Woodstock: The Aftermath

As I wrote my post on Woodstock yesterday, I was flooded with an internal dialogue about what happened in the “world” afterwards. For those who were there or were touched by it in so many ways, there was certainly many expectations and dreams that were inevitably formed in its wake. The general consensus was that the “world” would see that a large gathering of humanity (a community of 500 thousand) could not just survive but actually thrive with little or no rules or laws. Could this be a template for the salvation of humankind and the birth of a new “world society” where peace and love were the norm and everyone was able to live and grow without limits or government imposed restrictions? Had we just seen the birth of a “Utopian Earth”  and the beginning of a “Golden Age” that would carry all of us joyfully into the next millennium?

Obviously, none of this came to fruition and we are now, by my estimation, in a far more dire situation. What happened? Why didn’t any massive changes take hold? I have several assertions as to why this event not only didn’t bring about any significant transformation but, rather, may have spawned a negative outcome.

In the history of the drug culture, Woodstock took place when most “users” were consuming large quantities of marijuana and LSD (and many other hallucinogens) and there was a feeling of “family” among most of the participants. We all felt we shared a common set of ideals and that we were engaged in a “war” with the “evil empire” (otherwise known as the “establishment”) and there was an atmosphere of inevitable “victory”: eventually, “they” would all “convert” or die and “we” would assume our rightful place in a fresh, new world. Battle lines were drawn and we were going to “love the enemy” into submission. My first premise is that “the establishment” became fearful of their loss of control (and the security that goes along with it) and events like Woodstock only served to galvanize their  concerns and this caused them to become even more entrenched and proactive. In other words, our best intentions to create a “new world” just brought about a deeper rift and further polarization.

The other major factor that led to the ultimate failure of the “hippie agenda” was the proliferation of “hard” drugs into the culture: cocaine, amphetamines (speed), heroine (mostly brought back by Vietnam vets), etc. These drugs completely destroyed the trust and camaraderie that had so marked the “love culture” as rip-offs and other dishonest behavior became prevalent. This dis-unifying activity completely undermined the cohesion we had all enjoyed and destroyed all the impetus the movement had garnered. As the “enemy” became stronger, we became weaker and dis-empowered. The “movement” was over….

Not only did this kill any hope of any real change, it created a generation that is mired in apathy and inaction, and a deep despair seems to have griped the land. There is no focused energy or even a rallying cry (unless you count the wacko Tea Party)… we seem resigned to a bleak existence marked by endless meaningless political rhetoric and corporate greed. The average guy on the street has accepted his lot and his only consolation has become the hope that he has enough money to buy some beer and keep his cable running. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

I’ve had very little dealings with most of my friends from that era but, on the few occasions when I have interacted with them, I find that most have become the the thing we all feared. They are either entrenched in the “system” or still living some kind of pseudo-hippie, drug-numbed lifestyle. At parties, the main topic of conversation is the retelling of the same old “far out, mind-blowing happenings” we shared in the long-gone past. Very little is ever said about what is going on NOW, nor are there any discussions about what can realistically be done to correct the situation we are all faced with.

I have very little hope that anything can be done “out there” and I’ve devoted my time and efforts to “healing my mind”…. to evolve myself so that I can live a fuller and truly happier life. I can’t control what others do but I can make internal changes that allow me to be an example of what is possible. All real change always starts with the individual.

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Woodstock… revisited

The other night, my wife and I were watching a documentary about Woodstock on the History channel. She was very uninformed about the whole event, and since I was actually there, I was commenting about some of the more obscure aspects. Then it dawned on me: there are probably a lot of people out there who would be interested in a more “intimate” description of what a real participant saw, felt and experienced. So, I decided to “write it up” before my memory of it deteriorated to the point that would make it more fiction than fact.

