This morning, around 2:20 AM to be precise, I awoke from a deep sleep, bursting with energy and unable to return to the embrace of Hypnos’ arms. So, I made a cup of herbal tea, grabbed my calico cat Cassandra (AKA “Love Muffin”), and retired to the depths of my finished basement. I plopped my derriere down in the recliner, wrapped myself in a blanket, gingerly placed Cassie on my lap, and—what else?—reclined. My intention was to watch a few minutes of some boring TV show while petting my cat, and hopefully get back to sleep. Fugggedddaboutit!
I pushed the button on the remote control marked “recordings” and found that I had one I’d made of the movie, Woodstock, in my queue. Oh, what the hell, I thought, if that doesn’t put me to sleep, nothing will. Wrong, turtle breath. Before I knew it, I had become so engrossed in the film that I failed to notice not only the departure of my cat, but also the rapid passing of time. As I watched the likes of Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Joan Baez; Canned Heat; Richie Havens; and so many other classic rock performers, I was transported back to 1969, the year of the “Great Happening” at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York.
I was 24 at the time and living, together with my roommate Jimmy, also 24, in a loft apartment owned by a down-on-his-luck attorney. When we learned about the planned event from a newspaper ad (we still read the paper in those days) Jimmy exclaimed “Far out, Jet, we better get tickets.” The nickname was earned as a result of a solo, whirlwind, cross-country car trip I’d taken a year or so earlier (I drove from New Jersey to California and back again in six and a half days). “Totally stoked,” we hurried off to the nearest Ticketron (do they even exist anymore?) and purchased the ducats. We couldn’t wait to go. For one thing, we knew there would be plenty of girls and lots of “grass” (which is what we called marijuana in those days) for us to score. The music would just add to our enjoyment. I marked the date on my calendar and began the countdown. “It’ll be awesome, Jet,” said Jimmy. But then, something happened that changed my immediate plans and probably the course of my entire life. My grandmother died. It wasn’t totally unexpected (she’d been ill for a number of years) however, because of the timing I was forced to exchange my grandiose plans of musical reverie for a much more sobering agenda—the funeral. But what would I do with my ticket? Why, I’d sell it, of course. But how?
Back in the “stone age” of 1969, there was no Internet, no E-Bay, and surely no Craig’s List. So, I took my $18 pass (good for three days of “peace and love”—guaranteed) and hurried off to what was, at the time, the largest shopping mall in New Jersey, the Garden State Plaza in Paramus. In those days, there was a clothing chain for young women called Paraphernalia (there’s a mouthful), and I parked myself outside the front door beneath the hot summer sun and began hawking my ticket. I wasn’t there long; as I recall, it took all of about fifteen minutes for me to divest myself of the cherished item. Jimmy, of course, kept his ticket, went to Woodstock, and for weeks afterward regaled me unmercifully with the details, right down to the last joint smoked.
Now, anyone familiar with Woodstock probably recalls all that went on during the three days of the event: the water and food shortages, the lack of toilet facilities, even the birth of a baby (legend has it). There was also one unfortunate individual who was actually killed while sleeping, when he was run over by a tractor. When I heard about his death, I thought, that could have been me! Or, I further rationalized, it might have been me who ingested some of that bad “brown acid that’s been circulating around” according to one of the many “public service announcements” that can be heard in the background on the movie’s soundtrack. In the end, being at my grandmother’s funeral was far more important than being at Woodstock, and it may have actually saved my life (okay, that might be a bit of a stretch, but there is always that “space-time continuum thing”).
Fast forward to August 7, 1994, and the initial (ultimately, there were two) Woodstock Reunion near Saugerties, New York. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: He finally got to go to Woodstock—sort of, right? Wrong again, lizard breath. I never got near the place. But, my youngest son, Matt, who was 17 at the time, did! And, so, in a way, you could say that part of me was there, too— and that was good enough for me.
Now, getting back to the present and my sleep dilemma. My strategy of watching the movie actually did end up doing the trick; I believe I fell asleep right around the time Janis Joplin was singing―which is probably exactly what would have happened way back in 1969 during the actual performance (with apologies to Janis Joplin).
Peace and love, man 🌺 🌻 🌷 Rock on.
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises soon to follow.