Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, April 30, 2021

totin' token
Tom Otterness’ “Life Underground” is the most distinctive permanent art installation in New York’s subway system, and something I wish I had more time to actually appreciate as I zip through the L train’s 8th Avenue station.

The one thing I can’t help but notice about these scattered-about bronze sculptures: They make good use of old-style NYC subway tokens as props. Since the installation wasn’t finished until 2001, it was in place for the last couple of years of token usage, before the now-ubiquitous MetroCard took over.

Which is a good thing. I just can’t see those little figurines projecting the same whimsy if they were holding swipe-cards in their hands, or were piling up mounds of discarded cards. I don’t think anyone misses the real-thing tokens for paying transit fares, but at least the memory of them is bronzed forever.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 04/30/2010 09:02am
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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Thursday, April 29, 2021

It saddens me a little that the Empty Fortune Cookie website is apparently no more.

I mean, it never really was anything. For years, I visited the site, only to find a single static page of white background, with an image of a snapped-in-half fortune cookie as the only adornment. That’s it — no links, no text, not even page-source metadata to hint at what was going on, or what might be in store.

And that was the point, I suppose. The zen-like mysteriousness of the simple site, perfectly reflecting the concept of a message-less treat. I actually found that empty-shelled presentation to be a bit ominous. But I suppose you could take the optimistic tack, and regard such no-news as good news.

In any case, that’s now gone. Looks like the domain registration lapsed a few days ago, and some auto-squatter jumped on it and set up one of those generic URL parked pages on it. Now, it’s just another Web dead end.

Simplicity lost. I’ll have to find a new source of no-frills online serenity to link to.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/29/2010 11:25pm
Category: Food, Internet
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bottom rungs on top
I believe it was me who made the following “safe” National Hockey League first-round playoff prediction:

No upsets in the Eastern Conference first round this year. The only series that I think might — might — even be close is the New Jersey-Philadelphia one, and that’s only because of the individual matchups and regular-season dominance by the Flyers. But in the end, it’ll be Washington, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Devils clearing into the second round.

The West, at least, holds a little more promise for the customary lower-seed surprise. Los Angeles and Detroit are the prime candidates to take down their higher-seeded opponents.

Good thing I’m not a betting man, because my powers of prognostication stink. Two weeks later, all three Eastern division champions are sitting at home, the victims of the upset special. Only the Penguins survived to end up, at No. 4, as the highest remaining seed in the East. Meanwhile, despite moments of drama, the Western Conference wound up playing to form, with the top three seeds pushing through — including the perennially-underperforming San Jose Sharks. Only Phoenix failed to join the rest of their upper-half brethren, and considering that that series was a 4-5 matchup, it’s not much of an upset that Detroit prevailed.

So, once again, I prove my suckitude at anticipating sporting results. I’ll refrain from further calls for the duration of the playoffs. I only hope to see the Chicago Blackhawks make it to the Cup Final.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/29/2010 09:36pm
Category: Hockey
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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Recently, a nearby drinking establishment shut down abruptly. I took it as a sign that the Great Recession had indeed taken a toll, despite national indications that bars and taverns had been weathering the bad economy decently.

This week, what should open up in the same location? A bartending school.

In one way, it’s a sensible repurposing of the facilities, assuming all the bar fixtures are still in place (I can’t really tell, peering from the outside). What better setting in which to learn how to mix drinks and draw draft beers?

On the other hand: It seems silly to offer to produce job-seeking barkeeps, from the very site where a bar failed. The failure of which should indicate that there are already a surplus of bartenders running around. Doesn’t suggest a real need for schooling in the profession. What are the odds of a second consecutive shuttering?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/28/2010 10:19pm
Category: Business, Food
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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A literary agent wonders about the appearance of a recurring locale in what she’s reading:

Why does every writer who wants some kind of mysterious setting pick Romania?

What gives? Is it the spooky Transylvania connection? Or are these authors attempting to write a roman à clef, with a poor geographical understanding of the format? You just don’t come across Eastern European memes that often in modern fiction.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/27/2010 11:17pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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pal o' mine
According to Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, all you need to pass yourself off as a U.S. senator is a fake ZZ Top beard and some furniture glue.

