By The Time I Got to Woodstock We Were Half a Million Strong
Memories of the nineteen sixties appear to me in flashes. I flash on being dismissed from Junior High early without explanation, walking past rows of houses wondering why so many people were standing on their lawns, ears glued to their transistor radios, and crying. It was November 22, 1963.
I remember when the Four Seasons lost their domination of the charts to four British musicians. I remember the Ed Sullivan Show.
I remember the first Moon Landing. Kinda. I was pretty stoned.
And I remember in vivid melting color exactly where I was fifty years ago today.
As I look back at my experiences over the years, the successes and failures, the adventures, few fill me with greater pride than when I declare, I was at Woodstock.
I was nineteen, with long hair and the beginnings of a beard I still wear today.
I don’t recall what time of day it was when Richie Havens took the stage. There were no cell phones in those days and I didn’t own a watch. Why would I?
About that time, I began peaking on the purple Mescaline I’d ingested. I looked behind me and saw melting colors as far my eyes could see. The colors were people, from the bottom to the top of the hill. Five hundred thousand people.
When I purchased my tickets from the owner of a rival Hippie clothing store a month or so earlier, he had told me that there’d be thirty thousand people at the festival. My reply was, “Where are they going to find thirty thousand Freaks” (The media called us Hippies, but we proudly called ourselves Freaks)? I was only off by about half a million.
I never make small mistakes.
I have little recollection of the other music at the event, except maybe hearing the Airplane in the distance one morning. My memories are in vivid color though blurry and confused. I remember suede frilled moccasins and bare feet walking by as my floorless tent washed away in the rain. Neither I nor the woman I had met on the way was much phased.
I remember the mud, the single bite an apple I took as it made the rounds through the crowd. It was the only food I’d ingested the entire weekend.
I remember drinking water from a spigot at someone’s farmhouse.
And I recall a spirit that I’d never seen before or after.
Woodstock wasn’t only about the music. It was a revolution. Nearly half a million people had gathered on a farm in rural New York to declare the birth of a new era, one of peace and love.
Well, obviously we lost that revolution, but for those precious days, we were a population that rivaled most cities, absent greed, and violence and filled with caring, sharing and what was to be known as the Spirit of the Sixties.
Today I celebrate and I mourn. As I face the framed, tattered brochure, on my wall, I lift my glass of filtered water high and toast what was, what might have been and what will never be again.