Thursday, July 19, 2012

Woodstock 2012--back to the garden

Sunday last, decades late and on the fly, I finally made it to Bethel Woods, AKA, Woodstock. Not much more than a whim, on the way back from a weekend visit to my Aunt Sally’s country house, my cousins and I paid a quick visit to the site and museum.

I missed out on the original. By that time I was married with a 6-month-old daughter, living at the Jersey Shore. Like many of my generation—more than will admit—I experienced it second hand via TV. My aunt, however, the very same I just visited, did make it. She responded to urgent calls for help and brought sandwiches to the muddy minions.

The pull of the place took me by surprise—this despite the obvious corporate sensibility of the born-again pastoral concert space. It is lush, green and well-groomed, patrolled by an equally well-groomed staff in green blazers sporting ID’s around their necks.

It was mid-afternoon and folks were already arriving for the evenings (what’s left of the) Grateful Dead concert. My cousin and I shared a chuckle over the gathering of the faux hippies that live to follow.

You can grab a bite to eat, then stroll the store with everything “Woodstock” you can imagine (except the Peanut’s character). But the jewel in the crown is the museum. I kid you not. More than worth the price of admission, I could have stayed for hours.

More than a history of the iconic festival, it recounts the entire story of the 60s, with multi-media displays reaching back to the clean cut American Bandstand days. You can sit in a flower power bus and watch a flick narrated by those who made the cross country trip. You can slouch in a bean bag chair and gaze up at a HUGE panorama of festival films. The very scope of the scene take ones breath away.

Waves of nostalgia washed over me, not only for the times, but for my youth. It’s cliché but true. It was another world, long gone—and yet just a brief millisecond ago, on the edge of my peripheral vision.

How the hell did I get to be a 65-year-old grey haired granny? And how did that naked, tolerant mass of humanity, squirming in the Catskill mud, become the tight-assed, narrow- minded bunch running this country today?

I really thought we were a better lot.