Getting To Woodstock Stories
11:21:47 AM 03.09.10
My trek to Woodstock follows the words to a great David Crosby song, itís been a long time comin and itís goin' to be a long time gone. I was a month shy of my 17th birthday, looking forward to being a senior in high school when the concert began. A week earlier I was making plans with three of my friends. I couldnít believe I was going. I knew in my heart that my mother was going to come up with some reason why I couldnít go and as sure as God makes little green apples she grounded me for the rest of the summer. For the next 38 years, until her death, no matter where I was, as the anniversary of Woodstock approached I would remind my mother of my grounding. I have collected every type of Woodstock memorabilia there was over the years. T-shirts I canít fit in anymore, posters, albums, 8-tracks (can I still say that), cassettes, CDís and DVDís. Woodstock was my music, Jimi, Sly, Grace Slick, Alvin Lee, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Band, The Dead, The Who, The Fish. I lived and breathed Woodstock in absentia. A couple of years later, I was on my way to Hunter Mountain to go skiing and decided to stop in Woodstock, NY. What the hell, Iím in the middle of this one horse town walking around asking everyone who walked by, how do I get to Yasgurís farm. Finally someone pointed and said, itís about 50 miles that way. He said Woodstock was in Bethel, NY, dummy. I said thanks, so much for that one. As the years and big anniversaries came and went there was always an excuse not to go. For several years I taught skiing at Kutcherís and got to ski for free at all the local areas. I canít tell you how many times I drove past Hurds road driving up and down route 17B looking for a bar and didnít think to make the turn. Well, two and half years ago I had quad bypass heart surgery and afterwards starting realizing how short life really is. My high school, West Islip, NY started planning our 40th for the summer of 2010 a year and a half ahead of time. I started looking up people from the past and finding out they were long gone. I said to my wife of 23 years, hey my bucket list includes going to the original Woodstock site and Iíd like to go to the 40th Woodstock reunion and she said sure. Remember that mother thing I was talking about earlier, I donít count my eggs until there on my fork going into my mouth. We were planning all summer to camp out in Shohola Falls, northeast PA off route 6 about 30 miles from the Bethel Woods Art Center and finally got there on August 6th , 2009. On Thursday, August 13th, I reminded my wife about Woodstock and she reiterated that I could still go. After lunch I said Iím not taking any chances, Iím going to Bethel to get my tickets for the concert and museum, do you want tickets too, she said yes. I left, route 6 north to 434 west to the New York border, becomes route 55, north for 17 miles and make a left on 17B. As Iím approaching route 17B, White Lake on my right, my heart starts flittering, Iím only going 40 miles an hour. I canít believe Iím going to have a heart attack. I pull over and get a bottle of water out of the cooler and relax. On the road again, hey thatís Willie, I make a left on 17B. I see Hectorís Last Chance on the left and decide to pull in to refresh myself. Hectorís as I later learned is and was a popular camp site for the Woodstock nation. There where a couple of trailers and several tents already set up and there were a few people splitting wood for the gigantic fire pit. As I was getting back into my van a group of 50 to 60 year old 60ís dressed people were passing a joint and said you leaving already, you just got here. At that point time stopped, I got a massive chill and slowly spun around taking everything in. I instantly felt 16 again and said your right, I have finally arrived, Iím at Woodstock. As many have said, including Michael Lang, Woodstock is not a place; itís a state of mind. I was here in body and mind. I told my new friends that I needed to go to Yasgurís Farm to get my tickets for Saturday. Ok, I didnít say Yasgurís out load, but it sounded good. Well, I got my tickets, saw Duke Devlin a Woodstock fixture for the last 40 years, went to the monument and walked around the Great Lawn and stage area, picturing 500,000 people sitting there. I didnít take any pictures; Iíll do that when I come back with my wife. I got in my van and drove back to Hectorís to have a beer and take it all in. Saturday morning, I arrived back at Hectorís early to take pictures, buy t-shirts and get Joanne Hague to sign a copy of her book. There were trailers and tents as far as the eye can see. We arrived at Bethel at 1:00 pm to visited the museum, which is a must see for anyone who wants to relive the 60ís and got in line for the concert around 2:00 pm. The gates werenít going to open until 3:00 pm and there were already a couple of thousand in line. I remembered when we first came in, that security had golf carts to assist the handicapped. My wife needs a crutch to get around and itís a long walk from the gate to the concert pavilion. So after standing in line for 40 minutes, my wife held our space and I hunted down security. They said come on and drove us right to the pavilion 20 minutes before the gates opened. We had ring side seats. It was the largest collection of original bands that played at the original Woodstock since Woodstock. The concert was outrageous, with past greats jamming with other bands and playing a large selection of Woodstock music. Canned Heat doing "Going Up the Country", guest singer ďSuperflyĒ a Janis Joplin clone, singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cathy Richardson of Jefferson Starship sounding like Grace Slick, and also singing Joe Cockerís ďI get by with a little help from my friendsĒ. The great Country Joe McDonald was the acting Chip Monck and asked for an ďFĒ every time he had the mike and eventually sang the ďFish ChantĒ. I constantly looked at the crowd behind me, convincing myself that this was Woodstock and not a reunion until I remembered that Woodstock is a state of mind, and then I was fine. I plan on visiting the monument site and Hectorís every year as long as Iím able and reminisce with others of the ever growing Woodstock nation.