I stopped by WBGO this month to see if the green fluff ball guy I made was still where I dropped him off in the studio. I left him there back in 2013 and would see his googly eyes looking back at me at each of my regular visits for months after. I was a bit disappointed that he had disappeared but was glad to know that the place was being cleaned at least once and maybe even twice a year.
I was also impressed to see that producer Simon Rentner had tidied up his office space, a room that I could hardly stand to look at before with its overflowing piles of CD cases and stuff. It was great to see that cleanliness had made it onto the agenda in this time of transition for the jazz radio station. One of the changes is the long-time host of The Checkout Josh Jackson moving to a station in Virginia, passing the torch to Simon.
I used to do work for the show and before I started editing segments remotely, I would go to the station regularly on Monday nights after my day job. When Simon introduced me as the intern one evening to host Awilda Rivera she replied with an incredulous “mmm-hmm.” It’s possible that says something about what she thinks of Simon. It’s also possible that she made assumptions about me. I’m beginning to understand beyond the obvious why my parents plead with me not to stay out late. Though I conduct myself with integrity, I’m likely to be framed as a scheming tart because I’m a young woman. To further illustrate, when a woman I know was kidnapped, more than one person responded asking if the kidnapper was very handsome.
There is an art gallery, which is essentially a hallway with paintings hung on the walls, but what I really recommend you check out is the women’s restroom on the second floor. Whoever curates the signs in the restroom definitely has a voice and a penchant for color-saturated pictures of flowers. I always look forward to using one of the two stalls so that I can read the two signs posted on each door reminding ladies to deodorize and check that the toilet has completely flushed. As with all great art, it has become a source of inspiration and pushed me to put up a similar sign at my office. Now I find the toilet fully flushed more often than before but it hasn’t been a complete success. Do you think I need to add clip art?
There is a restroom on the ground floor for on-air and production staff with a radio tuned to WBGO. Switching the light on used to interfere with the radio signal but I noticed that this issue had been resolved, possibly as a result of the new corner placement of the gadget.
New Jersey used to feel like a state distinct from New York before I started going to Newark for WBGO. I have since accepted it as the sixth borough of the city and have become fairly skilled at taking NJ Transit and PATH. Back from a period of exile in Princeton, my once-again Manhattanite friend Gokul tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Malayalam. It seems he has nearly forgotten how to ask in his mother tongue so it’s a good review as he goes home to Kerala in South India before plunging into his new job in Stamford, Connecticut.
“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”
I often paraphrase these words from Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune when discussing the ineludible influence of unique cities on individuals. Having lived in the Bay Area for several years, I know what it means to start turning soft. And now that I’ve lived in NYC for a few years, I’ve begun to catch my facial expression hardening instinctively at a passerby’s beckon.
So when a stranger offered us bananas as we passed Riverside Church at the onset of our walk down to the People’s Climate March yesterday, I refused and relented only when my friend accepted after an “Are you sure?” But by the end of the march at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, I was grabbing a homemade vegan sandwich and cookie from some lady without hesitation or a second thought.
I think my faith in humanity began to be restored during the 3.8 miles marching in the tremendous crowd. As soon as we reached the rear end of the organized march at 86th Street and started wading through the groups of people preparing banners and rallying, my eyes began to well up in the same way they can at the beauty of an orchestra or a great chorus of voices. And when the timed silence was broken by the palpable roar cascading forward — that — that was something you can’t watch on YouTube or replicate without hundreds of thousands of people.
Hundreds of thousands of people, of course, means very long lines for the limited number of toilets. There were porta potties, called “Port-o-Johns” on the People’s Climate March website, usually in clusters of two. The organizers also provided giant water coolers at a handful of locations and did an excellent job of coordinating such an enormous event. They did a remarkable job getting the word out too. It may have been because I was already looking with interest but I noticed their advertisements all over, including in subway cars and community centers.
