This is a long one, so feel free to bookmark it and read it in chunks!
Only a few days after our last adventure, we left Wisconsin on a 1,000+ mile journey to Eastover Resort in Lenox, Massachusetts. We had reservations for The Naturist Society's week-long Eastern Naturist Gathering. Lucky for us, we also had reservations at Niagara Falls on the way and spent two nights 38 floors up right next to the falls (Canadian side). That made the long trip a lot better! (Here's a link to a gallery, click on the "Falls" category, most are night shots taken from our room and my favorites are the last two.)
When we started through New York, it was rainy. Claude had told me that "it's either going to be sunny and beautiful all week, or rainy all week." She was wrong. It was sunny and beautiful for most of one day during the week, and on the Sunday that we had to leave. (OK, so she was mostly right...) We at least got breaks during the other days, and it was usually warm enough mid-day to be naked.
When we checked in, the staff was great, but they told us to go away for a while. We were a bit early to get there and had a few hours before our cottage was ready. It wasn't naked time yet either. With time to spare, I'll lead you on a tour of the grounds. Open up a map and follow along if you'd like. (There aren't many Eastover pictures out there, but heres a few from some scrapbooking event.)
The centerpiece is the mansion, and it certainly has the classic look and feel of a 1910 mansion. The top two floors are all apartment or dorm style rooms. The main floor has the main lobby, a library, some offices, a large dining area, and a general purpose room. It also has WiFi throughout most of the space. The basement is the "catacombs" as they call it. It's a creepy, dark (black and red painted with minimal light), sprawling space of mini bars and rooms with Civil War Memorabilia (CWM for short).
From the catacombs there's a walkway to the indoor pool. The walkway is filled with CWM (pictures and artwork) as well. On the way, you can see a basketball court on the right and the main pool on the left. The indoor pool is very nice but a bit cool. The outdoor pool is even colder. I have yet to find a pool that isn't cold, so maybe I'm just a wimp.
Taking the stairs down from the indoor pool, you're greeted with two windows that are underwater. Hmmm... Also down there is the weight room, bathrooms, showers, and sauna. The sauna can seat probably 15 people and is set to 186 degrees, dry heat. Perfect, in my opinion! Outside there are several outdoor showers. They didn't have hot water this year, so a sign was posted that said "polar bear club".
A few steps away is the American Heritage room, which is the primary CWM room. At this point, I'll mention that Eastover has one of the largest private collections of Civil War Memorabilia in the US. This room has cannons and all kinds of other stuff around. The back-room looked more interesting, where the good stuff is all in display cases, but we weren't allowed back there. They are starting to sell off the collection for reasons I'll get to later. On top of the American Heritage room are tables, and that is where many of the meals were served during the week.
Further away from the "mansion complex" are lots more goodies. To the south is the plantation, which are long buildings full of rooms that resemble the shape of a moose head when you look at the satellite pictures. Tucked away in the moose's left ear is the Mohawk room -- a large basement room with a small stage, chalkboard, and pull-down screen which was perfect for my projector. Well, almost, the pull-down screen refused to stay down!
To the east is a baseball diamond and the horse-riding stables. The horse rides go along the trails in the woods to the east, all of which the resort owns. Deep in there somewhere is a good-sized ropes course. This would've been fun to do naked, but it was never used. Going counter-clockwise we have the trap shooting over the fire pit, the fire pit at the bottom of the bowl, the driving range that goes down a hill, and a toboggan run that goes down the same hill.
Finally, we reach my favorite building -- Tally Ho! This building has a horse theme, better implemented than anywhere else I've been. It used to be a big all-wooden horse stable, and has three parts. The biggest room is the theater. The rafters are full of old wooden carriages, among many other classic decorations. There is a big stage and seating for everyone. This was used for dances each night, the talent show, meals if rainy, and the TNS town hall meeting. The middle rooms are a small bar, bathrooms, and a kitchen, with pictures of Eastover groups over the years. (One naturist picture was added from last year just for that week.) The back room was small, but had character. They had stables there for around eight horses. They took off the stall doors, made each one into a (big) restaurant-style booth, and put a small band performance area on the other side of the room. That's about it... The stalls even had the horse names above them, and the saddles and other equipment were still hanging around the room. You can't get more authentic than that!
