I’m writing this on the day after the Electoral College met and actually, officially, chose that awful man to be the next President of the United States. In the six weeks since the election I have been wishing for something to happen to prevent this from occurring. First I wished (and confidently believed) that the recount in the swing states would show that Hillary had won them, and give her the electoral votes she needed. Then I wished for 37 faithless electors who would change their votes to Hillary. Neither of those wishes came true. There are still four and a half weeks until the inauguration and I can wish for a miracle to happen in that time. But I am losing whatever faith I had. I don’t even have the energy to circulate any more petitions, because I no longer think they will do any good. I wish I still believed this would turn out okay.
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Thinking back through my past for wishes that did or didn’t come true, I keep coming back to Woodstock. This was not something I wished for, rather it was the opposite — something that was offered to me and rejected by me, and then afterwards I wished I had gone.
As everyone undoubtedly knows, the Woodstock Festival occurred in August 1969 on a farm in upstate New York. This was the summer after my freshman year of college, and I was living in Washington D.C. and working at the national headquarters of Planned Parenthood. My boyfriend from high school, Jeff, called me to say that he had bought two tickets to Woodstock, and did I want to go with him. I never knew until today how much he paid for those tickets, but according to Wikipedia (that fount of all knowledge) they cost $18 apiece. I don’t think I knew very much about what the plans for the festival were, and certainly NOBODY knew that it would turn out to be one of the defining events in the history of rock and roll. But I did know that it was three days camping out in a tent, that it was likely to rain, and that it was going to be a little bit of a hassle getting there, as I would first have to get from D.C. to New Jersey to meet Jeff, and then drive in his old clunker car up to Bethel, NY.
Probably the most dispositive factor was that I didn’t really want to spend three days and nights with Jeff. He had been a good boyfriend for my senior year of high school, but nothing more. He was from my town, but two years older and we had gone to different schools, so our paths had never crossed. We met when the youth group at my temple had a Chanukah party and invited all the local college students who were home for the holidays. He was a sophomore at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, which was about an hour away. Our first date was on New Years Eve, and we both had a nice time, going to a party, and then sitting in my driveway talking for hours. He went back to school, but started coming home to his parents’ house every weekend to see me. We dated for the next six months, until I went to D.C. for the summer to work for the McCarthy campaign. When that was over, I was off to Cambridge to start college, and the social whirl there left me not a moment to think about Jeff. When I came back home after freshman year, he invited me to spend a day with him in New Brunswick, where he now had an apartment, so I did, for old time’s sake. It was a little awkward, I wasn’t attracted to him any more, but we ended up getting really stoned and having sex — something he had never been able to get me to do while we were dating, as persistently as he had tried. The sex was not great for me, and I didn’t relish the idea of having to do that for three nights (we didn’t know back then that we could say no), and in a tent in the dirt, no less.
So I didn’t go to Woodstock, and ever afterwards I wondered if I should have gone. I have twice seen the documentary that was made of the festival. The first time was in 1970, and I was tripping on acid, and thinking that I saw little green men running around on the screen. The second time was in 2015, with my husband and kids, totally sober. Watching the movie (both times), most of it looked pretty amazing, and made me regret not going, but there was also a lot of rain and mud, which I would not have liked. My hair would certainly have been frizzy, which would have made me unhappy. But I think it would have been worth it for the music!
[The story’s title is from the lyrics to the song Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell]