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.


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.


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…


…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…


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


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

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


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.


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


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.)


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)…


…and, equally delicious, books by Naomi Novik.


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


…and our private spot was private again…


…we relaxed like it was our own back yard.


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

Shh. We’ll never tell.


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.


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…


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


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


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.


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.)


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.


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


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?

IMG_9691It hit 82 degrees in New York City this Monday, and while we’ll get blasé about such things eventually, memories of the long, cold winter still haunt us, and we welcomed the sun like starved things grateful for a crumb.

So out we went, to one of Central Park’s most scenic and private nooks, to enjoy our afternoon.


Did the lawn around us really need the amount of care the two city employees tasked with mowing it seemed determined to give it? We don’t know. But my goodness, that grass got a thorough mowing, lasting from 1pm to somewhere near 4. At one point, they were reduced to mowing the rocks.

The lawnmower men aside, we spent a joyful afternoon unmolested by any human (an adorable troupe of tiny dogs descended upon us at one point, but we welcomed their company — and took the opportunity to educate their walker, a woman who seemed surprised to learn that it’s legal in New York for her to go topless anywhere a man can).


For reading material we had new offerings from our friends at Hard Case Crime (including a new Lawrence Block book — he was the author we read at our very first event back in 2011!), Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and (for those with less sophisticated tastes, clearly) Tender Is the Night.


And when the afternoon waned, did we pack up and go home? No! We walked a dozen blocks downtown and moved the festivities indoors, at a neighborhood cafe that kindly let us take over their wood-paneled, fireplace-featuring downstairs cocktail lounge.


Not the best lighting conditions for photography, but perfect for other pleasures, and pleasures were there many. Including beverages courtesy of a good-humored mixologist who took our presence in stride.

God bless New York bartenders. Nothing fazes ’em.


IMG_9581The last time we set out for Sheep Meadow it was filled with snow. This time it was fenced off, presumably so the grass could return in peace. But as today was the first time this year that the temperature broke 60 degrees, we were not to be put off. We climbed to the top of a nearby boulder and celebrated the coming of Spring, the advent of Easter, Erev Erev Pesach, the day after April Fool’s, and all other things celebratory in our own special way.

The park was crowded with would-be sun worshipers, and the occasional biting wind notwithstanding, the sun on our skin felt lovely. Books in our stacks included a forthcoming Hard Case Crime novel irresistibly called SO NUDE, SO DEAD, Ernest Hemingway’s THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, and Book 5 in the GAME OF THRONES series. And the food we had on hand included brioches shaped like Easter bunnies with raisins for eyes…


…and cupcakes decorated with butterflies and ladybugs. Just because.

Is this the start of our new season? Well, it’s a far cry from the heat of summer, but by god, we’re out of hibernation at last. So, yes: in the spirit of the season, it’s a resurrection of sorts. And we say hallelujah.



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