ONE CAN NOT LIVE ON PEANUT BUTTER AND WINE ALONE:
ADVENTURES AT A CANCELED ROCK FESTIVAL
copyright 1996-2006 Robb Strycharz
SATURDAY, JULY 11, 1970
5:00 AM. All is oblivion. I am enveloped in a hypnotic haze of Happy Darkness. Despite the unrelenting chaos surrounding me, there is nothing that disturbs the sacred sanctity of slumber.
I sleep, comfortably wrapped in a dew-soaked army blanket, beneath a big tree, near a twisted metal fence, on some stranger's front lawn. I am far from everything that is familiar. I am in a strange land where in ancient times strange settlers named their towns Ganahgote and their rivers Neversink.
From a tireless early warning outpost on the distant fringes of consciousness a threat sensor picks up suspicious activity. Before the information is even processed and interpreted, standard operating procedure raises the defense condition to DEFCON 3. Word of the possible threat is passed up through secure encrypted channels to Cortex Central Command.
Seconds later proximity alarms are sounded. The threat is nearby, very near, and closing fast. DEFCON 2. Imminent attack probable.
From the Audio Analysis Division comes a rushed preliminary transcript of a curiously familiar, but badly garbled, sonic transmission. The transcript reads "Hey, Bo#*&¨ try...." Seconds later, after additional neurological processing, the transmission becomes clear. It's a voice... an all too familiar voice: "Hey, Bobby. Come on man, wake up. Try this!"
Suddenly, inertial motion sensors detect violent physical movement: I am being grabbed by the shoulder and shaken. DEFCON 1: ATTACK IN PROGRESS! My multi-band optical sensors burst open... I sit up to face the threat. As partial awareness is restored I finally realize that the threat is far worse than in all the carefully prepared worse case scenarios. No, I'm not being busted in my sleep by the State cops. It's worse. It's an intercontinental ballistic beer inexorably speeding towards its target... and ground zero is my face! Where's Nixon's ABM system when you need it? Attached to the bottle is none other than Billy. "Try it" he says with the cocky confidence of one who has deluded himself into thinking he is actually doing me a favor.
Still semi-asleep I succumbed to the friendly suggestion and chugged a slug. AHHHGRGH! DOG PISS! Not that anything would taste decent under the circumstances, but then, as far as I was concerned, beer never tasted good even under the best of circumstances.
"Shit Man, what the fuck did you wake me up for?" I asked, angrily. "For THIS?" I stuck the bottle back in his face.
"Ya, I bummed it from someone I met." Bill said with the demented grin of some one who had been up all night, not that the lack of sleep and beer affected his judgment or social skills.
Now that I was fully conscious I could not let this dark deed go... unpunished... or could I? I looked over at who was nearby. It was Greg, still asleep and oblivious to the whole affair. Heh, Heh. Sorry Charlzo. I leaned over and shook his shoulder. "Hey, Charlzo. Wake up! Try this!"
After that unpremeditated and completely uncalled for assault, I grinned a satisfied inward grin and peacefully fell back to sleep. Now Greg, too, had to deal with the foul taste of hops and barley broth in his mouth. Where the cycle of sadism may still stopped? Who knows? Maybe it’s still circling the globe as I write this!
Some two hours later I got up to greet the new day for good. Most of us were, if not already awake, at least stirring... except for Bill who apparently stayed up the entire night. But, his all night vigil paid off in other ways beyond the dubious dividends of a few free bottles of beer. At some point during the long night Bill bumped into someone he knew from his old hometown of Seneca Falls. But, most importantly, Bill was up on the latest rumors working their way through the army. Unfortunately, the word was that the festival was still off. Shit! We were so close yet so far. Well, if we couldn't attend, I at least wanted to check out where the fest would have been. That meant having to find the actual site first. Davy decided to join me and this time we left all dope behind.
We again visited the State Police roadblock at the intersection just down the road. That was probably as good a place as any to start our search for the site. Actually, it was the best place.
Apparently the night before, through a combination of being generally unobservant, being unusually burnt out, as well as being justifiably paranoid, we had not realized there were official rules of engagement we for dealing with the State Police roadblock. We believed the area up the hill from the roadblock had been completely sealed off. It seemed, however, that while no one was allowed to drive up the road, anyone was free to walk up. Maybe it's more accurate to say anyone was free to 'hike' it. From where we stood in the valley, it was all up hill from there. Satisfied it was safe, we cautiously walked past the roadblock and up Park Hill Road we trudged. In retrospect, the Staties may have had the power to prevent vehicles from driving on a road, or past the roadblock, but lacked the power to prevent foot traffic.
Thus, they all were free to hike up or down the road if the chose. A number of Freaks coming the other way even had cars. They must have been lucky enough to get into the Festival site days before the roadblocks were set up. On the ever-upward road we passed an active sandpit operation, some small, wood-shingled cottages. One had an odd-looking cinderblock wall. It stood alone in the back yard. Uh? I pointed it out to Davy.
"Hey, check that out. Is that wall weird or what?"
"Nothing like that back in Chicopee. What the hell's it for? Can't be a giant windbreak... can it?"
"You mean for a barbecue?"
"Maybe there are weird winds here in these thar hills."
We were never able to discern the purpose of the mysterious wall. But, once we were aware of them they, as if magically, seemed to turn up most everywhere we looked. They tended to be approximately 15' wide and about 10' high and, like that first one, stood alone, usually in a backyard. Was that a paved court next to it?
But, what were we to expect? We were, after all, in the Catskills. Descendants of ancient people still lived here... Who knew what strange traditions they maintained. The most harmless explanation we devised was that the walls were used in some sort of sport. Maybe it involved an innocent bouncing ball. On the other hand, maybe it was a blood sport. After all, the wall sported an odd painting: a suspicious mystical shield. From the billowing blue clouds at its bottom, a curious double-barred crucifix rose into the blood red sky. What sort of heinous cult did the shield symbolize? Did it glorify the crucifixion of four armed mutants? Or did it just worship them? Maybe the wall simply an alter for an ancient ritual now rendered harmless by centuries of irrelevancy. Maybe once the walls were used to shackle unwelcome, nosey, out-of-towners just before they were stoned to death during the ancient Festival of Wallkill Eve. The realization blew us away. Now things were clicking into place. We had long thought it suspicious that so many towns and geographical features in the Catskills ended in "kill". The official explanation is that the Dutch, the first European settlers to come the region, found the mountains full of mountain lions and steams. The cat in Catskill is thus obvious. But the idea that "kill" means stream or creek... my ass!