IMG_9305Most years, it’s indoor weather by the time October rolls around. This year, we’ve been blessed with some warmer days. It won’t last — these late reprieves never do. But we took advantage of this week’s to gather on our favorite clothing-optional roofdeck for some serenity and naked relaxation.

IMG_9279The fall means back to school, so people in need of some afternoon stress relief include students, newly laden with homework (in anatomy class, no less!)

IMG_9377IMG_9380IMG_9202IMG_9232…and teachers, glad for the chance to let their hair down outside the classroom.

IMG_9338IMG_9265(Have we ever had a teacher cross paths with one of her own students at one of our events? Not yet. It might happen eventually, we suppose. It’ll be what they call a teaching moment.)

IMG_9248Our other attendees included an instructor of a different sort (fitness) and of course students of different sorts (aren’t we all students of one sort or another? in the great classroom of life?).

IMG_9099IMG_9176But it was all recess, no homework on this particular school day.

We can’t promise too many more warm afternoons as the semester winds on, but we do have plans for fun indoor activities over the colder months. If you’d like to join us, we’d be very glad to hear from you — just write to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. All body-positive women are welcome. You don’t even need to get naked your first time, if you’re nervous. We were all first-timers once; it’s normal.

IMG_9147But do come. You already know what freedom looks like. Don’t you deserve to know what it feels like too? 🙂

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IMG_9039FA few years ago, writer/director Cynthia von Buhler invited us to her immersive theater show Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, and we had a great time. There was a recreation of an old-time Broadway revue, an investigation of a scandalous celebrity death, and the chance to wander around a beautifully appointed space, mixing with the actors and audience members — sort of like Sleep No More, only instead of having to wear masks, Cynthia let us wear nothing at all from the waist up. Can’t do that at Hamilton!

IMG_8846So when Cynthia let us know she had a new new show opening last week, we were there. This show is called Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, and it’s based on Cynthia’s graphic novel of the same name, about the death of the famous magician, escape artist, and debunker of phony spiritualist mediums. The mystery to be solved this time is: did Houdini die of natural causes on Halloween 1926, or was he a victim of a plot by the spiritualists…?

IMG_8981It’s all very exciting stuff. Along the way the audience gets to attend seances and have their palms read by mystics with swinging pendulums…

IMG_8755IMG_8741…sip bootleg absinthe cocktails (this is during Prohibition, remember)…

IMG_8736…and watch Houdini prepare for and perform (and teach his lovely new assistant to perform) his famous straitjacket and rope tie and Water Torture Cell escapes.

IMG_8924IMG_8805Minky is the private eye hired by Houdini’s wife, Bess, to find out whether Houdini is cheating on her, only to discover there are bigger games afoot. (Speaking of which, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is in the show too. He and Houdini were friends in real life. For a while. Until they were enemies.)

IMG_8970The show takes place not in a Broadway theater but up and down the three floors of a Prohibition Era speakeasy building.

IMG_8838There is a theater on the ground floor…

IMG_8993…but you’re also transported to hotel rooms, hospital rooms, bedrooms, barrooms, and more.

IMG_8873IMG_8887FOh, and? We were — possibly for the first time in our history — not the nakedest people in the room. Seems the spiritualist mediums of the 1920s sometimes did their stuff completely in the nude. (The adulterers, too. Go figure.)

IMG_8975The chance to participate in a show like this in our customary state of undress was a treat, especially since we also got to combine it with 1920s-style garb and decoration.

IMG_8611We didn’t attract too many stares inside the theater (maybe other audience members thought we were part of the cast?), and even when we found ourselves out on the sidewalk, crossing from one of the building’s entrances to another, passersby took our appearance in stride. It all felt free and fabulous.

IMG_8650IMG_8659IMG_8870The show runs until November 10, so if you’re in NYC, by all means check it out. We can’t promise there will be topless audience members there the night you go — but there always can be, if you’re feeling brave enough! Just tell Cynthia hi, from us.

IMG_9045FAnd tell Houdini to watch his back.

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IMG_8324Okay, so it’s now officially Fall. Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. (Thank you, John Keats.) But we’re not quite ready yet to put away the things of summer, Keats or no Keats.

Yes, it’s getting dark earlier, and the mists are a real thing (it’s been overcast and drizzly and gray gray gray), but the temperature still periodically peeks up into the 70s, even tiptoeing toward 80 on occasion, and on one recent Monday afternoon we headed out to one of our favorite little lawns in Central Park for some proper R&R (reading and relaxation).

IMG_7889IMG_7898We were joined by a couple of first-timers —

IMG_7787–and an art photographer who used this marvelous old-style camera to capture the beautiful autumnal light on the grass and the leaves. (And on us.)

IMG_7996We were also joined by a marvelous fashion designer who brought a piece of custom lingerie she made in the classic pulp fiction style of a 1940s film noir femme fatale, so of course we had to try that on.

