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Observations Along the Way

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By Julian G. Simmons


I bet you’re wondering why I used this chewed up photo of me for this post?  The logical answer is that I really have no photos of me from my teenage years.  My family had some, but all but one of them are long gone and photos were not as big a deal back then as they are now.  I’m fortunate though, that the one photo I did find was a good one.  I was a pretty hippie at 15. That was the year I made an attempt to get to Woodstock.   My friend, Stephanie, and I were eager to attend the festival, so we hopped into her 1967 Mercury Cougar and took the onramp heading east on the New York State Thruway.  

Me, circa 1969. Taken in a drugstore photo booth, stored at my sister's while I moved to England, Washington D.C. and finally Los Angeles. Somewhere along the road of life, it was eaten by rats.

After driving some hours the traffic stopped and I mean completely stopped.  Cars were everywhere.  People were hanging out on the road, smoking cigarettes and other substances.  I think we sat in the car for maybe eight hours, maybe longer.   We were too far away to try and walk there so we had to wait until the State Police made a way for us to turn around.  I finally reached “Woodstock” when I saw the movie in 1970.  It was a long trip, but I finally got there and I danced in the aisles of a Buffalo cinema with my friends, Nancy and Neia, trying to recreate what we saw on the screen.

I found this photo in my sister’s storage after she had passed away.  The rats had found their way into the box and ate the part of the photo that you don’t see here.  At least they had the aesthetic sense and decency to leave my face intact!   As soon as I saw it, I remembered exactly when it was taken.  I went shopping with my mother at the shopping center on Main Street across from the State University of New York and in one of the department stores there was one of those photo booths where you could insert a quarter or 50 cents and get four photos of yourself within minutes.  The funny thing was that often, at least in my case, my timing was off and as soon as I looked away from the lens the flash would go off, like in this photo, as was my timing off when heading to Woodstock, but eventually through a circuitous route I finally got there.   Those photo booths hold a special place in my happy memories, as does the Woodstock Festival of 1969.  Thank you to people like Michael Wadleigh, Dale Bell, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Martin Scorsese and the too many people to name for capturing such an historic event on film that helped to create in me a ceaseless spirit of peace and love.   Thank you to all the wonderfully talented and creative people we interviewed for the Woodstock episodes. And thank you, Rob Wilson, for being the consummate professional and amazing partner you are through this thing called life, and Carol Green, my groovy, hippie soul sister in all things Woodstock.