As the date draws nearer to my 23rd birthday, I made a decision to once and for all stop taking so life so fucking seriously and start enjoying myself. No more close mindedness and negativity, I said. No more shyness, social anxiety or getting drunk and crying type nonsense.
You see, I’ve been spending way too much time up in my head, like over 3 years now. That’s a lot of time for someone my age. About 3 weeks ago I panicked and had a mini mid-life crisis type breakdown. I’ve always had problems with anxiety and panic attacks and this manifested itself as a horrid realization that consciousness is a privilege, not a right. I got lucky being born, and it wouldn’t last forever. Scary.
I’ve since started to slowly recover, but I knew things had to change. I’ve developed more bad habits over the years than I can count. I judge people endlessly without really taking a closer look at myself. Now I scrutinize myself too much, and I’m seeing that striking a delicate balance is the key.
Here in the big city, during the summer there are more events than you can shake a stick at: outdoor, biking, protests, parties, raves, what have you. In this case, I set my sights on the Chicago chapter of the World Naked Bike Ride. Like critical mass on crack, this excursion features more than 1700 scantily clad/ full on nude bikers corking major corridors on the northeast side of the city in protest of fossil fuel dependence, fracking and andything internal combustion related. PBR, tattoos, body paint and prince alberts abound, as the bohos gather to express themselves like it’s 1969. I had to be there, so I finally went.
I’d been wanting to go since I heard about it some 3 years ago, but never quite had the courage. There were a lot of what ifs: what if my photo ends up online and people see my schlong? what if i fall and get my manhood crushed by a pileup of 20 greasy naked dudes with some heavy old school schwinns? Needless to say, the dates kept coming and I kept bailing. But, not this time… I sucked up my nagging doubts and added the date to my calender.
Now I was excited! This was a big change for me, a chance to let go of some of my body dysmorphia: I’ve got a bit of a gut, a super hairy chest and, well, let’s just say I’m not exactly John Holmes. Nuff said. But I psyched myself up by reminding myself that most of this is in my head, this’ll be a true great equalizer, no more body shame. If someone were to make an insentive crack, he’d be booted out of there quicker than Bruce Jenner can sprint. But still, I couldn’t quite psyche myself into riding full on stark, so I opted for some pink boxer/briefs and an unbuttoned plaid shirt. I felt a bit stupid that I didn’t go full hog, but at least this seemed like enough of a commitment. I mean, you could see my thighs all the way up to where my nads were and when I was walking around, there’s enough of a noticeable bulge that I’m not hiding much. And the only reason I wore the plaid shirt was that it was a bit chilly over by the lake, and like I said, it was unbuttoned, so my furry stomach and slight man titties were fully visible. Done and done.
So I leave work at 630 and get there by 7. It’s a big building in an industrial part of the west loop, with a trainyard and a bunch of factories nearby. We check in and one of the security folks gives us the spiel. It felt a bit like the scenes in ‘OZ’ where the new prisoners are getting settled in and the CO explains to them the harsh rules of the big house: “There will be no drug use of any kind, no fighting, NO fucking.” Except in a pleasant “let’s have fun but be safe kinda way.”
"Welcome everyone to the tenth anniversary of the WNBR. We’re going to get moving shortly, but first we have some things to explain about tonight’s ride." They introduced us to their lawyers (?). I geuss they’re there for obvious reasons, like if some curmudgeon pig wanted to go apeshit and arrest someone, there’d be no need to call in a sheisty public defender. Good call. "Those who want to be fully naked, especially women, please stay on the inside of the group. We encourage clothed people and men who are feeling helpful to stay on the outside and protect against the grabby creepazoids and the full on rapists. Stay with the group, otherwise the cops will seize the oppurtunity to bust you for public indecency. Please save photography for inside the courtyard."
He further went on to explain how there were a lot of assaults last year and that we had to be extra careful about allowing drunken bystanders to get too close. He said to save the drinking for the afterparty and to have fun. At this point I was really excited as he lead us down the pathway past the old brick loft building owned by the guy helping to support us to a big vacant lot in the back. This turned about to be the mecca for the brave, full on nudists. This is where I got my fill. Ive never seen so many penises before all gathered in one place. Young and old, HUGE or practically non existent, these guys had no semblance of any sort of shame whatsoever. How I envied these people. But I knew this an important milestone in my life: I’d always wanted to see what it would be like to visit a nudist colony, and for now, this was the closest I was going to get.
