There’s not been an event in my life that’s made me feel more like a hot shit than going to Woodstock.
On August 15,1969, everyone I knew in my small circle of dope smoking friends were either headed there, planning to meet there or trying to get there. Hundreds of miles of caravans disrupted the pastoral dairy farms of lower New York state, rolling upcountry from the Jersey Shore. Reveling to the world’s greatest rock and roll bands melded our bodies and souls to three days of peace and love.
Throughout the festival Wavy Gravy danced to the microphone with updates on the number of cool cats sitting on the hillside of Max Yasgur’s farm. When he exclaimed half-a-million, whoops and whistles rose up to the spirit in the sky. All the hippies in America, maybe the world, had come together. I was right where I was supposed to be.
My friends and I told and retold Woodstock tales for a time afterwards. And then it was over. Or so it seemed.
Eight years later as I stirred spaghetti sauce in my Sandburg Village kitchen in Chicago, my ten-year old son and his friends were snickering in the doorway.
“Go ahead. Ask her.” My son elbowed his friend.
“Did you really go to Woodstock?” He asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“See, I told you.”
“Wow. What was it like?”
I brought out a small box of photos and souvenirs including my prized ticket to Woodstock to show the unbelievers. Until that point I’d kept Woodstock quiet. No one in my new crowd of straight and sober friends was or ever had been a hippie. Woodstock wasn’t yet a badge of honor, rather the confession of a derelict life.
But after wowing those ten-year old boys, I knew I was on to something.
In 1969, half a million was only .2% of the population. By 1979 we were an elite group, only 500,000 of us. In 1994 I interviewed for a twenty-fifth anniversary story in a local Chicago paper. The Presbyterian church showed Woodstock the movie and asked me to give a talk about my experience.
My ten year old grandson called one day in 2007 and asked, “Regan, my dad said you went to Woodstock. Is that true?” I assured him it was.
“We just watched the movie. It looks pretty wild.”
That box of souvenirs mysteriously disappeared after I showed it to his father’s pals at the same age. My grandson didn’t need proof to tell his friends though. Unbelievable reality turns believable with age. He asked about my favorite Woodstock band. The next Christmas he gave me a complete set of Janis Joplin.
Using “Woodstock” in the description of my upcoming book on Amazon optimizes search engine results. Even in my seventies friends introduce me as “…she went to Woodstock.” What are they implying? Drugs? Hippie? ‘60s radical? Or simply that I used to be a hot shit badass.