A Very Personal Essay and Review: Monmouth Museum Presents: Woodstock at 50; Summer of Love by Calvin Schwartz June 9th 2019
Two Volkswagen Beetles, 60’s vintage, near the front door, to put you in the mood opening night Woodstock at 50; Summer of Love. Monmouth Museum, on the grounds of Brookdale College, is always consistently special with their imaginative transformative exhibits. This Saturday night featuring the rock photography of the Official Woodstock Photographer, Elliott Landy. Several people asked if I went to Woodstock since it’s obviously my generation.
My response for the last 50 years. “I had my hand on the door handle of a car filled with my friends and just before I opened it, on our way to Woodstock, a girlfriend came running to me, informing if I went, she’d be gone. So, I didn’t go.” Regrets of that decision reinforced last night at this most marvelous exhibit.
But fortune was good. Moments shared with Elliott Landy. A priceless chat which fueled this essay. Interestingly, on radar was the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Emotional for me as I watched Normandy ceremonies. Indeed, the Greatest Generation that saved the world. Beyond words here. Then last night the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock Exhibit. An epiphany. The children of the Greatest Generation gathered for three days at Woodstock. As Elliott suggested, those flower children, 500,000 strong, exemplified some great things for the baby boomer generation. Moved to express peace, civil rights, environment, feminism, justice and life on earth. A stunning show of involved support. Never duplicated.
Then, a discussion of disconnect with millennials, X, Y, Z, whatever. I mentor students at Rutgers every semester in communication and media; realized a different world now from rotatory phones, seven black and white television stations that went off the air at midnight and the World Book Encyclopedia, my gateway to the world. But I know how to sell, talk, network the old-fashioned way. But a brave new world is here. Brave. I don’t know. A lot of problems. They just found micro-plastic in the stomachs of one out of three fish swimming at the bottom of the Pacific. Oh well.
Landy was wonderful. Engaging. Hopeful. Profound. His photographs a magic carpet back to Dylan and the Band, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Joan Baez (I still listen to her incessantly). Pictures of 500,000 peaceful sixties denizens. If there was a worm-hole, gateway, Landy’s photos so made me want to find a way to get back. That damn car door handle!
The exhibition also featured vintage concert posters, vinyl albums, video and audio experiences, 1960’s memorabilia. A feast of 60’s back in the future. Much gratitude to Catherine Clark, curator. This runs through September 1st. Makes no difference what lettered generation you are. All should see this exhibit. To add to the magical ambiance last night was Poppa John Bug on guitar, 60’s dressed; his voice and music; when I closed my eyes, I was listening to Richie Havens. My highest compliment to Poppa John.
In the air I breathed last night, subliminal particulates was Vietnam, in every photo, a reason to believe why 500,000 showed up. I write about Vietnam “stuff” in my second novel, 2/3 done. A showcase featured 60’s artifacts. A Saturday Evening Post magazine with Mamas and Papas on the cover, a Playbill from ‘Hair,’ ‘Hey Jude’ 45 record and a paperback, ‘The Graduate,’ by Charles Webb which became one of the defining movies of the sixties.
When I saw ‘The Graduate’ book, I positively loved this exhibit. Pure magic. Pure evocative thinking. I’ve seen the movie at least hundred times. The music, Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme, brings me right back to the sixties, studying chemistry and watching news reports of soldiers who died that day. And to the hundreds of college graduates I’ve greeted over the years, imploring them to listen to only one word from me, from the movie, “plastics.” Only one out of a thousand knew the movie and why that word. A disconnect? Yet perversely, plastics are filling up our oceans, fish and eventually our species.
The power of last night made me think. Exactly what a good exhibit is supposed to do. ‘The Graduate,’ a quintessential sixties movie, never mentioned Vietnam even once as if it wasn’t around sensibility. Ben Braddock, who slept with Mrs. Robinson, never talked Vietnam. Where did all the flowers go? Where was Vietnam? Vietnam changed my life, not Benjamin Braddock’s. How strange the morning after? How wonderful the exhibit. How amazing Elliott Landy’s work. I love Monmouth Museum.
And if I did go to Woodstock, what would I be writing now. I don’t know.