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9/9/2012 9:23:11 PM

It didn’t hurt at all when She died.  When She stepped into the street She was so busy checking the messages on Her cell phone that it wasn’t until She heard the screeching of the truck’s brakes that She looked up and, of course, by then it was too late.  The look on the truck driver’s face was the last image She saw before She died.  Remembering his owl-eyes and the “oh gods” he kept screaming as the momentum of the truck sealed Her fate and his, always makes Her smile although She knows She shouldn’t.

Of course, he was correct; God had everything to do with the accident, but not in a negative way.  It was Her time to move on and his time to learn the effect of a few too many lunchtime beers on his driving reflexes. 

Since that afternoon She has watched over Sam, the truck driver, as he struggles with guilt.  Whenever She becomes aware that he is spiraling into a downward funk, She whispers in his ear that it was Her fault too and reminds him that since he has stopped the excessive drinking his life has improved.  He realizes how important his wife and his children are to him now and no longer takes life for granted.  She whispers that’s the lesson learned and encourages him to move on with his life.

She isn’t quite sure where She is.  She only knows it is a good place.  A place populated by the people She had loved and who arrived there before Her.  They come and go when She thinks of them.  There are no houses or streets or forms of transportation.  She doesn’t sleep but is never tired.  She never has a pain.  She never has a moment of anxiety, anger, indecision, self-doubt or regret.  She always feels calm, fearless and loved.  There are no mirrors,  and She has no idea what She looks like, but Her loved-ones look exactly as She remembers them so She assumes She does too and honestly, it really doesn’t matter.

It is more of an atmosphere than a destination.  It is sunny without the sun, green, blue and white without the trees, grass, sky and clouds.  It is always pleasingly calm and peaceful.

She quickly realized that She could still interact with the people She loved on earth.  All She has to do is think of them, or, they think of Her, and She is standing beside them at the coffee shop, work, movies, doing laundry, wherever.  Of course, they cannot see Her, but they can hear Her if they listen.  She has become one of their many Guardian Angels.

For months after her death She was beside Margie, Her grieving sister.  Night time was the hardest for Margie so She would lie on the bed next to her and repeat over and over that She was happy, that mom and dad were with Her and even Her dogs were there when She arrived.  Eventually the message got through to Margie and slowly she began to recover from the shock of losing her sister.

As the years passed, She watched over Margie.   When She was alive She knew Margie’s shy and sensitive nature was a handicap.  Although Margie was smart, funny and beautiful, she never had confidence in herself and as a result often ended up in relationships with men who did not appreciate her and as one bad relationship followed another Margie began to give up on people and life, until she became so reclusive that she only left her house to go to work and take care of the details of her life. 

She knew Margie was missing joy in her life and wanted that for her, but She could not directly interfere in Margie’s decisions, She could only be the voice in her ear encouraging her not to give up, to continue to look for happiness.  Then, one night, Margie was on her computer and an unknown man popped on her screen to comment on something she had posted.  Margie felt a spark of interest and She felt it simultaneously and found Herself leaning over Margie looking at the screen.

She wished that She had the power to find out more about this man but She could only sense people She had known before She died.   Nevertheless, She whispered in Margie’s ear that he was kind of cute and seemed very friendly, maybe Margie should keep her eye on this one.   Margie didn’t like being interested in this man; she had given up on that aspect of her life and didn’t want to get involved.  Margie turned off the computer and went to bed.

She, on the other hand, was intrigued and had a good feeling about this guy.  Over the next few weeks, he commented on Margie’s page and showed an interest in her.  Margie kept her distance; responding only occasionally, not encouraging anything further.  She did not give up, and as Margie fell asleep each night, She would whisper had she noticed that “the guy” had visited her page that day, shouldn’t she respond?

After months of whispered encouragement, Margie finally broke down and began to have conversations with Jim on the computer, which led to even longer phone conversations.  The more they chatted the more they realized how much they had in common until the day came when they met in person and by “they,” I mean Margie, Jim and She.

She liked Jim right away and sensed that Margie did too.   It was obvious the feelings were mutual.  He was handsome, warm, friendly and straightforward.   She knew Jim was going to be good for Margie and was happy to see Margie out in the world, laughing again and was thankful that Jim proved to be a kind and thoughtful man. 

She did not have the ability to see the future which is why She was surprised when She sensed Margie’s restlessness with Jim.  Now that Margie was back out in the world she longed to keep her options open and Margie and Jim soon drifted apart.

