Stop … Just STOP!

Well, we just finished watching the news and, as usual, my impulse is to unplug the television once and for all.  The stories this evening were virtually identical to the ones with which we were bombarded yesterday, and there is little doubt that tomorrow’s will be much the same:

Blah, blah, blah, Coronavirus, blah, blah, Protests, blah, blah, Unemployment, blah, blah, Trump, blah, blah, Biden, blah, blah, Quarantine, blah, blah, Fauci, blah, blah, Hoax, blah, blah, Stock Market, blah, blah, blah… and so on.

And if, for some reason, the punishment brought by the 4pm news is insufficient, we can tune in and inflict it upon ourselves again at 5pm, 6pm, and even 10pm.  And this, of course, is only the local network version of things … a variety of cable news channels are accessible round the clock, with choices sufficient for virtually any point on the political compass.

As if being virtually housebound these days is not stressful enough, the 24-hour news cycle with “this just in” and “breaking now” bulletins is wearing me out.  And, frankly, a “users guide” would come in handy in deciphering this new vocabulary permeating conversations all around us.  Yes, I get it when someone uses words like hoax, hate, conspiracy, leftist and far right.  But where did “QAnon” come from?  And “Antifa” … what is that?  What about “Cancel Culture”?  Near as I can determine, my lack of familiarity with those terms means I am not fully “woke” … whatever the hell that means.

Hunkered down in our little abode, we have adopted some strategies to keep ourselves safe and (relatively) sane in navigating the pandemic.  We wear masks … wash our hands frequently … use hand sanitizer liberally … maintain social distance … and avoid exposure in public spaces.  We have also found it important to limit the amount of news to which we subject ourselves.  For us, one half hour of local news is just about right, with the same amount of time allotted for national and international broadcasts.

In adopting this regimen, we have also limited our interactions on social media platforms such as Facebook.  As a reflection, perhaps, of the very contentious political divide in our world, some “friends” seem less reluctant than ever to express incendiary points of view and, as a result, an electronic meeting place that used to be, for the most part, enjoyable, is now a minefield that cannot be safely traversed.  As an aside, it may be time for a discussion of the very definition of “friend” in the context of Facebook, especially since that word, itself, has now become a verb rather than a noun.

In our defense, we are not Luddites … we read three newspapers each day, and follow several reputable news sources.  And, as it turns out, having to sort through the plethora of conspiracy-oriented and downright outlandish claims populating the airwaves has turned us into better consumers of the news.  Now, when a piece of information strikes us as questionable, a quick visit to a non-partisan fact-checking internet page helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

Neither are we strangers to the world of electronic communication.  Consider, for example, the networking platform Zoom which, during the pandemic, has given us the opportunity to interact with and enjoy family and friends simultaneously in multiple locations.  And despite my earlier criticism, we have come to know Facebook (when properly guided) as a superb place for folks to meet and share information.  We administer two Facebook groups and the key to their success and welcoming nature has, in part, been the express limitation on political discussion.

In the 1976, movie Network, Peter Finch played the part of Howard Beale, a disaffected and deeply troubled news reporter overwhelmed by what he saw as social ailments and depravity in the world.  As fans of that movie will recall, Beale’s signature lament was: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”

Unlike Beale, the relentless media circus surrounding us doesn’t make me “mad as hell” … it makes me tired.

Looking back to a college class taken almost fifty years ago, it occurs to me that the young, irreverent professor in that room had the perfect solution for dealing with a contentious and confusing debate.  A master at provoking active discussion on a topic, his skill often resulted in two (or three) sides to an argument holding firm to their positions.  Then, when the argument seemed to have reached its peak, he would look around the room and declare: “Ah, to hell with it … let’s go get a beer.”

That was excellent advice then, and it is excellent advice now.

 I’m going to go get a beer.

Putting the “Hip” in Hippie

Pity the poor flower child who, in August, 1969, decided to take a little jaunt up to Bethel, New York, to join in something called the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.  After loading a few friends in his car he set out, fully expecting a leisurely drive to Yasgur’s Farm, where he would pull into a parking lot next to the concert stage.  Instead, when our worthy young friend took the exit onto Route 17b, in Monticello, New York, he came face-to-face with a world-class traffic jam … everything headed toward Woodstock was completely stopped, with abandoned cars as far as the eye could see.  

