Friday, April 14, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part seven

By the time we made it up to the concession stands it was nearly six o'clock and cooling off quickly. It felt good after the intense heat of the day. John and I went to the ticket stand, and there was a really long line. It took us 15 to 20 minutes just to get up to the head of the line. John got three dollars worth of tickets, and I got five.

The concession stands were unusually crowded, and I heard someone say that they were running out of food. Oh, that would be great. John and I finally made it up to the counter, and the guy said, "We got hot dogs and ice water. That's all."

"Let me get two hot dogs and some ice water," John said to the guy.

"That'll be four bucks."

"Four bucks," John cried out. He turned back to me. " Do you have a dollars worth of tickets that I can borrow?"

Four bucks was a ripoff, but these guys knew they had us. I tore off a dollar's worth of my tickets and handed them to John. He looked at me with a look of gratitude but said nothing.

"Here you go," John said to the guy behind the counter, and he sounded as if he wanted to cuss the guy out. John handed him the tickets and got his hot dogs and water, and I moved up to the counter.

"Two hot dogs and some ice water," I said, and handed the guy my tickets. I got my food and moved away from the counter and joined up with John.

"Motherfuckers," John said under his breath. He sounded angry, and I didn't blame him.

"I know. This is fucked up." I was angry, too.

We walked over to the grassy area where we had sat earlier, and sat down. John scarfed both his hot dogs down before I had even eaten one of mine. I finished my hot dog, and then I split the other one with John and washed it all down with the ice water. They tasted crappy, but it felt good to get something on my stomach.

John yawned and said, "Let's go down and see if our sleeping bags are dry. I feel like lying down for a while."

That sounded like a good idea to me. "Okay," I said. "Do you remember which way to go?"

"Sort of, I think," John said. He headed back through the concession stands, and I followed him closely. It was very crowded, and I didn't want to lose him. We eventually made it back to the deep mud, which meant we were on the right track. Again, I had to squeeze my feet up tight inside my boots to keep them from being pulled off as I marched slowly through the mucky mess.

After reaching dry ground, we made it down the hill to the dirt road where we had come into the concert area from the main road. "Look for that big tree where we slept last night," I said to John.

"Which way you think it is?" he asked.

I looked both ways. "I don't know. Let's try this way first." I motioned with my head to the right. I wasn't sure, but it felt as if it were the right direction.

We walked side-by-side down the road looking for the tree, and pretty soon I saw what I thought was the tree we had slept under. "Is that it?" I asked John.

"It looks like it," he said. He sounded unsure.

We got a bit closer, and I said, "Yeah, that's it."

"Are you sure? John asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Okay then, our sleeping bags should be over here." John started walking towards the fence where we had hung them up to dry, and I joined him. I could see there were still quite a few sleeping bags still hanging on the fence.

When we got to the fence, we started looking for our sleeping bags. First we walked down one way and then the other, but we couldn't find them. We checked again, but they weren't there.

"Somebody ripped us off," John said. "Can you believe that?"

"Oh man," I said. "What are we going to do?" There was despair in my voice.

"I don't know," John said. He didn't sound as concerned.

For the first time since arriving at the concert, I began to feel scared. I began to bite my bottom lip.

"Don't worry, Johnny Lee, we'll be all right," John said to me. As there were two Johns in our family, Johnny Lee was what my nickname was. John, when he was younger, was called John-John. He grew out of John-John, but Johnny Lee had stuck with me, and I didn't like the name at all. He put his hand on my shoulder. "I know it's shitty we got ripped off, but we'll be okay."

I felt comforted by the feel of John's hand on my shoulder and by his words of encouragement. "So what do we do now?"

"Let's just hang out for a while. Check out the people. If we ask around, I'm sure someone'll help us out."

I wasn't so sure about that, but I was willing to try. I looked around, and there were tents as far as I could see. Maybe John was right.

"I'm gonna walk down this way." John motioned with his head down towards where we had originally come in. "Why don't you check out over there?" He pointed with his finger over where another bunch of tents stood. "We'll meet back here in half an hour."

I didn't much like the idea splitting up, but as long as we had a plan to meet back together, I figured it would be okay. "All right," I said to John. "We'll meet back here in half an hour." Then I thought of something. "But you don't have a watch."

"I know what a half an hour feels like. Don't worry. I'll be here."

"Okay," I said. He was right. It was easy enough to gauge a half an hour. I felt reassured.

"See you in half an hour," he said. He started walking off.

I kind of felt at a loss of what to do, but I headed off into the direction John had told me. I looked at my watch, and it was a little after seven. It wouldn't be that long before sunset, maybe in an hour or so.

