Thursday, July 11, 2013

It began on a rooftop back in July of '81

I was practically a kid at the time.
“The First Rooftop Article”

    The first article I ever wrote from atop the roof appeared in The Courier on July 20, 1981. The reason I know that is because I found a typed copy of it during a notepad search.

You didn’t ask, but I’ve got too many tablets. On this particular occasion, I needed my blue one. My little blue one. After a 30-minute search, I collected a couple dozen that were neither blue nor little. Isn’t that the way of things?

However, during the notepad pilgrimage I did discover a folder that held a typed copy of my original rooftop article. I can only imagine that at one time I was compiling my rooftop stories in an effort to get a book published. Did you ever see one of my rooftop books? There’s a reason for that.

    But, forget my failings. I’m going to share some of the 32-year old article with you right now. It explains how I first came to sit on the roof. Keep in mind I was 31 at the time. Oh, and I was sitting on the roof of our first house. It had composition shingles. Not a metal roof. And, the only way to—What? Oh, yeah, here’s the article.

     ROOFTOP -- It’s amazing how people overlook a man in a lawn chair sitting on the roof of a house. I guess that’s why I’m up here. It gives me a sense of remoteness. At times that can be a treasured feeling.

    I decided to climb up here after some guy called and politely asked me to buy a magazine subscription. (Sidebar: This was before caller I.D.) After turning down his offer, I started wondering about the poor fellow who was trying to make a living by selling magazines over the phone. Surely his job did not match the career plan he had drawn up for himself in his sociology class back in high school. 

    Who knows, and what on earth was I doing worrying about it? Realizing that I was in a strange mood, I decided to do a strange thing. I decided to head for the roof.  With coffee in hand, cigar in mouth and lawn chair on shoulder, I arrived at my present perch.

It’s really quite nice up here. Otis Redding was sure right when he sang about getting away from it all “Up on the roof.” Or was it “On the dock of the bay?” Whatever, the point is well taken. Occasionally, a person really needs to get away form it all. To just think of stuff. A roof is just a little easier for me to get to than a dock on a bay.

(Sidebar Two: This was back when “google” was the sound parents made when they tried to make their kids laugh. “Google, google.” Parents were saps back then. -- No, if you wanted to find out weird stuff back then, you had to call friends and family. Virginia must’ve been the one to tell me that Ottis Redding, not The Drifters, sang “Up on the Roof.” She was right most of the time. Just not on the night of July 17, 1981. That was a Thursday night. My deadline was Friday morning, and I always waited till the last minute to write. – What? -- Okay, back to the original.)

Let’s see what I can notice from up here as I look down on what appears to be a miniature lawn. Hmmm, can you see them? They’re down there just below the water oak. They look like shadows. It’s a bunch of kids sitting in a yard about 20 years ago.

I remember them. They’ll sit in that circle and talk about “what if” and “I wonder” until late into the night. David will say, “What if we had a giant sailboat and we could go anywhere we wanted for the rest of our lives?” Someone else will add a little to David’s “what if” and before you know it a half-dozen kids will hear the waves breaking along the shore of a deserted island.

Then Jody will say, “I wonder if there are people living on different planets who are sitting in their yards wondering about us?” This will generate a discussion on extraterrestrial life.

They’ll talk for a couple more hours. It will seem like minutes. Eventually, the discussion will be interrupted by the shout of an impatient mom calling her young explorer-philosopher to come home. Soon the yard will empty as each child is called back to the reality of a familiar home in an ordinary neighborhood.

Of course, the talks will continue on other nights, but, as the summers pass, the gatherings will be less frequent. In time the faithful group that weathered storms at sea and traveled to distant planets will find it unfitting to sit, wonder and pretend on a late summer’s evening.

Time has a way of curbing dreams and dulling imagination. As we age, we tend to use our minds for more practical things such as making a living and planning for the future. Sad, but I guess we’re all a little too old to think on frivolous matters the way we used to. Besides, it might be hard to find a friend who wouldn’t laugh if you turned loose some inner part of yourself… something that had been carefully tucked away under heavy blankets of reality.

    Hmmm, that sounded like something Rod Serling might say. I guess it’s the altitude. I’m sure it’s the mood.

End  or


  1. Good article Moke... and you continue to get better and better. jilly

  2. Jill, now you cut that out. I don't know if I'm better, but I am faster. Doesn't take me as long to write something as it used to. I'm sure glad I've still got my sis to cheer me along the way. Love you, kiddo. m