Archives for category: street

IMG_2556fUsually we meet as a group: we choose a day, head to a park or plaza, and hang out topless in the sun together. Safety in numbers, and also it’s more fun to hang out in the park with friends than by yourself. But sometimes there’s no one else around and you just feel like heading out for a walk on your own.

IMG_1789fA case in point was the recent rainy morning you see here. It wound up being bright and sunny in the afternoon, but you wouldn’t have guessed by the way the wet stuff was pouring down in torrents during morning rush hour. But that’s what raincoats and umbrellas are made for, and if you’re thinking, “How can you wear a raincoat and go topless at the same time?”, you clearly haven’t found the right raincoat.

IMG_1863feIMG_2107fThe morning’s stroll took us along the Upper East side, past stores and storied apartment buildings–

IMG_1327e–and on to Carl Schurz Park, home to some of the finest dog runs in Manhattan…

IMG_2322f…a beautiful riverside promenade…

IMG_2390fIMG_2501fIMG_2601f…and Gracie Mansion, where the mayor lives. (Didn’t snap any photos there. Next time.)

This seems finally to have been the end of warm weather for the season — it’s brisk and chilly now and seems likely to remain so until the Spring. If so, we’re doubly glad we took advantage of the warm weather while it lasted, even if doing so meant braving the elements.

IMG_2272fNext time — indoors! And we have many exciting indoor events planned. If you’re curious about them and you’re a body positive woman in the New York area, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop a note to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself. We’ll be glad to invite you to join us for our adventures.

Not that it isn’t fun doing it solo, too…

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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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IMG_7059Back in May — four months ago now — one of our favorite websites, Jezebel, came to an event we held in Central Park, to film a video piece about our group and the 25th anniversary of the legal decision that established that women in New York have the same right to go topless in public places that men do.

IMG_6608IMG_6612IMG_6553A few days later, they joined us a second time, to film some more footage, this time of one of our members stopping random strangers in Central Park and talking with them about toplessness and equal rights.

IMG_7103IMG_7111IMG_7126IMG_7120Our hope was to see the video run sometime around the anniversary, which was in July.

IMG_7183If you don’t remember ever seeing that video, it’s not your memory that’s at fault. June came and went; the anniversary came and went; August came and went; and now it’s mid-September, and still no video. It’s also not the fault of the excellent videographer who shot and edited the piece, Phoebe Bradford — but for some reason the piece just hasn’t run. Why? We don’t know.

IMG_6513Is it because they didn’t get any footage worth running? Probably not; as recently as August 9, Phoebe wrote, “Excited for the piece to come out!” The only explanation she mentioned for the continuing delay was some concern on the part of Jezebel’s lawyers about not having written releases from every single person they’d filmed. Of course, we wouldn’t have given the interviews in the first place if we didn’t want them used — it’s not like we didn’t know we had a camera pointed at us. (Plus, we were out in a public place! The middle of Central Park!) And we were never asked to sign releases when the New York Times produced a video about us, or either of the times that Salon did. In principle we’d be willing to sign releases this time, but they didn’t ask us to back in May, and by now some of the people they filmed back in May are unreachable — they’re traveling, have gone back to school, have moved or changed email addresses, etc. Some we can contact, some we can’t. But everyone who stood up in front of a camera and spoke for sure intended for the interview to be used. Thinking otherwise is simply bizarre.

IMG_7090So we remain hopeful that Jezebel will eventually let you watch the piece Phoebe shot and edited, and that we gladly participated in. If they don’t want to run it themselves, we hope they’ll share the footage with us so that, if nothing else, we can run it here, on our own site. But until they do one or the other — and there’s no guarantee they’ll do either — we thought we’d at least finally show you some photos we took at these events, and give you a taste of the video that might have been.

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There were not only interviews with us and ones conducted by us, but also a game of topless frisbee!

IMG_7153IMG_7155IMG_7165Now, what sort of cold-hearted villain could possibly capture that on film and not release it…?

Lawyers. That’s who.

