To Woodstock And Back Again

Part I: A New Dawn

As above, so below, as within, so without, as the Universe, so the soulto it and from it again. Sunset, the old day dying. Sunrise, a new day dawning. As above, so below…the Age of Aquarius was upon us. At least for a while, anyway, horizon to horizon. Galaxies, heretofore, traveling away from us, were now running pell-mell across the hills—scattering like rabbits back into our arms. I could bat them with my eyelashes, then they’d recede into oblivion again. Right here and now, sitting on the grass, life was warm. The microcosm encompassed five hundred thousand souls clustered around me. I felt as if I were one with all of them. A warm feeling spread inside my chest. The macrocosm, hard and cold, the starry universe out there beyond the pale, kept us at an arm’s distance. Not so difficult to travel beyond Earth’s confines, though. The music and weed, the acid and mushrooms; all of it took us on rocket rides upward and outward—away from the captivity of this wondrous, blue spherical world we call Earth. Then we’d come back again, tunnel into the labyrinths of our minds and selves. Sunsets and sunrises rising and falling. As above so below. To it and from it again.

Saturday Is the Day to Do It

Saturday rapped her knuckles on the door of morning and whispered with a warm and muggy hello: I’m here, deal with me. The way I dealt with her was to grab the church key and crank open a beer, lighting up a freshly rolled joint courtesy of Haggis. In those days of sixties yore, beer cans didn’t have pop-tops and the best pipes were crushed beer cans with holes jabbed into them by a pick. We were all running low on sleep. The party the night before had lasted until it couldn’t last any longer, stringing the black of night into morning light. A whole day yawned ahead of us—there was too much to do and so little time with which to do it. An old Irish toast was running around in my brain and wouldn’t let go: Here’s to it and from it and do it again. Because if you never get to it to do it, then you’ll never get to it to do it again. I wanted to experience it all, knowing there’d never be another time of my life like the one I was having. As above so below. Seize the weekend, seize the music, seize the high. Have your cake and eat it too. Do it. Just do it.

A band I’d never heard of was just finishing when we finally made it down the hill to our place, our rock on the hill. Their name was Quill, a local band (of sorts) to the Eastern Seaboard. Heavy and eclectic, a little jazzy, music peppered with the atonal, along with social commentary lyrics. Progressive. I liked them, but wasn’t used to their music—I didn’t have a baseline. There were also many technical glitches that made the music hard to follow at times. So many bands played that day, some with huge sets. I can’t possibly name them all or try to tell you of my experiences with each and every one. But those that moved me were the ones I’d grown up with. I knew what to expect. The day was a whirlwind, a kaleidoscopic trip that often left me breathless. Almost like eating ice cream way too fast, giving you a brain-freeze headache.

Santana

We didn’t stay in one place that day. We wandered with the music, wandered down to the Hog Farm and joined in with others, eating the hippie food and smoking joints someone was passing around. I went to the lake again and got back in time to watch Santana. A mix of soul, funk and hard rock. The drummer, Michael Shrieve, I’d heard was only twenty years old, and he put on quite the show alongside Carlos’ wailing, manic guitar playing. The heat was on, the temps around 90 or so, the humidity thick enough to fluff up like a pillow, scattered starts and fits of rain and wind. Nothing to write home about. We were in a groove and didn’t want to climb out.

Canned Heat

Around 7:30 or so, I can’t remember clearly, Canned Heat came on. Santana had blown me away, but Canned Heat exploded like an eagle climbing toward the clouds, then diving toward a river. I sat in a pool of smoke, stoned out of my mind, as I was wont to say in those days, watching the sky turn a blacker shade of gray. Probably more like deep purple. The front was coming at us—riding in on the Devil’s steads of thunder and lightning. I didn’t care, though. Canned Heat was blues and country and rock, all wrapped into one. And to think they almost folded before coming. In an alternate Universe they wouldn’t have made it to Woodstock and we’d be hearing another set of Joan Baez instead. My mind shuddered to think.

Grateful Dead, Creedence and Janis

We sat through an unusual set by the Grateful Dead—not, in my mind, their best performance. Too much jamming in too long a set. Then Creedence Clearwater. They, too, were off, not at their best. They looked tired. Heard they didn’t sleep the night before. Or something like that. Rumors flying everywhere, but I didn’t much care. The atmosphere was alive and the music wrapped its euphonic arms tightly around my head. In between sets we headed off to find some more food at Hog Farm, then came back to Janis Joplin. Hers was a shaky performance at best. She’d been fighting heroin addiction and had a new band, not as good as Big Brother. They were called The Kozmic Blues Band. They broke up soon after Woodstock. Janis was Janis. It was just good to see her live—or alive.

I slept in the grass. Green, wavy fingers caressed my forehead. Drops of rain splattered around me, but I didn’t care—I was lost in a world of my own choosing. I was here now. As above and so below. Not waiting for anything—I took each band and experience as they came and reveled in them. Sunday was coming with more than just rain. The music would explode. Here’s to it and from it.

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