Today marks two years since I published a blog post on the Village Vanguard with the same enthusiasm and excitement I have for each of my pet projects. It has been great having a platform to share my writing and I’ve been able to observe more than toilets and jazz along the way.
I noted that most readers assumed the writer to be male when I first launched this blog. I’m beginning to think about what it means for writing to be gendered and specifically what it means given that I write in English, a language without masculine and feminine nouns like the romance languages.
In the past two years, the JAZZ TOILET team has reviewed toilets in thirty-eight jazz clubs and collected translations of “Where’s the restroom?” in over thirty-eight dialects, spoken by as many as 848 million in Mandarin, as few as 400,000 in Luxembourgish, and by an unknown number in a space alien language.
Special thanks to my friends at International House for providing many of the translations, Blue Note Entertainment Group for continually reaching out, and venues to remain unnamed for taking the time to reject us. It has been an interesting two years, meeting curious people, lonely people, creepy people, and talented people.
There are shifts in the works for the year or two ahead, though you may not notice any immediate changes on the blog. Expect a comeback of the Extra Edition covering jazz-incubating locations other than clubs and revisits to venues with new information on their toilets. I still plan on one Tuesday Toilet Talk per month, though not necessarily on the second Tuesday, as my main priorities are to engage in fewer heartburn-inducing activities and invest more time in people. Eliciting shock from friends who run into me gets old fast; I’d rather be a familiar face. I also hope to become a familiar voice to you as JAZZ TOILET continues to develop.
Readers, I am thankful for you and wish you a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. While unable to return home to LA this winter, I am grateful for technology that allows me to stay in touch. Now that my whole family is on FaceTime, my dad can point out blemishes on my face without having to see me in person, taking care of much of the ritual of the family gathering online.
In this Thanksgiving post, we say thanks to KMac as he steps down from the men’s room correspondent position he has dutifully held since our inception. I am proud to say that he is moving on to bigger and better things, leaving New York to fill the drum chair in the Navy Band. Look out for a special issue in the next year, when we visit him in DC.
Before he left, KMac gave me a book by Ben Ratliff titled The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music for what he called my journalistic aspirations. I, in turn, got him something for his sartorial pursuits because he kept telling me about how cool he plans to dress when off-duty. It’s just as well that we are parting ways because clearly, we have different priorities.
Farewell Petty Officer KMac—we salute you or whatever it is they do in the navy.
And Ken®—you’re fired.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Having documented twenty-six jazz clubs housing more than twice the number of toilets and twenty-six translations of “Where’s the restroom?” in languages from Arabic to Zulu, we celebrate the one-year mark of the launch of JAZZ TOILET. For the year ahead, I am cutting back on the TUESDAY TOILET TALKS to just the second Tuesday of each month. Please stay tuned as I will be introducing new issues and staff writer Ken® will be continuing with the FRIDAY FLUSH.
For the occasion, my sister mailed me a 2013 calendar featuring “Toilets of the World.” I look forward to filling the grids with deadlines and activities, starting with a celebratory lunch today for Ken® and men’s room correspondent KMac. Now, I leave you with words of wisdom inscribed within my new calendar (underlines are my own).
Toilets of the World (Sian James and Morna E. Gregory)
Loo, john, dunny, bathroom, lavatory, outhouse, WC, longdrop, commodities, powder room, crapper, throne, porcelain god, washroom, toilet, can, urinal, facilities, pisser, comfort station, head, water-closet, little boys’ room, shitter, pot, nettie, bog …
So many names refer to the same mundane object. This boundless terminology reflects human beings’ natural fascination with the toilet. Taboo subjects that have provoked deep interest throughout the ages are known by many names—consider death, drugs and copulation, to name a few. Terms for the toilet all describe the smallest room in the house, in the backyard, on the boat, or elsewhere. This list is from English alone. To compile a complete list of toilet terminology from all languages would fill volumes. Regardless of how it is referred to, the universal aspect cannot be denied: every human being on earth uses the toilet.
Why toilets? The subject is not nearly as frivolous as it may appear at first glance. Toilets are bay windows with a view onto a given population. The term toiletology has yet to be coined, although the study of toilets provides a cultural and sociological analysis of the people who occupy different regions throughout the world. The variety of toilets in different countries is astounding. Toilets often (though not always) reflect the development of a given country or region via design, placement, material and mechanics. Aren’t toilets the same everywhere? In a limited geographical area, perhaps. On an international scale, toilets are very, very different.
The use of the toilet transcends all race, religion, age and social class. From the most impoverished to the highest royalty, each and every one of us bows to the basics of bodily function. Whether one does so in a ditch or on a jewel-encrusted throne, the result is the same. The president, the cashier, the supermodel, the writer, the lawyer and the farmer all find themselves subject to this most basic of acts. It is physical gratification from the earliest age on up. The act is philosophical—emptying the body empties the mind as well. For how many busy and stressed people is this moment one of the few instants of solitary relief, privacy and contemplation in an otherwise hectic day? Many people confess to having great thoughts, ideas and insights while seated on the toilet.
Through the pages that follow, take a fascinating and explicit voyage through societies around the globe. A deeper cultural understanding of the world is within reach via the most raw and honest tattle-tale of human civilization: the toilet.
Eunice, Graphic Designer/Analyst
KMac, Men’s Room Correspondent
Casey, PR Guru
Jack, West Coast Emergency Tech Support
Jo, Unprofessional Legal Advisor
Thank you also to the dedicated readers, the welcoming clubs and musicians/friends who contributed translations of “Where’s the restroom?” in their native tongue. I must head downtown now to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
You have probably met Ken® before. He will be joining the JAZZ TOILET team to model in photos, so that you have a point of reference for the dimensions of the restrooms. He is about a foot tall, as you can observe in the photo to the left.
You may think him to be a gratuitous addition since most toilets are of a standard size, giving you an idea of the size of each stall. But he can serve as an additional point of measurement and accompany me on my assignments, since our men’s room correspondent, Kevin Mac, cannot be present at all locations. Ke(vi)n: a tall, blond & blue-eyed man—they’re practically the same person. Plus, when else will I be able to have such a white male of privilege working under my direction?
In addition, Ken® brings with him years of expertise in multiple fields, including in languages; he is a polyglot that can speak many languages, from Azerbaijani to Zulu. We are excited to have him on board. Below is a video clip of Ken® with a brief statement for us in English.