“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me…
When I come home feelin’ tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof (up on the roof)
At night the stars put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me…
Right smack dab in the middle of town
I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble-proof (up on the roof)
And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two
Up on the roof (up on the roof)…
Everything is all right (up on the roof)”
Up On the Roof
Lyrics by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Rosie and I exited the 7th Avenue F train station, coming out on 8th Avenue and 9th street. We were headed to my friend Watson’s roof-top 4th of July Barbecue. We had to stop by a store to pick up some beer and groceries to bring with us. I mistakenly remembered there being a deli right there on 8th but according to her iPhone it was several blocks from the subway stairs. We backtracked to 7th Avenue and Kim’s Fruit Store. Both the temperature and the humidity were oppressive and we sweated our way back uphill to Prospect Park West for the party.
We climbed the four flights to Watson’s apartment and were welcomed by his friend Olivier. Olivier, a short, somewhat portly gay man was in Watson’s kitchen preparing food using recipes from his native Haiti. We could tell from the curt vibe he was giving off and the frantic look in his eyes that Olivier was preoccupied with the task at hand. We left him alone and ascended together to the roof.
We found Watson lounging by himself, playing songs from his laptop out of a small portable speaker. He was drinking Modelo Especial and waiting for the rest of the guests. Watson and Olivier organized and promoted parties/art shows. They met through a mutual artist friend, a wealthy woman who owned a block of buildings in Manhattan. Watson’s girl Jessica was recovering from a bad sunburn and couldn’t make it. Still in good spirits, he excitedly described the next event.
Even though it was already 6 o’clock I could feel the July sun beginning to burn my skin. Watson went down to his apartment to check on the food. Olivier was performing acupressure healing on Watson’s old friend from Detroit. When Watson returned he introduced him. Derick, a 39-year-old white Hip Hop head who had recently relocated to Park Slope by way of Rochester with his fiance Lashawna. We talked politics; the corruption of government as a result of the greed of both parties, the de-industrialization of the United States and the wisdom or lack thereof when it comes to voting for third party candidates.
As Watson’s neighbors began to walk out onto the communal space, the other guests and food arrived at the table. Olivier outdid himself; his cuisine was a step up from normal grilled fare. As we all sat around another pair or Watson’s friends joined the table. Hadrian, a web advertising exec and his wife Thien were visiting from San Francisco. Thien was born in Vietnam and we discussed her hometown of Saigon. It seemed like every race, ethnicity, socioeconomic group, sexual orientation and region of the country was representing.
Rosie and I held hands and kissed while we waited for the fireworks to start. She called me darling in her sweet voice; her accent a mixture of Upstate New York and Texas. Olivier chewed corn on the cob while speaking, the kernels ricocheting off Watson’s face. Groups made up of people from the building and their guests crowded onto the roof. Hadrian and I talked about fishing off of chartered party boats; I described the experience of taking one out from Sheepshead Bay.
As the setting sun began to accelerate over the distant hills on the New Jersey mainland, our group as well as its various couples posed for photos. Oliver who had commandeered Watson’s laptop had answered the disco call of house DJ. His jean shorts were sloppily falling down and exposing a plumbers crack every time he reached over to the keyboard from his lounge chair. “Hey, sexy!” he called out to the married middle aged women present at the party. He flirted with them in the shameless way only eccentric, party-going homosexual men seem to be able to do while still falling within the realm of social acceptability.
The sky darkened and the fireworks slowly began to start. We had a front row seat to several different displays. First New Jersey, then Staten Island, locations in Brooklyn both legal and illegal, then finally the Macy’s fireworks in Manhattan. For the second year in a row they would take place on the Hudson River; snubbing most of the five boroughs of New York City. The problem of the already distant pyrotechnics was compounded by the placement of Park Slope’s Methodist hospital on 7th Avenue; directly in our line of vision. “Blow up the hospital!” joked Olivier. We were all a little ticked off.
The fireworks were over. It was getting late but the temperature was still in the high 80’s. The slight breeze that had been tempering the heat was gone and the humidity was taking over the already damp night. Rosie and I decided to start heading back to my place in Bensonhurst for some air conditioned relief. As we were saying our goodbyes, Watson took Rosie aside. As Rosie recounted the conversation to me, Watson asked her to encourage me to write more. He said it would make me happy to write and him happy because he would have something to read at work. I was flattered and surprised that just a little over two weeks of starting my blog Searching NYC that I actually had people looking forward to the next post.