IMG_0880“I just want to tell you,” the man in the dress shirt and necktie said, “I love what you’re doing. You’re bringing back the 1980s. Back then, everyone here was completely naked.” The smile on his face was warm and genuine, though it was hard to imagine the fond memory he was describing was accurate. People went completely naked on the piers at the Hudson River? Well, they hadn’t been developed yet; they were just rotting spurs of wood sticking out into the water; so, maybe. And yet…really?

“Yes,” he said. “You’d come here and everyone would be naked. It was free and wonderful.”

Free and wonderful: two words we could relate to, even if we still had our bottoms on. The wonderful part, especially, since it’s a wonder that in the middle of October it was still warm enough to go bare outdoors. Later, when the sun had set, we went online to search, and sure enough found this:

slide_218857_843458_freeThe Hudson Piers were once home to a flourishing gay and lesbian scene, which included nude sunbathing, until gentrification arrived and chased the sunbathers away.  Needless to say, we’re proud to be doing our part to bring it back, even if we’re only taking baby steps by comparison.

IMG_0827IMG_0814IMG_0824These days, the piers have been developed, with artful, asymmetrical grass swards and metal sculptures dotting the grounds, and the sun worshipers lounging about look like this–

IMG_0568IMG_0714But the day we came, they also looked like this:

IMG_0618IMG_0677IMG_0664And we saw the gentleman’s handstand and raised it three cartwheels.

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We certainly felt free there — no one bothered us or complained, or even gave us a dirty stare. In fact, when we saw a bare-chested man enjoying a beer at the outdoor bar at the end of the pier, we figured we’d be welcome that way too — and we were.

IMG_1023IMG_1065IMG_1077New York may not be everything it was 30 or 40  years ago, but in at least one respect it’s been freer and more wonderful since 1992, the year a state court established that it’s legal for women to go topless anywhere men can. Back in the day, maybe people went naked, but they were all breaking the law by doing so. Today, we can do what we do in total comfort and confidence.

IMG_0951IMG_0857IMG_0763Of course, the balmy temperatures won’t be around for much longer — already it’s turned colder.

But the flame of freedom? That burns all winter long.

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