Next up, on the north side, we have the buffalo. According to Eastover's history, George (owner at the time) was the first person to bring buffalo to the east, way back in 1963. They have a large pen that they live in, and Eastover provides safari rides to go see them up close.
We were given a home near where the buffalo roam. On the west side of the mansion, we checked in to our cottage. It was little, but had a porch, two beds, a small bathroom with a leaky toilet, a dresser that doubled as a counter, a clock that buzzed constantly when the alarm was set, and a furnace that could bring the place from 65 to 80 in a matter of minutes. We were delighted to find a bottle of Eastover labeled wine for our Anniversary.
The whole resort wasn't in it's heyday. It has the classical charm and architectural beauty, but also a feeling of doom. All buildings were a little bit dirty. There was no landscaping other than mowing. The waterfall on the indoor pool was never running. The stream running the length of the wall in the American Heritage room wasn't going either. Stuff was broken. Sheds were falling apart. Ceilings were leaky. Art on walls was faded. Graffiti was all over the furniture. The Civil War stuff was disappearing. It did NOT look as good as the pictures.
The end is near, and everyone knows it. The resort is closing in November and is up for sale. The next owners will likely bulldoze everything and put in condos. Why? Regulations -- the place is being regulated out of existence. New rules that they need to comply with come with a huge cost and they don't have the budget for that, and to keep maintaining it all. The next owners probably can't afford to keep the place open either. It's sad, and it was on everyone's mind the whole time. "The Last Hurrah", as the staff's t-shirts said.
Although the place was getting run down, the staff were absolutely wonderful! Many of them worked previous gatherings too, so the nudity was no big deal to them. They treated us just like everyone else. If there were any newbies, we couldn't tell. They said we were the favorite group all summer, and the amount of effort they put in showed that they really do like us. Many promised to show up at future gatherings, wherever they may be.
The naturists were absolutely wonderful too! Among them were many of the TNS staff, several from the NAC crew, Dr. Paul Rapoport from FCN, and representatives from beaches and resorts all around the US. The naturists that go to this gathering are like family, which has a pro and a con. The pro is that once you're in and known, you get priority in contacting the naturist leaders. It's a social network. The con is that it's a little difficult to get in, and those who aren't in aren't initially trusted. Either way, they are always friendly in person and are quick to accept you when you're at a gathering. This is a good reason for going.
Several of the naturists are hardcore. By that, I mean they can be called "cold weather naturists" because they would brave the 60 degree rainy mornings. They were completely naked -- I was in a long-sleeve and jeans. My initial hypothesis was that it had something to do with where they lived, because Paul was from Canada. But, Bob Morton from Texas and Morley Schloss from Florida were just as extreme. Morley and Paul also defeated the hypothesis that it has to do with weight, or "insulation". My final hypothesis is that the more widely known the naturist is, the colder the weather they can go naked in. It seemed that all the big names, with exception to the TNS ladies, were the ones naked in the cold. This includes some women like Claudia (who everyone knows from Blacks Beach) and families like the Kapus's (the poster-family for TNS). For the rest of us, it usually warmed up to the mid 70's.
So why did we even leave our comfy cottage every cold morning? We wanted to hit the breakfast buffet at 8am to make it to the 9am workshops. The meal plan for Eastover is wonderful! Breakfast has all the standard items you'd find at a buffet. Lunch and dinner was a variety of their choosing, and always good. One of the days, I wrote down what they offered for lunch or dinner: "Steak, ribs, roasted chicken, baked potato, corn on the cob, full salad, fried scallops, fish, milkshakes, cookies, brownies, and several other fillers that I'm not remembering right now." Every day had a variety that good, and it was all cooked to perfection!
