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Leif Zurmuhlen

Up on the Roof
While the masses throng the highways headed to the sand and surf, you can get your fun and sun on Tar Beach
By Kathryn Lurie

One of the great trade- offs of having to climb three or four flights of stairs to get to your top-floor “penthouse” apartment is that you (whether you know it or not) can reach the stars, linger among the clouds—or dance about while pretending you’re a chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but you do probably have access to your roof.

Rooftop chillin’ is a great way to spend sunny afternoons and balmy dusks during the summer. If you live in one of the ubiquitous brownstones or row houses in the area, the top of your building is most likely flat and sometimes tarred, making it a great sky-high patio. If you have never been on the roof of your building, or you don’t know if you’re able to access it, I would suggest performing a little investigation to see if the ascent is at all possible. It’s worth it: Ordinary activities are just so much more fun when done on a roof. Go ahead, drop some lawn chairs and tables up there, and maybe even a grill. String some Japanese lanterns from one antenna to another and throw a great barbeque for your pals. It’s also the perfect romantic spot to watch Fourth of July fireworks while cuddling with your lover or having cocktails with friends.

Don’t be surprised to see other people on adjoining roofs, and take advantage of it—this is a great way to meet people. You and your neighbors are face-to-face, with nowhere to go, really—unlike when you’re able to pretend you don’t know each other on the street. You share a secret world now. This can provide you with a reason for friendly competition (“Betcha I can hit that car across the street with my spit!”), and a chance to explore things you have in common (“My landlord doesn’t fix a thing! I’m surprised this roof can support my weight!”)

And here’s an interesting phenomenon: People don’t look up when they’re on the street. How many times have you been startled by someone calling to you from high up above your head? Knowing this fact is key to playing (good-spirited) tricks on passers-by. One of the best rooftop pranks I’ve witnessed occurred one night while I was walking down the street with a friend. We spotted a $1 bill on the ground. When my friend bent down to snatch it, the bill was yanked just out of reach by an unseen force; we glanced skyward and spied a few 20-something wiseasses giggling hysterically (I’m sure they were keeping tabs on how many oafs fell for the trick). They had tied the bill to a fishing pole, and when anyone attempted to pocket the money, they reeled it in. It would’ve been even more interesting had they had some sociological-research intentions in mind, but I’m guessing they didn’t.

Whether you’re on your roof to catch some rays, cook some dogs, or to have a candlelit dinner, the air up there is always better. So escape the world below where the jobs await, the cars get ticketed, the construction-obstructed roads continue to sink, and people are oblivious to the world up high—the one in which you exist, if only for a little while.


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