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copyright 1996-2006 Robb Strycharz

part 23

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 1970


I woke up freezing... OK, that's a bit dramatic. But, during the night the temperature had plunged to where my trusty army blanket was anything but adequate. It also didn't help matters that the blanket was saturated with dew or that I slept on cold, damp, ground that sucked away one's remaining body heat. Even my more trusty Army Jacket, which I put on some time during the night, hadn't helped. In the process I sacrificed my only pillow and now had a terribly stiff neck. OK, we were an army and surely we could rough it. Nelson and Tom, equipped with real sleeping bags, fared better.

As I sat up, then tried to stand, the first danger sign was the lightheadedness, then the dull pounding inside my head... yesterday's excesses had come home to roust. Excedrin headache #666: the rock festival. My Army Jacket may have held an un-Godly assortment of things, from old acorns, chewed wax lips, a mumblypeg knife, even the crude notes I made while on the trip. But something useful like aspirin was not in the mix. If I only had more pockets.

Billy, of course, was already awake. One has to wonder if he got any more than two hours of sleep that entire weekend. He said that he'd gone to the stage area to hear Richie Havens perform at dawn. Oh well, how typical. We made it to a rock fest that was already been canceled three days before we left home, then when some famous musician finally did play... all of us but Bill, snored through the performance... and what's with this inexplicable need to play at dawn anyway? There's more to an audience than speed freaks and insomniacs!

Besides being frozen I was starving and that odd-looking thing on a stick Bill was munching on looked perfect. Was it a breaded Popsicle?

“What the hell is that thing?” I finally asked.

“Ya, check this out. There’s a hotdog inside. It’s a corndog.” What's more, Billy said they were free. FREE? How could that be? Where was the line?

Minutes after I braved consciousness I saw Davey stir. When he finally wiped the sleep from his eyes, blew out some of the cobwebs, and worked some of the stiffness out of his legs, it took little convincing to get him to help search for the Free Food.

Soon we were off, still wrapped in our blankets, preserving whatever body heat we could. As we left we noticed the nearby swimming pool had become polluted. Filled just 18 hours before its once clear waters had become cloudy. Who knew why?

We followed Billy's directions and walked through the grove around to the front of the main hotel building, then a bit further to the main access road. The corndog booth was right where Bill said it was.

It was almost embarrassing to ask the Corndog Man, but I had to know... who gives away Free Food? "'Cuse me. I hear that you're giving out free corndogs."

"Yup. How many ya want?" Corndog man asked with a slightly Brooklyn accent.

"Uh? Oh, two will be great." I said, still waiting for the catch... Was the nearby Amerikan flag vendor really a front for a hidden camera? Would Allan Funt leap from behind a tree, rip the corndogs from my hand and scream, "SMILE! You're on Candid Camera"?

"Ya, two here too." Added Davey.

We gladly accepted the odd food contraptions. A napkin was wrapped around the round wooden sticks helped soak up some of the excess grease left over from being deep fried. Since there was no ketchup or mustard at the booth we assumed this was the way corndogs were to be eaten. Real food on a stick: what a concept!

"Watch out now, they're hot... I mean real hot." Warned Mr. Corndog as he saw Davey ready to recklessly chomp off the top.

I took my first careful bite and let the hot greasy corn batter melt in my mouth. It was heavenly. Damn, grease never tasted so good.

Our curiosity finally got the best of us. "So, like why are you giving away free food?" asked Davey.

"Remember all that money they were raising yesterday? Guess they never were able to get that Dead band they wanted from the City so they bought out all us vendors. It's OK with me. Beats hawking. Once I give everything away, I'm outta here."

Wow, if true, that meant I might also get the orange juice that escaped me the morning before. But, the realization that all the money had been spent on food, not on getting the Dead here, meant the Party's organizers had obviously given up hope to turn the People’s Party into a mini-rockfest. True Richie Havens played... but he was presumably long gone. Now what? Anything? Would it be more of the same only without the incessant fundraising? Maybe they'd have an "Appreciate Your Brother & Sister Day". What a thrill.

We ambled back to our camp, carefully nibbling away at the hot corn bread coating which concealed an even hotter hotdog deep inside. No one then gave second thought about clogging their arteries. Grease, along with the other major food groups of watermelon sticks, fruity wines, and of course drugs, were some of life's little guilt-free pleasures.

Back at camp most everybody was still passed out. Well, we couldn't just keep the news of free food to ourselves. I walked over to Greg; himself reduced to a shivering lump curled up beneath an army blanket he no doubt too had lost some faith in. Little did he expect to be rudely awakened two mornings in a row? HA! Snooze and you lose... well, maybe not this time. After all, I was the barer of Free Food.

I bent down to shake his shoulder. "Hey Charlzo, Charlzo! Try this!"

There was some hesitant stirring and soon a tussled black mop of hair appeared followed by a bleary eye that peered over the top of the blanket. Greg squinted at the bright morning light. I thrust the corndog towards him; totally believing his eyes would light up. "Charlzo, try this... it's great!" But alas, it was not to be.

"Oh shit, not again! No, I don't want it, whatever it is. Looks gross. Leave me alone". Hmmmm. It's not like I was bringing him another foul tasting beer. It was, after all, was the outdoor equivalent of breakfast in bed. Oh well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions... and speaking of roads...

By 9:00 am we were all awake... though most likely sporting some sort of hangover from the earlier night's festivities. As for myself the food helped stop my stomach from self-cannibalizing, but once that urgent need was met I was free to notice just how burnt-out I actually was... and damn, I was miserable. Nothing a few hours soaking in a hot tub couldn't cure.

Knowing the Party was winding down there was little debate about what to do this day. We agreed to pack up and make good our escape before the exodus.

But, in packing up some things were discovered missing. Sometime during the night Davey's wine disappeared. Since he had decent wine that was understandable. What was really baffling was that Greg's bottle of Horse Piss disappeared as well! Short of a dwarf, how desperate could a person be.... unless they too were in awe of the classy bottle? All that remained was the Tytell Europa emblem from the plastic neck sleeve. Greg popped it in his army jacket. For the archives I took my bottle... and the corndog sticks.

Not wanting to carry any more than we had to, we gave away our large jar of peanut butter to our neighbors... thus starting a tradition of sorts. We were now all Peanut Butter Brothers. Unfortunately, we were unable to become Apple Butter Brothers. The Musselman's would continue to plague us because the day before no one wanted to carry up from the Bus something none of us intended ever eating. But, was it out of our lives for good? Hardly. The 27 oz of apple butter left of that 28 oz jar would make a reappearance in weeks to come. That it survived without refrigeration only bolstered the argument that it could never really go bad because it came bad from the factory.

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Rockfest Archive Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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