Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
My wife of 43 years, Nena von Schlebrugge Thurman.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
Tempeh Bourguignon at Blossom, a vegetarian restaurant on Ninth Avenue.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I study and teach the beauty of the reality of the universe.
What was your first job in New York?
Professor of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. I was born in New York City in the Doctor’s Hospital on 89th Street, grew up on the East Side near the Met, was in exile in New Hampshire for prep school, Massachusetts for College, India for post-grad in Tibetan monasteries, then more exile doing a Ph.D. at Harvard and teaching at Amherst College, until returning to my native city in 1988.
What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Can’t remember, maybe South Pacific when a kid. I loved it. I intended to go a lot since getting back to the city, but get so busy, teaching, traveling, working with the Dalai Lama. I used to see a lot of theater Off Broadway, since my mother, Elizabeth Farrar, used to do productions at Theater 74 and other downtown theaters — don’t remember names. Mom lived theater, so she was enchanted when her granddaughter Uma took up acting, still probably looks down from her heaven with pleasure when Uma does a film.
Do you give money to panhandlers?
What’s your drink?
The occasional piña colada, good red wine, and clear water.
How often do you prepare your own meals?
Sometimes. I defer to my wife, of course, who is an artist in the kitchen. I am trying to learn more vegan dishes as I am pretty much off meat and dairy as much as possible, though I resist becoming a fanatic. The Indians with their subtle spicing are the best for vegetarian food.
What’s your favorite medication?
Vitamin C. Some Tibetan medicines, and Samphel Norbu, a very effective tonic.
What’s hanging above your sofa?
Kalachakra Mandala, a painting done for me by one of the Dalai Lama’s important monasteries, the Gyuto Tantric University. The monastery was in Dalhousie, India, at the time, and its abbot, the Venerable Tara Tulku, made me get special permission from His Holiness to have it painted, in 1971. It is extraordinarily beautiful and draws you into a space of sublime exaltation.
How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
11:30 p.m. at the latest, usually.
Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
New Times Square. I really like the big JumboTrons.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
Basically friendly but overinflated, to make up for not feeling that well inside.
What do you hate most about living in New York?
Too much to do. I also love it the most as well, but one can get exhausted if one accepts every invitation, goes to every party, fascinating talk, film, exhibition, or concert.
Who is your mortal enemy?
My own self-serving mind.
When’s the last time you drove a car?
The other day. I often go to the Catskills, where we maintain a house we built ourselves, and try to get away there driving up the thruway.
How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
Very distressing because so many human beings have been thrown into despair and destitution because of it, and those in power just hang on to it and don’t really do the obvious to fix it quickly.
Times, Post, or Daily News?
Where do you go to be alone?
Catskill Mountains, Woodstock area. The woods give you back a lot of oxygen, there are lots of birds, it is cooler in summer, more clear in winter. Provides a relaxing contrast to the city.
What makes someone a New Yorker?
Lives there with true zest, never giving up.