Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Ideal No More?
It's dark on J.
I walk up, stop to touch the Lucky Index Fingernail of Chin - the emperor who created China in 221 BC, and also in his spare time built the Great Wall – his 8-foot-tall bronze statue, with its outreached arm, stands right by the corner of 3rd.
He announces Chinatown. I turn right, head up past the Chinese Historical Museum...
past the mighty blue dragon...
...to find the most original place I know downtown: the Ideal Tea Room (542 3rd, irony: it's almost opposite Tabac) in the revived 1912 Ideal Hotel.
They serve up meditation and music and really interesting teas like Oo-Long, Bao Zhong, and Gaba Oolong.
Tea Room entrance
Or, oh Lord. Should I say did…there’s a notice on the window:
The Red Lotus Society (“Peace Through Meditation”) ran it. They took in renters for the rooms upstairs, where one of the more famous Chinatown brothels used to keep the floorboards creaking. But the main thing for me was they were a friendly crowd and crazy about their teas. Totally uncommercial in this money-crazy downtown. A little eddy in the river.
No more, seems. July 31st they put out this letter.
“It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that Red Lotus Society will soon close the Ideal Hotel…The financial obligations of operating such a large facility have become insurmountable for our small non-profit organization… Please join us on August 21 as we gather in the Studio for an evening of remembrance, ‘Memories of the Ideal Hotel,’ followed by a community potluck in the Tea Room.”
Man. They turned a teetering old tear-down into a beautiful (and beautifully restored and furnished) refuge for anyone who needed, as the English say, a little tea and sympathy.
Feels like the Gaslamp is suddenly missing a tooth.
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