When I was growing up in the backwoods of Pine Rock Park in the era before Twitter, Instagram and the electric light bulb — well, maybe a little after that — we savored the simple pleasures in life.
We didn’t have video games and reality TV to entertain us, so we occupied ourselves with pastimes like trout fishing, stick ball, catching bull frogs and — my favorite — skinny dipping in the Far Mill River in places like “The Big Pool” and “Suckers’ Hole.”
I should confess that my skinny dipping experiences were few but memorable, probably because the Far Mill River can be rather cold even on a summer’s day, which meant that swimming, nude or otherwise, was comparable to crossing the Alaskan tundra in your Fruit of the Loom tighty-whities.
Recently, I was reminded of those experiences when I read that hundreds of people on Long Island — that magical place on the other side of the Sound — are protesting a ban on nude bathing at Lighthouse Beach on Fire Island. They’re pretty worked up over there and they’ve been disrobing and running around buck naked in direct violation of law enforcement officials. As far as I can tell, Gandhi never practiced civil disobedience like this.
The ban, I suspect, was instituted to protect tourists and little children from traumatizing experiences that could haunt them the rest of their lives.
A recent report by the Natural Park Service said things have degenerated at the beach and there’s been an outbreak of “lewd, lascivious and voyeuristic behavior, as well as an increase in suspected prostitution, drug use and assaults.”
I guess walking around naked drives people to insane behavior.
On Fire Island, the “naturists,” which is what they call themselves, prance around like woodland nymphs and frolic in the surf, and the U.S. rangers are struggling to get the situation under control. Nothing generates an outcry of public support more than freedom fighters who are buck naked. It’s one of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Not being a legal authority, I can never understand whether it’s against the law or not to take off your clothes. One of the imponderables is that topless women are protected by state law in New York and, in a recent highly publicized demonstration of her rights, Bruce Willis’s daughter was photographed running around with nothing covering her assets while she was shopping for fruits and vegetables in lower Manhattan. Apparently, this was a protest over Instagram’s policy of not allowing naked photos.
And if you haven’t been to Times Square lately, think twice before you go because you’ll find hordes of “street performers,” some topless, along with the Naked Cowboy and creepy cartoon characters like Spider Man and Elmo trying to shake down tourists.
In Pine Rock Park, we were a bit more modest and, once we got done skinny dipping, we put our clothes back on and didn’t rampage through the woods like characters in Lord of the Flies. You see, for all our homespun simplicity we recognized that clothing is one of the greatest advancements of Western Civilization, second only to Facebook.
However, the naked movement seems to be gaining momentum. USA Today regularly runs pieces like “Bare It All on the Best Nude Cruises,” in addition to stories about the best nude resorts, Caribbean hot spots and travel tips for butt naked vacationers, including my favorites like “Don’t be a shutterbug,” “Always carry a towel,” and “Have a Plan B.”
The shutterbug rule should be assiduously followed. You see, the photos in magazines might make fun-loving naturists look like Victoria’s Secret models and Chippendales, but the reality is a little more sobering and eye-opening.
I don’t know if anyone goes skinny dipping in the Far Mill River nowadays. They’ve probably moved on to bigger and better things in the Caribbean or the South Shore. But if USA Today is doing a story about the “Best Swimming Holes to Dive in Nude,” they should start with Suckers Hole.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.