Cid Wymann Tour
Dr. Digby’s English (American Literature) class of 10 from CWPost LIU was on tour with me yesterday through New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood circa 1940. We pretended and the city Obliged.
We started at Penn station at 11am and ended at the Mason’s building on 6th avenue and 23rd, around the corner from Cid’s Gotham Fencing Club at 3pm.
On the way we visited the Highline to imagine what the waterfront looked like (crowded with boats bringing goods from all over the world to NYC and lined with factories and warehouses), what the elevated trains to the meat-packing district smelled like (like a slaughterhouse), and why this part of Chelsea was called the wild wild west (longshoremen, sailors, saloons, prostitutes, factories, and Italian/Irish/Greek immigrant rivalry). We could imagine the Irish bar where Lefty brings Cid to teach him what choreography is by getting into a fight with a giant longshoreman.
Lunch at Uncle Nicks (Greek) was awesome.
We stopped at Blade (one of the few fencing retailers left in the city) where all twelve of us crowded into the tiny retail space filled with swords – both competitive and theatrical, masks, bags, pants, sneakers, socks, and jackets. I don’t think the store has every been that crowded before. The owner just watched and smiled as I talked about the difference between foil, sabre, and épée.
The Fencers Club (where foil, sabre, and épée were all being demonstrated with great physicality) was next. The salle was packed. The manager, Jonas, was kind enough to come over and give us all some background on the sport and the club while everyone sat on the wall benches looking past him to gaze at the action on the strips. Four students left with club brochures. I overheard them making plans to come back and try the sport out. “You won’t regret it,” I said. Outside of rugby, it’s about the greatest sport/martial art ever created.
Then we snuck into the Hotel Chelsea (it’s under renovation but we made it into the bare lobby for all of fifteen seconds before we were shooed out.
The Patisserie Macaroon on 23rd near 6th Avenue was another nice break (who can resist their 20+ savory flavors?) and a quick look at the Mason’s Building and their high tiled ceilings, marble floors, large murals, all built in 1931 and stunning. We didn’t get to look at the creepy amphitheatres (there are 12 and I’ve seen three of them) because you have to go on the building tour to see them (I just work in the building so we had access). We all imagined the Gotham Fencer’s Club around the corner where Cid meets Tomik and Edward Farthings once again.
I stopped after all had left at Madison Park, only an avenue away, to look at my favorite views, north to the Empire State Building and south to the Flatiron Building.
I never tire of it.