Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to Break an Ankle, Part 5

The drivers of cars and trucks coming through the Ohio Turnpike entrance stopped and grabbed their tickets, then headed up the westbound ramp, staring straight ahead, ignoring me as I sat on a guardrail holding my "WEST" sign. Patience, I kept reminding myself.

Another group of hitchhikers had appeared beside the eastbound ramp – two girls and a boy, maybe my age or a little younger. Every time a likely looking ride passed them, the girls would jump up and down and wave their signs, like cheerleaders at a fundraiser car wash. One of the signs read "N.Y." and the other said "Woodstock" and was adorned with a guitar and flower crudely drawn with crayon.
I watched them wear themselves out for about half an hour, and then one of the girls crossed the traffic and headed in my direction. She was wearing hip-hugger bellbottoms and a fringed leather vest with nothing on underneath it.
"Hey, man, like where are you going?" she asked me.
I held up my sign and told her California.
"Wow! That's like really far away. What's happening there?"
I told her I didn't know of anything happening there, I just wanted to go there.
"Far out! We're going to the Woodstock Musical Festival. Did you hear about it? Like everyone is going to be there."
I'd heard something about it, but wasn't interested. I had grown up around New York and had gone to boarding school upstate, and I had no desire to be back there at the moment.
"Hey, man, why don't you come with us? It would be groovy."
No thanks, I told her. Wherever she was going, this Woodstock thing, couldn't be as thrilling as California. Of course, I didn't mention that I wasn't going to San Francisco to drop acid and demonstrate against the war and have my fill of free love, but rather going to San Diego to stay with my grandmother, aunts and uncles and share the bedrooms of my juvenile cousins.

"Well, peace, man," she said, flashing me the hand sign before heading back across the ramps. Even before she reached her friends, a VW microbus loaded with luggage on top had stopped to offer them a ride. Pulling away in a sputtering cloud of exhaust, the girl flashed me another peace sign out the window, and I felt a pang of regret.


Anonymous said...

In August 1969, I was soon to begin my senior year at a college about 20 miles south (and on the opposite side of the Hudson River) from Bethel, New York, where Woodstock took place. I was at school early and not enjoying the torment of two-a-day preseason football practices in the intense heat and humidity of mid August dog days. My girlfriend at the time and I were committed to going to the “Woodstock Music and Art Fair”, as it was officially billed. Like G.O.E. I was 20 years old back then, an age when I tended to react more quickly with emotion than with reason. I remember standing with my girlfriend at a corner just outside of campus waiting for a ride to the concert. I also remember there was an intense disagreement over some issue which seemed very important to me at the time, but today I have no recollection of what we argued about. I stormed off in a huff, returned to my dormitory and never made it to Woodstock. In retrospect, I think things worked out for the better.

Brant said...

I was about 11 when Woodstock happened, and I'll never forget going to a friend's home and his father showing us a Life magazine or something that had pictures of hippie girls bathing au natural in some farmer's pond in the Woodstock area. He had two big ponds on his farm, and he said, "Those girls can take a dip here anytime." At 11, we thought that was hilarious, but what we really appreciated was him showing us pictures of naked girls.

Park Burroughs said...

That's a great story. But had we gone to Woodstock, we could have been eyewitnesses to history, no matter how muddy, wet and high we got. I guess you could say that we both were in the wrong place at the right time.