Up on simpson street in the bronx we hung out on the rooftops. We would plug in a record player to the hall light and dance on the sticky tar.Sometimes we would climb down to the street via the firescape and many times that top ladder to the roof was ajar from the building and shook enough to send us tumbling to the street below if we did not watch it. On the way down,being Puerto Rican neighborhood we would have to jump over jugs of a formenting drink called mavi.Each landing had a different aroma of pork chops, pastelillos, rice and beans and fried chicken. We would reach the bottom of the back yard starving and we had to be quick because there always was a mean dirty dog named buster waiting to bite someone. We would then go out to the street and play kick the can.ringolivio, stickball, marbles, johnny on the pony, skully or hitch on the back of trucks that we leave us somewhere in long island.A typical day back in the fifties.we had mucho fun.
Our fires escape was on Amsterdam Avenue and 65th Street (before Lincoln Center). My girlfriend lived in the apt. beneath us. She and I had tin cans attached by a string hanging from fire escape to fire escape, so we could chat as we ate cut-up Fig Newtons and penny candy and sunned ourselves on our “terraces.” The metal structures provided a respite from the heat of the tenement buildings where not a fan, certainly no air conditioner, could be found “back in the day.”
We lived in an apt in Astoria, Queens and as a little girl I use to prop upa blanket like a tent. Me and my siblings would hang out especially on hot summer nights. We had to be in at 8:00 and everyone was still out. So being on the fire escape made us feel we were not missing anything. Also there would be a group of boys from a gang called the Barons and they would harmonize to the tune of Duke of Earl. Oh the days of little wants.
People go to Mecca, Thailand, India, etc. for spiritual insight, Others seeking personal meditative space have weekend homes upstate or can jet somewhere at will…. but for those of us of humble monetary means I can attest to the fact that some of the most crucial moves made in my life were carefully weighed for pros and cons beforehand, on a fire escape; the one place where the noise of the city can be as serene as the the sound of wild life in the woods. My godfather owned a rent-controlled apt on 8th ave. and 56th st. I would apt. sit for him all the time. It was a cool small split level old artists studio with a sky roof. Always smelled of incense and espresso. The radio always on Jazz 88. We called that small place “the Gazebo”. I spent many summers nights and days on the fire escape of that building watching the madness roll by. Witnessed a few road rage attacks, domestic interludes, heat strokes, killer sound systems. Felt like a pigeon scoping the city from above. Slept under the stars on a futon on hot night on that fire escape. Invited a bunch of redneck musician friends of mine from lewisburg and fleetwood PA to do an unplugged jam up there. Caused alot of people to look up and check out the great music. I lived in the East Village, and when I didn’t want to be found I would head to that apt. and that “escape” and just enjoy the peace.