We arrive in Bethel, New York, amidst possibly most of the world’s vehicles. The words, “The New York state throughway’s closed, man,” are spoken by Arlo Guthrie. Four hundred thousand people have to get here somehow. Inching the car forward to we know not where, I am approached by a hippie chick, abundant, overflowing boobs first, leaning in the open window of our car. She wears a long, flowing summer dress, sandals, and flowers in her hair. She smells like incense. She speaks, greeting me in what I now imagine is the Woodstock manner, “Hey, cutie, wanna fuck?”
I think she is asking me if I want to fuck. I am wrong. She shoves a pamphlet into my hands and backs off. In large letters on page 1 it says…
an underground dating service for heads
What might this be, this “an underground dating service for heads?” It’s 1969. It’s a dating service, like it says, but the screening process involves an… unconventional questionnaire. To wit…
———My favorite music is
.. guitar and drums
.. rock ’n’ roll, you idiot
.. blue bells
.. the music of the spheres
.. throat singing
———My drug of choice is
.. birth control pills
———I come from
.. New York
.. the other part of America
.. mushroom people
.. a planet in the Epsilon Eridani system
.. under a rock
.. your worst nightmare
———My favorite sex partner is
.. a man
.. a woman
.. an animal
.. only ruminants
.. I’m too enlightened to be interested in sex
There are many questions that I don’t know how to answer. After watching her bounce away, in more ways than one, I am disappointed with this whole FUKing experience.
After an hour of driving less than a mile, we finally leave the car… somewhere, and we walk toward the stage. Just as we get to the perimeter of the field, the twelve foot high fence comes crashing down. All the hippies gingerly pick their way on the now horizontal, bouncing chainlink and join the rest of the crowd. Perelman and I crash the gate at the Woodstock Music Festival! And thereby save the six dollar admission fee.
I don’t know exactly what we are looking for but we carefully step between all the folks who have already staked out small bits of turf. Dressed in all colors including some that haven’t yet been invented, when they are wearing clothing at all, they munch potato chips and cheese balls and Doritos and Cracker Jack and drink beer and wine and smoke weed and kiss and hug a lot. Some are sleeping or passed out, hard to tell.
Man, there’s a lot of hair here! “Lotta freaks!” says Arlo Guthrie.
Perelman and I walk and stumble and dance between all the bodies on the ground to find our spot, roughly a quarter of a mile from the performers on stage. We don’t know who’s playing — we can’t see them from this distance and the sound is so grossly distorted out here that we can’t identify a single song.
At dusk, we are instructed by someone on stage to light a match and hold it up high, for peace. I borrow a match and Perelman uses his lighter (I’ve seen him unpretentiously smoke a pipe) and we witness one of the most impressive sights the 20th century has to offer. The light from 250 000 matches, or possibly 400 000 matches, turn the night into an eerie daytime, the glow reaching up to embed the stars in a halo of bliss covering every one of us free-thinking, peace-loving flower children, music disciples of the Grand Harmony whose karma put us in this Place in the Universe at this Time. We so believe that our glowing radiation held aloft to the buzz-and-haze-softened Universal Mystery has the power to bring the end of war and starvation on our planet. We want it so much it must be real! The matchglow gives us such a rush (the dope and the booze don’t hurt) that we know we are doing the right thing in the right time and with all the right people and the power of love will overcome. The Age of Aquarius, man. Like, wow! It’s all too groovy.
It doesn’t bother us, in our granny glasses and billowy flower dresses and holey blue jeans and T-shirts and flip flops, that we don’t seem to have love enough for our sphere of light to include our parents and the cops and government agent narcos and the fascist president, but we know that we are good peaceniks and beautiful people and all our lives would be ideal if we could just get the pigs to leave us alone and quit bumming us out.
The guy on my left passes me a lit joint. I take it and, without toking, pass it to Perelman. He looks at it briefly like it’s a five-legged newt and passes it to the guy on his right. What I am describing here is exactly the way it happened in reality. I have told this part of the story to a number of people and not one single person has ever believed me.
We have one can of tuna fish between the two of us. Nothing else to eat, nothing to drink. So we eat the tuna fish and leave.