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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Price-Man’s Bathroom : “Ideas for the Ages” #1

This supreme cat tower is the most remarkable feature of Jeff's bathroom. Even decapitated, could it be the source of unidentified cosmic power?

About two years ago, I went to visit my friend Jeff Price on Long Island for the occasion of an art show, but also just to go. I’d never been there—the island, or Jeff’s home. Just months before, Matt Wittmer, a mutual friend, had stayed there for a few days. In his usual abundance of sharing, Matt had numerous recommendations, which in his adamance can seem like spirited wake-up calls or even demands.

Something about taking the train from the airport to a place called Ronkonkoma, and Jeff’s wife making tea—those were things not to miss. Matt spent time checking out the not-too-distant Amityville house of paranormal fame, and although he knows I’m not especially interested, those places that lodge into his imagination are generally presented with the feeling of “you should check it out” recommendation. But above all else, Price’s bathroom was touted as a peak experience. Matt raved about it in a vaguely hallucinatory, almost spiritual sense. Perhaps not a Shangri-La, but it was endorsed iwth mind-bending awe/wonder, with the gumption—if not the diction—of a Coleridge writing phantasmagoric ad-copy for Xanadu. Of course I was intrigued. On the other hand, I’m not exactly a connoisseur of bathrooms, and I knew in advance that Matt is prone to obsessive flights of fancy.

Sink of minor delights.

To compress a long story, I made it to Jeff’s bathroom and had no idea what made it so special in Wittmer’s mind. It seemed pretty normal. Was it constructed with subtle Golden Ratios tuned specifically to Wittmer’s aesthetic cortex? I couldn’t see any. This was an all-around decent bathroom—far superior to, say, Robert McCann’s St. Louis bachelor pad bath, which had almost blown an OCD fuse in my wife’s brain years earlier—but I wasn’t seeing greatness. I looked out the window for a special view, but came up clueless. I even took on some projects there, mostly out of my own lightweight compulsions toward home repair, but perhaps because Matt had planted in me the seed of this bathroom’s ponderability.

Pyramid of Abundant Wiping oriented toward Ring of Lofty Towel Utility. While this configuration mimics structures such as pyramids, ziggurats and observatories that orient on the cosmic, powers greater than successful flushing did not manifest.
After my toothbrushing runoff failed to scoot promptly down the drain, I opened the sink plumbing to remove a clog. It was caused mostly by a shred of duct tape inside a pipe elbow, damming a fine paste of iridescent makeup particles. I re-caulked the leaky shower stall after spotting some post-shower floor-water. Even with my small improvements, Price’s bathroom was, to me, merely a mortal bathroom.

Cat refreshment is sanctioned. This zone of intrigue is so intriguing that cats monitor other cats.

When I revealed my findings, Matt’s enthusiasm was undiminished. Whatever had enchanted him was still in effect. I had to wonder—did he lay too long, on the inflated guest mattress, in need of urination, and then transfer his eventual bladder relief to the experience of the room? Did he have a mini-mini stroke there, or inadvertently soak up a few psychoactive molecules of Price’s purported marijuana residues? No, when it comes to Matt Wittmer’s mental landscaping, extraordinary incursions are not required. The terrain as a whole is naturally psychoactive, contoured meticulously over a solid bedrock containing countless deposits of rich silly putty. Whatever made Price’s bathroom magical to Wittmer remains locked in that singular nervous system.

Pentagon of Contemplation. Not a litter pan.

Some time later, I bought and moved into a new house, with three bathrooms. In trying to describe one of them, I realized one of my “Ideas for the Ages,” which I’ll define as ideas that, despite being good, will probably never come to fruition. Since Matt has a history of making fine, detailed models of numerous buildings of consequence (Alcatraz, the Waco Davidian compound, the Psycho house, Amityville house, etc), I thought it would be cool if I could cultivate his fascination with Jeff’s bathroom to the point where he would make a model of it, which I would then hang in one of my bathrooms. Even better, if all three of us had tiny replicas of each other’s bathrooms, one each, on display in bathrooms thousands of miles apart—New York, Missouri, California. It’s the sort of totally pointless concept art that I tend to steer clear of, but in this case it has a special, poetic sort of dada weirdness that I like. But, I suppose I don’t like it enough to put in the work and execute it, much like the works of Kilgore Trout in Vonnegut fictions. To paraphrase local painting professor Hugh Yorty, “That may be the sort of idea best left as an idea.”