Pandemic or no pandemic, winter or no winter, our members are finding times and places to get naked — it’s what we do. For some, that means turning up the heat indoors and finding private spots to enjoy a little topless time, whether that’s at home or, say, in a hotel rented for a little staycation.

For some, the indoor spots aren’t so very private.

For others, the great outdoors beckons. Maybe that means Central Park…

Or just a sidewalk in the neighborhood…

But eventually we all start aching for more temperate climes and before you know it we’re visiting friends in the desert–

–or embarking on a cross-country bicycle tour (with stops for topless yoga)–

–or hitting the beach–

–or getting into hot water.

Some don’t mind the snow and like to show off that fact on their Insta feeds.

And still others just think back to warmer times and ahead to their return.

One way or another, we’re still embracing all that is natural, naked, and free. And we hope you are too, in whatever way you can, while we all wait for the summer sun — and something more like normal life — to return.

Last year was, to say the least, strange. Difficult. Exhausting. But looking back on it, we managed to find some normalcy in it, some structure, some routine. We began 2020, one day after New Year’s Day, with a figure-drawing session, one of our favorite indoor activities when it’s too cold to meet outside. And one day before New Year’s Eve, we ended the year the same way: we got out our pencils and sketchpads and erasers, got out of our clothes, and spent several hours learning to recreate each other on paper.

Oh, there were differences this time around: rather than a windowless studio in a midtown high-rise we met in a well-ventilated ground-floor hotel suite with access to an outdoor courtyard–

–and we left the doors and windows open as much as we could stand, to let plenty of air in. (Those of us who needed to escape the cold could do so in the warmth of a jacuzzi tub.)

We kept our headcount down to ten or fewer at all times (people arrived and left at staggered times), and anyone who wanted the extra protection kept a mask on.

Did these precautions work? They seem to have — weeks later, no one who went to the event has gotten sick.

What we did get was the salubrious experience, too little enjoyed these days, of human contact. Not necessarily physical contact, though there was a little of that too–

–but the simple opportunity to see friends and share thoughts and laugh together and be together.

We took turns posing and sketching.

We pulled books off the walls and read them aloud to each other.

We tried out dramatic poses, some of which we couldn’t hold for more than a few seconds without falling over.

We each drew to the best of our ability, whether that meant stick figures–

–or professional-caliber art.

We took photos of each other drawing.

And most of all we simply basked in the company of like-minded souls, and the comfort of being naked with people who understand that the human body is a healthy thing to have and to see and to draw, without any of it being scandalous or sexual or to be shunned.

Will we do it again? Surely, though the temperatures have dropped further since, and it’s one thing to have the doors open in 30-degree weather, something else entirely when the wind chill makes it feel like zero. As long as Covid is with us, we’re being cautious, and that means waiting for warmer weather to return (and more vaccinations!) before venturing beyond small events with small pods of close contacts. But small events are better than none at all. We hope you also are finding ways to be with people, even if it’s fewer and rarer and more constrained than in normal times.

And we hope you’re finding time to be naked too. Pick up a pencil sometime. Even if your only model is the one facing you in the mirror, take some time to draw.

We all have art inside us if only we take the time to set it free.

What a year. Who knew, when we began it with some wonderful indoor figure drawing sessions and spa nights and acroyoga classes (no open windows! no masks!), what 2020 had in store for us.

In January we were balancing on each other’s feet–

On Valentine’s Day we paired up for an intimate massage lesson–

In early March we had one gorgeous warm day when we went out to the park amidst a few thousand of our closest friends–

And then 2020 hit.

The lockdowns, the quarantines, the masks, the warnings, the fear and the deaths. For months none of us met one another — not just for our usual events, but at all. We stayed in, or if we went out, it was only for snatched instants in private, on a roof–

–or in some isolated spot in the country.

As the year wore on and summer followed spring, we cautiously met — outdoors only, our vocabularies expanded by awkward new phrases like “social distancing” and our faces covered when social distancing wasn’t possible.