Very quickly, two things became clear.  First, if this fellow was going to partake of any peace, love  and music over the next few days, he was going to have to walk.  Second, the distance from Monticello, New York, to Yasgur’s Farm is eleven miles.  And, if you are keeping score, that is eleven “country miles.”

For those in attendance at the original Woodstock Festival, having to trudge long distances amidst hordes of unwashed strangers likely qualifies as part of the experience … the “charm” … of the event.  And when you are young and caught up in the moment, well, the prospect of walking eleven miles was not a big deal.  But that was fifty years ago … how many of us would be up for that sort of a forced march today?

Let’s face it … the body of an aging hippie has endured a lot over the years.  Remember those long rides crammed in the back seat of somebody’s VW Beetle with three other folks?  Or those afternoons sitting in the lotus position while absorbing cosmic truths from Moonbeam and Zephyr?  Some of those memories may have faded (marijuana is reported to have that effect), but your hips and knees remember what you put them through and, lately, they have been demanding attention.

In the process of getting older, a number of those who sat for three days in the mud at Woodstock have likely already sought relief through the installation of a new hip.  If so, it may be time to form an organization called HIGH (Hips In Geriatric Hippies) to let others know how much that surgery improves quality of life.  Like, for example, being able to walk – pain free – round that meditation labyrinth in the backyard.  And for that dyed-in-the-wool hippie who has kept a list of the myriad of substances he put in his body over the years, a new hip provides one more … titanium!

As an aside, many of us likely remember the good old days when the words “joint replacement” had nothing to do with hips and knees.  Back then, that term simply meant you had to light up another doobie because the one you passed to your left around the campfire never made it back.

In 1985, the Bellamy Brothers released their classic work “Old Hippie,” in which they sing of a fellow clinging to his 60’s lifestyle as he cultivates “a little garden in the backyard by the fence.”  The good news is that a hip replacement frees us up to get back to tending that private crop we have so carefully nurtured over the years.

Because, goodness knows, these days we all need something to help take the edge off.

(Baseball) Diamonds Are Not Forever

When it comes to showing off new baseball stadiums, the Texas Rangers can’t catch a break.

In 1994, Globe Life Park (cost $191 Million) opened for business in Arlington, Texas.  Sadly, after only 113 games, the players went on strike, and the remainder of the season (including the World Series) was cancelled.  

As luck would have it, the Texas Rangers were preparing to open their brand-spanking-new Globe Life Field (cost $1.1 Billion) to kick off the 2020 season when the Coronavirus brought everything to a halt.  

Talk about bad luck!

The abrupt ending of the 1994 season was accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth from team owners, television broadcasters and advertisers.  But there was one other less-well-known bit of fallout … I stopped going to Major League Baseball (MLB) games once and for all.  The way I look at it is simple … when MLB gave up on me by cancelling the World Series, I gave up on them.

I know my decision did not cause panic in board rooms across the MLB community, but it is a position that I have held to … pretty much.  Yes, I have fallen off the wagon a time or two over the years …for example, I simply could not resist a first-time visit to historic Wrigley Field on a trip to Chicago.  But if pressed about other MLB games I might have attended during my boycott, my defense would be simple … I was there only for the purposes of research and, as a former President once argued, I didn’t inhale.

Full disclosure, I have not entirely forsworn professional baseball … far from it.  Every winter, my wife and I count the days until we can begin our annual ritual of travel to minor league games across the United States.  The quality of play by the aspiring major leaguers we watch is always high, and the memories we collect are vivid.  For example, we won’t soon forget attending a game called in the fifth inning because of snow while watching the Casper (WY) Ghosts.  And we learned that if you arrive early enough at a Roswell (NM) Invaders game, you can watch the home team raking the infield and chalking the baselines.

For us, minor league parks always provide a delightful experience at a reasonable price.  In Pensacola, Florida, for example, the ridiculously low cost of a seat directly behind home plate provides an up-close look at the game as well as a lovely view of the Gulf of Mexico just over the center field wall.  An added bonus, of course, is the opportunity to pose for a picture with Kazoo, the team mascot.  And for a genuine “bucket list” experience, I had the good fortune in 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Hyannis Harbor Hawks game in the fabled Cape Cod League.

