Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Taking Woodstock

Having grown up in Sullivan County in the 90's and early 2000's, Woodstock was always an undercurrent of the history of my land. My parents, having been alive during Woodstock but not living in the area, could still recall the news of the traffic heading to Bethel and how many people had experienced it. My father was of the Vietnam generation and Vietnam vets that were not-so-former hippies were the watchful eyes of my childhood. This was the culture I grew up in; something that I found quite normal then realized wasn’t so common once I left the area.

As a teen, however, I was fascinated by the Woodstock and flower child era, I appreciated all details given to me. The music was great, the videos shown on VH1 around the time of the Woodstock anniversaries were captivating, and I found myself proud to be from there.

To this day, you can visit the town of Woodstock or the Woodstock Festival site (they’re two different places, mind you!) and find hippies who never really left. They'll show photos they took or tell you of their experiences. After moving away from the area and going to DC where people are the furthest thing from the hippies I grew up around, I found myself missing it all in a nostalgic way.

Reading this book reminded me of my childhood home. I found the humor in what I often times disliked about the Sullivan County region. Elliot, our narrator, describes the area clearly and accurately. It hasn’t changed all that much. From the strong opinions to the farming community, he provides honest detail. I can understand Elliot's desperation to escape that area, I had felt the same way as a teen, and I find it amusing now that so much of what Sullivan County was described as in this book is still the same during the present day.

Elliot babbles on a great deal about his personal life – specifically about prior adventures into the gay community of New York City and his art history. He gives a good substantial backstory that provides the information needed to better understand why his parents behave the way they do and what brought them to upstate New York. Still, I sometimes felt that Elliot went a little too far off course.

We don’t dive too deeply into the festival itself but see what happened behind the scenes. How the festival was brought together, the driving force that brought it to Bethel, and the insanity that descended upon the town are described in detail. I wanted that, I appreciate it, and wow – the film that’s based on this book is pretty spot on as well!

The book was great, although at times some of the details were repetitive. But my favorite thing? I realized, midway through the book, that a favorite Italian restaurant my family and I used to go to was El Monaco's in White Lake (the very location of Elliot’s family hotel!) and I never even realized the significance of that location until this book. Funny.

This will definitely be something I'll return to whenever I'm a bit homesick for my hometown.

Last Week's Review: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart by Tara Barch
Next Week's Review: Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith

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