Oh, Jimmy. With investigative acumen like that, it’s a wonder how you ever got even a stringer’s assignment with The Daily Planet (let alone your own comic book title). Maybe journalistic standards are more lax in Metropolis. If I were editor of that newspaper, your material would never make it past the good ol’ agate page.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/27/2010 09:09am
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Monday, April 26, 2021

shaky
Consider the above photo to be my contribution to today’s boobquake experiment. Not that that’s my rackage wrapped in a Life Savers bra — my Y chromosome, combined with a general lack of estrogen, leaves me without enough breast tissue to fill even an A-cup. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-use this stock image, in the guise of a feminist-sanctioned designated pinch-hitter. (If this set doesn’t trigger a tremor or two, I don’t know what will.)

Yes, it’s a silly and gratuitous display. But no less so than the nonsensical declaration that inspired all this boobery:

After Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi claimed last week that “immodest” babes cause earthquakes, Purdue University senior Jennifer McCreight responded by declaring this day “boobquake.”

She’s asking women nationwide to show a little skin today, hoping to prove to the sheik that a little shake never killed anyone. What started as an Internet joke has morphed into social media mayhem with more than 50,000 women expected to join the “movement” through McCreight’s website blaghag.com.

And in addition to McCreight’s blog, a #boobquake hashtag on Twitter is generating ample activity.

Maybe too ample, as today’s seismic shift in Taiwan suggests. Could that crackpot theology actually be correct? If so, I’d be willing to endure a shakier tectonic existence, in exchange for regular displays of “immodesty”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/26/2010 09:33pm
Category: Creative, Political, Social Media Online, Women
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erectSo we’ve all seen that Kia Sorrento Super Bowl ad with the joyriding kids’ toys. And we all know that Muno of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” fame is a prominent member of that car-selling entourage.

But not everyone in the automotive-marketing world is picking up on Muno’s family-friendly image:

What the hell, Kia? I understand that this “one-eyed monster” is a character from some kids’ show, but to your child-free customers this key marketing character looks like an infected phallus with a nasty case of genital warts. If that’s what you get with a new Kia Sorrento, I’ll pass.

Of course, “child-free customers” wouldn’t be in the market for a minivan anyway. So it’d be easy enough to dismiss such criticism, seeing as how it comes from a jaded car-showroom human prop. On the other hand, speculation about Muno’s phallic-reminiscent vibe(ration) has been around since the show’s 2007 debut:

“He’s tall and friendly,” the theme song informs us, as the giant orange cyclops jumps up and down (vibrates, really) and giggles. His most noticeable for-her-pleasure feature by far is the fact that he’s covered with Astroglide little bumps that aren’t unlike several products you’ll find in the Good Vibrations catalogue.

So is Muno really an overgrown joystick, in more than one sense of that word? I guess there are worse things to be patterned after.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/26/2010 08:08am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture, TV
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Sunday, April 25, 2021

on the line
Last week, I noticed the following messaging taped to an L train car window:

Nail Clipping:
Under no circumstances is the Subway the right place for this. The sound is incredibly annoying and the little nail bits go flying all over the place. Keep it at home please. It’s crazy that this even needs to be mentioned.

It was printed on a standard-looking, nondescript Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcement poster. Or so it would seem on first glance. That quirky “it’s crazy” closing line was the first tip-off that I was looking at a crafted piece of public-art craftiness. The second was the just-off colors of the poster, despite the dead-on font style and layout.

The third would have been the above “Metropolitan Etiquette Authority” logo, a take-off of the MTA’s stylized mark. I didn’t get close enough to the poster to scope out that subtle element. Luckily, Jay Shells, the “artivist” mastermind behind this, explains his motives online:

I surveyed 100 people on their top pet-peeves (not service related) while riding the Subway. I narrowed the results down to the top ten most occurring issues and rewrote them as a sort of list of rules. I designed posters in the style of the Service Changes posters we see everyday and silkscreened about 40 of each (400 total) and am currently putting them up on trains throughout the city, throughout this week. I encourage people to look out for them, and to take them before the MTA does.

And it turns out that Shells inaugurated his guerilla-style cleanup campaign on the L line. So I was among the first to see the posters in the wild. I can’t say I’ve suffered through any of these pet peeves to a great degree, although I’ve been riding the urban rails long enough to have been exposed to all of them. But any efforts to curb their occurrence is most welcomed.

Had I known ahead of time, I definitely would have grabbed that nail-clipping announcement, as Shells encourages. If I see it, or one of its brethren, this coming week during my now-steady L commute, I’ll nab that paper as I step off.

