3 Days In Woodstock

 

Woodstock bus

The Museum at Bethel Woods is the good acid. Because it will trip you out inside the time spent, with no shitty side effects. Yanno . . like ending up in the ER, or dying.

could go through a good many different sentiments in regards to the forty five minute gallivant me and Q took through its halls, and maybe I will have something more specific next weekend. But a very profound revelation has come to me as I sit down to write this latest Woodstock entry, so Imma go with it.

This revelation is a crush of emotions, stacked in a neatly felonious pile of thoughts that stole me all the way back to the UK in the fall of 1994. It was a year in which O.J. Simpson got away with murder, the Republicans took back Congress and Throwing Copper made the musical band Live a global bumper sticker.

Back then, I was roaming the vast halls of the British Museum when me and my wife came upon the Rosetta Stone. After our tour guide tap danced right past it with a couple here and there shout outs to the ancient Egyptians, I pulled her aside and told her to keep Vanilla Ice (my pet name for our guide) at bay while I did some heavy petting with history.

And so it was that I pushed the velvet rope aside and touched the Rosetta Stone, after which I wrote out a check for a religious experience that is still paying me back to this very day.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting the same kind of experience when me and Q made the rounds at Bethel. Until we came upon it. A rusted scrap of the chain link fence that got tucked into history by a couple hundred thousand pair of barefooted soldiers, after which Woodstock became a ‘free concert’.

had to touch it, of course. Because this was the musical Rosetta Stone, and well . . there was no velvet fucking rope stopping me. And even if there had been, Q would’ve been like “Fuck ’em, hug it for all I care,”.

And so I did. And as it turns out, the fence? It was electrified . . in the very best kinda way. Because it took me all the way back to the UK, and then it took me even further back than that. Back to a time when music was a prayer so sweet and songs were living ends.

Songs that thieved the stars and pledged them to a vinyl page, and in so doing, turned that sound into a madness that seeped into every living inch of you. Lyrics that tasted of sweet velvet plums that hung like magical kites on trees borne of thunder, with a melody that wept the misbegotten remains of a day into the luminescence of a brilliant forever after.

A great piece of music can steal back time. Leaving you breathless and shaken and spent. Alone and together, high and grounded, resolved and disputed. It preaches to your choir as it stirs your soul into the kind of rebellion the previous generation loses sleep over.

And that’s how the kids of Woodstock closed the book on a decade torn to its seams by war. It was a decade that began with John F. Kennedy promising the moon to a restless nation, and delivering that very thing with months to spare when Apollo 11 planted its talons on a patch of mystical dirt George Bailey had once claimed as his own on the silver screen.

The betwixt and between left a heavy price on the heart and soul of a vociferously tribal generation otherwise known as the ‘baby boomers’. They watched Camelot get stolen on a beautiful fall afternoon in Dallas, and then again five years later inside a Los Angeles hotel. They watched Martin Luther King’s dream come true with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then they watched its shepherd fall in Memphis less than four years later.

And it was those kids, who grew up inside the rattling bones of an archaic set of rules, and who punched hard at the skeletons and made haste with the gravel of the zero sum game they had inherited. It was those kids who made metal out of three heavy summer nights, shouting medieval chants inside their rocket booster clogs. They cheered and fucked and got high to the sounds of a new and distant future whose logic did not rhyme with the establishment. At all.

They hammered out a fledgling constitution possessed of a wholly different set of amendments that ran counter to the bomb sheltered TV dinner taxes they had been made to wear for a decade’s worth of time. Their demands were quite simple. Give us peace and love through music, or get the hell out of our way and we’ll prove how that kind of shit works.

And maybe it’s naivete that kept me holding to that fence. And then again, maybe . . . just maybe, it’s knowing. Knowing what it feels like to refuse the convention of a society that hasn’t ever gotten a damned thing right since Hector was a caveman trying to fetch some rock and roll out of a couple twigs.

Maybe, just maybe, I was finally in a place that understood me. And maybe, this was better than that time in the British Museum with the Rosetta Stone.

Turns out, being a stranger in a strange land has its privileges.

 

 

64 thoughts on “3 Days In Woodstock”

    1. Reading it back now, it was a rather artful and simplistic rendition of a very complicated time. You are right on about it being the most turbulent year of the 20th century. A decade and more worth of events happened inside a very small time frame. And somehow, those kids found a way to bring some semblance of order to all the chaos.
      Of course, they were painted as radicals and druggies, because God forbid convention gets pushed aside for a few days, right?

      Liked by 3 people

  1. B,
    I don’t know where to start.
    We were only there for 45 minutes? I think I could return because there is still so much to read and look at. Then again, I think we got the important gist of it.
    I am glad I took your picture while you were holding on to the fence because your expression says it all. And when you explained how it took you back to 1994, I understood.
    You have a way with the phrase, my friend. And with bringing history to light. This is some beautiful writing, tell you what.
    Thank you for sharing yourself in this wonderful manner.
    Lotsa love,
    Q