I walked around through the tents and checked out the people. Some had started small campfires for cooking, and others were just hanging out. I saw quite a few joints and pipes being passed around, and the smell of pot and hashish mingled with the smell of the burning wood from the campfires. Some of the guys looked pretty straight with fairly short hair while others looked about as hippie as one could get with long hair and mustaches and beads around their necks. It was pretty much the same with the girls. Some looked pretty much like regular high school girls while others were dressed in some of the most outlandish clothing that I'd ever seen and had long hair in elaborate braids. The age differences of both sexes varied quite a bit, as well. Though I never saw anyone as young as I was, the ages seemed to go from the teens to the twenties and thirties.

I tried to get up the nerve to approach one of the people that were hanging around the tents, but I was much too shy. I looked at my watch, and it was getting close enough to being half an hour to head back to the rendezvous point.

John wasn't there, yet, so I sat down and leaned my back against the tree. The bark was rough against my back and a bit uncomfortable, but it provided a reasonably good resting spot. I watched the people walking this way and that on the road and all around and kept an eye out for John. I kept checking my watch, and a half hour came and went. I began to get worried. What if John didn't come back? What's if he had gotten lost? What if he had gotten hurt? I was thinking of a dozen things that could have gone wrong, when John came up seemingly out of nowhere.

"Oh man, am I glad to see you," I said to him. I stood up. "Where've you been?" I was to relieved to sound angry at his tardiness.

"I met a couple of girls who have a tent who said they'd help us out." He smiled at me with a bit of a grin.

Suddenly my mind ran wild with fantasies of spending the night in a tent with two girls, but my shyness shooed those thoughts away. What did I know to do with a girl in a tent overnight?

"Come on," John said. He motioned at me with his arm.

I walked along behind John kind of afraid to meet the girls. We got to the tent and one girl was heavyset and had long black hair, and the other was slim and very pretty with long wavy blond hair. The big girl smiled a lot and was very outgoing while the other girl seemed shy and reserved. She didn't smile much at all.

"Johnny Lee, this is Sherry and Linda." He pointed at the pretty girl and the big girl respectively.

I was embarrassed that he introduced me as Johnny Lee. "Hi," was all I could say.

The girls had a blanket spread out in front of their tent that they were sitting on. "Have a seat, guys," Linda said. She patted her hand on the blanket. John and I sat down with them, and while John and Linda talked a little bit about the concert and its goings-on, Sherry and I just sort of sat there together listening to the music.

There was still plenty of music coming from the stage area from over the hill. There was lots of recorded music being played over the PA system between bands and announcements, and it could be heard fairly well, though I didn't hear any bands that I recognized, but there were lots of cheers and applause from the crowd on the hill.

The sun set behind a cornfield off to our right turning the sky first a burnt orange then a red that turn darker into a purple and then a deep blue that gave way to the blackest of nights. All four of us lay back on our backs, and I looked at the most incredible display of stars that I'd ever seen. I could even see the Milky Way, only the second time in my life that I'd seen it.

The girls ended up sleeping in the tent, and they gave us some blankets to sleep on and to cover up with, and John and I lay talking for a while looking up at the stars. There was still music playing from the stage, but as I began to get sleepy it started to sound far away, and it echoed throughout the night as I slept.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part six

By the time we got there and started listening, Santana was doing some song I'd never heard. But then they did a really long version of Soul Sacrifice, which was really great. They ended with another song I had never heard, but Carlos Santana played the guitar so well that I really liked it. Then, after only four songs that lasted about a half-hour, they stopped playing, and the stage crew started taking down their equipment.

"That was kind of short," John said.

"Yeah," I agreed. "They were really good, though."

"Yeah, they were pretty good." John didn't seem too share my enthusiasm.

The announcer came back on. "Marilyn Cohen, wherever your are Marilyn, Greg wants you to meet him at the information booth. He wants to marry you." There was a bit of a cheer from the crowd, and then the announcer stretched out his arm and pointed with his index finger. "There goes Marilyn," he yelled. He went on with a few other announcements, and then he said that Mountain with Leslie West would be playing next.

"Wow, Leslie West, cool, huh?" I said.

"Yeah," he said rather lackadaisically.

"Remember when you and Chris took me to see him?" John and Chris and I had gone to see him at Georgetown University with some other people the year before, and I had been impressed with Leslie West's guitar playing. Chris was John's off and on girlfriend depending on his mood. Chris loved John, and he treated her like shit. That was one thing I couldn't understand about John. Chris was beautiful. She had long brown hair and beautiful green eyes. She had a great body, too. I had a crush on her.

"Oh yeah." He looked at me with a look of recognition on his face. "That was Leslie West?" he asked. "Wow, that was a great concert." John's interest seemed too have had perked up.

