Archives for category: park

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.

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.

Over the past decade, aside from our annual beach trips, we’ve almost always met in Manhattan. It’s not that we don’t have plenty of members who live in the outer boroughs or in Jersey — we do. But Manhattan is central and easy to get to and more people know how to find their way to a spot in the middle of Central Park than to one in the middle of Prospect Park. Anyway, with one thing and another, until last month, we hadn’t held an event in Brooklyn for years.

We finally broke down and did it when we heard from someone who was curious about our group but asked if we ever met in Brooklyn because she lived near Park Slope and wasn’t taking public transportation while the pandemic was still going on. Would we consider returning to Prospect Park for the first time since the New York Times filmed interviews with us there?

Of course we would. Bringing our message of freedom and equal rights and body-positivity to new places is what we’re all about — it’s why we post photos of our events on this blog, and taking a subway to Brooklyn, if not the least we could do (pandemic and all), is certainly not too much to ask.

So off we trekked, to a lawn in Prospect Park called Nellie’s Lawn, which we’d never been to but a) had the virtue of presumably being a grassy surface good for sitting on (it’s right there in the name) and b) is labeled on Google Maps, so anyone with a working cell phone could locate it.

It was late September, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous — not chilly at all, but not sweltering either, the sun laying its honeyed autumn rays upon us like a gentle benediction. (Have we been reading too much poetry lately? Bite your tongue. There’s no such thing.)

We shared Nellie’s Lawn with a wide range of Brooklyners (or visiting Manhattanites, who knows?), among them a martial arts dude practicing his staff katas, some kids playing football, and a swimsuit model posing for a photographer with a baby slung in a Bjorn across her chest.

In this crowd, we attracted exactly zero attention when we bared our breasts — no comments, positive or negative; no stares; no But what about the children? The children were happy playing football, thank you very much. Everyone left us alone, which is exactly how it should be.

We ate our snacks and read our books and at no point did anyone make us feel even slightly unwelcome.

What of the Brooklyn dweller who originally asked us to come? She showed up with a friend in tow and they sat a respectful, socially-distanced distance away, and neither of them chose to go topless themselves. Which is fine of course. We’re all about choice. No one should ever feel the slightest pressure to go topless, and no one should ever feel the slightest pressure to not go topless.

It’s good to see firsthand that, at least in New York, women really can go bare-chested without fanfare or scandal, without stress or shame.

And first steps are steps. We all need a little encouragement, a little evidence that this new experience will be fun rather than fearsome. We’re so glad we got that encouragement — and even more glad that we got to give it back.

If you’re a first-timer and you’re either curious (but nervous) or nervous (but curious), we hope you’ll reach out to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and let us help you dip a toe in the water.

Or a nipple, as the case may be.

Okay, okay — pandemic, yeah, we know. But it was still summer, and we still did things.

And being who we are, we did them topless every chance we got.

Mostly we did them right here in Manhattan…

…or near enough to be a short bike or car ride away, but we did them, and we posted about them on Instagram and other social media, and we thought we’d share them here too, as a sort of memory book of the lighter side of the Corona Summer of 2020.

There weren’t any flights to the Caribbean or Europe — or even to other states, sometimes — but we still made it to the beach.

We even had our first ever mother-child check-in from the beach!

Of course, the beaches weren’t always open, so sometimes we only made it to a pool–

Or to the forest, or the woods, or the nearest river or stream —

or the nearest cornfield —

or our own back yard —

–or the roof.

In urban areas, we sometimes took 90-degree weather as an excuse to go topless in the street.

And with outdoor dining on the menu, we sometimes dined outdoors without tops too. (Which in at least one case led a passing pedestrian to stop and tell us how pleased she was to see us exercising this freedom and how she wished she’d had it when she was our age.)

We did other things too — like get tattoos and piercings once parlors reopened.

And create art, whether on canvas–

— or in the air.

We had fun. But through it all we remembered summers past, when no one had heard of “social distancing” and masks were only for doctors and trick-or-treaters. We were reminded by looking over photos like these from last summer’s visit to Coney Island, which only surfaced this summer (they were taken with an old-fashioned film camera, and the photographer didn’t get around to developing them until now).