We took refuge in the northern reaches of Manhattan, where we could be alone together, members of separate households separated by the necessary 6 feet, but at least not utterly separate.

We did our best to carry on summer traditions, but in necessarily modified form.

When summer’s end brought with it the option of dining outdoors, we did that too — carefully, always, but hungry for the company of friends and loved ones as much as for the food.

In all this time, not one person got sick at or from one of our events. That’s how careful we were, and how lucky we were.

We’re grateful for that, for our own health and for preserving each other’s. And it’s not as though we didn’t have any fun this year. We managed to mine some genuine fragments of joy from the granite walls of our isolation. We made some new friends we think will be part of the family for years to come.

But we won’t be sorry to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror.

Let us take this moment to wish you the warmest, healthiest and happiest of new years. May 2021 be everything 2020 wasn’t, and very little of what it was.

Even if some of what it was was, for a stolen moment or two, quite achingly lovely.

December’s a funny time to be dining outdoors. But with indoor dining shuttered in NYC for the foreseeable future, outdoors is the only option, and if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. Which in this case meant a visit to the Michelin-recognized temple of Asian fusion cuisine, Hortus, and their second-floor outdoor patio.

Open to the elements all summer long, the patio got covered for the winter just one day before we came. But it’s still a well-ventilated outdoor space, with open panels to let in air and giant kerosene heaters gushing flame to keep the clientele warm. And we are definitely the sort of clientele that needs keeping warm.

Which meant much gathering around the heaters, leading to photos like these, which suggest a coven at work more than some hungry folk simply gathering for a holiday meal.

What we wound up summoning wasn’t a demon but nearly as sinful: oysters, ribeye, salmon, truffles, pumpkin soup, green tea, hot sake. We got to find out which of our members had never tasted an oyster before and witness their first time.

The restaurant was kind to make allowances for us — not only allowing us to dine topless (or as close to topless as the near-freezing outdoor weather would permit)…

…but accommodating one or two other unusual requests as well. These are unusual times and it’s the places that demonstrate some flexibility that will see a group like ours coming by.

We had books on hand from our friends at Hard Case Crime as a little Christmas treat, including an early peek at Stephen King’s new novel, Later, and an even earlier advance copy of a book called Five Decembers (so early that the back cover and spine were blank!).

We welcomed a first-timer or two, as we always like to–

–and a second-timer–

–and of course some dear friends of long standing.

Normally this time of year we might have treated ourselves to a spa day…

…but with Covid still rampaging, anything as enclosed as a sauna or steam room just felt too risky. The very intimacy and closeness that makes the spa so wonderful argued against it this year. But intimacy comes in many forms, as does closeness, and freedom, and we enjoyed all of the above — and a great meal besides.

We urge you to patronize your favorite local restaurants as best you can in this difficult time — they need you. And remember that your friends need you too.

Merry Christmas, all — and here’s to health, happiness, love and friendship in the new year.

For everyone who’s been cooped up indoors for most of the past nine months, the allure of the great outdoors is pretty much irresistible. That Central Park called to us when summer was in full flower is perhaps not so surprising, but calls to stroll through the park come at all times and in all kinds of weather. And there are those who would tell you Central Park is never more beautiful than when it’s covered with a blanket of new-fallen snow.

Yes, yesterday marked the season’s first snowfall. It’s practically a white Christmas — what’s one week more or less between friends?

So we trekked out in it, meeting foot-high snowdrifts armed only with hot chocolate from the nearest Dunkin’ and our usual dauntless optimism.

It’s true that we started out girded for polar exploration: insulated parkas, scarves, mittens, hats, and of course masks.

But before long we stripped off some of those layers. If the Polar Bear Club can go swimming each year on New Year’s Day in the frigid Atlantic, we can certainly exercise our equal rights in the relative comfort of midtown Manhattan.

