The situation on the Rainbow Stage was the sort of scene that would make Bill O’Reilly vomit. The musician tuning his git-box in between numbers sported a long, white goatee, dark sunglasses and lengths of loose hippie-garb that terminated in Grandpa Sneakers. He lackadaisically threw out some banter to the crowd as he tested his strings:
“You wouldn’t know it today, but I used to be a stalker…dinggg…had a stalkee that made me so miserable…DingDINGdinggg… I got 4 or 5 songs out of it…DING-DING-da-Ding…
He began his ballad: good, folksy stuff crooned simply and clearly. The Rainbow Stage was the smaller of the two stages, so attendance consisted of me, Mario and a half-dozen others lounging on the tough grass of the glade.
His next song was a hyper-sexualized folk ditty that would have made Bill O’Reilly wipe his lips clean of hurl while staring coals of judgmental disgust. The song was…for the ladies…and was basically what R. Kelly would have written if R. Kelly was an aging white hippie.
He followed the song with a short, promiscuous tale that ended with:
“…and that’s how I learned to love all women, and…”
One of the Cided-As-Fuck Kids interjected his own ending to the story while tipping a libationary glug of the cheap beer in front of the stage. He cackled, yelled something to the musician, then sprinted off to the next glade.
Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, where the original Woodstock was held in Bethel, New York, was huge. The 600 acres was now split up into smaller properties, and Mario and I pulled off the main road and drove between two of them, looking for the monument.
A half-dozen wrong turns later, we pulled into a small lot on a knoll overlooking The Site. Of IT. There were a couple dozen people poking around, half with cameras, some of the rest in official Woodstock 45th Anniversary shirts.
A former Hell’s Angel was seated at a white card table with his arms folded and his head scrunched down into his barrel chest, a couple of onlookers listening to him reminisce.
“…the next day I got up and saw 100 wood nymphs frolicking naked in the pond—I knew it was going to be a good day.”
He stared off into the fields where the concert was held, half-bragging about being THERE. For IT.
Mario struck up a conversation with another Woodstock original, Ed. Ed grew up in the inner city and had never heard of Jimmy Hendrix until a couple days before the show, when Victor, a 16 year-old junkie, told Ed about Jimmy in a bar.
“You should go!” Victor pressed.
Victor was too busy putting needles in his arm to attend himself, but he was able to convince Ed to head up to experience the event in his place. Ed picked up hitchhikers and booze along the way, and 16 hours later, there were 14 people in the car, all tanked.
The original members of the caravan woke groaning early the next day, six or seven hours before the music was to start. They whined about leaving, but eventually stayed.
“Transformative. It was transformative, the entire experience,” remembered Ed.
Like the storied youth of 45 years ago, Mario and I did not want to actually pay to attend the event. We therefore elected to park the car a half-mile from the entrance and bushwhack our way through the forest to get there.
We didn’t stumble out of the woods and into the festival as much as we came upon it in the trees— just another feature of the forest, as though it had always been there, or at least since ’69. Stands hocking hot dogs, tapestries, tampons, crystal Gaia figurines, lemonade, sage bundles, grilled cheeses, hand-carved woodbead necklaces and camping gear rested alongside paths that led to the rings of campsites. The smell of cheap marijuana wafted on the air.
The main stage was bipartite, so the next band could situate themselves while the current one was wrapping up. The singer on stage was a petite, ebullient woman who beamed her vocals into the microphone. One of her bandmates leaned into his microphone mid-song and crowed:
“The spirit of Woodstock is alive…not 45 years ago, but today!”
—which got a lot of applause. An old hippie couple was softly kissing behind me. A thick-armed man with close-cropped white hair, obviously a contractor by day, danced by himself a few feet from the stage. He was dancing slowly and steadily, shuffling away precisely with his eyes closed, all the while taking giant hits from a wooden Gandalf pipe.
Mario mentioned the wasted contractor had gotten his weed from a table right near the stage. Two well-groomed guys were selling vacuum-sealed eighths and dubs. I saw that one of them accepted the money while the other handed over the pot in that classic maneuver used by drug dealers the world over to avoid arrest. I’ve always wondered if this tactic works—if it bamboozled police to the extent where they would actually walk away from observable illegal drugs, shaking their heads in befuddlement as to why people were handing out contraband and money for nothing in return.
“That guy looks like a fox!” exclaimed Mario, pointing.
The guy by the far side of the stage indeed looked like a fox. He had affixed a fox tail to his rear so it looked like it was coming from over his waistband, was wearing giant yellow sneakers that looked like paws, and had something distinctly vulpine in his features.
The crowd was almost wholly above 40—not many wood nymphs. A girl with burnt-umber skin rolled her curvy hips around her slim waist to the guitars, bucking the trend. A father and son team started dancing around her and smiling non-threateningly. With stagey glibness, the son settled next to the filly when the dancing was done and started chatting.
The two Cided-As-Fuck kids charged onto the scene. They both had hair in the early stages of unintentional dreading, wore black tank tops, and had various messages and symbols scrawled over their bare skin with inky paint. One raised a long stick over his head and stabbed it into the ground like he was spearing an injured enemy through the heart, then, still gripping his spear, started running around it in circles. The other guy planted himself right next to the first one, making faces around his mirrored sunglasses at no one in particular.
After a couple minutes of spinning, the first guy managed to drill the spear into the ground far enough so it stood on its own. He fell to a crouch next to it, satisfied.
If Bill O’Reilly saw this, he would vomit a second time. He’d vomit, then his head would explode, then his decapitated cadaver would stumble around, gathering the fragments of his skull and making an inhuman moan that finally crystallized into a scream of pure anguish when his mouth was assembled.
I looked up from this morally-confusing caprice and met eyes with the duck I had been seeing around. He was a large, white duck who was probably bred to be eaten, but now for some reason spent his time nosing around hippie reunions.
The duck was only a few feet away. He checked me out straight-on, then cocked his head to examine me with his left eye, then cocked his head again to stare at me with his right. I tried to become copacetic with the bird by checking him out in a similar monocular fashion. We studied each other for a good 45 seconds.
“QuackQuackQuackQuack!” He said, walking off.
The duck turned out to be a roadie for the band “Slug,” who appeared on the right stage soon after “The Quimby Mountain Band” had finished up. The duck stood in front of them on stage while they were playing, poking his head out to the crowd, occasionally preening.
“…by ’71, all the hippies were gone…either addicted to meth…or heroin…or holed up in communes.”
—the old Hell’s Angel had said.
The wasted contractor would probably go back to his job on Monday. The Cided-As-Fuck duo was most likely Wookies—travelers that spent years festie-hopping, doing drugs—this day was just another card in their deck.
The hippie spirit went SOMEWHERE, and I wondered which of these individuals had it.