This year we spent more time indoors, more time in masks, more time alone.

But we also found ways to get out under the sun, ways to get together with the people we love, and ways to enjoy breaths of fresh air.

Even in hard times, life finds a way. And we are so grateful to have found not just one but so many ways to make even this difficult year a source of naked joy.

Central Park in New York City covers 840 acres. We know this because Google tells us so. The highest point in the park is a little grassy spot called Summit Rock. Google will tell you that too, but if you go there you know it without googling — the winding climb to get the summit gives you the idea. And once you do get there, while it’s not the utmost in privacy, it’s tucked away enough to give a dozen topless women a chance to relax without worrying unduly about being the center of too many spectators’ attention.

Not that we object to spectators, and we did encounter a few. Some dogwalkers passed us by, and some plain old walker walkers. There were picnickers in the distance, enjoying the same lawn we were, and why not? Peaceful coexistence is what it’s all about.

The dozen of us flowed in and out as the afternoon wound on, and included first-timers and long-timers, singles and couples, students and teachers. People came from way downtown and way uptown and the outer boroughs.

We came with our usual accoutrements: something to eat, something to read. (What goes together better than a blackberry and a Bradbury?)

We hydrated.

We made each other laugh.

And we kept ourselves cool.

This was in September, when the weather was still warm, though on the edge of turning. It has since turned. But we remain hopeful — call it foolish optimism if you must — that October or maybe even November might hold a day or two warm enough to return. It has happened before. Not every year, but from time to time. (One time even in December!)

But we knew as we met that it was likely to be for one of the last times this season. In recognition of current circumstances, everyone wore masks coming and going and for the most part maintained social distance. Both facts added a touch of melancholy to the proceedings. But seeing friends is still seeing friends, and being topless outdoors is still being topless outdoors, and what a true and inexpressible joy both can be.

If you’re an open-minded woman in the New York area (or at least curious), we hope you’ll join us sometime and experience that joy for yourself. It may have to wait until ’21 — so many things will. But the opportunity will come, and when it does, we hope you will too.

It is extraordinary, when you think about it, that there should be any private spots at all in a city of 8 million people. Even factoring in those who’ve fled the city because of the pandemic, and the tourists who didn’t come this summer, you’re still talking about millions of people tightly packed together in a space a lot smaller than London or Rome. The island of Manhattan is smaller still, and anyone on the island who craves a bit of greenery is likely to head to Central Park. So you’d expect every path and hill and lawn in the park to be packed. And yet — the quieter spots in the park are quiet indeed, the secluded spots secluded indeed, and a group of friends seeking privacy in the park can generally find some.

We found some on one of the last weekends before Labor Day (which is the unofficial end of summer, since after Labor Day in New York the temperatures drop pretty sharply). There’s a clearing near the north end of the park that can only be reached either by a winding dirt path on one side or a steep grassy slope on the other, and because of those two obstacles, very few people find their way there — probably a lot of people don’t even know it exists.

The grass gets tall here — park staff don’t come by to cut it often, maybe because it’s hard to ride a mower in there.

There are patches of rocks that get warm in the sun–

–and a couple of boulders that look precariously balanced but have been balancing that way since before our grandparents were born.

There are trees for shade, and local wildlife to share it with.

Not to mention less wild life: one of the rare strangers who did wander by while we were there was this woman with her dog, and she apologized profusely for letting her dog off the leash, which apparently is some sort of violation of park rules unless you do it before 9am.

But we told her we didn’t mind at all.

And by the way, speaking of violation of park rules, while being topless is clearly legal anywhere in New York, for women as much as men, being fully nude generally isn’t allowed for either women or men, unless it’s in the context of creating or exhibiting art. Now, we think creating these photographs we share with you is an example of creating art, but who knows if park officials would concur?

But it’s like the old maxim: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound? Only for “tree” read “vagina,” and…well…you get the idea. Nobody who saw us was bothered by the sight. Barely anyone saw at all. And can you really argue that anyone on earth was harmed by a handful of people enjoying the sun without a bit of fabric covering maybe 1% of their body? Because a thong’s clearly allowed. Topless is allowed. A g-string with a triangle the size of an ATM card is allowed. It’s bizarre to make so much of so little.

