All The Wright Stuff: Early Mornings in New York

You might know Alice Walker Wright from her blog Get Off My Internets where she writes about things she dislikes. She’ll be writing for us weekly about stuff she does like.

There is something strangely exciting about the hour between 5am and 6am in New York City. While most cities in America are waking up, it feels like New York is simply changing shifts.

New York City doesn’t “wake up”. It just gets going again. Around 5am the news stands prop up their windows, and the coffee carts begin to appear. The subways and buses resume their daytime schedules, giving the city an unseen feeling of activity underneath your feet. The bartenders and waitresses begin stumbling home, exhausted and triumphant after surviving another night of drunks. The random man or woman furtively adjusts various articles of clothing and walks as quickly as possible away from…well, what or whoever they just walked away from.

It starts as a slow trickle of life at first, then like most things in New York, the change happens while you are looking at the sidewalk. When you look back up the sun is turning the sky purple, and suddenly the people show up – lots of people. There is no build up of humans waking up and growing in number until 9am, when they all disappear into offices until 5pm. There are 5 people on the sidewalk, then there are 5,000. Rush hour seems to start at 6am and goes until 2am. This means the only time New York city is really yours is 5am.

That is a golden hour in New York. It is quiet – or as quiet as New York City can ever be. The street sweepers have probably gone by, and for the first and last time for the next 24 hours the streets are relatively clean. Without the pressing hoardes taking up what sometimes seems like every inch of space, you can feel the occasional breeze. Granted, you also get to say hello to the Biggest Rat You Have Ever Seen (at 5am every rat in New York is the Biggest Rat You Have Ever Seen), but if you are willing to brave that, you can really breathe in the air of the greatest city in the world.

The smell of the city when the sun is just about to start peeking over the buildings is so unique to New York that it is almost impossible to describe. It is somewhere between damp concrete and fresh coffee, with a random whiff of urine, flowers, and food. Even the individual neighborhoods have their own smell this early in the day.

Of course it’s not all rats and street sweepers, urine scented breezes and post-coital perp walks. One morning around a quarter after 5 I saw a couple in a wedding dress and tux. They were actually dancing down the sidewalk. As in, arm in arm, 1-2-3 waltz, dancing and giggling. I didn’t have the nerve to ask them if they were coming from (or going to?) their wedding, or perhaps they just felt like dancing down the streets of New York in wedding attire at dawn. They seemed to be having the jolliest of times so I didn’t want to interrupt them. Sometimes I randomly remember them, and I still wonder what their story was.

I suppose the cliche is somewhat true. New York City never really sleeps, at least not in the full blanket of slumbering darkness that most people might be used to in their towns. People in New York sleep, obviously, but the city keeps going on around us. It’s one of the reasons it is so exciting and sometimes tiring to live here. It is also one of the reasons why, when you have the chance, you must enjoy the one hour of the day when the city is stretching and yawning and getting itself ready for today – preparing another day full of possibilities for you.

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    • Andrea Dunlop

      Lovely. And it made me miss New York- no easy feat.

      • truestory

        I second that. I very rarely miss New York, but you captured this moment so beautifully, it gave me a little pang of nostalgia. Look forward to your column.

    • Mike Pringles

      It’s no gig with Tribune Media Services, or an invite from Rich Tong to visit NYC to engage in a week of underaged drinking, but congrats, PP.

    • Julie

      For me it was around 6AM and it truly was the biggest rat I had ever seen. I thought it was a squirrel until I saw the thin long tail. I thought it was neat.

    • native nyer

      growing up in the city, i felt this the first times i was out all nite: the subway rattling below ground loud enough to hear through the grates; the buses jangling the manhole covers, ringing like gongs in the ground, the night watchmen street sweepers

      good night, matilda, too

    • Kristen

      I’m bummed to see you offering a column to someone like Alice Walker Wright, whose only credit in the blogging sphere involves creating a site dedicated to hating on other writers. Her site is the armpit of the internet and I’m not sure why Gloss would want any association with it. I’ve enjoyed this site before but I think I’m done now.

      • Lisa

        I second this opinion. Armpit of the internet is spot on. I’m done with Gloss.

      • Bennie

        Agreed. It’s a little hard to stomach reading about stuff she likes, knowing she is responsible for spreading so much hate and causing so much pain through her “dislikes.”

        I appreciate the wittiness and intelligence and occasional controversies I find at Gloss, but GOMI is beyond the pale, and I hate to see you associated in any way with it.

      • Roo Ciambriello

        Yes, yes, same here. Come on, Gloss, you’re better than that.

        She likes NYC, but she hates people. Cool.

    • Teresa

      Repulsed beyond belief that you’d hire this dirtbag to write for you. Won’t be visiting this site again knowing your incredibly weak “standards” for writers.

    • Miss Day

      A shame you decided to employ Alice Walker Wright. I hardly think the.description “writes about stuff she doesn’t like” is accurate. More like harasses and sponsors harassment and hate-filled vitriol. Shame on this site for supporting that kind of internet bullying. I won’t be reading and only clicked over to leave a comment after reading talk of people planning on boycotting this site until Alice is gone

    • Jenn

      So I guess this means we can look for a forum on GOMI where we can post our hate filled, bullying rants about Alice Walker Wright? Seeing as Gloss is now in the gutter with her will we now be treated to bullying by you, too!

      Big mistake, Gloss. Huge