I pass him every morning. Nigella pulling me along with impatience to get to the park, to be off leash, to run with the other dogs, except not because when she get there she will be shy and hug my side like a child hiding behind a mother's skirt.
He stands facing the traffic along Riverside Drive, saluting the city. Dancing, praying, greeting the morning with his fluidly waving arms and legs.
In the park I will see others in their morning meditation, sitting cross legged in the trees or gazing out at the Hudson, seeking as much peace and quiet as the park allows. But not this man. With his long, ratty dreadlocks and his ragged clothes, he preforms his morning ritual, oblivious, or maybe just ignoring, the dogs and runners and commuters who stare as they go past.
When we first arrived, Nigella and I walked in every expanding circles each morning, exploring the neighborhood a little more each day. Broadway to 110th to Amsterdam and home, Broadway to 107th to Columbus and home. Using these walks to find the post office, a ballet studio, an office supply store, places we would, at some point, need to know. But lately we've been heading down to the park, where dogs can be off leash until nine. I love this morning walk. Even in the rain. Even in the heat, although, we'll see how I feel about that when July and August hit. The chance to walk without constantly pointing out this or that, answering questions or calling warnings. "See that?" "Keep up!" "slow down!" "Yes... no... possibly". To walk, at my own pace, well, sometimes at the dogs pace, but mostly at my own.
It's strange to say this, but on our way down - sometime around 8 unless I'm very very on the ball and get it together earlier - the streets around our apartment seem almost quiet. As though the city is still asleep. There are still buses and cars and taxis and people, this is New York , after all, and nothing is ever really quiet. But they feel quiet. We head down the hill, toward the park, and past the man. Seeing him now a part of our morning routine.
Less than an hour later, on our way back up toward home, everything seems louder, busier, awake. I can't decide if it is me that is more awake on the return trip or if the bustle just doesn't get going around here until after nine. Past the man, who is finishing up his salute now, past the coffee shop full of summer students, past the bookstore - a pause to see what they have in the window today, always something good. Past the homeless man who sometimes barks at me. Past the fruit vendor and on Thursdays, the Farmers Market. Past the library and the playgarden. And back home where, if I'm lucky, the coffee will be hot and waiting.