Sunday, October 22, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part 22

I just found out I missed seeing Jimi Hendrix, and I felt sick about it. John, Linda and Sherry sat on one of the blankets we'd used the previous night, and I stood with my hands in my pockets facing away from them. I didn't want them to see my disappointment.

If only I hadn't been such a hurry to make the phone call to DC. If I had just waited a little longer. I felt bummed and embarrassed.

Damn. Jimi Hendrix. I would've given up the rest of the concert to see him.

But it was over. I had missed him. There was nothing I could do about it now as much as I wished I could. I took a moment to bat back tears, and tried to turn my attention to the fact that I was going home, that we were all going home, but somehow it didn't seem as important as it did at first.

I turned back to John and the girls. "I got a hold of John Paris," I said to John.

"Oh yeah? What did he say?"

"They're sending up a bus."

"That's great," Linda said. She grinned at me.

Sherry looked up at me and said, "Yeah, far out." She had a bright smile on her face, but when I didn't return it she turned her head down and got all sad looking. I knew instantly that I’d fucked up.

I looked down at my feet. I liked her a lot, more than ever since last night, but I didn't know how to express my feelings.

I looked back up hoping to make eye contact with her, but she seemed to be avoiding looking at me.

Linda said, "We might as well get back to the tent and pack our things."

"Yeah," John said, and he stood up. Linda and Sherry whispered a few things between themselves, and then they began folding up the blankets. And Linda kept glancing at me as if I'd kicked her cat.

I felt like crap. I missed Jimi Hendrix, hurt Sherry's feelings and pissed off Linda. I'd got us a way home, but that did little to help my mood.

I stood wallowing in my misery when John handed me a blanket to carry and said, "Come on."

I hung back and let Sherry and Linda go ahead, and John walked along with me. "Hey man," he said, "why so bummed out?"

"I don't know."

"Is it because you missed Jimi Hendrix?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"You sure?"

"I don't know."

"Did you fuck Sherry last night?"

"No." I don't think John knew I was a virgin.

"'Cause I thought you did, and that's why she's acting all weird."

I looked at him. He was just like my dad whose philosophy was to find 'em, fuck 'em and forget 'em.

No," I said to him, "I didn't fuck her." I felt disdain, but I tried to not let it show.

"Do you like her?"

"Yeah." I looked at him. He was shallow, but who else was I going to talk to? "I like her a lot."

"Well, she doesn't think you like her." He looked at me. "I thought you were dumping her."


"Yeah, man, that's the way you been acting."

"I didn't mean to," I said. I looked down out of embarrassment.

"Look," John said, "I’ll talk to Linda and she can tell Sherry that you still like her." He gave me a pat on my back, and I started to feel better. John could be an okay guy when he wanted to.

We made it back to the tent where Linda and Sherry were pulling stuff out and packing up. My camera sat outside the tent in its leather cover, and I went over and picked it up. I unsnapped the front of the cover and looked at the frame counter. Three days and I'd only shot 11 pictures. There'd been so much going on that taking photos hadn't been on my mind much.

I sat down on the grass and watched Sherry and Linda take down their tent. It only took them a couple of minutes, and I got the idea that this wasn't the first time they'd been camping.

John sat down beside me and together we watched the two girls pack up all their stuff. Within 15 minutes they'd accomplished their task. "You think we should have helped them?" John asked me. It was more of a snicker than a question. I shrugged my shoulders.

Linda looked at John, "Would you mind watching our stuff? Sherry and I are going to use the restrooms." She didn't look at me at all. I might as well not been there.

"Sure," John said.

After they'd left John told me his plan. "When they come back, keep Sherry away from Linda so I can talk to her alone."

"How’m I supposed to do that?" I looked at him with shock.

He looked away for a moment, and then looked back at me. "Your camera. Tell Sherry you want to take a picture of her."

My sphincter tightened up. He wanted me to talk to her. "I don't know," I said with doubt.

"Come on Johnny Lee. You can do it."

"I'll try," I said weakly.

"Go hang out by the road. That's the way they'll be coming back."

"And then what?"

"When you see them coming, just ask Sherry to pose for a picture."

"What if she doesn't want to?"

"Don't worry. She'll like the attention."

"You think so?"

"Yeah man, she'll dig it."

"I'll try," I said again.

