The early afternoon was sunny and warm yesterday as My Amazing Lover™ and I strolled through West Chelsea toward Hudson River Park. Though the route would take us out of our way, we were hoping to catch a cool breeze coming off the water as we made our way downtown, back to the West Village. Our path also held the sweet, sweet promise of encountering fewer annoying tourists than taking the High Line, and fewer ginormous-baby-stroller-toting brunch-goers than a more direct route down Eighth Ave.
If you’ve never been to West Chelsea, it is an architectural wonderland. Spared from the ($electively applied) restrictions of the West Village historic district, in recent years the neighborhood has become a Mecca of sorts for wealthy moguls and visionaries erecting all sorts of innovative and whimsical structures. I’ve always been partial to Shigeru Ban’s Metal Shutter Houses on 19th Street, a short walk from the West Side Highway, where you can also see Frank Gehry’s IAC building and Jean Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue.
Frank Gehry’s IAC Building (2007); behind it and to the left is Jean Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue (2010).
[IMAGE: Beyond My Ken]
Then there is Renzo Piano’s much ballyhooed new Whitney Museum, which, I’m sorry to say my friends, I do not get. Like, at all.
Whitney Museum from the Hudson River. NO.
[IMAGE: Bill Benzon]
What makes the area even more intriguing architecturally is the juxtaposition—sometimes quite literally—of old structures with new. West Chelsea still retains quiet, tree-lined streets lined with low-rise brownstones sporting exquisite ironwork, none of which would be out of place in the West Village. Then there are the iconic London Terrace Apartments, connected structures that occupy the entire city block bounded by 23rd and 24th Streets and Eighth and Ninth Aves. Constructed during 1929-30, the complex has been called home by some of the city’s most famous residents, from Debby Harry to Chelsea Clinton.
Victor C. Farrar’s London Terrace,
with older low-rise townhouses visible in the foreground.
[IMAGE: Beyond My Ken]
Yesterday the sky was cloudless and the sun was strong, so we Whitey McWhitepersons, who naturally hadn’t bothered to apply sunblock or hats, kept to the south side of 23rd Street for the occasional patches of shade on offer. Still, it was sweltering. I was beginning to wish that I could somehow conjure up some ice cold water when I first saw it, and suddenly it was my blood that was running ice cold. Ladies and Gentlemen and other people of any gender and/or no gender whatsoever, I give you: 344 W. 23rd Street. A.K.A. The Cheyney.
Now you might think evil supervillains would be smarter than to put up signage announcing the location of their secret lairs, but I can assure you that is not the case. Their egos are too enormous so they simply cannot resist—although they often misspell their own names, as Dick Cheney obviously did in this case, in a futile effort to throw certain Intrepid Internet Journalists™ off the scent. He is a clever old weasel, I’ll give him that, hiding his hideout in plain sight like this. I mean, the building is nondescript by any standard. But plunked down among this neighborhood’s glittering architectural gems, it is veritably camouflaged if not utterly invisible. Note too the aluminum bars on the cellar windows: I shudder to think what kinds of Dark Arts are being practiced in that dungeon as we speak!
I quickly put it all together and announced proudly and boldly that I, Your Humble Monarch™, had single-handedly uncovered the Gotham lair of evil supervillain Darth Cheney. Incredibly, my partner remained entirely unpersuaded. But the more My Amazing Lover™ tried to talk me out of my conclusion, the more absolutely certain I became that it was true. “Don’t you see? That’s exactly what he wants us to think!” I insisted, “You’re playing right into his hands!”
Some people just have no appreciation for Intrepid Internet Journalist Genius™.
It would be a few hours before I would contact the International Criminal Court with my invaluable insights and information; I had to take every precaution to ensure none of this would be traced back to me. But in the meantime we trudged on silently in the merciless heat. Shade was scarce along the water, and the Hudson River yielded no cool breezes. Worse, my sandals were giving me painful blisters, and I felt parched and weak.
That’s right: I was in Hell. And I knew that at that moment one of Satan’s very own minions was not far away, gloating. But I can promise Loyal Readers™ this: if he dares set one foot on Perry Street, I’ma totally moon him.