They're taking off their clothes in Venice again. This irritates hell out of the cops. I heard one say, "You can't go naked in America!"
He was talking to a young woman near the old Venice Pavilion. The ocean gleamed under an afternoon sun. Diagonals of gold burnished the waves.
The policeman had just told her she had to cover her breasts. I was there watching. Not her breasts, the incident. Her breasts were, well, part of the incident.
"They take off their halters in France," the woman said. "Nobody hassles them there."
"This isn't France," the policeman replied.
"They go completely nude in some parts of Europe," the woman insisted.
That's when the cop zapped her with the moral imperative: "Well you can't go naked in America!"
He was right, of course. The woman covered up and the officer, satisfied, marched on.
"Cops don't really like doing that," a man next to me said. He was there watching breasts, not the incident. "They like boobaloos too."
"I know," the woman said.
She watched the policeman until he was out of sight. Then she took off her halter again. I left right away. The right of the media to look must be tempered by domestic priorities.
What I mean is, wives seem to know instantly when their men have been in the presence of female nudity. It's an uncanny instinct God gave women in place of logic.
I walked in after that day at the beach, for example, and my wife said, "How was the skin show?" How do they do that?
"First Amendment rights were at stake there."
"They were expressing themselves."
"By taking off their clothes?"
"Naked women have rights too."
"And I feel confident you will see that they are protected," she said, smiling slightly. Then she asked, "That girl in the convertible too?"
That was different. Her naked rights almost collided with my right to stay on the road.
I was driving south on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. A convertible was coming north. A beautiful young woman suddenly stood straight up in the convertible. A passenger, not the driver.
She was naked from the waist up. She threw her arms out and as I passed, she hollered, "Hey, boy!"
I damn near drove into the creek.
Now every time someone calls his dog I turn quickly to look. Here, boy! A modified Pavlovian response. At least I don't drool.
I guess that's the societal problem. You let women go topless at the beach and they're going to want to go topless everywhere.
"Then," my wife said, "they're going to want to walk stark naked into the Beverly Wilshire hotel."
I tried to visualize a nude woman sashaying about in the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire.
"No," I finally said, "they wouldn't do that in Beverly Hills."
"You think they're that moral?"
"It has to do with fashion, not morality. They love clothes."
But perhaps someplace else. . . .
I let my imagination drift. I tried to think of the most fashionless place on the Westside. Not Venice. They are self-consciously downward chic in Venice. Not Malibu. They are fashion-neutral on the Golden Sands.
Culver City. Of course.
I see nude waitresses at the House of Pancakes, nude clerks at Candyland, nude dough-flippers at the Pizza Man, nude parishioners at the Foursquare Church , nude chalk-boys at the Mar Vista Bowl. They are sated with nudity, drowning in nudity, overdosing on nudity, falling, spinning into a bottomless pit of nudity . . . .
I snapped myself out of it.
"I guess you're right," I said to my wife. "You see one naked woman and you've seen them all."
"That's not exactly what I meant," she said. "And, anyhow, I've been rethinking my position. I believe in equal rights. So why not . . . "
"Don't say it."
" . . . nude men?"
"God did not intend for men to go naked in public."
"You heard from God?"
That's what I mean about women and logic. They do not understand that men just naturally know what's right. It goes along with our ability to scratch, spit and drink beer simultaneously.
"If everyone were naked," she said, "then it wouldn't matter, would it? Only the cops would have clothes on."
"There is only one reason why everybody would take off their clothes," I said.
"To take showers?"
"To take each other. Public nudity leads to sex, not showers."
"All right, then. The police could go around and warn people not to touch in public. Nudity could be a non-contact sport."
"Let's just forget the whole thing," I said. "It's getting too complicated."
"Does that mean you'll avoid the naked beaches from now on?"
"But the First Amend . . . "
"I'll begin a Naked Man Crusade."
"The cop was right," I said with a sigh. "You just can't go naked in America."
I'm not sure I'm ready for a nude checker at Pic 'n' Save anyhow.