July 15, 2013

The Neighborhood Hangover

Neighborhood observations made my me, a shameless morning person, over months of early morning outings for fitness, food, or general exploration.


This neighborhood is not an early riser, not even on Monday mornings. Not even when it’s an 8:00 a.m.-required day at the office. To be fair though, it’s nearly impossible to function the morning after a heavy night of drinking.

Except that almost every night is a heavy night of drinking.

Capitol Hill groggily blinks open an eye around 5:30 a.m.—about the time baristas arrive for their morning shift and when cleaning crews begin clearing out liquor bottles by the bag-full, tokens of the excess indulgences left from the night before.

Sure, there are the rogue joggers and small handful of morning fitness fiends, but each vignette of life at that time of day is contrasted with another instance of the neighborhood clumsily hitting the snooze button.  

Buns and bits of fried onion and hotdogs are smeared on the corner of 10th Ave and Pike Street just like the stagnant moss that grows overnight in your mouth from the whiskey cokes and 2 a.m. pizza metabolizing in your gut. The crows and seagulls are as uncertain about nibbling on the street corner grub as you are about the decisions made in a drunken stupor the night before.

Despite the grime, hopefulness for a quick hangover cure slowly starts creeping in around 6 a.m. The air is the best indicator of this—the universal morning smell of energized oxygen bits created from several hours without sunlight (take a whiff tomorrow morning, you know the scent) is mixed with this neighborhood’s special marinade of the tangy aroma from the dumpsters outside of Julia's or the Comet Tavern, hints of salty sea air, and general damp from the excess of vegetation.

If the night was warm-ish and dry, the park is speckled with bodies and mini camps of homeless or vagabonds. With the sun shining bright shortly after 6 a.m., a few stir to find shade and relative darkness, but many people lay, oblivious to the day unfolding above them, perhaps hoping to extend whatever trip they started the night before.

By 7:30, the city has usually rolled out of bed, at least on weekdays. By that time, the middle-age Hispanic man, short and strong like my dad, is usually sweeping the last few cigarette butts off the sidewalk outside a concert venue that had a sold out show hours earlier, as his adorable four-year old granddaughter dances around, antsy to go off to preschool.

Buses are buzzing with more frequent stops at that point, delivery trucks have finished up most of their rounds, and the sidewalks are starting to fill with bleary-eyed 20-somethings dressed in anything from a three-piece suit to scrubs or gender-neutral skinnies with a crop top and chunky boots. The common accessory among them all is the steaming latte in their hand.

The hangover is gone around lunchtime. Cured by coffee, a Bloody Mary and eggs benedict, the neighborhood is back to its bizarre, all accepting yet still cliquey, “super hip” self.  When the sun starts to sink later on, Capitol Hill is again ready to wear its party pants into the wee hours. The bright summer sunrise inevitably arrives too quickly, and the neighborhood whispers a wish for the cozy blanket of the omnipresent grey winter sky.


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