Urban Rooftop Living

Urban Living on a Roof

Aside from living in a vehicle, there are other unusual places to reside, at least on a temporary basis.  (In a future series of posts I will cover squatting situations).  One of the weirdest I have discovered is roof-top living.  You see some of it even in movies.  In cities like New York, the hot summers in those squalid apartments with no air conditioning drives thousands of people to camp out on the roofs.  Hey, it’s cooler up there on a hot, sweltering night!

The first time I noticed this on the West Coast, I was visiting a friend in a small California city.  She had a shop in the downtown area.  One night late, we were sitting in her shop chatting and I heard a noise outside.  I looked out the back window and saw this guy going up the fire escape.  Even though it was dark, I recognized him, a homeless guy who hung around the area.  He was basically harmless, would pan-handle for food, and sit on a bench and talk sports to anyone who would listen.  He avidly read the sports pages of all the newspapers he could find abandoned in trash cans and Starbucks, and he was a sidewalk sports commando first class.

One day I went up on the roof to check out his lair.  He had put his bed roll in the shade of a giant air conditioner, and leaned cardboard over it.  Smart.  Best to be hidden from the searchlights of the ever-present helicopters at night.  He was tucked away from those eyes in the sky, a sleeping bag, a portable radio, a bag with a few personal items, a water bottle.  He would only go up the fire escape late at night, and come down early before people would notice him.  He had the perfect free apartment in the summer time in sunny Southern California.  During the winter months, when it got colder, he disappeared, who knows to where.  As long as he stayed out of sight, he was OK.  I imagine that once in a while an air conditioning repair man would see his stuff, maybe say something to the building owner, maybe not.  Once in a while he might lose his gear, but the local temporary aid would restock him with new stuff.  Go ahead and laugh, the dude was around for years, living free while YOU (and I) were paying thousands of dollars in rent.  Who’s the smarter one?


One thought on “Urban Rooftop Living”

  1. There definitely is something to this roof-top living. I did a bit of it myself while attending an unnamed state university here in California. After a snafu with Student Housing, I decided to live at their expense on top of Engineering. Just like the dude you mentioned, my bedroll was stashed under some kind of ductwork up there – but that’s also where I slept. Even had a couple of cops walk right by me one night and didn’t even notice me (must have been in a donut haze). Since Engineering was the highest building on campus, I had an amazing view of the city at night. Did this for almost 3 months. All that helped me get the proper perspective on life nice and early. Even got to do some of this later in Berkeley, not sure you could do that now with all the Crazies there. This roof-top living actually has a noble history: Jim Morrison lived on a roof-top in Venice when he first moved to California, just before helping start The Doors.

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