That said, for most of the time most of us were just topless, and doing the sorts of things we usually do — reading,

Sharing snacks,

Chatting with friends,

Comparing vibrant hair colors,

And catching grapes in our mouths when pitched through the air. (What? What did you think was going on? From that far away??)

Members in attendance included first timers (“No one’s ever seen me naked except my husband!” one told us) and old friends…

…and first timers brought by old friends.

We love that some women who started as first timers just a month or two ago are now on their fourth or fifth event with us. We hope they’ll be members for years to come.

And speaking of years to come…we’re not sure how much we’ll be able to meet in the fall and winter this year. Normally, around this time of year we’d switch from outdoor events to indoor and find spas and restaurants and karaoke bars to visit in the altogether. But with Covid still uncured and the risk much higher indoors than out, we’re kind of in a holding pattern, trying to figure out what we can safely do.

It doesn’t mean we’ll do nothing — for sure we’ll find some safe way to have fun. But we almost certainly won’t do as much, and that added a bittersweet cast to this (almost!) last sunny day.

Of course, once in a while we get lucky and late September has a warm afternoon or two. Sometimes even October! If you like what you see here and would like to be a part of it, please email us: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. It’s not too late. But it’s getting later. Carpe diem, as they say.

Our very last event before the pandemic arrived, back at the start of March, was in Washington Square Park. We were all innocent then. There were thousands of people in the park, all clustered close, no one taking precautions. Precautions against what?

But returning to Washington Square for the first time since the lockdown was a very different experience. We kept our group to half a dozen people and the space around us was emptier, too. And if you look closely you might spot something different about what we were wearing.

It feels strange to bare your breasts but cover your mouth — a peculiar inversion of the ordinary. Caution tinged with fear. We all want to stay healthy, and to keep our friends and families healthy, and to keep total strangers healthy too.

And yet…the ice has started to thaw in the arctic summer of 2020. New York, once the disease’s epicenter, has gotten infection rates to a level low enough that, especially outdoors, your odds of contracting Covid are pretty remote. And the fact is, you do sometimes have to eat; you sometimes have to drink. So after a time, with a hint of the embarrassment other people might feel about exposing their nipples, we slid our masks down. They were never far away, and maybe they weren’t off for so very long, but they did come off.

And the results were joyous.

It was delicious to see other people, to be outside our apartments, to breathe fresh air.

Of course, as our tree-lined surroundings might suggest, we’re not out of the woods yet. But we’re hopeful. And after so many months of grim statistics and isolation? A little taste of hope feels awfully good.

It’s beautiful out in NYC these days — maybe a touch too hot (yesterday was something like 95 degrees), but very, very beautiful, with the sky a gorgeous shade of blue and home to fluffy white clouds. The trees are a green so vibrant you’d think they’d been sweetened in Photoshop. If you asked a painter in darkest Finland or coldest Siberia to imagine summer, they’d paint it like this.

And amid all this unnatural beauty and thermometer-busting heat, what could possibly feel better than stripping off as much clothing as you possibly can? Best of all would be to get naked — let’s be honest, as the temperature approaches 100 degrees, any clothes at all are too much to be wearing. A g-string might as well be a down parka. But we’re good citizens and prefer not to violate the law (mostly!), so when we go out to a public park we limit ourselves to the same degree of dishabille as men are allowed: something on from the waist down, nothing at all from the bellybutton up. (Unless it’s a mask, because, you know.)

And what a treat it is to share this adventure in intentional immodesty with other open-minded women! A dozen of us met on the grass and shared sunscreen and snacks (hurrah for the donut peach! so delectable!)

Reading material and art supplies–

Advice on reinvention through the adoption of the brightest of colors —

And even a bit of first aid.

In attendance were native New Yorkers and recent transplants, fresh high school grads and members three times their age, a professional photographer and an aspiring neuroscientist. In other words, our usual diverse mix, but all bound by a common set of convictions: that women have all the same rights as men, that the female body is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, and that nothing beats the feeling of being bare-chested under the summer sun.

