This edition of I’m Not Complaining is brought to you by my favorite daily source of news:
News Without Motives.
1440 is the daily newsletter helping 2M+ Americans stay informed—it’s news without motives, edited to be unbiased as humanly possible. The team at 1440 scours over 100+ sources so you don't have to. Culture, science, sports, politics, business, and everything in between - in a five-minute read each morning, 100% free.
Now, on with the ‘stack!
Sunrise. It’s a time of quiet promise when I’m still sleepy enough to mix metaphors and hold more than one thought at a time. It’s been a time of discovery, finding hidden pockets of surprise and delight in the hour when I can’t discuss it; I can only experience the wonder.
At other points in my life, I’ve been a night owl, and then the rising sun was an hour of regret for the night preceding, those damn birds warbling mockery and daring me to either sleep the new morning away or get the hell up, wash off the grime of the night, and somehow drag through the day.
The first dawn I remember was a Saturday morning when my dad took me to work with him. I was six or seven, and I saw the sky brighten as we walked toward the subway station near our apartment. It wasn’t majestic, but it was magical.
When I became a young dad and we needed additional income, I took on a second job driving a newspaper route in the wee small hours. I expected it to be a grind, and sometimes it was. Then I went to work for a man named John Brusca.
John owned a bunch of paper routes on the ritzy north shore of Long Island, and he showed up smiling in the dark every morning to help us load up our cars with Newsday, the Wall Street Journal, the Times, and a few copies of the Daily News. He didn’t give pep talks - he just always seemed genuinely happy at four a.m. One morning, John asked me why I was driving papers. I told him I had a wife and two small children at home and that there was too much month left at the end of the money. He said, “Remember this: the most money you’ll ever make will be the easiest money you’ll ever make, and I’m not talking about crime.” He loved his business, and he gave me that piece of wisdom at sunrise. It was years before I saw the truth of it.
I hadn’t thought about John Brusca in a very long time, but I thought about him this morning as I saw the sun come up. I googled him and learned that he passed away earlier this month. Godspeed, Mr. Brusca.
Driving that paper route allowed me to see the sun rise over magnificent mansions as I flung papers onto front steps, to see the orange glow over Long Island Sound and over my weary soul. I learned new things listening to New York radio at sunrise. I enjoyed listening to Simon Loekle on WBAI, the listener-sponsored FM station. On his early-to-mid-80s program, “Why The Revolution Hasn’t Come,” Loekle (rhymes with ‘Oakley’) would give outstanding high-intensity scholarly dissertations, breaking down Shakespeare’s plays interspersed with his choice of rock music. I owe my understanding of Timon of Athens and Coriolanus and my fondness for Elvis Costello to that program.
On the weekends, I listened to the same station’s recorded lectures by Alan Watts, a former Anglican priest who wrote and spoke on Eastern philosophy with wit and brilliance. Learn more about him at alanwatts.org/
I’m blessed these days to approach the sunrise as a beginning. I don’t love every sunrise. But I could if I listened to Duke Ellington’s I Like The Sunrise more often. Ellington wrote the song as the introduction to his Liberian Suite. Its weary sweetness evokes new hope with rising horns led by Ray Nance’s trumpet and Harry Carney’s baritone sax and the waking vocal refrain by an unusually restrained Al Hibbler. Duke recorded another version with Frank Sinatra on the Francis A. and Edward K. album, but that one has an arrangement by Billy May and sounds like it; very good but not great.
I include the original here. Listen to it at sunrise if you can, but listen to it. It’s beautiful.
”I Like The Sunrise” by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.
If you enjoyed this post, please:
Click the little heart button at the bottom. Validation is nice.
Share it with your compadres on social media
Subscribe to I’m Not Complaining, or upgrade to a paid subscription.
I'm Not Complaining is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Great song, and wonderful article. I love the sunrise, too!