I’ll admit I was a bit afraid I might get visibly aroused at some point and be labeled a full blown pariah, only to be laughed out, with my tail between my legs. THANKFULLY, the event proved to be comfortably and completely non sexual. Instead of viewing naked people as hedonists or sex crazed perverts, I really began to appreciate it as a great and wonderful equalizer: corny as it sounds, we were all born naked, and despite society’s strict moral codes about clothing, this is who we are. It felt suddenly very liberating. Though I was a bit nervous, I finally took off my pants, unbuttoned my shirt and started trying to mingle.
This proved to be a bit tough and dissapointing, as coming to events like these where most people are there with a group of close friends have not much desire to let a loner come into their clique and try to start a conversation and maybe make some new friends. So I wandered around taking it all in, still with a childlike wonder. I bummed a cigarette off a nice couple and found a guy who sold me a tall boy for 3 bucks. I felt I had to calm my nerves and it sorta worked. My tolerance is a bit high.
So the placed filled and I made my way towards the exit, so I could beat the rush. The dj dancing up on the upper balcony finally annoucned that we were ready to go to a big round of cheers and whooping. So we set off through the now gridlocked path back out to the street. After about ten minutes waiting, and watching the also buck nekkid marching band play us off, we got moving. There was a lot of stop and go for about 20 minutes as we were waiting for everyone to catch up and be properly lined up to keep the convoy running smooth. We finally got up the hill and got rolling. There were already some stunned looky loos snapping shots of us outside their bourgeous condos, grinning like they’d never seen dick and pussy before. There were actually only a few fully naked women. There were a few topless ones, but most of them had on panties and pasties on their nips. There were all sorts of clever body painted slogans like “less gas, more ass” (which became the official rallying cry throughout the night), “baby’s first WNBR” (I assume the gal with this one had a bun in the oven) and my favorite “burn fat, not fuel”. Very expressive!
At long last we made it up the hill. A guard kept flashing a light in front of some asian guy with a nice camera trying to snap some candit shots. It was quite a standoff, the guy didn’t take the hint and kept trying to dodge the guards’s blinding efforts. We eventually all started rallying and calling the guy a perv and to fuck off. As we kept going, the policy about photos seemed to become more liberal and noone seemed to care about all the snapshots. In fact, we liked the attention and took every opportunity to give a fist pump or high five to anyone on the streets who were receptive.
People gasped, laughed and smiled, looking on in disbelief. No one really seemed put off, which was great. The freeing feeling of it all seemed to be contagious and everyone was more or less cheering us on. Cars were honking and everyone was cheering us on. What a rush! The feeling was amazing. Unfortunately, after that beer, I now had to pee really bad, and I tried my best to just not focus on it.
We crossed the first bridge and some shitkicker bro yelled repeatedly to some poor women to “shave her bush” over and over. He then yelled at me (I think) “shave your chest!” A couple people fired back “I’m a douche, I’m a douche over and over until the he stopped. Gotta love solidarity.
Since we were moving at a pretty medium pace, I had more than enough to take in all the different riders and their multitude of wacky getups. From full on birthday suits (still very impressed at the brave women who chose to do it): lots of pasties, girls in thongs/guys in thongs, full body paint, penis paint, loin cloths, masks (I guess they’re afraid of being recognized?) and BDSM leather suits. More fashion than you could imagine. Mind blowing.
When we hit michigan avenue (our equivalent to maybe 42nd street in new york), we really got our fill of gawking tourists and all kinds of reactions. They were all fairly positive though, things like “naked, yeah!” or some tourist saying “wow, we picked the right time to visit”. This area being such a tourist attraction, lots of riders were yelling “welcome to chicago!” at everyone. This really was a great time to visit. As Bill Murray would say, “well you don’t see THAT everyday”.
We pressed on past lincoln park, where a bunch of riders and myself dashed off into the bushes for a quick piss. One of the best I’ve ever had actually, it seemed to go on FOREVER. Feeling fully relieved, I hopped back and merged back in with the pack.
After stopping at OZ park for a couple beers and some smokes, I chatted up a couple roommates who there with this cute little shorter girl. We talked music and acting and then they had me take their picture right before we set of again. Then we hit boystown (our version of West Hollywood) and got a lot of support from our gay admirers, holding up signs and cheering louder than ever. We turned onto roscoe, a smaller side street and got a bit gridlocked, but kept on moving.