There was some tasting of the snow.

Snowballs were thrown.

There may even have been some snow yoga.

And then it was time for the thermal undergarments to go back on, and the outergarments with them. A little touch of winter is a fine thing, but as Artisotle himself might have observed after doffing his toga outside the Lyceum in some long-ago solstice season, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

But there’s also such a thing as too little. And all of us have been in too-little mode for too long.

We applaud the brave women who breasted the elements to bring you this report from the (cold) front.

Our next report, we promise, will be much warmer.

On Friday, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that restaurants in NYC would no longer be allowed to offer indoor dining until the rise in Covid cases subsides. Indoor dining had only resumed in September — before that, it had been shuttered since March. The difference being that between March and September restaurants were able to put tables outdoors in the street. They can still do that now, but who’d want to sit at them in the freezing temperatures of December, January and February?

Well, we might. But the truth is, we don’t like freezing any more than the next person, and the fact that we dine topless makes us even more prone to freezing, assuming that the next person is clad in a quilted down coat, knit hat and mittens. But so far this year we’ve managed to pick our shots, and by selecting abnormally warm days we’ve been able to find afternoons in both November and December where outdoor dining was not just tolerable but positively scrumptious.

Our November visit was to a downtown burger joint called Royale, named after the “Royale with cheese” conversation from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and what could be more appropriate for our group than that? We packed up some of our finest pulp fiction reading material–

–and trekked down to Alphabet City in lower Manhattan on an afternoon that promised to be less than freezing and that wound up, semi-miraculously, actually being sunny and warm.

Royale is your typical downtown bar, with a narrow entryway and tight seating along either side. But what sets it apart is that once you pass through that entry you reach a private outdoor back yard, with an overhang shading a wooden deck and a scattering of metal two-tops down a small flight of steps at the far end.

Did the neighbors mind our eating topless? We don’t think so. We spotted one or two at the windows overlooking the space but none ran and got binoculars, or a cellphone. (Or a shotgun.)

And what could be more natural on a sunny day than dining al fresco without a top on? Royale’s burgers are juicy and delicious, and if you haven’t got a top on, that’s one less thing to accidentally stain.

We shared tater tots and truffle fries, downed hot cider to keep any remaining chill at bay, and regaled each other with stories of our pandemic summer. It was joyful and a relief — to be with other humans, to laugh together again, to share each other’s company. And to do it outdoors, where it was relatively safe. (You will be happy to hear that more than two weeks have passed and nobody got sick. So, whew.)

Now, December is colder than November, and January will be colder still. But if the gods of temperature shine favorably on us, we’ll keep meeting, where outdoor space makes it feasible. That said, how many of New York’s restaurants will be able to make it through this dark winter on the back of outdoor dining alone? (There’s takeout and delivery as well, for many. That might be the season’s saving grace. Anytime you pass a restaurant, make sure to grab a takeout menu.)

But outdoor dining is important, and as long as any of them keep at it, we’ll do our best to find them and do our part to keep them going.

We also wish the best to those restaurants we’ve contacted who, heaven knows, could use the business we were offering but as a matter of principle or out of fear of the unknown declined to have topless women use their outdoor space. (Even Ayza, a place that welcomed us twice before in previous years!)

We respect their decision, and hope they find some other way to stay afloat. It takes a powerful commitment to the premise that breasts must always remain covered to turn down a group of paying customers during a pandemic. But we are happy to give our trade to those that welcome it, and we are pleased by how many of NYC’s eateries do.

If you’d like to join us at one of these events, email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to feed you on a chilly winter day.

It was the morning of November 7, 11am or so, when the banging on pots and pans began. Those of us who were outdoors looked around to see where it was coming from. Was it a demonstration? A march? But no — no one was in the street, not yet. The sound was coming from all around. From overhead. From open windows. From doorways. And then we realized: the election had finally been called. Biden had won. Trump was out.

We got on our phones to confirm it, to text everyone we knew.

