The Daily Dope

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Woodstock Flights of Fancy

By: Max T.E. Lawrence

We marinate the truth with flights of fancy. Even though it makes our lives seem richer, we can sometimes feel soiled at the thought. If I wake up one morning as a caterpillar and I’m not Kafka, then I’m standing in some real deep shit. As it was, I was having a vivid dream that night on the couch in the cargo hold of The Magic Plumber’s Helper. It wasn’t about becoming a caterpillar; it was about cows.

I was standing waist-deep in a lake next to a cowshed at the water’s edge. Beyond the shed I could see a stage and thousands of people listening to music. All of a sudden, a herd of four-legged bovine maidens of the dairy sort—with caterpillar faces, tangerine eyes and garlands of flowers around their heads—barrel out the door and hoof it into the lake. A veritable herd is swimming around me, cow-paddling, opening their mouths, lifting their noses and lowing. They look at me with inquiring eyes rimmed with long eyelashes that flutter up and down. I reach out to pet them and they blow smoke in my face. Marijuana smoke and nothing else. I can’t help but think of Alice in Wonderland and the Caterpillar smoking from the Hookah.

I awoke with a start. It must have been the animal smells of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm and the odor of pot heavy in the air infiltrating my forty winks, thus producing this animalistic flight of fancy. At least I didn’t wake up as a cow, but my hangover produced a rumble in my gut akin to mooing.

I felt the truck lurch ahead. When the cobwebs cleared I looked out the backend past my friends sitting under the doorway, their legs dangling over the edge. The skewed perspective of the cars lined up behind us bent away in the morning mist as Haggis turned onto Best Road, and a little while later, as my brain was finally clearing, moved past the gates to the campground situated just over the far edge of the hill that formed the top of the massive, natural, grassed amphitheater. Down below, the stage was nearing completion. It hit me. I had made it. I was there. Actually there. Then it morphed into the here and now. What a trip.

After we parked, Pink Bear and Norman hustled down into the amphitheater to find us a good spot for the next day’s festivities, hopefully close to the stage. They’d sleep there for the night. Over the next several hours we prepared our campsite and the place filled with people, thousands and thousands of people, like water flowing to a bowl. We are, after all, 98 percent water (not 98 percenters), so why not? I was astounded to see the size of the crowd. If you build it, they will come. The people streaming in. A wall of us. Ready for tomorrow, Friday the 15th of August 1969. A wall of music coming our way. Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Sweetwater, Tim Hardin, among others, beginning in the morning; a folksy appetizer, so to speak, for the coming days.

***

We set up our living room outside, next to the truck. Haggis had brought along a tent the size of a small house, reminding me of the massive pavilion where Auda Abu Tayi and King Faisal entertained Lawrence in the 1962 epic film, Lawrence of Arabia, before they journeyed into the Nefud Desert. The tent would easily sleep all of us, plus Roger’s dog. When we heard the weather report forecasting rain and thunderstorms on the transistor radio, we moved all our furniture inside the tent—with room to spare. We even had a stash of firewood. All that was needed was a great quantity of cushions and the raiment of the Bedouins hanging from the tent poles, including the massive feast Lawrence and his newfound friends nibbled on around a fire. I’m sure there was some fine weed going around their table, even in those days back in the First World War.

My brain wandered. I wondered if Haggis had brought along a couple of keys of weed. Were they hidden under the floorboards? The smell of weed was strong in the air, and only getting stronger. I could hear an occasional guitar being played, the chirruping of crickets. The day’s end was hot and beautiful. The smell of trees languishing in the August heat played fragrant music in my nose and made me think of Appalachia, where I was born. Much the same landscape and smells. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. So different from the barrenness of the Rockies and Colorado.

But this landscape was being transformed with people. Not like the concerts you go to now-a-days. Most everyone back then was dressed as a flower person. Hippies were everywhere. The world at Woodstock was turning on a good axis, different than the establishment. The hippies flowed by our campsite, auras of tie-dyed extravagance flowing behind them. As though they were wearing brightly woven capes. Some stopped and commented on our setup, had a smoke with us, then went on their way. This was Thursday evening, a Mellow Yellow evening. We sat under the flap that extended over the doorway to what I called our Bedouin tent, lounging in the glow of the setting sun, a big red ball bouncing along the horizon. Thunder clouds wallowed in the distance over the far hills behind us, deepening in the dusky light. The onset of night was upon us. Time to pop the Orange Sunshine Haggis had handed out. It was burning a hole in my pocket.

***

Time has no boundaries. It is infinite. The only way we can curtail time is to curl it up in a human clock and try to contain it. You can’t, but that’s what we do. Around and around here on Earth, Time spins, always coming back on itself. Like The Worm Ouroboros, the snake that eats its tail, whirling as it swallows itself, until there is no self. The circle of infinity bending back, here and now.

That night I reeled in my flights of fancy, making the real unreal and the unreal real, never once feeling soiled. Around and around, the heavens spun their stars, until they became my eyes, looking down on a world of my choosing. I journeyed into the light at the end of the dark. I lost my self and, at the same time, came upon my true nature—but only after I vanished into that light around me.

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