Friday, August 14, 2009
August 14, 2009 - Just a day like any other. I remember like it was yesterday another day, just like this one. August 14, 1969. It was a typically warm, partly sunny New York summer day. I had just graduated from high school less than two months earlier. The whirlwind of proms and parties and the excitement they had created still lingered in the air. I had spent the summer thus far living off the adrenaline of graduating mixed with internal butterflies created by the anticipation of the starting college just weeks away.
It was my birthday and I was spending the day working in the local drug store where I had worked since I was 16. Making $1.35 an hour now after several raises, I spent my 20 to 40 hours a week waiting on customers, stocking shelves and delivering prescriptions in the company station wagon.
I have particularly fond memories of that station wagon, having backed it over the edge of a high stone wall on someone's driveway as I was trying to turn around in the driveway. When I got out of the car to look at what had happened, my heart stopped not only at the realization I would have to call the "boss" and tell him, but that the back end of the car was hanging precariously over the edge of a 20 foot drop. It was after dark and with fear and trepidation I knocked on the customer's door and asked to use the phone.
But on that August afternoon in '69, I was restless and perturbed. I had wanted desperately to go to the concert in Woodstock...after all it was only a couple of hours away up the Thruway. Everyone was going to be there...my friends...awesome bands. I felt totally and completely befreft that I could not be a part of the adventure.
But, alas, I had to work, even on my birthday. All afternoon I watched the cars drive down main street. Kids were everywhere, as many passing through in their old cars stopped in the store to buy film and candy. There was a palatable buz in the air. Later at home, my dad told me that it was a good thing I hadn't gone. The roads were jammed and it was a nightmare. Even then I didn't see any good in my misfortune.
40 years later, we all know now what I missed. I have lived it vicariously so many times with friends and peers that I almost feel like I was there. Later I did attend similar, yet less infamous, concerts and it saddens me so much has changed.
Birthdays used to feel much like Woodstock. Filled with anticipation they occasionaly exceeded your expections. Now, as time goes by and they stack up one after another, the anticipation lies wasted in empty bottles of wine and too much pot. One can only hope not to OD.
I think I'm truly over the worst of the shock of suddenly waking up over 50. But it still doesn't seem to fit, anymore than it does that I was not actually present at Woodstock. Life rarely goes the way we want it to and yet there's much to be gained from the journey.