Kokernot Field in Alpine, Texas

If you are a true baseball enthusiast, though, few experiences can compare with a ball game at Kokernot Field in Alpine, Texas.  Constructed in 1947 by Big Bend rancher Herb Kokernot, this beautiful park was built from native stone quarried on the Kokernot Ranch, with red clay for the infield brought in by boxcar from Georgia.  With a seating capacity of 1,400, fans in this idyllic setting are often treated to the sight of a homerun ball disappearing over the outfield wall in the general direction of the majestic Chisos Mountains just beyond.  Called the “Yankee Stadium of Texas,” Kokernot field is home to the Sul Ross University Lobos, and the Alpine Cowboys of the Pecos League.  

In 2020, Covid-19 has affected broad swaths of life and, no surprise, discussions about any possible start to the MLB season remain deadlocked.  What this means, of course, is that this year, instead of heading to the ballpark for an evening of Crackerjack, cold beer and yelling at umpires, we are left to contemplate the sorry spectacle of billionaires feuding with millionaires over the fate of an enterprise we used to know as “The American Pastime.”  

While disappointing, there is one distinct “up” side to this debacle … my 1994 decision to avoid MLB games has been renewed and strengthened.  The unbridled avarice of owners and players alike has reminded me, once again, of how completely out of touch these folks are with the world of the ordinary citizen and baseball fan.

During his tenure as manager of the New York Yankees, Casey Stengel became known for his sage witticisms.  One of his observations about baseball seems especially appropriate today: “There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.”

There is not much doubt … the 2020 season has been postponed because of rain.

Say It Ain’t So, Willie!

When White Sox outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson admitted to cheating in the 1919 World Series, a broken-hearted Chicago Daily News reporter begged him: “Say it ain’t so, Joe …”

Recently, a multitude of country music (and marijuana) fans experienced a similar “say it ain’t so” moment when Willie Nelson announced that he would no longer be smoking weed.  The shocking news quickly spread across the pot-smoking community, leaving many, well, needing a toke.  

The news was especially disheartening to Snoop Dogg who, in a recent interview, said Willie should be on the “Mount Rushmore” of pot smokers, pointing out that Willie was the only person to ever have out smoked him.

Willie’s unexpected announcement caused concern in several other areas as well:

The Stock Market  Knowing how Wall Street trembled when China stopped buying US soy beans, investors worried that the value of their cannabis stock would tumble when news of Willie’s abstinence went public.  As it turns out, the value of marijuana shares had already gone “up in smoke” over a year ago, so Willie’s newfound temperance had little impact.

Property Values in Sierra Blanca, Texas   With not much else to offer, this small west Texas Town is widely known as the “Border Patrol Checkpoint to the Stars.” Located on I-10 about 20 miles from the Mexican border and 85 miles east of El Paso, officers here have arrested a number of celebrities for drug possession … Fiona Apple … Armie Hammer … Nelly … Snoop … and, of course, Willie.  So what will happen to this little town if these famous people stop carrying drugs?  Will this place continue to exist?

Not to worry … Border Patrol agents in Sierra Blanca scan approximately 17,000 vehicles each day, with about 2,500 per year resulting in arrests.  In addition, some 10,000 pounds of drugs are seized each month at this very efficient checkpoint.  In one case, the search of a tour bus yielded more than 10 pounds of marijuana, 36 baggies of heroin and a loaded .45 handgun … all of which beg the question … what, exactly, was the owner of these items thinking?  We know marijuana causes one to be forgetful … was that what happened?  Did he forget that he had those items with him?  And those drug-sniffing dogs … did he think they would be off duty when he got to the checkpoint?

Fun fact: When Willie Nelson was arrested for possession of marijuana in Sierra Blanca, the county prosecutor gave him a choice: pay a fine of $3,000.00 or sing his famous song “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”  Willie chose to pay the fine.

