Teaching at Tibet House & the Tibetan Museum. Party! More plays: Sheridan & Shakespeare again

I was delighted to be able to teach twice whilst in New York – my B1/B2 visa allows this, provided that I don’t get paid and only have expenses reimbursed. Before arriving, my 3 main aims were to get Debbie out and about more, have a party for her with her family, friends and new people and teach Mindfulness in at least one place. I managed to achieve all 3.

My first talk was at Tibet House (set by Bob Thurman, Richard Gere and Philip Glass at the behest of the Dalai Lama) and the second at the Tibetan Museum on Staten Island: 2 very pretty places.

Having organised with Ganden Thurman (Bob’s son) to teach at Tibet House, I decided to go to the private view of the exhibition “Glimpses of Mustang” by Jaroslav Poncar that was held 2 days before my talk. The photos of this beautiful country were really fascinating and there was a man who was born in Mustang there to point out interesting elements in the photographs such as the tracks running up the mountains that you would not normally see. Mustang is a tiny Tibetan region in the Himalayas, hidden behind the high peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. Before, 2008, it was a kingdom within the Kingdom of Nepal. Since 1992, its borders have been open to a controlled number of foreign visitors. It was a lovely evening and they had some great nibbles and drinks.

At this exhibition, I met the lovely Mary, who, the following day, introduced me to Meg, the Executive Director of the Tibetan Museum, so serendipity is how I got to teach there.

At Tibet House I also attended a 2-hour conversation between Bob Thurman and Bob Goleman who have both published new books: I read some of Bob Goleman’s work when I studied Emotional Intelligence. It was a real privilege to listen to them exchange anecdotes about the Dalai Lama.

The talk that I gave was, thanks to advertising on ‘Meet Up’, really well attended – over 50 people came and I had good interaction with the audience, selling and signing 12 books.

The following Saturday – a lovely sunny day – I took the 10.30 ferry to Staten Island. I love the trip over – the (free) ferry goes past Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty. I recommend that people take the ferry just for the fun of riding it – as indeed daughter Ellie and I did last May.

Meg met me at the ferry – I realised when I arrived that we hadn’t said where we would meet but all was well! She drove me to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art at Lighthouse Avenue which was established in 1945, by a pioneering American woman Jacques Marchais (1887-1948). Jacques collected much Tibetan art and designed the rustic fieldstone buildings that resemble a Tibetan mountain monastery: the first Himalayan style architecture built in the United States.  It is a lovely peaceful place and the people that came to hear me speak (many more than expected) were lovely – friendly and interesting and asked some great questions. People kept arriving and I estimate there were well over 30 people. I sold, and signed, 13 books.

Before speaking, Meg had ordered a delicious Indian meal for a small group of us. I have agreed with them that the next time I visit New York I will give a longer talk – I am really happy about that! I have arranged to speak in a New York Library as well.

Debbie, Tom and Sandra, along with Tiffany, David and Roni, all came to Tibet House. They also attended the party that I organised for Debbie. I made some of my signature dishes – caramelised onion hummus, lemon and coriander hummus, tsatsiki and potato and onion salad.  We ordered all of the ingredients for that and the rest of the food from “Fresh Direct” – a great delivery service that Debbie uses.

Along with Debbie, there were three other visually impaired people: Tom, Frank and Ramone. People that we met at the jazz upstairs at Ryan’s Daughter also came – Gene Burtoncini along with Roni and Pedro. I had met Pedro in the park (he had admired Alfie) and we got chatting like old friends. He is returning to Santiago, in Chile, in September. He told me about his teacher, Gene: a New York legend, an absolutely amazing guitar player and inspiration for young musicians. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Bertoncini

Along with the musicians, Debbie’s sister and her 2 sons, along with one of her brothers attended as well as neighbours, other friends and a number of people that I had befriended during my time here. It was great fun and the varied live music went on late. There were 4 blind people at the party and all of them very talented people.

Apart from the official Shakespeare in the Park ‘Julius Caesar’ – that Debbie and I loved (and that, deliciously, the vile ‘president’s’ family are now up in arms about because it takes the piss out of him, his wife and son-in-law!!) there are other little productions going on in Central Park.

The first was Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ by the New York Classical Theatre in Central Park, which had the feature of the audience following the actors as they move from place to place. The 6 places they stopped were dotted around one of the lakes. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed wandering around, changing scenery. We attended the first performance: the actors were great, with the exception of one, who had an accent that was a mixture of Scottish, Irish, Northeast English and Italian: truly dreadful and intensely irritating. As it was the first evening, I mentioned it to the Director, who thanked me. The other ‘English’ accents were fine.

A couple of evenings later I went to see a Midsummer Night’s Dream at Summit Rock (West 85th Street entrance) by the Barefoot Theatre Company, set in 1967 San Francisco. They are a young and sweet group of young actors . The setting at Summit Rock is beautiful and the weather was just right. The following evening, Debbie, Tom and Sandra joined me – with all 3 of our dogs (2 guide dogs and Alfie) for their interpretation of Macbeth, set in 1967 Vietnam (and more or less the same actors). Both enjoyable evenings.

After Macbeth and a chat with the cast we walked down to the Delacorte, where Julius Caesar had just begun, to use the loos. There we met up with Roni and walked slowly through the park to 5th Avenue, letting the 3 dogs off to go mad on one of the lawns just before 9 p.m. (dogs can be off-leash before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m.). It was yet another part of the park I hadn’t yet discovered and I took a really evocative photo of Belvedere Castle from the side.

We ended up at Shake Shack’s outside seating area on 3rd Avenue and 85th Street, where I enjoyed rootbeer and Debbie had ‘the best vanilla milk shake I have ever had’ and then took the efficient cross-town bus back to Broadway and the No 1 Subway Line home, ever-patient dogs in tow. I love New York!

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