Saturday, April 21, 2018

In the Land of the Divine Madman IX


May 21, 2003

Had a bath to take the edge off last night's headache.  Terrible breakfast, nothing out, or prepared, everything cold.  This hotel has no character, like a chain.  Last night, the front clerk got snooty with some Nepalese.  Despite that, this morning I am surrounded by posh English accents.  The best hotel in town they say. 

We go to the Memorial Chorten, very similar to yesterday's temple, with a 3D mandala for body, speech, and mind.  In fact, it will probably look like this in 50 years.  The carvings, as ever, are exquisite.  One figure, under foot, had such a pathetic look on its face.  Clarke told of a gay Naropa student who made a yab-yum mandala.  A vase contained fake flowers with plastic drops.  One small figure was wrapped in newspaper.  Outside, townspeople would circumambulate three times on their way to business.  

We had a coffee and Berliner at the Swiss Bakery before going to the Dzong.  We couldn't enter since the king was there, so we went to his house instead.  It was alongside a river with a long, low Japanese wall and Chinese gate.  Beyond this, cows grazed among the trees.  I half expected the wall to hide archers.  A single rock stood before the wall with a clear outline of Fudo Myo-O, or so I thought.  I guess I've been looking at too many thangkas.  

We spent the rest of the morning going to thangka galleries.  Beside one, students were rebuilding the art school, working hard at working little.  After lunch (With uninspired waiters.  Even a city this small has attitude problems), we rousted a tailor on his day off to mount our thangkas.  Then I was free!

I walked along the broken main street of Thimphu, the concrete being smashed by Nepalese workers with sledgehammers and poles.  One young boy was trying it out.  I popped into a few shops, and down along side alleys.  There seemed to be a fair amount of Indians working some shops.  Here and there were small booths big enough for one, and usually there was a beautiful woman inside.  And of course some young Romeo was out front in his best gho.  Up the entire length of the city, the shops seemed to repeat themselves, the same seven types again and again.  I popped in when something caught my eye, often surprising the shopkeeper.  Women walked down the street carrying babies, and kids in identical uniforms walked home from school.  

I walked to the end of town, then followed some side streets back, passing small modest homes and a few multi-story structures with laundry drying over the balconies, and people hanging from the windows, gossiping.  I ran into Dorjee briefly, then went back to the Swiss Bakery for coffee.  I lingered awhile, and in that short time, three groups of people came, ate and drank quickly, then left.  

I went back to my hotel, passing Dorjee in his car.  From the window of my room I could see both archery and soccer in the feilds below.  Near the target, eight girls were cheering their heroes by doing a dance with identical steps.  Later, I went out to the plaza in front of our hotel and chatted with some kids doing Jackie Chan moves on each other.  Dorjee and driver Karma were sitting on another bench, getting their fortunes told by a sadhu-looking character. 

Dinner was at Karma Wangmo's place, a typical Asian middle class home, packed with photos, souvenirs, etc.  She laid out an incredible amount of food and drinks.  Karma's son, a tulku, was playing a wrestling video game with his cousin.  As we ate, the TV was on in the background, and I saw footage of our actual plane landing over a week ago.  The program was highlighting a the official visit of the president of the World Bank.   After dinner, I tried on one of Karma's husband's gho, and incredibly tight traditional shoes.


On the turntable:  Illinois Jacquet, "The Complete Illinois Jacquet Sessions 1945-1950"

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