Woodstock Redux

Does the name Sri Swami Satchidananda ring a bell?  

On August 15, 1969, he was the Yogi who opened the Woodstock Festival with remarks about the “sacred art of music,” after which he led the assembled masses in several chants.  And while many factors combined to keep this event relatively calm, there are those who believe the Yogi’s words … “Hari OM” and “Rama” … were symbolic of the peaceful nature of this iconic gathering.

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock just over the horizon, there is another well-known Yogi who comes to mind … Yogi Berra.  And though he has been gone since 2015, one of his immortal malapropisms seems an especially accurate capture of the chaotic planning for this event: “It’s like deja vu all over again.”  

Thinking back to the woefully inept preparations for the original Woodstock, a number of memorable fits and starts come to mind … several communities rejected the festival before Max Yasgur stepped in at the very last minute … food and water supplies ran out almost immediately … medical care was inadequate … police were vastly outnumbered … and traffic control was non-existent.  

Considering the near-catastrophe in 1969, one might have expected a cooperative and competent planning effort this time around.  Recent reports, though, indicate otherwise … in one press release, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts emphasized that their planned anniversary is not affiliated with the organizers of the 1969 Festival, going on to underscore that they are not associated in any way with Michael Lang (the key promoter of the 1969 festival).

Meanwhile, Michael Lang has announced that he has plans for the anniversary as well, though details of who will be performing, and when and where the show will be held are not yet available.  Lang says further information will be coming soon.

In other words … when it comes to planning Woodstock Festivals, it is business as usual.

Although I have been retired from policing for a number of years, I always celebrated my good fortune at having been assigned as a young officer to work at Woodstock.  I learned much from that experience, but there is no denying that those days and nights in August, 1969, were long and busy.  All of us … cops and hippies alike … were wet, tired, and hungry, but when it was over, we knew we had been part of something remarkable.

My wife, Bonnie, and I will be heading to New York for the 50th Anniversary, but this trip will be different in a number of ways.  First and foremost, I will not be working, so the  miles-long traffic jams on Route 17-B (now known as “The Woodstock Way”) will be somebody else’s problem.  Instead, during this visit we will be engaging in some of the activities I witnessed but could not participate in last time.

No, we will not be sleeping in pup tents, using illegal drugs, or eating brown rice from a hand-thrown pottery jar.  Instead, as we set out for Bethel, New York, this summer, we will be guided by the words of Don McLean in his 70’s anthem American Pie: “We all got up to dance.  Oh, but we never got the chance!”

In 1969, we did not have the chance … but this time we will ……….

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Hippie Holidays 2018

Following is an updated blog post from one year ago.  With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock less than one year away, this seemed timely!

So anyway, I’m sitting here trying to come up with some Christmas gift ideas for my bride, when my eyes fall upon an ad for something called “Instant Pot.”  Whoa!  Can this really be what the name suggests?  Has some genius finally designed a system for creating weed without having to go through the whole planting, cultivating, and harvesting thing?

Alas, upon reading further, the full details of the “Instant Pot” became clear … it is nothing more than a new kitchen appliance that can be used to cook a wide range of foods in a variety of ways.  Sigh … well, I guess that is a pretty good idea as well.

In my defense, I am sure my initial thoughts about this product were driven by fond reminisces of my time working as a police officer at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and the fact that the 50th Anniversary of that singular event is just over the horizon.  But come to think of it, perhaps there is more to it than just that … maybe there is, as some have suggested, some sort of a magical connection between Hippies, marijuana and Christmas.  

For example, what should we make of the fact that the words C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S and W-O-O-D-S-T-O-C-K have the same number of letters?  Or that S-A-I-N-T-N-I-C-K and W-A-V-Y-G-R-A-V-Y are identical in length?  What about M-I-S-T-L-E-T-O-E and M-A-X-Y-A-S-G-U-R?  Are these all mere coincidences?  You be the judge.

There is even some speculation that Santa, himself, may be an occasional toker.  Those who take that position cite, as evidence, several of his well known behaviors that are common to regular users of marijuana.  For example:

Munchies   It is a well known fact that smoking marijuana creates an appetite for copious amounts of tasty and binge-worthy food.  Santa loves cookies … think of how many he eats in just one night!

Forgetfulness   One notable side of effect of marijuana use is the way it is said to affect memory.  Santa needs to keep a list for everything and, as we know, he has to check it twice.  The guy can’t even remember who’s naughty and who’s nice!

Paranoia   Like many marijuana users, Santa goes to great lengths to conceal his location and even his very existence!

Always Happy   Stoners readily admit that, when high, it is difficult to suppress their giggles.  Santa is always smiling, laughing and generally jolly.  What does that tell you?

As the big day approaches, the classic poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” comes to mind.  In that magical piece from 1823, Santa comes down the chimney with the smoke of his pipe encircling his head like a wreath.  Today, with recreational marijuana legal in ten states, the fellow using the chimney rather than a door likely opened his Christmas stash a bit early and then, while outside marveling at the moon and stars, locked himself out of the house.  And the smoke around his head … well, you get it.

Hippie Holidays!

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