We even enjoyed the satisfaction of inspiring a neighboring couple to go full equal rights: when they came out on the grass, only the boy had his nipples bare but after seeing us she proudly did it too.

Would you like to join us next time? If you’re an open-minded woman and want to share this little taste of freedom, email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Yes, there’s a pandemic on and we all have to be careful — and we promise we are. No one wants to get sick. But there’s a way to be careful and enjoy the simple pleasures of summer too. And there’s no simpler, purer pleasure than the kiss of sunlight on parts the world unfairly banishes to the shadows.

Between March and May, we didn’t once meet as a group. Not indoors, not outdoors. We quarantined, like the rest of the world.

And we still are. But very cautiously, with care to stay safe and healthy, we’ve gently begun poking our heads outside and gathering again — in very small groups, seated at least 6 feet apart, only outdoors (where virus transmission rates appear to be vastly lower), and with masks on hand…but gathering again, finally, to sit in the sun and talk to other human beings through a medium other than Zoom or Facetime.

Half a dozen of us met, on separate towels except where two were from the same household and could safely have closer contact.

We chose one of the quietest lawns we know, in the northern reaches of Central Park — the part of the park where the street numbers reach triple digits and the tourists (are there still any in New York?) never go.

All the same, we were happened upon by various solitary walkers and small family groups; one even picnicked within sight of us (though a Covid-appropriate distance away). And we’re pleased to say that our toplessness excited exactly zero interest or comment.

We thought our cautious removal of our masks might call down more opprobrium these days than our baring our breasts — but neither did. Kudos to our fellow New Yorkers for forbearance, tolerance, patience. The classic NYC live-and-let-live attitude is even more to everyone’s credit now when infractions genuinely can be a matter of life and death. We owe it to each other to safeguard each other’s wellbeing — no breathing on your fellow citizens! But the sight of our breasts does not have any infectious quality, unless it might infect someone with a taste for freedom, for equal rights, for physical comfort. And those are the sort of viral qualities you don’t want to obstruct.

Two weeks have passed since this day in the park, and we can report that everyone is still healthy (ink notwithstanding!).

And so we’re planning our next couple of events. If you’d like to join us, please email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Space is limited, obviously, but we welcome all women to get in touch, and if you want to join us sometime — to come out with a towel and a book and just, for once in so many difficult months, relax — we’ll find a way.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll take advantage of any opportunities you might have for solo adventures — on your roof, on the fire escape, in the yard, in the park. Stay safe and stay smart, but we hope you do find your way out and uncover.

We formed this group a decade ago to fight the injustice of being treated differently because of an accident of birth — specifically, being born female in a world constructed by and for men. But as we’re constantly, cruelly, and painfully being reminded, gender is not the only axis along which injustice and inequality are dealt out. Race is another, and the events of recent months have been shocking, horrifying, heartbreaking. They have also been galvanizing, with thousands — tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands — rising up to say, “We will tolerate no more.”

We want to express our solidarity with the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with anyone anywhere who fights for the right to live their life free from oppression, from violence, from cruelty, from fear.

(Our own encounters with the police have been few and in the end have all worked out okay — but that doesn’t change the gut-wrenching fear when you see armed men walking toward you with looks of impatience and intolerance on their faces, especially given the very real danger that you might one day encounter the “bad” cop who doesn’t know or disregards the law in his zeal to punish you for something that is no crime.)

As a group of readers, one small way we feel we can contribute is by directing people toward books that might help open eyes and minds and educate all of us about the issues surrounding race and racism in America. With that in mind, we are glad to share two recommended reading lists of books on these topics: one from The Book Table and one from Refinery29.

While we’re at it, another bookstore you should know about is Elizabeth’s in Akron. Not only do they offer a wide selection of relevant books, a portion of every sale goes to the Loveland Foundation to support their mission of making mental healthcare accessible for black women and girls.

Educating ourselves is only one small step — but it’s an important one, and we hope you’ll join us in taking it.

We look forward to the day when no person will be denied their innate human dignity or their fundamental equal rights because of the color of their skin or the conformation of their anatomy. The fight will not be easy or short — it already hasn’t been. But it is worth fighting.