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.
I 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’.
I 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.