University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik looks back on the summer camp that helped define her sense of self — she even pays the director a visit.
Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to the Woodstock Writers Festival. Arriving in town moments after the news broke of the death of Levon Helm, I found the populace in tears. Somehow they rallied for the story slam scheduled that night at Oriole 9. Sponsored by Woodstock’s popular TMI Project, a relation of Baltimore’s Stoop storytelling series, the slam had the following rules: the stories had to contain the line “By the time I got to Woodstock” and had to be exactly three and a half minutes in length. The organizers had a gong that could have woken Angkor Wat, and were not afraid to use it.
We heard from a sweet older lady who had been Jerry Garcia’s girl on the side; from a slip of a thing who had peed her pants rather than visit the infernal port-o-potties at Woodstock ’99; from a young man raised in a local religious cult where rock and roll was forbidden. The bright spot of his childhood was when the cult was engaged to pick up trash at the concert grounds.
Later in the weekend, another delicate-looking senior citizen told me she’d like to work on an essay about a party her husband’s band gave in 1969 in New Jersey. Dubiously I said, “Do you think readers will be interested in that?” “Well,” she ventured, hesitating, “the band was the Velvet Underground.”