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…asked the cop on a motorcycle after he noisily putt-putted up to us on the lawn behind the Columbus Circle fountain.

Yes, we said. It was true. We all had our bottoms on. Though not one of us was wearing a top.

“All right, then,” he replied and putt-putted off again.

This on the same day that marriage equality prevailed in the Supreme Court. Can you imagine how wide our smiles were?

Oh, and a random guy came over and asked, “Are you that pulp fiction appreciation society…?” And was totally cool and nice about it.

Really couldn’t have been a lovelier Friday afternoon in the park, with old friends and new. (We welcomed one from Brazil! And we do welcome her, gladly. But how sad and wrong it is that a Brazilian woman should have to come to New York if she wants to lie bare-breasted in the sun. In Brazil, she could get fined or arrested for it.)

Authors on hand? Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, Michel Foucault. Professions represented? Journalist, bartender, Ph.D. student, MBA entrepreneur, novelist. Among others. Snacks on hand: miniature eclairs, macarons. Euphoria achieved? Yes.

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IMG_1014What are the chances? In five summers, we’d only visited Union Square once. This, despite its central location and its proximity to subway stops, a first-rate bookstore, and the city’s busiest greenmarket. So…yesterday we set out for Union Square Park again. It was a gamble, since thunderstorms were being predicted, and had arrived as predicted pretty much every day this week. But we took the gamble, and this time the sun came out and stayed out.

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So there we were, sweet fresh cherries in hand, strawberries too, and apple cider doughnuts, and homemade molasses cookies, listening to a classical violinist do his thing at the foot of the lawn, and heavenly doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Our books for the day included short stories by Neil Gaiman, a scholarly text on sex and love, a collection of 1950s romance comics, and the latest from our friends at Hard Case Crime. (Even a Hebrew edition of Stephen King’s JOYLAND!)

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Was it a perfect afternoon? No. A few aggressive gawkers, such as the fellow from Morocco who plopped himself down next to us and took zero hints that we didn’t welcome his clumsy come-ons, cast a shadow on this otherwise sunny day.

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But overall it was a success, the latest in what has been a thoroughly enjoyable summer.

And technically summer doesn’t even start for another two hours!

We can’t wait.

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IMG_0897In our quest to visit every park in the greater New York area, we finally made our way way uptown, to Morningside Park, north of Central Park and east of Columbia University. Thirty years ago, it was a notorious spot, known only for drug deals and assaults. You not only wouldn’t read topless here, you wouldn’t read here period, not without a bodyguard. But three decades make a difference, and now it’s beautiful and welcoming, not just to our merry band but even to our four-footed friends.

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The trek uptown dissuaded some of our downtown- and Brooklyn-based members, but those of us who made it had a splendid afternoon indeed. Return visits are planned.

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IMG_0693Today is all flash floods and emergency warnings, but yesterday the only thing pouring down on us from the sky was golden sunbeams and warm breezes. We greeted them on our favorite rooftop sundeck in Chelsea, where going topless or even fully nude is no cause for alarm. And we brought with us an abundance of treats to feast on, both literary and gustatory.

First on the menu: pastries from Sarabeth’s…

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…including pain de mie and blueberry corn muffins, tarts with blueberries and tarts with cherries, chocolate-dipped shortbread and chocolate-dusted rugelach, and, to wash it all down, their divine four-flowers juice. Then, once we had all that laid out and gleaming like a dragon’s hoard, one of our number decided we needed something savory and ordered a pizza for delivery.

Yes, a pizza delivery! Just think of the fun we could’ve had with this classic porn movie set-up. The innocent delivery man climbs to the roof expecting nothing out of the ordinary, but when he steps out he’s greeted by a bevy of… Well, never mind, because this particular pizza delivery man stubbornly refused to climb the stairs, so we had no choice but to put some clothes on, go downstairs, take delivery there, trudge back up, and get naked again. If he only knew what he’d missed…

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Beer followed, bottles opened painstakingly, in the absence of a proper bottle opener, with the tooth of a mailbox key.