(Hat tip to Bobulate)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/25/2010 07:35pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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son of krypton
I don’t recall this terse last-minute exchange in the standard origin mythos of the Man of Steel:

Lara: I mean, whatever, the whole planet is going to blow up in like five minutes. I can’t see how it would have made any difference.
Jor-El: This is why you’ll never understand ethics.
Lara: Not unless you can explain it in the next five minutes!
Jor-El: It’s pretty simple: you wanted to kill the baby.
Lara: By sucking it out of my womb, and you want to kill the baby by blasting it into space.
Jor-El: Not kill it! Get it off Krypton before the planet explodes.
Lara: Isn’t it your fault that the planet is exploding?
Jor-El: How is that relevant?

Hmm. With such toxic parenting (however brief), it’s no wonder that Superman developed an allergic reaction to the remnants of his home planet. In fact, based on this, I wonder if his vulnerability to kryptonite isn’t really psychosomatic — a suppressed-memory reaction to Jor-El’s and Lara’s post-natal negative vibes…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/25/2010 05:57pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Back in the late ’70s, the much-ballyhooed U.S tour of the King Tutankhanmun archaeological exhibition inspired Steve Martin to add his contribution to pop culture’s trove of novelty songs:

Now when he was a young man
He never thought he’d see (King Tut)
People stand in line
To see the boy king (King Tut)

How’d you get so funky (Funky Tut)
Did you do the monkey
(Born in Arizona)
(Moved to Babylonia, King Tut)

Now that King Tut’s baubles have returned to the States, will Martin write and perform a new rendition of “King Tut”? I realize he’s long since shed his former wild-and-crazy-guy schtick, but for nostalgia’s sake, the re-booted Egyptian theme practically demands Martin’s participation.

Assuming that he won’t, here’s a live 1979 performance by Martin of “King Tut”, complete with the wacky headdress/white suit ensemble, and the hieroglyphics-inspired stage shimmying. My chief childhood memories of Martin are informed directly by this act, so it’s a trip to see it again thirty years later:

The surprise low-key appearance by The Fonz was a nice closing touch. He’s my favorite honky.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/24/2010 07:47pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, History, Pop Culture
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Not to discount Kelly LeBrock’s much-publicized struggles, but this quote from her, on her, is telling:

“I was constantly raped and abused my whole life,” she revealed.

Is there any clearer sign that she’s completely internalized a culture of victimhood? I don’t doubt any of the allegations of abuse she’s suffered from ex-husband Steven Seagal and others. But it’s hard to take such a blanket statement seriously. All it does is undermine her own credibility.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/24/2010 06:06pm
Category: Celebrity, Society, True Crime
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The idea behind Blippy is to show off your credit card purchases on the Web. Showing off your credit card number from those purchases wasn’t supposed to be part of the deal:

Tipster Trey Copeland wrote to us with a link to results for the search: site:blippy.com +”from card”. That search returns results showing detailed purchase information for transactions. Each result highlights that there was a “debit card transaction” or “card transaction,” the amount spent, the specific location (address included) and the full card number.

Naturally, Blippy took action and defended itself with the claim that the card numbers were few, and were only remnants of a failed beta-test cleanup. Indeed, the simple Google search-string that exposed the breach has already been cleaned up. Somehow, this is supposed to settle things.

I would say that such a show of incompetence would surely scuttle a company. But who’s kidding who? Anyone dumb enough to turn over sensitive financial information like that to an online playground is also ignorant enough to have missed this kind of news. As usual, the idea of over-sharing on the social Web is harmless enough, until it makes you a prime target for plucking. So I’m sure Blippy will brush this off — unless it commits a similar blunder in the future (which you’d have to bet it would, given this sloppiness).

There are two bits of irony connected to this exercise in online transparency:

- One, that one of the brains behind Blippy is co-founder Philip Kaplan, best known for former corporate whistleblowing gossip site FuckedCompany. Talk about actualization…

- Two, that my previous observation of Blippy user-stream data indicated that the majority of shared transactions involved free-app “purchases” on Apple’s iTunes Store. I’m guessing those Blipsters felt especially comfortable putting out zero-dollar transactions. The real joke is that, given the account information linkage, I doubt that there’s any less risk in those situations — your card number is still referenced at some point, or at least left open to exposure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/24/2010 03:57pm
Category: Business, Social Media Online, Society
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Friday, April 23, 2021

Not that I’ll ever find a useful context for it in everyday parlance, but here’s my word discovery of the day: Nidus.

1. A nest, especially one for the eggs of insects, spiders, or small animals.

2. A cavity where spores develop.

3. Pathology A central point or focus of bacterial growth in a living organism.

4. A point or place at which something originates, accumulates, or develops, as the center around which salts of calcium, uric acid, or bile acid form calculi.