"If you talk to her a little bit, I won't even need to talk to Linda."

"I don't know." I looked at John with a bit of desperation.

"Okay, don't worry man. I'll talk to her."

I sat there with John for a few minutes dreading a confrontation with Sherry. "You better get going," John said. "It won't take them long to get back. There's probably not even a line at the toilets."

"Okay." I stood up and walked towards the road feeling as if I were walking towards a firing squad.

I got to the road and looked around. I hadn't noticed it when we came down from the hill, but a guy had a table set up selling cigarettes. A smoke would be great right then, and I walked over and asked the guy how much for a pack.

"A dollar," he said.

Hell. Cigarettes at home were only 35¢ out of the machine. I wasn't going to pay a dollar for a pack.

I walked back over and positioned myself to catch Sherry when she came back with Linda. My stomach did flip-flops while I waited.

There was I light but steady procession of people walking by in the direction of the main road. I looked at my watch and it was getting close to noon. Not too much longer before the bus got here, only three hours if it was on time.

I started thinking about my dad, how he would be driving the bus. I would just as soon have some other driver. There had been a time when my dad was the best buddy a kid could have, but now in my teens I felt a sense of uneasiness around him.

I lost concentration thinking about my dad and me, and when I looked up Sherry and Linda were almost upon me. My stomach flip-flopped again, but I knew if I didn't stop Sherry, all would be lost.

I walked at an angle to intercept them, and when there was no turning back I forced myself to speak.


"You have something to say?" Linda's eyes were slits.

" I was wondering I could take a picture of Sherry?"

"Sherry?" Linda looked at her.

"Yeah, I guess so." Sherry still looked forlorn. She stood by the side of the road while I got ready to take the picture.

Linda was hanging around, and I glanced at her, and she'd lost the evil eyes.

Perhaps she could tell that I wanted her to leave or perhaps it was just luck, but she said, "I'm going back to our stuff. I'll see you two back there."

I looked through the viewfinder and stalled as long as I could by moving forwards and backwards as if to try to frame the photograph properly. I should've told her to smile, but I didn't, and when I pressed the shutter button she looked pensive.

"Okay," I said, "I'm done."

She walked towards me and said, "I hate having my picture taken."


"Because they always come out bad."

I wanted to tell her that she was pretty and I doubted very much that she could take a bad picture, but try as I may the words wouldn't come.

As we walked back to meet John and Linda I looked over at Sherry for just a moment, and it may have been wishful thinking, but she didn't seem as sad as before.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On the Road to Woodstock -part 21

Daylight came with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing, and the only reason I knew their name was because the acid had worn off, and I had been paying attention when they came on.

I had that gritty feeling I always got the morning after an acid trip, and though I was tired as hell I knew it was useless to try to get any rest. It always took me an hour or two to get to sleep after coming down off acid.

John and Linda were sitting up with Sherry and me, and we were all watching the music. I looked at Sherry and wondered what she was thinking. Our amorousness had slipped away with our acid trip, and the two of us sat quietly with the blanket around us.

My shyness had returned, and with it an uneasy feeling of not knowing how to act around Sherry. The acid had broken down my inhibitions, and now without it I was a scared kid again without a clue of how to act around the girl. Did she feel embarrassed about making out with me all night long? Was it only the acid that had made her horny, or did she genuinely like me? It didn't dawn on me that she might be wondering the same thing.

If all that were not enough, with the daylight came a realization that it was Monday morning, and that none of us as yet had a ride home. That was starting to weigh heavily on my mind.

The band started playing Born under a Bad Sign, a song I recognized from a Cream album I had bought on a recommendation from a friend. He had raved about it, but after listening to it, I didn't really see what the big deal was.

The band did two more songs that together lasted for better than a half an hour, and then quit. I imagined the concert was very nearly over now. The big hill that had stayed so crowded for three days now looked sparse by comparison. Only a few thousand diehards remained and in their midst was trash, lots and lots of trash.

After about a half an hour, a new group came on called Sha-na-na, and if nothing else they were a spectacle to watch. Several guys in 50s dress and greased back hair ran around the stage singing doo-wop with accompaniment from a band.

After they finished, it seemed pretty evident that the concert was over. Nobody new was setting up and after about a half an hour I decided that it was time for me to call my uncle's sightseeing office in DC to see if they were going to send anyone to pick us up.

