did i ever tell you about the time i once ran into the Dalai Lama ?
i’m not kidding.
in two thousand and four, i went to central park with a friend of mine to see the dalai lama speak. we bought fresh doughnuts at seven in the morning, caught the F and then the 6 train uptown, and waited in a line for a few hours. a line that wrapped around the park. we were one of thousands of people waiting to listen to the dalai lama speak. during his speech we were far away. we could see the stage, but he was a mere speck on it. and his accent with so thick that the words of wisdom pouring from his mouth were a little difficult to understand. i remember closing my eyes tightly in an effort to understand him better. i’ve heard that if you loose one sense, your others will grow stronger. by shutting my eyes, i thought that my hearing would improve. it didn’t.
we left central park after he spoke. i wasn’t let down because i did understand a fair amount of what he said, but i was sad that i was unable to hear all of it. it was as if i was standing in front of some oasis in the desert. every drop of water would count for quenching my thirst and keeping me alive. but i was unable to reach most of the water. i think this had less to do with his accent and far more to do with how far away i was standing from the stage, huddled next to a plethora of new yorkers who did not believe in deodorant or simple hygiene. maybe i was an unlikely candidate for this event given what i’ve just written. but i waited in line, i did my best to listen, and i even shed a few tears from the few things i heard him utter.
after the event, me and my friend parted ways. he was bound for grand central station and i was bound for the six train that would take me back to my apartment. on my way to the subway i passed by a hotel that had a gathering of photographers and journalists stationed outside. they were crowding the sidewalk. taking pictures. notepads out ready for scribbling. i politely asked them what they were waiting for and the journalist i asked looked at me with raised eyebrows and disbelief.
“well, this is where the Dalai Lama is staying. we’re waiting for him to come out from the hotel.”
ok, ok. this made sense. it was logical. it was the right timing, i suppose. i hadn’t expected the media to gather around him so quickly, but whatever. good for them. get your pictures and ask the questions that will most likely never be answered. i’m going to keep walking to the subway. the idea of seeing him up and close in the flesh was very appealing, but i did not want to be part of that crowd. so i kept on walking past the entrance to his hotel and took a left at the corner, headed for the subway.
it was at this point that i became distracted by the intersection lights and i remember looking down at my cell phone, responding to a text from a friend.
it was also at this point that i had turned the corner, headed north, that i ran into the Dalai Lama. literally. i made physical contact with him whilst looking across the street and consulting my cell phone. you can’t make this shit up.
he’d been lead out of the hotel by the back entrance to avoid the onslaught of people i had just passed and scoffed at.
his bodyguards pushed me away immediately and with a great deal of gusto (BIG f*cking guys – footballer player size). i’m surprised i didn’t fall backwards actually. i think it was clear to them that my running in to the D.L. was an accident, so they did not push the matter. i simply stood there, with my mouth agape, and watched his holiness step into the back of a black limo that had been waiting for him parked at the curb. the limo drove away and i remained there, curbside, not quite believing what i had just encountered.
i’ve told a handful of people this story. i’m not sure if any of them believed me, but i believe me. it did happen. i ran into the Dalai Lama. and the only thing i had to say to him ?
“i really liked your speech.”
it’s pathetic, i know. but when you crash into the Dalai Lama without warning after listening to him speak in central park, what the hell else are you going to say ? it was the best thing i could come up with at the time. we made eye contact. he bowed in my direction, as if to say “i bless you, child,” nodded at me, and climbed into the back of the black limo.
but that’s New York. you never know what will happen to you there. which is one of many reasons that i still miss it so much.