Tag: Woodstock

Woodstock – in Eight Trippy Minutes

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Gary and Elana Vikan at Woodstock.
Gary and Elana Vikan at Woodstock.

Writer Gary Vikan–director of the Walters Art Museum from 1994-2013–reflects on his quick trip to Woodstock, a glorified study break during grad school, and what happened on the stormy way home.

“Wanna score a lid – $25?” Elana and I were in a small, old-fashioned grocery store attached to a gas station, on a rural highway in southern New York State. It was late morning, Sunday, August 18th, 1969. It was sunny and mild. We had stopped to gas up my 1968 red VW Beetle – the one that had yellow and lavender teardrop-shaped psychedelic decals in its rear windows, until a heavy-handed “pig” made me peel them off, claiming that they somehow blocked my view of the road. That VW was our understated hippy-mobile, and Elana and I were its understated hippies, on our way that morning to Woodstock. We had bought tickets just for Sunday, the last day of the festival, because Friday and Saturday, even in the dog days of August, were study days for grad-grind PhDs-in-the-making like us. The tickets, which I still have, were $7 each. That entrepreneurial hippy was offering us weed at what I knew was an inflated price because, I assumed, he had figured out we were Woodstock bound, and he guessed that we may not have planned ahead. A clue to our destination was the God’s eye, woven out of multi-colored yarn around two matchsticks, which Elana was wearing around her neck. She had picked it up the previous September somewhere between Big Sur State Park and the Esalen Institute, on California Interstate #1. We were hitchhiking, on our way to be part of the fifth annual Big Sur Folk Festival at Esalen. A small band of potheads in a VW van had picked us up; they were busily churning out God’s eyes in the intervals between stopping, in their paranoid delirium, once again to check out that odd knocking sound under the hood – a noise they heard but we could not.

By the Time I Got to Woodstock

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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.”

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