PART 1: GETTING THERE

Toward the end of the summer of ’69, rumors were becoming rampant about a BIG concert\party\bash that was going to take place somewhere near a fabled art community, in the Catskills, called Woodstock. No one seemed to know many facts about it but, in those days, that was not much of a deterrent… anyone that was into the “hippy thing” was ready, willing and able to travel anywhere for anything that sounded like “fun” at the drop of a hit hat. So, as the event date approached, we started making “plans”, with little concern for logic or sanity. I had a van, which actually belonged to my dad, but it was unreliable so I asked my brother Joe if I could borrow his car. He hesitantly agreed and I gathered a few friends (funny, I can’t remember who rode with me to get there.. I only remember who came back with me… weird!) and we each threw in some money for gas and made sure we had enough “stash” to make the trip enjoyable. No food, no extra clothes, no camping equipment, no maps, no worries.. in retrospect, this seems fairly insane but, at the time, it sounded quite appropriate!

We left sometime late Friday afternoon and the only directions we had was that it was somewhere off Rt. 17… we figured it would be pretty obvious as we got closer to it. Toward evening, we came to what you might call “the line”: a mass of cars slowly crawling along both lanes of the freeway. As we patiently inched along, a pickup truck load of locals, riding on the shoulder of the highway, came up along side of us, asked us if we were heading to the concert, and offered to take us the “back way” for 5$. We wholeheartedly agreed, pulled out of the queue and joined a caravan of about 20 cars and followed them along back roads and tractor paths until we arrived at the end of a line of cars parked on both sides of the road. As we soon found out, we were about a quarter mile from the stage area and just about in the middle of the biggest party that has ever happened!

PART 2: BEING THERE

The center of the road was a mass of pot-smoking, long-haired freaks and it didn’t take us long to see that we had just arrived at what could only be described as “hippy heaven”. We toked our way through the crowd and eventually ended up at the crossroads, near the main stage and, as we looked around, we could hardly contain our drug-induced awe: the hills were covered with a mass of brothers and sisters, gathered in small campsites, all accented with blazing campfires. Everyone we talked to was totally blown away (in more ways than one) and were gushing excitedly about the enormity of the event. estimating wildly about how many people were there.

Someone offered us a jug of “water”, and we each took a long chug… as I drank, I noticed a little “debris” seemed to be floating around in the bottle and I asked if the water was clean. With a gigantic grin, the “owner” laughed and replied “yeah, man, it’s been purified with acid!”. We soon discovered that it was almost impossible to find anything to eat or drink that wasn’t laced with some kind hallucinogen and we happily resigned ourselves to the fact that we we were doomed to a weekend of unrivaled merry making. From this point on, everything is sort of a blur so you’ll have to excuse me if some of my “facts” are a little messed up or if I don’t have things in proper chronological order. The rest of that first night, we just wondered around, grazing on an ever-present smorgasbord  of “mind candy”, listening to an unending assortment of great sounding music. To this day, I’m not sure if the music was live or “canned”, but I do remember hearing Joan Baez….

PART 3: THE SECOND DAY

After enjoying a sleepless, heavily hallucinatory night, Saturday brought a new realization as we were able to see our surroundings in the revealing light of day. The crowd was even bigger than we imagined the night before and we set out to explore the possibilities and to party to the max. There was a pond behind where we parked and people were swimming in it naked… I remember clearly that Ross Deforest said he was going “in” and asked me if I wanted to join him. In those days, it didn’t take much to get me “excited” and all I could imagine was being the only person there walking around with an erection. So, I decided not to partake but said I would consider it later…. but, it never happened.

Later in the morning, we discovered we were hungry since we hadn’t eaten anything since sometime Friday. We asked around if anyone knew where there was some food and someone said there was some stands farther up the road. After walking for what seemed miles, we came to truck that had watermelons for sale. We pooled our money and bought one and carried it back. We met up with some other fellow Auburnians and decided to find a spot to watch the concert (we were told it was about to start) and we ended up sitting in the middle of the crowd that had gathered on the hill in front of the stage. As we made ourselves as comfortable as possible (the heat was unbearable and there was mud everywhere)  we sat and ate our melon and waited patiently for the performers to start. Next comes my one “claim to fame” for this crazy weekend, probably the only act of violence to occur during the whole event.

PART 4: THE BIG HIT… OR NOT!