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I know you and John are partial to Janis, and rightfully so. She ushered in the age of the lioness when it came to music. All of these wonderful young ladies with amazing talents owe a mystical hat tip to that woman.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Q,
      It was a very immersive forty five minutes for the two of us. And apologies for being so “somewhere else”, but I don’t even realize when I blast off to that other dimension. I wrote down not a wit of this tour until I sat down and wrote it last night. If I close my eyes, I can summon times. It’s good for me to do this, because it pushes the good stuff onto my dashboard.
      I needed to be “there” with a writer like you though. Someone who understands without being preachy or pretentious. You just get it.
      That fence was sacred, to me. Was it ever.
      The beauty was in those moments, when all sorts of discoveries and revelations were making themselves known. I do not feel that drugs would have elevated me to a more effective level. Hell . . it FELT like drugs.
      Love and appreciation to you. Thank you for getting it, and me.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That it was. And puh-leeze. No apologies necessary. It’s what it’s all about. It’s where ‘being there’ brought you and isn’t that what experiencing moments are? Often they are not about what you see at the time but where that those items take you. You drew a parallel between your emotions felt with the Rosetta Stone and the Fence. That’s some powerful stuff right there.
        Drugs might have enhanced negatively or dulled…
        To getting each other!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I liken it to the yellow brick road, in that there seems a mystical design to the place, but in the end we are the ones who pull the strings. There is a romance to that to which I actually prefer. Because it allows us to have some control over the situation.
        Not all that long ago, I used to think my best writing came to me when I was indulging. Thankfully, I don’t feel I need that, not any longer.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Brilliant is a word that gets used a lot on WP, including by yours truly. Let’s say solid, seeing as how in my estimation I am miles away from brilliant just yet. And by the time I get there, Imma have a more applicable word for it. Like Shazthuggish . . or something.

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      4. That’s just what a person who punches first and asks questions later WOULD say!
        And yes, your loyalty and stubborn as all get out manner is what makes you so loved. And always will.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved holding on to you as you held the fence and took us back to the time. In those days, I was a working stiff and could not drop everything and go. I wanted to but let the other side have its decade. A piece of my heart was always with Janis and the song always brings a lump. Nicely done, Marc.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. John,
      As much of a hippie as I profess to be, I would’ve been working right along with you while all my hippie friends went, lol.
      That’s alright, I would’ve gotten high on their escapades, so there’s that.
      Thank you for the chime, Boss.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Birn in Dallas, writing this from the place where Janis came from, Austin, and being 3 when MLK was taken, and being taken to civil rights protests as a baby, and spending a summer 20 years ago in the Berkshires at the yoga center and having a great across the state line in New York, my summer of hippie love, or my one Rainbow Gathering in the Allegheny National Forest, another heartbreak that didn’t happen because she brought her ex. They all contribute to me wishing I had been there at Woodstock. I’m not religious but praise whomever to the highest when it comes to music touching, cleansing, whatever-ing the soul. I still can’t hear Dolores Riordan of the Cranberries belt out a time of heartbreak without thinking of that woman; I usually don’t/can’t even listen. That’s all to say your post was a mad cacophony of word images that takes me to a place I’ve never been, but that we all hopefully get to go to in our minds. Right now it’s the Classical Guitar Alive show on KMFA. Yesterday it was the Lounge Show in KOOP radio. Today it’s live Colombian music from Grupo Fantasma at the 10th Anniversary if the Long Center. Thanks and rock on, brother.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Soul Man,
      You’ve had the idea since you were knee high to a grasshopper. And it’s wonderful to awaken memories in people this way. It’s a vicarious thrill when you list these moments in your life based on something I wrote, and I find it incredibly cool, and special.
      And yes to the religion otherwise known as music, as it always gives us something in times of need. And yes to Dolores . . it still haunts me to hear that magnificent voice and to think she’s gone.
      And yes to rocking on, brother man!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. To add a bit more. I saw SRV play in Dallas and years later was at the graveside if Jimi Hendrix, a big influence on Stevie Ray. I once sang in a concert with Dave Brubeck himself, and a choral work by Sweet Honey in the Rock; years later I would be in a vocal workshop with Bernice Johnson Reagon who wrote that piece. I met Bonnie Raitt and The Boss, and quite literally bumped into James Taylor at a yoga center. Last year I won tickets to Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, whom I saw in the 80’s with The Alarm. I helped on a concert with civil rights legend Odetta and legend’s legend Pete Seeger, Who I also saw at a protest if the US army school if the Americas along with Bruce Cockburn (“If I had a rocket launcher… Some son of aof a bitch would die” that I heard played by a union member locked down i a factory strike in Guatemala in 1988.) Mercedes Sosa, growing up hearing The Weaver’s and folk jams from the living room that my crazy uncle would have. Billy Joel, ZZ Top, even Men at Work, BB King, Ray Charles (behind a fence; I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me either). Oh, The Who last year and worked the only Rolling Stones show in Austin. SXSW this year finally volunteered, saw Todd Rundgren who freakin’ rocked the small club; saw him years prior too. Some jazz acts that were amazing. So many acts I never have seen. Lately, no money for shows. Saw Juliet, Naked another Nick Hornsby music movie last night. So yeah, man, music. It’s everything.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny because when I logged on just now, I read this comment first, I thought it was a puzzle or something. I figured it out, but thank you for the corrections just the same. 🙂

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      1. Lol when I say resonated I meant that I felt a connection…a familiarity perhaps with the scene…which is unexplainable since I was born the month after Woodstock was held…loved this piece…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Marc,
    I am giving a lecture at the beginning of November, at Wichita State University, and I appreciate how your writing always shakes things loose in my addled brain. Indeed, yes, so much happened in 1968, pivotal moments, especially in France, but ideas that led to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, and the beginning of the fight for Gay Rights.

    Always impressed and this is certainly no exception ! Bravo !

    Billy Boy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Billy Boy,

      Wichita State, huh? You’re not leaving us are you? And I told you, you can always rest your addled brain on this blog, my friend. So glad I could supply. And so appreciative for the kind words.

      Peace and pride

      Like

      1. No, not leaving at all. I worked at Wichita State University for 33 years, and an institution from which I have three degrees. I will be in Wichita, maybe, all of 48 hours, it’s all I can handle being there anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

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