Sunday, July 09, 2006

Firsts ... Part One

This summer holiday has been one for the record books, or at least the family album. There have been a number of firsts, and last night after His Holiness fell asleep on the living room couch in front of the fire (the fire he insisted I build even though is was a hot, muggy night) I began wondering how I could record these events in a way that would be meaningful to HH years from now. He will probably find these pages overly sentimental, if he finds them at all.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Our cabin is in the Hamlet of Smallwood, in the town of Bethel in the southern Catskill Mountains of New York. About three miles from here in the summer of 1968 a few hundred thousand people converged to listen to music and witness what was to be the most legendary rock concert in history. “Woodstock” wasn’t actually supposed to take place here at all, but at the last minute the citizens of Woodstock, NY (about an hour up the road) backed out of their commitment to host the event and concert organizer Michael Lang approached the Bethel Town Board and local dairy farmer Max Yasgur. Yasgur’s farm had pastures for his dairy cows that rolled and scooped and sloped and flowed, forming a number of the most beautiful natural arenas you can imagine. The site was perfect for an outdoor music event.

Flash forward to July 1, 2006. Local billionaire Alan Gerry, a man who built his fortune running wires from a tower to local TV sets for better reception then sold his “cable” network to Warner for a few billion dollars, plowed a good bit of that money back into the community by creating a world-class performance venue and museum near the site of the 1968 concert. Over a number of years he purchased the original site and much of the land surrounding it. The area where the 1968 stage was erected has been preserved and eventually live concerts will be held there again. But on the night of July 1st it was the New York Philharmonic performing the inaugural concert in the new Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts and somewhere in the far back of the rich green meadow, on a small blue folding chair was His Holiness, in awe at the number of people who had gathered for this sold-out performance and at the music, which rang and rumbled and sang through the hills as sunset came and went. It was his first live concert and he sat on my lap and listened, intently and quietly. At one point he sat relaxed against my chest, looked up and found the rising moon and showed it out to me.

At intermission we got up to stretch our legs and he ran up the steep embankment behind us and when we reached the top we saw the natural bowl of the original Woodstock site, the lawns deep green and thickened from a week of rain, and he began running in the grass, just running for the sheer joy of it. When the concert was about to reconvene, HH asked if we could go home, he was tired, it was nearly dark and it had been an eventful night. I was very proud of him, that he had made it through at least the first half of the concert. Truth be told, I was tired too.

More to follow ...