Basically a noun variant of nest. But it sounds a little fancier. I see potential in adding it to an expressive vocabulary arsenal: “A veritable nidus of creative energy”, etc.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 04/23/2010 09:17am
Category: Wordsmithing
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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Not only is today Earth Day, it’s the 40th anniversary of the observance. Four decades is long enough for the movement to have evolved, from single-focused eco-green to a green philosophy infused with more pragmatic blue-sky thinking — a so-called “turquoise” approach.

I offer no such tempering for my own blog-based Earth Day tradition, which is simply the annual re-telling of my college prank call, turned spurious environmental protest. But it just so happens that my freshman-year stunt happened exactly 20 years ago today — the midway point in Earth Day history. Entirely coincidental, but the juxtaposition has gotta count for something.

And with that, here’s the much-repeated story. The details: It’s 1990, in a dormitory lounge at my alma mater, with my 18-year-old self gawking at an old TV with over-the-air reception only (no cable on campus back then). The perfect ingredients for spontaneous save-the-planet action!

My favorite Earth Day memory is a prank I played 13 16 17 18 several years ago. I was sitting in my dorm lounge with a dormmate. We were flipping through the channels (no cable TV in the dorms back then -– the dark ages!!), and catching a couple of news reports telling us it was Earth Day. Then we land on Home Shopping Network, just as they start rolling out their fur collection for display and sale.

It hit me: Furs? They’re hawking freakin’ furs on Earth Day? Come on!

Now, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, a hard-core environmentalist or animal-rights advocate. I’m sympathetic with those philosophies, to a point, but I eat meat, wear leather, etc. Nevertheless, some part of my sensibilities was offended by seeing such a bizarre juxtaposition. I think I was offended by the stupidity, or more likely ignorance, on display by HSN.

So, I decided to do something. I got my phone, dialed up the HSN order line, and as soon as the customer service drone answered, I yelled, “EARTH DAY! FUR IS MURDER! BOYCOTT! BOYCOTT!!”. I did it a couple more times after that. Then I got my dormmate to call too, on his phone; he did a very low-key version of same spiel (sans yelling –- that was my schtick).

We had our fun, and decided to keep watching the channel to see if our childish actions had any on-air effect. Lo and behold, about 10 minutes after the last of our calls, the show host mentioned, “By the way, folks, today is Earth Day”, and then abruptly switched from the fur display to something else. We laughed our asses off! It looked like we had stuck it to the man!

And, since the above seems to bother modern-day Home Shopping Network employees/fans who stumble this way, here’s some further clarification:

It seems to be eluding some that the episode above happened in 1990. When I was 18 years old, btw — so the “childish” insult doesn’t faze me, as I practically was still a child at that point. Also, whatever call-center procedures that are in place now most likely weren’t in effect back then. So don’t bother citing current SOP because it probably doesn’t apply.

Secondly, I never state that the operators somehow relayed those crank calls to the broadcast booth. However, you can bet those calls were being monitored from a higher source, and from there filtered to what was going on on-screen.

Lastly: Whether or not my imagined cause-and-effect really happened, the sequence is where the humor is. It still makes for a funny story, which is why I look forward to recycling it yet again next year. :)

Since I’m soon going to be attending an informal Eckerd College reunion to celebrate a few of my classmates’ personal 40-year ripening, the timing for this year’s iteration seems perfect. Consider it an early birthday gift, to both my fellow alums and to Mother Earth.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/22/2010 08:08am
Category: College Years, Comedy, Political
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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ben don't break
In the wake of a repeat criminal offense that suggests future repeating, the Pittsburgh Steelers apparently have taken a “fool me once, fool me twice” attitude toward franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, to the point where they’re actively looking to trade him for a top-10 pick in this week’s NFL Draft.

And guess which perennially-notorious team is perched at the No. 8 slot, seemingly waiting to make this deal happen?

One team fits all scenarios perfectly, and that is, of course, the Oakland Raiders. Historically, they’ve had no fear of taking on players with checkered pasts, and they definitely need a quarterback. Al Davis loves headlines, he loves quarterbacks with big arms, and he’d love to make the Raiders relevant again. A trade for Ben Roethlisberger gets him all three, immediately.

Big Ben in silver and black? It’s suddenly looking a lot more likely. Of all the head-spinning player movement during this uncapped offseason, this one would be the wildest one yet.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/21/2010 10:58pm
Category: Football, True Crime
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A minor stir was generated this week by reports that some major American universities were banning iPads due to strains the device causes on campus wireless networks.

