August makes the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the psychedelic rock festival that pretty much summed up the late ‘60s. I was only 12, but I was fascinated by the far-out scene captured on film. Those VW buses painted with flowers and peace symbols! Those throngs of uninhibited young people, singing and swaying and screaming to Jimi and Janis! I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be a hippie!
By the time I reached my late teens everything was Saturday Night Fever, and no one was wearing love beads anymore. Instead of flowing dresses and daisies in my hair, I wore clothes with shoulder pads that made me look like a linebacker. And while I attended my share of concerts, none of them seemed remotely like the wild weekend on that upstate New York farm.
Life went on, until my teenage offspring were attending their own concerts and festivals, featuring their own music gods and goddesses. And one day I woke up and I was 62, and it was fifty years since the Summer of Love, and my flower child dreams were a lifetime ago.
But sometimes, sometimes, you get a second chance. This past week, I went up to the Poconos with my friends Holly and Mary Ellen for a few days. It rained on Thursday, and Holly suggested we go visit a museum—but not just any museum. We were, as it turns out, only a 40 minute drive from Bethel Woods. The site of Woodstock. And on the grounds there is now a performing arts center, as well as a museum. Yay! Who cared that we were driving a sensible, un-stencilled car, and had no marijuana with us? We were about to experience a taste of 1969!
As we drove, the traffic grew heavier. Clearly others had the same groovy idea! But then the cars started to move. At the entrance to the complex, a young police officer stood, checking every vehicle and then waving it through. When it was our turn, Holly confidently rolled down her window and explained that we weren’t attending the music festival already in progress there, just the museum.
“You don’t want to go there,” he intoned solemnly, shaking his head. “It’s nuts, very loud and crowded and crazy. You all REALLY don’t want to go in. Look, here’s a spot where you can turn around!” Totally thrown, we obeyed, and found ourselves driving away. But then it hit us. Wait a minute! Do we look like we are that ancient? Like we can’t handle a little noise and craziness? The more we thought about it, the more irritated we became—though not enough to re-enter the long queue of vehicles. It’d be our luck that Officer Baby Face would just turn us back again. And so, disappointed, we conceded rock festival defeat.
Home in Oreland, it still rankles. I missed two chances at Woodstock, and I probably won’t get a third.
I think I’ll go tie dye something.