Though some found it difficult to believe that a devout marijuana advocate like Willie had stopped smoking, he pointed out that he had simply decided to give his 86-year-old lungs a break.  And, with cannabis now available in so many forms, he insists he has not lost his affection for the wonders of THC.  For example, a quick review of the choices within his own “Willie’s Reserve” brand show a range of choices to include infused chocolate and fruit chews, along with an assortment of flowers and bud.

At a certain age, people often sit down with family to discuss and make arrangements for the inevitable end of one’s life.  What kind of service shall we have?  Do we want a funeral and burial?  Is cremation the way we want to go?

Willie Nelson, it seems, has things all mapped out.  Given his many years of inhaling marijuana smoke … and with a generous nod to his fans … he used the title of one of his many hits to announce what he wants done with his remains:

Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

O Hippie, Where Art Thou?

“Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over …”  

Although Willie Nelson wrote and sang those memorable words in 1966, they ring especially true today.  The Woodstock 50th Anniversary hoopla has lurched to an end, festival organizers are aghast at the financial hit they endured,  and the Museum at Bethel Woods is operating on its reduced winter schedule.  In other words, calm has returned to that bucolic patch of hallowed ground in upstate Sullivan County, New York.

So … now what?  Given the age of most Woodstock “veterans,” this recent shindig likely marked the “last hurrah” for many who would like nothing more than to continue reliving those magical days in August of 1969.  But these worthies face an inescapable truth … unless marijuana, hash and LSD have some previously unreported anti-aging properties, none of those sprightly flower children who migrated to the original gathering at Yasgur’s farm will be around for the centennial.

On the other hand, being an “elder” of the original Woodstock clan provides one with a certain degree of panache.  As such, members of that august-but-diminishing group are, in effect, “keepers of the flame” of hippiedom, with a duty to educate and guide those who follow.  At the Baba Yaga Home for Unkempt Hippies, for example, aspirants can assume the lotus position while absorbing truths from such luminaries as Moonblossom and Zephyr.

Others, however, have decided that enough is enough.  For them, the time has come to trade in the frayed “Make Love Not War” t-shirt in favor of one with a slogan more suitable to crabby and disaffected senior citizens:

We are old … we are tired … get off our lawn.

The Man in the Meadow

Well, that last half century certainly went by quickly.

The relentless hoopla about the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock seemed to reach a crescendo over the past couple of months, with Michael Lang’s ill-fated venture falling by the wayside, and a number of communities around the world mounting their own mini-celebrations of that iconic happening.

As “veterans” of the original event, we could not resist the pull to take one more journey back to that bucolic place known as Bethel, New York.  And though we originally planned to be there on the exact dates of the 50th, we decided to visit earlier in hopes of avoiding crowds and traffic.  

This proved to be an excellent choice for, when we made our way to Woodstock in early August, we were among the few people on hand that day.  Consequently, we could tour the lovely Museum at Bethel Woods at our leisure, and roam the grounds in absolute tranquility.

Leading up to our visit, I participated in several enjoyable and interactive talks about my book “Dear Hippie … We Met at Woodstock.”  Across these sessions, I met a number of folks who were at the 1969 festival … one even brought a photo of herself as proof.  Another had a (framed) copy of the original Woodstock program, and a third proved to be a helicopter pilot who used his chopper to assist with security efforts.

It was, of course, good to meet folks who were there in 1969, but most in attendance at my talks had never been to Woodstock.  Many were too young; others missed it because “… mom wouldn’t let me go”; and a number had simply read about the festival or watched it on television.  All, though, expressed amazement that an event of that magnitude could have taken place without ending in catastrophe.

Having worked at the Woodstock festival as a police officer, I share their sense of amazement.  And, considering the remarkable confluence of events leading up to that gathering, it is hard to believe that it occurred at all.  Yes, the few police on hand did their jobs well but, in my view, the credit for keeping things calm must go to the assembled masses who, while enduring three rain-soaked days without adequate food, water and shelter, did not allow the event to descend into chaos.

Many things have changed in the half century since the original gathering, but there remains a special aura surrounding that obscure bend in the road in upstate New York. It is here that a dairy farmer named Max Yasgur lent 600 acres of his dairy farm for the 1969 concert venue, and the rest is history.  That plot of land is now registered as both a state and a national historic site. 

