It was 40 Years Ago Today: Woodstock, Baby

Sonoma attracts many characters – a great many eccentrics and a great many more “plain, ordinary folk.” Within this latter, dominant demographic is a man whom I will call Jason – a man, who, on the eve of his fortieth birthday lost everything but found himself.

Until recently, Jason was a typical specimen of his generation. Male pattern baldness had begun its slow creep from the crown of his scalp and a goatee wishfully obscured a weak chin. Rarely had he worn pants that did not have “Dockers” written on his butt.

In recent years, Jason distracted himself from his quiet desperation with cable television and occasional flirtations with a woman in accounting who once swiveled her chair such that he chanced a peek down the backside of her jeans and spied her tattoo. It was at once vaguely exotic and comfortably familiar. He married her. They honeymooned in Hawaii. They bought a home in a subdivision. He made payments on a fuel-efficient car that was “champagne-colored” but knew in his heart-of-hearts that it was actually beige.

He was not a Mac, he was a PC, but he had a Mac friend who waited outside when he went to Starbucks where he ordered Pike’s Place coffee because Starbucks told him it was superior and after all they would know. Jason was a sucker for products marketed as unique to scenes he knew existed but of which he was not part. His refrigerator brimmed with microbrews of corporate provenance, as if every mutation of sudsy cool emanated from Milwaukee. On his cubicle wall was a sports car calendar that had not been turned in two months. Otherwise Jason might have been better aware of the coming of his fortieth birthday and might have better understood the changes that were beginning to occur to him.

At one point Jason entertained the notion of hosting a birthday barbeque so that he may be ribbed with “old man” jokes, which he would accept with a good-humored smile while turning a chicken-apple sausage on the grill. With his wife’s goading he had already sent the Evite. However, this was before his “revelation,” before he and his Mac friend’s ritual excursion from their respective cubicles to Starbucks for Jason’s “grande” Pike’s Place. Mac guy was driving. In his CD player was Jimi Hendrix’s live version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which Jason, despite a typical Gen X youth pawing predictably through prepackaged “alternative” CDs at retail chains, had somehow never heard. It gave him a headache. Then a flashback. Visions of mud-covered, straggly-beaded men and bare-breasted women overtook his consciousness, as did a tremendous feeling of wellbeing that was so alien a sensation he thought he might throw-up.

The visions persisted as did Jason’s increasingly beatific attitude. His intial instinct was to annul the phenomenon, which he attempted by draining his microbrew collection. When this didn’t work, he acquired some pot from Mac guy but that only increased the fearsome happiness that was overtaking him. Soon, he stopped going to the cubicle, which he condemned as having been polluted by “the man.” To the great chagrin of his wife, he expressed an interest in opening their marriage. He neglected to shave and purposefully missed his appointment at Supercuts. He wore sandals, marveled at the sheer beauty of life as it is and frequently injected the word “groovy” into his rambling monologues about peace and harmony for all humankind.

Jaosn began to know something about himself, something that both aroused in him a vitality he had never before known as well as the suspicion that something was horribly amiss that would require a course of psychotropic medication. He spoke with his parents about his childhood. He recalled roaming newly minted sidewalks that arbitrarily curved in predetermined intervals to affect something suggestive of what? Nature? He remembered “Star Wars,” Keds and husky-sized Toughskin jeans. He remembered being typical in all regards. But he was not. As his born-again mother dolefully explained while pouring her son an artificially sweetened iced-tea, the nature of his birth – the key to the recent change in his behavior, the truth she and his father conspired to hide from him, “For your sake, darling,” to spare him what they had themselves had endured in the wake of an Aquarian age that never dawned.

Despite their efforts to provide for their son as “normal” an experience as possible, it would prove impossible to obscure the rather extraordinary nature of his birth. There were only three such births to ever have occurred and this during one of only three days on a farm in upstate New York in August of 1969. His mother retrieved a shipping tube the recesses of a hall closet. It was too large to contain a birth certificate Jason later recalled as his mother unfurled the contents within. All Jason had to see was the iconic image of a dove resting atop the neck of a guitar to instantly inherit the self-knowledge that theretofore had been denied him. It was the truth. It was who he truly is. As he later shared with a whimsical smile: “I was a Woodstock baby.”