Now that you have a good introduction to the Eastover grounds, staff, and participants, I'll talk about what we did during the seven days.
Monday, there wasn't much going on. This was the only day that dinner was served in the mansion because of the small crowd. It was also determined that Wisconsin was the best represented state, with a total of six people there. Of course, that only applied to Monday. In the afternoon we played some frisbee golf. In the evening we checked out the dance (which happens every night) and watched a movie in the library.
Tuesday is when the workshops really started. I went to "What's going on with the left coast?" by -- who else -- Bob Morton. He tells stories better than what he writes for the NAC updates, although much of it was the same content. My girlfriend went on the safari ride, where the buffalo kept ramming the truck. We then played frisbee golf again, and I went on the nature hike. It was a nude hike on the wooded area that Eastover owns. The two people that walked right by me most of the way were the primary entertainment for Thursday. (They also perform for church groups, so I probably shouldn't mention their names online. They are in N 28.4.)
Wednesday morning I woke up to "Why should naturists care when lawmakers target 'adult' businesses?" by -- you guessed it -- Bob Morton. In the afternoon, we had an appointment for riding the horses. We wanted to go naked, but it was advised by the young lady in charge that we don't. (She, by the way, was really cool and fun to be around!) We wore pants and were glad that we did! Some of the trails were tight, with questionable spiky plants and some tree limbs to brush by. My horse didn't want to walk down the middle of the path -- apparently I wasn't stern enough. The girls were fine on their horses. It was a lot of fun, even though we had to weather out some rain on the way. Well worth the money! We snuck a camera to her, and she gladly took some pictures of us on the horses. I heard the camera focus (half-press of the shutter), and assumed they took (full-press) -- but they didn't. Zero pictures of us on the horses.
At dinner there was a meeting in the Tally Ho where Nicky, Bob, and others welcomed everyone to the gathering. They shared some stories, talked about the future, and let all the workshop hosts pitch their upcoming workshops. This took a while since there were a lot of workshops! I had my turn, introduced myself and my girlfriend as first-timers with creative new ideas, and pitched the two presentations I had ready.
Sometime early in the week (not sure exactly what day), I was introduced to two different people. First was Morley Schloss. I hadn't read the N magazine from that month (28.4), so I didn't know much about him at that point. We didn't talk much initially. I also met Dave Cole and his fiance from Black's Beach. We talked for a while comparing notes on each of our beaches -- everything from politics to undesirables. I also found out that Black's has just a few steps less than a famous landmark in our area.
That evening we went to the naturist theater (big screen TV in the Heritage room) and watched as "Blaze Starr Goes Nudist". We have movie nights just like this at home, so we knew what to expect from that film genre. We sat way in the back and giggled at each-others jokes and the cheesy plot-lines. During the film, Morley entered the room behind us and we greeted him. We asked if the resorts in Florida were just like what the film was showing. I was blown away by his response... He sometimes went to the resort that the movie was filmed at, and remembers about when it was filmed. As the scenes were playing, he'd point out that "the ducks were added to the pond -- there were never any ducks there" and that "the cottages were never usually that nice".
Thursday we skipped "Speaking to College Classes & Groups" (even though we're interested) in favor of "The NAC Area Representative Program" by -- surprise, surprise -- Bob Morton. We signed Bob's book for being a NACAR, but I haven't heard anything from it yet. This was shaping up the be the warmest, sunniest day that Eastover had that week. This was great for our all-over tans!
Nicky signed us up for a video that they plan to put on YouTube. We were interviewed with five seemingly simple questions. My girlfriend did a great job with them. I didn't, probably because I was overthinking them instead of coming up with a quick cheesy answer. "Why are you a naturist?" I don't know... it's like asking why I'm a human. I was just born that way, I guess. (They wanted a better answer than that.) "What is your favorite thing to do in the nude?" Sex is an obvious good answer, but unacceptable. The answers I delivered generally weren't what I was thinking at the time. Before the shoot, the guy doing the filming showed us a clip from the previous people -- of course, the Kapus family.
