Drift from Two Shores
Morning On The Avenue
NOTES BY AN EARLY RISER.
I have always been an early riser. The popular legend that "Early to bed and early to rise,"
invariably and rhythmically resulted in healthfulness, opulence, and wisdom, I beg here
to solemnly protest against. As an "unhealthy" man, as an "unwealthy" man, and
doubtless by virtue of this protest an "unwise" man, I am, I think, a glaring example of
the untruth of the proposition.
For instance, it is my misfortune, as an early riser, to live upon a certain fashionable
avenue, where the practice of early rising is confined exclusively to domestics.
Consequently, when I issue forth on this broad, beautiful thoroughfare at six A. M., I
cannot help thinking that I am, to a certain extent, desecrating its traditional customs.
I have more than once detected the milkman winking at the maid with a diabolical
suggestion that I was returning from a carouse, and Roundsman 9999 has once or twice
followed me a block or two with the evident impression that I was a burglar returning
from a successful evening out. Nevertheless, these various indiscretions have brought me
into contact with a kind of character and phenomena whose existence I might otherwise
First, let me speak of a large class of working-people whose presence is, I think,
unknown to many of those gentlemen who are in the habit of legislating or writing about
them. A majority of these early risers in the neighborhood of which I may call my "beat"
carry with them unmistakable evidences of the American type. I have seen so little of that
foreign element that is popularly supposed to be the real working class of the great
metropolis, that I have often been inclined to doubt statistics. The ground that my
morning rambles cover extends from Twenty-third Street to Washington Park, and
laterally from Sixth Avenue to Broadway. The early rising artisans that I meet here,
crossing three avenues,-- the milkmen, the truck-drivers, the workman, even the
occasional tramp,--wherever they may come from or go to, or what their real habitat may
be,--are invariably Americans. I give it as an honest record, whatever its significance or
insignificance may be, that during the last year, between the hours of six and eight A. M.,
in and about the locality I have mentioned, I have met with but two unmistakable
foreigners, an Irishman and a German. Perhaps it may be necessary to add to this
statement that the people I have met at those early hours I have never seen at any other
time in the same locality.
As to their quality, the artisans were always cleanly dressed, intelligent, and respectful. I
remember, however, one morning, when the ice storm of the preceding night had made
the sidewalks glistening, smiling and impassable, to have journeyed down the middle of
Twelfth Street with a mechanic so sooty as to absolutely leave a legible track in the
snowy pathway. He was the fireman attending the engine in a noted manufactory, and in
our brief conversation he told me many facts regarding his profession which I fear