My last blog was about a monumental event that marked its 40th anniversary in July; the first successful landing by man on the moon. It was a co-triumph of science and the bold expansive nature of the human spirit, an event shared by people all over the planet.
This upcoming weekend also marks a noteworthy anniversary. The 15th, 16th and 17th are the 40th anniversary of "3 days of peace and music" that you may have heard of; Woodstock (even though the actual festival location was Bethel, 50 miles from Woodstock, NY.)
In an era before PC's, the internet and cell phones, the "official archives" consist of photographs, an Academy award winning documentary... and stories. The stories were captured by journalists, recited by the "ones who were there" as well as the ones who weren't. That last group includes me. At 13 (and a rebel neither at heart nor practice,) I was transfixed by the stories, captivated by the newspapers and glued to the TV. Something huge was happening and I could feel the energy and impact in the way that parents and adults were talking about it, reacting to it. Sad to say, I remember many were gleeful at the overall horrid conditions and hoping it would result in a bloody disaster.
It didn't. As a matter of fact, there were more births at Woodstock (2) than deaths (1). This is remarkable when you consider that originally they anticipated 60,000 people would attend the festival. When 186,000 tickets were sold, the estimate increased considerably. And then 400,000+ assorted souls decided they just "had to be there." Not included is 250,000 others that who tried but never made it to the site. This is the mass that trekked towards a small town that had a population of 2,366 in August, 1969.
The music was vital, remarkable and diverse. A throng such as this equally enthralled by the music of The Who and folk singer Joan Baez? Indeed, that was the case. A mass of humanity that suffered through two storms in three days; one dumped over three inches of rain in a few hours. Not enough food. Not enough toilets. 100 arrests were made, all on narcotics charges.
Violence? There simply wasn't any. The most wonderful line in the documentary was spoken from stage during the height of the hardship, joy and madness: "There are a hell of a lot of us here. If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy next to you is your brother." Obviously, they did.
A generation was defined by this event, a generation that was positioned just in front of mine. I have marveled about Woodstock since the weekend it happened and especially from the time I first saw the film. I wished I had been there but wasn't. That's my misfortune.
On the other hand, the seminal event of the 60's, the Vietnam war, never claimed me nor any of my friends. As we turned 18, the war was winding down and the few draft lotteries we "participated" in claimed none of us. There was no longer any need to "start a revolution." That was my good fortune.
The Woodstock Generation had long hair, scruffy jeans and "classic rock."
Mine had white leisure suits, Saturday Night Fever and disco.
Suddenly, I'm feeling a bit depressed. (Just kidding...)