As I said earlier, we were sitting in the mud about halfway down the hill… directly behind us, maybe 30-40 feet further up the hill, was a group that had one guy who was “acting out” (freaking out?): he was flailing his arms and legs, laughing wildly, and just making a terrible raucous. Although this kind of behavior is pretty acceptable in a place like this, it was clear by their body language that his “friends” were very concerned and unable to cope with the situation. They eventually gave up trying to control him and just let him “do his own thing” which meant he let him himself “flow” down the field, clearing a path as others let him pass by, slowly working his way down the hill. Eventually, he came to rest against my back and I “politely” got up and let him continue on his merry way. I was a little irritated by this but felt,hey, ya’ know, it is just a big party and everything is cool.

We sat, laughing and joking, as we watched him continue on his merry way, eventually ending up at the bottom of the hill. The people there tolerated him for awhile and then decided to carry him back up the hill, plopping him down in a heap amid his friends. He continued in his antics and soon he was back behind me… this time, i was a little more irritated and I told him quite clearly that, if he came back, I would “smack him” (or, something to that effect) and he just laughed and continued on his latest trip. Again, he got carried up the hill and, again, he ended up lodged against my back. I turned toward him and repeated my warning and he just burst out in laughter… that did it… something snapped in my head and I punched him in the month, hard. The effect was immediate: he stopped all his flailing and just sat there, staring straight ahead. Another result was that almost everyone near us got freaked out about the “bad vibes” and got up and moved somewhere else.

After awhile, some of his friends came down to get him and they thanked me, profusely, saying that he had been like that since last night and they didn’t know what to do about it. I checked on him a few times as we watched the bands play, and he seemed very subdued and “restful”…. and, we had plenty of room around us in an otherwise over-crowded area. We sat there until we could no longer “hold our water” and reluctantly left to find some relief.

PART 5: THE REST OF SATURDAY

As we meandered around in the mud, it was getting a little disgusting. Trash was beginning to accumulate everywhere and the mud made walking almost impossible. People were body-surfing in the slop and the port-a-potties were filled and stunk like, well, crap. I don’t remember how, but we did managed to unload our bladders (probably on the ground somewhere) and we spent the rest of the day meandering around and experimenting with anything offered to us. There aren’t many more “clear memories” after that, except the constant announcements of what color bad acid to avoid. Are you kidding? I mean, Christ, you’ve been taking hits off miscellaneous water jugs for two days and ALL of them had many different colored “thingys” in them… who knew what they had ingested?!

Oh, yeah… two more “happenings” occurred that day (I think). A couple of us were sitting on the hood of a state trooper car, leaning against the windshield, smoking a joint while the troopers stood a few feet away, just smiling at us. Can you imagine that? I’m thinking: “like, man, why can’t it be like this everyday?”… still wondering about that….. The other thing happened that evening when we were sitting around my car and a caravan of cars squeezed its way up the road… It was the Jefferson Airplane and Gracie Slick stopped right next to us with her window down. Of course, we offered her (and the rest of the band) a taste of our “lettuce” and they accepted! We sat for a short time and shared some small talk and then the road cleared and they continued on.  The rest of the night just passed by in a fairly uneventful fashion. I’m pretty sure we didn’t sleep much.

PART 5: SUNDAY AND “GOOD BYE!”

By Sunday, we were pretty wiped out: the lack of food and sleep were taking their toll and the place was becoming a sickening mud-hole pig-sty….  the only thing that was keeping us from leaving was that Hendrix was supposed to play later and no one wanted to miss that. All kinds of rumors were flying around, ranging from he would be there soon, to probably Monday, to that he wasn’t going to show at all. As the day wore on, it seemed less likely that he would make an appearance and it also became obvious that getting out of there would be a real “cluster fuck” if we waited until the end. In the early afternoon, we finally decided to leave early and I started to gather up those who wanted to ride with me.

