I loved to get up before the break of dawn. There was little as fullfilling as to walk along the emptied streets in the morning, and to admire the twilight that beholds the city in a mysterious covering which is neither cold nor warmth. I lived on the south side of Williamsburg and took the brown line into the city. Seated in the shaking aluminum subway car across the Williamsburg bridge, passing over the East river, filled with a few half sleeping, half awake ghosts, I looked at the rising sun that stood low at the horizon, casting an orange red glow over the silhouette of New York. The illusion of the sun caused by the atmospheric refraction in the morning showed a more romantic perspective of the real world with its dull practical commonalities, even if it only formed an imperfect impression compared to the full light spectrum of the day. Through the H-beams of the bridge’s construction I discerned the futurist, fragmented view of the island in full motion. I recalled the soul of a soulless city by Nevinson.
I tried to imagine a view of the island as it must have appeared four hundred years ago, when Hudson sailed into the bay. A thick treeline of rich forest with a few rocky hilltops and some open fields. The lowest tip of the island was only half the width it was now and at what is now Pearl street, a glimmering waste belt of oyster shells lay piled on the East river’s shoreline, like the glass skyscrapers of the financial district now piled along the shore. The real richness then was the beaver pelt trade with the natives. The symbols of this origin are still visible on the city’s seal and the same motley crew of rough characters and odd nationalities made up the early settlement as the current city.
I got off at Bowery station and walked up to Houston and Bleecker, passing a group of homeless men sitting and chatting in front of the Bowery Mission. At Think Coffee I ordered a large latte and sat in the corner with my back to the wall, facing the Morrison Hotel Gallery and the Project Renewal across the street. I took my book out, and placed it next to my notebook, my pencil and pen. I often came here in the morning before going in to work, to breath the brisk air, sip hot coffee, and fill my heart with the inspiration of early thoughts before my mind would be shattered. For one to two hours I was free to imagine and I felt myself before it would all be taken from me for the day. I read for about thirty minutes in Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, his most authentic book I believed. Ideas sprang forth from reading, and occasionally I jotted my notes down.
I looked up when destracted by the movements of the door opening when someone entered or left, if tables or chairs were shuffled around, and at times I was smitten by the tick of a face, a leg or a gesture. Across the street another group of homeless gathered before the entrance of the Project Renewal. While I was burdened by the petty responsibility of my job, these wanderers without any obligation had total freedom. The poem The New Colossus engraved on the pedestal of the statue of liberty by Emma Lazarus came to mind: give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. They only had one real problem, and that was food. All other ills were imaginary, but food was no problem to me, all other ills were. Mother of exiles, where had I lost my self?