Tuesday 6 December 2011

Monday 17 October 2011

Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the Royal Wedding


‘Are you from the United States? No? From Europe, aren’t you? I knew it because you are intact’


‘Yes. Uncut. Uncircumcised.  I am from the United States and I am circumcised. I envy you.’

This guy from San Diego kept talking and talking, as we all gathered at the outdoor Jacuzzi under the torrential sub-tropical rain in Fort Lauderdale.


‘Your carry-on is too big, Sir.’

The solicitous air hostess, serving food and refreshments:

‘You, in the middle, anything?’


’Some ice?'

‘More ice?'


‘Is that David Bowie?’

I turned my head.

‘Is that Bowie on your shirt?’

I did a twirl to face her.

‘It’s fucking awesome!’


‘Would you like it with onions?’


‘Do you want ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard?’

‘Just onions.’

‘Just onions with ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard? Or just onions?’

‘Just the onions only.’

‘I got you!’


‘Para ir al Downtown, es el C  y el 120’

‘¿El 6 y el 120?’

‘No, el C.’

‘Ah, el S.’

‘No. El C. C de casa.’


‘This water is better,’ said the chunky hairy boy showering next to me at the outdoor showers by Haulover Beach. He was pointing at his own shower. I looked at the water coming out of his shower and then at the water coming out of mine. I couldn’t tell the difference. Both seemed to have the same water pressure and volume. In what way could his shower be better? Was it that the water he was getting was cooler than mine? How could he know? I asked: ‘Better than this?’ pointing at my shower. He said: ‘No;’ and pointing at his shower he added: ‘This one is better.’ I was confused. But he finally explained: ‘The other water is warm, salty, sticky… fucking nasty,’ turning his shoulder in the direction of the sea as he rinsed soap out of his hairy scrotum.


A few yards away, the busy public men’s facilities brought back memories of, ahem, 80s pop icon George Michael. Ominously idle butch men who at first appeared to be queuing for the cubicles would stand aimlessly without budging even after several of the urinals and cubicles were vacated. The mirror at the end of the row of urinals was grossly stained and cramped not only my attempts to check the state of my hair after swimming in the ocean but surely also the opportunities for many of the patrons to strategically keep track of the movements and glances of the other patrons, especially those who stood in front of the urinal a lot longer than would normally be granted. The stares were intense. The air was full of threat, as well as the stench of urine and faeces. Was there any user good looking enough to be suspected as an under-cover policeman? I washed my hands in a hurry at the filthy basin and left.



The old, grey-haired Latino lady standing in the middle of the bus was wearing a white working man’s helmet covered with ‘Dora the Explorer’ stickers. Other accessories included pink gloves, pink bracelets and a necklace made of pink plastic beads. Her hands gripped tightly a ‘Hello Kitty’-themed wheeled suitcase. Pink, of course.

Inside Miami’s buses, the air conditioning was very strong. So strong in fact that, whenever I got off after a long ride, my specs would steam up when facing the hot Floridian temperatures outside, even in the evenings. Not surprisingly, then, this pair of young Italian men, who boarded at Bal Harbour, felt forced to cover their mouths and noses with fashionable scarves inside the bus. So cold they seemed to feel that they stood uncomfortably next to the driver for the duration of the ride – just because it was the section of the bus less exposed to air conditioning. In spite of the merciless sunshine and high temperatures outdoors, they were wearing long trousers and long sleeved summer jackets over their shirts, which were perfectly coordinated with their scarves. Their hands were full of shopping bags from Bal Harbour’s fashion designer stores.


I was greeted to Fort Lauderdale by a colossal billboard commanding: “Continue your trip with us.” It arose from a big roundabout in the middle of the highway. On the billboard, an elderly priest and an elderly nun looked down on us, smiling spookily, to advertise the local Catholic temple. Who would have thought the Catholic Church would hire the services of David Lynch to design their publicity campaigns? 

Fort Lauderdale: Men in uniform by the beach; men out of their clothes at “clothing optional” all male resorts; students on Easter vacation; northbound palm trees bent by the persistently soothing ocean wind; oversized yachts and millionaires’ villas at the seaside canals of the (cough; cough) “Venice of America”; overcrowded restaurants at Las Olas Boulevard; ‘calamari’ (uncircumcised penises) and ‘eggs and chorizo’ (Spanish genitalia) at the Battle of the Bulges at the Ramrod leather bar; good karaoke and bad drag at Bill’s; sunburnt Anglo-Saxon queers of all persuasions at the oversized Alibi pub in the queer Florida Mecca of Wilton Manors; multi-racial cab drivers greeting poor tips with a disappointed “thank you” (including the Jewish cab driver from the Bronx who scrutinised the Royal wedding for me – more about him later); teenage Latino ‘travestis’ bringing their mothers to their drag shows at 2a.m. in the biggest gay compound of them all; learning that ‘My name is Anthony and I am at your service for whatever you want’ translates as ‘I expect a tip at the end of the ride.’

