Fire escapes are the poor man’s terrace and a wonderful connection to the outside world.
In my original Ramblings journal, I wrote from a huge solid oak desk that took up an entire wall of our small, one bedroom apartment. We moved in the winter of 1973 and left in the winter of 1978. Those five years were for me, the most magical years of my life.
For five years I sat at my desk with my Royal manual typewriter, the kids in the background playing with six or seven other kids.
An apartment building built like a steel fortress in which dozens of kids played in the halls and each other’s apartments. No one locked doors, no one cared if the kid from the third floor was a pain in the ass, or if the two little ones on the first floor would ever pipe down.
My memory of that window is seen through her iron slats, the street lights on the avenue, the park across the street, neighbors rushing about, traffic and the changing seasons.
The teenager upstairs would visit at night and through most of the year, including several snow storms, we sat together on the window sill, our bare feet on the cast iron slats of the fire escape.
My daughter was a baby and doesn’t remember living in Brooklyn. Yet, more than thirty years later she began playing with another in a series of cameras, and took a group of photographs of the sky from her window, the fire escape from her window and the views of each apartment where she has lived.
Fire escapes were prominently featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Rear Window with James Steward and Grace Kelly.
The fire escape was the balcony for the modern Romeo and Juliet in West Side Story.
They were where my mother grew her herb garden and dried out her homemade tomato paste, since its best sun-dried.
Fire escapes make great outdoor gardens and every one of my plants got to stay outside for the warm weather until the fire inspectors threatened a fine for obstruction of the “escape” part of my little private terrace.
In the old neighborhood, it wasn’t odd to look out the window in the back of the houses and see kids and adults sleeping outside on the fire escape, to escape the hot Brooklyn summers.
My son and his friends had several fun-packed snow ball fights with me and the teenager, snow balls lobbying up and down until everyone was soaked and happy.
They’re a great place to put pies and cakes out to cool, a wonderful way to dry a small paint project, and when they are hidden in the backs of buildings, a good place to dry clothes. We call our radiators “city dryers.”
Those days are the Ramblings of a young mother, unsure, naïve and nervous, but having one hell of a time with her babies.
fOIS In The City
Photography: JenG, CityScapes, Widepedia