Ogi Says: Here’s to You Wavy Gravy
It came and went last week with barely a mention. Since it was not an anniversary year that ended in five or zero, the media basically ignored it. But I didn’t. Never do. August 15, 16 and 17 will always be special to me, borderline reverential even. Thirty-six years ago last week, the event that defined my generation took place.
It was supposed to have sparked the Revolution but, sorrowfully, all it turned out to be was an aberration, a flickering moment in time when all things seemed possible. Peace and love were to have ruled the planet, a cosmic convergence was to have taken place, the brotherhood of man was to have been just around the corner.
But then the drugs wore off.
One of my biggest regrets in life, even today, is that I had a chance to go to Woodstock and chose not to. My two housemates and three other Greenville hippies were in the van (what else?) begging me to just hop in and go. But I kept whining about only having five bucks and no dope, and that they were calling for rain, and that it would be too crowded to get close to the stage, and that Hendrix and The Who and Santana and all the big acts probably wouldn’t show up, and that they’d moved the location and we’d probably get lost in upstate New York, and on and on and on. What a colossal wimp.
And if that’s a gloomy thought, when I realize that unless you’re over the age of 36, you weren’t even born when Woodstock happened, I sink into a full-blown depression.
Occasionally, I’ll run into whatever they call people younger than Gen X-ers who want to know what it was like in the ’60s. My first thought is to tell them, ‘“You had to be there,’” but if they seem genuinely curious and inquisitive, I love nothing better than regaling them with tales of capturing lightning in a bottle, of being on the vanguard of the most radical era of social and cultural change in American history, of being a part of something that had never happened before and will never happen again. I truly love these kids who are aching to recreate the ’60s, who are wearing tie-dyed T-shirts and gingham dresses and turquoise jewelry and letting their hair and beards grow and burning incense and listening to the Dead. But the sad and immutable fact is that no set of circumstances can possibly coalesce that would allow a counterculture to flourish today. So many factors had to come together at the precise same time ‘— Vietnam, the Beatles, drugs, the civil rights movement, Nixon, Hair, Timothy Leary, Kent State, feminism, baby boomers, Dylan, Haight-Ashbury, the Chicago Democratic Convention and, of course, Woodstock ‘— that to even attempt to duplicate the vibe would be horribly fruitless and contrived. Just as the pathetic attempts to stage Woodstock 25 and 30 became shallow, embarrassing parodies of themselves and were doomed to failure.
While I encourage the generation now in college to let their latter-day freak flags fly by showing their displeasure with the current administration in any and every way possible, the reality is that most are apolitical. We saw in the 2004 election that the only way to get them to the polls would be to offer free beer and pizza. If the college kids had turned out in the same numbers with the same zeal as the right-wing fundamentalists, guess who would be on a permanent, rather than five-week, vacation in Crawford, Texas.
There is no galvanizing issue that unites kids coming of age today, neither a common enemy nor a common thread. No matter how high the body count in Iraq goes, how many civil liberties are taken away, how warm the globe gets, how high gas prices soar, how many jobs go overseas, there is one thing and one thing only that would radicalize this generation. That one thing is restoring the draft.
Granted, you can’t bring back the ’60s, but, by God, we’d sure get a taste of it if Bush & Co. were somehow stupid enough to reinstitute the military draft. Rather than that handful of Quakers demonstrating in front of the courthouse, you’d have 10,000 maniacs ready to burn that sucker down. Rather than one brave mother camped out in Crawford, you’d have acres and acres worth of draft-age kids putting their asses on the line. Rather than placating the masses with shallow marketing slogans like ‘“Freedom’s on the march,’” Bush would actually have to be held accountable.
Whoa, somebody stop me’…. Imagine if I’m this whacked out now, without having ingested a drink or drug since Spiro Agnew croaked, what I’d be like if I’d actually gone to Woodstock. I’d have probably been the one who did eat the brown acid.
Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly and heard each Tuesday from 9:30 to 10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.