And there were books, books galore, a profusion of books, old favorites and new. From Lolita to The Gargoyle, from Stephen Colbert  to the irresistibly named scholarly work Fuckology, from The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes to The Martian Chronicles to Uprooted

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We were a small group this time, but we devoured much.

And now you can join us by feasting your eyes. :)

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IMG_0475It’s hard to find truly private spots in New York City.

Everywhere you go, there’s someone higher up, or if you’re in the park, the grassy spot you choose is probably in view of a half dozen other grassy spots. But there are some hidden little nooks, like this one in Riverside Park, where you can’t be seen from the ground because you’re atop a giant boulder, and you can’t really be seen from the neighboring buildings because they’re not that near and the trees screen you pretty well.

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Unless…you come across a pair of resourceful Aussie boys visiting the Big Apple, and they use those trees to their advantage.

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Did they really do it to get a better vantage point to watch us from? Or were they trying to impress us with their climbing prowess and disregard for life and limb? (If so, they succeeded. Few things can pull us away from our books, but they succeeded.)

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In any event: a lovely afternoon out, made more so by the presence of fresh strawberries, miniature cupcakes from Baked By Melissa (at least until they became Melted By The Sun)…

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…and, equally delicious, books by Naomi Novik.

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And when the afternoon wore on and the Aussie boys had departed, together with our other friendly neighbors…

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…and our private spot was private again…

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…we relaxed like it was our own back yard.

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Did one of our number even get sun-warmed and cozy enough to sunbathe fully nude on that bouldertop?

Shh. We’ll never tell.

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IMG_0198One of the refrains we hear from time to time, on the increasingly rare occasions that we hear complaints at all, is “Won’t you think of the children?” The implication being that children are somehow harmed or traumatized by the sight of bare female breasts. This in spite of the fact that most children nurse from bare female breasts for the first chunk of their lives.

How does something that starts out as warm, loving, and nourishing — and wholly appropriate for children — transform into a taboo, a sight for adults only?

Fortunately, actual children don’t pay any attention to this nonsense. Or to us, by and large. Today we met in a downtown park where several young kids were playing, and aside from our representing a barrier to the unfettered pursuit of their game of tag, they couldn’t have cared less. They certainly showed less interest in our breasts than their fathers did.

Happily, no one said anything to us this time. The children enjoyed themselves and we enjoyed ourselves, and the sun kept right on shining.

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IMG_9982The best thing about taking our tops off in Washington Square Park is that we’re never the most interesting people to watch.

This time, there was an acroyoga trio or foursome (it was hard to keep count) just a few steps away…

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…and a guy performing juggling flourishes with a wine bottle just a few steps behind them.

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Not to mention the row of fresh MBA grads in purple robes, led by purple bagpipers:

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And us? All we were doing was reading and relaxing and enjoying fine lemon tarts and such. With our shirts off. But who in Greenwich Village cares about such a trifle? A nipple’s a nipple. We all have them. And in New York we’re all free to bare them under the sun.

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A dozen of us packed the lawn, with books in hand from Ed McBain and Gore Vidal, David Brooks and Mindy Kaling. Not to mention the latest from comic book historian and publisher Craig Yoe, including the insanely wonderful WEIRD LOVE (collecting old romance comics; weird is the gentlest way to describe them) and ALICE IN COMICLAND (collecting appearances of Alice in Wonderland in comics ranging from Superman to Archie to Pogo.)

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And what a joy it was to be back in our element. We welcomed two first-timers, plus a couple of boyfriends who tagged along, making the female-to-male ratio a bit more balanced than usual. Only one random stranger decided to be a nuisance, and he left soon enough when we declined his company. Otherwise, the afternoon couldn’t have been lovelier, nor could a dozen bare torsos have seemed more natural.

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Meanwhile, up in Times Square, female toplessness is being presented this way:

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Nothing wrong with body paint, and Times Square is as good a place to go topless as anywhere. But isn’t it nice when a bare chest is just a bare chest, not a spectacle on par with a guy dressed as Iron Man or a six-foot tall smurf?

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