Lost Coming Home From Woodstock
Where have all the flowers gone?
Trudging through the mud leaving Max Yasgur’s farm that Monday in 1969, there was so much hope.
The counterculture had arrived on the world’s stage. Changes were coming, monumental changes for the good, it was all coming together, moving forward, one muddy step after another in New York, Iowa, California and all points in-between.
Out with the old, in with the new, and we would all benefit from the change. All you need is love, baby, that and a commune, working together for the common good, one voice, one vote, equilibrium all around as a new generation steps up on the world stage and shows the old cigar-smoking fogies how it’s done correctly . . .
And toss in some angst, some bitterness, the leaders of that generation gone, shot down, MLK, RFK, vibrant, speaking of necessary changes, their voices silenced in Atlanta, Los Angeles, gone, leaving the movement rudderless, all that was known on that day, in that year, was change is coming, change is mandatory, tune in, drop out, and start all over again. If the old way ain’t working then tear it down, burn it up, and find a new path.
That was the message that weekend, on that farm, the rain pouring, the skin flashing, dancing, twirling, message delivered by guitars, drums, voices, rising up, one melody, thousands of notes forming a single tune, we are one, give peace a chance, please, for the love of God, give peace a chance. Tents and tarps and bare-naked under the stars, feeling no pain, self-medicated, numbing a pain for which there is no permanent relief, trying to find answers without really knowing the questions.
So the bedraggled thousands left that peaceful setting, backpacks weighing down upon them, one foot in front of another, while others piled into VW vans, in threes and fours and eights, and motored off to the far corners of the States in search of a better life, not unlike the pilgrims who came before them, a faceless, formless future ahead, joy and fear intertwined on their young faces.
They would never make the same mistakes as their parents, we would never make the same mistakes, all you need is love, repeat after me, we can do it now, sing the song, sway to the gentle breezes of change, all you need is love.
Where have all the flowers gone?
A New Way of Living
So they returned to the streets of San Francisco, overlooking the bay, and the corn fields of South Dakota, the bourboned streets of the Big Easy, and to every other patch of earth from which they came, and they set about changing society, setting it on a new path where prejudice does not exist, where hatred and bias and greed are simply words and not reality . . . and they made love, and sold their trinkets in the streets, and made love some more, planted crops in new communities, worked the soil, worked the attitudes, made love some more, danced again without the fervor, held meetings, chanted, prayed to new gods, rejoiced when babies were born, babies which needed food, clothing, shelter, the Big Three, necessities of life, necessities requiring cold hard cash, the calendar pages turn, the music just a bit quieter, the dancing just a little less feverish, the need for a job, that ugly three-letter word, but part-time only, never going to play that capitalistic game, never wanting to be a part of that evil, never.
Young girls have picked them everyone!
And the realization that communes are nothing more than a microcosm of a larger society, people working with people, debating formats, arguing over solutions, the necessity for rules and governance a universal gig, no escaping it, sad but true, you cannot run away from one another, not when there are billions of us, and now ain’t that the shits, the grand plan sinking under its own reality, the communes no better than society in general, and food, clothing, and shelter don’t magically appear, man, need some bread, need more work, got a family to raise and the kids need, well, they need more than just love . . .
And the tears flow!
And the calendar pages yellow!
And the war ends, and protests subside, and all that’s left is the day in, day out, grind of living, of providing, the music softens, the meaning lost in new styles, the tie-dyed gives way to polyester leisure suits, dressed up in the finest for the next job interview, the kids need dental work, little Janie needs braces, little Bobby needs a cast on that arm he broke playing Little League, and love ain’t paying those bills, folks, so off to the coal mines they trudge, somewhere in the backs of their minds they remember trudging to another tune, in another time, leaving that farm determined to change . . . what . . . what were they going to change . . .
When will they ever learn?
The Banker and Butcher and Candlestick Maker
No way a child of the Sixties would become a banker, but it happened, friends, it happened, cuz love don’t make the world go round, despite the lyrics of a long-ago song. Cash is the god we must all bow before, cold, hard, unforgiving cash, the Federal Reserve giveth and the Federal Reserve taketh away, to tote that barge and lift that bail, you delusional lovers, get in line for payday, here’s your slice of Nirvana, ones and fives and tens, bank notes, legal tender, we struggle for the legal tender, and in so doing we surrender, surrender our dreams to the mad-rushing hordes embroiled and immersed in profit, and there’s no room for free love in a Darwinian Society.
And Joan Baez became a facsimile of herself, and The Beatles could no longer live their message, and disco replaced the flower children, glimmer and glamour, to be replaced by technological wonders, dazzling us with misdirection and slight-of-hand, and they all fell for it, we all fell for it, eager for the arrival of the snake oil salesman, the cure-all, the magic elixir which will dull the pain and make us forget where the flowers once grew.
And so It Goes
And their children had children, and the dream was once more diluted, the brilliant colors muted, and the words of the song refuted, it all became convoluted somehow, one step at a time, through the mud, backpacks replaced by fanny packs over ever-expanding fannies, and Max Yasgur’s farm a distant memory to be recalled in the stillness of occasional nights, tucked comfortably under silk sheets on the sleep comfort mattresses which cost more than that old VW van of yesteryear; returning there would require a GPS and a seeing-eye dog, so faded are the memories.
Fifty years almost passed, long hair cut, styled, receded, and finally missing altogether like the convictions, the determination, and the childlike innocence. All that’s left are PBS documentaries of black-and-white still photos of tents and tarps and bare-naked under the stars, Jimi and Janis, Sly and the Dead, all dead, all adding to the sweet melancholy forever associated with loss.
Lost coming home from Woodstock!
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
Of course this does not reflect all children of the 60's. Many went on to do meaningful work in changing society for the better. It was simply my musings about how, at times, for some, reality has a way of altering the most powerful of dreams.