A Buddhist monk from Thailand is visiting New York. Someone steals his bag.
There’s no punch line, but it’s a nice narrative complication; and out of it Barry crafts a touching, even beautiful, tale about the intersection of different worlds and sensibilities: A humble monk gets coffee in Trump Tower, a symbol of wealth. He is the victim of a crime, even though he has vowed to live a life of poverty. Barry communicates these ironies by simply presenting the evidence for them: in sights, sounds, smells and other concrete detail.
We enjoyed this passage about the monk’s interview with a police officer: “Routine questions elicited complicated answers. For example, the victim‘s name was Venerable Kassapa, but Venerable is a term of respect, not a first name.
“‘I’m a Buddhist monk,’ the robed man confided. ‘In case you’re wondering.’
“‘I knew,’ the police officer said gently. ‘I‘ve been around.’”
The short piece is a lesson in the power of scene and concrete detail, plainly showed.
Read “About New York; A Forest Monk’s Lesson in the New York Jungle,” by Dan Barry