It was a real “Ding dong, the witch is dead” moment. The outpouring of emotion was astonishing — thousands of people flooded the streets of New York, making noise, pumping their fists in the air, weeping tears of joy, tears of relief. Cheering. Laughing.

By chance, by purest coincidence, we’d planned a rooftop gathering for that day, and we had champagne on hand to make mimosas. But the orange juice mostly got overlooked. It was a moment of sweet celebration, of popping corks and toasting each other–

–and maybe getting toasted in other ways as well.

Mother Nature cooperated, giving us a November day like none of us could remember, warm and bright and serene.

It was the perfect temperature, the perfect weather, the perfect moment for getting naked with friends.

It’s a terrible thing to spend four years under a government you not only distrust but trust to do the worst possible thing in every situation. A government run by a malignant, incompetent, brutish, evil man and a coterie of cronies trying to outdo each other in slavish toadying and greedy, self-serving exploitation of their power. It takes a terrible psychic toll, an emotional toll. And knowing that would finally end…it felt like a stone being rolled from our chests. Like we could breathe again.

Will things be perfect now? Of course not. Far from it. It will take years to recover from the damage Trump did. And we’re not out of the woods yet in terms of the pandemic, or the damage it has done — that it’s still doing. And no one’s pretending Biden’s Mr. Perfect himself.

But he’s not Trump.

And for that alone we were so, so, so thankful. And we remain so as Thanksgiving is about to dawn, 2+ weeks later.

The impossibly warm days of November 2020 have now passed and we’re headed into what looks to be a conventionally cold December. But we remember what it was like on that beautiful day. What it felt like, sharing that moment with friends. We’ll probably remember it for the rest of our lives.

And if December is conventional, so what? Maybe the next four years will be conventional too. There are worse things. We are unconventional people in some ways, but sometimes? A little peace and quiet and time to recover is exactly what you need.

What a difference three weeks make.

At the end of October, we went online and used our platforms, such as they are, to urge everyone we know to vote — and to vote for Joe and Kamala, because god knows the monstrosity in the White House had to go.

We didn’t know if it was a hopeless shout into the void or one that had a chance in hell of success, but we put out the call, and then we got together in our rooftop sanctuary for some sweet oblivion: a chance to get naked with friends on an unseasonably warm afternoon a week before Halloween and ten days before the election. We brought donuts, and we brought a “Box O’ Joe” or two — it seemed appropriate.

(The boxes contained hot chocolate, not coffee. When we go for comfort, it’s classic childhood comfort we go for. But, under the circumstances, that “Joe” on the side of them was a little comfort too.)

Did it work? Did it ever. We not only got a warm day, for a brief time it was even a sunny warm day. Never have we needed the kiss of warm sun on our skin like we did that afternoon.

And the warmth of the sun was as nothing to the warmth of unconditional love and fellow-feeling from our fellow bookclub members, all banding together for solace and reassurance, commiseration and distraction.

We were outdoors, where Covid transmission isn’t quite as acute a risk, though realistically a bit more social distance or masking would’ve been wise. (Happily, in the three weeks since, no one got sick.) And because we were on a private rooftop, everyone was free to undress as much as she wished (or he, in the case of our few token boys).

Some reading happened, which is good — your book club license surely gets pulled if no one at an event cracks a book!

But more of the time was spent being kind to ourselves and to each other, whether that meant a bit of indulgence of one sort–

–or another.

There was fashion to be tried on–

–and to be taken off.

We had first-timers (we always do)–

–and recent first-timers–

–and long-timers.

And most of all we had a few hours of peace, desperately snatched from the tumult of pre-election 2020.

Now here we are, three weeks later, in post-election 2020, and what a difference. For all that the piece of shit behind the Resolute Desk may be refusing to admit he’s lost, the fact remains that he has, and we’re all breathing a little easier.

