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August 16, 2005

The Perfect Time

For the first few years after I returned to NYC, post-college, I lived on the Upper East Side in a tiny 400 sq. ft. basement studio. At the time, I suffered from some of the worst insomnia I had ever experienced; weeks would go by without complete slumber. Instead, I would putter about my little shoebox, sit in my underground window, and watch Irving galumph around the house in all of his kittenhood glory.

It was during those endless nights and slow creeping mornings that I learned to appreciate the minute shifts in illuminated night, the slight tones that leaked ever so slightly through my only light source, bathing the silence of a sleeping city and hinting at dawn. It was during this period that I found my perfect time of day.

Quite often, I would creep out into the daybreak. The lobby door would clang shut and, taking a deep breath, I would inhale the clearest air of the day, free from cars and street vendors, perfumes and crowds. I would make my way up 76th Street to Central Park, peering down the avenues, watching doormen on Madison, silhouetted by lone lamps above building entrances. I would follow Fifth Avenue down to the 50�s, where the pigeons would be gathering at Pulitzer Fountain, almost in complete imitation of the taxi cabs and early carriages, lining up on the street beside them.

For that brief hour or two before and after dawn, the city was my silent savior. Its emptiness slowed my thoughts. Unobscured by the daily populous, its canvas of architecture, design, and history was mine and mine alone. Despite the exhaustion, which was already sinking in, I would have chosen no other way to begin the day. If I cannot not have sleep, I remember thinking, then I will take New York for all it is worth.

It has been a long time since insomnia has gripped me with such force, and even longer since I have pulled on my sneakers at 4:00 a.m. and tiptoed out into the urban silence. Last night, I barely slept. Caught up in worries of apartment offers and coop boards, I found myself once again curled within the window frame, listening to the non-sounds of the city and watching Olive galumph around the house in all of her kittenhood glory. I sat motionless on the bed, elbows on the windowsill, propping my head. I listened to the planes circle Brooklyn and to the distant rumble of trucks on the BQE. I watched the firefly flicker of bedroom lights begin, illuminating courtyards as morning approached. I felt the city wake up.

And despite the exhaustion, I would not have had it any other way.

Posted by callalillie at August 16, 2005 7:34 AM | City Life , Introspect


i am always surprised that people in nyc tend to live alone, even just post-college. in sf in my 20's, i knew not ONE person who lived alone- everyone had roommates.

Posted by: PhC at August 16, 2005 10:49 AM

I should have had a roommate. The amount of $ that I shelled out during that time was incredible...the credit card debt even more frightening.

Posted by: corie at August 16, 2005 10:51 AM

Predawn and dawn are definetly the upside to insomnia. No matter where you live the spectacle is the same. Subtle light caressing the landscape, be it skyscraper or valley, has a wondrous effect. Walking into it is a treat for it truly is a quiet time, the calm before the daily storm of activity. Even a sleepless night can have it's silver lining. Yes, kittens do help.

Posted by: Vickie at August 16, 2005 4:51 PM

Definitely just carry the shoes and wear sneakers. That's what I do (and because I can be a slave to fashion when it comes to footwear I have my stylin Pumas that go nicely with dress pants and skirts). That way you're even more comfortable (than if you just wore comfortable dress shoes) when walking to commute, but then you can slip on the dress shoes when all your doing is going from desk to desk or sitting all day.

Posted by: kar at August 17, 2005 10:40 AM

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