Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving at the Toilet Bowl

Long story short, as a child I led an abnormal life. Not only were my parents dysfunctional, but I was plenty weird, too. It was kind of like living on the set of The Munsters — we had virtually no visitors; the apartment was dusty and gloomy; and I don’t remember any big holiday blowouts.

Things were different when I entered my early teens and started getting invited to friends’ houses for Thanksgiving. I loved being “adopted” for the day — parents always liked me because I was so nice and polite — and I got to spend the holidays in a nice house with a “real” family. Those are some of my best memories.

From then ‘til now, I’ve remained the perpetual guest — the wandering Jew, as it were — and to date I've never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. My ex-boyfriend G had a big family who loved to get together and cook and eat and drink. So for the twenty years we were a couple, the holidays were always a no-brainer: we knew what our plans were, and all we had to do was show up for Christmas Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, and anniversaries. G’s mom was a great cook, but if she was taking a break from the hausfrau schtick, we’d go to a nice restaurant instead.

But since I’ve been with my current boyfriend BG, things are a bit different. His family is scattered throughout the country, and G is mostly out of the picture, so we have no Thanksgiving hosts to glom from.

Moreover, BG used to work as a cook, so of course he now hates preparing complex meals, and loathes going to restaurants, while I adore them. Even though we could afford a "real" restaurant every now and then, BG likes to watch the dollars — his and mine. So if he’s feeling really flush, we might wind up at Wendy’s or even a diner if we’re being tres rich and fancy.

Thus, in typical low-rent fashion, Thanksgiving will usually find us at the diner down the road which we affectionately refer to as the Toilet Bowl. It acquired this nickname during its bad old days, when you might wind up with burnt bacon and moldy toast for breakfast, or some sort of nauseating sauce smothered all over your meatloaf for dinner. The service was lackadaisical at best, and you were damn lucky if you got your eggs scrambled instead of over easy, or French dressing instead of Italian. In those older, rougher times, the toilet was seemingly open to all comers and was rather… how you say… challenging. Aside from being filthy, it was a rare occasion when one would find unused toilet paper, soap, and paper towels in the bathroom all at the same time. The used stuff was usually strewn in wads all over the nasty-ass floor.

I guess we tolerated it in part because it was the only game in town. Plus it was big and roomy with those neat booths and the little jukeboxes at each table. But our state of bathroom denial was eventually shattered on the afternoon I braved the ladies’ room and found the battle-scarred, pissed-stained toilet seat insouciantly flung on the floor. Thus the Toilet Bowl was born.

One of my fondest hobbies is taking stock of the still infinitesimal signs of upcoming gentrification in BG’s Bronx neighborhood, and the new and improved Toilet Bowl is just another harbinger of things to come. These days they’ve gone a bit more upscale. The food is noticeably better, as is the service. And now you actually need to get a key to access the rest room. There’s a big sign as you enter the restaurant that says, in true New York fashion: “Bathrooms for customers only — don’t even ask!”

In any case, the Toilet Bowl has a really good, really cheap Thanksgiving dinner for, like, thirteen bucks. But last year BG was hung over from a night of pre-Thanksgiving revelry and refused to go. Instead, I wound up being treated by my ex-cook boyfriend to instant mashed potatoes, canned gravy, and canned cranberry sauce. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even the kind of cranberry sauce I like — it had those little gnarly berries in it instead of the pure, unadorned jelly I favor.

So this year, I’m putting my foot down. It’s the Toilet Bowl for me come hell or high water, with or without BG. I have no doubt the food will be good, the potatoes will be real, and the cranberry sauce will be jelled. The waitstaff will be efficient and friendly, and the bathroom may actually sport all the necessary accoutrements.

And for me at least, that's plenty to be thankful for.


At 4:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to see the undisputed "Queen of the Blogosphere" back in circulation. Welcome back, your Maj!

I love your writing, and how cool that you should talk about the shithouse! It's a much neglected subject in the blogosphere and one of my favourites, so more power to your writing elbow! Viva la crapper!

I'm planning a return visit to your little town next year, so put your finery on, and I'll take you out for dinner - the full woiks! No excuses!

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have eaten in some dives to and some I ate regularly like.
But I would rather cook now a days.
I think it doesn;t matter where you eat as long as you are with people you want to be on these occations.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving no matter where you break bread and if its at the Tolet Bowl the chances are good the the bread there breaks LOL
Nice having you back posting

At 8:31 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Well, I figure the Shithouse rat has to talk about the shithouse every now and then.

Thanks as always for your kind words. I'm thrilled that you're coming back to NYC again. I hope the weather will be more bearable this time, and I look forward to meeting up with you and maybe hoisting a few too!

At 8:36 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


You gave BG and I a good laugh with that bread line! I love to cook too, and when I get my new place I intend to cook up a storm. But when it's just two people, it seems impractical to cook the traditional turkey and all the trimmings, though one year we did make do with a couple of scrawny chickens and some Stove-Top stuffing mix.

Well, I didn't get to actually go to the Toilet Bowl yesterday. BG went out in the rain to get our meals to go. They gypped us on the dessert because they don't include that with to-go orders--bogus!--and the mashed potatoes were instant. But BG discovered later that they undercharged him by ten bucks, so it all evened out. Plus, I didn't have to brave their toilet, and BG keeps his scrupulously clean. So it all worked out for the best!

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Michael said...

Sounds like you've had the time of your life this Thanksgiving, can't say I envy you, although I wish I had your way of putting things into perspective, thus enjoying even the little things, like "the Toilet Bowl"
teak bedroom furniture

At 8:55 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Yes, as I get older I do try to get pleasure out of the simple things--and this Thanksgiving was about as simple as you can get.

Thanks for the other comments, btw--and thanks to everyone else who commented on various posts while I was incommunicado. I appreciate them all.

At 12:16 AM, Blogger !ce said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger !ce said...

I find this all very interesting. For Thanksgiving, we had two turkeys - one tofu, one meat (for the mother). The tofu turkey came with "giblet" gravy. We had mashed potatoes made with soy milk. The rest of the meal was not vegan, save for a green bean-mushroom casserole of my father's. For the next holiday, I intend to elbow into the festivities early, although so does the mother who just bought three different cake mixes ahead of time. We'll see who wins. Of course, the parents won't touch whatever I make. Damn them! I need more medication now.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Ms.DaFarm said...

Yay! You've come back again! Happy belated Thanksgiving. I've really missed your writing.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Timothy said...

Good piece! So now I am awaiting the follow-up

At 9:20 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


From what I can recall, it sounds like this was a better Thanksgiving than the year before by far, no? You nd the parental unites at least tolerated each other and shared a meal, sort of. Do you make your own recipes or where do you get them?

At 9:21 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ms Dafarm:

Thanks so the pix on your blog, btw.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Thanks for stopping by. I've been checking your site periodically and am glad to see you have a new post up too. I'll drop a comment by...

At 3:36 AM, Blogger !ce said...

I bought the tofu turkey. For Christmas, I'm planning to be braver and try a little more. I'm also intending to start making more meals in order to show the wide-ranging possibilities of veganism.


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