Even though I stopped blogging over the last few months, I’ve still been thinking about those regular features – the howtotellifs, the littletragedies, the toilets. This doesn’t mean that much in real terms, except that I have loads and loads of pictures of various toilets on my phone for no good reason. Well, time to correct that! Every time I post a review, I get to delete another awkward conversation in waiting from my gallery, and you get a well thought out and sensitive analysis of an international plopper.
Since I’m a jetsetter and general global icon, it won’t surprise you to hear I went to Riga a few months ago. Although I liked the place in theory, I came down with some kind of travel disease literally as I entered Latvian airspace, and in practice I spent most of the long weekend being generally comforted by my friend. I don’t know exactly what kind of illness I was afflicted with, but it made me disgustingly snotty and very lethargic. “How’s that different from normal you?” You ask. “Get to fuck,” I respond.
Still, on the last day, I managed to drag myself out of my deathbed (a modern-day miracle) and trekked out of the centre to Rocket Bean Roastery, a cafe I found with the help of a specialist coffee website.
Ever since I accepted the whole “literally addicted to caffeine” thing, I’ve been working hard to make myself a less pleasant person to be around. How? Well, in this instance, I’ve been insisting on only drinking ‘good’ coffee. Do I know what that means? Not really. I am faking it until I make it. In this case, the first ‘it’ means ‘knowing what differentiates different beans from each other’ and the second ‘it’ means ‘myself a more cultured person who can say stuff like hints of melon and mean it’.
This is not a picture of Rocket Bean’s toilet; it is merely an establishing shot. As you can see, the cafe is situated in the very coolest part of the underfunded:upandcoming Venn diagram – that is, right in the middle. You can tell the area’s on the deprived side because of how shit it looks, but the graffiti is actually pretty dope, which lets you know that the place is on the cusp of getting, like, super expensive.
The cafe was on the gentrified side, by which I mean it was fucking spenny, especially in comparison to Riga, and even more especially in comparison to my base of Prague. I think I paid about 15 euros for a sandwich and a coffee, but I’m not sure about that and I don’t want to get sued for slander. I remember feeling mildly cheated, a sensation which was only slightly mollified by the friendly baristas in their matching beanies.
Before long, nature began to call. I headed deeper into the bowels of the cafe, with its natural wood and exposed copper piping aesthetic, in search of that most hallowed throne.
Before I even entered the cubicle, I was met with something I’ve rarely encountered before: a wild sink, unveiled, forcing the toilet user to wash their hands in full view of fellow customers, forcing the beleaguered coffee drinker to observe their peers’ ablutions. This is an absolutely rogue move, and I was so shocked I nearly called the whole thing off. As well as being exposed to the elements, this unholy sink lacks even the most basic components. Where, I beg you, is the soap? The hand dryer or towel dispensary system? How can I think about how cool I am when I’m deprived of a mirror?
Thank God I kept my nerve, though. On entering the toilet itself, my fears were assuaged. It turns out that those wily Rocket Bean Roasters know what they’re doing after all – that first sink was merely a decoy, a way of filtering out the fainthearted, of ensuring that only the most determined reach the main event: the toilet.
And what a toilet!
Look at that marvel! An absolute testament to Latvian ingenuity. The unit seems to float unsupported above the ground, a physics-defying masterpiece. It took me back to my first ever visit to eg the Apple Store, such was I moved by the sheer daring, by the simple complexity, of the piece.
What I liked even more than the toilet itself, though, were the audacious contrasts the architect deployed. Not content to give the toilet user a conventionally cohesive experience, this maverick has smashed concepts together, combining the sleek with the clunky, the polished with the rusty. Look at that pipe – why, it wouldn’t look out of place e.g. on a Steinbeck-esque farm or in an East German pickling factory or dockland brownstone. Contrasted with the almost offputtingly sterile john, the effect is startling: am I in a high-tech electronics store in the Arndale, or am I in the 1930s Dust Bowl? A truly masterful stroke of artistry.
These pictures further demonstrate this uneasy contrast, so masterfully delivered. Am I, one finds oneself thinking, on an old-timey ranch or in a modern day service station? The sink and soap dispenser point to the latter, but the bare lightbulb, the exposed wood, hint at a more rural setting. Both ends of the spectrum have one thing in common – both are crushingly utilitarian. Whether one imagines oneself urinating under the light of that bare bulb after a hard day haymaking, or washing one’s hands after a gruelling stint on the M60, the basic visceral sentiment is the same – that of a moment’s calm in a hard day’s work.
On the other hand, this bathroom certainly won’t make my top ten list. I’m not a fan of the brown paint, since the context makes it stomach-turningly evocative.
Now we turn to the part of the review that we’ve all been waiting for: the egregious mirror selfie, posted largely to make you realise how cool I am under the guise of advising you about the functionality of the mirror.
But, reader, what a mirror it was. Feast your eyes.
Floor-to-ceiling to allow the observer to reflect on how cool they are from head to toe, gently curved at the corners to avoid the subtle threat implied by right angles, this was a mirror amongst the very best I’ve encountered.
Whatever my doubts, that mirror will stick with me for the rest of my life. Bravo, Rocket Bean Roastery. Bravo.