The day the race was called, we returned to the rooftop, only this time we didn’t bring a Box O’ Joe. We brought something more celebratory. Which, under the circumstances, seemed appropriate.

You’ll see more from that day’s celebrations soon. But for now we choose to remember with gratitude the brief shining moment of relief Mother Nature handed us when we needed it so badly.

And the people we shared it with. Even amid world-changing events — maybe especially among them — what matters most is finding that small group of people you really feel are family.

People who share your worries and your hopes, your woes and wishes — and with whom, when things are looking dark, you band together, cross your fingers, and buy a box o’ Joe.

We started this whole adventure of ours, nearly a decade ago, in Washington Square Park. Oh, all right, if you want to get technical, we went to Sheep Meadow in Central Park first —

— but on that same first day we also rode the subway down to WSP, so it counts as part of our first time too.

And we’ve come back many times since. Why? Well, aside from the obvious appeal of the soaring architecture and lovely grounds, it’s in the heart of Manhattan’s most liberal neighborhood. No one ever makes you feel bad about what you’re doing in Washington Square Park, whether that’s drawing mandalas on the pavement in colored sand, playing the Muppet Show theme on a tuba, letting pigeons roost all over your head and arms, or…or sunbathing topless at the end of October.

We said topless. That’s not topless.

Okay, that’s better. Now, where were we?

Were we the only ones shirtless when we went out a scant week before Halloween? Pretty much, yeah. And we caught more glances than usual because of it.

But no one told us we shouldn’t be doing it (which is good, because they’d have been wrong). We just took our tops off and chilled.

And when it got too chilly, some hot chocolate made everything better.

As did warm socks and yoga — a classic combination.

Our cohort this time included a couple of newcomers we were happy to welcome to the fold —

— as well as our usual showing of old friends.

We were all a little anxious, what with the election looming and all, but somehow we managed to put it out of our minds for the duration. (Reading material that’s not CNN helps.)

Which isn’t to say we didn’t check our phones once all afternoon.

And was this outing the end of the road for 2020? Au contraire! Just two days later it got even warmer…and today it promises to be warmer still. No fans of global warming, we — but when warm days fall in our lap, we may as well take advantage of them.

So you might still have a chance to join us before the ball comes down (virtually, no doubt) in Times Square. If you’d like to, email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Whether it’s the tail end of ’20 or the hopefully more salubrious spring of ’21, we would love to meet you.

Twice before, we’ve visited the good folks at Cowgirl Seahorse, a restaurant down by the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Manhattan side, if you’re wondering). But both times it was for dinner, and both times it was indoors. That was before a pandemic flattened New York City, and New York’s restaurants responded by moving their tables outdoors onto the sidewalks for healthier open-air dining. We decided it was time for a return visit. And since the weather had turned coldish, we figured lunch was a better option than dinner.

Of course it rained.

But by the time we got to the table and its two helpful umbrellas, the downpour had lightened to a drizzle, and then to a mist. Still chilly, so we waited until we had warm beverages before unbuttoning.

Even then our toplessness was initially more a frontal thing than an all-over thing. This wasn’t about modesty — it was purely about comfort.

But mugs of hot tea for some and hot toddies for the rest of us warmed us up, as did plates of lower Manhattan’s yummiest comfort food. Nothing like whiskey, cinnamon and honey to chase away a chill, and nothing like fried pickles or shrimp and grits to warm the soul.

You’ll recall that Cowgirl Seahorse has a signature drink, the Sharkarita, which comes with a plastic shark full of “blood” that you pour into the blue beverage before drinking it. We had one of those too, and afterwards the shark enjoyed its proximity to our books and our nipples.

We also carried our drinks out into the street, where a rain-spawned dearth of traffic meant we had the cobblestones to ourselves for a bit.

It felt like the best sort of New York moment. A Sex and the City lunch out with the girls, in defiance of whatever life has thrown at us lately. We’re strong, we’re proud, and to quote another Sondheim song — we’re still here.