Friday, October 08, 2004

Prayer wheel blog.

Yesterday I forgot to mention how Tsampa, the Tibetan restaurant in Manhattan, came to my attention. Sometime last year, my old college friend Geof Huth, who is one of my better correspondents these days and a reader of this web log, mentioned that he had visited his “favorite Tibetan restaurant,” in the vicinity of New York University, where his daughter goes to school.

The choice of the word “favorite” made me wonder just how many Tibetan joints there could be, even in New York, but a web site I consulted not long ago that categorizes restaurants by type in various cities turned up three or four in New York. None at all, alas, in Chicago.

I found the idea of a Tibetan restaurant so intriguing that I knew I had to go, next time I was in town. I wanted it to look like the bar in Raiders of the Lost Ark -- that was supposedly in Nepal, but close enough -- in which Indiana Jones has his first shootout with Nazis, and which ultimately burns down. You know, a dingy candle-lit kind of place, smelling of yak butter and yak herders who bathe twice a year. The kind of where you can drink a nine-tooth Tibetan under the table, if you’re woman enough.

Tsmapa was nothing like that, of course. Low lights, but not dingy, a narrow space lined by brick walls decorated by a handful of artworks, none of which I got a close look at, though the big picture of the Dali Lama had a prominent place. A few plants. Brass ornaments, hanging from the deep blue ceiling, and over the bar -- maybe bells.

I sat at a small table next to the low wall that separated the main dining floor from a staircase that led down to the kitchen. Resting on the flat top of the wall, at about shoulder level with me as I sat, was a brass device, a very nice piece of ornamented work about six inches tall, not counting the stick emerging from the top, with which you could spin the wheel inside, which you could see through rectangular holes in the sides. I asked the proprietor if it was in fact a prayer wheel, and he referred me to one of the waitresses (his daughter, I believe), who confirmed my suspicions. I spent a while spinning it.


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