Spoiler alert: Yes, I was fully clothed and it was more like an hour, not a day.
“Chet”, a former client and all around good guy is a talented chef. He usually worked at huge resorts and he eventually found himself the head chef at a local “clothing optional” resort mainly because it was close to where he lived. The big resorts were always a long commute for him and considering the long hours of a chef, he wanted to be closer to home.
One day, long after I had finished up working his legal case, Chet called me to inquire if I was in the office because he had a delivery for me. Hmmm. A little later he arrived at my office with a giant cooler filled with containers of frozen soup. Lobster bisque, cheddar beer soup, beef stew, clam chowder, chicken tortilla soup. I think all in all he gave me 16 quarts of soup. I did the math, that’s 4 gallons of soup.
How’d he know I loved soup? “When you represented me I told you one of my specialties for these resorts was my famous daily soups, you told me how much you like soup. I never forgot and now I can share some of my talents with you.”
I was really touched, but what was I going to do with all this soup? It reminded me of an old Seinfeld episode when a large dinner party was canceled and Estelle Costanza was wandering around saying, “What am I going to do with all this paella?!?” in her large, New York accent.
Needless to say, my friends and neighbors were awash in gifted soup, but I kept the best ones.
Flash forward some time, Chet called me to inquire if I handle class action lawsuits. It seems he had been diagnosed with some hideous cancer that was directly linked to a dangerous chemical he regularly handled in his work life before he became a chef. I did introduce him to a national law firm that already handled those specific class action cases.
Chet told me he was still working at a clothing optional resort and, as off-putting as that seemed at first, he loved his regulars and they were very loyal to him. I asked Chet to please let me know if there was anything I could do for him and to keep in touch about his cancer treatments.
A short while later Chet called me to invite me to a fundraiser given by the resort to raise money for himself. He had run out of sick time and personal time, his income was halved while he was treating and his insurance co-pays and deductibles were draining his family dry. The fundraiser was put on by his “nude family” at this resort and he’d love it if I would come.
There was no question I would write a big check, but, should I go or just mail it to him? I decided he was way too generous to me for me not to support him in person.
The day of the fundraiser was in the pre-Covid days and it was a warm Sunday. I was actually a bit nervous, but I already knew peer pressure nudity wouldn’t effect me in the least. In fact, in shorts and a hoodie I was already a bit overdressed for the warm weather.
First impression, these people like privacy. This place is in the middle of nowhere. I thought I could pretty much drive anywhere in one hour in Tampa Bay. Nope. It was almost an hour and a half drive.
Next, the entrance is pretty secluded. Without specific directions, it’s very easy to miss since it’s down a sideroad off of a nondescript highway. After getting through the guard booth – “Oh you’re here for Chet’s party!! Great guy! Have fun!”, it was time to drive to the clubhouse for the event.
The landscaping and the grounds in general were very nice. Lots of modern buildings and the clubhouse was huge. What surprised me most up to this point was the parking lot. The parking lot was completely full, and full of late model cars, like Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, etc. Not sure why I was surprised but so far nothing was as I thought it might be.
Chet had warned me about the security – it’s tight. As I walked into the clubhouse there were three separate areas of security and a metal detector. After I got my wrist band I was ready to join the party. I was directed that the party for Chet wasn’t inside the clubhouse, it was poolside. So far, everyone I encountered worked there and were fully clothed.
I walked out to the poolside. It really is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. There were a number of pools, waterfalls, large and smaller with beach chairs, lounges, tables, covered areas everywhere.
And most everyone was in some state of nudity. My natural inclination was to keep my eyes focused straight ahead, except my peripheral vision was, of course, more curious and did reveal human details that we’ve all been taught should remain under wraps.
I wondered as I drove there, who exactly goes here? Is it young, hardbody beautiful people tending toward exhibitionism, or is it older folks long past any degree of modesty who just want to be comfortably undressed as the laws of entropy and gravity pull at their body in unkind ways?
While a significant portion of the resort guests that were between, say 30 and 50, I will say that the majority of guests were north of 50 years of age. Chet told me in advance that this scene is less the Playboy Mansion with its free flowing sexual entanglements, and more a place where like minded people could go and “be free.” The caveat being, what goes on after hours is anyone’s private business.
The fundraiser for Chet was amazingly big. A band was playing, there was a lunchtime buffet, a VIP area, tables were set up for the silent and live auctions, and while people around the pool were interspersed, at the location of the party there were dozens and dozens of people interacting, dancing, lounging, bidding on the auction things, eating and just celebrating their favorite chef, Chet.
While I eventually relaxed and just letting my eyes go where they may, even before the days of Covid and social isolationism, this was all uncomfortably close. It’s one thing to be bumped atabuffet table by an elbow, but what was that that just brushed up against me?
Now, this is my hangup, not theirs. They were completely unphased by the couple of clothed guests who were obviously there for Chet and were not regulars at the resort. In fact, they were unnervingly nice. Many of them went out of their way to introduce themselves and talk about Chet and how much they love it there, as if they were in recruitment mode. “Oh you’re Chet’s lawyer! He talks about how you love his soup!” Clearly most of these people had a connection with lots of other like-minded people. And it made me a bit envious of this community of people who had spend years cultivating strong bonds with each other about every weekend.
So I guess my day was a bit anti-climactic. I went expecting Caligula and it was more like the movie Cocoon. The bodies may have been in various states, but the overarching theme was dignity and decency.
Best yet, the money was flowing. Everyone was on board to help out their very own chef get through this hard time. When I finally saw Chet and his wife, he was clearly enjoying his day but was also clearly in chemotherapy recovery mode. He looked tired and wore a mask. He immediately escorted me to the VIP area which had its own buffet and bar and went back to working the event.
So while the fundraiser went on almost all day, about an hour into it I decided it was time to write my donation, bid on some silent auction items and leave. Sensory-way-overload. But I left with overall positive thoughts about the experience and happy that these folks found each other and had an available outlet to express their essence of freedom.