Stranger than Fiction

This is intended to be a participatory post. Comments and opinions are not only invited, but strongly encouraged…

Please tell me. WHAT IS THE POINT?

The above clip is an excerpt from a plethora of “nudist movies” that came out during the 50s and 60s as Hollywood was testing the waters as to how much they could get away with in terms of nudity on the big screen. I get that. It was a business venture – disguised as an effort to normalize nudism, but in the last place, I suspect it ridiculed, or at least sexualized nudism in the eyes of the common, church going citizen.

lets-go-naked-movie-poster-9999-1020429343Then there are literally hundreds of DVDs still being made and sold in naturist magazines, (some with very high standards for promoting holistic naturist values,) where you can watch 25 teenage girls swim and play volleyball in a celebration of naturism. No plot – just beautiful, naked young women. I have to assume that’s how those videos play out, as I’ve never been able to bring myself to buy one, but again, this seems more like a business venture that flirts with pornographic values than an earnest effort to normalize the naturist experience.

Yesterday, having just finished Mark Haskell Smith’s Naked at Lunch, I went looking through the Kindle store for a similar read. There are a couple older publications dating from the 30s about the pioneers of naturism, as well as a couple books that come at it from a more historical or sociological perspective, like Ruth Barcan’s Nudity, or Philip Carr-Gomm’s A Brief History of Nakedness, but I’ve read both of those.

Kindle has made it possible for a whole new genre – the self-published “this is how I became a nudist” book, typically about 50il_340x270.788432716_1vkz pages and with varying commitments to grammar, logic, and cohesion. I get this. I grow weary reading another account about the fear of erections, but I suspect these are particularly useful to those considering a first visit to a naturist beach.

Then there are loads and loads of books with titles like (and these are fictitious, to the best of my knowledge – but you get my point) “Naked Murder on the Orient Express” or “Desperate Housewives in the Nudist Colony.” At present, I’m trying to make it through a “true story” account of three teenage girls who are running around the woods of New Jersey in the middle of the night trying not to get caught by the park ranger or charged by a wild boar. The whole premise is so surreal that I can’t help but wonder, what parent would let their adolescent daughters do such a thing, and the farther I read, the more it feels like a bizarre fantasy conjured up by a guy my age. Maybe it’ll deliver a punch at the end, but at the moment, I’m not sure I’ll get that far.

MV5BNzgwMDI1Mzk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTY1OTUxNTE@._V1_SY317_CR30214317_AL_So to the question. Could SOMEBODY please explain to me what this is all about? There are SO many great books coming out every day, crafted by talented authors who lead you two-hundred pages into a labyrinth of suspense before turning your world upside down. I’m an arts and literature guy, and have great admiration for those who write well. But I’ve yet to find such a book of that caliber that carries a title like “Mr Nude Goes to Washington.”

Am I missing something? Do these publications seek to normalize nudity, or just make us all look a bit more peculiar? Is it just another version of titles like “The Man with One Red Shoe” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”?

Please explain this to me. I’m all ears.

Naturist Croatia!

Several perspectives on naturist Croatia, from the clothing optional beaches near Hvar, to the expansive naturist resorts of Istria

See our other post about Naturism in Croatia

Ile du Levant – Naturist Paradise

Our most recent visit to Ile du Levant, the renowned naturist island off the coast of the Côte d’Azur. A quirky, but magical place!

See our other posts about Ile du Levant, including A Documentary Video about Ile du Levant, First Stop on a Naturist Odyssey, and The only people naked at lunch.

TRAVELOGUE: High Desert Hiking at DeAnza Springs Resort

Nothing says naked like the serendipity of a free afternoon in San Diego on a beautiful spring day!  A little too chilly on the coast to seriously consider Black’s Beach (which remains on my bucket list, but alas…) So the next logical choice was a one-hour drive into the high desert for an excursion to the DeAnza Springs Clothing Optional Resort!

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The rugged desert terrain surrounding the resort

A brief disclaimer seems in order at this juncture, as I have to say, the people at DeAnza Springs are among the friendliest I’ve met at any American naturist site.  The word on the street is that they are even willing to let hikers in who wish to experience the southerly most entrance to Anza Borrego State Park, offering them a safe place to park the car for the day.  The park, stretching for hundreds of miles, literally backs up to the resort property line.  Having read this, my wife and I visited last fall to scope the place out.  But this time, I was traveling solo, so I emailed in advance to see if they had any of typically draconian policies limiting visits by single males.  No such policy exists.  “C’mon up.  Well be happy to see you!”

