Thursday, August 13, 2009

We All Went Down to Woodstock

In keeping with the concert theme, and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, a short trip down Memory Lane - this time only going back to 1994.

Forty years ago this week, when the original Woodstock was held on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel NY, I was six. Now I reckon there were indeed six year olds at Woodstock, but none of them were the children of my parents, who harbored a deep seeded fear of hippies, weirdos and freaks.

Fifteen years ago, however, when the 25th anniversary of 3 days of love and music was held, I was way older than six. And I considered hippies, weirdos and freaks to be my peeps. I was in.

Tom and I were not dating at the time, but we were friends. Really good friends. Best friends. We decided to go to Woodstock together. (mistake #1) We lived in South Jersey at the time, which is not exactly right around the corner from Saugerties NY. We decided to go on a sponsored bus trip rather than messing with the driving (mistake #2)

I bought a cheap two-man pop up tent, just big enough for us each to unroll a sleeping bag in (mistake #3 - see mistake #1) We packed as lightly as possible, knowing that we would have very little space and no shower facilities. (misfortune #1)

We were up well before the crack of dawn, waiting in the parking lot with lots of other tired but excited Boomers and X-ers.

The ride there was uneventful. We were corralled through extensive security and eventually were on the grounds and ready to find a place to set up camp. We settled on a spot, popped the tent up, unrolled our sleeping bags and set off to explore the grounds and plot our course.

Oh, we had big plans. We were gonna see it all. One stage to the next. (mistake #4) Long before the first scheduled band played it's first note we knew THAT wasn't going to happen. The stages were quite spread out and the crowd was thick. Ridiculously thick. Before the shows even started. There would be no hopping from stage to stage.

We took our blanket and walked to the main stage. We'd be sacrificing a few things we wanted to see, but it made the most sense.

The rain started before the sun went down. (misfortune #2)

The next day we set off for the main stage again, armed only with our blanket and our still quite sunny dispositions. (Sunny being a relative term, as Tom and I are both more Eeyore than Tigger.)

The weather over the course of the weekend fluctuated between rain and scorching heat. The mud was ubiquitous. (misfortune #3) But we'd secured a decent position on the lawn (high point #1) and were determined to make the most of it.

The Rollins Band performed (high point #2) and made the whole damn trip worthwhile, no lie. I'd ALMOST be willing to do it again, just for the opportunity to have another chance to see just. that. set. Oh, kids, I do love me some Henry Rollins. He makes me feel all tingly inside. (Oh, Plankton, that's the way you're supposed to feel!) He - and his music - are just so - POWERFUL. I'm trembling thinking about it.


There was a blanket full of teenagers spread out behind us. They provided a moment or two of amusement for us. To whit:

Overheard at Woodstock

"Who's coming on next?"

"It says Joe Cocker."

"Who's that?"

"I don't know. Some old dude."

"I think he sang the theme for 'The Wonder Years'"

~later that evening~

"I love Nine Inch Nails. I hope they play every song they've ever played. AND MORE."

(to us) "NIN is my favorite band. Could you guys just, sort of, sit down or something during their set so I can see them better? I mean, like, you can still dance around and stuff, but I really want to see them."

" God I love NIN. I can't wait, man, I can't wait."

~one half hour later~

(announcer) "Nine Inch Nails!"

(boy behind us, curled in a fetal position) ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Metallica came on after NIN. We were so tired and cramped and miserable at that point. Earlier in the day Tom had ventured out to find nourishment. It took him the better part of an hour to make his way through the crowd to the concession stand, pay a ridiculous sum of money for a lousy Dominoes pizza and a 2-liter bottle of warm Pepsi, and find his way back to our blanket. We were both, it turned out, a little bit afraid we'd never see each other again.

We watched a little bit of Metallica's set then decided we'd be able to hear them as we walked, so we'd start back to the tent. (mistake #5)

Tom and I are in agreement that the crush we got ourselves caught up in on the way back to our tent ranks in the top five scariest moments either of us have ever experienced. The crowd sort of became an entity of it's own which moved of it's own volition. (misfortune #3) We were merely carried along with it. If we had wavered or - God forbid - fallen, we would have been trampled and killed in the mud. We had no doubt about this.

Aerosmith closed that night. We were already in our tent (and shaking like leaves after the near-crushing incident) when they started. We could hear the whole set, but we couldn't see a thing. Tom figured it wouldn't matter since I'd seen them four times already on that tour alone. (mistake #6) Tom can be so silly sometimes.

The next day opened with us cranky, muddy and sore. We brushed our teeth, spit on the ground, and threw on bandannas and that completed our grooming regimens. We could barely stand ourselves, much less each other. We both wanted to go home, but since we'd come by bus we had no choice but to wait,

When we finally did make it through the muck and the mud to the bus the next morning, we left behind our tent, our blanket, and a ridiculous amount of money. The tent and blanket had soaked up so much mud that they were too heavy to reasonably carry back to the bus. (misfortune #4) The money? Oh, hell, you know where the money went. 'Twas a festival of Peace, Music, Mud and Commercialism. (mistake #7)

So the bus load of us had all survived the same ordeal. I mean - experienced the same great event. The ride home was a lot quieter than the ride there had been. When we stopped at a rest stop, I opted to stay on the bus. Tom got off the bus to use the facilities. When he returned, having been in polite company and fresh air for 5 minutes or so, he said, "You can't even imagine how bad we smell."

