Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I was there.

So if we’re going to talk about music, I have to tell you about Woodstock.

I was there. That is my big claim to membership in our generation, my major 1969 merit badge. My big attention-getting, conversation enhancer for Third Thirders. I was at Woodstock.
I was 16, naïve to the nth degree, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really follow music except folk: Peter, Paul, and Mary; Arlo Guthrie; Joan Baez. Music was not my big motivator, even though it was called “3 Days of Peace & Music.” Peace was motivating, BUT the tiny little ad in the Sunday newspaper also said there would be art in the woods. There’d be potter’s wheels in the woods.

I went to Woodstock to throw pots in the woods.

I paid my $18 and bought my tickets in advance by mail.
We went up in two cars driven by parents. Kevin’s car went up earlier with the tent. Debra’s car – with me in it – sat in traffic for hours. We were going to find each other at the entrance gate … which ceased to exist when the 100,000th person entered, I guess. We arrived to utter chaos, and Debra’s father was having none of this … until I spotted Kevin over thousands of people. I waved, “Hi, Kevin, we’re over here!”

That was only the first proof of Woodstock magic.

We moved our stuff into the tent and then went in search of music, which lasted till 2 in the morning. As we trooped back to the tent through the mobs of people, something was wrong. The tent was gone! Kevin’s mother, freaked out by news reports, had come up to retrieve everyone and bring everyone back home.

Hey, I’d paid my $18 and I was not leaving! Fortunately, three boys nearby from Penn State heard all this and said I could stay with them.

So I did.
One of them was named Jack. Jack was my second bit of magic because every time I got lost, I’d call out “Jack!” and he’d always find me.

There was a lot of getting lost. The sea of people between me and the porta-cans didn’t mean I could give up needing the bathroom. I went to the truck that distributed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turned for half a second, and got lost again. Getting lost in a crowd of half a million mud-covered people and tents is a scary proposition. The odds were you would NEVER find your tent or your stuff.

And then, of course, I just had to go into the woods to throw pots.

Except that everyone in the woods throwing pots was naked. Everyone in the woods was naked. The woods must have been the center of clothing optional land. I ran out of there so fast I couldn’t remember what direction I’d entered from.

The trucks that gave out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches also gave out Spam sandwiches. I’d never heard of Spam. Spam was very weird. I would try to swallow it, and it would float back up. Spam can’t go down me. It refuses.

In the end, it was time to go home. I remember wandering around and then shouting, “Oh, there’s Debra!” She’d stayed behind and her father would meet her somewhere. I have no idea how this happened. I have no idea how I found that ride back home. Magic, I think.

We had to take trains and buses. For days, whenever you traveled and came across a starry-eyed, grubby, our-age person, you’d say, “Were you there?” and they’d understand … in our shared starry-eyed, magical way.

Only years later did my two younger sisters explain what it was like at home, with my parents watching the news and freaking out. I came home starry-eyed (it was epidemic) and dirty and told my father nothing was wrong with marijuana – which I hadn’t tried but those Penn State guys did, and look how helpful and friendly they were! (My bold adventure was taking my bra off.)

A few weeks later, on a family vacation to Montreal where Expo 67 was still continuing, my father deposited me in the P.O.T. Pavilion. After eight hours of truly scary films about the dangers of drugs – displays of babies born with their skeletons outside their bodies and people “flying” out of windows to their death – I was cured of any curiosity about marijuana.

And then, in the 1980s, while I was chairing a political meeting after-hours in a San Francisco bookstore, a man came in shooting a gun. He told us to throw our wallets into his bag. I actually asked if I could keep some bits – my Woodstock tickets – but he waved his gun, and there they went.

End of an era.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great story. I wish I had gone - not necessarily for the experience, but for the story.


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