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Old Hollywood set on the “edge of town”

All that said, should you read this and suddenly feel inspired to drive to Jacumba, California, doff your clothes, and sprint into the desert, – especially if you’re a rookie at the clothing optional thing – be prepared that DeAnza Springs will likely exemplify every cliché you can imagine when people make water cooler jokes about “that nudist colony place out by the highway.”  The RVs surrounded by various landscape contraptions, goofy road signs like “skinny dip ahead” or “bare right,” and a variety of quasi-sculpture-caricatures of naked people with bicycles, walking sticks, and tennis rackets – each with somewhat exaggerated features and euphoric facial expressions that I think are intended to reinforce the subliminal message that nudists are familiar, friendly, and most of all, fun!  Every time I visit a place like this, I can’t help but relive David Sedaris’ account of his visit to a similar “nudist colony” in Pennsylvania. (See: David Sedaris, NAKED). It’s the stuff upon which satirical writers and water-cooler comedians thrive.

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Trestle on the Carrizo Railway. Note the decaying Chicago Metro cars in the distance.

Strangely enough, on this beautiful May day, the sign-post caricatures were about the most animated beings on the property!  A few retirees were buzzing around in their golf carts, but by the time I got to the pool, only a handful of locals were to be found.  In other words… a real high desert ghost town!   I’ve always thought the desert to be a little eerie under the best of circumstances.  Even more so with this odd assemblage of pre-fab houses and mega-extravagant motor homes, along side a few old trailers, one of which must have fallen victim to some horrible catastrophe that caused one entire side to blow out into a pile of twisted aluminum; a heap of unsightly wreckage that appears to have been lying there for quite some time.  Given our visit last fall, and so many similar experiences at other US naturist vacation destinations, none of this seemed even remotely peculiar to me, though I always find myself playing the “I wonder what my friend “_________” would think of all this?”  Maybe not the place to bring the ‘first-timer – curious about social nudity’ friend for his first naked outing.

If you are a desert person, (and already comfortable in your skin),  the place sits in a remarkable location, near the town of Jacumba, literally a stone’s throw from the Mexican border (evidenced by the border control officers who patrol the dirt road that leads to the gates of the resort).  The famous rail line – at least amidst train buffs (no pun intended!) – of the Carrizo Gorge runs along the perimeter of the DeAnza Springs property.  Despite a plethora a faded signs and snarls of barbed wire that send the foreboding message to stay away from the tracks, the resort owner identifies the rail bed as the preferred local par course for the daily ritual of walking the dog.  To be sure, walking naked across a creaky trestle, measuring each step as some of the ties have simply fallen away, while others give noticeably under your feet, defines a whole new level of vulnerability.  But there are plenty of trails crisscrossing the scrubby, boulder-infested mountains, and there are many accounts floating around about those who have spent the day ‘free-hiking’ (a term that somehow got assigned to wilderness walks in the altogether) well into the Anza Borrego State Park with scarcely a nod from the seldom encountered rangers.

DeAnza 6

Overlooking the Carrizo Railway trestle

On this day, after nearly two hours of ‘free-hiking,’ I seized the opportunity to enjoy the more sophisticated amenities of this remote garden of Eden; a beer from the snack bar, a dip in the pool, and a soak in the hot tub, followed by a couple hours of reading by the late afternoon sunlight.  As the evening zephyrs started to chill, it was time to jump back in the car and make my way down the hill to San Diego to catch the red-eye back to the dreary weather on the east coast.

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My official DeAnza Springs zipper compartment cap, answering the perennial question, “Where do nudist keep their keys?”

Despite nearly twenty years of what one might call research on this topic, I still struggle in my efforts to reconcile the differences between American and European versions of the nudist/naturist experience.  To be fair, were I to visit any of the French naturist centers this early in the season, it would likely be too cold to go au naturel, and they would also feel sparsely populated, I suspect, as it simply isn’t the season yet.  But there are palpable differences that transcend those attributes, much of which seem to be centered around ‘nudist colony humor.’  There is something in the American ethos that can’t manage to handle a conversation about “naked” without making some self-deprecating joke, even if you are the one who is advocating for the right and the privilege to be naked.  I don’t know that this is uniquely American, but with only a couple exceptions, it has been the common denominator in nearly every clothing-optional place we have visited in the United States.  I can’t imagine finding a seaside bar at a French or Croatian naturist resort with a name like “Bottom’s Up,” or making sure that everything on the lunch menu has some anatomical double entendre.  In this way American nudists have become the “butt” of their own jokes.

Which I think will likely segue nicely into my next intended post on this blog, lifted directly from that Hollywood classic, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the famous line, “Everyone I know has a big butt!”  French, German, Asian, or American – this much we know is true.