Monday, May 03, 2004


"Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed"

I remembered a story today that I had long ago forgotten, or perhaps suppressed.

During the summer between high school and college, some buddies and I went to Austin. At that time, the mid 70's, Austin had a reputation as the coolest city in Texas. Some folks still consider that to be the case. Having lived there some years later, I am not one who shares that viewpoint, although it's certainly a lovely town and the scenery is splendid. You do have to be able to overlook the Sunday afternoon traffic jams, as well as a disproportionate number of vehement liberals, hookers and politicians. I realize that last sentence may contain some redundancies.

Anyway, the primary place my friends and I went during our road trip to Austin was the infamous Hippie Hollow which was at the time a pseudo-sanctioned nude beach on Lake Travis. Even back then in notoriously liberal Austin, getting naked in public was illegal; however when it came to Hippie Hollow local authorities looked the other least until election season. When the political campaigns cranked up, the Travis County sheriff would invariably launch well publicized crackdowns on the "nekkid heathens" for the betterment of mankind and to get his face on TV for free.

Some years later, the folks in Austin got tired of the silliness and simply made it legal to take off your clothes at Hippie Hollow. It's still the only nude beach in Texas. The word beach is somewhat of a misnomer. Hippie Hollow is essentially an area of rocky cliffs on the water. I personally think in order to qualify as a beach there should be some sand, but then again when your naked sand is not necessarily your friend.

I digress...

Being young men in our late teens with far more hormones than common sense, we had one goal for this great Austin adventure...we wanted to see naked women. We didn't admit that, but that was the unspoken mutual intent.

That was my first and last trip to Hippie Hollow so I'm sure things have changed a great deal in the decades since, but as I recall when we drove up you had to park a good distance away from the rocks or as they call rocks in Austin, the beach. We then had to wander through a thick morass of bushes and underbrush. It was amid this unfriendly foliage that I took note of the first aspect of Hippie Hollow which I hadn't considered: weirdoes. There seemed to be a lot of men standing behind bushes, with no apparent desire to go any further. In my naiveté, this struck me as odd, "Why would folks go to a lake and not go near the water?" Later I noticed some of the men had binoculars...I think a few even had cameras.

Undeterred, our little band of innocents marched merrily toward the lake and soon staked out a spot on the rocks. Then we saw them. Real live naked people.

In an instant, the scales fell from my eyes...and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't put them back.

My first realization was although there was an abundance of naked people at Hippie Hollow the vast majority of them were men...many of them rather old, weathered, tired and tattooed men. Men I certainly suspected were not getting offers to get naked anywhere else and if they were getting such offers I didn't want to think about it. Second, the few women who were naked made some of the bare butted men look attractive.

The most startling and fearsome revelation however was that my friends and I were in the minority of people at the water's edge who still had clothes on. Apparently there was something of an unwritten rule: you either got naked, or you drifted back amid the leaves and the lechers.

This is when I knew our road trip plan had a serious flaw. I will readily admit to a certain curiosity about seeing naked people in public, but I will also attest to the fact that I didn't then, nor do I now, have any desire to be one of them. Additionally even if I were to get naked in public, I didn't want to do it with three of my friends. We were close....but we weren't that close.

I was ready to leave almost instantly, but I wasn't ready to be the first to admit that. One of the guys I was with quickly became "one with nature" and looked at the rest of us as if he expected we would do the same. As I recall, one other friend may have eventually felt comfortable or pressured enough to join him.

My closest friend and I however opted for another approach. We dove into the water and swam away. We kept our shorts on and in the process kept what small amount of dignity we had left somewhat in tact, and various body parts properly concealed.

Despite driving a couple hundred miles to get there, we didn't stay long at Hippie Hollow. I seem to recall being berated a bit on the car ride back by the friends who found it easy to embrace nudism that day, but I really didn't care.

I had already seen a side of them I hadn't planned on and was still trying to erase that image from my brain.

What brought this recollection to mind today was this story about Hippie Hollow.

I had to laugh thinking about a bunch of foolish folks rushing to the side of a boat to see naked people only to be unceremoniously dumped in the water.

It reminded me of that road trip from long ago, and how some things truly are best left to the imagination.