The Last Phase Of Woodstock: Throwback Thursday

What do you do with Time? For one thing, you can hold it in your hand, put it up to your nose and breathe it into your heart, where it will always live. Yes, live it. As if there were no tomorrow. In the moment—here and now. Time. Look back and look forward. It’s all One, your life running in all directions at once, trailing outward, trailing back. Everything is related, related or not. Time never ends. I’ll always have Woodstock in the palm of my hand, in my heart. Time gave it to me.

Haggis Hatches a Plan I didn’t know I Needed

I was starved and getting hungrier by the second—hadn’t eaten in hours, since lunch the day before. Or was it the day before that? Or afterwards? Sven had been MIA for half the night. He’d disappeared up the hill to our home away from home. He was supposed to have brought back food for all of us, but I guessed he’d passed out in the Plumber’s Helper. It was about this time, around seven in the morning, after the Paul Butterfield Blue’s Band was finishing their set, that he came stumbling down the hill, satchel slung over one shoulder. Where had he gotten that? Haggis appeared right behind him, bobbing in and out of the crowd. Haggis carried a number of satchels over one shoulder. And they were bulging. Was this the food Sven had promised to get? Finally! I got up to meet them. Maybe they had found a McDonald’s somewhere nearby, my stoned mind wanting a Big Mac in the worst way. Of course, there were no McDonalds’, not out here, not for maybe a hundred miles. When I asked if they were bringing breakfast, Sven just smiled, told me “No.” He handed me a satchel and said to follow him. Don’t look inside, he said. We’re headed to the Hog Farm. But from the aroma sneaking out of the burlap, I knew very well what was inside. All of us, including Roger and his dog, were off to do our community service—Haggis-style—in the rain and sun.

Sven told me that Haggis woke him in the middle of the night. That they had pried open the floorboards of the Plumber’s Helper and extracted two keys of weed. Good weed, the kind I’d kill for. That last night we were running out, and it seemed everyone in the crowd was running low as well. So, of course, Haggis, being who he was, took matters into his own hands. Can’t have the people crashing. The party wasn’t over yet. He went out and secured the satchels, then he, Sven and Autumn rolled joints the rest of the night, until the joints in their fingers ached. Hundreds and hundreds of joints (maybe in the thousands, I don’t know), all screaming to be smoked. By the time dawn had rolled around, they had exhausted two keys worth. Maybe three. It was time to go, time to do our duty, time to distribute the product to the masses. Jimi was coming and we had to be good and high for him. Nothing else would do.

Handing out the Stash

We wandered down through the crowd, which had thinned out considerably. Many had gone home to work or to play. The hardcore stayed to see Hendrix. We picked our way over and around the sea of garbage and mud. The place looked like a wet moonscape dripping with refuse. I was walking in sandals, the earth trying to suck my feet down into the sticky glop. When I looked down, I saw I had lost my sandals in the muck. It felt uncomfortable but soldiered on, handing out joints to one and all. The temperature was rising, the sky was clearing. The stagehands were readying for the final concert of the festival. The stage, if I didn’t mention this before, was more of an open-aired affair than one with a roof overhead. Only a series of colorful cloth sheets that blew back and forth in the wind and rain covered the stage from above. Really, there wasn’t much protection for the bands. But that was Woodstock. It sure looked good, didn’t look out of place—fit right into the landscape—all those colors flapping like prayer flags in the Tibetan Himalayas. Not some huge edifice hogging the view. Exposed, like the bands were exposed.

Jimi

Hendrix came on around nine in the morning, and introduced his band as the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. This wasn’t the same band as The Experience, but a new one, with new players. Yet, to my mind, he had much of the same jagged, flowing sound, played guitar the way he always played, electricity oozing from his fingers, wiping the keyboard with the swirl of notes painted on a sweet and sour canvas of his own making. Indelibly Hendrix. The band itself had more players, but other than that it sounded pretty much like it did in 1967, when I saw him at the Catholic Women’s College in Denver for three bucks a head. I was a little distressed that there weren’t nearly enough people there to hear him. No sea of humanity, just large swaths of mud and garbage, people scattered on islands of earth. He sang some new songs, interspersed with old standbys like “Foxy lady,” “Purple Haze.” I was struck when he started playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” That was new to me. You can get some idea of his presence in the film, but there—in person—the air around us pulsed with thunder as the man and his guitar breathed lightning into our minds. His guitar was a living, breathing extension of his self, his fingers massaging the instrument, sending us signals of soul-searching love. As the set progressed, his guitar announced that War was not the way. Peace was the way—it was a feeling that penetrated Time.


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Patriotism

If you want to know what Patriotism really means, it means Peace, not War. We might try fighting for our country by helping others, not hurting them with our ever-powerful machines of war. True today as it was back then, when we were dealing with Vietnam. But then, this country doesn’t practice Peace, nor do the powers that rule the rest of the world. War is kind. Seems we cannot do without it.

Peace and Brother(Sister)Hood

Still, for four days in August we lived in Peace and Brother(sister)hood, thought Peace and Brother(sister)hood, reveled in the music that strove to bring it about. Those four days we lived our dreams. Our idealism triumphed, if only for that moment in time. I could open it in the palm of my hand, sniff it and take it all in. I had Time in my control. I was at Peace. One with the flow, among five hundred thousand other like-minded stoned souls on Max Yasgur’s hood. I would always have Woodstock. In the palms of my hands. I wish everyone could.

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