"Yeah, that was him. You don't remember?"

"No man, I was tripping my ass off." John's smiled. "I sure as hell was enjoying the concert, though." Then he shook his head back and forth. "Too bad about all that bad acid here. I'd sure like to drop some."

"Yeah, that would be cool." I thought about how much better the music would sound on acid.

"Yeah, that'd be all right."

"My first trip was the best.” I looked at John. "You remember? You turned me on up at the park."

"Yeah. It took you forever to get off, but then you were tripping like crazy."

"I sure was. We went to hear that band play at Calvary Methodist, and I just sat on the floor with my eyes closed. I remember seeing cartoons playing on the inside of my eyelids. That was so far out." I thought back on the experience, and how cool it had been. "You remember your first trip?" I asked John.

"Yeah, that was a while ago." He seemed to be in thought for a minute. "I was over at Brent's apartment in Mount Rainier. We were both tripping, and we both fucked this girl, and then after a while she said she was starting to get off." He stared off in the distance as if reminiscing. "Pretty wild," he said to himself. Then he looked over at me and nodded his head. "Yeah, I would have to say my first trip was the best."

John's sexual exploits never ceased to amaze me. He was always getting girls seemingly effortlessly. I think it was his nose. He had a really cool looking nose, and I think that was what made him seem attractive to girls. Plus, he just seemed to have a way with them. I was so shy around girls that even when they would come on to me that I was afraid to make the first move. I lost my first girlfriend that way. It was in eighth grade, and I couldn't get past making out when she had wanted more. She dumped me for ninth grader who had a reputation with the girls, and it had devastated me.

The announcer came back on. It was a different guy than usual. "People been sayin' some of the acid is poison. It is not poison. It's just bad acid... poorly manufactured. If you're having a bad trip, remember that its not poison, it's just a bad trip." He paused for a moment. "If you want to experiment, just take half a tab."

John looked at me and smiled. "And we were just talking about acid. Funny, huh?"

"Yeah," I said. Then the regular announcer came on.

"There are 45 doctors or more, I know of at least 45 that have donated their services for free. They're really into what's going on here." He paused for a minute then continued. "If you need medical attention go to the pink and white first aid tent to the left of the stage." I guess the trailer that I had thought was the first aid center wasn't the first aid center after all. That accounted for not very many people being around there.

Guys on the stage were setting up equipment, and it seemed like they were just about done. All day, helicopters had been coming in and out of the backstage area. The announcer had explained earlier, "There are cars blocking the road in, and it's the only way we can get the people in."

The band came out, and I recognized Leslie West by his big afro. It wasn't really an afro. It just looked like one. He was a fat white guy with really curly hair, and he'd let it grow out a really long. The announcer came on. "Please welcome Mountain."

The crowd broke out into a big applause, and they started playing. I looked at my watch, and it was about 3:30. They played for a long time, much longer than Santana. Leslie West put on a good show--I enjoyed it--but they weren't as good as Santana. It was almost 4:30 when they finished.

The stagehands broke down Mountain's equipment and started setting up for the next band.

Canned Heat played next, and they were very good. About 30 minutes into the show, they did Going up the Country, which was there big hit, and the crowd burst out into a big applause. They played two more songs, and then ended their set.

"You hungry? I'm hungry. Let's get something they eat,” John said and then stood up.

I stood up, too, and even though we'd had enough space to stretch our legs out where we had been sitting, it still felt good to stand up. I stretched my arms out and yawned, and after a moment John yawned, too. Then we headed up the hill towards the concession stands.

Monday, April 10, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part five

I sat there in my stoned stupor and slowly came back to reality. I looked around at the mass of people and the place was becoming more and more crowded. Then I saw the craziest thing I'd ever seen. There was this naked guy with long hair covered in mud running around through the crowd. As I looked closer, I noticed he had a small animal skull tied around his neck. As crowded as it was, people were making room quite quickly for him to dance around in the crowd.

"Look at that guy," John said to me and motioned with his head towards the naked guy. "Ain't that some strange shit," John stated.

"Sure is," I agreed. We watched him for a while until he disappeared into the multitudes.

I had my brother's camera around my neck, so I took it out and took a picture. I don't know why didn't take a picture of the naked guy. It was just so strange I just didn't think of it, I guess. The stage was so far away I didn't see any sense in taking any more pictures, so I put the camera back in its case and let it hang down by my side. The announcer came back on stage. "Listen up. People are having bad trips on yellow acid. If you get any yellow acid, don't take it. Don't take any yellow acid." And then he went backstage.

