If you haven’t experienced a Fourth of July on a roof top in New York City, I highly suggest you do it. I was lucky enough to experience ten of them, and loved everyone.
It’s an odd holiday in the New York. Most of the rich people are in the Hamptons, or wherever the rich people go when the weather gets hot. So the place always felt kind of empty in a weird way. Also, the activity takes place at night, so you’ve got the entire day to make plans, stay cool, and not get too drunk too soon. All of which provide challenges. You have to have a friend with a roof. You have to have a place with air conditioner. And in your pursuit of those two things you have to not start drinking after lunch.
I had a roof top on my building. I spent about half of my Fourths there, but it was sketchy situation. There weren’t like stairs that led there. You had to climb a ladder, and at the top of the ladder you had to push this heavy roof cover off. Then there was no guard rail, so I would spend most of the time worrying that none of my drunk friends would get too close to the edge. I’m also terrified of heights, so I had to factor that into the whole equation.
But once all the things are in place: a roof, a drink, surrounded by your friends. Once that sun sets behind the Hudson River, and that magnificent fireworks display happens for the next forty-five minutes, it’s pretty spectacular. I would picture all the people pulling off on the side of the bridge, all the people sitting in the parks, all the people who came here hoping, dreaming, failing, succeeding. For forty-five minutes I was a kid again, full of hot dogs and hamburgers with dirty shorts and grape popsicle stained lips. I was in the back seat of my parent’s car, sweaty and tired and happy, listening to the remnants of the back yard firecrackers we were never allowed to have. I would finish a beer and crack open another one as I ooh’d and awe’d with my friends at the colors in the sky that had provided a thread of my life. From 1995 at Governor’s School with Becca to 1998 in New Brunswick, NJ about to fly out to Europe with John Weeks. From 2001 Montgomery, AL with my grad school friends to that first Fourth of July in the city in 2003, drinking strawberry margaritas at Vera Cruz on Bedford Ave. There was 2005 in the East Village with Amy and Brantlee and John and Adam. There was 2006 with Paul and Mandy and Sara. There was 2011 with Kris and Dylan and Sage so tired from a day of walking that all we could do was order Chinese food and eat it off of paper plates. Breakfasts with my sisters Anneclaire and Rachel before going our separate ways.
Then, my favorite moment of the evening. After the grand finale, after that last grand display, there’s a pause, and then everyone cheers. I would remember that every roof top was covered with people. That we all had our own stories, our own relationship with this day. And no matter what our crooked journeys were, we were here, in New York fucking City. Some would stay, most would leave, but for a moment we were all here, we had all made it, and for a moment we were all drunk, and cheering at the night sky, thankful for what we had just seen, excited about what was to come.