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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > February, 2005 - One of Those Places

One of Those Places by Paul Schweer


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The park in my hometown was an acre of grass and a swing set. I saw New York when I was seventeen, but not Central Park. Least not that I remember. What I remember about New York, from that trip anyway, was being overwhelmed. And wanting to leave.

I've been back to New York with my wife a few times. She ran the marathon there couple years ago. We stayed in a hotel on Central Park South -- it doesn't look like a park to me, which I guess is what Mr. Olmsted had in mind. We walked a little through parts of the park in the mornings, kept to the edges after dark -- one of those places I'd heard about growing up, but never expected to see in person. Still feels that way, even after being there.

And I still hear about New York. Terry Dobson was there, living in a dojo somewhere in the Village -- Ellis Amdur playing pickup ball, walking south on a summer day... and bumping into aikido.

A marathon will kill a day if you let it. So I don't let it anymore. I don't go cheer her on -- been there, done that. (And she doesn't watch my aikido practice.) The day she ran New York I got an early start, found Broadway, took a walk south. Probably not the same way Ellis went, definitely not the same weather he had. It was cold enough to get my attention, but I'd dressed for it. Walking warmed me, and by the time I found Bond Street I had my gloves off and my jacket unzipped.

The door was open. I sat on a bench and took my shoes off. There was a picture of Dobson on a wall. There was a twisted stick in the weapons rack. There were fresh flowers being tended to -- I waited. When she was done she bowed off the mat, said hello to me. Pointed me to a changing room.

There was a window in a brick wall. Just out the window was another wall.

There were no bearded wild men there. There were no eccentric Ivy League types. There was a mat and little room for much else. There were quiet greetings, whispered inquires. Sincere welcomes. Spirited practice. But no ghosts... that I saw.

One of those places I'd heard about, but never thought I'd see.

Still feels that way.


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