There were many spectators for the quasi-parade: bewildered families trying to make their way across for a leisurely Sunday morning in Central Park, photographers and journalists there to report on a historical moment, and people sitting on the sidewalk in front of Upper West Side apartments in lawn chairs I didn’t know they had. I had seen cool things like a 3D chocolate printer and a giraffe robot at the annual Maker Faire the day before, but nothing came even remotely close to being as fascinating as the people at the People’s Climate March.
There were people I didn’t understand, like the woman marching in three & a half inch heels and the man who brought his bicycle along. Then there were people cashing in and selling souvenirs for an event where many of its participants are calling for the end of capitalism. It’s the kind of unsurprising and ubiquitous paradox that I still find jarring. It also brings to mind a guest with an “Occupy Wall Street” pin on her messenger bag who I noticed in the elevator at the Trump Soho. I questioned her presence there then wondered what I was doing there.
There were others still holding signs with topics unrelated or only tangentially related to the cause such as the Red Sox, ISIS and Esperanto. I requested a translation of “Where’s the restroom?” from Neil, who was holding the Esperanto sign, and learned that the restroom translates into the “necessary room” in the constructed language. It seems an appropriate translation for an international movement where toilets are vital to the mobilization.
I hope the heads of state at the climate change summit are listening. I hope future generations have the chance to experience the distinct differences between currently sinking cities, Manhattan and San Francisco.
“Odoriferous Manifestus!” exclaimed Steve Wilson, as he rushed back into our fifth floor lesson room yesterday. He had stepped out to rinse his mouth of trail mix before playing his alto sax but couldn’t bear to go in, let alone near, the men’s room. Welcome to Manhattan School of Music (MSM), one of the premier conservatories for jazz and classical music.
In just a couple weeks, I will be officially deemed a master of jazz by MSM and be halfway qualified to write for JAZZ TOILET. It’s too bad that I am not also getting certified in plumbing, because then I would be fully qualified to write for this blog and employed.
In all seriousness, I’m grateful for the past two years and hopeful, as I get ready to graduate with a more concrete idea of how to make a living as a musician and a clearer vision of my artistry. A can-do spirit abounds at this particular institution, whether due to pure inspiration or the necessity of having to create your own opportunities, especially if you are not one of the select department cronies. Inspiration often springs from necessity, and there is great need in a school with scarce scholarships, limited practice space and faulty elevators.
MSM hosts a vast number of concerts throughout the year, many of them free and open to the public. You will hear some of the most high-level jazz found anywhere in student recitals and Cafe Jazz performances. If you visit, here is what you need to know about the bathroom situation –
Other than the restrooms inside the library, the newest facilities are located between Miller Recital Hall and Ades Performance Space, on the way to the adjacent dormitory building. The ladies room on the first floor is ideal for times you need to get ready for a school performance, equipped with a wide counter and a full-length mirror. The third floor one is a personal favorite, being the only ladies room with a window. The other floor restrooms, going up to the sixth floor, are generally stinky and can be downright dangerous for men, as I illustrated at the beginning. Note that the building uses the European system of numbering floors and thus, the first floor starts above ground level.*
Contrary to the perception of MSM as a strictly straight-ahead jazz kind of school, the master’s curriculum centers on Dave Liebman’s chromatic, “out” approach to improvisation. And while the dogmatic theoretical process seems to be the opposite of the indefinite contemporary improvisation methodology I learned as an undergrad, the end result in performance can be similar.
Now that I’ve written this post summarizing grad school, rearranged the furniture in my tiny room, caught up on season 8 of How I Met Your Mother and started sewing my Macbook a thermal sleeve, I will work on my big band chart, choral conducting paper and other finals. If anyone is looking to hire a procrastinator, send me an email.
Orundell from Guyana tells us how to say our key phrase in Creole. Say hello to him when you walk by the security desk at the door.
*UPDATE: MSM has altered its floor numbering system so that the entrance level is now the first floor. Thus, it now goes up to the seventh floor instead of stopping at six. Also, since the new president has come on board at the end of academic year 2013, there have been renovations all over the building including in the old elevators. Lastly, Cafe Jazz has been rebranded as the Jazz Room Series.