For as long as I can remember, I’m one who’s been ticked off that I missed free love, daisies in gun barrels, and Haight-Ashbury (before the rapists and bad acid hit the streets in late 1974, of course). But as the anniversary of the Woodstock approached this year, I found myself thinking more and more about what must've been the reality. The filth. The crowd. The danger. The porta-potties. The yuck and the undiluted oogey. 17 years of a white-breaded, Pine-Sol’d, reliable car havin’, mortgage payin’ marriage and 14 years of “wash your hands, wipe your feet, clean up that mess” motherhood has given me a new perspective.
I imagine Woodstock smelled like the oozing run-off that comes from a large landfill. Nostalgia buffs (most of whom were too stoned during the actual event to even remember their names) might insist “But there was awesome music and naked dancing!” My thoughts on naked dancing can be summed up in one word: NO.
And it sounds to me like the non-awesome music beat out the awesome music by a 12-1 ratio. For every Jefferson Airplane performance, there were a dozen sets performed by artists such as Swami Satchidananda, and Ravi Shankar. These guys were the 1970s equivalent of our Kenny G and John Tesh and who wants to dance naked to THAT? NO.
Popular culture has given Woodstock a misty-eyed, “when I was your age” patina, a mythical status that nobody who wasn’t there can dispute…and even those who were there don’t bother to argue anymore. The fantasy has long overshadowed the facts. The innocence and light-hearted fun of the whole event has been exaggerated, the facts stubbornly ignored.... “But what about the toilet situation, Gramma? 100 port-a-johns for 300,000 people? How’d that work?” “Shhh, child. All you need to know is there was naked dancing!”
Despite the decades of falsehoods fed to us by Time-Life Magazine, there IS one thing I’m absolutely sure hasn’t been exaggerated to sell coffee-table books: free love. I’ll bet people couldn’t give it away fast enough, like some kind of body fluid rodeo. “FREE 8-SECOND RIDES!” and the line stretched around the field.
BUT, the responsible, registered voter, mother-of-two in me wonders how many of those free-lovers spent the next few weeks combing their parts for crabs or walkin’ funny because of chafing and sores or getting penicillin shots at the free clinic. They should have gone pro-establishment for once and headed over to the “Free Condoms” booth before diving genitals first into that seething mass of STDs.
Sigh. I still wish I’d lived through those happy, hippy times, when it was possible to hitchhike across America without some guy picking you up and wearing your head as a hat across eight states. I’m still bummed I never got to make a pilgrimage to the Haight, to meet those all those colorful, harmless characters who made up the core hippy culture. But naked dancing to Ravi Shankar at Woodstock? NO.