That’s Not My Bag, Baby

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In reality, it is my bag. I just wanted to say it wasn’t, so I could quote Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery from the 1997 movie that spoofs 1960s spy films. This commemorative swingin’ sixties Woodstock bag, while not remotely vintage, was a groovy gift from a friend about ten years ago. She knew how much my husband and I love pop culture from that era. Primarily because we were children of the sixties.

Truth be told, now that we are fully ensconced in our sixties, Tom and I schlep this colorful tote bag with us on fall, winter, and spring Saturday mornings when we shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Scottsdale Farmers Market here in Arizona.

By now, I’m sure you’ve realized this Baby Boomer bag is nothing more than a lame prop for me to tell a story about the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock festival … billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music” … a pivotal moment in popular music history which actually stretched into four days (August 15-18, 1969) of peace, rock, sex, drugs, rain, mud and traffic on and around Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.

The irony of me writing this story is that I have no personal connection to Woodstock. No substantive recollection of it either. It wasn’t so much that Woodstock wasn’t my bag. It simply wasn’t on my radar as a twelve-year-old boy living in the steamy suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1969. Perhaps I was a little too young. Or maybe just a little too out of touch with what was happening outside my immediate world.

My focus was on other things closer to home. Mostly, following my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, collecting baseball cards and creating my own canvas to obsessively scribe the scores of all twenty-four major league baseball teams on it every day from April to September of 1969. As I described in my book Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator, by the end of the regular season, I had recorded 3,888 handwritten ball scores and squeezed them onto one giant rolled up piece of paper!

You can see I had no time or inclination to join the wave of Woodstock worshipers from afar. Even if I had, my Lawrence-Welk-loving parents had different ideas of what constituted popular music … a-oney-and-a-twoy-and-a … and they controlled the TV dial in our household.

It would be another thirty years before I’d really see and hear Woodstock. The moment of enlightenment came in the form of a grainy VHS tape of the 1970 film that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. I sat with my future husband on the love seat in his Schaumburg-Illinois condo. Together we immersed ourselves in the actual performances, interviews with some of the artists, and candid footage of the fans.

Thanks to the film and the resourcefulness of my movie-loving husband, I got to see and hear Richie Havens open the show and Jimi Hendrix close it on the same well-traveled stage before a sea of soaked teens. Though it had taken me thirty years longer than the rest of the country, I had finally closed the gap in my knowledge about the “Three Days of Peace and Music” in mid-August 1969 that would come to define the counterculture movement of our generation.




3 thoughts on “That’s Not My Bag, Baby

  1. I’m a few years younger than you, and by 1969ish my brothers and I were going to Waxie Maxie to spend our allowance on $0.99 rock singles. Still, I don’t think I could tell you a single band that played at Woodstock (probably some band that encompassed some or all of Crosby Stills Nash and Young?) I think I’ve always looked on the Woodstock generation with disdain. Three years later they were all sniffing coke and listening to Donna Summer (not that there’s anything wrong with Donna Summer, but the music couldn’t be more different). I say this to prove that Woodstock wasn’t about the music, but it was just a party, and it doesn’t seem right that a party remains a defining moment for a whole generation. This might have something to do with my anti-establishment youth (that music had become establishment by the time I was in high school) or the fact that I’m now sober and I’m jealous of the ability to kick back with a beer and enjoy a band. Regardless, whenever I hear “Woodstock Reunion” I roll my eyes.

    I really like how you shamelessly use the bag as a prop to tell your story. I do that all the time, or I’ll tell a short story that seems important so I can cram a long frivolous story right in the middle of it. There’s never a bad reason to tell a story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Jeff. One of the things I like most about having my own blog is experimenting with subject matter that is a little beyond me … so Woodstock certainly fits that. I agree with you; the mystique of it is more about the novelty of the moment, not the music. Though the film Woodstock is rather revealing in the way it covers the event. And yes, I also agree … anything is fair game if it allows me to tell my story!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a budding movie-freak, I learned about Woodstock when the 1970 Oscar-winning documentary was released. I saw the newspaper ads and read the reviews for it. The R rating prevented my seeING it then. I finally watched it as a college freshman, and was a little bit overwhelmed! Nice post!


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