As I grew older and developed my own sense of style and taste, I looked to the ‘60’s and ‘70s for some sort of direction and instantly became fascinated with the things I discovered.
I started listening to the local oldies radio station which exposed me to bands like The Beatles and Cream.
I did school projects on Don McLean’s song “American Pie,” where I discovered that the father, son and holy ghost didn’t refer to any specific religion but acted as a metaphor to describe the deaths of three famous musicians Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and JP Richardson.
Rewind to age eight sitting in a hotel room in Raleigh, North Carolina, and watching La Bamba, which is the first time I found out who Ritchie Valens really was.
The summer going into my freshman year of college, I would climb onto my parent’s roof with an old Sony boombox and call into the radio station to request songs like “Be my Baby” by the Ronettes, which I now associate with sunburns and Panama Jack.
My yearbook quote was Lennon and the posters hung on the walls in my room were Hendrix. I hummed Jefferson Airplane and fell in love for the first time with a boy who let me borrow Bob Dylan’s memoir “Chronicles” (I still have the book).
As the summer faded and romances fizzled like stale soda, I entered a new place. I moved to a small town on the west coast of Florida to attend school. This is where I met Jerry Garcia.
My friend Ashley, whose closet was a swirl of Tie-Die shirts and flowy skirts, burned hours’ worth of the Grateful Dead onto CD’s. We watched films like the Festival Express and swooned over Janis Joplin’s raspy voice.
We didn't go out. Not because there was nothing to do, but because we rather drink in the company of our friends (who were mostly dead) and dance to the sounds of their voices.
During spring semester, we met Mindy. Mindy was the mother of one of our friends, Chris. She told us about the time she had sliders with Neil Young on Ft. Lauderdale beach and how he fell in love with her.
She showed us old photographs. She was a thin brunette, captured in a thick fur coat, walking down the streets of Greenwich Village. She was too beautiful. I imagined all rock stars must have fallen in love at first glance.
But I was more so fascinated about the time she ran away alone to Woodstock when she was sixteen, and how she roamed around naked on acid petting goats. That night, we talked for hours over glasses of wine and second-hand smoke.
I haven’t seen her since then, nor have I seen Ashley, because the following month, I moved farther north. It’s been a few years since then, and I still think about Mindy and the stories she told us that night.
Part of me wonders if she was just a lush, soaking up our youth because hers had nearly evaporated, reveling in the way our eyes lit up when the words “Woodstock” echoed in her big, empty house. But maybe she was there (although some details must have been forged).
Either way, I realize that the truth was unimportant because telling too much of it would tarnish the place she had created for us. Her story was a vessel to a world we would never experience but only dreamed of being a part of.
It’s been said that each time you remember something, it changes. And while the memory of the jacket my grandmother wore the night of my parent’s 25th anniversary may have been black instead of yellow, it’s the altering of small details that elicit a brighter picture, allowing us to revisit a colorful place full of wonder and excitement.
So, I have never been to Woodstock, at least not physically, but I one day hope to visit a tangible place that offers an insatiable atmosphere prompted by pure spontaneity; an event built on the facets of good music and good people that all generations will remember.