I heard the sound of a helicopter, and I looked up into the sky. And there it was coming in to make a landing somewhere behind the stage. The announcer came back. "We apologize for the choppity-choppity, but the roads are blocked, and it's the only way we can get the bands in." He made a motion with his hand like an airplane coming in to land. "We should have some music for your real soon. Are you ready for some music?" The crowd cheered. I thought it was about time.

The sun was starting to get hot, and I pulled the sleeves up on my shirt. Some guys on the stage was starting to set up some equipment, and after what seemed like a long time the announcer came back on stage. "We have some good music for you. Quill will be out shortly and then Keef Hartley...." He rambled on for a while longer talking about the Hog Farm was where one could get medical attention. I had heard of the Hog Farm. It was this big commune out West somewhere.

The first band came out and began to play. They sounded like shit.

"You want to stick around?" John asked me.

Apparently he felt like I did. "No, let's go."

We both stood up, which felt pretty good on my legs. John said to the girl, "We're gonna get going."

"Have a good time," she said. She smiled and gave us the peace sign. The black haired guy gave us the peace sign, too.

"Peace," he said. That was the only thing he had said to us the whole time.

John and I made our way through the crowd back to the path that led alongside the hill. I looked at my watch. It was getting to be noon and getting hot as hell. The sun was fierce. I felt it burning into my skin "This weather is crazy," I said to John. "Cold as hell at night and hot as hell in the day."

"Yeah," he said. "Let's go get a Coke."

"Okay," I said. That sounded pretty good.

We walked back up the hill, and found the concession stands again. John didn't have enough tickets for a Coke, and he talked me into getting him one with my tickets. I didn't mind too much. As I said, John was my idol. As a kid, when my family would visit his, I would always go to his room, and he would play the latest Beatles album for me and tell me all about them. John was a Beatlemaniac, and I became a big Beatles fan, too.

We got in line in the concession stand, and waited in line for a good 10 or 15 minutes. Finally, we get to the front, and I got two Cokes with the last my tickets. I think I had one or two left, which were not enough to buy anything.

There was no place to sit down, so John and I found a relatively dry spot to sit down in the grassy area where we had gone to take a leak earlier. The sun was beating down heavy now, but I wasn't sweating much, which surprised me. My Coke tasted good. It was watery, but it was wet.

"I see what you mean about all the people," I said to John.

"Yeah," he said, "I thought the demonstration at the monument was a lot of people. Compared to this that wasn't shit."

"Remember when you me and Chris got stuck in that tear gas?" I asked him.

"Oh man, yeah, that was terrible."

"And we were almost to 12th Street. Can you imagine being in the middle of that shit?"

"I feel sorry for those fuckers." John shook his head as in disbelief.

"Yeah, remember on the news that night? Those people down by the monument... there was just clouds of that shit." I looked John. He was looking down. "And the little bit we got made my eyes and nose burn like hell," I said to him. "I thought I was going to die."

"It was a bitch, all right." He looked at me.

"I hope nothing like that happens here."

"Nah, I don't think so. There ain't no cops for one thing," he pointed out. " I haven't seen one policeman the whole time we've been here. People smoking dope right out in the open... some wild shit." John stood up. I stood up, with him. "Let's go down to the stage," he said.

"Okay," I said.

We made our way back down the path to the stage. About 100 feet from the stage on either side were these huge scaffoldings with big speakers on them facing out towards the crowd. Down by the stage itself was this real high wooden fence that you couldn't see over unless you were 20 feet back or so, and this
left a nice wide walkway across the front of the crowd.

John and I walked across to the other side and out away from the stage area. About 100 feet down there was a trailer set up that seemed to serve as the base for the first aid center. There didn't seem to be too many people around, so I guess the acid problem was under control.

Just then I heard a guitar and its sound was unmistakable. "John," I yelled. He had walked down 15 or 20 feet ahead of me. He turned around. "Santana is playing," I called to him.

John came hustling back, and we both hurried to where the stage was. We found a place a little bit up the hill and off to the side where it wasn't so crowded. The view wasn't that good, but we couldn't be picky. We sat down and listened to a great performance by a band that I really liked. This was cool.

Friday, April 07, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part four

John and I were hungry and went looking for wherever they sold food. A woman (or I should say girl as she was probably only three or four years older than myself, but at my age that was a big difference) with long blond hair and a tie-dyed T-shirt set us in the right direction. "It's right up that hill," she pointed, "but watch out for the mud." She smiled, and waved to us goodbye as we left.

We headed up the hill, and then coming to a clearing we found out what the girl had meant by the mud. It was a good thing we had boots on for the mud seemed a foot deep, and the smell of wet soil was rich in the air. It was probably more like 6 inches, but it was deep enough to where as I walked my boots went down past the ankles, and it would have sucked them right off had I not gripped them tightly by scrunching my feet up. John was having the same trouble.

