Return to the Index

GP 23 April 2008: Tipping Points V: Toilets, Trees, and Taste Treats

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Village Blacksmith”

Toilets To Talk About.  Years ago we’d be on the lookout for restrooms that were commodious and clean, never dreaming that we might ask for much more.  Design and wit played no part in our search.  In New York City, the old Eastside Airlines Terminal was a safe bathroom bet, perhaps the best thing on 42nd St.  Of course it was displaced by the Philip Morris building with some art gallery pretentions, and now something else anonymous sits on this site.  If you are hunting for a decent WC in one city or another, try out Best Lists where you will find some haunts that are okay.

Many years later we heard an inspired lecture from principals at PAOS Design at a colloquium we were leading in the countryside.  They showed pictures of a Japanese showroom for plumbing fixtures.  On one side of a wavy partition was a coffee house for visiting customers.  On the other side were inspired and very original toilet fixtures, at once confirming our impression that the Japanese have an obsession with matters of the toilette and that people from Edo have come up with the most imaginative bowls possible.  We think it is no accident that the review of a Japanese restaurant in London focuses on a power flusher in the loo, which, however, turns out to a European potty.

Despite their compulsive natures, the Japanese have not surrounded the market on imaginative restrooms.  A lady about town in Hong Kong took us to the bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon and insisted that we use the men’s room.  The men’s urinal enjoys a spectacular view of Hong Kong.  We suppose each customer is supposed to truly feel on top of the world when he visits this bathroom.  Apparently, we understand from the Bathroom Diaries, Hong Kong cognoscenti are quite pre-occupied with their restrooms.

Lately the biggest stir has been in a Sofitel men’s room in New Zealand.  What has set tongues wagging “is the six-metre long backdrop of life-size photographs featuring local models in varying poses directly behind each of the six stands—each with a full view of the action….  One has a tape measure out, one a pair of binoculars, another has a camera, a fourth is peering over her glasses and so the list goes on.”

Closer to home is Boston’s Mantra, an Indian restaurant just off the financial district that is a great place for lunch.  In the men’s there, the urinal features ice, and you test your horsepower by seeing how much you can melt.

Trees Are As Green As You Can Get.  Hither and thither on the Global Province we have hinted that the real way to find out if your neighbor is truly green is to find out if he holds on to what trees he has, and adds many more trees where developers have cut them down.  The last 20 years have not been kind ones for trees, as cut-throat developers strip the land, and governments do virtually nothing to stop them.  That said, many of our readers write to tell us about tree huggers whom we much admire.

Should you catch the tree bug, you will want to get to know some of our tree men, particularly Olaf Ribeirio.  The Johnny Appleseed of elms is Roger Holloway down in Atlanta, and you should be in touch with him if you want to replace elms felled by disease.  He’s planted hardy Princeton elms right next to the White House, and even Prince Charles has taken him up.  The Wye Oak has finally met its maker, but we recommend reading about it in Gods and Heroes.  There are many, many programs to bring trees back to our land, but we are probably most thrilled by Acorns of Hope that is planting up a storm to offset the ravages of Katrina.

Taste Treats.  We’re reminded that many foodies are now getting their caviar and other sea delectables from Browne Trading.  Best of all, this company reminds us that we can eat well, while eating good, putting more fish on our table. 

That said, we don’t want you getting too healthy.  To that end, read Charles Lamb’s yarn on how Roast Pig got started and how it caused a whole slew of houses to get burned down in China.  Perhaps he should have called it In Praise of Arson.  A glut of pig will add girth to your belly and fingerlickin’ stories to your memories.

Quips.  Mae West and her one-line ghostwriters were wonderful.  Here are a few where she tries to get us to take to excess:

Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.

He who hesitates is a damned fool.

I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

Which leads us to say, “Less than All is Nothing.”

Back to Top of Page

Return to the Index of Letters from the Global Province

Home - About This Site - Contact Us

Copyright 2008 GlobalProvince.com