What: Get naked.
Where: Caliente Resort, 21240 Gran Via Blvd., Land O' Lakes
Must-Do? Says Who? 700 naturists can't be wrong!
Casualties: $21, dinner; $33, poolside drinks
Notable Quote: "Why not?"
We promised the management at Caliente that we wouldn't write too much about the old people who frequent this upscale nudist resort and community. So, true to our word, the next line will be the only one dedicated to the naked elderly, and we will do it free-association style, rapid-fire typing the first words and images that come to mind.
OK, here goes — 1, 2, 3:
flapjack fertile crescent papal cranberry dangle anemone Angela Lansbury limpid daughters of the revolution mashed potato cake
Jiggling geriatrics and all, Caliente is an incredible place. This resort is classier than Buckingham Palace, with one small (albeit sometimes larger-than-average) difference: Caliente is naked. All naked, all the time. Naked piano bar. Naked sports bar. Naked tiki bar. Fancy naked restaurants. Naked volleyball — AKA "Nolleyball." Nilliards. Neightlifting. Naerobics. Naraoke. Netanque (that's "naked petanque" for all you philistines). Not to mention nwimming, known in the common parlance as "skinny dipping." At most resorts, poolside signs prohibit running, diving or fun in general; Caliente's signs stipulate "Nudity required in pool at all times."
It's the best rule we've ever followed.
But let's make one thing clear for all you modest folks — you aren't required to be nude anywhere but in the pool at Caliente. On our first visit, we didn't even get a chance to disrobe before a fully dressed man named Ernie gave us a tour of the place, pausing only to run a mini-comb through his thick grey hair or to wave gregariously at a group of people shouting his name from the pool. He showed us everything, from the weight facility to the spa to the conversation pools to the coed locker rooms to the showers without curtains on them ("What's this world coming to?" he joked) to the Sî Como No tiki bar, which means "Why Not" and is a phrase that Ernie told us we would hear a lot around there.
And to be honest, we were itching to get out of our clothes. We could feel the eyes on us — not that anyone was staring, but we inevitably drew attention. Walking around a resort where 90 percent of the people are in the buff, being fully clothed makes you feel a little, well, Republican.
As soon as we jumped in the pool, a half dozen residents of Caliente's gated community introduced themselves, excited to show us a good time.
"See, we don't bite," one woman said, shaking our hands.
We never thought anyone would, but we never could've imagined this much fun. The general Happiness Quotient at Caliente must be a lot higher than in the world at large. We're not claiming that if you get naked all your problems will disappear — but we do believe that many of your insecurities will. At Caliente, adults play unabashed like children, devising their own pool games using floats and rubber balls, spearheading cutthroat matches of nolleyball and letting it all hang out at Jack's karaoke in Si Como No, where, to combat nervousness, you have to imagine the audience dressed. Most remarkably, they grin their faces off, no matter what happens. When they spill drinks, there are no clothes to worry about staining. When it gets chilly, they wrap towels around themselves. When a thunderstorm attacks the tiki bar, they tear off the towels and dance in the rain.
They also play unabashed with their children. A mother and her two daughters steal the show every Sunday at Jack's, rotating through a full repertoire of country tunes. On our first visit, we watched a mother and young daughter, both naked, chase each other around the waterfall with water pistols, stopping only to dance with each other or to engage a stranger in their water battle. At certain moments, it was hard to tell the two apart. Their smiles were unforgettable.
After a tiring afternoon of belting rock and soul classics, and without a thought as to our appearance, we moseyed on over to the balcony for some food. As the sun set, we struck up a conversation with the couple at the table next to us, who had motorcycled down to Caliente from Canada.
"You guys are good singers. What do you do down here?" they asked.
"We work at Creative Loafing," Ted said.
They took a moment to look at us, lounging decadently in big, reclined patio chairs, sipping our drinks, smiling, feet up on the table, naked and spoiled as the day we were born, our cranberries dangling papally.
"Creative Loafing?" the wife repeated, and they couldn't help but laugh.