Sixteen, pampered and fearless. We took my mother’s car and Leona drove to beautiful up-state New York, a Music and Art Fair, Aquarian exposition. How great did that sound? I’d packed my coolest clothes and tucked my pillow with its starched white cover under my arm and set off on an adventure.
The traffic crawled. Leona still at the wheel and the rest of us walked along side. I have a vague image of Mom’s shiny Buick passing the hippy vans and beat up cars, a blurt of tie dyed people giving peace signs.
We arrived as they tore down the gates and gave away the posters. If we’d had been prudent we’d have taken extra posters and hidden those relics in the car with our tickets. But no, distracted by the level of our coolness and the scent of marijuana we moved on.
I do not remember my first sight of that stage that made history. I do remember when my teenage-girl-mind identified the feeling of hunger and her first sense of lack. There were no burger stands or funnel cakes. What kind of fair was this? We had pockets of cash but, like most of the kids at Woodstock, we were completely unprepared for what was ahead.
A primitive water line assured us we would not die but we had no canteen. So, without food or water we forged onward through masses of stoners to get as close to the stage as possible (which still seemed a lightyear away) and we claimed a patch of land.
Richie Havens sang “Freedom” and someone handed me a bottle of wine, I took a sip and passed it on. Someone gave me a gritty brownie I took a bite and passed that on. Magically food appeared from every direction, and magic food it was. One bite made us larger and one sip made us small. Soon a collective level of mind alteration permeated the field as we partook in unknown quantities… mostly psychedelic… and we didn’t much care.
Rain of every kind was reported that night but I clearly remember seeing the stars. Dancing hippies everywhere, young people made love in the open and nobody was offended. Masses of wandering lost found new homes with temporary families.
There were announcements, mostly about our extraordinary coolness. We had closed the NY Thruway, were declared a disaster area and “Welcome to the first Free City in the World!” A Swami had blessed us and helicopters flew over, anti-war messages shouted and everyone agreed politically.
They flew the bands in, ferried them across the sky. It was a night that a half a million young people took a collective sigh and melted into the hillside on Yazgur’s farm. Whatever came our way at Woodstock, we best relax and go with it.
With folks I’d never known I felt loved, cradled in their bosom. Dear ones. they fed me, gave me drink. Should anything happen to me, this new family would care for me… tenderly… as well as they could and there was a feeling of belonging to something, something much bigger than myself that made me almost tearful.
I folded my white pillow case and put it away while it rained. My quilt was soaked, my pillow ruined and I carried a bag of very cool clothes which I would never wear.
By half past Arlo Guthrie we realized that the need to pee was of greater importance than music. We said good-bye to our loved ones and set off to find a bathroom and a place to sleep.
Clearly this was a problem. The port-o–potty’s were their own disaster areas by the first night. We peed in the cornfield and relaxed between rows. I’d piled my coolest clothes on top of me for warmth and Joan Baez sang us into semi-consciousness in the mist.
Then the rain began again. The story gets worse, I promise.
To be cont..
Watch next Thursday for “Woodstock, the Dawn of Day Two”