If that sounds at all familiar, it should. Because two years ago, the then-new iPhone encountered the very same “banning” at Duke University and other college campuses.

Duke eventually fixed their glitch, so Cornell et al will figure out their current iPad aversions in due order. Maybe they can figure out how not to hire computer-science geeks who can’t build halfway decent wireless access points, while they’re at it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/21/2010 10:17pm
Category: Internet, Tech, iPhone, iPod
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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Economics professor Bryan Caplan is writing a new book, to be entitled “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids”. And, as the following late-draft paragraph illustrates, he’s taking “selfish” to unprecedented levels:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share. I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I’m not pushing others to clone themselves. I’m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?

Rearing your genetic doppelganger, thus (in some, perhaps undefinable, sense) becoming your own father? This can only be described as “replicative reproduction”. Which is a nicer way of saying “the ultimate vanity project/God complex”…

Caplan is considering cutting this cloning-confession graf because it comes off as off-the-rails controversial, even factoring in the irrational opposition to any sort of reproductive technology. I agree. After all, it’s one thing to clone kittens; but sub in non-furry test subjects, and all the copycatting doesn’t look so cute anymore.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/20/2010 11:45pm
Category: Science, Society
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Monday, April 19, 2021

The full-court press to get out the count for this 2010 Census is especially marketing-oriented when compared to the usual governmental calls to action. The notable Super Bowl commercial kicking off the campaign seemed to set a consumerist approach toward Constitutional enumeration, and that focus on the to-be-apportioned Federal lucre is rubbing some the wrong way.

No doubt, the economic benefits are being expounded to the hilt, and not just by the bureaucrats: Among others, the president of Univision is pushing Census participation as a dollars-and-cents benefit for its target audience. When stacked up against mere civic duty, it’s easy for the money concerns to grab the spotlight.

I’m not so sure that the Federal dole is being oversold, though. The messaging I’m seeing is certainly unconventional, but it’s definitely couched more in themes of participation and representation more than compensation. Perhaps the injection of any talk of governmental funding obscures the main point, for better or for worse.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/19/2010 11:57pm
Category: Business, Politics, Society
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The following just may be my all-time favorite sports-talk non sequitur:

He’s listed as day to day; but then again, aren’t we all?

As delivered by Dan Patrick and/or Keith Olbermann on ESPN, during SportsCenter’s “Big Show” golden years (who, in turn, borrowed it from baseball announcing legend Vin Scully). Of all the pop-culture infused catchphrases and riffs that were peppered amidst game highlights and player reports, this particular one delivered a short and sweet bit of humor, tinged with deadpan pathos.

That’s why I’m frustrated when I consistently flub it whenever I try to deliver the line myself. Somehow, it just doesn’t translate to everyday parlance, even though the feeling of existence as a daily gamble is certainly relatable. Or maybe I’m not an adroit enough conversationalist to pull it off.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/19/2010 10:57pm
Category: Comedy, Sports, TV, Wordsmithing
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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Because you can navigate a metropolis only as far as your “bladder leash” will allow, it’s not unusual to develop an appreciation for the nuances in New York’s wide range of public bathrooms:

The city’s parks include hundreds of spots to heed nature’s call, each with its own character: the splendid isolation of the north end of Meadow Lake in Queens, where the sparkling new restrooms are surrounded by cherry trees, but not people; the user-friendliness of the Picnic House in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where the basement hallway leading to the toilets includes soda machines and a newspaper stand, in case you decide to stick around for a while; the mechanical weirdness of the high-tech pay toilet in Madison Square Park, intended as the first of many and now stranded like a lost visitor from another planet. But none can compare to the grace, the elegance, the downright untoiletness of the public restroom in Bryant Park.

I can vouch for the characterizations of those last two pitstops. Bryant Park’s fancy-schmancy facilities almost seem out of place, even accounting for the park’s well-attended image. Meanwhile, Madison Square’s kiosk-like crapper kinda screwed me a couple of weeks ago, when I waited in line for it for five minutes before I realized that I didn’t have the spare change needed to operate it. (Left unsaid: The ever-present trepidation that stems from all public toilets’ dual role as lingering hangouts for the homeless.)

I’d have to go with the restrooms at Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain as NYC’s publicly-accessible best. Not that I’ve ever relieved myself there. But I did once attend a theatrical play that was staged right amongst the stalls and urinals therein, so for that reason alone, it wins.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/18/2010 09:20pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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