Early in the afternoon we attended one of Nicky's workshops, "Getting Published in N Magazine". We discussed the magazine sections, what people liked and what they didn't, and where it was heading. She also went through the list of what she's looking for with contributions. I got invited to a possible future workshop out west on writing specifically for N. We'll see where things go with that...
My girlfriend attended most of the DUMass Olympics events. For those who are curious, it's Dave Cole's series of workshops where they play silly games and win stuff. They are simple and fun, which is why he always has a great turnout. My girlfriend also tried some skeet shooting, and got 3 out of 3... misses. With a gun in her hand, I stayed quiet! She thought it was fun to try anyway. I thought it was fun to watch her shoot a rifle naked.
We both went to the "Naturist At Play" photography workshop. Although I like photography, and had a camera in the car, I figured that we would get copies of the pro's photos instead. We both posed in a lightsaber scene. My girlfriend posed for a lot more including a group jump photo and a solo Mary Poppins scene. We haven't gotten a copy of the pictures yet. [UPDATE: We eventually did, all stamped with Eric's logo and "for personal use only" as per the contract. Why watermark them if they're just for us? I have no idea... Most places won't print them if they're watermarked. I removed the watermarks to print them for the brag book.] After Eric excused everyone from the workshop, he hung on to his favorite models -- one long-time female participant and the Kapus family -- for some additional shoots. We're a good young attractive naturist couple, and we told Nicky early in the week to have the photographers take pictures of us for the magazine. We told Eric this too, but he didn't seem interested at the moment.
Before the main entertainment that evening, we decided to make our own photoshoot. We collected golf balls from the driving range, which is a lot of work when it's the side of a hill and among lots of white flowers. Back at the top, we grabbed a nearby photographer and asked him to take pictures while we golfed. "I suppose..." It looked like he got some good pictures out of it. I sent him an email after the gathering, and haven't gotten any pictures yet. [UPDATE: We eventually got these too.]
That evening we watched the main entertainment couple for a bit. He was naked except for boots, a hat, and a few other small things. She was in a sarong or a dress, one of the two. It seems she wasn't comfortable enough to be naked on stage like he was. They had some naturist themed songs that they performed, among other things. They were very good musicians!
Friday was a big day for me. I raced to breakfast, collected my equipment, and went to the moose's left ear (Mohawk room). I used duct tape to make the broken projector screen stay in place, found an extension cord to plug everything in, and was ready to deliver the most professional "workshop" the gathering has ever seen! I was the only person who had a Powerpoint (OpenOffice Impress, actually) and did a full-on presentation instead of just sitting around and talking. I'm better at these anyway -- I did a lot of them while in college.
My topic was "Crowdsource Our Problems Away", and the presentation is temporarily online here, with the ideas partly from my Future Resort part 5. It's an edgy presentation, so I expected it to be a little difficult. Bob, Claudia, Dave and his fiance, and a room of about 25 other people attended. Bob didn't seem comfortable with the ideas I presented. Dave and his fiance called me on one item -- the list of undesirables for beach safety. They said it's a privacy issue and grounds for a lawsuit, which it could be if I listed full names. My intent would be more like "a heavy-set guy with the Brewers cap who tries to take pictures". At the end of the presentation, it was my guess that people didn't like it. They were fairly quiet. But then Claudia approached me and said "it was the best workshop I've seen all week -- naturism needs more fresh ideas like this! Keep up the great work!"
I took down all my equipment and removed the duct tape so the self-photography workshop could take over the room. It didn't last long -- an hour later I had to set it all up again so that Nicky could use my projector for the Lee Baxandall tribute. It looked great, and she thanked me many times for it. A lot of people were there (60?) to see her Keynote presentation. Then, I took it all down again and finally got the equipment back to the cottage.
