Something happened for me a few hours ago 10pm to be exact. Something I never would have dreamed possible just a few years ago. I stripped butt naked at the bandstand on the Boston Common, then proceeded to ride my bike so suitably attired for the next two hours around Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. Finishing on the Cambridge Common at a photo op. WNBR has arrived in Boston and around 150 like minded souls have made it ours! For the many hundreds of folks who celebrated with us from the curbside, it was party atmosphere. A small step perhaps, but a milestone for Boston. No body shame in that! Thank you Sara (our intrepid and believing organizer with roots in the Portland Oregon ride).
Despite some concerns voiced earlier about these events by friends of mine on another forum, there was no trouble last night of any kind other then the challenge of keeping the large group together across several city blocks between traffic lights. And please everyone note, that there are the reasons cited by the official WNBR website having to do with building a safe urban bicycle infrastructure, green living, and loosing body shame. Then there is the real reason why these events draw hundreds of riders locally across the globe and thousands to a number of high profile cities. They are pure unadulterated FUN! If we nudists are wishing to promote our cause for mutual respect amongst all members of our greater communities, making nudity look like fun to the masses is a no brainer strategy. When you have folks dropping everything including their clothes as they ride by us on their bikes, and turning around to join us, as happened several times last night in Boston, then you are on a track for success. We had folks calling out to us from passing taxis, and from the curb, “I wish I could have a bike right NOW and join you all.” Some my friends who seldom venture forth from their cages, yet claim to be “real” nudists have discounted WNBR as not having anything to do with nudity. How could this not be an event for nudists everywhere, I ask you?
This is actually the fourth annual Boston ride, however this was the first year for it to have some advance notice via FB and other media, so the turn out was much larger than last year and very gratifying. It was also my first year for this ride because of it’s stealth nature in past years, such that I never found out about it in time. By necessity, the ride in Boston is still very much along the lines of a “fleshmob”. ie announce a time and place in FB etc, and they will come. However we had no difficulty with the police at the meetup or anywhere along the way. In fact some officers who happened along our route further on, chirped their sirens and gave us the healthy fistpump as we rode by. When I arrived with my bike, I was assured that this was going to work, because there were already appoximately 50 completely nude persons standing around, along with another hundred or so dressed bare as they dared, which was pretty bare for most. A crowd of onlookers had gathered as well along with a few media types. So as soon as I was comfortably close, I removed my only piece of clothing that I had arrived in, my running kilt, and stashed it in my rack bag for the duration. Nudity is illegal in Boston. Did I care? Apparently not.
We rode for at least two hours on a zigzag route through the commercial and social areas of the Back Bay Boston, <span style=”font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;”>across the bridge to Cambridge, through the MIT campus, then through neighboring parts of Somerville, and finally back into Cambridge. We completed our ride with a thorough tour of all of the important streets around Harvard Square and then on to the Cambridge Common. As with my past WNBRs in Vermont, the crowds here in Boston were friendly, enthusiastic, and completly supportive. These rides are fun like little else that I have tried in the way of urban public nudity because the crowds of onlookers are so thoroughly engaged and the profile of participants cuts through and beyond the usual list of naturist suspects that I encounter in my other nude travels. All agree that being naked is one of the most fun things that they have experienced in their lives and will no doubt return for more. We also picked up spontaneous participants, bike riders that we passed who fell in and removed their clothes with us along the way. A professional acquantence of mine whom I have not seen for a while was among that number.
Saturday night is a very good time for a naked bike ride in Boston because at this time of the year, everyone is on the streets being social, walking the sidewalks, patronizing the outdoor cafes,<span style=”font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;”> and just plain partying. Riding the streets at night here is not too much of a problem because of the good lighting everywhere. It was cool chatting with folks in passing cars and waving to people through the windows of buses crowding our space, as we all waited for traffic signal changes at the intersections.
I believe that WNBR is here to stay in Boston, and may with the passage of enough time, even become “officially” if quietlly acknowledged by institutions like the Boston tourism industry and local politicians alike, as nudity in annual public festivals in places like San Francisco has been embraced by countless numbers, if not officially supported by all of the politicians there. In Boston, things like WNBR might become a calling card for the tourism industry here because of the city’s notariety for a lingering victorian public attitude. Disconnects between image and reality like this, and we have a history of it here, is what excites and draws curiousity from visitors. Sure, I have criticized my town for its repression of nudity and for many other reasons, but I remain proud of it. If our experience last night is any indication, the average Bostonian certainly has cast off the prudish tradition, even if they are not ready yet to dance naked in the streets and even if the official mouth pieces all say otherwise.