Waking the Giant

UWS, 7am

During my ten-square-block morning ritual along the wide leafy sidewalks of the Upper West Side, fathers lead their young children to school by hand. Young girls snipe at their mothers and nannies.


The dog walkers are out – here a load, there a load, a piss on a brownstone doorway. Along CPW, parkside, a man in suit pants and an impeccable dress shirt firms the leash of a doberman pinscher whose jet black coat looks like it has leather trim. The dog is squatted up on all fours like a yogi, motionless, maintaining a complicated but oddly perfect pose in the moments preceding it taking a shit.

At ground level in front of the tall edifices that line Central Park West, window washers are out, keeping entryway glass flawlessly clear. It has the inverse effect for interlopers like me, for us back-of-the-building dwellers: the result makes the notion of living behind one of those limestone sentry walls even more opaque, more unattainable. Brass polishers are out brightening emergency water hookups. Doormen hold briefcases and packages and doors for their patrons. Livery cars line up two deep in front of the San Remo in anticipation of the morning commute.

Dogwalker UWS

Dogwalker UWS

Most cities are more interesting early in the morning. Paris in particular, though that’s best seen very very early – say 5am. New York at 7am is a wonder. It’s like a slowly waking giant as the sun rises through breaks in the Eastside skyline and spills into the trees in the park. The sleepy eyes of the giant wrestle with the morning light and his fingers become nimble atop the sheets.

At the corner of 76th St, as I pause to check for cars, a sudden, brief moment of absolute silence and still washes over the corner. Traffic was stopped at stoplights blocks away. No radios were playing. The subway rumble was absent. There was literally no noise, not even the hum of the breathing giant. Only a few birds were chirping in the park. That was it. It was breathtaking. It lasted about six seconds and then the giant tossed back his bed covers.