hip homage to the future features an endless array of smooth and shiny countertops, podium-shaped sinks with fountain-style projectile faucets, and a one-sided, eye-level mirror that allows the urinator to watch his fellow bar patrons while "conducting business." Simply put, it doesn't get any better than this.
JWS III: I... I... words fail me, Erik.
EH: What? There was no sink!
JWS III: Yes there was, you dolt. It was that raised rectangular structure with a hole above it. At a mere touch of a tastefully hidden lever, water shoots out of the hole--it's at once a faucet and a delightfully eye-pleasing fountain!
EH: I thought that was the urinal. Shit. Anyway, it was a pretty rad bathroom inside a pretty rad bar. I felt a little weird in my hoodie and cargos, though.
JWS III: I've told you time and again to dress better. As agents of PMIDTIS, we should present ourselves accordingly--
EH: Anyway, this is some serious Star Trek shit. This is how Captain Picard leaves his "captain's log," you know what I'm saying?
JWS III: Ugh. Anyway--
EH: It was like I was truly going where no man had gone before, you know what I'm sa--
JWS III: Enough. I especially liked the eye-level, one-sided mirror glass above the urinals.
EH: Yeah! So while you're trying to figure out the futuristic trappings of the bathroom, you can check everyone out! Thank you, Aura, for fulfilling my lifelong dream of pissing in a limousine.
JWS III: Indeed, it's quite inclusive--the chance to spy on others while urinating is a welcome addition. I could quell my usual, constant fear that someone is talking to other bar patrons about me behind my back while I'm in the bathroom.
EH: So you were looking at me when you were pissing?
JWS III: (silence)
EH: Moving on, you can also get miniature hamburgers. Miniature hamburgers! You know something's high-tech when it's miniature.
JWS III: Indeed! Two delighted bar restroom critics to beam up, Scotty!
You could eat miniature hamburgers off these toilet seats. A
Need we be redundant? A
QUALITY OF RESOURCES:
Hmm, we were so overwhelmed by everything else we really don't remember. Oh, well. A
Aura puts the "p" in "pizzazz." Get it? P? A
THE BATHROOM ATTENDANT
THE ABSENT ESSENTIAL (OR: "WHERE'S CHARLES"?)
And now, a brief word about bathroom attendants.
JWS III: Despite our tireless efforts, we could not locate a single drinkery in Portland with a bathroom atten--
EH: You mean how we scanned the Yellow Pages for two minutes and gave up?
JWS III: Despite our tireless efforts, we could not find a single drinkery in Portland with a bathroom attendant, the coup de grâce of any self-respecting bar restroom.
EH: I like it when they dust off my sleeves with their little brush.
JWS III: This is a disgrace, I tell you!
EH: We demand a bathroom attendant in each and every bar bathroom!
JWS III: What a pain it is to dry one's own hands. I mean, really.
EH: And you can call them "Charles," which is what most servants are named, and they can be like, "Have a good evening, sir," and you can be like "Thank you Charles," but they can't be like "My name's not Charles," because then you could be all like "Ahem. My hands are still wet, Charles--dry them, post-haste!"
JWS III: Indeed. Every bar in Portland should hereby have a bathroom attendant--named, or at least answering to "Charles"--from this point forward. And don't think that the PMIDTIS won't be paying attention!
EH: Oh, we'll be paying attention, bathrooms of Portland's bars. And since you're already getting a bathroom attendant, get a mechanical bull while you're at it.