She was surprised to find that even though She did not know Jim when She was alive, She was able to bond with him and over the years She watched his life and sometimes whispered in his ear.  She saw him marry, watched his children play, and then watched them grow to have children of their own.  She watched him struggle in his marriage and start a single life when he was an older man.   She watched him grow older and wiser and when the time came for him to leave earth, he left bravely and optimistically.

Then one day not too long after Jim died, he showed up in Her world and She was not surprised.  Margie had passed years before and often visited Her and happened to be there at the time Jim arrivedJim acknowledged Margie, but walked toward Her with a smile on his face as though they had known each other forever and She instantly knew that they had.  Taking Her hands he told Her he was happy to finally meet his Guardian Angel.

Bob Dylan concert at Bethel, site of original Woodstock
9/3/2012 9:25:49 PM

You may have noticed that I call my dog the littlebrowndog.   The reason I call him the littlebrowndog is because when I first saw him, that was my first thought.  My two previous dogs were either 100 lbs. or heavier so this little 40 lbs. dog looks so small to me.

When the lights went up on the stage last night and I saw Bob Dylan in person for the first time, my first thought was Bob Dylan is the littlewhitehairedguy.  Bob Dylan is a slip of a man, small and thin with tall white hair, except for his sideburns which are black.  He wore loose white slacks and what appeared to be white sneakers and a black jacket over a white shirt. 

He may be small in stature, but he is a huge talent. 

I left the Adirondacks Sunday afternoon at 1 and planned to arrive at my motel in Liberty, NY by 3, take a quick shower and then drive the 12 miles to Bethel Woods with plenty of time to walk through the Woodstock Music Festival museum and check out the grounds before the Bob Dylan concert at 8.    I had a plan.  As we all know plans don’t always work out as we … well, planned.  No problem up north, I zipped down the Northway until, ironically, I hit the exit that would take me home but, of course, I wasn’t going home. There was a car accident four exits south and I sat in my car in bumper-to-bumper traffic for one hour.  As the time ticked away it became obvious it would be well after 4pm before I arrived in Liberty.  The only thought that kept me calm was that if I had left up north at the time I originally planned, it could have been me in that accident.

Once I got off the Thruway at the Kingston exit, the drive became more interesting. I passed a penitentiary, drove through an Indian Reservation, and saw many signs written in Hebrew at the end of long driveways that led to pockets of small cabins that accommodate Jews who live in commune-like communities.  I passed Swan Lake and White Lake.  I passed the Swan Lake Resort which is closed and for sale and looks very much like the resort from the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining.  I knew I was getting closer to my destination when I began to see large hand painted signs that read:  “Every day is Earth Day” and “Give Peace a Chance.” At 5pm I drove into the parking lot of the Days Inn in Liberty; which, by the way, I would recommend if you ever go to Bethel Woods.  It’s located on a busy street but it’s surrounded by places to eat, the rooms are quiet and clean and it’s only a 12 mile drive to Bethel.

A quick shower and I was on the grounds at Bethel by 6.  I had anticipated another round of bumper-to-bumper traffic but it was a smooth ride to the parking lot.   It’s a huge parking area, poles and street lights where pastures used to be.  Chunks of crushed stone define driving lanes in that parking area.  A paved road that leads to “premium” parking spaces runs alongside the graveled parking lot.  The “premium” parking is much closer to the Shed which is the venue for the concerts at Bethel Woods although even from that parking area it’s a hike down a brick walkway. 

Bethel Woods Entertainment Center for the Arts was what I expected, but was not what I had hoped to find.  There was a spirit of love, gentleness, peace and generosity at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival that I did not feel at Bethel Woods.   From the $15 fee to go into the Woodstock Museum to the $25 fee for “premium” parking, to the booths with colored lights that lined the brick pathway to the music Shed, some selling “genuine Woodstock” paraphernalia, it all seemed almost contrary to the spirit of Woodstock.

Feeling somewhat disappointed, I found my seat inside the Shed and began to wait for the program to begin.  The man at the end of the two empty seats beside me struck up a conversation.  He knew a lot about Bob Dylan.  He had seen him perform four times.  He warned me that at age 71 Bob Dylan’s voice was pretty shot and that I probably would not hear many of the classic Dylan songs that most people expect at his concerts.  I had heard both of those warnings before but was excited to see this icon for myself.