"Are you having trouble with this mud?" he asked. "This is some deep shit."

"It sure is some deep shit," I agreed.

"Hey, this deep shit is some deep shit." John said and he and I started laughing. I think it was the first lighthearted moment we had had since we had left the bus the day before.

We finally made it through the sea of mud and came upon a large array of concession stands. They were rather makeshift and stood under large tents. The area there was muddy, too, but not as bad.

John and I took our place in a line at a concession stand that was selling hamburgers and Cokes among other things. I could smell the burgers frying. A scruffy looking guy in front of us who had seen his share of the mud--he had his shirt off and it looked as if he had wiped his muddy hands on his chest--looked back to us. "Do you have tickets?" he asked.

"Tickets?" John asked.

"Yeah, you have to buy tickets." He showed us his. They looked like the type of tickets one would get at a carnival or an amusement park.

John looked at me, and I just shrugged my shoulders. "Where do you get them?" John asked the guy.

He stuck out his arm and pointed, and there was a little ticket stand that was basically just a table or two under a tall tent. John and I walked over and stood in the line for tickets. After about 10 minutes we made it up to the ticket seller. "How much do you think I should get?" John asked me.

"I don't know. Ask the guy"

John asked the guy, "How much do I need for a hamburger and a Coke?"

"That'd be around three bucks."

"Three bucks," John exclaimed. He echoed my sentiments exactly.

"Do you want the tickets or not?" the guy asked.

John looked exasperated. "Yeah, give me three dollars worth," he told the guy. John got his tickets, and I was up next.

I got a five dollar bill out of my wallet. "Five dollars worth." I was going to need extra tickets later on anyway, so I figured I might as well get them now. The guy gave me my tickets, and I moved out of the way of the line. I examined the little coupons, and each one had printed on it Food for Love in big letters and 25¢ in small.

John and I both got a hamburger and a Coke, and neither one of us thought much of the hamburgers, but the Cokes were good. Considering we hadn't had anything to drink since sometime the day before, just about anything short of piss would've tasted good.

Suddenly the shriek of a microphone in feedback shattered the relative silence up to that point. Then it was the sound of sound checks. "Check one, check one, check one..." Then, "Check two, check two, check two..."
"I guess they're getting ready to start," I said. "What do you want to do?" I asked John.

"I guess find a place to watch the music," he said, "but first I gotta take a piss."

"Me too, but first let's check our sleeping bags." I wiped my lips with my hand and wiped my hand on my jeans.

"They’re not going to be dry, yet," John said. "Let's just find a place to take a leak."

"Okay," I said.

It took us a few minutes to find our way out of the jumble of concession stands, and once we did, we were at a different place than where we had come in. There was a line of trees maybe 75 yards off in the distance across a field of grass, and John and I headed for that. We relieved ourselves, and then we got our directions straight, which wasn't hard as the echo of voices over microphones was coming from one general direction.

It wasn't long before we came upon the ledge of a great hill that sloped down in a wide arc and seems to serve as a great amphitheater. On the hill was a great mass of people that defied description. John was right. One had to spread one's arms wide to describe that crowd. The fellow on the microphone the night before had said, "We're a million strong," and now it was beginning to sink in.

I looked at my watch and though it was only a little after ten, it was warming up quite a bit. The sun was out strong, and I could feel it on my face.

We found a path along the edge of the big hill, and we made our way down towards the stage. About two thirds of the way down, we started looking for a place to sit down. After a couple of minutes of searching, the girl's voice called out to us. "You can sit down here for a while if you like." A guy and a girl were sitting on a blanket, and she made a motion with her arm for us to come over, and that we did.

"Thanks," John said, as he sat down on the edge of the blanket.

"Yes, thanks." I sat down next to John. We had to sit crosslegged for lack of room.

"Where're you two from?" the girl asked. She had accent I couldn't place.
John turned around to look at her, and I turned around, too. I wanted to get a better look at her. "Washington," John said.

"The state?" she asked. She was pretty with shoulder length brown hair. She had on a thin cotton top and a pair of cutoffs, and it was obvious she wasn't wearing a bra. Her nipples poked out, and it was hard for me not to stare. I shifted my focus to the guy. He had black curly hair and a thick mustache. He had his shirt and shoes off and wore only a pair of slacks.

"Washington, DC," John said to the girl. He didn't seem shy at all with the girl, but I sure as hell was. "How about you? Where are you from?" John asked her.

"Pittsburgh," she said. "Pennsylvania," she added after a moment. She smiled at John, and he smiled back. The black haired guy didn't seem to be paying any attention.

