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How I Spent My February 23rd
A few weekends ago my girlfriend Reba and I were invited to participate in the filming of a music video for a band called America's Sweetheart. I used to be their drummer, and as such I was the only male member of the group. Nowadays they're all-girl, which I think works in their favor. At any rate, they were shooting some scenes at a bar called Stinger in Williamsburg. The plan was to shoot during the afternoon, and then later on, after the band and crew returned the equipment, we would reconvene at the bar for a night of standard-issue drinking and carrying on.

Before moving to NYC back in late '95, I lived in the coastal town of Wilmington, NC. If you've ever seen the movie Blue Velvet, then you've seen Wilmington. It's a small city with not much to do except go to the beach or get a job in the movie business. At any rate, my brief year-and-a-half in Wilmington proved to be a period filled with a great deal of public nudity. I'm not sure how it started, but somehow my friends and I decided that being naked outdoors was an ideal state. This usually meant driving to the beach for late-night skinny-dipping, or even just running around on the shore al fresco. Trust me, you haven't lived until you've slid down a sand dune on your bare ass. Sand is a wonderful exfoliant. Afterwards we'd rinse off all that sand and salt water with a trip to the pool at a friend's apartment complex. Again, naked. One time we even made the trip home from the beach in the buff. Picture a van full of people in their birthday suits, cruising down the main drag in a van at 3AM. It was fun to imagine what would happen if we were pulled by the cops. "Could you please step out of the vehicle." (cue striptease music as we all emerge) But my point here is that I became addicted to all this outdoor frivolity. It was a cheap thrill, it felt primal, and it got your blood flowing, AND it was a great way to see your friends naked!

Then I moved to New York City and it all came to a screeching halt. Up here, getting out of the city is difficult without a car, and most forms of recreation occur indoors and require money. You either go to bars, rock shows, movies, museums, tops of buildings, plays, or other live presentations of one sort or another. The only real outdoor activity in NYC is the walk you take to an indoor destination. In my early months here I constantly bitched and moaned about how it was impossible to be truly outdoors…and naked at that. This was a particular and ridiculous complaint, and understandably, most folks got tired of hearing it. Some even suggested I move back to Wilmington if I missed it that much. For a while I seriously considered that option, but eventually I just gave in and accepted this fully attired lifestyle.

I had long since forgotten about the days of the great nudity buzz, then along comes the night at the Stinger bar. The place is very dark inside, and the primary color is red. Lots and lots of red, everywhere. Behind the bar is a sign that lists drink prices. At the bottom there is a handy conversion chart that reads…

Get naked = free shot
Get fucked = free bottle

We all find it amusing, but aside from wondering how often it really happens, we don't think much about it. Then, around 8 or so, a fellow climbs onto the bar, stands up, and proudly drops his pants, revealing his manhood for all to see. The place momentarily swells with whoops and hollers, and in the time it takes to process this, his pants are back up and he's sitting comfortably at the bar, nursing a good-sized (and free) shot of liquor. We turn to each other and quickly concur that we must also do this! The bartender, noticing our interest, informs us of the "official rules"…

1) Men have to show their genitals to qualify.
2) Women only need to show their breasts. Your first time can be done while sitting at the bar. After that, subsequent flashes MUST be done while standing up on the bar.

This is it. I'll finally get my chance to be naked in New York City! Strictly out of curiosity (yeah, right) we ask about the whole "get fucked" thing. For the record, you don't have to carry out the sex act entire. You merely need to penetrate someone just once, in and out, AND in view of the bar patrons, in order to win a whole bottle of liquor (your choice). One legal caveat to this is that you cannot leave the bar with any booze, so if you're gonna drink it, you've gotta do so before you leave. So for once you have to screw and then get drunk, instead of the other way around.

So there I am, building up the nerve to get on the bar and drop trou, when both my girlfriend and another woman we had just met suddenly hop up and give the bar its first flash of boobage for the night. The crowd goes wild. Then another guy jumps up to give us a further blast of manhood. This is truly excellent, even though everyone is beating me to the draw! One of the America's Sweetheart gals (we'll call her "Val") and I conspire to get up there together and put on a little show. Damn it, if I'm going to get naked, I'm going to do it right! None of this clinical "stand up-drop your pants-pull them back up-sit down" crap for me. No sir, I'm going for the gusto! I'll tweak my nipples, rub my butt, writhe around, all the good stuff. I'll make that crowd WAIT for it! Next thing I know, Val's boyfriend (we'll call him "Bob") jumps up and goes for his big reveal. This is great because Bob is the LAST person I'd expect to do this, but he does! The lure of free booze is a powerful thing.

So Val and I wait for just the right moment, which is another way of saying we hold off until a good song comes on. In our case it takes "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar to stir us into action. It suddenly hits me that, unlike Wilmington, this will be the first time I ever get naked in front of complete strangers. To suppress this thought, I imagine I am doing a character study for a role in an upcoming film about a male stripper. It's quite a feeling to have the undivided attention of an entire bar, especially when your nudity is impending. Even though Val is right next to me the whole time, I never notice what she's doing. I'm too busy shaking my butt, making stereotypical stripper faces, gyrating my hips, and making circles with my fingers around the perimeter of my man boobs. However, I soon realize that my attempts at good showmanship are being met with impatience. The crowd wants trou and they want it now! So I take their cue and go for the glory. The next five seconds feel like ten minutes. Down go my pants, and there I am, exposed for all to see. Moreover, I continue to gyrate my hips, which causes a bit of flapping action where it matters most. Satisfied that I have successfully performed my duties, I pull my pants back up, thank the crowd and dismount the bar with Val. We congratulate each other on a job well done, although I am somewhat shocked to learn that she only flashed one boob. What a cheat! Oh well, what's done is done, and besides, it's time for our free drink!

The bartender approaches our end of the bar.
"Did you see that?", I ask.
"See what?"
See what?…See WHAT?! I am incredulous. Apparently she was restocking the bar at the time, and we were too preoccupied to notice her absence. And worse, this meant no free whiskey! I feel like an Olympic diver who gave the best jump of his life only to discover that the judges weren't looking. I become a sore loser, and my constant bickering about this injustice finally reaches the ears of several eyewitnesses, who help me convince the bartender that Val and I are deserving of our prize. It's a hell of a lot of work for one lousy drink, but dammit, we earned it.

Soon afterward we all started getting sleepy. My body clock told me it was 1 or 2 in the morning, and that it was time to head home. When Reba and I got to the subway, we realized it was only 10:30! Wow, this business of getting older is a persnickety thing. Or maybe it's just that we started drinking at 7. Whatever the case, I went home feeling sloppy, tired and very content. I had finally achieved that elusive thing called "public nudity" here in New York City.

I went home and slept in my pajamas.

It was a grand experience, years in the making, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. So I implore you, go down to your neighborhood watering hole and see if you can't get them to implement their own nudity-based reward system. Remind them that capitalism + exhibitionism + voyeurism + free booze = the American way at it's finest. Think of it as a topless joint run by NPR, with all programming made possible by a "grant" from YOU! Sooner or later they'll see your way of thinking.

And I'll be there, ready to make my seed pledge.

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