IMG_9444So — before we headed through Central Park to join the annual NYC Underwear Run, we met up by the boat pond, just to relax on the grass and carry out a suitable pre-run ritual. (Otherwise known as nibbling sea salt lemon ginger cookies and reading Chinua Achebe.)

IMG_9359IMG_9663IMG_9602No major developments to report this time. It’s one of the nicest and most serene spots in Central Park, and we found we were left alone not only when enjoying the late afternoon breezes under the branches of the lawn’s great oaks (are they really oaks? we’re city girls, we don’t know from trees)

IMG_9438IMG_9439IMG_9679…but also when strolling by the pond, past unfazed fellow recreation-seekers.

IMG_9624IMG_9637IMG_9639Our reading  material included (as usual) a mix of the high and the low — the advance copies we got from Hard Case Crime of Max Allan Collins’ latest, Quarry In the Black, got a workout,

IMG_9651IMG_9737as did Stephen King and Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

IMG_9821IMG_9799And The Mating Mind got passed around a bit.

IMG_9529IMG_9510IMG_9556As we always like to see, our numbers included a mix of old-timers and first-timers.

IMG_9779IMG_9758IMG_9796If you are a curious first-timer in the making — an NY-loving, body-positive woman who knows it’s legal for women to go topless outdoors but maybe is still working up the nerve to try it for herself — we remind you that we’ve still got  a month of summer left (well, almost two months, technically; but a month of balmy August days), and we invite you to reach out to us. An email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com will get you in on the fun. The winter will be here all too soon, and with it the need to fold up the beach towels and get dressed again.

IMG_9871IMG_9867IMG_9847IMG_9851Before we enter the season of gloves and hot chocolate, before the leaves turn red and gold, while the mercury is still straining to escape its narrow glass channel…won’t you join us?

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IMG_0069There’s an event each year called the NYC Underwear Run; it’s a 1.7-mile footrace held in Central Park the Friday before the annual Triathlon wipes out all the city’s serious runners. Are we serious runners? Bite your tongue. But two of our members decided that a casual 1.7-mile jog in their underwear would be a pleasant way to spend a summer evening, and the rest of us came along to cheer them on.

IMG_0015First, we had to get to the starting line, which called for a topless walk through the park — not 1.7 miles, but a decent warm-up for the race.

IMG_9979IMG_9961IMG_9973(And a decent cool-down too, thanks to some judiciously purchased Snow Cones.)

IMG_0013IMG_0094Along the way, we got some curious looks, like this one from a man who asked “Why don’t you have shirts on?”

IMG_0009To which we answered “Why do you have a shirt on?” And explained, for the umpteenth time, the law in New York, equal rights, gender equality, etc., etc., etc.

Eventually we got to Cherry Hill and checked our runners in.

IMG_0032Interestingly, although everyone in the 500-person race was in their underwear — that’s the whole point of the event, isn’t it? — an official came over to us to say women aren’t allowed to run the race topless. That didn’t seem right to us; women have the legal right to go topless anywhere in the park that men can, and there were men all around with nothing on but tighty-whities. A discussion ensued on the finer points of the law. We would eventually have prevailed — we were right — but in the end our two runners did put sports bras on, not because they were told to, just because, well, running. Comfort. You know how it is.

But the rest of us stayed topless and enjoyed the event from the spectator area that way, and plenty of other people seemed to enjoy it as well. We posed for photos with runners,

IMG_0092and with one of New York’s OG topless celebs:

IMG_0072

IMG_0086And then retired to a nearby hillside to enjoy twilight in the grass. A bottle of wine might have circulated among us. (If that weren’t against park rules, we mean. It might have, but we’re quite sure it didn’t.) And then out we went to the subway, heads held high.

IMG_0027Oh, wait, we’re telling this story backwards — before heading to the race we spent a couple of hours hanging out near the miniature boat pond! But that’s a story for another post…

 

IMG_9153How many times over the past six summers have people suggested that we take a trip to a beach? Many. But we never did it, mostly because the nearest beach is an hour away from midtown, and the nearest nude beach is even farther, and we are sometimes very, very lazy. Why spend an hour on the Q train when you can just go to Central Park…?

The ocean, that’s why.

IMG_8826The ocean, the sand, the boardwalk…all the things that make Coney Island Coney Island. Let’s not forget the junk food. The rides and games, too.

IMG_8532So…we finally went. We went with our books, our sunscreen.

IMG_9075We went with our dogs.

IMG_8633We went with our wheelchair.

