Archives for category: street

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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img_3587Well, it’s true: we do want to change the world. Just like John Lennon wrote.

We want people to see women’s bodies the same way they see men’s: neutrally, as objects in the world, objects of beauty some of the time, objects of simple utility other times, in either event deserving of respect and fair treatment. The way we set out to achieve this is by going out in the world and using our bodies in a wide variety of ways, and doing it unclothed to the same extent men have been doing for ages, and hoping that repeated exposure to the sight will cure people of whatever concerns or anxiety or fear or prejudices they might have.

Most of the time this involves sitting in the park reading books — we are a book club, after all. But when Adam Benedetto of Loudest Yeller Bicycle Tours approached us to suggest a topless bicycle tour of literary and historical sites in downtown Manhattan, we jumped at the chance.

img_3619So, at 11am on a balmy Saturday morning, a dozen of us met up with Adam at his headquarters in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

img_3571img_3582Now, not all of us are what you would call expert riders of the two-wheeled contraptions we were being asked to climb aboard. But Adam reassured us that in all his years of running bicycle tours around the world, from here to Shanghai, he’s never had an accident. And sure enough, once we were all seated and pedaling and got the initial wobblies out of the way, breezing through the city streets turned out to be a joy — an absolute joy.

img_3679We headed first for the ferry dock to drop off supplies with Adam’s fiancee (she was leading another tour at the same time — not a topless one, sadly), then bicycled across the Williamsburg Bridge. And let me just say this: if you have never bicycled across a New York City bridge bare-chested on a warm summer day, well, you simply haven’t lived.

img_3607img_3645The next five hours — yes, five hours — sped by in a blur of exercise, education, conversation, and bare bodies. We rode along the Battery Park esplanade toward the Statue of Liberty, where one of our number was enlisted to recite poet and activist Emma Lazarus’ sonnet The New Colossus — not just the famous part, but the whole thing: “Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of Exiles…” (Imagine it, if you will, read in a beautiful British accent, courtesy of one of our ex-pat members.)

img_3683From there it was on to Wall Street, purely for the ironic juxtaposition, and to discover that tourists find bare breasts absolutely astonishing, judging by the number who turned their cameras on us.

img_3694img_3701City Hall Park, where the mayor presides over New York’s affairs, was a short ride away, and Adam pointed out the site — now up for rent — where in the 19th century Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton published the women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution. (An appropriate theme for our group on any day, but doubly appropriate on a day of bicycling!)

img_3724After a stop at the African Burial Ground National Monument, we cycled past the giant, imposing courthouses where in past years women were sometimes brought before judges for doing no more than we were doing on that very spot, at that very moment.

img_3750On we went, to the crowded streets of Chinatown and Little Italy,

img_3755img_3773img_3835…where finally we stopped to pick up the makings of a picnic lunch. Disappointingly, Murray’s Cheese chased us out before we could buy anything there, citing some entirely nonexistent health code supposedly being violated by our bodies, but their next door neighbor — Faicco’s Italian Specialties — welcomed us warmly, sold us sandwiches and cookies and fancy imported sodas, and did it all with a smile.

img_3827Next stop: Washington Square Park, where we rested our well-worked-out calves and thighs and glutes while munching, kicking a ball around with some guys who were playing nearby, and chatting with a New York Post reporter, who looked like she was about two seconds away from taking her shirt off too…but never quite got there. Next time. 🙂

img_3853img_3891img_3936img_3955img_3963After lunch we had all those new calories to work off, and we did it with a visit to a former women’s prison, the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Stonewall Inn, and the former workplace of Anais Nin.

img_3988img_3994At this point it briefly rained, but you know what? Far from ruining the day, it felt refreshing and wonderful. Basically nothing could ruin the day for us. Even when one of us got a flat tire and we had to stop while Adam patched it, we found ourselves outside a downtown boxing gym, where this fellow entertained us by working his jumprope outside on the sidewalk.

img_4010Now, look at that chest. Just look at it. Isn’t that an object of beauty? Sexually attractive? It certainly is. And no one but no one told him to put a shirt on or asked what he was doing exposing himself where children might see. No one bothered him or whistled at him or booed or cheered or applauded. And that’s as it should be. All we ask is equal treatment for our bodies. It’s really not that much to ask.

img_4014From there, it was back to the bridge–

img_4055img_4069–and back to Brooklyn, where we returned our bikes and helmets and bid Adam a fond and grateful farewell.

img_4083He’s the best — well informed, a great guide, a feminist through and through, and a whiz on two wheels. If you’re in the mood to discover New York by bicycle, you should totally contact him: adam@loudestyeller.com.

And if you’re in the mood to discover the pleasure of being topless outdoors while it’s still warm enough to enjoy it, you should totally contact us: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

It’s your body. Why not enjoy it?

It’s how we hold our revolution.

It’s how we change the world.

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IMG_0552So, after an afternoon of sunning and TRX’ing in a park near the Hudson River, and waving at people in those double-decker tourist buses as they passed, iPhones raised and clicking away–

IMG_0287–we decided it was time for some more ambulatory pleasures and walked a block north to the High Line.

The High Line is a set of long-abandoned railway tracks that used to bring meat to the meatpacking district on Manhattan’s far west side. Left in disuse and disrepair for decades, they got revived a few years ago as an elevated urban park, and in that new role they draw crowds from every  part of town. The design is rambling and serene, artistic and intriguing, and we’ve gone from time to time as a group, but not recently.

IMG_2473It was early evening, and only a few of us remained, but we had a lovely walk. We checked out some of the artwork that dots the High Line, which ranges from ultra-realistic sculpture…

IMG_0473…to photography (and no, nude sunbathing is not permitted, this is just a photo an artist took at a nude beach and installed here, perhaps in an attempt to confuse).

IMG_0507There is also plenty of interesting downtown architecture to enjoy and to photograph, or to photograph yourself in front of.

IMG_0522IMG_0518IMG_0512And when we descended again, to the streets of Manhattan,

IMG_0548it was just in time to capture the sunset.

IMG_0560Walking the sidewalks once more, we got the usual mix of reactions: Why aren’t you wearing a shirt? on the one hand, Free the nipple! on the other. But none of it unfriendly, and some of it wildly enthusiastic. (Check out the woman on the right, arms upraised. She was shouting “Yes! Yes!” gleefully as she passed.)

IMG_0554-bAll in all, a lovely reminder of what makes NYC both wonderful and unique. There’s room for a little bit of nature among all the concrete and steel–

IMG_0463–and on a hot summer day you can take a stroll without your shirt on, no matter what you’ve got under your clothes.

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