Things got a bit awkward when a few guys started harassing a chubbier black guy who was riding fully clothed. “Get naked man, c’mon” everyone chanted. The guy wasn’t into it, clearly, and I felt for him a bit. The defacto leader, an exhibitionist gay guy who kept waving his dick at traffic while riding in the back of a pedicab and the driver began verbally attacking the guy for allegedly making some crack about a lesbian. I didn’t hear it, but if he did say it, I have a feeling they took it too personally. Not to be non pc, but the hardcore liberals can really be harder fascists than the conservatives at times. There’s the strength in numbers and mob mentality vibe too, where as soon as the one guy called him a douche, everyone joined in, not even knowing what he said. So would they all have kicked his ass just based on someone making this claim? It definitely put me off a little, regardless of the fact that the clothed guy did seem a bit like a negative dick. Oh well, shit happens.
Later on, I got in a bit of a thing with the guy on the cab when I smacked the bare ass of a drunk hawks fan who was standing close to the sidelines. He was obviously asking for it, but the guy explained that this might set a precedent where it makes the bystanders think it’s ok to touch us. Everyone is still spooked from the alleged assaults last year I guess. I apoligized, he said it was fine, and we went on our merry way.
We hit a few more stops/catching up points for everyone in the back. Everytime I took a look behind me I realized how massive the crowd was, and they had to stop to let everyone catch up and stay consistent with our speed. Whenever it got too queit, someone would take up the “less gas, more ass” chant, and we’d all join in for a bit. I think their goal was to wake up as many neighbors as possible, but this being saturday night and a nightlife heavy neighborhood, noone was really home. Most of our audience were the bar rats stepping outside to see the action.
We were all getting a bit tired at this point, but we pressed on, past a taco stand where a cute bystander flashed us her pussy. I couldn’t get a clear view, but we were surrounded by naked girls anyway. Somehow, though, seeing someone not involved in the ride was better, a new experience.
We stopped at a BP station where I guess there was supposed to be some kind of protest some us were doing. It didn’t really happen, as everyone just milled around and some people actually went into the station to buy snacks. Oh well. Fuck BP anyway. After getting everyone together, we pedaled on to the final stretch of our journey.
The last neighborhood before hitting home base was Ukrainian Village, where I noticed a lot of people finally started leaving us. This seemed fitting, as these were the very tatted up bohos that tend to occupy the old apartments and dive bars of the village. We got a huge amount of attention passing through six corners in Wicker Park. The place is always packed, and tonight was no exception. It might as well have been Lollapalooza. A guard had to tell some naked guy to get back in with the bikers, as he was practically running into the crowd of people. Funny shit.
We got back to the yard about midnight,thoroughly exhausted. We’d lost at least half of the people by now, but there was still the party and I decided to stay. Some people got a huge bonfire going, throwing any and all wood on it until it was as hot as hell itself. Not logs, mind you. Industrial shit, packing pallets, etc.
I wandered around, danced a bit and tried to mingle, but most everyone was there in a group with their friends and it wasn’t easy to just worm my way in. I ran into an old friend of mine and we talked while he busied himself with fueling the fire. It was also at this point that I said fuck it, and finally removed my boxers. I was fully naked.
It felt freeing, but odd. I was still embarassed, even though I was surrounded by nudes. After about 5 minutes, it just got too weird though, and I got dressed again. That, and my dick was pretty much roasting. Hell, at least I did it! Before I came, I had no intention of taking off anything more than my shorts.
I stayed around for a bit longer, but by one, I was getting bored and decided to split. I was pretty drunk by now, and the ride home was quick. I left with a strange lonely feeling, and started to get really sad. I had just spent all this time surrounded by free spirited people, and yet I felt no connection. I knew I could’ve tried a bit harder to make some friends, but I just didn’t I remember screaming the lyrics to Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita”, cuz I didn’t give a fuck. A lot of this was the booze.
The event taught me a lot. At things like these, it really is better to bring a friend. It seems to be easier to approach couples and groups when you aren’t alone and you’ll have someone to talk to even if you are being ignored. I’m glad I did it, and I keep reminding myself that there’s plenty more summer. Next time I’ll bring a buddy. Less gas, more ass!