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On seeing the City Center's stone Gandhara
Buddha for the first time with Philip - DC
[This is an excerpt from something I wrote about the City Center - DC]
Early in 1972 a diligent and studious priest named Reb
Anderson came up to me in the halls one day and said that he had seen a
marvelous Buddha statue at a store called Katmandu. He knew a bit about
Buddhist iconography but he said that Philip knew more and he asked me if
I'd take Philip to get a look at it. Philip Whalen, our own resident Beat
poet, lived in the room across from me on the second floor. He was
classically educated and knew his Buddhist history as well as the Greek.
He seemed to me to know everything.
That evening I went to his room. He was playing Bach on his little organ amplified only into his earphones. I told him what Reb had said so the next day we went over to Union Street with its boutiques and classy restaurants in a pretty ritzy area of town. Katmandu sold Afghan imports - dresses and jewelry and some art. It had a definite hippie vibe. Reb had told me that the guy who ran it was pretty weird and kept singing "Things go better with coke" as he pranced around the store straightening this and that." Reb said that the statue was in the back room in a closet and that the owner had offered to show it to him after they'd gotten into talking about oriental art and religion and he could see that Reb would appreciate his special item. He wasn't singing the coke song when Philip and I were there but he was peppy. And friendly.
Philip and I looked around and talked to him and finally I said, "I hear you have a statue in your closet. His eyes lit up and he pointed behind him with his head, saying, "Right this way."
In the back room full of inventory he moved some boxes away from a door and opened it up. All I could see were kaftans hanging across the width of the closet. He reached in and pulled the garments to each side revealing a stone Buddha sitting in lotus, three feet tall, pleasing to look at and with a clear, divine yet human countenance. A bell rang in front and the guy left us there saying, "Enjoy."
Philip stepped forward clutching his hands together. "Museum quality," he said in a hushed tone of awe.
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