The weekend had been rough on our friendship. The close quarters, the mud, the near death experience - it all took it's toll. But when we got back to my apartment, there was no need for discussion. No one would need to wait for a shower. Besides, I didn't really want either of us sitting on my furniture while waiting for the other to shower. We took one together. (high point #3)

When they held the 30th anniversary concert, we watched it on our mutual TV with a toddler in my lap and a preschooler in his. Peace, music and love prevailed. We'll skip the mud and commercialism this time around, thanks.


The Redhead Riter said...

THAT was wonderfully written!

"I don't know. Some old dude." cracked me up.

The ending was beautiful. It is so cool that you are still together.

I hope you have a great day!

The Redhead Riter said...

THAT was wonderfully written!

"I don't know. Some old dude." cracked me up.

The ending was beautiful. It is so cool that you are still together.

I hope you have a great day!

Badass Geek said...

Good story! Outdoor concerts are good in theory... but never in actuality.

Mama-Face said...

I agree; wonderfully written. Do you write professionally? Seriously.

I remember hearing about this; how there was not enough water, or porta-potties. (That may have been planned, come to think of it.), people were passing out, the mud, etc. Did you dance around topless? (I'm old enough to remember the 1st Woodstock) Just checking; maybe that little detail slipped your mind.

It was a good test for your relationship, right? :)

Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

Great story!!

My sister and her now husband went there as well!!

Housewife Savant said...

I love that you numbered the mistakes and misfortunes.
I love that you mentioned Plankton.
I love that it takes less than a half-second for the tune to your post titles to pop into my head.
(Ask me how I feel about C,S,N & Y at 7PM, especially since I don't know/have made up most of the lyrics.)

I would have perished in your [muddy] shoes.
(Please tell me you were wearing shoes.)

Debbie said...

Oh Tammy, I really enjoyed this! How fun to feel like I was with you:)

mzbehavin said...

Your grocery lists should be published..... I don't think it's possible for you to write an inane word..... ever.......

You always leave me wiping the tears away....... Usually from both the crying sad, emotion, AND the laughing till I can't breathe anymore, experience.......

If you ever decide to do a writer;s workshop... I want a seat up front....

Rosa said...

LOL! Beautifully captured. And as an odd coincidence, 10 minutes ago I read virtually the same article on THAT one was about the original concert in '69. His memories of the big one were quite the same as yours were of the anniv. ('some old guy', indeed. For the record, I love Joe Cocker--weird grimaces and all.)

Brandy said...

Great story!

Your man Henry will be on Sons of Anarchy this coming season...

Pam said...

What a great story! So what did you do for the 40th anniversary? The closest I'm ever going to come to Woodstock is going to see the new movie Taking Woodstock. Seems safe and clean. Of course, I will still leave a lot of money behind!

Macey said...

That was an awesome story! And is that when you fell in looooove?? :)

BONNIE K said...

I am convinced these things are better experienced on a TV, lounging comfortably on a couch.

Becky said...

What a neat story, and so well written. You make this, then 19 year old wanna be hippie stuck in a trailor with a baby while her friends went to thenextWOODSTOCK, not seem so bad to miss:)

But very cool you two are together now.

And lived through it to tell! :)

Claudya Martinez said...


Okay, so once I was walking down the street in SF and I saw Henry Rollins across the street! I was all by myself and I looked around trying to find someone anyone that would confirm it was Henry Rollins. There was no one. I am far to "cool" to ask him. He turns and looks me in the eyes and I know he knew what I was thinking because he gave me a nod that said, "Yup, I'm Henry Rollins." I fucking love Henry Rollins!

Sandy said...

Great story and as always, so well told! I can so picture every second. I went to Live Aid in Philly in '85. Maybe I'll tell that story sometime.....not nearly as entertaining but I'm glad I was there.

Gibby said...

I LOVED this! I love your writing!

I just read an article on Newsweek by a reporter who was at the original Woodstock. He talked about how he can't stand all the sugared-up hype because in reality, Woodstock was a miserable mess. Knowing me, I probably would have hated it, despite the music. I still want to see that new movie, though. I'm a sucker for marketing!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post, so well done! I can absolutely see you and Tom at this event..........brave souls that you are. I admit my OCD would have never allowed for such an event in my current state. I'm not sure that 15 years ago I could do it either. Now in my 20's.......maybe, but I was more adventurous then.
Thanks for sharing, and honestly TV isn't all evil...LOL.

Lizzie said...

wonderful post! i love how in the end you still watched it together, sounds like this time around was far cozier :)

have a great weekend.

FranticMommy said...

aahhhh...the memories! What a great story!

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