By COLLEEN LEDDY
Have I ever mentioned how much I like to explore new bathrooms? Yes, you’re right, I have...it was less than a month ago that I talked about the bathroom in Mexico that Maddie had included in her first installment of stories, given as a Christmas present.
I think my bathroom interest was born in high school in the mid-70s at Bergdorf Goodman in New York—mainly for its cleanliness and the thick paper towels embossed with the store’s name—and nurtured in the late 80s at the visitors’ restroom at Sauder Village. I can still recall how amazed I was when I discovered how cool a bathroom could be. The rich, floral wallpaper, the wood accents, the rocking chairs in the alcove with a changing table. As a young mother, I appreciated all those things.
Bathrooms figure in some of my fondest memories, including the infamous time in college when my roommates and I stopped at a gas station/restaurant in Canada en route to a camping weekend. The bathrooms faced the truck stop style restaurant and were separated by a floor-to-ceiling glass partition.
Predictably, the line for the mens room was non-existent, but the women’s line was already long before my gang arrived at the single-occupant restrooms. I knew I couldn’t wait much longer, and since there was no action coming from the mens room, decided to use that one. I pulled open the door—and imagine my surprise when I discovered a man, sitting there in full view of the line of women and everyone in the restaurant. Good thing I was young and had fairly good bladder control—we all laughed so hard I thought I might lose it.
But back to Maddie...Yesterday she sent me a photo of a bathroom floor—“Here’s a cool bathroom floor for you,” she texted. It was extremely amazing—completely covered in pennies. I pummeled her with questions.
“Where is that? In Tyree Guyton’s Penny House?” (Not very likely since it was burned down a few years ago.)
“Vinsetta Garage [On Woodward Avenue in Berkley],” she answered before I started in again.
“Are you there right now? What is in that glass case? Never mind the case. What do you think the pennies are covered with? And how are they stuck down? And how the heck do you think they clean them?”
Maddie and her siblings and the grandkids had all been home for Memorial Day, and in a karmic, female rendition of “The sins of the father are visited upon the sons,” Maddie was now in the Detroit area visiting college friends for a few days before flying back to San Francisco.
“You’re not going to like this,” she said when announcing her plans. And she’s right, but it’s just history repeating itself. It’s me all over again except I would come home from college and visit high school friends—instead of sitting around drinking a million cups of tea with my mother. I’ve since learned to accept whatever time our children bestow upon us (OK, not really), but I wallow in the guilt and regret in a reverse version of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” My mother could be laughing at me in heaven, but she was never one to say, “I told you so.”
And there is the bright side. I now know about a very intriguing restaurant I probably never would have heard of. Here’s some info from the Vinsetta Garage website:
This is a joint. A place that was built to serve one purpose and preserved to serve the next. It's the kind of place that made a name for itself on Woodward Avenue by delivering the deepest kind of care to car owners and auto lovers one wrench turn at a time. Today, the oldest garage east of the Mississippi carries a different kind of torch but the cause remains the same: make it honest, make it legit and make it as good as you know how. While the Kurta and Marwil families have long since moved their tools out of the station, the tradition they set still steers the joint one course at a time. Chef Aaron Cozadd's menu is built on the kind of custom Detroit eats that the mechanics and techs would have called their own back in the day. With burgers, Union Mac & Cheese, noodle bowls, coal-fired pies and the like: the new crew is working to keep the legend of Vinsetta Garage alive on Woodward Avenue and beyond.
And they’ve got one heck of a bathroom. I’m going to have to give it a try.