Part V: The Aftermath

We sent a team of observers to Woodstock ’99 and all we got was this lousy diary. Join our intrepid staffers — Mom, Dad, Tank, and Sausage (not their real names) — as they experience Woodstock ’99.

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Monday, July 26

Dear Diary,

On Sunday night we went to a motel in Johnstown, in the heart of the picturesque Mohawk Valley, giggling hysterically all the way until we finally got here, at which point we were so tired that we began sniping at one another. Our little invented family dynamic began manifesting itself all to realistically.

As we were leaving Woodstock, my comparisons to war or refugee camps seemed more and more apt, frankly. As I shuttled our belongings between our site and our car while the others packed up, the things I saw were disturbing indeed. People had been reduced to their most basic, animal states, no exaggeration. Some sat alone in the middle of the trash-strewn fields staring off into space, some passed out on their faces, cooking in the sun. Nudity was common and there were a few couples fornicating on the concrete outside of the Porta Pottys. Others mechanically shoveled pizza and fries into their mouths.

Distant thunder echoed, lightning flashed, and storm clouds drifted ominously overhead. And as we strode purposefully out of the compound, trash-can fires had been lit throughout the grounds. Columns of smoke rose into the sky. With the smoke and the debris and the bodies strewn about, my earlier ironic comparisons to a battlefield seemed all too accurate now. We were giggling madly as we got out of there, half expecting choppers to drop out of the sky, á la the fall of Saigon.

We talked to journalists and security personnel on our way out, some of whom were also fleeing. Rumors abounded, some from reliable sources who testified to witnessing the events first-hand, including the tents that were being set aflame in the campground. Then we got out, barely able to hold ourselves together and we ended up here.

This morning, I awoke before the others and wandered down to the Mohawk River which runs behind our motel. I sat in a lawn chair quietly watching the river slide by. A small group of mallards wandered up to me from the rocky banks and quacked contentedly. “Hello, Dad,” they seem to have been saying to me. “Isn’t everything just great?” I smiled at them and reveled in the peacefulness of the scene. then i began hacking and coughing and struggled to keep my bowels from spontaneously releasing due to the dysentery I suspect I have acquired. Then I got some coffee.

Three of us now sit on the deck behind our room, reflecting upon this experience. It’s hard to put any of this in perspective just yet, at least in terms of a larger sociocultural context; to comment on youth culture or mob mentality. Woodstock is still too fresh and too near. We only know now that it’s changed us. I think Sausage summed up the whole week quite beautifully when he said:

“In the end, we all realized that each of us is a Dad, a Mom, a Tank, and a Sausage.”

One last thing…

It’s nice to know now that we weren’t being a bunch of babies. Soon after writing the above and while Mom and Tank waited for us at the nearby truck stop, Sausage and I caught both MTV’s and CNN’s footage from last night. We made the right decision. While MTV’s report seemed a little white-washed, Kurt Loder looked like a deer in headlights when he said, “We’ve all had fun until now. Now, I think we’re leaving.”

After breakfast, we discussed the news. The footage (the little of it that was taken before everyone pulled out) was disturbing. Huge fires raged, and we were told by our fellow diners (later to be confirmed by the New York Times) that semis had been turned over and set aflame. Looting was rampant. We are actually a little worried about the PETA people, who we left behind, so we’re going to try to get in touch with them when we get back. I make fun, but they were really nice guys, too (if awfully earnest).

My sense of humor about this whole thing has dried up. I’m angry that the promoters didn’t take greater precautions — we could see what was going to happen. There was virtually no security remaining that evening, and the few who were still there were volunteers who didn’t even have radios. The State Police merely enforced the perimeter, apparently insisting that it was the responsibility of the promoters for whatever happened within the gates. It’s a miracle if no one got killed. I feel that we were possibly in danger ourselves and I wonder about our fellow vendors, many of whom shelled out thousands of dollars for the “privilege” of attending this ridiculous event. They probably lost everything they were unable to sell. Bottom line: This was just too goddam big. If the promoters make a penny from this, it will be a crime.

We joked this morning about how, in retrospect, we wish we would have stayed to observe the mayhem first hand, to hang with the Associated Press photographers and write it all down (perhaps from the safety of a helicopter). Then we laugh as we remember dashing across the tarmac, covered with five days of dust, bug spray, and sunscreen, and how desperate we were to get out of there.

Signing off,
Dad (for the Woodstock Four)


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Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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