- The older Latina woman, her hair in thick braids, out in all weather, walking with effort but energy and purpose, and greeting everyone she encounters;
- The sporty/outdoorsy white woman my age with her golden lab, looking like she takes no nonsense from anyone, whom I often see in the park with her friends (and their dogs) but sometimes also on the street on the way;
- The Italian gentleman walking alongside the park from the other direction - we say hi but he doesn't seem to recognize me if I run into him elsewhere in the neighborhood;
- My next-door neighbor at the bus stop, waiting for her bus - she doesn't seem to recognize me out of context either or maybe her coffee just hasn't kicked in yet.
Then there are others who I may or may not have seen before but we recognize each other as fellow early morning denizens - waiting for the bus, or on their way to school or work.
There are a few other runners out there that early. The mixed-gender pairs will usually greet me. There's an older gentleman I see closer to sunrise, a very serious runner, who gives me a tight nod. Women in pairs are usually talking to each other and the young women on their own are usually very serious with their gaze fixed firmly ahead, whether or not they wear headphones (and too many of them wear headphones).
Then there are the people at work already. Bus drivers and trash collectors - I wave at them as we pass by. The construction workers for the new Aldi going up. The bakery on the other side of our block is already open, light spilling out into the street and people driving up to grab their coffee and breakfast. There are a few gyms and a dance studio on my longer route and depending on when I pass they may be open, all glass and mirrors and determination. Islands of light at the gas station corners and 7-11s. And the food carts as I head back into Albany Park, on my last blocks before home.
A whole secret world out there in the morning, still and hushed.