Here in New York City, no matter how relentlessly hot, devoid of green space, or loud traffic is, sidewalk tables and rooftop decks are sacred. Every year, I sit with friends, sweat rolling down ticklish spots of the body and ice cubes disintegrating into drinks, swearing I’m having the best time of my life. And I mean it with all my heart.
It’s a particular brand of madness we cultivate in this city, and it’s begun again (cicadas be damned). As if a switch were flipped, almost everyone I knew was either hosting or attending a rooftop party this past weekend. Honestly, the only person I knew who didn’t go to one was busy learning how to steer a brand new sailboat (she’s a very fancy friend).
I managed to finagle my way onto three rooftops around Manhattan on Saturday, and I won’t lie: it was one of my proudest accomplishments as a New Yorker.
The day began with prosecco and music poolside atop a luxury building on the lower east side. The deck was, umm, decked out with large round loungers and cushioned armchairs, and everyone looked like a successful actor or model. In the visible distance, we spied the golden roof of the Met Life, the Empire State, and the Chrysler buildings. My friends and I sunned ourselves silly for a few hours, taking turns napping or dipping into the pool to cool off. When we got hungry, sushi was delivered directly to our beach towels, as was a large patio umbrella to ensure we dined in comfort.
In the late afternoon, I reluctantly gathered my things to leave this lap of luxury in the sky, meet up with another friend, and move on to rooftop party #2 (I know, it’s a hard life). It was a quick commute up to Chelsea (although I’d gotten so spoiled at this point that I wondered why no one was fanning me as I traveled).
Once there, we pushed open the door to find a more typical urban rooftop, flat, covered in blacktop and framed with a concrete ledge and railing. The view was quintessentially New York: leafy green treetops filtering golden sunlight in a way that made it sparkle, pre-war buildings with intricate stonework facades, and streets filled with yellow taxicabs and blissfully sweltering pedestrians (they would be complaining by August but for now, they welcomed the heat).
In one corner, the host had set up an oasis of large umbrellas, a sisal rug, a full living room set of chairs and coffee tables, and a buffet of food, wine, and gin punch. We generously helped him finish all of it before traipsing (somewhat unsteadily) onward to rooftop party #3 in Chinatown.
The sun had set on our way to the last party, and the air was more gently warm. We clambered up six or seven flights of stairs to a blacktop roof in the dark, this time with no railing (but outlined in colorful Christmas lights).
It was a luau theme, as evidenced by tiki torches tied to curved metal pipes and an inflatable palm tree that cradled icy cans of beer and a bucket of tropical pink punch. Logic dictated that I drink water at this point, but I decided more alcohol and climbing up on a railing-less ledge to get a picture against the lit-up skyline was a better idea. Hey, it was a day of living large, what can I say!
Some experiences can make you stop and pay attention to things that are usually just in the background of your life. I live in a city where we’ve stacked ourselves in little cubes reaching high into the sky, in order to all fit onto a concrete island floating between different lands. And yet, when summer emerged, we found our ways up and out into open air to greet the sun eagerly.
Spending the day above New York, yet thoroughly immersed in its limitless energy, made my heart swell with love for this great city. At last, summer is here!