After lunch, we were the only youth at the "Apparent Youth Death Among Naturists" workshop. Many were content to discuss the problem, without having much of an idea about the solution. Morley, the awesome man that he is, already had it all figured out. He does an excellent job of bringing in students at Sunsport and the other groups / resorts in the area. I had ideas to pitch in, but Morley beat me to it and verbalized it better than I'd be able to. He should've been the one leading the workshop, because he was clearly the one with the most valuable information. He had a lot of things that I didn't even think of too, like purposefully not including a bar and offering healthy eco-friendly foods as a choice. He targets the college-age crowd with specific events, advertises in their media, and gives them rock bottom (or sometimes free) rates. There's a lot more, but it's fair to say that he has my generation figured out!
We attended the "Unusual Poses & Perspectives" photography workshop. My girlfriend posed a few times, but I didn't. It was cold and rainy, and I doubt there were many good pictures that resulted from that one. [UPDATE: I was right.] Afterwords, my girlfriend had a blast at the pudding toss, except that two men targeted her butt and made sure it stuck good with a firm grope. I attended the "NAC Roundup" workshop by -- oh not again -- Bob Morton!
The talent show was surprisingly good! We sat by Claude, who decided to give us the full bio of everyone who performed (which was appreciated!) There were a few songs, a funny guy doing reverse-burlesque (dressing as the song went on), one really good / funny poet, one not-so-good poet, some guys talking about their "decks", a spot of just music in memory of the singer who recently died, and a lady who beautifully sang and did sign language for a classic song. Another great, and depressing, talent was a singer who had 4am inspiration early in the week to write a song bidding farewell to Eastover. She was the last of the naturist performers, and then began the textile ones. What am I talking about? The tradition is that the Eastover staff always perform in the naturist's talent show.
The Eastover staff don't exactly practice for the talent show, and that fact makes them quite funny! They take random songs and rewrite the lyrics to talk about the "nudies". They can't sing, but they really try to with the lyrics in hand! Some of the staff were even brave enough to drop their pants during the show, which must've been a first considering how quickly the TNS girls ran to the front. They went through quick versions of a half-dozen different songs. They finished with this classic song while going out through the crowd, and it probably brought tears to some people's eyes. Bravo, Eastover staff!
After that, we went through the eerie night-time fog to the moose's left ear. We modeled for the "Images and Patterns Projected on the Human Form" photography workshop. I recommended that we make use of the projector in the fog for some neat silhouettes, because I've taken some good fog shots in the past. Nope -- Eric wanted to do the same thing he's done in the past instead of make use of the unique conditions. He started the workshop by having us find good slides and write down the numbers so we can take the pictures we want. Once his favorite models were on the set, it turned into a free-for-all with going through slides and snapping pictures. Towards the end, my girlfriend and I insisted on doing the shots we wanted to take. He was reluctant, but got through at least some of ours before time ran out.
Friday night the dance was rockin', and the two person band was "in the stalls". We listened to both for a while and had some pizza before calling it a night.
Saturday morning, I started my day with "Who speaks for naturists?" by -- he's gotta be tired of seeing me by now -- Bob Morton! In this one, he stressed that all politics are local. For most of the legal battles that are fought, it's the naturists and not NAC who are at the front lines. NAC coordinates, advises, empowers, and steps in to fill any gaps with the local Friends Of groups and other naturists. It's really the naturists who speak for naturists at a grassroots level. It's a different philosophy than those who try to be the "credible voice of reason" for naturism.
After that, I broke out the laptop, projector, and duct tape once again for my other presentation: "Greening For Profit". It was less edgy than the other one, but I still prove that some green technologies are stupid and that greening to save the environment costs money. The other green workshops were on saving the environment, so I might've irked a few people. The roughly 30 attendees loved this one as far as I could tell! (Morley pointed out that Sunsport already does a number of these things, but I at least clued him in on the Vegawatt. All-in-all he loved it, and invited me to give it at other gatherings.) Follow along here while I add some quick notes: Slide 4 shows a solar array on a Walmart in Mexico. Slide 6 source. Slide 7 source. Slide 8 is common knowledge by now. Slide 9 source. Ideas are from my Future Resort series parts 3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3. Slide 30 is a hot springs in Alaska. Slide 31 Vegawatt. Slide 36 shows a bad fireplace with no doors and likely no cold air return. Slide 37 is this building in Maine that is so well insulated that it doesn't need a heater.