At the end of our visit, we stopped at the monument overlooking the serene and well-tended meadow where, fifty years ago, some half a million people gathered for a weekend of peace, love and music.  Standing there, I noticed far off in the distance … in the meadow… near the location of the original stage … a man standing alone … playing a guitar.

I have no idea who that solitary musician was or where he came from.  And though I had driven 1,600 miles to reach Bethel, I have a feeling that he and I each felt drawn to that very special place by something that neither of us could fully articulate.  When all is said and done, Maya Angelou may have best captured the essence of Woodstock in these words:

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place 

where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

An Easy Choice

It’s that time again.  Our lease is up for renewal and, in the words of the 80’s rock band, Clash, Bonnie and I have to decide: “Should We Stay or Should We Go?”

Readers of this blog, of course, know how pleased we are with our living arrangement. That view has not changed and, in fact, it was solidified even more fully by a recent column titled “5 Reasons to Rent Versus Buy” by Kelsey Sheehy.  And while we did not need convincing, her article discussed many of the very same things we considered in deciding to sell our home and move into a 55+ Active Adult community. For example:

We want flexibility    One reason we selected our apartment was because we love the city in which it is located, and it is relatively close to family.  Those things could change though.  Any of our children could find themselves forced to move for career reasons, and there is always the possibility Bonnie and I could find ourselves irresistibly drawn to another part of the United States.  Whatever the case, if we decide to move we don’t have to worry about the enormous hassle of selling a home, and all the complications and time that process entails.

We want to be maintenance-free   For many years, I enjoyed doing maintenance, yard work and repairs around the house.  Today, though, the mere thought of having to put up a 40 foot extension ladder to clean the gutters is enough to make me swoon.  There were many good things about home ownership, but seemingly constant repairs, replacement and refurbishment … not to mention dealing with a Home Owners Association … were not among them.  Today, if something needs to be fixed, I dial a number and the repair is done quickly, professionally, at no cost and … here’s the best part … somebody else does the work.

We enjoy amenities   Having owned a house with a swimming pool, we swore we would never do that again … chemicals … vacuuming … repairs … safety concerns.  At our apartment, the pool is always sparkling, the water temperature is perfect, and if it ever needs cleaning … well, somebody else does it.  Apartment living gives us others things as well … access to a fitness center just down the hall … community games and social events … and the opportunity to join neighbors in travel to a variety of locations and attractions.  When we began searching for an apartment, we did not pay particular attention to amenities … now that we are here, though, these things make our experience even more enjoyable.

We like financial predictability   Though rents can fluctuate over time, we know that once we sign our lease our rate is fixed for the term of the rental agreement.  When we owned a home, we found that while our mortgage amount stayed constant, property tax rates always had an impact on our monthly payment.  And, as mentioned, maintenance costs in a home can be unpredictable.  For example, I remember standing in my backyard at 2:00am one August night in Texas (temperature was 95) … holding a flashlight for the air conditioner repairman (who I had called eight hours earlier) … while he tried to coax my AC unit back to life.  Needless to say, I do not miss either the experience or the expense of that sort of thing.

We have a good thing going   We love our apartment and the city where we live.  Nearby shopping and restaurants, along with a wealth of available entertainment options make this a great place to call home.  Our surroundings are quiet and comfortable, and we find ourselves in the midst of some truly amazing people we have come to call friends.  Put differently, we are in a very good place and, as the old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

Though Sheehy wrote her column for folks trying to decide between buying their first house or continuing to rent, the issues she raises apply perfectly to Bonnie and me.  Full disclosure, we had already made up our minds about renewing our lease, but this article provided another layer of confirmation that we had made … and continue to make … the right choice.  When all is said and done, this is our “me” time, and living in a 55+ Active Adult community allows us to enjoy this period of our lives to the fullest.

In other words, when it comes to renewing our lease … where do we sign?

Calling All Dairy Farmers!

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock just around the corner, officials at the Watkins Glen, NY, Raceway reversed their decision to host Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 extravaganza; state and county permits remain unapproved; financial underwriters have bolted; partners are battling among themselves; and tickets have not yet been made available for sale.

