The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

FINE DINING, SUCH AS IT IS: You shouldn’t believe everything you read in print, of course, or you’ll wind up believing in all sorts of odd things like psychoanalysis or Marxism or the efficacy of the frankfurter diet, guaranteed to help you lose weight fast or your money back, no questions asked, but the recent reports that more and more restaurants are trying to attract the nudist trade seem too well documented for anyone to doubt that this very niche market is expanding at a now almost phenomenal rate. I do not know what is spurring this expansion; bouts of mass silliness on this scale usually occur during election years, but the American populace has just endured another presidential election year and the majority of people involved managed to keep their clothes on. I am also at a loss to explain how such a phenomenon began without someone noticing; as a rule nude diners, both customers and the establishments that cater to those customers, are easily recognizable by the average citizen and cause all manner of public comment.

Nude dining would seem, however, to defeat the whole purpose of dining out, which is why the concept is, very frankly, eluding me. Exposing one’s shortcomings while simultaneously trying to impress your date appears, at first glance, and let’s face reality, most such relationships will not survive that first glance, to be mutually exclusive goals. It is also more than a little awkward as well, as there’s no place for you to put the fifty you’ll be slipping the maitre d’ for a good table, and now place for him to put the fifty that is but isn’t influencing his choice of a seat for you and your date. I’ve checked and there are no good answers to these questions, or to the question of whether or not placing a napkin over one’s lap in a such an establishment constitutes a breach of etiquette, or if hot soup is always on the menu or is vichyssoise the soup du jour in perpetuity, given that restaurants catering to the nude trencherman, no less than any other small businessman, do not want to risk a lawsuit if a customer spills something hot on themselves. I do not know this for certain, but I assume that nudist restaurants offer free showers for the clumsy customer and that kosher nudist restaurants are not any great improvement over their more orthodox clothed counterparts, although the whole idea of a restaurant full of unclothed Hasidim chomping on knishes and kreplach while discussing the finer points of the Talmud is almost too bizarre to grasp outside the special circumstance of a drug induced stupor, although I wonder if the Hasidim were to patronize such an establishment would they take off their hats?

Strange juxtapositions like kosher nudist restaurants were standard fare in the 1960’s, as evidenced by the near simultaneous passing of two of its icons this past week. Sandra Dee was the poster teen of the early 1960’s, a time of hope and optimism, of the New Frontier. She was the pert and plucky epitome of All-American girlhood, a sun kissed bikini clad California virginal Venus arising from the Pacific surf off Malibu to hang ten with Moondoggie and the boys, even if she was, in fact, the daughter of a Ukrainian family from Bayonne, New Jersey. And Hunter S. Thompson…well, whatever else you can say about him, no one ever accused Hunter S. Thompson of being pert and plucky; the man kept an arsenal of high-powered firearms in his home. His career took off just as Sandra Dee’s career began to wind down, starting with a truly righteous stomping by the Hell’s Angels, who didn’t like the way they came off in Thompson’s book about them, and then he documented the fear and loathing of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, following the long, agonizing trail through a landscape of Las Vegas lounge lizards, disappearing Chicano lawyers, Richard M. Nixon, and acute paranoia, with other nice looking if you don't look at them in a strong light mental disturbances along for the ride and maybe score some cheap dope.

Still, you can’t help but wonder what the two of them would have ordered in a nudist restaurant. Ms. Dee’s public persona would, no doubt, have found the whole thing too embarrassing for words; Mr. Thompson might have taken a cold, hard look at the reality of nude dining in America and concluded that the nation was descending into a maelstrom of bottomless vice and utter depravity, and decided to get there before the tourists arrived and ruined it, and immediately consumed as many hallucinogenics as humanly possible in as short a period of time as possible, no doubt convinced that this whole unmedicated reality gig was an experience better read about than lived through. Placed in such a life-threatening predicament, he might have even attacked the naked Hasidim with a frozen spear of asparagus in each hand, stabbing his way through the packed malevolent mass of nude and munching monotheists in a desperate break for freedom. Hey, stranger things have happened, you know; John Dillinger broke out of prison using a piece of wood and some shoe polish and no one laughed at him, did they?


  • At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    From a restaurant in our town. Nude barbecue. Check out the 'wait staff'.

    "It will come to no surprise to many that Sub Rosa has a clothing optional policy. We've been known to cook topless with only the benefit of a kitchen apron separating us from the flame. Nude barbecue, while not the rule can happen on hot summer evening at Sub Rosa.

    This 'tradition' started with our wait staff. It was late July - the week of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration and it was quite hot outside. We had to chill our Pinot Noir before serving because of the heat.

    One wardrobe malfunction led to another that evening and soon the entire wait staff was topless. Being a huge wine tasting weekend, Sub Rosa was filled out-of-towners including some French guests. There is something about being on vacation that releases the inhibitions. It wasn't long until half the female guests had doffed their tops as well. You would have thought you were at some French Rivera private party, but no - just another magical weekend night at Sub Rosa in Dundee.


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