Where Is A Buddhist Monk When You Need One?

The First Essential Scary Truth


The office building at One Hudson Place is a part of the city most people don’t see, at least from the street.  Tucked into the corner of Varrick and Watts Streets right where the Holland Tunnel receives cars to speed away to New Jersey, there are only two reasons to be here: you live in one of the slightly grungy but quite tidy brownstones that line the north side of Watts or you have to go to the New York State Department of Labor.


Having been let go from my gig in late July, I was waiting for my new job to begin in mid September.  When you go on the dole here in New York City, you must report with a resume to One Hudson Place and sit through a symposium on how the NYS Department of Labor can help you find employment. 


I had been to this building before, with Chad Clark a college friend, back in 1991, when he was pressing the first CD for his then band the Fur Crowd.  (Chad now leads a band called Beauty Pill.  Their work can be found on Dischord Records.)  Back then, 75 Varrick was a dump, scarred by the emitions of the thousands of cars that use the Holland Tunnel to commute from home to work.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the building had been given a facelift and a nice scrub up.  It looked rather luxurious for an office building, with its navy blue marble floors and beige paint. 


Even the Department of Labor’s office wasn’t what I expected.  Yes, there were cubicles and surly government employees who adhered to the letter of every rule set but the walls were egg shell white and the carpet navy blue; it was very soothing.  Nowhere was there anything dank, metallic or foreboding.  I didn’t feel like the ‘Man’ was going to come down and get me at any second.  


As I sat and filled out the forms needed to help secure my unemployment insurance for the last week or two I needed it, I came to this question:


[ ] I want to learn basic computer skills like using the Internet, e-mail, and/or word processing.


I looked around at the rows of computers and it hit me, there are still people who don’t know how to surf the web or use a basic word processing program like Word.  Maybe that’s why the NYSDL has seemingly removed Big Brother from its visceral impact.  Perhaps this is an attempt to nurture those who are distrustful of computers into the 21st century. 


When I left, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I can Google and know how to press the spell check button.  Life is good, I thought.  So I decided to walk all the way up MacDougal Street, from SoHo up to the Village, just to see if gentrification had hit what was left of the former quaint and bohemian downtown neighborhoods.


I could see the Moonstruck Diner had been sacrificed for yet another high rise apartment building.  The Car Wash was still there, however, at the corner of Spring and Sixth Ave.  They had glossed themselves up a bit with some neon and a more triangular look.  It wasn’t like the car washes I remembered from my youth or even like the movie, no funkiness left here.


As I crossed the avenue to the isosceles pointed sidewalk where MacDougal began, I walked right by a Buddhist monk, in his colorful robes, talking on his cell phone via a Bluetooth device about programming in HTML. 


My first thought was Hallelujah!  Old New York still exists somewhere outside of my imagination.  It was when I overheard that bit of his conversation where I had no choice but to drop my head in disbelief.  I can barely turn my computer on and a Buddhist monk can program a whole website.  When it came to putting up the Zola System, I actually had to go out and buy WordPress For Dummies and I still have no clue how to make many of the bells and whistles on the program sing out.  And here is this guy in the light rust colored robe and crocks can probably hack into a national security network and plant a virus strong enough to knock out the Blackberries of every CIA operator in the Quantico, Va. area.


It nearly drove me to back to the Department of Labor to check off that box in my questionnaire.


Have you ever been shocked at how much technology you have no idea how to use?

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