As I was driving on the Long Island Expressway recently, I was attempting to keep pace with the traffic. Remember the days when you could calculate how fast you were driving in relation to how many car lengths were allowable? Those calculations are out the window in the 21st century. If I'm driving 65 miles per hour, the car behind me wants to go 80. When I abide by the rules to leave space between cars, someone usually cuts in front of me to fill the gap. Everyone tailgates!
Things have changed since 1969, when I shared my first car with my brother. It was a 1966 Volkswagen Bug with a sunroof. We bought the car from a young man who, very reluctantly, was selling his car and heading to Canada -- we thought to avoid the military draft.
A schedule was made up between us and, luckily, I had the car on the Woodstock weekend. Since I was the official driver in our group of girlfriends, we headed upstate putt-putt-putting all the way. I had just learned to drive a stick and stalled constantly on the city streets as we approached the thruway.
We started out Saturday morning, Aug. 16. My Aunt Margaret had a house in Cochecton, not far from the Woodstock site in upstate Bethel. We were going to stay over at her house and then drive to the site, since we had tickets for Sunday. Our plans changed quickly, since the New York State Thruway was closed due to the volume of kids descending on Yasgur's farm, where the festival was held. I pulled my car on the side of a country road and we started to walk -- in fact, we walked about 6 miles before we arrived at the site.
At that point it was announced that it was a free concert! All the fences were down and kids were pouring in. We heard constant announcements: "Lyla just had a baby, man." "Need some food? Head over to the tent." "Bad trip? The medics are on hand."
What did we get ourselves into? A popular saying about that time is, "If you remember Woodstock, you weren't really there." Well, I was there and I remember everything. By Sunday, it started to rain and it was one blooming mess. We were dirty and hungry but somehow I remember laughing and having a great time -- no drugs for me. Guess that's why I remember so much. Sitting in the rain, shoulder to shoulder, was an experience I'll never forget. The music stopped for a while, and we all just sat there. It was a pivotal moment in my life. It was very quiet for a short period of time and it gave one the opportunity to pause and realize that this was an incredible experience.
There were soggy sleeping bags all over the hill, kids covered in mud, and a sense of complete exhaustion swept over us. Janis Joplin started to sing and everyone woke up! Her pure energy seemed to pierce our hearts! Before we knew it, we were on our feet singing and dancing. At that point, it was time to think about heading home. We ended up hitching a ride on the back of a flatbed truck which was packed with kids. My VW Bug was sitting on that country road. We jumped in the car with our dried up muddy clothes and headed home, stopping along the way to call Aunt Margaret. "Are you OK?" she asked.
"All is fine, we're ready to go back to Brooklyn," I said.
There were many aspects of the '60s that one can regret, but a sense of sharing, a sense of caring for your fellow man always seemed evident in that time. When I didn't have any food at Woodstock, someone offered me a can of sardines; no kidding!
I guess the spirit of Woodstock is long gone but, as a good citizen, I always try to help my fellow man. As senior citizens we can only attempt to be good models. When a young gal flipped the bird to me a couple of weeks ago, I threw her a peace sign. She probably didn't even get it. Oh well, I'll just keep on putt-putt-putting along.
Port Jefferson Station
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