Mattie and I were traveling so light we had brought nothing to read, an extraordinary situation for Mattie who seems to always have a book in her hand. It never occurred to me to stop on the way to the train station and get coffee and a Times. I like reading the Times on the morning I arrive in the city. It’s my first opportunity to plug into what makes that day different from all the other days in Manhattan.
But, having neither beverage nor reading material, Mattie and I mostly talked and looked at what we could see out the windows of pre dawn western Long Island. The other few passengers who were scattered throughout the car slept. We were the only ones talking and we did so as not to disturb the routines of the regulars.
As the train neared Long Island City and the East River, we saw the first lights of Manhattan. It was the Chrysler Building. Brilliant white, looking like a giant 1938 radio. Then a row of other buildings, varying heights, with lights twinkling from them. New York was waking up and we were arriving early.
When the train halted below Penn Station, it was 5:29. Right on time. We made our way upstairs, found the exit to 8th Avenue and climbed the steps to the street above feeling the cold pre-dawn wet air of Manhattan. As we exited at the corner of 33rd Street, there before us stood the Empire State Building. I say before us; it sits over on Fifth Avenue, but it seemed to be right on us. We stepped to the corner, I raised my hand for a taxi and we were off.
[an essay in 13 parts from Pablo Notes, 2001]