I’m not sure what’s clearer in my head: the laughter of my South American friends on a rooftop in the East Village, the fireworks from a Bed-Stuy rooftop on the 4th of July with the crisp taste of cider in my mouth, or the view from the twentieth floor of a friend’s penthouse on the Upper West Side.
In the East Village, laughter moves as fluidly as do drinks and dollar bills in the neighborhood’s hip restaurants, bars and thrift shops. Located just north of the Lower East Side, young people still crowd the neighborhood; it retains the spirit of the 1960’s, though not its cheap rents.
A train ride away, on the rooftops of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, the smell of charcoal from its stoop-side barbecues and the sound of children laughing fill the air. Though its brownstones are the same as in Manhattan, the change in pace will let you know you’re in a different place. A New York less featured in the media, Brooklyn is a world in itself, packed with more yoga studios, vegan restaurants and frozen yogurt shops than Manhattan – if that’s possible.
The residents of Brooklyn can keep Manhattan at a distance, like a friend who is fun in small doses whom one can get away from but return to.
Shops in Downtown Brooklyn
On a quintessential New York day, I rushed to catch the A train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, the heat exacerbated by my black skirt, black shirt, and black blazer outfit. As I walked through the Upper West Side, the cherry blossoms distracted my desire to stop and do my makeup. The snacks, pizza, drinks and mirror-covered bathroom in my friend’s apartment could not keep me from the magnetic view his window invited. I looked down, and as someone who is not afraid of heights, was afraid. But I could not look away. The people looked miniscule and the signature yellow cabs seemed to belong in an architectural model. And just when the blood returned to my head, “Let’s go to the rooftop!” someone yelled. Of course I followed. If only our minds could produce instant photographs of the memories we hold, I would print that one.
That New York night ended quite fittingly, at the Dream Hotel downtown. The hotel club subscribed to nonsensical rules—dress codes go without saying, and every guy needs to be accompanied by a girl who is on some exclusive list. I wasn’t sure why my friends put up with all those rules. Until, brighter than the outfits worn by tall, model-looking girls, the lights of the city surrounded us in a room with translucent windows. It was there that the night stopped for me, there that I wish cameras had been allowed and I could have had the space to myself to take pictures that would likely reflect every single light, but not the beauty of the view.
I cannot finish this entry (though I am tempted not to mention it because it still hasn’t been overwrought by tourists) without mentioning my favorite non-rooftop rooftop, the High Line. It’s not a rooftop per se, but an elevated park on the West Side that runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, and it’s as lovely during the day as it is at night. If you ever go to New York, don’t forget to walk it from its High Line and to see it from its rooftops—going to rooftops was a “thing” when I was there, and I can finally understand the obsession.