Just then, a voice came on the microphone from the stage, and John and I turned around.

"How are all you doing out there?" the guy on the mike yelled at the crowd. There was a huge roar from the crowd. "How did you like to show last night?" There was another big roar from the crowd. "The great Ravi Shankar..." the announcer began to say, but a joint being handed to me interrupted my attention. I took a hit and passed it back. "...Played through the rain..." the announcer continued.

Someone came out and passed the stage announcer a note. "I have an announcement here. Helen Savich, please call your father at the Motel Glory in WoodRidge" He looked at another note. "A lot of people have been having bad trips on brown acid. Do not take any brown acid. I repeat. We have reports of a lot of people having bad trips on brown acid. Do not take any brown acid."

The joint came back around, and I took another hit. The first hit was starting to kick in, and I was beginning feel a bit mellow. I turned around and handed the joint to the girl. As she was taking a hit I checked out her body real quickly and then looked up to her eyes. She caught my glance, but she just grinned. I turned back around embarrassed, and began to look at the stage again and tried to listen to the announcer, but all I could do was close my eyes and imagine the girl as she might have looked naked. It was good pot.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part three

John and I came to a clearing where the dirt road widened, and the stars shown brightly. Some white light bulbs were attached to wooden posts about twelve feet tall, and they lit the ground, which was littered with trash. Chain-link fences on the sides of the road lay flattened on the ground.

A huge red banner was stretched high above from two tall wooden poles on either side of the road, and in big white letters it read, Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. To the right of the lettering was a logo showing a white dove sitting atop a blue and green guitar neck grasped by a light tan hand. A trampled wooden fence lay beneath it. It was all that was left of the ticket gates, and people walked freely into the concert grounds.

I pulled out my wallet and looked at my concert ticket. Three Day Ticket, it read on the right, August 15, 16, 17 – 1969 – $18.00. I might as well keep it as a souvenir.
I wouldn't be needing it to get in. I put the ticket back in my wallet and slid it back into my right rear pocket.

John and I walked through the flattened gates and followed the road down to where the concert was. The road narrowed again, just wide enough for the vehicular traffic, and off to the left it dropped down about three feet to a good-sized grassy area where people had pitched tents, and as we walked along, there was an occasional large campfire with people standing around it. The flames cast a flickering orange light on their faces and bodies. Soon the sound of an amplified voice became audible echoing from over a large hill on our right. Not long after, the voice became intelligible.

“Woodstock has been declared a free concert,” the voice announced. “We’re a million strong, people,” he cried out. “We’re a fucking city,” he exclaimed. An unseen crowd roared with approval.

I looked at John and he looked at me. "Wow," he said after a moment.

I looked at the ground for a moment and then back up at him. An overwhelming sense of awe filled my head, but "Yeah," was all I could say. A million people. Damn!

John and I continued our trudge. The sleeping bag and inflatable air mattress that I'd been lugging the whole time was getting awfully heavy, and I was beat. “Let’s find a place to camp.”

“That sounds like a good idea, ” John said.

I carefully stepped down the incline to the campground. It was steep. John followed. We didn't have a tent, so I scouted out a good-sized tree to sleep under. I dropped my stuff to the ground, and John followed suit. I looked at my watch; it was a little after 10 o'clock.

I started inflating the air mattress with the built-in foot pump, and John sat down with his back to the tree. I got the mattress inflated and rolled out my sleeping bag on top of it. I considered pulling off my boots, decided against it and started to get into my sleeping bag.

"Aren't you going to check out the music?" John asked me.

"I'm tired, man." All I could think of was resting my body and getting some sleep.

John stood up. "I'm gonna go see what's going on."

John stood there for a few minutes, and I lay on my side, and together we watched the endless stream of people still walking in. Then John said, "Look, there's our bus." He pointed with his index finger.

I stood up to see what he was pointing at. It couldn't be our bus. We left it miles behind. But damned if it wasn't. Nationwide Charter was painted in bright letters on the side, and the number 306 was painted in smaller letters near the front. It was our bus, all right. I thought of it, but John said it first. "If only we'd waited..."

The bus stopped not more than 50 feet from us, and though the door was on the opposite side, we were low enough to see underneath the bus, and to see the feet of the people getting off. We walked all that way, and they rode.

"Ain't that the damnedest thing." John said. It was more of a statement that question, and I couldn't have agreed with him more. We stood there for a couple of minutes, and then John said, "I'm gonna go on up and see what's happening."

"Okay," I said. As tired as I felt, I couldn't fathom him having the strength to go on, but I didn't care at that point. I settled into the sleeping bag and zipped it up around me. Even with the air mattress, the ground was rough and uneven, but it still didn't take long for me to drift off into sleep.

