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A time, a place, and an intense odor of pot

An excerpt from Layers the novel:

August 15-18, 1969

Three days and nights of sunshine, rain, music, mud, and unanimity, with more than 400,000 peaceful counterculture souls in the rain-soaked muddy fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York.  

Most of the time, being there was not a lot of fun. A journey to anywhere through the masses at Woodstock was a major production. It took at least an hour to get to a porta-potty before enduring a long wait in line. Some never made it and disposed of their “detritus” elsewhere on the grounds. It took us another hour or so to find our way back. Much longer in the dark. With mounting anxiety, I was hoping to get lost forever in the soulful spectacle of endless days and nights of Woodstock.  

Our sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, and whatever food we could keep from getting soaked, were hopelessly soggy and covered with mud. We lay there in a thick, slippery, brown river of boots and muck just trying to sleep. A constant stream of drunk and drugged people lumbered back and forth throughout the night, as an endless and oppressive sea of feet sloshed and stomped the ground a few inches from our weary heads. Some were lost in drugs, some in love, all intertwined while sleeping in the mud. Feet continued to shuffle and tramped along with the unending rain and mud. We were in constant fear of having our heads and faces stepped on, making sleep next to impossible. Saturday the rain subsided, giving us a chance to change into whatever dry clothes we could find and helping us to feel dubiously euphoric.

It was torrential rain as we made our way back to the car and drove off through a maze of tents silently looking at people appearing like lifeless statues of mud. Thousands were beating a hasty retreat. Everyone was polite and friendly. We stopped on the way to eat real food, got high, discussed the concert, and slept.

Woodstock was a looking-glass world. A time when America’s youth showed up to bring change in a crusade for peace, hope, and solidarity. It was a place in time that was the opposite of what was considered normal. The rains came and it poured. The sun came out and so did the people. And there are some of us who never left. If you go there someday, and you should, you need to look out over the fields, visualize all that you know about the event, and you will take a giant step back in time. Close your eyes, and if you are lucky enough, you will fly like an eagle, and capture the spirit and the message left behind. You might even hear the music off in the distance that’s still blowin’ in the wind. Being there was spellbinding — getting out was euphoric.

We had no idea what was to come along on that love-soaked ground that we sat upon, that someday would be visited by multitudes of curious time travelers — day trippers who could only dream of a revival while hoping to get a glimpse into the past to try and understand why we came. I was there with a peace-loving girl from California by the name of Miranda. That was our world. That was our Woodstock.

The atmosphere was comparable to an expansive, almost feudal, nomadic gypsy pilgrimage. Rock music was the driving force — but it was peaceful. It was exactly what the youth of America needed.

I concluded the ’60s and ’70s this way;

“In the beginning, there was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Then came the catchy, rhythmic beats of disco and ponytails. Then we blew a fuse, and when the smoke cleared no one seemed to care.”

Before there were hippies, there were beatniks. They were “cool” and “far out” while at the same time stressing artistic self-expression and rejecting the mores of conventional society. And so the beat still goes on, so let’s keep on groovin’.”

In the end, Max Yasgur spoke. He said, “If we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future”


1 Comment

  • Naomi
    Posted September 12, 2023

    Well, I agree with Max! We should join forces and commit to changing the course of things. There is always hope for a better future and returning to the great country that we were. Uniting and working together are essential for change. We must rid ourselves of preconceived notions and focus on reality. All of the events of the past are what has made us who we are today. Our knowledge and attitudes will reunite us and create a new beginning for the next generation. Every pilgrimage should give us a renewed spirit and move us forward to a betterment place.

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