If this city never sleeps, it is because of its infamous rooftop parties.
I was introduced to the realm of New York’s rooftops by a fellow dreamer, photographer and a similarly unsettled soul, Nicholas. Now a dear friend, at the time I had only met him for the first time in my life in person, as, very properly for someone whom I chose as my guide to the city, I had befriended him on the internet five years earlier. By virtue of having been exchanging sweet transatlantic thoughts online for half a decade, ten minutes later he was already introducing me as his childhood friend, running across four-line avenues hand in hand with me when the red light was on and never looking back even as we heard some rather alarming high-pitched screams behind us. Above all though – he was taking me to places only an insider would know in New York.
That first day we got to know each other, Nicholas told me we’d actually be meeting up with his two Swiss friends, so we hopped on the subway and headed to the Lower East Side to their apartment. We rang the doorbell downstairs for the fifth time with no answer from the other side, only to receive a call from Leo and Camille that they were waiting for us somewhere near Central Park, where we had actually just come from. But before we even ended the phone call, the doors downstairs somehow magically opened, Nicholas pulled me inside, grabbed me by my hand, and started frenetically running upstairs to the very top of the building. One second I was standing on the corner of 1st and 1st, the other I could see it from above, along with the city’s magnificent skyline.
We did eventually make it Uptown, after enjoying the view for quite a while and jumping around with our cameras like two crazy kids in an attempt to match the spectacular view, and met up with Leo and Camille. The sun was slowly setting and Nicholas promised that he’d prepared a special destination in Brooklyn for all of us, but we were too hungry to go straight there. I’m not sure whether what followed was reality or a hallucinatory result of some hunger delirium, but we entered a beautiful art deco lobby of a posh 5th Avenue building, went to the rear part and found a little, dark, crammed place that served the most delicious hamburgers on the planet. To this day I can’t really explain how it happened, yet I’m quite pretty almost sure it did.
But Brooklyn was still waiting, and so one subway ride later we found ourselves on the other side of the river. Although we’d all been babbling along the way, when we got out we all fell silent in curiosity, with Nicholas playfully being mum about where he was leading us. There was no one else around, even though we were just a stone’s throw away from the Manhattan Bridge, until we finally heard someone whistling. It turned out to be Nicholas’ friend, Lola, who was waiting to take us to the secret location along with a group of her friends. We went a few blocks towards the river and entered the labyrinths of an abandoned building, once again going all the way up. The night took off from there into a full-blown party, photographic session, moonbathing, and an exchange of ideas about pineapples, Indonesian airplanes and Swedish lakes. This is usually how it works in New York – you casually meet up with a friend, wander around the city, bump into other friends, poets, medicine students, graphic designers and those still searching, wander some more throughout whatever territories the night takes you to, and end up on a rooftop.
Maybe it was only the vagabond in me who has the constant yearning to explore uncharted territories rather than usual paths, that always led me there. But at one point of my stay in New York, I actually found myself spending more time on those fascinating rooftops which invite you to have an exceptional glimpse of the city, than actually roaming New York’s streets. When summer was coming to an end and even my vagabond compass was pointing to the direction of home, I spent my last night in the city, very appropriately, on the very same rooftop that I visited when I first met Nicholas. Once again we took out our cameras, to capture the beautiful moments, and as Kundera’s fan, he invented a whimsical twist on the writer’s “Once is never.” He pointed the lens towards the city: “On film, once is forever.”
Lazuli Lazuli is a Paris-based digital artist and a vagabond fascinated with the mythologies of tropical islands and dancing flamingos. Only in her early twenties, she has been to 35 different countries.