According to Ol' Blue Eyes, New York is the city that never sleeps and that's a pretty accurate description, for the most part at least. Sunday morning, however, is when the Big Apple turns over, pulls the cover over its head and has a bit of a lie-in. From my very first trip to New York in 1992, right through to my last in late 2010, I'd be up and out of the apartment early on Sunday mornings in an effort to hit as many flea markets as possible. The fleas popped up ad-hoc on vacant lots, in crumbling garage basements and murky alleys all over the city and were crammed to the gills with the kind of tat I loved to pore through at car-boot sales back in the UK at the time. They were also home to some of the New Yorkiest New York characters I've ever encountered - outrageously loud, breathtakingly brusque and hugely entertaining to this outsider. The streets may have been quiet, but the fleas were always noisy and heaving with bleary eyed, caffeine fuelled punters.
My favourite fleas gradually disappeared on my visits throughout the noughties, with skyscrapers sprouting from the vacant lots, crumbling garages being demolished and murky alleys gentrified beyond recognition. On my return to New York a few weeks ago after a gap of 13 years, I discovered only a couple of neat, tidy, organised fleas in operation, which leaned far more towards being vintage markets, with prices to match. The hustle, the bustle, the tat and the characters all gone. I took a pass.
Instead, while the Apple stretched and yawned, I spent a couple of hours wandering the still Sunday morning streets. Photo opportunities are a lot easier to grab when the sidewalks are empty and the roads are free of gridlocked, honking traffic. Here for example is a Con Edison stack I stumbled across on the corner of Church and Duane in Tribeca, work abandoned for the weekend and steam billowing into the chill morning air.