why norwegians don't do well
   at nude beaches

    July is one of two months in Portland where you can expect to see the sun on a pretty regular basis. Cathy and I were hanging out at the top half of a duplex we were renting from her father. (No, that’s an entirely different story we won’t get into here.) Out of the blue, Cathy says, “Hey, do you want to go to Marshall Beach?”.  

At this point you need to know that Marshall Beach is a nude beach on the east shore of Sauvie Island. The island is huge -- in fact it’s the largest freshwater island in the U.S. -- and it lies just 15 minutes north of Portland on the Columbia River. I’d never been to the nude beach, but it was a frequent reference of high school party-crowd stories.  

Well, I was a bit surprised to hear this suggestion from her. While Cath was a frequent sun worshipper during this period, she hadn’t shown any signs of exhibitionism. I’ve always been comfortable naked inside my house, but umm, there was a moment until my curiosity and yes, dammit, titillation overcame my fears. (At this point, John Candy fans may mentally run the Stripes audio clip - “I ’ L L   D O   I T ! ! !”)  

About an hour later we pull off the narrow two lane road onto the dirt shoulder behind several other parked cars. There’s no sign, which compounds the anxiety I’m feeling at this moment. A small trail leads through some cottonwoods and brush and then a short ridge of sand dunes. We top the crest and get our first view of an actual nude beach.  

It’s a scorchingly hot day and the glare from the white sand is harsh. Fifteen people or so are dotted along a two hundred meter stretch. Middle-age paunches abound. A fair mix of gender with a slight lean to the XY. Most are sunning with a few wading in the river and a few strolling the beach. But all naked -- except us.  

We found a spot on the beach near the water, but not too far from the path. We cheated. Setting our towels down, we sat down on them and stripped. It’s not easy to overcome the instinct to cover up in public. Try it. I’m keeping a low profile as I apply the sun screen and I’m going a little easy with it. Hey, I’m already at maximum self-consciousness without stroking my naked body repeatedly with lotion.  

It was damn hot, but I was naked and feeling pretty good! As my attention was all tied up in this experience, I somehow failed to grok the whiteness that is me. I’m lots of Norwegian with healthy doses of Danish and some German mixed in. And I don’t care who you are - you are probably a touch paler down there - you know.  

There were two intrusions on this utopian community I am sad to say. The first was a prototypical middle aged hairy, paunchy guy accompanied by this tall, busty blonde woman. Now it’s no crime to visit a nude beach if you’ve got a bod that turns heads (although you’d wonder if it weren’t in the by-laws somewhere judging from the crowd). But it’s certainly a no-no to go half-and-half as this woman was - no top, but a skimpy little bikini bottom. The effect is ultra-erotic and stood out like a shark fin in the surf. It became immediately clear that the aims of a nude beach/space/ranch/whatever have a lot more to do with how being naked makes *you* feel, not how it makes you feel to see other people naked. Because I am next to my woman (naked I might add) and I am mustering major self-control to not lock stare at this cheating temptress.  

The second was another hairy thin guy with olive skin that was openly masturbating near a bush about 30 meters from where we were. Way not cool.  

In spite of these minor blemishes, we left after a couple of hours feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We had flouted society’s taboo against public nudity and lived to tell the tale. Yes, sir, we were breaking free of our cultural strait jackets. Who knew which moral artifact would fall next? Well, the jubilant feeling lasted for about 12 hours. I awoke to find that movement of any kind triggered pain of a unique flavor. I was sunburnt, yes, but in places that had never seen the light of day. Trust me, there’s just no escaping this affliction. The morning shower compounded the agony and my lifelong companion, underwear, was not my friend that day nor for the remainder of the week.

Handfuls of SPF 45 would not have saved my ass that day. I still look back fondly in spite of my stupidity and the unanticipated radiation treatment. I had learned one more hazard of not keeping ones pants on, which somewhat softened the blow of the stupid stick.


more stupider: how i impaled myself on a flute.