Harlem Rooftops

Looking up. Usually it’s just pointing forward and doing what we can to get to the next train, or, if you live somewhere else, past that the next traffic light. St. Nick’s Pub – a center piece of The Last Block in Harlem, is one of my last pieces of gold. Unlike the 400 Tavern just up the street, this place lives on. Strange that when you write about something, when you put it in a book, it fails to be anything else than what you put down. The block is starting to come alive again.

With the temperature over 40, people are out. On the roof of the building that houses St. Nick’s, a man was standing with his guitar against the sunset. What an amazing site. I grabbed my camera and snapped, thinking that a moment had just just happened, until I saw the man notice me and start screaming down. I thought that perhaps, he was going to say to send that picture to him. No.

“Delete that! Delete it,” he yelled from the rooftop.

Now, for writers it’s a shame to take a picture because that picture rarely captures what they see. I saw someone else up there – a photographer. This guy was having pictures take of him and then yelling at me not to take a picture of him. What if I was taking a picture of St. Nick’s and he got in the way? The reality was no good on this.


Around me, people were starting to lean up on cars and talk about what was ahead on Saturday night, or what had gone down during their day. The hair salon was full. Where was everyone going? Where were they moving to? What were they in search of? I guess that’s something I should start asking people  – what are you looking for?

During the work week, I think we’re all looking for money in some regards. We’re looking to cover a bill or save up to buy something or feed those who are waiting for you at home. But, when left on our own, with the option to go out and seek, what are we looking for? What are we seeking.

If we were to give a chance to travel somewhere and offer up an adventure, what would it be? I think there is very little room for such things anymore. There is only the survival of the day, and the sad thing is that, when we are given the slight change for something else, we don’t know what to do.

The man on the roof existed only far away and when he spoke to me, he asked to be deleted. What if he had not. The story might have gone that, every night in Harlem, regardless of the weather, this man went up to the roof and stood facing south with his guitar. He would play a song for the wind, for the city, for his children, for the woman he loved. Yes. It would have to be for love.

So each day, regardless of the weather, he would climb to the roof and play a song, hoping the person he was playing it for would here him. In the heat of Mid August, in the coldness of early February, in the bloom of May and in the first crisp of October, he would be there, without a shirt and with his guitar, playing love songs for the city. Playing so that someone would here him. He would play until it got dark, then return back to his apartment to go about his life again, until it was time to wake up for work, where he would return to the streets unknown and without music.

The end of his day he would rush home so he could make it up to the roof and play music for the city. It was the moment of his life he enjoyed not because of accomplishment, but because he was happy doing what he enjoyed without trying for results. It would be a rare valuable moment that he repeated every day.


One thought on “Harlem Rooftops

  1. Hi Christopher! I tracked you here from your comment on my blog (which I responded to there). I find this very poetic — your use of images and prose! Conveys a melancholy feeling that is either being lost or ignored in America on steroids. Yes, I see your connection to Gingsburg and how you are bringing this legacy into new media, which is indicated in your birth chart. Congrats!

    Lisa from http://kundalinisdaughter.wordpress.com

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