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Independence Day And Speedos

I’ve discovered yet another means to spark fury in the disgruntled masses: Wearing a Speedo in public.

On the scorching afternoon of the Fourth of July just passed, I strapped on my tight swimwear and walked two blocks to the cool waters of the Deschutes River. My friends and I often spend time at a tucked away swimming hole near Columbia Park. The highlight of the swimming hole is a large boulder nestled near the middle of the river, some 20 yards from the bank.

It was at the boulder where I discovered how mad most people truly are. Bukowski was right, there is enough treachery, hatred, violence, absurdity in the average human being to supply any given army on any given day. A friend and I swam to the boulder and took post for 20 some minutes. We were both wearing Speedos. After all, it was hovering near 90 degrees outside and the great Speedo offers plenty of breathing room for the body.

While stationed on the rock, we would occasionally stand up to help facilitate the tanning process and let the warm sun dry the water from our flesh. This is when the tormenting began. Mobs of floaters, tubers and swimmers moved past us that afternoon. In the 20 minutes, at least 200 people floated past, most of them at close range. Some of them hated us. Passionately.

People, most of them young men with short hair and athletic frames, couldn’t resist demeaning us in our speedo glory.

“Put some clothes on!”

“What kind of drugs are you on?”

“Did you lose a bet?”

This one guy, a muscle-laced brute of about 20 years, got really tense about our swimwear. He was floating with a mix of seven other people, three dudes and four girls. I saw the raw anger in his eyes as their vessel crept closer to our boulder. His shoulders got real tight and his arms started to shake with tension. His pupils got smaller the closer they got.

Finally, he spoke. Loudly.


We stared at the punk. He looked right back at us. There was nothing more to say, really. This guy, this desperate soul who likely had consumed lots of beer, never once thought outside of the main nerve of his brain and hated his job, had made his own conclusions about the scene. Two young guys standing on a rock in the river during a hot day wearing Speedos must be gay. Messed up minds from drugs and homosexuality exploits.

As the kid and his party slowly floated past, I turned to take one last look in their direction. The same kid was giving us the finger. And all we had done was stand there silently.

It was so strange standing on that rock for 20 minutes. It seemed to blow people’s minds that two guys would station themselves on a boulder in the middle of a waterway wearing wet Speedos. The truth is there’s nothing wrong with wearing whatever you choose, whenever you feel compelled to wear it. On a day that was supposed to be all about celebrating freedom, it was a drag to get bashed for living free. For trying to get out and have some good old American fun.

I don’t blame the people who tormented us for taking a second look in our direction. Hell, we looked great up on that rock. What troubles me is that people instantly linked our outfits with homosexuality and drugs. It offers my mind little hope for the future. For freedom. For much at all.

But there’s no way on Earth it’s going to stop me from wearing my Speedo.

About Joseph Friedrichs

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Book Festivals of the West 2011

Each year readers and writers gather to celebrate the written word at book festivals, fairs, and writing conferences throughout the West. Although there are a few spring festivals, everything really begins to pick up in June, and the schedule remains busy through November. The offerings vary from those that concentrate on helping writers improve their craft, such as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's retreat in Grand Lake, Colo. (July 10th-15th), to those that introduce writers to readers through panels, readings, and book signings, such as the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula (October 5th-7th). Some, such as the Aspen Summer Words Festival (June 19th-24th), combine workshops and readings. The workshops charge fees, but plenty of the festivals are free to attend, including the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula and the Equality State Book Fair in Casper. Most workshops are already accepting applications for this year. I've updated the Book Festivals of the West map with this year's information when it was available. Please let me know if there are any more events to add or update—I'll even throw this open for events in California and Texas. New West will run reports from the festivals again this year—we already have correspondents lined up for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Aspen Summer Words, and the Montana Festival of the Book, and are looking for more contributors.


  1. Joseph,

    A couple of questions:
    Do you hail from any of the following countries: France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, and er, Brazil?

    Were you at any time swimming or diving for Olympic Gold?

    Are you living in Las Vegas, somewhere between the ages of 75 and 90, so wrinkled and tanned you can hardly see straight, drinking a bourbon, smoking a stogey and wearing at least 3 gold chains?

    If you answer no to any of those questions, then, my dear, it is my solemn duty to inform you that you are not allowed to wear a speedo. Period. Well, unless you are visiting one of the aforementioned countries. Just resign the speedo to a place where you’ll conveniently forget about it and go buy yourself a pair of board shorts. Believe me, that will put an end to the jeering and make the ladies wonder what you’ve got hiding under there. Much, much sexier, I promise.

  2. Joeseph, perhaps you and your friend in your speedos resembled an English delicacy to the drunken floater.

  3. It just amazes me now insecure some “straight” men are about what they consider a proper man. Any “straight” man who needs to scream out “faggot” to make a point, I think protests too much. It is usually the one who screams the loudest (Rev. Ted Haggard) who has the most to lose.

    Redneck bastards like that who scream out can kiss my ass – sans Speedos!

  4. Joseph, can we start organizing the New West Wet Speedo photo contest already? The summer’s not getting any younger. . .

  5. Josesph, I just wanted to compliment you and your friend of your courage to remain individuals despite the fashionista police (such as Red Dancer). If truth be known most men would wear a proper swimsuit if it were not for the fashionista police. I wished you had mentioned the womens swim attire. It is very peculiar that they will wear little more than two dots and a dash, precariously held together by shoestrings and then have the nerve to complain about a man in a speedo and suggest we wear “boardshorts”. Yeah, ladies meanwhile YOU try swimming in a Mumu.
    As for the drunk who called you “faggots”. He was just a meatheaded, drunk redneck….and a coward.

  6. Jeff,

    I’m impressed that you are not only younger but also mature enough and masculine enough to wear a speedo. Living in Miami, I’ll admit its a bit more popular here than say, Oregon. Like yourself, I too was at the beach on the Fourth and was wearing my red speedo with a blue panel (feeling patriotic). Men like Red Dancer either have a peni$ complex because theirs is too small and/or they are the ones who are gay. Women who are sitting at the beach in a bikini are hypocrites and possibly lesbian. Sorry ladies…just because you have the female genes doesn’t mean you can carry a double-edged sword.

    Another cheers to a true man who doesn’t feel the need to conform to the cowardices of obese Americana. And if you’re in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, let me know and you can join me and my wife at the beach and I promise not to call you a faggot if you wear your speedo. Now if its a pink thong and you start ballet dancing, we may have issues!