There is a world hidden to our eyes, even in New York.
It is the reason the Empire State Building is so successful, and the Rockerfeller and all those other sky reachers. There must be acres of space, just as prized as the real estate down below, for in this haven is a little Eden interspersed with water towers.And you reach it using the stairs.
Or the lift. Elevator, I mean.
We had the choice to walk up the last six flights of the Empire State Building. Stairs or lift? We asked the kids, and they pleaded for the lift but we said nonsense, children,the exercise will do you good, and we took the stairs.
Instantly we were away from the scenery and the sales. The staircase what white, unfussy, janitorial even.
That was refreshing. Maybe other people like being sold a city but I prefer to draw my own conclusions.
We emerged to find the world taking pictures, a babbling snapping Babel;yet there was always a space. I never had to struggle for a view.
And all of a sudden I could see the island once more, the two rivers converging at Manhattan’s feet, and I shed the streets and the taxis and the lights and was able to overlay, once more, the history of this extraordinary place on its frame.
I was reminded of its prehistory and the schist rock on which New York was built; of the ancient peoples who had lived here, and the unassuming little Dutch colony, and the English who followed of the jetties which sprang up on the edges of the island, the streets as they once were before the grid got hold of them.
If ever a place has a spirit independent of its people, this place is it.
I took my very expensive brand new phone and I held it out over the City, and I pressed the shutter. The family gasped. That was a lot of phone to drop.
But I didn’t drop it, and I got what I wanted:a snapshot of the way the New Yorkers use their roofs.
And behold: water towers, roof gardens, bars, pools, walking space. A city above a city, where one can stand and watch the world go by.
See the Met Life building? Phil asked. Once, he went on, an airlineowned it, and that great rectangle of a roof was a heliport. Helicopters would take off and land from there: it was a route for the privileged right to the heart of the city.
I wanted to turn back time. Quite acutely, I longed to see the old helicopters arriving like great mechanical dragonflies on the roof of the city.
Later, it grew humid and we decided to try our hotel’s pool. It nestles on the roof, open to the sky, unheated but designer-azure.Guests did not swim, but seemed to gain immeasurable satisfaction by standing around in designer shades, catching rays.
I sat while Maddie and Felix splashed about, and watched incredulously as a dragon fly hovered happily past, helping itself to a little roof life. Never make assumptions as to what the wildlife of a city can and cannot do. It will always surprise you, much as did the seagull who was taking the updraft high above the Empire State as we stood on the observation deck.
If you want a real life adventure in New York -un-manufactured, not heavily laced with theatre but straight up: I find the rooftops generally do the trick.
I wonder how many I can visit before I leave?