After lunch was the group photo, in which we should be easy to spot. The closing circle was a bit cheesy -- we all held hands in a big circle around the pool and took turns offering our feedback and thanks. My girlfriend left after that to tie-dye a few things in a workshop, and at some point snuck off to the catacombs with a photographer for some "pictures I'll love" that sound a bit more provocative than a simple naturist photo shoot. It seems the photographer loves them too, he never responded to her email. [UPDATE: She eventually got these too, and they're not exactly great from the few she's shown me. Actual lighting and brushing her hair (and maybe a recent shower) would've helped a lot.]
I went to the town hall meeting, where a lot of things were discussed and where feedback was sought to help choose a future gathering location. TNS still couldn't disclose possible locations, but from what Claude told me it's certainly a step up if they get the one they want. (No traditional naturist resorts were options due to the number of attendees.) After that, I stopped by the NAC Large Donor Reception. I hadn't donated largely at that point, so I handed Bob the NAC donation envelope with a bit more than the minimum to qualify as a large donor. I should be getting the NAC newsletter also, but we'll see. [UPDATE: This wasn't active anymore, but is again in 2010 as an online free version.]
After the reception, Morley, my girlfriend, and I took to the tennis courts. Morley is a tennis pro, I could keep a volley for the most part, and my girlfriend is lucky if she keeps it in the court. I must admit that playing tennis is fun when naked, and playing any sport naked is much more comfortable since the sweat works as nature intended. We talked quite a bit with Morley. My girlfriend admitted her second job as a Passion Parties consultant, and Morley thought it was cool. Apparently they've had a few of those at Sunsport. In the right atmosphere (as-in with no kids due to the products shown) it's completely acceptable by his standards. I was worried that he'd dislike her bringing up that topic. He's all about body acceptance, and sexuality is a part of that. We concluded that he's the coolest person we've met all week. I'm very tempted to visit him at Sunsport for the Midwinter Festival.
Our game ended as it got dark, and we went to Tally Ho for NAC's ticket drawing. We won a towel, which my girlfriend wanted to buy anyway before we left. (We didn't buy much from TNS, but we did buy a bunch of stuff from the Eastover gift shop. My girlfriend loved the fact that she could try on shirts without a dressing room! Shopping naked is more fun in person as opposed to online shopping.)
After the drawing, the DJ started. Photographers had slide-shows of their pictures this year in the middle part of Tally Ho. We watched those for a while, then danced for a while. At one point, I counted over 50 naked people on the dancefloor having a good time! Luckily, none were doing the YMCA with their legs. I didn't dance much, and probably spent too much time admiring the character of the Tally Ho building and thinking about it being gone soon.
Outside, it was a cool night. We went to the bonfire for a bit to discover that only a few drunk guys were there. We'll pass on that... We heard there's usually late-night parties in the catacombs, so we stopped there as well. It looked like a bar scene with maybe 20 people around, and had a bit more of an adult feel than anywhere else. One of the many rooms had ping-pong so we played that a bit. In the middle of a game, we heard the funniest thing in a long time, but it's only funny to us. (Inside joke among some Wisconsin friends.) We had to quit our game. We tried to mingle a bit more, but it just wasn't our type of party -- we called it a night.
Sunday there was almost nothing going on. The lobby markerboard had a lot of thanks from the naturists, including one that said "We (heart) Eastover! -- The Nudies" We said our goodbyes to our new extended family, and spent the second beautiful day all week packing up and heading out. Despite the bad weather, we had a great time at this event and it was well worth the trip!
If you have any questions about the trip, post them in the comments and I'll try my best to answer them.