I couldn't say how long it had been, but it was still nighttime when I was awakened by rain drops on my face. I figured the tree would block enough of the rain to keep me from getting too wet, and I went back to sleep.

The next time I awoke, it was dawn, and I was soaking wet freezing in my sleeping bag. John and I had only brought the clothes we were wearing, and excavating myself from my sopping wet sleeping bag, I stood in my waterlogged shirt, jeans and underwear. The only thing that had kept my feet dry was my boots, and I wish sure glad that I had kept them on. I saw that John was still sleeping, and I couldn't think of any reason to wake him.

I was shivering cold, and I sought out the warmth from one of the small bonfires people had lit. I joined the eight or so people huddled around the fire, and began to slowly soak in its warmth. I looked down at my jeans and was amazed to see steam coming from them.

I couldn't believe how cold it was. It had to be down in the 60s. What kind of weather was this? I didn't realize that I'd come from the relatively mild August weather of the near sea level area of Washington to the mountainous weather of upstate New York some 3 or 400 miles to the north. I would soon find out how poorly equipped I had come as far as clothing and camping equipment. It gets cold at night in the mountains especially as one moves to northern latitudes.

Out of the side of my vision, I saw John coming up to the fire. "God damn its cold out here," he said. His teeth chattered, and I could see his breath.

"God damn right," I agreed. We both stood there shivering with steam coming off of our clothes, and I took some solace that John was as miserable as I.

It took forever to start to dry off and warm up, which was about a little over half an hour by my watch. Meanwhile, John began to fill me in on his last night's excursion.

"That big hill there?" He motioned with his head. "On the other side, it's way far down to the bottom, and they've got the stage set up down there, and you wouldn't believe the people... I've never seen so many. The whole side of the hill is filled with people." He spread his hands and looked up. I tried to figure out what he was trying to convey but nothing came. "You can't walk without stepping on someone; it's wall-to-wall people." He rubbed his hands together and then wrapped them back around his chest. "Joan Baez was on when I got to the top of the hill. She was great, too. From up there, the stage looks a mile away. But Joan Baez was great. You should have come with me." He nudged me a little with his elbow. "After she finished, I walked down to the stage. You have to walk way around to the side to get to a path that goes down to the stage. There's no way you can get through all those people. But when you get down to the bottom and look up, there's all these people." He spread his arms wide and looked up again. Now I could imagine what he meant.

I was finally starting to feel reasonably comfortable, and my belly was starting to grumble. I still wanted warm up some more. There was still a chill in the air. My hair was dry and so was my shirt. My jeans were still a bit damp but getting tolerable. After another half-hour the sun seemed to have warmed it up a bit, and my jeans were almost dry.

"I'm hungry," I said. I looked at John. He shook his head in agreement.

We headed back towards our sleeping bags and hung them up on a wooden fence along with dozens of other sleeping bags to let them dry. Then we went off in search of food.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part two

It was a long, slow march towards our destination once we started to walk again, part of the river of people who moved together on the road to Woodstock. I studied the other trekkers. It was a varied bunch, but they all had a common thread of appearance that ran through them that would’ve set them apart from the everyday world. The guys all had hair that was at least a little scruffy and, in some instances, quite long. Many had moustaches, and a few sported beards that ranged from wispy to bushy. The women’s blouses were flowery and frilly and often skimpy. Long, waist-length hair was the norm, and some had braids done up in intricate buns. A few had long skirts but most wore bell-bottoms, as did the men. We walked into a setting sun and by eight it had slipped below the horizon. A gentle orange along the treetops signaled the coming of nightfall.

John broke a long period of silence. “The nails are starting to come through the inside of the heels of my boots.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah, and they’re starting to hurt.” We walked for another minute. “How are your boots?”

I bounced a little on my heels to test them. “Fine,” I said.

“Hmmph.” He sounded irritated, but he said no more. We walked for a while longer, long enough for the sunset to turn a dark purple.

“Goddamnit,” John said. There was pain in his voice. “My heels are hurting like a bitch.”

“Really?” I tried to sound more concerned, but with three hours of walking behind me I had started wear down. How much farther could it be to the concert?

“I need to stop for a minute,” John said. He walked over sat down on a piece of grass that separated the shoulder of the road from the woods beyond. I followed him over, and sat down beside him. He pulled off one boot and then the other. “Oh man, that feels good.” He reached a hand down into one of his boots and then offered it to me. “Here, feel.”

I took the boot, and though I didn’t want to stick my hand down into his hot, stinky boot, I did. Sure enough, I could feel the nails coming through the heel area. “Damn,” I said and handed him the boot back.

