Bathroom Walls


Last Spring my mom moved back to Ridgewood after living in Puerto Rico for 27 years. A woman born and raised in Brooklyn, she hadn’t seen it as we know it to be today. When I was growing up on Menahan Street in the 80’s, we spent our summertime at Grover Cleveland & Juniper Valley Parks playing softball, riding my bike, and eating pizza afterward. Mom hadn’t visited the neighborhood except for once in the three decades she was gone and was looking at it from a whole new perspective.

It was exciting and strange to give her a tour of how things are today. As we wandered the neighborhood she and my dad grew up in, she enthusiastically told colorful stories of what she remembered. My dad often does the same thing when we pass landmarks of their youth.

On this particular day, I wound up having to leave for an appointment and left her chillaxin’ at Pearl’s Social Club on St. Nicholas for a little less than an hour. When I returned, she was so excited to have made friends with the bartender and already had more stories to add to her life catalogue. She kept saying, “Oh, you have to see this! I have to show you something! Wait until you see this!”

My mom led me to the restroom and opened the door for me to see its walls covered in doodles, graffiti, and urban poetry. In less than an hour she had learned movies had been filmed at this corner bar and from what she was told, scenes were filmed specifically in this restroom because of its character. She admitted 30 years ago this would not likely be cool and trendy, but a junkie’s haven.

When we got home, I started sorting out photos I had taken of artsy bathroom walls with messages of who to call for a good time and parody sketches of orange presidents. I spend a lot of time wandering the streets looking for urban graffiti and popping in and out of galleries talking to artists, but am here to remind us (yes, again!), art truly is everywhere. It was interesting watching my mom find so much joy in discovering the PSC’s restroom graffiti and interpreting it as something abuzz.

I’d like to think as seasons change, so do our perspectives on space. While the city around us grows higher into the sky, artists are challenging the foundations on which they are built, looking for their latest canvas, exhibiting courage in their messages. My mom lived in a place where things tend to stagnate and they did for almost three decades. Within her first six months back at home, in her old neighborhood where she attended elementary school and beyond, got married, had children and eventually said goodbye to, she was able to encounter new signs of the time with an open mind.

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