IMG_52xxYesterday, ten of us met at noon on the sun-dappled lawn of Madison Square Park, sandwiched between the Empire State Building to the north and the Flatiron Building to the south…and, for a time, between two school groups, one of young’uns who couldn’t care less about boobs being bared nearby (what’s more appropriate at lunchtime than boobs, in the eyes of nursing-age tots?) and one of slightly older ‘uns who were more intrigued but perfectly polite about it.

Afterwards, a friend of ours who couldn’t make it this time spotted the following on Facebook: “Today we had a great field trip to the Museum of Mathematics and Madison Square Park. However, if you ask my students, the best part was when several Nudists decided to sunbathe right next to us during lunch.”

Nudists? Not really; just a group of friends, women and men, who all enjoyed being shirtless and comfortable under the sun in 87-degree weather. Unless you’re prepared to call all the other shirtless men wandering about the park “Nudists” for doing so, the term’s a bit much for us.

Not to say none of us were tempted to lose our bottoms as well. But we’re saving that for the weekend, and a slightly more private outdoor spot.

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octpfas_052614-8130Who us? No, we’re not calling ourselves square…just sharing some more photos of our Memorial Day adventure down in Washington Square Park. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place, and it felt wonderful to lie out in the sun and splash in the fountain with nothing on above the waist, regardless of what configuration we might have been born with below the waist. Chests is chests.

Some decades ago, a male nipple exposed in public would’ve scandalized the neighbors. Today, no one bats an eye. Some decades ago, a female ankle or knee or elbow would’ve done the same. Those restrictions were irrational and look ridiculous to us now. Someday soon we’ll look back on the fear and shame some people feel toward female breasts today and see that it’s just as irrational and ridiculous. We’ll get there one beautiful, warm day at a time, and one brave woman at a time.

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octpfas_052614-7975octpfas_052614-8195octpfas_052614-7957octpfas_052614-8220octpfas_052614-8175ETA: Why this last photo? It’s all about the reflection…

Scout-2.jpg-largeScout Willis has done something very simple and unremarkable: walked around New York topless on a warm summer day, as is every woman’s right and every man’s. But because she posted photos of herself doing it online on services like Instagram and Twitter, she got in trouble for it. That is insane.

The good news is that she is strong and confident and proud and not backing down. Which is why we love her.

(And yes, to respond to every person who has made the suggestion, we have indeed let her know she’s welcome at any of our get-togethers. We bet she’s someone who’d appreciate a good piece of pulp fiction.)

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IMG_5084Yesterday was the unofficial start to summer, and we have to say, it felt pretty official. The mercury climbed into the sweltering 80s, and people swarmed outdoors, towels and sunscreen in hand. In Washington Square Park down by NYU, the giant fountain was turned on, and people romped in the cool water with unabashed delight. (Some dogs, too.) When we joined in, the police came by to tell us they’d gotten some two dozen complaining phone calls…but they acknowledged that it was perfectly legal for us to enjoy the sun as shirtless as our male brethren, and in the end left us alone, as they had to.

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Cooled by the fountain’s spray, we lay out on the grass and discussed Cartesian philosophy, trips to Greece and Hungary, and the finer points of the pastries our friends at Dominique Ansel baked for us—fresh madeleines and croissants and canneles and kouign amanns. (Kouigns amann?)

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First-timers outnumbered old-timers, which is always fun, and we even drew a truly new recruit, who saw us from a distance and came by to join us. Shirt and bra dispensed with, Roald Dahl in hand, she became a full-fledged member of our happy band in less time than it takes to type this sentence.

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When the afternoon drew to its inevitable end, one of our number moaned, “I don’t want to put a shirt back on!”

Who would?

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MK003Several of you have commented on the antique cameras you’ve seen in some of our photos. We thought you might enjoy seeing the pictures we’ve taken with those cameras, in glorious black-and-white.

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Also, some we’ve shot with modern-day equipment, but still eschewing color for a classical look.

Eat your heart out, Ansel Adams.

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IMG_4726Today was originally going to be a park day for us, but the morning dawned dreary and forbidding, so we hit our favorite spa instead, for an afternoon of massages and steaming and sauna-ing (and reading: today’s books included The Hunger GamesThis is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and our almost-finished copies of The Twelfth Planet and Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear).

Discussion topics included the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, how much we love the smell of books (sniffing of sample pages and bindings ensued), the pleasures of old-time radio shows, how many calories are in a red velvet cookie, and the pros and cons of clitoral hood piercings.

All in all, a decadent day of pampering, topped off by mimosas during and ramen after. Almost enough to make us not miss the park…


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NB-37-30_789We are all readers in our merry band, and some of us are writers too; but it doesn’t often happen that we have a writer join us with copies of her work in hand. This past meeting happened to coincide with the release of a new anthology titled LONG HIDDEN: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History, and one of the authors in the anthology happens to be a member of our group and came with us on our recent visit to Central Park.

So here’s another first: as long-time readers of our site know, we never use our members’ names on here, to afford everyone a bit of privacy/anonymity. But Nicolette Barischoff has given us her blessing to share hers, which we do so that you can look up her story, “A Wedding In Hungry Days.” We couldn’t recommend it more highly.

The rest of the book is worth a read, too. Here’s how the editors describe their mission: “Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center. People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins. Today, mainstream history continues to perpetuate one-sided versions of the past while mistelling or erasing the stories of the rest of the world. There is a long and honorable legacy of literary resistance to erasure. This anthology partakes of that legacy. It will feature stories from the margins of speculative history, each taking place between 1400 and the early 1900s and putting a speculative twist—an element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the unclassifiably strange—on real past events.”

As you might imagine, we too believe in casting light on that which has long been hidden.

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