Woodworking: Call me a bore, but I declare there are things tushies need never touch
Many years ago a columnist for an alternative newspaper, the Twin Cities Reader, wrote an annual column called, "Get out of Town."
One day I returned from lunch and my friends at the Star Tribune looked at me piteously and said, "Dave, I'm really sorry. That was very mean...."
What were they talking about?
Turns out they were commiserating with me because I had just been given the dreaded distinction of making it into columnist Jon Tevlin's "Get out of Town column."
I'll admit I was in pretty good company. He wanted me to get out of town, along with author Susan Allen Toth and Kirby Puckett. (This was a few years before Kirby really had to get out of town.)
I can't remember why Tevlin wanted Susan and Kirby to get out of town, but I well remember why he wanted me out. He wanted me out of town because I was so boring.
One of his remarks about me is etched on my brain with acid. He wrote: "Wood is so boring he recently wrote about a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, that made it sound like a jaunt to rural Indiana."
Tevlin went on to ignore my remarks about the Blue Mosque, the city spice market, glorious restaurants -- I even swam in the Hellespont, like Lord Byron.
But did he mention that?
He mentioned that I devoted a paragraph about the state of a public toilet near the Hippodrome, which would give the latrines in the barracks of Buchenwald and Dachau a run for their money.
Darn it, Jon Tevlin. I don't like dirty toilets.
I've seen my share of them, and I've seldom wasted a sentence on them in my travel writing. But I remember them well.
On our honeymoon, I took my bride to the pretty famous Beux Artes Café in Paris. Ruthie excused herself to the toilette and came back slightly ashen.
It was her first Parisian biffy.
"Go in there and look," said the Beautiful Bride.
"I can't. I'm a guy."
"It's unisex, dummy."
So I went in.
What the toilet was, was a hole chiseled into the concrete floor of the little room that apparently led to the sewers of Paris. On each side of the hole were steel footprints imbedded in the concrete.
I looked at that and remembered poor Jean Valjean hiding in the sewers of Paris in "Les Miserables" and I finally realized why he was running so fast.
There were other toilets that detracted from our idyllic honeymoon.
Like the one toilet on the fourth floor of the Olympia Hotel in Sussex Gardens in London. At that one you had to wear galoshes because the water on the floor -- or whatever it was -- came up to one's ankles.
Switzerland did much better back then, as you might expect, and so did the brusque hotelier in Munich.
But there was even a problem there which made a sensitive plant such as I just a bit queasy.
The shower room that served the entire hotel was big and roomy. But the water came out of nozzles in the ceiling.
Then there was the matter of toilet tissue.
In England it could have substituted for waxed paper. In Germany it looked like very thin plywood because you could actually see the woodchips imbedded in the paper.
And of course at the Coliseum in Rome, tiny waxy tissues were for sale and a lira apiece from crabby old women.
So where is all this going?
These days you hear that Europe is going to hell in a hand basket. Manufacturing is down, food prices are up, and unemployment is high. Gasoline costs about $10 a gallon.
I say, look at the bright side.
In the 17 days we spent in Italy last month, we never ran into a dirty toilet.
The humblest trattoria was always spotless. The floors were dry, towels and blow dryers were everywhere present, and the toilet tissue came right out of an American TV commercial.
I call that progress.
You can throw me out of town if you want to, but I'm standing by my principles....and some glistening urinals.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.