IMG_8295IMG_8178And then there was time spent petting a total stranger’s adorable dog.

IMG_8342Throughout all this (well, all but the lingerie part) we were blissfully bare from the waist up, drinking in those precious last rays,

IMG_8048…aware that it’s sweater weather now more days than not, and soon will be winter-coat-and-snowboots weather. On days like this, we treasure not just the legal right to go topless but also the waning proximity to the sun that gives us the privilege.

IMG_7785cIMG_7960What will we do in October, November, December? You’ll find us indoors — as always, we have some fun notions for places to go naked when it’s too cold outside. But that’s tomorrow. Today was sun, today was grass, today was nature. We feel fortunate to have had the chance. And perhaps, if the weather cooperates, it might not even be the very last chance of the year.

If you’d like to join us sometime — outdoors or in, this year or next — and you’re a body-positive woman in the New York area, drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you and to meet you.

Maybe even in our secret garden.

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IMG_9959Our group’s name notwithstanding, we read all sorts of books, not just pulp fiction. (Not even just fiction.) But when we do read pulp fiction, it’s often from a line called Hard Case Crime, which was founded by a friend of our group who kindly gives us advance peeks into what they’re going to be publishing months and months before anyone else gets to see.

IMG_1708IMG_1765IMG_5166IMG_3593This summer, that meant getting an early look at a first novel called Charlesgate Confidential by film critic Scott Von Doviak. And what a great read it is. An art heist in 1946 leads to a hunt for the missing art in 1986 and then to a series of murders related to the still missing art in the present day, and it’s all woven together in a twisty, satisfying way, all over Boston (even though we read it all over New York).

IMG_4059IMG_7788IMG_1724IMG_7785IMG_7623IMG_7680And we’d offer to lend you one of our ragged, dog-eared copies,

IMG_0074except now we don’t have to because this coming Tuesday the book’s finally being published and you’ll be able to get a copy for yourself!

IMG_9929We don’t generally shill for books, even ones published by our friends, but this one is pretty terrific. Don’t believe us? Here’s what a random guy named Stephen King said about it on Twitter back in June: “Get this book, campers. It’s a fun machine…the white-knuckle kind.”

How did Stephen King get his hands on a copy? Are we saying that Stephen King came to one of our events and stole one of our precious copies of Charlesgate Confidential?? We are so, so, so totally not saying that. Because it wouldn’t be true.

But we do love us some Stephen King too. 🙂

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IMG_7732There we were on the sidelines, waiting for the Ultimate Freedom Concert to begin in Times Square, arguing the way bookish folk do: did the adjective “Ultimate” modify “Freedom” or “Concert”? Was it a concert celebrating the ultimate freedom, or was it the ultimate concert celebrating freedom?

It was a way to kill some time as the men inside the enclosure paced and noon turned to 1pm and 1 inched toward 2. One of the men, a sober, even severe, fellow in a charcoal gray t-shirt, held a microphone but didn’t speak into it. Drums stood in one corner, not being played. Yoga instructors balanced tentatively on one foot, then the other. Everyone was holding fire.

The man was a singer and activist calling himself Ton Dou, who’s been traveling around the country for the last several years, trying to persuade people that nudity isn’t anything to be ashamed or frightened of, and governments that it shouldn’t be illegal. Nudity, he believes, can be non-sexual and healthy and beautiful. And somehow he’d convinced New York City to let him hold a concert in Times Square fully nude himself, with anyone attending free to go fully nude as well.

But here we were, an hour and a half after the announced start time, and everyone was still fully dressed.

Was it cold feet? Literally, yes: going nude means going barefoot, and on this autumnal day the pavement was chilly. But maybe metaphorically as well. Ton Dou had the courage of his convictions, and he’d gathered perhaps two dozen men of varying ages and sizes and complexions to join him, but aside from one brave yoga instructor, no women. When Ton finally gave the signal and the clothes came off,

IMG_7727IMG_7720IMG_7744IMG_7754IMG_7724…it was surely the most penises Times Square has ever seen at one time, and all without a police whistle blowing or anyone getting carted off to jail. And that’s wonderful. We agree that nudity isn’t shameful or dangerous and that it shouldn’t be illegal. And yet — with the one brave exception, it was an all-male demonstration. Not even our cadre of body-positive women felt like stepping behind the protective fence and disrobing surrounded by twenty or thirty naked men and several thousand iPhone-wielding spectators. (One of the photographers at the event, a woman representing ClothesFree.com, who gladly goes nude in her own site’s videos, chose to stay clothed at this event. Several of our members who said they were curious and might attend changed their minds when they arrived and saw the gender imbalance.)

