I've been to Brattleboro, Vermont exactly once — passed through there during World Tour '05, if I remember correctly — and I don't remember anything quite like this:

Groups of young people have been congregating in a downtown parking lot and enjoying the warm summer weather without clothing, and that bothers some local residents.

"A parking lot is not a strip club. It's a parking lot," resident Theresa Toney told the Select Board last week. She said she has seen repeated instances of naked people hanging out downtown.

Vermont has no law against nudity, though some cities and towns ban it by ordinance.

So Brattleboro is now considering an ordinance, which drew a protest. Nude, of course.

"There's no real valid way to justify the banning of nakedness," said one of the men, Adhi Palar, between licks on his clarinet. "Nakedness does not violate any human rights whatsoever."

The guy who has to dump Purell by the bucketload on the benches along the sidewalk might well disagree with that premise.

I have no doubt that these folks are basically harmless; as Police Chief John Martin notes, "It's a problem to the extent that it bothers people, but we've always had it here." And I'm reasonably certain that nothing legally classifiable as lewd is going on: gatherings of naked people tend to be more turn-off than turn-on. (Perhaps I should consult a nice Jewish psychic to be sure.)

And I realize that I'm risking charges of hypocrisy here, given my own penchant for doing without clothing on occasion, but I don't think they'll stick. Obviously I don't have a problem with letting it all hang out, as it were, but I don't inflict it on the general public; it would never occur to me to do so in the middle of downtown at high noon, and if it did, I can't think of any good reason why passersby should be required to put up with it. You can argue that people don't have a right not to be offended, and I'd agree with you; but I continue to believe that if you are going to offend people, you'd better have a more substantial reason than "But it's hot out here!"

Or, to put it another way: World Naked Gardening Day is the 9th of September. I intend to participate, despite a plethora of possible problems. But I'm certainly not going to be doing it on the Crystal Bridge — and next time I go through Brattleboro, I expect to be dressed, unless I am persuaded otherwise by actual Vermonters. I'm not holding my breath, or my belt.

The Vent

#498
  23 August 2006

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