Cornelia Street Cafe

“Do you have a reservation?”

Yes—I did when we chatted about it at length ten minutes ago and that hasn’t changed, even though you gave away my seat.  Dumbfounded by the host’s sincerely inquisitive expression, I concluded that he must either be affected by amnesia or not recognize me with my glasses on.

It’s amazing how one simple addition to a face, like glasses, bangs or facial hair can alter another’s perception of someone or summarize one’s existence.  Dan Rufolo, the leader of Friday’s band at the Cornelia Street Cafe, had a beard that was in accordance with his composer-ly piano playing and driven compositions.  The drummer, Arthur Vint’s mustache encapsulated his keen wit and amplified his cowboy vibe.  The goatee on bassist Bill Thoman seemed only appropriate for his suspicious nature, in which he exclaimed that I was interrogating him and writing everything down.

If you look at the picture hanging in the restroom to the left, you will see three men and a woman donning facial hair to match their pirate garb in front of the cafe.  Details like this make me appreciate not only the quaint restrooms, but all of Cornelia Street Cafe, especially the shoebox diorama-like performance space downstairs from the restaurant.  From oversized Christmas lights hung around the exposed pipes, to mirrors framed like windows and open candle flames that would be in violation of the fire code in another city, the venue makes you feel welcome, even when the host forgets your face and the performer accuses you of being an informant with malicious intent.

Once you walk down the stairs to the performance area, make a left and you’ll see an arrow shaped sign that says “Restrooms” on the mirror wall.  The arrow leads to two small, unmarked white doors at an adjacent angle.  If they weren’t at a dead end, I would have taken longer to deduce that both must be doors to unisex restrooms.

The walls are at strange angles and the ceiling is very low so a tall person may have to crouch.  Every time I go, I note their very thin toilet paper and cute little sink.  Regarding the restroom on the right—the last I checked, the left tap is for hot water and the right, for hotter.  Turn on both to get cooler, warm water from the faucet.  Both restrooms are comparable in size and features.

The all-American band also featured trumpeter Nathan Eklund (beard) and saxophonist Rich Perry (clean-shaven), neither of whom spoke a language other than English.  Bill offered his Mandarin skills but only knew how to say his name and other useless things, and not our key phrase.  And thereafter, he continued to speak to me in elementary Chinese, possibly so that I could not transcribe or comprehend anything he said.  Tucson native Arthur translated “Where’s the restroom?” with gusto in gringo Spanish and Dan, a third-generation Italian-American, double-checked the phrase on his iPhone so that he could ask us in Italian –

Dov’è il bagno?