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The hush before the rush in New York

At dawn, an unfamiliar quiet engulfs the city.

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There is something optimistic about a new day, even before the sun has risen.

In the predawn darkness, the New York City taxi in which I'm riding glides down upper Fifth Avenue in perfect time with the synchronized lights, past empty buses and shadowy Upper East Side streets and apartment windows, on a wide-open straightaway, in a still-sleeping city.

The navy-blue sky becomes a backdrop for darkened roof peaks and turrets, while Central Park, to my right, looms black and obscure.

Farther south, at 60th Street, the entrances of the Pierre and Plaza Hotels glow, and the lighted storefronts shine onto the avenue's vacant pavement.

On a nearby corner, a lone sidewalk vendor parks his silver cart, brimming with a rush-hour's worth of doughnuts and drink cups.

A solitary early-morning commuter, coffee container in hand, ambles toward an office building's granite entrance.

At this time of day in New York City, a mere 20 minutes can mean the difference between a peaceful constitutional down an uncrowded sidewalk and a harried hike zigzagging past the first wave of the day's bustling commuters as they pour out of side streets and subway stations.

Today, it is still early enough to absorb the morning's tranquility while I ride to Pennsylvania Station for a day trip to a business meeting in Washington. Clutching a mug of coffee, I am here to witness this urban awakening.

There is an otherworldly, some-other-city quality to Fifth Avenue at 5:45 a.m.

It is as if the city is another person's metropolis, not the one that I have lived in for decades.

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