Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | June 16, 2009

The Tao of 9 2nd Ave. A Documentary

I caught a documentary this evening called the Tao of 9 2nd Ave. It’s the story of an old building from the 40’s that served as a community center in the neighborhood used by everyone. They showed photos of Roy Rogers, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Graziano. In the late nineties, perhaps earlier, the building was neglected by the owners and fell into disrepair. Can you imagine a large, ymca type building with an olympic size pool, theatre, dance hall, gymnasium, and more? Did they have buildings like this in your neighborhood or city? Newark had several, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be inside, albeit in total disrepair. But even with damage and falling plaster and garbage all around, and dust and asbestos, you still can’t hide the grandeur and immensity of these architectural soldiers of the cities. The last tenant in the building at 9 2nd ave. was a sifu of kung fu who also created a taoist temple in the building. After 9/11, artists used the space to gather and present their work in the aftermath. By 2006, the sifu was evicted on the street and the building razed and a new building put up. It was sad and wild to watch this real life teacher and taoist pushed out to wander the streets. Yes, he had a sort of New York, lower east side flavor to him, like you couldn’t quite tell if he was just a bit off his rocker or a real master. That’s one of the secrets of taoist masters. But, here this man had to come to grips with the real life situation of having to choose to live the tao and not just read about it, talk about it, teach about it. The greatest teacher is in the doing. And there’s no doubt in my mind that in our day, in our world we live in, the true taoist will not go about wandering the mountains and forests, but will be homeless essentially and go about wandering the streets. Doesn’t that make sense? You wander where you are. But, in the face of conflict, in the face of adversity, you trust in the wat of things, you allow the world to arrange itself, you stay centered and balanced and act from the center of the circle.

I want to repeat a sentiment which I’ve said before, and I’ve been experiencing strongly this week. That is, the more you stay to the path, the more you follow the Way, the more enlightened you become, day after day of disciplined practice of meditation and tai chi and qi gong and all the rest, the walking, the exercise, the stretching, all of it, the more you add another onion slice of paper to the stack of papers symbolizing your practice, then man, the more you see through the illusions and delusions of the way things are in the arbitrary made up matrix of our society that we find ourselves in, the more we see the absurdity of the things we are asked to do to survive, to have a place to live and food to eat. At times it seems so absurd you want to just throw your hands up and say, “Are you f’n kidding me?”

The scary part is, that as we try to leave something behind, to pass something of value on, like for example, the tai chi forms which have been handed down for centuries, or great literature, or great art, all that has survivefd centuries and can survive for centuries more, the fear is that it could be lost and we’d never know it existed, like 9 2nd Ave., a building just wiped away, along with all its memories, except for the memories of the aging people reminiscing in the documentary, caught in time before it was too late…



  1. everything changes…in 1970 we housed Earth People’s Park in 4 lofts on Second Ave. around 7th.
    I don’t know the place with the pool.

    Tai Chi and Qigong and the explorers who are drawn to these practices will continue, or something like them, because they are written on the heart, and into our DNA, something like that…we’re yearning for healing movements and meditation… self defense that acts out of compassion for would be attacker…”I won’t allow you to hurt or murder me because of what it would do to you!” That is primarily Buddhist, I guess, the Taoist would not even say it, s/he would simply sidestep…

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