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That time of day may rekindle memories of youthful all-nighters, either nursing a buzz at a diner with friends or just getting to sleep. For me, a 55-year old guy with a dislike of lines and a like of bargains, it means something altogether different and mundane, but no less exhilarating in its way.
My recent Saturday morning began at 6 AM with a drive pre-sunrise down the FDR Drive towards the Pathmark supermarket in Chinatown. There’s a slice of angry orange over the bridges and the Brooklyn waterfront is dark and brooding. Sliding off the exit ramp onto Fulton Street, a few very fit Asian men are out and doing tai chi already. Turning into the parking lot, I join three other cars and a flotsam of plastic bags whipping around in the wind. Winter feels like its arriving today.
I don’t have a long list and only have to dodge a few guys stocking shelves, music blasting from their boomboxes. I usually have the floor scrubbing machine to avoid, also, but I’m either early or late. Through the line easily, after the sole checkout guy helps an older man load up his motorized cart, an encouraging show of respect and generosity. I tell him so and he smiles through tired eyes and the beginnings of a beard.
Leaving the lot, I have several routes I can take back. I weave my way through Chinatown streets, where markets are taking deliveries already. I like having the city mostly to myself, and I feel industrious, like these store owners.
I turn north and see a flock of birds swoop and turn over Grand Street. It’s out of place; one doesn’t see nature much in the city. Trees, yes, but rarely animals, or the sun, moon, or horizon. Clouds we do see if we look up, and today, dark ones are moving fast across the sky, and I see two hardy souls setting off on a high walkway near the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.
By now, I’ve decided that if I make all the correct turns, I can end up at the car wash at Sixth Avenue and Broome. My van is a mess; she needs a good bath. I’d get the car vacuumed, too, but the van is really a rolling storage unit. Today it holds a bookcase, a bundle of paper towels, bags of clothing for Goodwill, and two bulky bumper pads that the guys at the garage use sporadically. Still, the van looks like new when it emerges from the suds and spray, and that is a good feeling. I don’t want many material things, but what I have I like to see clean and sparkly.
Through the opening in the car wash wall, I see a uniquebuilding front, a glass wall that is a bakery I haven’t been to in awhile. I start to salivate. A clean car and three right turns later, I am in front of the Granddaisy Bakery, home to a bread creation that is the simplest, saltiest, yummiest creation ever: pizza bread.
I first had this bread as part of a panino at Angelo’s, an Italian café on Houston that broadcasted Italian soccer games on Saturday afternoon. It is sadly closed now, but I did learn the source of the bread. And now, in my van, and now Saturday at 7 AM, I pull pieces of sublime pizza bread off the square slice and savor every bite as I head across town, and then up First Avenue, catching almost every green light along the way. Now that is New York heaven.