In other words, planning for this shindig is right on schedule.

Thinking back to 1969, the task of finding a site for the festival was a major challenge as well.  Several communities had rejected Lang and his associates until, with less than a month to go, Max Yasgur stepped forward and offered the use of his dairy farm in Bethel, NY, as the venue … and the rest is history.  Similar to the current fiasco, ancillary issues like funding, ticket sales and security were in complete disarray in 1969 and, ultimately, Lang and his associates had no alternative except to make the original Woodstock a free event.

Unfortunately, Max Yasgur passed away in 1973, so organizers cannot call upon him for help this time around.  Somewhere in the bucolic reaches of upstate New York, though, must live a farmer willing to step into the breach.  The dairy industry has been in decline in New York State for several years so, at the very least, hosting an event like this might be a good way to scare up a few extra dollars.   On the other hand, Yasgur’s experiences in 1969, should provide fair warning that any farmer thinking of renting out pastureland for this event should have:

  1. An exceptionally high threshold for stress and aggravation;
  2. The ability to withstand scorn and ostracism from neighbors;
  3. A willingness to endure extensive damage to livestock and property.

Despite being anointed a cult hero, even Max Yasgur decided that one Woodstock Festival was more than enough … he turned down the opportunity to host a reunion in 1970.  In addition, he received a financial settlement that helped cover the costs associated with the near total destruction of his dairy farm.

While our initial plans had us in Bethel on the actual dates of the 50th Anniversary, my wife and I have decided, instead, to take a quieter and less chaotic trip down memory lane.  In early August we will visit the beautifully tended meadow where Woodstock was actually held … we will tour, once again, the spectacular Museum at Bethel Woods … and we will have our picture taken at the Tomb of the Unknown Hippie.

In 1969, a multitude of young folks descended on Woodstock to experience an amazing array of performers pushing the boundaries of a tumultuous time in American history  … Joan Baez … Richie Havens … Joe Cocker … Arlo Guthrie.  Few of those hardy stalwarts are around any more so, fifty years later, aging hippies with plans to sample the musical wares at Woodstock 50 should be prepared to shell out some $400 to hear Miley Cyrus … Soccer Mommy … and Amigo the Devil.

Yes, time is running short, but Michael Lang assures us there is nothing to worry about … he will pull something together.

After all, he did exactly that in 1969.

And we know how that turned out.

The Bus to Woodstock

When the clutch started burning, I knew we were in trouble.

Though I hadn’t volunteered to drive the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office “Command Post” bus to the 1969 Woodstock Festival, when my boss handed me the keys I tried to make the best of it.  In truth, it is a wonder that the tired, old relic ran at all, so when the clutch failed while stuck in traffic on one of the many hills along Route 17B between Monticello and Bethel, New York, we had only one choice … summon a tow truck.

“Command Post” bus (blue and white) at Woodstock in 1969

By the way, calling that antiquated rig a “Command Post” was a real stretch.  It carried no radios or emergency equipment meaning that, except for the modicum of shelter it provided from the incessant rain, it served no useful purpose at Woodstock.  Nevertheless, it definitely stood out … the hordes of young folks traversing Hurd Road could not miss its distinctive blue and white paint job, or the large, reflective Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office star on the rear exit door. 

Hog Farm bus at Woodstock in 1969

While being towed that day toward Bethel, I noticed a vehicle that was to become an iconic Woodstock image: the old bus – painted in psychedelic colors – belonging to a commune called The Hog Farm.  That vehicle was at least as old as ours but, whereas we could not proceed under our own power, their bus seemed to run just fine.  Taking note of this, two things occurred to me.  First, it was obvious that the person who painted the Hog Farm bus was far more imaginative than the one who painted ours and, second, there was no doubting that the hippies had better mechanics than we did. 

Thinking back, our arrival at Woodstock hooked to the back of a tow truck should have given us a “heads up” about what the next few days were going to be like … long hours, sodden fields, gridlocked roads and throngs of people.  With the passage of time, though, my mind gravitates, instead, toward the more pleasant … smiling faces … acts of kindness … expressions of appreciation … and the sense that we were al involved in something bigger than ourselves.

