The Man on the Roof

He was there, and then he wasn't. Click...

I go up to the roof a lot. Sometimes to smoke a cigar and look at the traffic. Lately I've been taking breaks up there, leaving the computer and just taking a few minutes to breathe.

At which point I see a man, on the roof across the street. It's a little lower than my roof. He's been there 5 or 6 times in the last month. He's in a deck chair dressed entirely in silver with a big piece of tinfoil over his stomach. You can't miss him. He looks like a solar panel.

This morning I saw him on the subway. He didn't recognize me. I went up to him.

Hey, I said.

He just looked.

I see you, on the roof.

Oh! He looked at me, worried at what I'd say next.

I'm curious, I said. What's going on up there? Is it for tanning?

No, he said - it's for the satellite.

I don't follow.

Well, he said, it's that the satellites can take pictures now, and they end up on the Internet, you can see almost anything. And you can see my roof, you can see the deck chairs even, in the picture.


Yes, it's on this site. And so I've been going up there hoping that the next time it flies over it'll take my picture.

How often do you go up there?

Well, whenever I feel like it. I read there. It helps me focus. I did call one of the companies, though, that takes the picture. That's why I was up there all last month. They said they were doing Brooklyn and Long Island that month.

No shit, huh.


Is your picture in there yet?

It'll just be a little blur - but not yet, no. They're all about a year old. I can tell they update because we just painted the roof six months ago and it shows up against the other roofs.

Taken by satellites, though?


That's pretty interesting, I said. I introduced myself as a neighbor, and then a seat opened up and I offerred it to him, and he took it, and I read my magazine.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

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Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

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