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IMG_4327The third part of our day in the sun — exploring lower Manhattan with Chelsea Covington, blogger supreme  and hero of the Maryland equal-rights case — didn’t actually involve much sun. Or it did at the start, but less and less as time wore on. Because having begun the afternoon in a downtown park…

IMG_3987IMG_3822fAnd continued it with a walk through the esplanades and alleyways of the city’s southern tip…

IMG_4181IMG_4135IMG_4112…we eventually washed up on the pilings of the Brooklyn Bridge and found ourselves welcomed indoors for dinner by the wonderful staff of the Cowgirl Seahorse restaurant.

IMG_4195Had the restaurant ever hosted a dozen topless diners before? Not likely. But they didn’t bat an eyelash when we contacted them in advance and asked if it would be okay for us to end our day there. In fact, they enthusiastically invited us. And god bless them, they didn’t bat an eyelash when they saw us either, neither the female nor the male waitstaff, and impressively, not the other customers either! No one asked what we were doing or why we were doing it, no one gawked or took photos, no one looked disgusted or appalled (or, what might have been worse, turned on). Everyone just went on smiling and chatting and eating like it was the most normal thing in the world to dine shirtless on a hot summer day.

IMG_4200IMG_4264We dived into the restaurant’s neo-Southern menu…

IMG_4203…trying their shrimp and grits, their catch of the day, their bacon-wrapped scallops, their Paul Bunyan-sized salads.

IMG_4527IMG_4461IMG_3014Each dish tastier than the last, although the hot sauce was merciless and Robert Shaw kept staring down at us from the wall.

IMG_4198The rest of the decor was charming in the extreme, right down to the cutely labeled conveniences.

IMG_4381We sadly didn’t get a photo of the little plastic mermaids perched on the edges of the beer glasses. Those were cute too. (Though they weren’t topless! #FreeTheMermaidNipple) But we did get photos that we hope convey just how casual, natural, and wonderful the night was.

IMG_4222IMG_4199IMG_4277Finally, when weariness caught up with us…

IMG_4543…we bid the place adieu and hit the sidewalk to wait for Lyfts or find the nearest train station. The no-longer-sun-baked air was bracing. If anything could’ve told us our adventure had come to an end, that was it.

IMG_4544IMG_4547But what an adventure it had been! Hours of relaxation, a meal with friends, and no problems at all due to our chests being uncovered. It’s a model for how things should be: live and let live.

Which calls to mind a Cole Porter lyric, and maybe that’s as good a last word to end on as any:

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Sing and let sing, dance and let dance
You like Offenbach, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Read and let read, write and let write
Love and let love, bite and let bite
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Drink and let drink, eat and let eat
You like bouillabaisse, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Talk and let talk, quip and let quip
Dress and let dress, strip and let strip
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

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IMG_4155In our last post, we described how we met up with Chelsea Covington for an afternoon and evening of topless fun, first in a park downtown, then strolling the streets and waterfront of lower Manhattan, and finally sitting down for dinner in a restaurant near the Brooklyn Bridge that didn’t object to serving a dozen topless patrons.

IMG_4163(Chelsea, as we mentioned, is not just one of our members but also the woman at the center of the much-talked-about legal case in Maryland regarding women’s rights to go topless on the beach there. If you want to read more about her activities, check out her blog, BreastsAreHealthy.)

IMG_4139Anyway, after spending an hour or two in Rockefeller Park we were ready for some exercise, so we strolled along the Battery Park Esplanade, past docked boats and various museums and monuments…

IMG_4150IMG_4117…not least of all the Statue of Liberty. (She’s back there, we swear!)

IMG_4175fWhen time got tight, we exited the Esplanade to cut across town and get to the restaurant a little faster. Our revised path took us past the Stock Exchange and Bowling Green and onto Beaver Street, a source of inevitable amusement for one and all.

IMG_4100IMG_4183IMG_4187As the riverside breeze buffeted us, we walked through what used to be the Fulton Fish Market and is now a collection of restaurants with outdoor seating, eliciting cheers and chants and fist pumps, some from supportive, enthusiastic women and some from, well, enthusiastic men. We’d like to think some of them might have been supportive as well.

IMG_4189IMG_4190Finally, at the end of Front Street, with the bridge for a backdrop, we came to the wonderfully named and female-founded Cowgirl Seahorse, a little Southern restaurant known for delicious seafood, plentiful drinks, and drag brunches on the weekends. And we’ll show you how dinner went in our next post. But for now we’re happy to commemorate what was our longest topless walk ever, a mile and then some, all bare from the waist up.

