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A Specific Guilt

from Sunday, November8th of the year2009.

IË€’ve been in a lot of hotels in the last couple of weeks “” basically one per day, with an occasional two-night stay. With the exception of this one ridiculously expensive one in Los Angeles, a lot of hotels seem to have the same bizarre design problem that I’m interested in exploring. It has to do with the shower. First of all, I am not a big enthusiast of the Euro Nozzle of Despair. Without fail, the mechanism by which you’re meant to affix the nozzle of despair to the wall @ ur desired height is droopy, and requires constant maintenance while performing your toilet. Sometimes the height bracket is fixed, which then makes you ask: why have the movable nozzle in the first place? Why not just a nice showerhead? But then, the biggest mystery to me is the glass partitions between the shower and the bathroom. They are inevitably way too short, and you end up getting water all over the floor. At least for me, I start having this insane guilt about making the housekeeping staff have to clean up what ends up as a sort of bog. With any piece of three-dimensional design, shouldn’t there be a Master Choeography for it? Even if you do, for instance, use a bidet to wash your feet in, it’s still nice to know that there is a Regular Way that it’s designed to be used, and has been used for thousands (?) of years. Even if you don’t obey it, it’s nice to know that there is a way to do something that somebody has thought out. Zug, Weg, u know? It’s entirely possible that I’m just culturally insensitive and that kids in Europe grow up knowing how to face down the Nozzle of Despair and the Insufficient Glass Partition without getting water all over the floor but I’d love some kind of notated choreography so I can live my life without anxiety.

The shower is, in a sense, one of the most intense and personal rituals and performing it while traveling can get very emotional. I used to have (or, I suppose still have, but have it Under Control) a serious compulsive anxiety problem that would require me to break down simple actions into all their parts. Turning on the shower was a large folder of actions inside which were other folders such as how to carry the shampoo into the shower, at what point to open the cap to the shampoo, where to put the cap (put it in the soap dish, upside-down, and then replace it at the end of the shampooing time? put it on the floor?) “” it used to be that before I showered, I had to plan the whole thing out like a military operation. In my house in New York and in, like, houses run by straight women and gay men I can generally perform this ritual without much variation. But forget about hotels and bachelor pads. I wonder if Choreographic Therapy can become a thing for Obsessive Compulsives. I’m going to call Benjamin about this. Wouldn’t that be divine? To have, like, Mark Morris come over your house and tell you how to elegantly lock your doors and ensure that the oven and the hair iron are off?

I am on the Bedroom Community Whale-Watching Tour 2009 and it’s great. The routing is a little goofy, but it’s been okay. We are, for the most part, traveling on a nightliner sleeper bus, which is a first for me. It’s a long bus with four banks of three bunks stacked on top of one another. The traveling crew is Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon, me, our tour managers / faggis-totum Paul, Stuart, and Pierre-Alain, our front-of-house man Dan, and then a pile of musicians: Nadia Sirota, Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, Helgi Hrafn Jónsson. And then two German bus drivers (they have a confusing ritual of who drives and sleeps when that I have pointedly excused myself from trying to understand). One of the drivers has leather pants and a comedy mustache and the other has neither leather pants nor comedy anything. Three of these people are Australian, which is a little bit like having three beagles: their yowling increases exponentially.

This whole S. Esa-Pekka Merkersdóttir Cancer subplot on Law and Order is so surreal: her son, who presumably goes to the University of Vermont, gets her medical marijuana from the 802? And Ernie Hudson, her man, makes her salmon with string beans and beetroot and she can’t keep it down? So real. If poopy iTunes hadn’t disabled screen captures I’d show you the salmon. Somebody just said, “ball cancer.” I love this show.

We’ve been enormously lucky with food on this tour. Aside from the generally chilled out backstage necessities (bananas, peanuts, wine), we’ve all been scattering into the cities in search of the Perfect Nibblet. I sort of hate a tapa in New York; there’s something very doomed & Junior Year Abroad about most of the places that serve them except for the Boqueria chainlet, which can get a little douchey (diù-xí) albeit delicious. Last night, in Seville, after the show, we ate at what purports to be the oldest restaurant in Spain or something, and it was so delicious. Pork cheeks, perfect ham and cheese, anchovies on green tomato slices. I had a revelatory experience two nights ago (a beautiful thing: the husband of a good friend from childhood recommended this place in Madrid) involving a Single Egg on top of a purée (?) of eggplant and sausage. I’m not sure if “purée” is the word for what happens when you apply pressure to an eggplant but you know what I mean. Other revelations have happened involving Octopus and Quail Eggs. (Genius aside language moment: there was an Icelander with us last night who lives in Spain, and his rendering of “quail egg” from the Spanish on the menu into Icelandic ended up being “Arctic Grouse Egg” which is funny considering that it was 70° outside.

