Archives for category: street

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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IMG_0928While most days you’d get arrested if you walked fully nude down the sidewalk at 47th Street and Second Avenue in New York City — topless is fine, for all genders; bottomless is not, for any — there is an exception.

Bodypainting Day.

Once a year, for the past three, Andy Golub has organized a mass bodypainting festival, gathering a hundred models of all sizes, shapes, ages, races, and genders to pose fully nude in the street and act as human canvases for dozens of talented artists flown in from all over the country and all over the world.

IMG_0948This year it threatened to rain — but despite all the gloomy forecasts, not a drop was felt, and the proceedings came off without a hitch. Several members of our august bookclub were there (even though it was still July, hee hee):

IMG_0955IMG_0952IMG_0938IMG_0932IMG_0887IMG_0899…enjoying the privilege of getting naked with countless strangers:

IMG_0926IMG_0914IMG_0954…all of us filled with boundless energy (you need it, to stand stock still in one place for four hours while an artist turns your body pink and gold) and utterly devoid of self-consciousness or reproach. This was a place of acceptance, of kindness, of generosity and fellow-feeling, all of which went splendidly with this year’s theme of “Inner Beauty.”

IMG_0873And the spirit of the day extended to the crowd that came to watch, which included the usual mix of the curious and the photographically inclined, but also just pedestrians who happened upon the event and stayed to watch, parents with toddlers in tow or on their shoulders, and senior citizens who asked with mischievous grins if they could pose for a picture with us. One little girl shielded her eyes as she walked past, until her mom told her it was okay to look. Another tugged mom over to watch Sailor Moon come to life.

IMG_0906IMG_0915Two high school girls (age, sheepishly confessed: 16) had finagled press passes and were in seventh heaven interviewing the naked men. But it wasn’t necessary to be sheepish — everyone was happy to talk with them.

Which is really the point. We’re all just human beings; we all have bodies. There is nothing shameful about them. A chin, an elbow, a breast, a penis. No one is harmed by seeing these things, with or without paint affixed. But if paint gives us an excuse to be naked one day a year — and yields such beautiful artistic results to boot — we’re beyond delighted to embrace it.

IMG_0980IMG_0984In fact, we were one of the sponsors of the event this year!

IMG_0871And if it continues (as we very much hope it does), we’ll be back again next summer, with bells on. And nothing else.

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IMG_5756Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

This marks the (unofficial) start of summer, and with it the start of street fair season, when New Yorkers — if they don’t flee the city entirely on weekends — spend their weekends at these migratory festivals full of guilty-pleasure food (crepes! zeppoles! mozzarepas!) and miscellaneous tchotchkes (dental tools! chopstick art! old LPs!). The weather is invariably hot, usually humid, often stifling, and any man in the crowd can walk without his shirt on. But you never see women doing it. Never. And how is that fair?

So we took matters into our hands.

IMG_5744We visited the annual fair held on Broadway, up on the Upper West Side. There were half a dozen of us and hundreds of other pedestrians, and yes, we got our share of stares and double takes. But overall people were indifferent or at least trying to appear so. A few nasty remarks floated our way, but we chose to ignore them. We’re not out to pick fights; we’re out to set an example. (And eat some crepes and buy some dental tools.)

IMG_5695IMG_5800IMG_5704IMG_5688The most satisfying moment came when we passed a young mother nursing her baby. She looked at us passing along the pavement, a smile bloomed on her face, and she let her nipple fall from her son’s lips. She had no reason to cover up, and she didn’t. The open-air exposure of her breast was nothing at all, not with the six of us strolling along the same block.

We’d like to think she’d have been equally brave with or without us there. And maybe she would. But we’re also proud as hell to have provided another example of women unafraid to exercise our legal rights and unashamed of our bodies.

If you’re unafraid and unashamed too — or would like to be — we’d love for you to join us sometime this summer. Just send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself, and we’ll get back in touch.

Together we can fulfill our mission: making the street a little more fair.

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1510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_0129This past weekend, the Sunday Times of London ran an article about us in their Style section. It was the work of reporter Rosie Kinchen, who joined us for our pre-Halloween get-together in the East Village, and featured images captured by the brilliant Sally Montana. Who else would have thought of asking us to re-enact The Last Supper?

1510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_0254The Times only managed to find room for two of Sally’s photos, but we’re very happy to share a few more here. (Along with a copy of the article itself at the very bottom, since you can’t read it online unless you’re a Times subscriber.)

1510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_01841510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_01391510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_03351510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_04671510_STUK_TOPLESSSOCIETY_0486We’re so pleased that our message has begun to spread internationally! Maybe it’ll even reach people in some part of the world where it’s warm enough now to take advantage of the freedom to go shirtless outdoors (which it currently isn’t in New York City). In the meantime, we’re wearing our best cable-knit sweaters and enjoying warm beverages and snuggling with friends and loved ones and, of course, many good books.

And waiting for the spring.

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IMG_8478Most of the time, New York is cold enough on Halloween that only a madwoman would go outside shirtless. But once in a very long while it’s milder, making a variety of costume options feasible that otherwise might not be: topless flapper, for instance, or topless princess, or topless Carmen Sandiego. Several of us explored these and other forms of sartorial self-expression at the intersection of Stanton and Allen Streets, where the city has helpfully set out some benches in the middle of traffic…

IMG_8494c…before heading down the block to the Slipper Club, burlesque emporium extraordinaire, for an evening of merriment.

20151030_173933What sort of merriment? Well, to start with, it was the largest gathering of our members we’ve ever had, with several dozen of us in attendance. Costumes were welcome (as was the lack of costumes — we’re nothing if not open-minded). We welcomed cyborgs…

IMG_8548…and monsters…

IMG_8508IMG_8519…droogs that would’ve made Anthony Burgess proud…

IMG_8671c…and various other characters, familiar or invented.

IMG_8515IMG_8514(What is this last costume? So glad you asked. It’s a blue-footed booby, of course.)

The Pinchbottom burlesque troupe put on a special stage performance just for us, featuring numbers inspired by Shelley, Coleridge, and Dante, with pulp novelist Jonny Porkpie on hand as Master of Ceremonies and Reader of Excerpts From the Referenced Literary Works.

IMG_8644IMG_8654Afterwards, there was a bit of a bar crawl involving Bulgarian hookahs, Belgian ale and silent televisions playing World Series game three for the Mets fans among us. Photos are few from the indoor portions of the evening, and in-focus ones fewer still. But you can get some sense of what we got up to below.

(And here’s an extra treat for those of you in the UK: a reporter from the one of the biggest newspapers in London flew in just for the event, and an article about us is supposedly forthcoming. Who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a revolution across the ocean…)

IMG_8558IMG_8525IMG_8573IMG_8559IMG_8659IMG_8660Happy Halloween, all.