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Having a good time, but wish I was there and so do my friends


Saugerties, N.Y. -- By the time I got to Woodstock, I was 45 years old.

And it's the wrong Woodstock, too. The only thing golden about this one is my MasterCard.

It's different all right. Once, a typical Woodstock pilgrim carried with him only hopes and dreams (and maybe about a pound of dope). For Woodstock '94, I brought a cellular phone and a VIP parking pass clutched close to my breast.

As you may have guessed, I didn't make the original Woodstock. I'm still not over it. At the defining moment of the '60s, I was home, probably sorting socks.

What was my excuse? There was a summer job or something. It was far away. The traffic was brutal. Nobody said young women would choose to go naked.

All I know is as I'm watching the Woodstock Nation on TV, I realize at age 20 that, like Bill Clinton, I can never fully justify my early years.

But here I am. Don't ask me why. It has been suggested that I am reliving the youth I didn't actually live the first time, except now it's being sponsored by Pepsi.

The hard truth is many of us were not as hip as we like to think we were. You could look it up. The No. 1 single the week of Woodstock was "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans. And somebody bought all those Neil Diamond records.

Woodstock is tough on those of a certain age who weren't there. How do you explain it to your kids? Was dad a dweeb?

My friend Sandy didn't go to Woodstock either. But she had tickets. That's what makes her story so tragic.

In the years of rebellion, Sandy, a college junior, didn't go to Woodstock because her mom said she couldn't. Worse, she didn't go because her mom said they had to go to a family reunion in McKeesport, Pa.

Mother and daughter sniped at each other for an entire night. And then for an entire car ride. That was the high point of the trip.

"Woodstock was on TV all weekend," Sandy remembers. "My cousins said [in awe], 'You were going there.' My mother said [in horror], 'You were going there.'

"She believed her entire life that that was one of the best decisions she ever made."

Sandy copes with that decision by living with a Woodstock program propped up on a shelf, right next to a religious icon.

L "I realized I've been venerating it for 25 years," she says.

Just the other day, she found her tickets. They were in a big cardboard box alongside her Life and Look magazines with the Beatles on the cover and her copy of "Old Yeller." That's the stuff you always keep.

The tickets -- six bucks for each day -- are probably worth thousands today. Sandy won't sell them. She's getting them framed instead.

At least she has tickets. My friend Mark has a different, and even sadder, tale. He went to Woodstock. And left. After the first night. Because it rained.

He walked out on history because he got wet.

For a while, Mark and a friend were two of the great unwashed who made up the 500,000 strong. They didn't have tickets. The traffic was so bad they abandoned their car miles from the site. None of it mattered. All that mattered was that they were going to see Jimmy and Janis and the rest.

When they finally arrived, they walked right over the already trampled fence. Everybody did.

Richie Havens had already played by then. Mark did make it in time, though, for Ravi Shankar.

"The good stuff was going to be the next day," Mark says. "We were camped up on a hill, smoking our dope -- and it was terrible dope, too. Other people have tents and stuff. We've got nothing. We've got our clothes and our bad dope.

"It's nighttime and the rain starts falling. Not only that, it's falling on us."

People raced for shelter. They slept under trailers. They slept on top of concession stands. They still got drenched. You've seen the movie.

Although some folks apparently stuck it out, Mark and his friend left at 2 a.m., found their car and drove back to New York and dry spaces.

"We get up to watch all the reports about how many people were there, about the freaking camaraderie, about the Woodstock Nation," Mark says, pain still evident in his voice.

"I've only seen the movie about a hundred times."

And cried after each one.

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