IMG_8949We went with our kids. (Yes, a few of us have kids!)

IMG_8725And what a happy, warm, delicious afternoon it was.

IMG_9148We spent most of the time on the sand, basking in a way that the grass of Central Park just doesn’t permit. Then some time cooling off in the ocean. Then back to the sand. The water. The sand.

IMG_9116IMG_9200IMG_9249IMG_9213IMG_9109Did we mention the junk food? At one point we made a hot dog run, giving up on Nathan’s because of the ridiculous lines there, but greatly enjoying the alternative fare at the stand known as Paul’s Daughter. (Mango slushie? Eh. Hand-cut French fries? Yes, please!)

IMG_9044What sort of reception did we get? No complaints, no visits from the police — unless you count this NYPD helicopter that hovered low over the shore. (We waved. It seemed to satisfy them.)

IMG_9086One dour-looking fellow appeared to be so fascinated by the sight of us that he hung around for several hours, staring at us creepily. But we didn’t let him bother us.

IMG_8990A number of women came by to congratulate us, thank us, or say they didn’t know it was legal to go topless — that always feels good, when we get the chance to educate people about their rights. One woman even took our info and swore she’d join up and come to future events. Who knows? Maybe she will.

And speaking of new members, we had one come out with us this time who is a terrifically talented manga artist, and she spent much of the afternoon sketching the rest of us.

IMG_8955IMG_8692IMG_8590She gave us permission to share the results:

Coney-Island-Beach-Jul-11-fullSo what’s next? Will we eventually get up the get-up-and-go to go all the way to Gunnison as a group? (Gunnison is the region’s only official nude beach, as far as we know.)

Maybe. We’ll see. But in the meantime we’re glad we finally got at least a taste of sun and sand. Even if only one of us was brave enough (briefly!) to go all the way…

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IMG_7888When we go up to our favorite rooftop sundeck, we usually have it to ourselves. But technically it is the roof of a hotel, albeit a small boutique hotel, and any hotel guest is welcome to use it. So once in a while we’ve been joined by hotel guests, who generally share our taste for naked sunbathing (it’s a clothing optional roofdeck whether we’re there or not) and who pay us as little attention as we pay them.

IMG_7646This last time, though, we met a fellow named Matthew, a real estate professional by trade, who turned out randomly to be a fan of ours. He’d been reading our blog for years (hi, Matthew! you’re probably reading this!) and even had an unfinished message to us in his outbox, half written. Small world, is all we can say.

IMG_8073While normally we are leery of random men who express interest in our group and hang around one of our events, Matthew was perfectly nice and handled the situation exactly as we might have hoped — no goggling and adulation, and in fact not even much attention paid after the first few minutes of “No way, you’re them?” To be all beatnik about it, he was a cool cat.

He even introduced us to the pleasures of sunning under the influence of coconut oil, an all-natural substance with, he assured us, an inherent SPF of something like 4 and a pleasant smell and sensation as you rub it in. Several of us gave it a try, including the one male member we had with us this time, and we were amused to observe that the whole “pleasant sensation as you rub it in” aspect seemed to particularly appeal to him and Matthew. It’s ok. There’s a kind of separate upper section to the deck and we left the boys alone up there to enjoy their coconut oil.

IMG_8098IMG_8055Meanwhile, the rest of us had a blast with the aid of a variety of other intoxicants, including ridiculously yummy popcorn,

IMG_7625fruit,

IMG_7960IMG_7973hose play (is that a thing?),

IMG_7912c

IMG_7904cGabriel Garcia Marquez,

IMG_8074IMG_8082Hard Case Crime,

IMG_8025IMG_7886inexplicably hilarious coffee-table artbooks,

IMG_7774IMG_8090and napping,

IMG_8065and napping,

IMG_7870and napping.

IMG_7694It was about as perfect an afternoon as you could wish for, with none of the rain that had been forecast (that’s a recurring theme so far this summer: ominous weather forecasts that don’t come true) and the joy of hanging with good friends and good books and loads of salubrious nakedness.

IMG_7938IMG_8047IMG_7681Oh, and an inflatable pool filled with very, very cold water.

IMG_8010IMG_7989IMG_7982We talked and ate and slept and dreamt and read until the sun began sinking in the west. Could we call it paradise? Why not. Everything seems paradisiacal with enough sunshine on it.

And enough coconut oil.

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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.

IMG_0893IMG_0979IMG_0962IMG_0969

IMG_8202Our 4th of July was not all about educating the police in the laws of New York — before and after our blue-suited friends showed up, we spent a blissful afternoon in the pursuit of happiness, and we want to show you that side of the day as well.