I told John and the girls where I was going, and made my way down to the road where the payphones were. There were five or six phones all in a row on a plywood wall that was covered from the elements. The day before there had been lines of people waiting to make calls, but now only a couple of phones were occupied. I stepped up to one.

I dug a dime out of my pocket, dropped it into the slot and dialed zero. An operator came on, and I spoke to her. "I need to make a collect call to Washington, DC." She asked me for my name and the telephone number, and soon I heard a familiar voice come on the line.

"White House sightseeing," a woman's voice said.

"I have a collect call from a Mr. John Ivey. Will you accept the charges?" the operator asked.

"Yes, of course," the woman answered. She sounded excited.

"Go ahead, sir," the operator told me.

"Lynn?" I asked.

"Johnny Lee, I've been so worried. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, sure."

"I'm so glad to hear from you. We've all been worried about you."


"Yes! If anything had happened to you I would have felt responsible. I was the one who sent you up there with your cousin. Oh, I'm so glad you're okay."

"Yeah, well, we're okay. Are you guys going to send a bus up?"

"Hold on. Let me get John."

While I waited for my cousin to come to the phone, I began to hear the sound of an electric guitar coming from the stage, and I wondered who it could be. I had figured the concert was over.

"How are you doing there, guy? We've been worried about you." It was John Paris, my other cousin John. He ran dispatch at White House Sightseeing.

"I'm okay I guess."

"Well I'm glad you called. We want to send a bus up there to get you and the other folks, but we don't know where to find you. Can you help me out?"

"Do you know where the bus dropped the people off here on Friday night?" I asked.

"No, but I can check. Is that a good place?"

"As good a place as any, I guess."

"I'll get right on it. Can you hold on a few minutes?"

"Sure," I said. I leaned against the wall where the phone was attached and listened to the faint sound coming from the stage. The electric guitar sounded vaguely familiar, but I wasn't too concerned about it. I was looking forward to getting home.

All in all I had had a pretty rotten time of it at Woodstock, and the idea of spending the night indoors on a nice, soft mattress was pretty appealing.

After about 10 minutes, John came back on the phone. "Hey guy, you still there?"

"Yeah, I'm still here."

"I called your parents, and let them know you're okay. They've been pretty worried, you know."

"They were worried, huh?"

"We've all been worried about you, Johnny Lee. All we've been hearing about on the news is about the shortage of food and water and medical supplies up there. We didn't know if you were alive or not."

"Get out of here. Things haven't been that bad," I lied.

"Well, I'm glad you're all right. Wait just a minute, your Aunt Suzanne wants to talk to you."

After a minute she came on. "Johnny Lee, this is your Aunt Suzanne. How are you?"
Her voice was raspy as usual.

"I'm fine."

"How's John-John? Is he okay?"

"Yeah, he's okay."

"We've been worried about you two boys."

"That's what's everyone's telling me."

"Well, from the news it's a hell of a mess up there."

"It's not that bad."

"You tell John I said hi, okay?"

"I will, Aunt Suzanne."

"Here's John back. You take care. I love you, honey."

"I love you, too."

John came back on the line. "Okay, guy, I talked your dad, and he's going to drive the bus up there to pick you guys up. Sound good?"

"Yeah, sounds great! What time do you think he'll be up here?"

"That depends. Is there a lot of traffic up there? Can we get in?"

"I don't know what the main road is like, but it's not crowded at all here where we are."

"If there is no problem getting in there, your dad should be up there around three or four o'clock. How does that sound?"

"That sounds great, John. Thanks."

"No problem. We wouldn't leave you stranded up there. You're family, guy."

"Thanks, John."

"Thank you, Johnny Lee. I'll see you when you get back. Take care, guy." And then he hung up.

I hung the receiver up and wandered back out on the road. I looked at my watch. It was getting close to 9:30, and I figured I'd head up back the hill and tell the crew what was up.

It felt good knowing I had a way home. Everything seemed to be working out okay. The sky was blue with wispy clouds, and the rising sun had taken the chill out of the air. I was happy.

I got back to John and the girls, and they all tried to speak at once.

"Oh, man, you missed it," John exclaimed.

"Jimi Hendrix just played," Sherry added animatedly.

"He was incredible," Linda said. She sounded awestruck.
Damn. Just my luck. And I'd been in such a good mood.
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