Speaking of random Icelandic people, we started our tour in Elx, in Spain. For some bizarre reason, there is a community of Icelandic and English and Danish vacation time-shares in Alicante, just south of Elx. Now. I have never really been to a place where there are a lot of time-shares but I understand this to be a whole thing. What I didn’t realize is the grotesque, cancerous nature of this thing. We are discussing a vacation that starts at Luton Airport, which is something like a bus station, taking a low-cost airline (more on this in a sec), involves arriving in a smoky, diesely airport, hiring a car, and driving forty minutes to a fake-stuccoed condominium on the Spanish coast with zero possibility of there being any Spanish people within forty miles of the place, with the possible exception of the three leathery whores practicing the oldest profession by the roundabout near the Chinese buffet. Why people would subject themselves to this is beyond me, but there is a direct flight from Reykjavík which means that enough Ices are into it to make it happen. My flight from London was my first time in years on a low cost airline, and I had forgotten the madness of that process. Girls are feeling a legging and an Ugg boot, I can tell you that much. The in-flight magazine contained literally dozens of ads for lawyers who can help you get out of your time-share, with the vaguely racist insinuation that all Spanish landlords are crooks. Some ads, including one that we are going to talk about in a second, seem to be aimed at people interested in increasing the value of their vacation homes. This advertisement blew my mind. It’s two pages, and I read it so many times. My eye was initially drawn to it because one of the pull quotes reads, “Folding Sliding Doors for the Creation of Wider Openings!” with that capitalization. I read on:”¨

From restricted doorways to large openings. A folding sliding door can be installed in situations that many people feel are not possible. The solutions to your application are endless. The folding sliding door provides you with so much flexibility and choice. Your wish is our command.

Why block half of your available opening Why not take full advantage of the space you have?

Open your horizons and bring the outside in. Imagine having all your friends at your home for that barbeque party on a summers evening. Everyone is squeezing in and out of that sliding door you have. How many of them after a few drinks are going to walk straight into the glass? Ouch!!! How many trip up over the threshold? With a glass of red wine!!!!

Don’t be shut in! Don’t be closed off!

Allow the traffic to flow and keep the party flowing problem free. Give yourself that extra space that you need with a folding sliding door. Don’t separate your inside from the outside.

Folding sliding doors have been added to buildings for approximately 30 years now. Many people see them as big clumsy heavy doors that fall off their hinges, leak water and wind, are easy to break into and are mainly used as room dividers.

Gone are the days of French doors with a glass panel on either side. Gone are the days of the sliding door, which, when you think about it, is just a door with a large window at the side.

In recent years technology has changed within the folding sliding door industry […]

This goes on for literally a page and a half more. I read it over and over, thinking that maybe it was some kind of insane magic eye, where the more you read it, the deeper your understanding of the Nature of the Universe would become. Or, maybe it’s a code being sent through the personals ad, like how serial killers love in movies. Or is it a portal to another dimension!?

Observation: have you noticed that when women who drink order drinks in movies, they’re always SUPER hard-ass about it, and specific? “Dry Stoli martini, with a twist. His tab.” and then you hear their bitch-clicks as they march off to the ladies’ room to chew nails. That’s sexist. Or something. Occasionally the urge to watch a movie starring Laura Linney overcomes me. Whatever.

In other movie-watching urges, the other day, I was walking down the street in Lisbon and was struck with an insane, unspeakable urge to watch Amadeus. I found sufficiently fast internet somewhere (not easy on the Iberian peninsula) and downloaded the only thing on iTunes, which, weirdly was the director’s cut, which I had never seen. Ooh snap. It’s long, number one, and two, there are some deleted scenes that are really really intense, including one where Mozart takes on a student whose father owns a bunch of yappy dogs. I had forgotten how much I adore The Abduction from the Seraglio. That triangle! That weird Neapolitan note in that aria!

I’m a little sad about not being able to blog as much due to being on the road. Also, I’ve been tweeting furiously (@nicomuhly, holla at me) which takes some of the “need to blog” urge away. I’ll try to be better.


  • I assume you have seen the piece by Ian Frazier in the New Yorker a couple of years ago, “How to Operate a Shower Curtain,” or some such. Perhaps you could do a similar explanation of glass partitions.

