I know a service like BathFitters or ReBath will simply install shower walls on top of the existing walls. This was actually done on the other side of the house, and the results...well, let's just day you shouldn't do this if you're renting to the sort of people who don't clean their shower walls regularly. I'm gonna need a lot of bleach.
The other problem is what's on the long back wall. The wall integrity there is sound, but...
...this is the image that has gazed out at anyone using the toilet in my grandmother's house since we were little kids.
It's creepy, and freaky, and ominous, and the sort of thing that guaranteed that none of us spent too much time in the bathroom when we were kids. I have no idea what the story behind it is, or even if it was there when my grandparents bought the house in 1953 or if was something they had installed. The bathroom and pantry are an obvious addition to the house, which was originally built in 1910, probably without indoor plumbing. The wall image is a beautiful piece of work, highly detailed, lovingly done in gold on a plastic or linoleum board. Such a thing must not be unique, so perhaps there are others who have this image scarred into their consciousnesses? I've always felt that it dates from the days of South Pacific and Hawaiian statehood, but that's just a guess.
So what the hell is going on in this image, anyway? We see several elements: a possibly volcanic peak in the background, its top shrouded in clouds; three palm trees in the foreground (and several more in the background) bending in a wind blowing from inland, from the center of the island; a single hut, alone, no people near it; two boaters paddling away from the island, their canoe filled with something; a flock of seagulls flying overhead, perhaps in pursuit of the boaters, perhaps towards the island; and of course...
...the bug-eyed Tiki God.
Well, when we were kids, we knew all about Tiki Gods. We had learned everything we needed to know from that episode of The Brady Bunch where the Brady family went with Cousin Oliver to Hawaii and the kids desecrated an ancient burial ground and Greg got V.D. from a hula dancer and Peter was eaten by spiders and they had to fix everything by giving a Tiki Idol that they found back to Mr. Howell. Or something like that. So we knew that these were not things to mess with, unless you wanted to have to deal with horrible curses and Jim Backus.
When I was a kid I made up a story to go with the picture. It went something like this:
The two young men were eager to prove their manliness. A great fortune, they had heard, was waiting to be found on the Abandoned Island. But travel to the Abandoned Island was Forbidden by the village elders. The young men smiled to themselves as they thought how they had made false promises to the elders to stay away. Then one day they "borrowed" a canoe and paddled to the Abandoned Island to see what they could discover.
They entered the lagoon, came onshore, and saw one of the few huts left on the island. It was empty. But it did not look like it had been robbed, rather like the occupants had stripped it of all that it held. As they made their way along the lagoon they found other huts, inland, not visible from the lagoon, all in the same condition.
Finally they found what they sought. A great treasure was stashed away in a small cave: jewelry, shells, trade items, even some long-decayed pieces of clothing. Greedily they bundled up the choicest items and made plans to return for the rest. And then, through a parting in the trees, they saw the Blind God, staring at them with unseeing eyes.
Terrified, they made their way back to their boat, still carrying their bundle. What have we done?, they asked as a great wind began to blow from the center of the Abandoned Island. Forbidden, the elders had said. Why? They didn't know, and so they chose to ignore. For that matter, why had the island been abandoned in the first place? What had caused the islanders to pile all of their material goods into a cave as an offering for the Blind God? They didn't know that, either.
They got in their canoe, the bundle of treasures between them. Paddle, paddle like mad! they thought. The wind blew stronger from the island. The trees bent. A flock of seagulls flew overhead, fleeing ahead of the two young men. How fast would they have to paddle to escape the wrath of the Blind God?
UPDATE, 3/21/07: Thanks to a visitor from Boca Raton, Florida, I now know that the Tiki God bathroom mural came from a company called Marlite and is from around 1964. Check out this forum and scroll down just past the halfway point (or search for "bathroom") to see pictures of the Tiki God mural in a different setting. My mom has confirmed that my grandparents were responsible for having this thing installed!