31 May 2016

Up on the Roof

Just don't sniff the sewer vent

On the roof it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me

I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I did it. And I don't regret it.

One fine summer day, I decided to escape my bedroom fortress and sit on the roof. I didn’t know what it would be like and I didn’t know how my parents would think, but for once I decided to engage in, what was for me, risky behavior.

I left the window open and turned up the radio. I had WHK-AM tuned in back in the day when it was Cleveland’s only country music station. Now, I wasn’t a big country fan – I was listening because Gary Dee (a local redneck talk legend) was followed by this new guy named Don Imus.

And Imus was making me double over laughing. I didn’t know it then but later he described his time in Cleveland as being spent in a cocaine haze. But the interaction between Imus and the callers was golden. It was then I thought – ‘I’d like to do that someday.’ And someday, I would.

I carefully crawled out my bedroom window and edged myself slowly out a little further, where I took this photo. It was summer 1978. I figured, this was my fire escape anyway and I might as well do a dry run. If there was a fire on the second floor, I had nowhere else to run. I could jump from the other window and fall 20 feet or so and probably break my back or worse. 

This way, I could go out on the roof and make the 10-foot jump into the pool. And, if you’re on fire, jumping into a pool is not a bad thing.

But on this fine summer day, I wasn’t thinking about a fire. I was thinking – why hadn’t I done this before? Short answer – I’ve always been afraid of heights, my parents wouldn’t want me up here, and, I thought I might damage the roof.

I had climbed a tree once when I was much younger. You can see the trunk over the fence to the middle-left. I got up but when I looked down, I froze. It caused a neighborhood spectacle. Eventually it drew my father and a crowd giving me step-by-step advice on how to get down. It was humiliating as hell. I don’t recall how I got down. But I never went up again. 

But the roof? That was different. No climbing involved. 

I had a moment up there I’ll never forget. Laughing to the radio, soaking in the sunshine, enjoying the bucolic view of the neighborhood. A cold drink, a mat, and a pair of shades and a fella could get used to this. I had a huge maple tree behind me providing shade.

My bedroom was my fortress of solitude but this was something different. In a way, it was analogous to stepping out of my comfort zone and what could be gained by doing so.

Now I can go sit in the backyard and take in nature. But there’s something about being up there – up on the roof – looking out, above it all, feeling the breeze. You can think, relax, dream. It’s kind of a special place. Most of us can’t get up on the roofs of our homes. I can’t do it where I live now because – well, it’s one level and it would look silly and I’d roast in the heat. 

If I wasn’t hammering on the roof, neighbors would probably call the cops. People just don’t go on top of their roofs for no reason.

But that afternoon, I did. I always wish I had come out at night, but I never did. 

I think about it today and wonder where my ‘roof’ might be? Where can I go to get both up and away – where the world below won’t bother me? Perhaps we all need to find a ‘roof.’ No TV, no radio, no cell phone. Just you, the sky and your own thoughts. 

Carol King had it just about right.