Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Naked History

A Facebook post about the Oregon guy who stripped naked - totally naked - for the TSA and was found not guilty of...well, whatever he was found not guilty of, sparked some comments about all the naked people in Portland, especially those on bikes. I was going to write a post about the time my sister and I saw a naked guy in Portland but then I started thinking about being naked in public and that led me to...

The first time I was ever naked with a bunch of people was in Berkeley when my good friend housesat for the Dean of the graduate school where we worked. For the weeks she had the place, it was an endless party around the pool, a lot of the time spent naked. Some of us spent a lot of time in the Dean's big shower with the five or six shower heads pointed in various directions. (I gained new respect for the Dean when I saw that. Of course I shouldn't have been surprised - every Friday night he served wine in his office to the graduate students and staff. He was one cool dude for a dean.)

Various nude beaches in California followed along with hot springs and mud baths.

Wreck Beach up in Vancouver, B.C. Endless hours spent in the sun. My poor daughter's butt so sunburned she couldn't sit.

I didn't think I got naked much when I moved to the Oregon Coast - all those chilly days and rain - but then I remembered the sweat house out in Beaver Creek where every Sunday people came out to Kate's place to lounge in that most amazing structure. Built by hand, in the center of the sweat house was a frigid pool filled with water from a nearby stream. The sweat house was heated with a wood stove, water tossed on to create steam. I'd say 15 or so people could easily fit into the sweat house not counting the children. I wonder if it's still used. That's another thing I thought about, how when this was going on we were all in our 20s and 30s. Now everyone's in their 60s and 70s and I bet that sweat house is one of the few places people this age feel comfortable being naked in public.

In Portland, in the mid '80s, a neighbor and I went to Sauvie Island every weekend in the summer to frolic on the nude beach. Just a little ways from Portland, Sauvie Island sits on the Columbia River. It's a beautiful place with small organic vegetable and flower farms, bird sanctuary, houseboats. The nude beach has been there for decades and from what I understand, it's still a popular weekend getaway.

My sister Constance (she was Connie then) came to visit me in Portland. The day before she arrived the high temperature was around 72 degrees; the day she got there the temp soared to 100. One night we decided to walk from my apartment on NW 29th and Thurman to Bridgeport Brew Pub down on 18th and Marshall. It was a glorious evening. As we got down near 20th a man walked by and he smiled and said hi and we said hi back. And then we realized he was naked. Whaaaaa....we stopped dead in our tracks and turned to look back. Yep, bare-ass naked. Only in Portland would someone nonchalantly walk the streets without clothes because it was hot and what was a person to do? Probably didn't have air conditioning.

Sadly, my being naked in public days ended when I got older and certain things happened to my body I wasn't too fond of. Well, I thought the naked in public days ended but then I moved to the Home for the Bewildered and we went skinny dipping in the pool one night and got in trouble with the owner but that's another story.

I imagine there are people out there who have never been naked with a group of people that didn't involve an orgy. Just hanging out (ahem), talking, reading, swimming, doing normal activities. It doesn't take long to forget you're naked, that everyone's naked. It's the most freeing feeling in the world. Although I'm not sure the TSA agent felt that way when that man stood there naked in front of her. What a great idea for a flash mob! And it could only happen in Portland.

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