To enter, you must first cross a bridge. On the right is a crescent pattern of five or six stone seats set around a pond of water, with a waterfall in the background. A large copper wire Dragon, at least 100 feet long hangs high, a great protective force.
At first I do not see these sights. Hungry, I know I'm drawn to the beauty of this Chinese restaurant, a certain ambiance that I feel and feed on. There are other restaurants to the left and right of this one. But I choose this one.
It's when I decide to sit at the bar for a quick snack that I am taken in by the carefully designed scene before my eyes.
The bar counter is set up in a curvature that wraps around and creates a semi circle. The counter tops, a polished black granite with specks of white glimmer that reflect off the light like little white fish in the sea.
After I place my order of hot and sour soup, pot stickers, and a coke, I sit there mesmerized. I feel like I'm sitting before an artistic, aesthetic feat of creativity and symbolism. I count...4, 5, 6, 7 Golden Monkeys. Seven Golden Monkey statues three or four feet tall, spread around. Each seems to have a role in this divine scene; and in a way, as I look around, taking in the whole, it reminds me of a carousel, but it's also more. Each monkey has a different facial expression—inviting, playful, powerful. The ceiling is round or appears round, an upside down red paper mâché umbrella that is about three feet in diameter suspended from the center of the ceiling. The ceilings are a heavenly blue with white ornate bordering depicting clouds or water. There is painted a priestess in the background. I can only see the robe from my viewpoint. Her robes are painted in soft lilac tones. Chinese characters also wrap the base of the sky. The side walls are painted royal blue and regal red—side by side.
My imagination cannot get enough of the scene. I eat my soup, take bites of my pot stickers and still gaze up at the monkeys. One in particular catches my fancy. He is holding onto a pole with one hand, the other extended in a welcoming gesture—a big smile on his face. It is also gold and thick with detail that suggests either a cord or also conjures images of a carousel.
All of the usual elements seem to be present: Earth, fire, air, water, heaven.
As I was readying to leave, I turned in my seat to the right taking in the rest of the restaurant, and that's when I noticed the great dragon that I did not see upon entering. Beautiful, thick copper—copper being one of my favorite metals—I was in awe. He was a sight to behold and kept me there in his gaze for a few moments before I descended from my seat, passing the pond and walking back across the bridge.
Transported, I was, as if in a boat, streaming down the river, paddles in hand—paddling down the river with my mind, entering this great cultural art. I felt both at peace and tantalized, rejuvenated, and thankful for having chosen this place to enjoy my meal—a meal in paradise—a meal in another time and place, yet right here, right now.