IMG_8442Food treats included pastries from the legendary Dominique Ansel (yes, including two cronuts!)…

IMG_8136…while books included classics (Isaac Asimov’s The Stars, Like Dust! Kafka’s Amerika!)…

IMG_8358IMG_8290…non-fiction (Freakonomics! Please Kill Me!)…

IMG_8242IMG_8415…graphic novels (Sex Criminals! The Misadventures of Jane!)…

IMG_8441IMG_8396IMG_8292…and the yet-to-be-published (Quarry In the BlackThe Knife Slipped!).

IMG_8206Our companions included one member’s 3-year-old daughter (who briefly went bottomless, the little nudist) and another’s gorgeous parrot, represented in both actual and tattoo form.

IMG_8145IMG_8128We enjoyed the shade and the sun,

IMG_8186IMG_8198cthe grass and the waterside promenade,

IMG_8221IMG_8329vigorous activity and lazing around.

IMG_8326IMG_8187And we made many new friends, ranging from these 12-year-old boys

IMG_8283 to women of all ages who were astonished and/or delighted to learn that female toplessness is as legal as the male variety.

IMG_8367If you’re astonished and/or delighted yourself and would like to give it a try, we’re just an email away (toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com), and we welcome inquiries from any bold, body-positive women in or visiting the New York area.

We’ve got eight weeks of summer left — don’t miss your chance to enjoy them the way they were meant to be: with liberty and justice for all.

IMG_8179IMG_8126IMG_8429IMG_8314IMG_8356IMG_8175

IMG_8434So, for the Fourth of July, we got a group together and headed down to Battery Park, in view of the Statue of Liberty, for a picnic on the grass. No better time for it, right? Statue of Liberty, Fourth of July. Enjoying our liberty to be topless outdoors, as established as a right under New York law some 24 years ago.

IMG_8164IMG_8176An hour or so into our blissful afternoon, these two uncomfortable-looking policewomen show up.

IMG_8237“We’ve had complaints. It’s the Fourth of July. There are children around.”

And?

“You can’t be naked here.”

We’re not naked. We’re covered from the waist down, just like the men in the park. We’re uncovered from the waist up, just like the men in the park.

“But…you can’t…”

Call your headquarters. Please. Talk to them. You’ll see. We promise, you’ll learn that you’re wrong. What we are doing is 100 percent legal. It has been since a court ruling in 1992, establishing that women and men have equal rights under the law, in this case the equal right to take our shirts off in a park on a hot summer day. Every time a police officer has forgotten this and arrested a woman for doing something that’s actually legal, the city winds up getting sued and it costs the city tens of thousands of dollars in damages–

“Are you trying to get these women arrested?”

No, officer. We’re trying to keep you from making a mistake that will embarrass you and cost the city a lot of money. Call your headquarters. Trust me. You won’t be sorry you did.

And…they did. Call headquarters. And then did, learn. They stood around with their backs to us for maybe twenty minutes while waiting for backup to arrive…

IMG_8226IMG_8231IMG_8225IMG_8238…but when backup did arrive — two uncomfortable-looking male police officers — they were told we were right. “They have the same right to take their shirts off that I do,” said one of the men, looking a little wistful standing in his heavy uniform under the July sun. “Has anyone bothered you?” he asked us. “Harassed you?”

Only the police, we said.

He nodded. Well, let us know if there’s any problem.

And off they plodded, to foil evildoers elsewhere.

IMG_8240A blow for liberty. A police force educated. A small victory, but one we shouldn’t have had to win, and that women shouldn’t have to keep fighting for over and over again. People sometimes ask us, “Why do you bother making such a big deal about the right to go topless in New York, where it’s already legal?” This is why.

Now, ignorance isn’t a crime. Not even ignorance of the law. Not even if you’re a police officer whose job is to enforce the law. And to these officers’ credit, they behaved politely throughout, if grimly, and when proven wrong, they conceded. Their sidearms stayed in their holsters throughout. But we shouldn’t have had to negotiate rights we already have with armed agents of the government. We really shouldn’t.

A little later, a late-arriving friend showed up and we told her about the excitement she had missed. Cops! In uniform! We heard handcuffs clanking as they approached! We didn’t know what was going to happen!

So what did you do? she asked.

We bribed them, we answered. With a little truth. Slipped them a bit of knowledge, under the table.

And…?

And we were left at liberty, we said.

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