Woodstock in a Whirlwind
By Ella Veres
Twenty four hours after I arrived in the New World I was walking around Woodstock.
Now let me say that I am not one of those retro 1960s enthusiasts who lament that they were born too late and who regard the famous 1969 festival of sex, drugs, and rock and roll as the highpoint of the 20th century, coming to it as pilgrims to a shrine,, like visitors in Florence breathing in the renaissance. Why? Well, one certainly didn't see much of sexual revolution on our national TV. The Regime of the late Nicolae Ceausescu, our dictator, did not think valuable foreign exchange should be diverted from building either the house of the people or polluting the atmosphere by importing the film of Woodstock that made the name a world wide encapsulation of youth culture and sensual delight all around the world.
All we saw were two or three hours of comrade visiting the cow farm in Vascauti or heck knows what crucial party conference. What I knew of and worshipped was Cenaclul Flacara, a local imitation of Woodstock, in which young people went to listen to ,music and poetry, yell and get an adrenaline shot. We listened to songs of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, along with inspired Romanian songs, and admired the unwonted gathering of longhair guitar players, poets, and actors displaying jeans and prophetic eyes. Jeans were a luxury item smuggled from the West and a statement at those times. Prophetic eyes were an equal luxury. Few could keep them unabashed for long under the systematic hammering into uniformity :induced by the state.
They would tour Romania and rally youth inspiring a sense of Freedom. Which was paradoxical since this gathering's production was a hybrid of non-conventionalist and ass licking of Ceausescu. Its leader was the honored court poet who could spit an ode in half an hour praising eulogistic our "ship captain" achievements and our tremendous, though nonexistent, love. His snoring rhymes, though saying nothing, somehow pumped up our patriotism.
I remember I ran away from home to attend one of these gatherings on the symbolic Liberty Plain at Blaj, a small Transylvanian town and I was disappointed. It didn't look glamorous like on TV; just some young people dangling and singing together in drunken :voices. The best hard rock band in Romania, Phoenix, just left the stage in protest of we didn't know what. Low payment perhaps. I remember it was getting dark and people lit some wretched newspapers We heard next day on TV that torches(?/!) were lit on the Liberty Plain. What torches?! They were just a bunch of privileged liars, pretending to be heroes. So I lost interest in their tours.
I heard about Woodstock only when I moved to Budapest, in Hungary where there is an annual event in August comparable with Woodstock. Young people from all over Europe come together for one week and enjoys music, boozing, and all one thinks of when hears the word "Woodstock." They do these liberating activities in sign of protest, but actually there is nothing- anymore to protest against. There is no communism, everyone is free to get as many pairs of jeans as they want, shave their skull or grow long hair, get AIDS or kids conceived from the combined seed of several unknown fathers, no problem.
But anyway here I was in Woodstock, the home of it all. The Place where I understand that Country Joe and the Fish sang "One, two :three four, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam." And thousands cheered and smoked dope and rolled in the mud left by the rain and proclaimed the Age of Aquarius. So here I was, in this pleasant Catskill Mountain town at the invitation of a red hair Woodstockian who... I actually don't remember if he invited me or I invited myself to visit real Woodstock on my way to a conference in Philadelphia where I was invited to debate liberty in arts. He warned me Woodstock was a small mountain resort and said he hoped I wouldn't be disappointed. I pacified him saying I loved small towns. I don't, but since he said he had no specific expectations, why should I?!