In New York, we visited the neighborhood that DF grew up in and walked to her old school. She with her brother described every house and who lived in them a long time ago. Memories flood in sometimes. I’m about to have a similar experience, filled with reflections on influences, time, life and values.
In the late 1960’s I lived in Battle Creek, Michigan for a time. I still have friends, the guys in the ‘ol gang that one calls brother. I got the opportunity to get back, to have a visit and look at some of my roots.
Ohio slips by more quickly than expected.
We soon find ourselves stopped at a roadside picnic stop in Southern Michigan. We’re searching for “suitable attire” for our visit. We have to wait out a few car’s passing and use some open doors, as we, ick, dress.
As I arrange for my visit, I remember getting into Mark Korn’s old jalopy of a black Oldsmobile boat as a teenage group and going for “a cruise” out I-10, to a rest stop. Just enough time to have a cigarette, or two, before heading home for the night. I’m surprised when I realize that this was that place! I’m in the vicinity of Battle Creek, closer than I know, just a seven minute smoke away.
During this journey, each region along the way has had its styles, from the influence of history, passing fashion, regional climate, or ethnic influences. Street signs bear languages other than English, red brick replaces stucco. It is all very subtle, but very clear, if you’re looking. Michigan is Michigan, by the foliage, the types of crops, the soil and lay of the land.
We find my ‘ol pal Mike in a new home overlooking a lake. He and his new wife greet us with the same curiosity that comes when time changes a body. I haven’t been back here in 35 years. We have seen a few pictures, but I remember the guy that I used to know, with different hair, body and quicker moves.
Soon, we are going over old times. Literally, a lifetime ago, we were teenagers, growing into young men. We had high school, girls and all that were those days. The flood of memories continues, as we get out driving in the car and begin to pass pieces of familiarity. Little hasn’t changed, but between our personalities there is recognition. There is often conversation about what used to be here, what a place used to be before it was changed, or updated. In my mind, I see what is now, mixed with an overlay of what was.
My jaw drops and I remember what happened at these places, what we used to do, our attitudes. There was quite a bit of what I’ll call pranks. We had a benign disguise which hid secrets, a hidden underworld that our parents never were made aware of. Most of my memories were good times. We didn’t get caught. Not the cigarettes, the drinking, or the donuts done with Mike’s parent’s sky blue Buick with the white convertible top. We confess our devious sins and fond memories with a twinkle in our eyes, to the two women listening in the backseat (Mike drives and I have much to see from up front… for now).
We evolved from high school into the hippie-ish afterlife, together. We grew up and learned many lessons together. Over smokes, hidden in the woods, or campfires, we discussed our perceptions and experiences of the world together, which were formative for our lifetimes.
So, this is a website about body and its freedom. What formative experiences were there in those years that brought me to this website and my lifestyle?
This naked thing came early, sort of innate. I’ll tell you a couple of stories.
We went downtown to visit Bubba, a ghetto drunk that would buy us booze for a bottle of cheap wine. Then we would stash it in the woods for the weekend.
One weekend we were camping out at a relative’s tree farm inebriated. I dunno how, but I ended up riding naked through the country on the back bumper of a white VW bug. A farmer gave me a funny look…go figure.
Later, we built a huge fire, hot enough to melt beer bottles into ashtrays. We began jumping over, or through it. My clothing disappeared, increasing the daredevil risks. The clothing stayed gone through the evening’s activities, like toad jabbing, wandering fields looking for cows to tip and riotous howling. The next day, we found that I had been rolling naked in poison ivy. Everybody was miserable with the itch that next day…but me, the naked one. No allergy.
I was enmeshed in adolescent impulses and mysteries and sexual discoveries. I was being educated by Playboy magazine in the beginnings of the sexual revolution. The excitement uncovered was where the tanlines were. There the secrets were revealed.
Then, something tangible happened. Andy’s folks were out of town one hot humid summer afternoon. My girlfriend invited me to join her in a shower and went upstairs ahead of me.
I sat grasping my situation. I got my courage together and as I stood on the other side of the shower curtain undressing, I thought how this will be sexy, naked, at last!
Thing was, when I found myself in the throes of it, it wasn’t such a sexual tryst at all. It was intimate, but it was wholesome. It was friendly, not nasty fun. It was honest, two people washing each other. The nudity was something natural. I wrote it all down in my diary that night. Something changed very much in a wet few minutes.
The changing attitude about nudity coincided with my introduction to Thoreau and Emerson. I had felt truth and I was going to live it.
By the time Life Magazine put out the “Woodstock” issue, I had grown and realized what had become a generational difference. There amongst reports of skinny dipping, was a picture of a girl running naked.
My grandpa saw it and sounding giddy like a nasty little kid, looked at the forbidden image, “Look, she’s nekkid.”
I just let it pass, no way to convert that. But I knew that body freedom was now cool. Not just me, the whole Woodstock Nation had stamped its wholesome approval on skinnydipping.
What drove these actions back then? Where did the idea to run amuck naked come from. How was it that I liked it so much? I don’t know, but it was formative and okay.
Each to his own way, I’ll go mine
Best of luck with what you find
But for your own sake remember the times
We used to know.
We didn’t get naked in Battle Creek. Something other than clothing got stripped off. I found a different perspective of me.
Coming up very soon, just down the street…our visit to Turtle Lake Resort.
I am at the forum FreeRangeNaturism.com, if you would like to discuss anything naturist.
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