IMG_4191Did some people we passed behave less than ideally? Yes. We got surreptitiously filmed by some, one man even choosing to trail along after us for two blocks but then denying he was doing it when we called him on it. A few men shouted less than respectful things. But overall the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. We were greeted by far more smiles than frowns, and no one tried to stop us.

And then dinner! There’s nothing quite like tucking into hearty fare with good friends and the bare minimum of clothing. But that’s a matter for another post.

For now, we’ll leave you with a glance at the sun descending over the water — just one of the many wonderful sights we took in without having to feel the slightest concern about not having our chests covered. Really, there’s nothing better than that. Not just the actual sensation of the sun on our bodies, but the lack of concern. This is what freedom feels like. To misquote Seinfeld from a different (but not entirely inappropriate) context: It’s real, and it’s spectacular.

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IMG_2904A new non-profit arts organization called Human Connection Arts wants to bring fully nude outdoor body-painting events to four cities this year: New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco. But they need your help! They have a Kickstarter attempting to raise the money needed to fund the events, and with only 42 hours to go, they’re still $1,400 short of the goal. And if they don’t reach their goal, they get no money at all! [ETA: They made it!! Whew. Nakedness, art and free expression to ensue as planned!]

IMG_2894IMG_2902To build awareness, the HCA team brought four nude models to the streets of Greenwich Village today for an impromptu painting session that brought traffic to a halt and left hundreds of passers-by smiling.

IMG_2887Lots of people had questions, but only a few expressed anything less than delight and support.

Of course, this was in Greenwich Village — some neighborhoods might be less supportive. But it was a joy to see so many people face to face with public nudity and pleased to see it.

IMG_2868IMG_2872If you’re in New York and would like to see it live, the New York event will take place from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday, July 22, in Washington Square Park. (Be there or be, um, Washington Square. No, wait, that doesn’t work.)

IMG_2890But whether you can come in person or not, if you like what this group stands for and the work they’re doing, please consider helping out. It’s not our event or our organization, but we do like what they’re doing and we support them. We hope you will too.

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IMG_8455Andy Golub, the visionary artist behind New York Bodypainting Day, has formed a new non-profit arts organization called Human Connection Arts, to spread the word that art and nudity can both be tools for human connection — and that the human body, in all its infinite variety, is deserving of respect and love.

IMG_8421The group’s first project, called “Body Notes,” took place last Friday in the middle of Times Square, with literally tens of thousands of workers and tourists, businesspeople and students, the young and the old, all present to witness and enjoy what we were doing. Who were “we”? About 200 models, women and men, including a number of members of our book club. And what were we doing? Getting completely naked and painting each other from head to toe, first with base coats of orange, blue and yellow, and then with heartfelt messages chosen by each model to express a point of view important to her or him.

IMG_8412IMG_8404RandAIt was a revelatory experience and a liberating one — to stand naked at the Crossroads of the World, with a sea of humanity around us, with police there to protect us, not to hassle us, and with the vast majority of the people in the crowd just honestly curious, and many of them enthusiastic.

IMG_8378So many people posed for photos with us! Or blushed at first and then asked how they could get involved. Or just nodded and took it all in. It was a profound moment of acceptance and tolerance and open-mindedness.

IMG_8384Every body type was represented, every age, every race, every gender.

IMG_8431IMG_8462IMG_8312And we all treated each other — and ourselves — with the kindness and respect we deserved.

IMG_8447Now, if you’d like to see how the event ended, you can Google “Body Notes” and see countless photos that ran in the media all over the world, of a mass of hundreds of painted models swarming the bleachers at the north end of Times Square and posing as a group for photos memorializing the event. Instead of repeating those, we thought we’d share some photos of how the event began, when we were all just works in progress, getting those first coats of paint on. The humanity of it inspired us — we hope it will inspire you too.

IMG_8324IMG_8329IMG_8363IMG_8416IMG_8290IMG_8337IMG_8323IMG_8335IMG_8388If you are inspired, take a look at Human Connection Arts and their upcoming events. Or, of course, drop us a note at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and join us at one of our get-togethers. There are many, many opportunities to exercise your freedom and be part of something wonderful. Don’t let them pass you by.

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