Everyone has a story about the worst place they were forced to take a shit. Since I was taught that being black means you have to be twice as good, I have two:
1. When I was 10, my uncles Danny and Mike were in town, and my parents, my uncles and I all went to Eat’n Park for food. I ordered some sort of breaded and seasoned shrimp meal because I wanted to be fancy to impress my uncles. Afterward, we drove to my Nana’s house in Belmar Gardens in Pittsburgh. Now, Nana’s house sat at the top of a steep, quarter-mile-long hill. At the bottom of the hill was a playground and a basketball court, and I asked them to drop me off there so I could hoop. They obliged.
I’m not quite sure when my stomach began to turn, but even decades after that feeling, I remember that it was the type of livid and carbonated rumble that immediately communicates, “THIS FURY IS ABOUT TO LEAVE MY BODY AND AIN’T SHIT I CAN DO ABOUT IT!” I started to walk back up the hill, hoping that perhaps I could make it to Nana’s in time. “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL,” my intestines said as the incubus got angrier with each step.
Running out of options, I made the best decision my 10-year-old brain could make. I hurried into someone’s backyard, squatted behind a tree and exploded on its bark—and the grass, any wildlife that happened to be within a 20-foot radius, my pants, my sneakers and my socks.
Attempting to wipe myself was futile, but I still tried with a pile of furry leaves that I now suspect was a dead mole rat. When I finished “wiping,” I walked back up the hill to Nana’s while smelling like the saddest Garbage Pail Kid ever. My uncle Danny was sitting on Nana’s front porch and was the first one to see me.
“Damon’s back,” I could hear him saying to my dad, “and it looks like he’s covered in shit.”
2. There’s a spot in Pittsburgh known for their Tuesday-evening wing specials. It also has the nastiest men’s room of any indoor establishment I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those bathrooms that are so nasty, it really doesn’t matter much if you pee in the toilet or on it.
Unfortunately, while I was there several years ago, a batch of wings didn’t agree with me, so I had to take an emergency dump. But the toilet was so fucking nasty—seriously, it looked like the bathroom from the first Saw movie—that I wasn’t going to sit on it and catch anus gout. So I locked the door, pulled down my pants and shat in a conveniently short sink.
I will remember each of these instances for as long as I have a memory. Harder to remember, however, is where exactly the best place I’ve ever taken a shit was. Because those types of memories just don’t stick the same way.
Also, what exactly does “best” mean? For instance, let’s say I was invited to one of those fancy brunches in Oprah’s backyard and the whale-meat omelets she served that day didn’t agree with my stomach. And then let’s say she had these really nice portable restrooms available outside specifically so that niggas wouldn’t be shitting in her house. Would that qualify as “best”? I mean, sure, you’re basically shitting in a luxury port-a-potty, but it’s a luxury port-a-potty on Oprah’s lawn.
Or does the actual niceness of the toilet matter more than the location? Like, if you learned that a Taco Bell around the corner had 24-karat-gold toilets in their restrooms, would that count?
Anyway, all arbitrary criteria considered, the best for me would be the following:
1. Lord & Taylor Downtown Pittsburgh
This department store doesn’t exist anymore, but when it did, the men’s department featured a bathroom that smelled like lavender and cocoa butter, had pristine marble floors and one of those toilet seats that gave, like, airport neck pillows, was huge (maybe 400 square feet) and allowed you to lock the door from the inside. It also had a fucking couch. This bathroom was so nice that it felt like a glitch, like the building’s architect made a mistake and accidentally installed the Sultan of Brunei’s bathroom in a Pittsburgh department store.
2. The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla.
I stayed there when I spoke at the University of Miami last month. The bathroom in my room was mundane, but look at this fucking place!
This is only half of it. There are also these adjacent structures with big-ass columns, and the hotel sits at the top of one of those winding driveways from a casino in a James Bond movie. It felt like I was shitting in the Taj Mahal.
3. The National Museum of African American History and Culture
The bathrooms at the Blacksonian aren’t particularly notable, but I used one within a year of its opening, which makes my shit part of black history.