To be entirely truthful, my overriding feeling during my visit to the Rubin Museum for a press opening was more out of head.
The premise of the entire museum for 2018 is that the past, future and present are fluidly enjoined. More truth: I found it hard and, in some instances impossible, to fully grasp all the information, some written in art-cum-Buddha speak. Notwithstanding, much of the art is wonderful regardless of interpretation.
Among my favorite pieces is a portable shrine from Bhutan made of painted and gilded wood with clay figures, small enough to be carried around by teaching monks to broaden the reach of the so-called ‘Second Buddha’s’ vision.
Another highlight of my visit was experiencing Virtual Reality. I donned a headset and grasped what looked like a white television remote and, with the help of a museum guide, entered the famed Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong, a British hill station in West Bengal. (In the early twentieth century, the hotel was the jumping- off point for many explorers including one in search of the Yeti. Then, in the early 1960s, after the so-called Sino-Soviet split, Kalimpong, and presumably the hotel, was characterized as a ‘nest of spies’, because of intense political activity there.)
At one point in my VR adventures, I ‘stood’ at the bottom of a long flight of steps and was told to walk up. The risers were steep so I put out my hand for the banister and started climbing, moving my feet until my brain clicked in and I realized that I was shuffling forward on a carpeted floor.
After opening doors and walking down hallways I was “teleported” to a room in a nearby monastery. I walked to a display case in the center of the room that held the arm and hand
of the Yeti (not at all gross, more like a piece of armor.) After that I went outside to stand among ancient-looking rocks and see realistic mountains as well as trees that appeared to be made of colored paper. The Yeti himself (itself?) walked by as did a couple of “ghosts.” At the very end of what was about a half-hour, the floor I was standing on fell away until I was in space with stars all around.
As soon as I removed the headset I was back where I’d begun, not dizzy but feeling as though I’d been far away. Despite a few glitches at the beginning, the technology is amazing in the true sense of that sadly overworked word.
After returning to earth, it would have been nice have been served this Tibetan Rice Pudding (recipe courtesy Saveur Magazine)
6 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup clover honey, plus more as needed (any honey will do)
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed well
2 oz. dried apples, chopped into 1⁄2” pieces
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp. butter, plus more as needed
Put the milk, honey, and salt into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer; do not let it boil. Stir in the rinsed rice, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is very soft and milk is nearly absorbed, 30-40 minutes.
Add the apples and raisins and continue to simmer until the apples are softened and pudding is very thick, 5-10 minutes more. Just before serving, stir in the butter. Serve plain or drizzled with additional honey or butter, if you like.
In the Himalayas, beer and ara, (a version of arak, a clear spirit often drunk mixed with water), are popular but somehow don’t go with the nursery quality of rice pudding. Maybe a nice cup of tea and a nod to the Yeti.