A Summery Day in the Skies of NYC

view from les roof

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.

pool

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).

chelsea view

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.

chinatown view

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!

Image

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!

Summer Campiness

Hey! Remember when you were young and had ice cream cakes and matching charm bracelets with your BFFs and splashed around at pool parties? I sure do. Cuz that’s what I did this past month!

A couple weeks ago, my friend Lady D threw her annual So-Awesome-You-Have-to-Trek-Out-to-Flushing BBQ where she put on the usual blowout spread of bruschetta, chips, dips, many-cheesed pasta (with some secret citrus component that she won’t fess up about), burgers, hot dogs, kielbasas, salads (scoff), and more beer and liquor than the average neighborhood bar.

It’s hard to know what to bring to a party with such generous bounty. Luckily, I passed by a Carvel and inspiration struck in the form of a nostalgic aquatic ice cream cake: Fudgie the Whale!! (I’ve  been informed that Fudgie was a regional phenomenon so I’d like to elaborate. Growing up, having a Fudgie the Whale cake at your birthday party was a Sign that You Were Cool. It was on the same level as having a roller-skating party.

Fudgie was comprised of layers of classic chocolate and vanilla ice cream and an amazing crust of dark chocolate cookie crumbles which were so crunchy that it almost felt like I was chewing on a mouthful of gravel. Sometimes I would close my eyes as I chewed to let the sound of that gravel crunch fill my head and reverberate. There was always a magical moment when the chewing paid off and the gravel softly released an earthy musky chocolate aroma into my mouth. And then I would take a bite of the ice cream layers and let it melt and wait for all the flavors merge on my tongue. I could taste some sort of alchemy take place even though I couldn’t quite express what I felt, and the fact that this revelation came in the form of a slyly winking cartoon whale may have strongly shaped the way I view the world.) Needless to say Lady D, having also grown up in Fudgie the Whale territory, was ecstatic when I showed up at her BBQ with one in hand.

That same weekend, I got together with my best friends from college to eat greasy fried foods and speak exclusively in inside jokes. It was amazing to be around people who knew me so well that they drew out parts of myself that I’d forgotten or neglected. Our conversation zigzagged from deep psychological co-analysis to making fun of each other about our (alleged) college hookups. (I’d like to point out that kissing or even heavy hand-holding defined hooking up for me. I was appalled to find out that some people equated hooking up with sex. I spent one full week early in my sophomore year trying to figure out who might have misconstrued my stories of rampant hand-holding. San gloves. I lived dangerously.) At the end of all that talking, we commemorated the day by getting Pandora bracelets, which are high falutin’ versions of those dangly jingly charm bracelets that used to decorate my junior high wrists. We spent an hour picking out charms for each other and planning ahead for the charms we’d get on our next get-together. BFFs 4eva!!

The Fourth of July capped off my month of summertime reverie with an honest-to-goodness pool party at K-dawg’s new digs in the heart of the Cobble Hill projects. (Cobble Hill is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, if you’re not familiar. It’s mostly gentrified but has this 4-block pocket of old-school projects surrounded by million dollar townhouses. And in the middle of it all, the shining chlorinated oasis of my friend’s pool.)

K’s backyard had a round pool with a wooden deck built around it, a hammock swaying mellowly in the afternoon heat haze and a small trampoline which had everyone bouncing gleefully at one point or another during the party. Even the two puppies in attendance, Ruby, a friendly pink-nosed white pit bull, and Harlee, a rambunctious Welshie took turns bouncing. It was pretty funny to see the bemused expressions on their puppy-faces! You know what wasn’t funny though? My failed attempt(s) at a Lady and the Tramp(oline) joke.

Towards the end of the day, a cannonball contest ensued which I think I won for two reasons. One, I managed to do a full-on bellyflop. But not on my belly. On my face. (Yeah.) And two, on a subsequent jump, I managed to land my left eye socket into a friend’s fist. Miraculously, I didn’t get a black eye, but my left cheek did get a bit swollen. Fortunately, a mosquito helped me out by biting me on the right cheek. So at least both cheeks match!

All in all, it has been quite a month of revisiting the highlights of my youth. And without that pesky puberty thing to deal with. Awesome!