Sunday, August 09, 2009

By the Time We Got to Woodstock, the Traffic Was Very Bad

Why are newspapers dying? Consider the following lead sentence from music critic Jon Pareles in his story in the Arts & Leisure section of today's "New York Times."

"Baby boomers won't let go of the Woodstock Festival."

I didn't read any further. Couldn't take it. Pareles had bought a first class ticket on the Express Train to Bullshit Generalization Hell. This 60s veteran would just as soon have as hitched a ride with soon to be paroled Squeaky Fromme.

I'm a baby boomer. I was at Woodstock, and am glad I was. Know when I let go of the experience. When I got home that Sunday night, that's when. And on behalf of the many other people who were there who are still on top of the ground, let me say I doubt that many of them have had lives so pathetic that they cling to memories of a rock and roll show four decades past as one of their seminal experiences. Forget life partners, children, work, or spiritual development. Canned Heat, THEY'RE what made my life worth living.

Woodstock bullshit, of course, began to be disseminated even as the event was going on. I will excuse the silly things those who were there said at the event-we were stoned. What's interesting is that the very same organs of established thought-including and especially the Times-went crazy discussing The Meaning of It All way back then. And they still haven't figured it out 40 years later.

Sometimes, the Meaning of It All is there isn't any. As a sports columnist, the most horrible occasions was where I had to have an opinion on some ball game that had no significance beyond its final score. How I longed to write "The Sox forgot this one 15 minutes after it ended and so should you." I'd have been banned from punditry for life, but in retrospect, it would have been worth it.

So it is with Woodstock. I would summarize the eternal truths of that admittedly large event as follows.

1. Many people live on the Eastern Seaboard.

2. The music of the 1960s was tremendous, and well worth going to much time, trouble, and distance to see.

3. If you're going to have a huge crowd for which you have inadequate or no services, you'd better hope most of them are on drugs that aren't meth or coke.

That's it. The rest is bullshit. The success of the Woodstock movie, which devoted far too much of itself to propagating the "defining moment of a generation" myth, came from the simple truth that people are fond of looking at pictures of themselves.

The ways in which life today is better than in 1969 are almost infinite, ranging from the Internet to a refreshingly lower threat of thermonuclear war. The social attitudes of the crowd at Woodstock, for all their youthful revolutionaryness, shockingly retrograde by today's middle-American standards. Ask any of the gay folks who were there.

But the music was better then, the same way basketball was better in the 1980s than it is now. That's the moral of Woodstock. One big major chord.

I wonder sometimes. As happy as I am to have seen the show, if HDTV had existed in 1969, would I have bothered to go?

Probably not.


Post a Comment

<< Home