I had some serious doubts about my ability to stay awake for the ride home. That is, until someone walked up to me with a baggie of white powder with a straw in it and says “you wanna hit?” I ask “what is it?”. He says, with one of those smiles, “meth”… oh, yeah, sure… “how much can I do?”. “ALL YOU WANT”…he says! Well, that did it… after a super snort, I was totally flying and ready to drive around the whole planet.

PART 6: THE  DISASTROUS DRIVE HOME

Five of us piled into the car… for some odd reason, I can remember exactly whom it was: Ed Shanahan, Mary Cacci, (the late) Mark Stevens, and Roger Deephouse. After roving the back roads for a while, we got back on RT 17 and started our journey home. Everybody was “speeding” and talking at the same time, so driving was quite challenging. After a short time, it’s started to rain very hard and some passengers wanted to pull over but I decided to drive through it. If you’ve ever driven in this area, you know how hilly it is… well, on one of the steep inclines, the water was streaming down the road and caused the car to hydroplane. It didn’t matter which way I tried to steer, the car seemed to have a mind of its own. We went into a 360 and the driver side (my side!) front fender hit the end of a guard rail, I went halfway through the side window, pulled myself back in and the car spun around again and ended up facing “forward” in the middle of the road. Despite bleeding pretty profusely from cuts just above my left eye and my left rib area, I got everyone out of the car and off to the side of the road. Cars were swerving all over the place but I felt better when the trooper got there. He immediately got out on the road and tried to direct traffic around my car but somebody rear-ended a car that had slowed to see what was going on. I distinctly heard the officer say “FUCK” as he ran over to the new accident seen.

After the tow truck arrived, he asked if everyone was OK and after seeing there were no serious injuries, he looked at me and said he would take me to the hospital himself. On the way, he asked me if we were returning from “that thing” at Woodstock and, when I said “yes, we were”. he says: “people like you are the reason my son died in Vietnam!”…. Holy shit! I’m thinking ” this guy is gonna pull over somewhere and put a bullet in my head. I ain’t got a chance!!”. I quickly responded that I was sorry his son had died and that my efforts were aimed at preventing that from happening to anyone else. We talked a little more and he seemed to be calming down and then he turns to me with a pleading look in his eye, and says “can’t you just please cut your hair?” I assured him that I would give it some serious thought as we pulled into the driveway of the hospital.

After an uneventful stitch job and ride back to where the car had been towed and my friends were waiting, Mark whispers to me that his cooler was filled with weed. I look over and the trooper has his foot on it, giving everyone a lecture about the errors of their ways. I’ll never know why he didn’t search us or our belongings, but I was very thankful when I saw Roger’s mother pull up. We hurriedly loaded the car and crammed ourselves in and sat quietly in a combination of glum relief and the invertible weariness of the “crash”.

PART 7 EPILOGUE

When I got home late that evening, my parents (I was staying with them in those days) were waiting up for me. I walk in the door, my clothes all bloody, my head and eye bandaged and looking like shit, and the first thing my mother says is: “what did you do to Joe’s car!?” I’m not going to go into what I expected or what I had hoped for or the reasons this hurt so much, but I will say it was typical. The other noteworthy thing that happened as a result of all this was that my dad took my van away and gave to my brother to replace the car I wrecked. The next weekend, he was out partying with some friends and rolled it… no one was hurt and it was totaled.

In retrospect, my only regret is that I didn’t get to see Hendrix play… he will always be my all-time favorite musician!!

That’s it for now… if more comes to mind or if someone corrects or adds any info, I will update accordingly. ENJOY!!

Doggiesitting Part 5

We returned our “puppy” to her owners last night and I’m going through withdrawals… although we only had her for 10 days, we had really become attached to her. There is something very heartwarming about being met every time you walk into a her space and she just acts sssooooo thrilled at seeing you! I mean, it is the personification of unconditional love… maybe we humans could take a lesson from this?

Today is Sunday and although I’d love to sit and watch football (and surf the net!) all day, I’ve already wasted spent the last three days doing that… so, Ive promised the wifey that I’d devote my full attention to her today. Small price to pay for totally goofing off for 3 days!

So, I’m off to do my duty… wish me luck.. see ya’ all on the flip side!