It’s interesting to note that this hasn’t been a problem when Human Connection Arts has held bodypainting events in Times Square — those have had a fairly equal mix of women and men from the start, and everyone felt comfortable. (Those also had paint, of course, which may not do much to hide one’s naked body, but does help disguise one’s face, which can be a consideration if you’re going to be naked in front of thousands of onlookers in one of the most public places on Earth.)

RandAIMG_8447IMG_8290So was the Ultimate Freedom Concert a failure? Not at all. It served its purpose: it showed that people can be naked, and can see other people naked, without any catastrophic consequences. People walking through Times Square to celebrate Brazilian Day got to see their share of, uh, brazilians. We overheard conversations between spectators and participants that suggested honest curiosity and supportive dialogue. (“What is this?” was the most common question, followed by “Is it legal?” and “Doesn’t your penis get cold?”) Some faces in the crowd seemed downright bored by the sight, and if that isn’t a victory, we don’t know what is.

IMG_7717But not being a failure doesn’t mean it was a success. A gathering that women don’t feel comfortable participating in — even if that wasn’t the organizers’ intent — might be a step in the direction of freedom, but the ultimate freedom it is not.

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IMG_7588When was it that nudity started being equated with weakness? Vulnerability, sure, we get that: if you’re naked, you’re exposed to the elements; and as Bruce Willis once taught us, when you’re barefoot it’s a bad idea to walk on broken glass. But the flip side is all those amphorae in the museums depicting the original Olympic games, where all the athletes competed in the nude. And what about those strapping classical statues? David v. Goliath? What about that island Wonder Woman came from — everyone trained naked there, didn’t they? (Not in the movie, maybe, but you just know they did when the cameras weren’t filming.)

IMG_7543IMG_7429We happen to believe that there is nothing weak about being naked, that nudity is a cause for pride and self-confidence, not fear or shame.

IMG_7531And when we get together as a group (as we recently did on our favorite rooftop sundeck), it’s an occasion for setting aside all those timid-woman cliches along with our clothes.

IMG_7681Having set them aside, what do we do then? We sun, we read, we snack; we do as we like. We make no apologies and ask no permission.

IMG_7653IMG_7661Even when the occasional refugee drops in from “man’s world,” there’s no question who’s in charge.

IMG_7608And we like to think that some of that extra self-confidence comes back with us into our daily lives even after the clothes go back on.

IMG_7384IMG_7576IMG_7545Do you feel proud naked — or would you like to? The summer’s not quite over yet, and even when it is, the fall usually has some warm days in it. Get in touch. Drop an email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us you’d like to be part of our grand adventure. We welcome body-positive women of every description.

Just call us Themyscira on the Hudson.

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IMG_7111In August 2011 — seven years ago — half a dozen of us decided that we were going to try doing this thing we knew was legal in New York, but that we’d never been brave enough to do: go topless in the park on a hot summer day.

park-jFor our first test of this freedom we supposedly had, we chose Sheep Meadow, the most glorious grassy lawn in Central Park, a stone’s throw from the legendary eatery Tavern on the Green. (That “green” they’re talking about? It’s Sheep Meadow.) We found our way through the fence and onto the grass, and after a timid moment or two, we unbuttoned, untied, unzipped — un-topped — and did it ever feel good! Not just the solar rays on our sun-deprived skin, but the feeling that we were really as free as the law said we were, that our rights really were equal, and our breasts as valid as any man’s chest. No one stopped us, criticized us, shamed us, ogled us. No one told us to put a shirt on or to go home; no one reminded us that there were children around (though there probably were, there always are). We simply were allowed to be.

IMG_7355IMG_7281IMG_7130Each year since then we’ve come back to Sheep Meadow at least once, and this summer was no exception, except that we left it almost to the very end. Once again half a dozen of us came out to enjoy the sun and the soft grass, the gentle breeze and the lack of judgment. Once again, no comments or stares came our way, just the kiss of the wind against our nipples, and at the very end, the tiniest scattering of raindrops to refresh us and (finally) chase us out of the park.

IMG_7296Two of our longest-time members were there for the event, along with one of our newest: a college student who made her mark instantly by bringing lemon sorbet, Pellegrino water, cups, and ice, for impromptu sorbet cocktails. (We’re keeping her.)

IMG_7166IMG_7357Reading material included a dystopian tale of a world in which women are a lot less free than we are — and which sadly, some days, feels only a few small steps away from coming true.

IMG_7134To take our mind off such dire futures we focused on the moment. Small physical joys. And it was blissful.

IMG_7159IMG_7236IMG_7250Would you like to join us? There’s still time! Monday is Labor Day, the traditional end to the summer season, and we’re marking it with a picnic in the park. If you’re a body-positive woman and in the city over the holiday weekend, why not see for yourself what freedom feels like? Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Before the winter comes  (and before this insane government goes all Margaret Atwood on us). Come out to the park with us, and enjoy the taste of liberty. It’s cool and refreshing, we promise.

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