Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Visit to Larry Craig's Bathroom Stall (with pictures!)

Yesterday morning, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID)’s request to have his guilty please for disorderly conduct thrown out was dismissed by a Minnesota appeals court. How fitting then that yesterday evening I just happened to be in the Minneapolis airport where all his troubles started. So of course, I had to hunt down the nation's most legendary bathroom stall. (Pictures at the end of this post.)

A quick recap: In summer 2007, Idaho's senior U.S. Senator (whom I have met but never supported) was arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. It just so happened that the guy he solicited was an undercover police officer on a sting operation. The police report is a hilarious read, including details about how one solicits such sex with foot tapping and hand-waving under stall partitions. During the arrest, Craig showed his Senator business card and asked the officer, “What do you think about that?” Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August, and then tried to keep things quiet until Roll Call newspaper found a court record and publicized the story in December. Craig announced his resignation, took it back, declared he was not gay and that pleading guilty was his only mistake, and said he would try to have his guilty plea withdrawn and would fight a Senate ethics investigation. The Senate committee came down pretty hard on him for trying to use his position to get out of trouble and for embarrassing the Senate with his conduct following the public revelations. He lost his Veteran Affairs Committee seniority. A number of other people, some anonymous and some not, have crawled out of the woodwork to declare he had solicited sex from them in various bathrooms as well, including Washington, DC’s Union Station.

In the months following the story’s initial coverage, that bathroom became quite the tourist attraction, and I became such a tourist yesterday. How could I, a political junkie from Idaho, not? According to the police report, it is the “main men’s public restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal.” During my hour-long layover, I called a friend in Idaho to have him get online and help me find the place. It took me a minute to figure out what the Lindbergh Terminal was and to realize I had to walk through it to get to my gate. This was good news. My friend quickly found out that the bathroom was located near Royal Zeno’s Shoe Shine. While there are several restrooms near Royal Zeno’s, only one was right next to it, and the others would have better landmarks to describe their location. And according to various reports, Craig’s stall was either “second from the right” or “next-to-last.” Only one stall fit either description: I had found the mythical Larry Craig commode.

I’m hardly the first blogger or reporter to embark upon this hunt. Time and Fox News talk about the many tourists asking for directions (Royal Zeno, who has since passed on, was getting mighty sick of it); and a reporter for Variety stopped by at the same time as Jon Stewart. Drbilllong.com describes the restroom in pretty good detail, so I will only add four observations to his description: One, it’s a pretty standard restroom. The men’s room on C concourse is fancy, above women’s restroom but below executive washroom, but the main terminal is pretty standard. Two, it is in a very public place, perhaps the most highly trafficked part of the airport, and doing anything illegal there would be incredibly stupid. Three, and I just thought this was hilarious, there is a statute of Snoopy right outside the bathroom. And four, the stall itself is very dark. I mean, many bathroom stalls are poorly lighted because they depend on the light from the main restroom, but this one was especially dark. It was exactly the type of stall you would use in a movie if you wanted to depict someone doing something creepy in a bathroom. So, without further ado, pictures. (Oddly enough, no one was in the restroom when I visited, so I went ahead and whipped out my cell phone camera.)

From the terminal:


The stall (Craig's is second from the wall; I thought the policeman's was against the wall, but have since learned it's third from the right, so only barely visible in these photos):





That last shot, up against the the door lock, is where Craig would have placed his rolling carry-on luggage. As for this next and final shot, Craig's excuse for waving his hand underneath the stall partition was that he was picking up a piece of paper. Well how 'bout that! Though I've now learned it's the wrong side of the stall, there was indeed a piece of paper on the floor!


Perfect timing given the appellate court's decision, no? Unlike last fall (according to the news reports, anyway), no one else in the terminal seemed to recognize the bathroom's significance. But I have to ask - was this creepy? Was this going too far for even an obsessive political junkie like myself? So far, my Idaho friends and fellow NH junkies are about evenly divided.

7 comments:

ThomG said...

TT, Given the notoriety of that stall you're lucky you weren't busted for taking pictures!

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna say, homes, this is pretty cool if not a little creepy. . ..


I'm half surprised you didn't find Craig in there, though. I figured he'd be looking for a place to hide out after that appeal!

James said...

I didn't realize this blog was going porno or cruise site on me. :)

Now, do I link to it or not? LOL

Nathan Empsall said...

James - I did realize I'd have to hold off an extra day to post my interview with +Gene to keep it from being side-by-side with this post on the frontpage! :P

Jordan said...

I still can't believe you called me just to announce that, but then again just because I can't believe it doesn't mean I'm surprised.

Or does it?

*tap

Nathan Empsall said...

Jordan - I thought you would appreciate it more than you did. Logan was thrilled, as was my friend Daniel, whom I don't think you know, and my mother. My NH friend Brice's (who I think is the anon comment above, given the use of the word "homes") reaction was more like yours. I've gotten several e-mails that find it hilarious, though. One friend said his dream is to visit Eliot Spitzer's DC hotel room.

*wave

jim said...

Colbert reported the opening of the republican covention from that restroom