Doggiesitting Part 4 and the day after Thanksgiving

Wow… what a great day it was yesterday… my wife’s family (who loves dogs!) came over and we had a great feast (smoked turkey, roasted veggies, homemade pies, beets and cranberry sauce, a few beers and a little wine) and some great conversation. The dog we’re sitting just totally freaked over all the loving attention she got and everyone got a chance to share in playing with her… she was the center of attention all day! Add to that some good football on TV, a little music, some net-surfing and wonderful camaraderie and you got the formula for a perfect day… almost.

I did miss my family in CNY and all over the rest of the country, especially my two sons (and, of course, their families). But, I’m thankful for what I had and hope that everyone had an equally, if not better, day. I’m hoping to have some pictures up later…

The pup is telling me she’s gotta “go”… so, I’m off to do my duty!!

Doggiesitting Part 3

I awoke this morning feeling a little guilty about the way I treated the puppy yesterday. I didn’t really abuse her or anything like that, it’s just that I didn’t really play as much as I could have and I was a little annoyed with her. But, yeah, know, dogs are so forgiving… humans have a lot to learn from them. As I came out of the bedroom, there she was, her “dolly” in her mouth, whining up a storm and wagging her tail, just so happy to see me. I gave her a lot of loving and we spent some “quality time” together… yesterday was gone and all that she cared about was what was happening NOW!

Anything or anyone becomes your “teacher” if you are open to it!

Have a great thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Today has been designated as the time for Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving and although I’m not a big fan of all the “mindless, commercialized holidays” that we are endlessly and needlessly bombarded with, I think this an excellent time to reflect on the things I am grateful for in my life. One of my biggest “rules for living” is to be in a constant state of gratitude and acceptance… to be fully conscious each moment of the wonder and beauty of the world around me and to treat each person I meet with respect and love. Sure I fall short at times but that is my intent, and the more I practice it, the better I get.

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all the people who have contributed so much to my life, especially those who have “passed over”; the list is endless and I know I’ll miss someone but I’ll do my best: my grandparents, my parents, my wives, my sons, my daughters-in-law, my grandsons, my aunts, uncles, nieces,  nephews and cousins; my brothers and sister; my many friends and acquaintances… to all those who have touched my life or will affect it in the future. (I was contemplating naming each person but that would have taken considerable time and space). A special thanks to the Source of All that Is, (whatever name That may have) and to all the big and little things that make up my world, especially this “body” which allows me to move around and experience all the beauty and wonder of it all. Thank you, thank you, thank you…

As I re-read this post, I can not help but notice how I’ve fallen short in expressing what I’m feeling and intending… words are just so inadequate and superficial. But, the intent is there and that’s all any of us can really do… and, my wish for you is that you each have a life filled to the brim with happiness, joy, abundance, peace and love, each and every second.

Now, I gotta go help prepare today’s “food orgy”… Many blessings to you all!

Doggiesitting Part 2

It’s funny how something so cute can quickly become so annoying… I commented earlier that this dog had the “cute” habit of coming up to you with a dolly in its mouth and whining (this translates to “please pet me”). Well, after a few days of this (and the added annoyance of sitting outside the bedroom door and begging at 7AM) I’m about fed up with the “cute” thing and I’m ready to strangle that poor dog!

For the first few days after she was dropped off here (her owners went on a 10 day cruise) I was seriously contemplating getting a puppy for ourselves… but this experience has led me to question the sanity of that possibility. As I’ve gotten older. I’ve become more set in my ways and find it more intrusive to have anything interfer with m schedule… I’d like to think of myself as being very flexible, but, in reality,  I see I am very set in my  ways.

This is not to say that there is no possibility of having a pet… just that I need to examine the real consequences closer… And, the other consideration is my wife, who has an even less tolerance for unforeseen changes in schedule than I do. One thing I hate seeing is when people get pets and start abusing them, either through neglect or outright physical abuse, because they resent the animals presence. I’d rather avoid all that by thoroughly considering all options and consequences before making the decision.

to be continued…..