Eventually, I would be able to process what had taken place over those hectic but exhilarating three days but, as things lurched to an end on the final morning, the ill-fated bus demanded our attention once again.  Not only would it not start, we learned that it needed extensive (and expensive) repairs before it could be driven.  Deciding that it made no sense to fix this over-the-hill conveyance, my boss ordered that it be towed directly to a nearby auto salvage yard.

Given the degrading way our crippled vehicle arrived at – and later departed – Woodstock, it deserved a better fate than the one it met with at the junkyard.  Instead of a quiet out-of-the-way place where it could rust away in anonymity, that broken down rig – resplendent in its blue and white departmental livery – was dumped half way up a hill among numerous other junked cars, and in full view of drivers heading south on a major state highway.  There was one final indignity; when the sun hit the back of that discarded old bus at the correct angle, that reflective Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office star on the back door lit up like a Broadway marquee.

Woodstock West

With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock fast approaching, one can’t help but notice the proliferation of other events designed to attract both the “Original Woodstock Veteran” and the “Nouveau Hippie.”  Take, for instance, the proposal for a three-day Music Festival in May, 2020, at a ranch situated between the very small … and very remote … high desert communities of Marfa and Fort Davis, Texas.845962414aa6fc876e9ff22106308047

When local residents got wind of these plans, concerns were immediately raised about crowd size, availability of food and water, sanitation and public safety.  In the face of this opposition, the promoter postponed the 2020 event, promising to reschedule only after a study of the possible effects a gathering of this sort might have on both communities.

A music festival in this lovely but desolate area presents an additional concern that has, so far, been overlooked … hippies who attended the original Woodstock in Bethel, New York, and who might be expecting a similar experience in Marfa and Fort Davis.  For those intrepid souls, there are some important items to consider before loading up the VW minivan and heading out to deep west Texas:

Livestock   During that memorable sojourn at Woodstock, many young folks climbed fences to interact with Max Yasgur’s gentle dairy cows.  Deciding to do the same on a Texas ranch, though, is asking for trouble…. Longhorn cattle and Brahma bulls can be, well, unfriendly. 

Crowd Size   According to one estimate, 5,000 people were predicted to attend the west-Texas music festival.  While this number would overwhelm Marfa, folks at Woodstock saw that many hippies lined up to use the pay phone at Artie’s Texaco station in White Lake, New York.

Skinny Dipping   Swimming naked in farmers’ ponds was commonplace at Woodstock, but similar water sources do not exist on the high desert.  Jumping into a rancher’s stock tank is not a good idea and, though the natural pool at Balmorhea is a mere 60 miles away, Texas park officials frown on anyone skinny dipping at this historic and family oriented site.

Environment   Attendees at Woodstock walked barefoot in the grassy meadow, with trees nearby for shade.  Those without shoes in the desert, though, will encounter ferocious local critters called Fire Ants.  And when it comes to chilling under shade trees … forget it. 

Traffic   While traffic at Woodstock was gridlocked across the entire region, only a single two-lane highway connects Marfa and Fort Davis, and the closest commercial airports are either El Paso (190 miles) or Midland (180 miles).  On the “up” side, the drive to this part of Texas provides a spectacular sort of desolate beauty, but be sure to keep your gas tank topped off.

Shopping   While several small stores can be found in Marfa and Fort Davis, the nearest Walmart is in Fort Stockton (92 miles).  Yes, there is a Prada Shoe store in Valentine, and a Target store east of Alpine, but these are both art installations … nice to contemplate, but nothing for sale.

Drug Use   Pot smokers who enjoy gazing at the moon and stars are in luck … the McDonald Observatory is only a few miles away, where huge telescopes will enhance the experience.  And for those who see odd, flashing lights in the dark, this is not an apparition or the result of a “bad trip” … the Marfa mystery lights are a genuine local phenomenon. 

One last thought … Marfa is relatively close to the border between the US and Mexico and, as such, visitors driving in the area should not be surprised to encounter a Border Patrol check point.  If this happens, an officer may ask occupants of the vehicle to state their citizenship … word of caution … if asked, do not answer: “Woodstock Nation!”