Before last night’s concert I admired Bob Dylan’s poetry and music but he always seemed to be somewhat of a snob; one of those moody intellectuals who might reluctantly acquiesce to entertain.  Last night changed my mind.   Within ten minutes, it seemed obvious that Mr. Dylan did not like the spotlight but that he loved making music.  The few times he did take center stage, he seemed reluctant to do so.  When standing center stage he has a habit of lifting one leg at a time, bending it at the knee and pulling his foot off the floor.  The gesture reminded me of a pony that didn’t want to stand still.

He seemed most comfortable to the right of the stage at the keyboard, just another member of the band.  And what a band it was; three guitars, drums, bass and a second keyboard.  The music they played was straight up rock and roll, blues, jazz and funk.  All the pieces had a definite rhythm that would pull you right in and just as the rhythm became comfortable they would crank it up and literally rock the house.  It felt like I was sitting in someone’s parlor listening to them jam.  Bob sang every song and it occurred to me he had finally grown up.  He wasn’t the angry young man anymore; he was an accomplished musician who loved his work.

It also occurred to me that there were times when his voice sounded like Jimmy Durante doing an impression of Bob Dylan.  But then he’d bring a word up to that high place where no one but Bob Dylan goes and I would smile to myself and think, yup, that’s Bob Dylan alright.  I also developed a theory about his annunciation.  It seemed to me that if he wanted the audience to understand something, he could be articulate.  The best example is this:  the band was rocking a song and Bob Dylan was singing along and I wasn’t sure what he was saying when suddenly, very clearly he sang, “Do you think I’m too old?  Am I past my prime?  Well, what have YOU got?”  Brought down the house and he kept singing, didn’t miss a note.

Another interesting twist in the concert that kept everyone on their toes is he would sing one of his classics, with a totally different cadence and melody but the words were the same.  He was at least a minute into Like a Rolling Stone before I heard him sing, “And say do you want to make a deal?” and realized what was coming next.  I think it dawned on most of the crowd at the same time because a roar filled the Shed.

The concert lasted a little over an hour and I was sorry that it ended.  He introduced the band, sang the last song and walked off the stage after a thank you to the audience and most of us felt, given his reputation, that it was over.  Nevertheless, most of the audience kept clapping and much to my surprise Bob Dylan and the band came back onto the stage and sang an almost completely unrecognizable, yet fantastic version of Blowing in the Wind.  One final bow and those pony steps, and he was gone.

I ended the day the way I started, in bumper-to-bumper traffic and fell right to sleep when I got back to my motel room at 1:30 this morning.

Before the Dylan concert, when I was chatting with the man next to me, he told me that the site of the original Woodstock concert was about two football fields away from where we were sitting in the Shed.  He told me there was a plaque with the names of all the bands that performed at Woodstock and that the outline of the original stage was still visible in the open fields.  How could I go home without seeing the original concert site when I was so close?  I simply could not.

This morning I got up, packed my car and drove back to Bethel Woods.  This time I drove past the museum and Shed down a small hill and pulled off into a small parking area.  After walking down a short lane, there it was in the distance.  Down at the bottom of the hill was a stage-sized defined area outlined in small stones,  green and covered with clover-like plants.  I opened the gate and took the walk down to the stage area where I stood in the middle looking up at the sprawling hillside and could imagine every inch taken up by happy music lovers doing their thing.  I could imagine Janis Joplin standing there, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and Stevie Nicks.  I watched a man about my age walking across the”stage” with a young couple.  He had been at the original Woodstock and led them up the hillside to show them where he had camped.   Two couples were walking down and around the hillside as though it was sacred ground.

Surrounded by the quiet, peaceful simplicity of the hillside, it felt like sacred ground to me.   As I looked around, in that moment, Bethel Woods redeemed itself.   While music certainly was the purpose of Woodstock, I do not think it is just the music that makes people like me visit the concert site, stand on that “stage” and feel something special happened there.  That site resonates with the spirit of Woodstock, with everything good that was a part of my generation’s need for peace, tolerance, kindness and taking care of each other.  This may sound naive in today’s cynical world, but the site resonates with the LOVE and HOPE that those kids believed in. 

Those kids are the same kids that have created today’s world that in so many ways is the opposite of what they hoped for back then.  Nevertheless, for me today was an epiphany.  It reminded me of what was important to me back then and driving home gave me time to rethink some things and make new commitments.  It’s never too late.



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