WOODSTOCK ERA: SAME STUFF, DIFFERENT DECADE
Aug. 19, 1987
God save us from the media on slow news weeks.
In between Elvis Presley anniversary death orgies, the press and TV have battered us with gibberish about harmonic convergences.
We’ve also gotten sentimental stories about the 18th anniversary of Woodstock — peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll, the run-of-the-mill New Age bedtime stories.
The New Agers, who goof on the Presley crowd, talk about harmonic convergences with a straight face. They utter the word Woodstock as if something really sacred took place on that farm in Bethel.
Sue me, but as one of the 400,000 there that weekend, I remember Woodstock was about as holy as a Twinkie.
Like a lot of kids who drove upstate from the city neighborhoods, my friends and I went to the festival ’cause our favorite bands were supposed to be there.
I was 17 and I had saved a few bucks from my summer factory job. A hundred dollars got me a failing 1960 Valiant.
We packed cream soda, some Twinkies, a few cans of tuna (forgetting a can opener) and puttered up the Thruway. We talked sports and girls.
The Woodstock nation. Peace and love. The dawning of a new age.
Yeah, right. We were about as revolutionary as Whitey Ford.
I almost fell asleep in the traffic jam along Route 17B.
When we finally got there, the music was great, although 400,000 people deep, it was like watching people from an airplane. The rains came. Everyone got butt-deep in mud.
It was a fun picnic but not everyone was going around saying it was the time of their lives.
How lasting an impression did Woodstock make? We left early and, on the way home, turned on the Jets-Giants exhibition game on the radio and talked Namath.
Woodstock? Oh yeah, that was OK. To the neighborhood guys, it meant nothing more to us than a rock concert, an amusing adventure.
That is until we got home and found out how the media had got hold of it.
We saw pictures of naked hippies, kids flashing peace signs, acid-soaked druggies babbling that we were a new nation of peace-loving souls that would save the world. Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner.
Woodstock became marketable as media myth. The movie. The record. The song. We ate it up. Gee, we were part of something important.
We began to kid ourselves about Woodstock. Yeah, that’s right, it was magic. Peace, love. The Woodstock generation. We believed we were special.
Over the past 18 years, many of us in the “Woodstock generation” have made the journey upstate again.
We come as young parents, scraping up mortgage money, shopping for house-brand tuna with an eye on our kids’ dentist bills.
We slave for the kind of homes and the kind of lives some in the Woodstock generation had once made fun of.
This weekend the media asked its annual question — whatever happened to the Woodstock generation?
The answer is nothing. We never really wanted anything much different from our parents.
We are shaped, not by rock concerts or some harmonic pie-in-the-sky, but by the forces that shaped our parents’ lives — marriage, kids, aging, security.
We possess no special magic to make life suddenly different.
It doesn’t make us bad people. The music is still important to us, maybe even more so, because it serves as a real release from life’s pressures.
A core of committed souls has stayed involved in issues.
They do this by schlepping out after dinner to a meeting. It is hard work and no one’s making a movie of it.
Our only chance to make the world better is through the same wearying, frustrating tool possessed by every generation: doing our best over the course of a lifetime.
The rock concert was nice, a weekend picnic. It had no lesson to teach us about life.
This time up the Thruway, the Woodstock generation is living the real adventure.