“Your boots are okay?” he asked. He couldn’t seem to believe it.

“Yeah, fine.” I felt a sense of pride somehow at having a better pair of boots than John. He was better than me in every way, I felt, and while I idolized him, I was envious of him as well.

We rested, and it felt good, but in some way I felt we were losing ground to all the people that were passing us by. I wanted to get going, but I didn’t say anything. I stood up and walked to the shoulder of the road and watched the people. They walked by in groups of twos and fours. The cars that filled the road had been abandoned, and I wondered what would become of them. I looked back down the road from where we had come. The land sloped down for about a quarter of a mile and then sloped slowly back up again. I could see pretty far, and the stream of trekkers that flooded both sides of the road stretched back as far as I could see. The sky had turned a dark blue, and the first stars were visible. A sliver of a crescent moon hung like scythe above the horizon.

Suddenly, I felt such an ominous foreboding that I looked back to John and tried to cry out, but no sound would come from my throat. Then, as quickly as it had come over me, the feeling was gone. I shook my head as if to clear it from a fog. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but it seemed distant now and unimportant.

“Johnny lee,” John called to me.


“You ready to go?” He stood up. He had put his boots back on. He leaned over and picked his sleeping bag and mattress.

“Yeah, I’m ready.” I walked back and picked up my stuff, and we started to walk again.

By nine it was completely dark, and I’d never seen a sky so full of stars, but still we were walking with no end in sight. The long string of hikers still stretched out far ahead. By nine-thirty we reached a dirt road that stretched off to our right and into the woods. A large sign read, Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Thank God, we were there.

John and I turned with the rest of the crowd, and we all headed down the dirt road. Tall pines lined both sides, and it was damn near pitch black, and all I could see were dark shapes of the people around me, but after a few minutes my eyes adjusted to where some detail was visible. I looked ahead, but in the gloom I couldn’t see far.

We’d walked about fifteen minutes along the dirt road when an unseen person said, “Oh man.” Whoever he was, he sounded like he was having a good time. ‘Oh man,” he said again. “It’s beautiful.” Then I saw him. He rolled back and forth on the ground on the left side of the road, but it was too dark to make out his features.

“He’s tripping,” John said. He was probably right.

Then, far down the road from the direction we were heading, headlights became visible. Gradually, the low drone of a truck engine drew closer. Some seconds passed, and then the truck itself became visible. It was a medium sized moving truck like a large U-Haul. It was moving rather quickly, just a little too fast for a road full of people in the dark of night. Still, the crowd had kept to right side of the road, and the truck had space to pass on the left. All seemed well as the truck passed us, but then there was a bump-bump, bump-bump as the truck tires hit something. A shriek of agony pierced the night.

“Oh God, Jesus,” a voice screamed in terror. It was the guy in the road. Then many voices yelled out at once.

“That truck ran this guy over,” a man shouted.

“Somebody help him,” a woman cried.

“Stop that truck,” a man yelled. Several figures in the dark night took chase after the red taillights of the truck.

“Keep going,” a voice came from the truck. The truck accelerated, and soon it was lost in the distance.

The guy on the road let out screams of agony mingled with shrieks of terror. “Oh God, please help me,” he kept crying.

I was at a loss at what to do. I looked to John, but he seemed as shocked as I was. “We can’t do anything,” he finally said. “Come on.” He joined ranks with the others who were moving. I ran to join him, but first I took one final look at the scene of the crime.

Though there was little to see, in the instant I turned away, an image left itself imprinted in my mind. It was an image I tried to chalk up to imagination, to being tired, to anything but reality. That last moment as I looked into the crowd around the victim, I had seen a dark figure. He was set slightly apart from the crowd, and he had looked straight at me. Though the faces in the crowd had been featureless, this person had had a distinct grin on his face as if he were taking delight in this other man’s misery. But it was his eyes that left me shaken. It had been a trick of the light, surely, but in that fraction of a second that his eyes had met mine, in that brief moment before I turned away, his eyes had glowed a beastly red.

I walked for a few minutes with John. I tried every way I could conceive of to explain what I had seen, but nothing made sense. I even contemplated the possibility of an acid flashback, but that didn’t seem to help any either.

“John?” I asked. I look over to him.

“What?” He looked at me.

“Never mind.” What would he think if I told him what I’d just seen? I didn’t know, but I didn’t really want to find out. I’d heard about shit like this, demons and devils and the like, but I’d never believed any of the stories. “I’d have to see it for myself”, I’d always said. Now, maybe I had. Maybe I had, I kept telling myself, “maybe” being the operative word. By the time we reached the gates to the concert, I’d convinced myself that maybe I hadn’t seen anything at all.
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