I wonder if the watchful gaze from the old priest and nun on the motorway billboard was still on me whilst surrounded at The Alcazar/Worthington Guesthouse by the uncircumcised South African, the circumcised New Yorkers from Long Island, the uncircumcised Venezuelan from Chicago, the Lebanese couple from Oklahoma (whose organs, probably circumcised, always hid under their designer swimwear), the circumcised Texan, the uncircumcised Argentineans, the circumcised New Yorker from Colorado and the Coloradoan boy from San Diego (who was wearing shorts all the time so no one could tell for sure whether he was circumcised or not). 


The reception desk at The Alcazar/Worthington Guesthouse. Two men in their 30s had just checked out and were waiting for their taxi. They were concerned the taxi was taking too long to arrive. The receptionist filled the void with friendly chatter:

‘Did you see the wedding?’ he asked excitedly.

‘Erm… we saw the vows as we were changing planes in Dallas.’

‘I loved the impromptu part!’

‘The car?’ replied reluctantly the customer, the silent ‘r’ in ‘car’ betraying his English origin.

‘Yes! The thing Prince Harry did. It was totally impromptu. Not scripted. I loved it!’

The customers half-smiled with aloof British restrain.  

My taxi driver arrived on time. He was a nervy middle aged man with blond curly hair and a big nose. It soon became apparent that he was a Jew from New York, from the Bronx specifically, a neighbourhood he claimed to miss. Florida was too sunny for him. As soon as I told him about my final destination, London, he asked:

‘Are you into the Royal Wedding?’

‘No. I came here to get away from it, actually.’

‘I can’t believe it! Everyone’s into it. Men, women, transsexuals. All! And such a waste of money.’

I agreed with him.

‘And what’s Westminster Abbey?’ he asked.

‘It’s the church where they got married.’

‘Is that near the Buckingham Palace?’

‘Well, it’s one of the two biggest churches in London. The other one, St. Paul’s, is where Diana got married.’

‘You see! You’re actually into it. You are a closeted Royal Wedding follower.’

He grabbed a newspaper lying on the front seat and flashed it to me.

‘This is the New York Times. It has a 15 page spread about the wedding. Do you want it?’

‘No, thanks.’

He read the paper as he drove.

‘It says here that there is a couple from England in New York who went there to get away from the wedding too…’

It was like being in a Woody Allen movie, only in sunny Florida. 

Palm trees flanked the motorway. The blue sky was mirrored by the imposing ocean. The air was humid. Sweaty.

I was missing Florida already.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Es Trenc (nudist?)

Is Es Trenc beach still a naturist paradise...?

Es Trenc is a well-known beach on the South Eastern coast of the Balearic Island of Majorca. It is located between two villages: Ses Covetes and Colonia de Sant Jordi. Considered by many as the most beautiful beach in the Balearics and often featured as one of the best naturist beaches in Spain, Europe or even the world, a distinctive characteristic of Es Trenc is that it is a "non urbanised" beach, that is, unspoilt by urban development: no hotels or apartments are allowed to be built along its more than 3kms of coastline. The beach is secluded, bounded by a nature reserve, with protected vegetation and dunes.

I believe there are 3 main points of entry to Es Trenc:
  • From the village of Colonia de Sant Jordi, past Estanys beach (this is how I always accessed Es Trenc)
  • From the small village of Ses Covetes (where many of the visitors seemingly park their cars)
  • From a car park located a few meters from the beach, behind its main bar/restaurant (a point of access that I have not tried myself)

Regardless of how one accesses Es Trenc, a question that seems to be unresolved is whether it really is a naturist beach nowadays. Of course, it always depends on what one classes as "nudist", I suppose. Based on various reports on the internet, there seem to be 3 schools of thought on the matter:
  • For some, it is an unspoilt nude paradise
  • For others, it used to be a clothing-optional paradise until it became too popular (especially with locals) and swimsuit-wearing beach users took over (or rather invaded) the beach, taking away from it its Eden-like, naturist atmosphere
  • Most reports seem to describe it as a beach which has a “nude section”

Although all three versions hold some element of truth, my personal experience in 2011 presented a more complex picture.

I will describe what I saw and experienced when I visited Es Trenc (and Majorca) for the first time at the end of August 2011.

As noted, I always accessed Es Trenc from Colonia de San Jordi, the village where I stayed for the 5 days of my visit. To reach Es Trenc from this village one first needs to walk along Estanys beach, which can be easily accessed from Hotel Marqués.  Estanys is a densely populated beach, long and fairly narrow, with fine white sand and calm clear waters. I guess it is the kind of beach people refer to as a “family beach”, with many toddlers and grannies. This beach is 100% “textile”, that is, everybody is wearing swimsuits (except for some of the toddlers). Some women sunbathe topless but that’s standard at any Spanish beach. This beach has a bar/restaurant called The Pine Trees.

Past Estanys, one encounters a relatively long pathway, snaking along the seaside.  The dunes and nature reserve are on one’s right as one walks towards Es Trenc. This rough path is sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy, often covered in algae but always an easy ride. The colour of the rocks is mostly pale, similar to the colour of the sand. A few yachts can be seen anchored nearby.

