We left Woodstock in the morning to travel to Woodstock—the festival site, that is, in Bethel NY. Sixty odd miles later, we arrived in the White Lake area of NY State, where we did our favorite thing…get lost. This proclivity is reinforced by our firm commitment not to use GPS and to rely on a) maps b) directions provided by road walkers we snare and C) instinct. After missing a turn off, we circled around the areas and were amazed to see so many skeletal remains of the bungalow colonies of our youth and, more surprising, so many colonies of orthodox and Hasidic Jews who seemed they had been helicoptered in from Williamsburg possibly the day before. Is this what is looks like on the West Bank…little houses and trailers on hillsides. What were they doing here in their religious garb looking completely out of place? It seemed incongruous, though in truth we were just two more Wandering Jews trying to find our way.
We did finally find the festival site, after coming upon the important clue of “Yasgur Rd.” (Max Yasgur was the farmer who rescued the Woodstock Festival from being canceled when all the other venues were refusing to stage a concert because it might be too large. Little did they know what would happen but they were right). There in front of us was the famous field, bedecked with an appropriate memorial plaque, and “Duke,” a site historian, who arrived one day in August 1969 from Texas (along with half a million others) and never left. He gave an informative, if well-worn rap to visitors, and after screening out his sexist jokes, one could actually learn a thing or two from him. At the top of the hill was a new Arts Center (nicely designed!), with a colorful museum that gave a good sense of the 6os and told the story of the concert, the performers and all the great music in a dynamic way. The museum told the story of the 60’s in a colorful and decent way, but since we had been there we didn’t much attention to all that. We paid attention to the music. A couple of 10-20 minute soundtracks with amazing footage were well worth the visit! (Dylan actually didn’t perform at Woodstock, but he will be there this Sept. 2!) From there we traveled the long and winding roads to Ithaca, listening to some of Dylan’s early music. Larry had last been to Ithaca in 1965, remembering it very differently than it is now. The memory of the idyllic college town was a bit spoiled by the extensive strip malls surrounding the town. Staying at the Rodeway Inn was a trip down memory lane, the classic on the road cheap motel. Clean and decent but no charm. Tomorrow Bill will take Larry tomorrow to the Cornell campus auditorium where he first heard Dylan in concert. As we continue on the road to Hibbing, Minnesota, we have a few stops before. The next is Cleveland and the R & R Hall of Fame.
One footnote: At exactly 3:10 pm, Bill received a spam email from Smithsonian Folkways. Its headline: “Happy 100th Birthday, Woody Guthrie!” Alright!