Photo essay: West Nashville, Headquarters Coffee, and shit

Headquarters Coffee wouldn’t take any of my shit. They had a sign up that said “Our plumbing is over 100 years old. If you have to go #2, don’t use our toilet. Our pipes can’t handle your pipes.” I had to take a shit really badly because I just drank coffee, and coffee makes me shit. I asked the counter worker, the barista, what I should do. I said “I can’t use your bathroom. Any idea where I can go?” She told me that I could go next door to Cool Things and Weird Stuff. So I go over there.


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The owner of Cool Things and Weird Stuff makes these signs you see everywhere. They are rustic three-dimensional relief letters soldered out of tin and lit with Christmas tree bulbs. His most popular signs say “Nashville” and “Music City.” He also refinishes furniture and sells salvaged oddities. He has an Elvis statue in fiberglass out front, which is missing an arm after an attack many months ago.

Passing amputee Elvis, I walked into the store to see the owner soldering his tin signs in the storefront. He had some dreadlocks, but not all dreadlocks. I reminded him about the sign I bought from him a few months ago. “Hey, man, I was a customer of yours before. I was just in Headquarters next door, and they say I can’t take a shit in their toilet cause it will break.”

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He exclaimed “Really? My bathroom doesn’t work at all. I send all my customers over there to use their bathroom. You should try Betty’s around the corner.” So I go around the corner to Betty’s, a beer joint and dive that sometimes hosts shows. When I walk in, both bathrooms are full. I lose my gall and walk out. I look across the street to the library in Richland park, but it seems ridiculously far away. I walk back into the bar nervously. The bartender asks if I’m okay.

I request permission to use his bathroom. “You just need to take a piss, right?” And I’m like no, I couldn’t shit at Headquarters or the junk shop; can I please shit here? He gives reluctant assent.

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I return to Headquarters. I try to joke with the barista. I say “Your neighbor has had enough of your shit already.” She doesn’t laugh. I clarified that I was trying to tell a joke. “No, no, it’s just that I thought he might be talking shit about us or even be angry.” I explain how I visited the john in Betty’s.

“It’s just that the pipes get clogged. It backs up.” She suggested that it can sometimes help to flush “as you go– you know?” I assured her that I really did know, but really I was just embarrassed that the topic had continued so long. We were talking about shit near the place the barista served food. It suddenly felt unseemly.
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