  • The Nozzle of Despair is even worse when you’re tall. Many times the attachment is chest height for me. Showers should not involve painful contortions.
    Europeans do not grow up knowing how to deal with this. But we do grow up knowing how to make a kind of vague ‘hmmmm’ sound when people ask us how the shower is.

  • Mark Morris would def come to your rescue!!!! And he’d create a magnificent score, suitable for framing in each bain d’espair, so you could complete your ablutions sans Sorge world-wide. Oh happy day! Thanks for leaving tweet for a bit to post. delightful, as always!

  • Saw you the other night in Seville. It was absolutely amazing. It was the first time I listened to Bedroom Community music and it was perfect.
    Thanks for that beautiful show, bye.

  • If you weren’t the sort of person who’s given to breaking down actions into all their parts I don’t see how you could write the music you do.

    Here’s the Ian Frazier piece:

  • this makes me so happy

  • Christian Ulf-Hansen
    November 10th, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Nico, the Nozzle of Depair is also a recurring (comedic, yet tragic) theme for me, when travelling with my acts or on business. Being roughly six foot tall, as Samuel Becker describes above, means that just getting your head under the (usually dribble like) shower, is a feat of complicated contortionist pain that would be good training for Cirque De Soleil. I personally think that it is all a Grand scheme developed by very short engineers and designers who flunked useful employment and reluctantly ended up in shower design and secretly have a league table of “the worst designed shower fittings” which they gleefully give awards for at their annual Shower Designers of The Year awards in (probably) Cleveland, Ohio; and they are working in conjunction with shampoo manufacturers, Chiropractors and other companies in the subterfuge of making sure your shower is painful, messy and the least possible pleasant experience imaginable.\nForget Global Warming, lets do something important and free the world of this bondage and campaign for a worldwide “good shower” standard, with a Live Aid style gig, called “SHOWER AID”, with huge Telethons with donation phone lines to train good shower designers, civil unrest and boycotting of hotel chains..etc…\nOr, as we all probably will, we can just hope that the next hotel we go to, the shower will be better than the last one.. Hey ho. Christian

  • Between the comedy mustache & the ball cancer & droopy nozzle of despair discussion, I found this post to be both necessary & containing deep Freudian implications that I am only now starting to explore.\n\nxo,\nAHB

  • It was nice chatting with you after the show last night! Next time you play in Eindhoven I’ll stay for another drink. \n\nHow was Wonders? I wish I knew how in the world you pull that off live.

  • i was a bit off center with ‘ball cancer’ myself. that sub-plot is as potent as the main as it’s on-going. she’s a riveting actress.

  • Learn something new every day: Nico is an Law & Order fan! It is such a shame you are not in NY. We at the Paley Center are having a Law & Order reunion event on Monday with Dick Wolf, and S. Epatha Merkerson will be there. I’ll be tweeting the public event on 11/16 at 6:30 p.m. ET

  • The correct formulation for what you get when you apply pressure to (usually smoked) aubergine (or eggplant as you will have it) is caviar, satisfyingly.\n\nThe Nozzle of Despair reminds me of The Bench of Desolation – isn’t that a short story by James?\n\n– Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer, the Guardian

  • the sub-plot is just as engaging as the main. the ‘ball cancer’ took me a back too. that actress has the right stuff.

  • I will bet you like twenty dollars that some composer who reads your blog sets that advertisement within the next year. Twenty American dollars. You will get an e-mail asking you for it. It’s probably happened already, pay up.

  • There’s an odd 2002 art film from Scotland called “Morvern Callar” where Samantha Morton’s boyfriend commits suicide on Christmas, she wakes up hungover and discovers him, chops his body up and buries him, and then takes the money he’s left her for an extended holiday in timeshare land in southern Spain with a female friend. That’s when the movie starts to be genuinely disturbing.

  • Most choreography by M.Morris includes a large man in high heels and a big wig – wouldn’t fit in my NYC bathroom. Damn. Also, will probably never stop chuckling at “S. Esa-Pekka Merkersdóttir.”

  • Thank you again for bringing us Leipziger the wonderful evening last Tuesday. It shall remain and linger, and how we expect you to revisit sometime. Oh, and once again an invitation to Taiwan as well. 🙂 best regards.

  • I have to rise to the defense of the mobile showerhead. Without it, I could never clean my shower as quickly and thoroughly as I do.

    Vive la nozzle du douche!