Sunday, August 14, 2011

Then...and then...and now.....

Well..... here we are once again. Mid August. A remembrance of a little party that went on in Bethel Woods and was named for the nearby town of Woodstock, NY. Can it be forty two years?!? I didn't go to the show in 1969. I did go this weekend. At my age you have to grab your adventures wherever you find them. My band had a gig at a wedding "celebration" in a town about a half hour south of Bethel Woods....two and a half hours from my home in NJ. I had it in the back of my mind that I might stay in the area that night and visit the site the next day.
This was a good weekend. Had a good gig with the boys at a local pub Friday night. I left plenty of time to get to the Saturday gig 'cause I figured I'd probably find myself off the beaten path a few times. I did. But with the aid of some good samaritans I found myself back on track and in plenty of time for the gig. It was a good bash! So we're lined up in three cars to pull out afterwards. They went right. I called an audible and went left. Some locals had given me the info I needed to carry out my pilgrimage. I got a room about fifteen minutes up the road in Monticello. Woodstock....Bethel Woods was about fifteen minutes further north.
The next morning I ventured out and soon I was at .....WOODSTOCK...!!!!!!!...aka The Bethel Woods Music and Arts Center. A huge rock with the logo beckoned me to come in. (Cue CSNY..."By the time I got to........") There was a kid working at one of the parking lots waiting for the crowd for a show that night. I asked him who was playing and he said,"Nobody I know." Turns out it was Blood, Sweat and Tears, Tommy James and the Shondells and The Family Stone...minus Sly. Everybody I know. I wasn't sticking around anyway and just needed directions to the site. He seemed a little foggy on what I was looking for, even though it was only a quarter mile or so down the road.
At this point I have to say a nice job was done with the preservation of the concert site. The drive in from the main road was idyllic and empty. I got to the end of the road, a little past the Museum and on my right....there it was. No one around. I mean no one. And this was the anniversary weekend! I turned the corner and pulled in. Tiny little parking area. It was an overcast day and the surrounding countryside was geen, expansive and....smelled good. An arbor led the way in. I'm not sure but I think pixies were throwing flowers in front of me. I came out to a large rock with the Woodstock logo and a list of all the bands and a few words about the weekend. In front of me was Yasgur's farm. Just to the left was the footprint of the stage. The hill that had been filled with half a million people lo those many years ago went up and out and all around from there. Gardens and a few small seating areas and the ghosts. (the wind?) I've heard the complaint that "they" (the man?) won't let you on the site anymore. Well there's a fence preventing you from walking down to the stage. But even the fence is a tasty wooden Woodstocky type fence. And it's ALL the site, anyway. I climbed over the fence, walked in a ways and took a seat. Power to the people, man.
I sat there for about forty five minutes and a real sense of the spiritual wrapped itself around me. I felt like I was in church. But it was starting to get a little weird. As it should. Was it my imagination or was that The Who I was hearing? Whoa. That's definitely The Who. Turns out it was a sound check from one of the concert venues a few hundred yards away. Dang! A few "" confirmed it. (Stay away from the brown acid!) As I was leaving I had a nice conversation with a couple folks who snuck in while I was "praying." They were from my neck of the woods here in Jersey and said they come up every year. I asked them where all the hippies were. They said camping used to be allowed on the site (there's the man with his boot on the back of your neck, AGAIN!!) but had been moved to down the road where a friendly tavern owner allowed camping on his property.
I wasn't gonna stop at the museum. But I did. And I'm glad I did. After you wind your way through the Bethel Woods gift shop ($45 tie dyed tee shirt, anyone?) you wind up in the museum, which is really laid out well and very cool. One big theater and a few smaller screens, lots of lounging areas with big bean bag chairs,the magic bus, posters, memoribilia, interactive stations, and a recording booth where you can leave a remembrance of.... whatever. So there I am, forever in posterity in the little recording booth archive at the musem in the Bethel Woods Music and Arts Center. I was the only one in the Theater watching the Woodstock documentary (akin to Charlton Heston in The Omega Man. Google it.) and the only one sitting in the back of the Magic Bus for the tour. All in all, very tastefully done......and peaceful.
As I was pulling out of town there was the road with the strange name my jersey pals told me about. I pulled down the road and entered 1969. My brothers and sisters. All ages and sizes. Lots of gray. Lot of peace signs being thrown at me. Lots of music, campfires and hippies. And there it was. A taste of the "feeling." I headed home.


I started my Woodstock adventure blog back in August and finished it today. Sept 11th. As I'm writing this, the tv's on in the background as the names of victims of that day are being read by family members. The reading's been going on for almost three hours.
That morning I had just dropped someone off at Newark airport for a flight he would never get on. As I was leaving the airport, heading west on Rt. 78, billowing smoke filled my rear view mirrors, just as Stuttering John busted into Howard Stern's studio to announce that a plane had crashed in to the World Trade Center. I knew I was done for the day, and probably the rest of the week.
I watched the images from my apartment in Pittstown, NJ. I got there just in time to see the first tower fall. The thought of the lives lost, and the manner in which they were lost, made me physically ill. My first thoughts weren't of who did it... or let's get the bastards... or did we bring this on ourselves.....etc. I thought of little girls whose fathers wouldn't be coming home. Of wives who'd be wondering where, exactly, their husbands were at that moment. Many never finding out. Brothers looking for sisters, nephews looking for uncles, workers looking for co workers. Cars parked at NJ commuter rail stations that wouldn't be picked up for weeks. Did I know anyone in there? I did. It was just hard to think of revenge in the wake of so many innocents gone. I get into downtown NY regularly and the fact that the Freedom Tower has taken ten years to get going is .....discouraging.
The last few days have been filled with documentaries and various news reports of Sept 11th. The images never fail to bring up the emotions of that day. I'm glad I'm not the guy who has to come up with any answers. I don't have any. Just an ache in my heart for our....their....your..... loss. Almost four hours. The reading of names continues. They're up to S.