After walking for about ten minutes, one reaches a smaller beach, less populated than Estanys. The beach feels secluded and a bit wilder than the previous beach. Many of the people one encounters here are walking on their way to (or from) Es Trenc. Of those who stay to sunbathe and swim at this beach, the majority (I’d say more than 75%) are nude. Many of them are middle-aged German couples. Past this predominantly nudist beach, one can find a sandy path between rocks, which leads to what I believe is the beginning of Es Trenc proper.

The sand in Es Trenc is fine and light coloured, the water clean and quiet. Algae often pile up where the waves break gently on the sand.

The first few yards of Es Trenc could be described as no man’s land. This stretch of the beach is not very populated. Some people wear swimsuits, some don’t.

One can soon distinguish a beach bar/restaurant in the short distance. As one approaches the bar, past the first set of bunkers and a lifeguard tower, the beach gets busier and busier. The bar, rather large and decorated as a cabana, hosts a restaurant with wooden tables. The most populated part is the area surrounding the bar and the long row of sun loungers and umbrellas for rent on its right hand side. The crowd here is generally younger and less “family-oriented” than at Estanys beach, but the vibe is predominantly “textile”. In this section of the beach, everybody wears swimsuits apart from a few isolated nude sunbathers at the far end of the row of sun loungers and the surroundings of the first set of bunkers.

This section of the beach ends in a rather scenic point, a few rocks marking the separation between this and the next section, with a short sandy path leading to a second bar, past a deserted construction (an old mill?). As one looks in over the low walls which surround the old construction, one is faced with a little pond. On one of the walls of the derelict building, a faded spray sign pleads in Catalan: “Salvem Es Trenc” (“Let’s save Es Trenc”).   

The second bar (called “The Bar in the Middle”) is next to a lifeguard tower and is a bit smaller (and somewhat pricier) than the previous bar. No loungers or umbrellas for rent here. The stretch of beach around this bar is less populated than the previous section but is still busy and predominantly textile. However as one moves away from this area, in the direction of a second set of bunkers, more and more nude sunbathers can be seen amidst the swimsuit-clad beach users.

From now on, the beach becomes more sparsely populated and the vibe is clearly “clothing optional”: nude and swimsuit-wearing punters co-exist. The second set of bunkers mark an area with a larger proportion of people, including families. Sprayed on the walls of the bunkers read signs like: “Nude only" or "Zone Sex . Couples”.  Past the bunkers, the beach takes a slight turn to the left. The long stretch of beach which lies ahead (all the way to Ses Covetes) is predominantly nudist and comprises at least half of Es Trenc beach. This section feels closer to nature, more relaxed.

As one walks on, in the direction of the third set of bunkers, one even comes across a section which is clearly used mainly by gay men…

There is a new concentration of beach users (both nude and textile) around the third set of bunkers.

A few yards ahead of this set of bunkers, at the far end of the beach, one bumps into a new row of sun loungers and umbrellas that announce the third bar/restaurant of the beach. This area is popular with families and the vibe is predominantly textile. But, still, some of the sun loungers closest to the bunkers are used by nudists.

From this end of Es Trenc one can access directly the small village of Ses Covetes. I never ventured into the village but the houses one can see from the beach all seem uninhabited and derelict… It is a picturesque view.

In summary, Es Trenc is an established clothing-optional resort. One is free to go naked anywhere on the beach. One can even have a drink at the bars in the nude without any hassle (unlike bars by nudist beaches in e.g. Ibiza). Obviously, it can be intimidating to be naked in the busiest textile-dominated sections. However, apart from the odd raised eyebrow or nervous giggle, beach users in those areas seem to be relaxed about other people’s nudity even if they don’t practice it themselves.

Es Trenc is a beautiful beach and, arguably, it caters to the many tastes of diverse holiday makers. Whether you like your beach busy and lively or sexy and adventurous or secluded and natural, you are likely to find a spot on the beach that suits your preference. One could even say that Es Trenc is gay-friendly and family-friendly at the same time – that is, of course, if one goes with the right set of mind… and finds the right spot.


Friday 19 August 2011

A New Trend? (naked poets)

A calendar of naked male poets photographed by female photographers with poems by female writers - as reported in The Guardian and recommended by The Independent:

A naked male poet interviewed in Time Out:

An London-based film called "The Naked Poet (A Heart Divided)" which includes scenes of a male poet performing in the nude:

A facebook video of a naked male poet singing Karaoke at Bingo Master's Break Out in London:

Male poets fully disrobing to compete in the erotic category of the Glam Slam UK:

A male vegan poet performing in the nude at a Body Positive Art Show in Manchester:

A new London act, who goes by the the artistic name of Nked Poet, performs poetry... naked - see short video:

A new tumblr blog specialises in "poets without clothes" (or shoes): http://poetswithoutclothes.tumblr.com/archive

Were The Hairy Russian Poets, Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman or even William Blake aware that they were setting such a long lasting precedent?

"Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed." (William Blake)
"A poem is a naked person... Some people say that I am a poet." (Bob Dylan) 
"The poet always stands naked before the world." (Allen Ginsberg)

Victor Hugo and several other poets and writers were known to get nude to deal with writer's block...

More Ginsberg:

Why do so many poets persist in wearing clothes still?