| 
  • If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Files spread between Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail, Slack, and more? Dokkio, a new product from the PBworks team, integrates and organizes them for you. Try it for free today.

View
 

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 6 years, 7 months ago

26 July 2013 ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? by Jordan Sonnenblick, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, September 2013, 304p., ISBN: 978-1-250-02564-7

 

"Then things got freaky.  A flash of lightning illuminated the entire field.  There was David, still on his back, still grinning.  Michael and Willow, together, peering up at the sky in awe.  Debbie, her mouth opened in mid-syllable.

"And Tina, shrieking, 'Here it is!  Ten!  Nine!  Eight!'

"She only got down to three before the skies opened up and a pelting storm engulfed us.  It didn't last super-long, but by the time it ended, we were six mud-encrusted citizens of a swamped city.

"In the eerie, dark silence that followed, Tina turned to David and said, 'Told you.'  Then she threw up on his lap, lay down in the mud, and fell asleep."

 

Welcome to Woodstock!

 

"Why must every generation think their folks are square?

And no matter where their head's are,  they know mom's ain't there"

-- John Sebastian, "Younger Generation," the closing number in his Saturday morning (3:30 a.m. - 3:55 a.m.) performance at Woodstock

 

I don't wish that I was at Woodstock in 1969.  Maybe I once did -- like, about, four decades ago.  It is one thing to be comfortable with your age, but when you're inching your way toward sixty candles, believe me, ya ain't sitting around wishing that you'd already had a few more trips around the sun just so you could say that you were part of the multitude who can't remember that weekend in Bethel NY.  (Remember that old bumper sticker?: "If you remember Woodstock, you weren't there!!!")  And besides.  If I was old enough for Woodstock back then, I would have also had to deal with being of draft age, and that means I'd possibly be speaking Canadian now instead of northern Californian.

 

But, thanks to Jordan Sonnenblick, here we are at Woodstock (which, of course, actually took place in Bethel.  And there is a mystery here, for sure.  What has propelled twenty-first century teenager Richard Gabriel Barber from his home in 2014 back into the past and caused him to materialize -- in front of his adolescent future father and uncle -- in August 1969, as they are heading, with a sea of hippies, for Yasgur's Farm?

 

"The three of them got me into the backseat of the car, where I proceeded to give in to a massive case of the shakes.  David--Dad--got in right next to me, while Michael ran around to the driver's side and fired up the engine and Willow threw herself into the passenger seat.  'Come on, Michael,' she said.  'We have to get to the festival.  Maybe there'll be a doctor there or something.  I think Gabriel might be in shock.'

"In shock, I thought.  Why would I be in shock?  It's thirty years before I was born, and I'm sitting next to my fifteen-year-old dad, in a car full of illegal drugs.  Oh, and the driver is my dead uncle.  Who just ran me over.  Stop me when we get to the shocking part."

 

"Lady finger dipped in moonlight

Writing 'What for?' across the morning sky

Sunlight splatters dawn with answers

Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye"

-- from "Saint Stephen" (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia) the opening song in the Grateful Dead's Saturday night (10:30 p.m. - 12:05 a.m.) set at Woodstock.   While, technically, Jerry Garcia's official cause of death was heart attack, not heroin, there is no question about the extent to which that drug contributed so heavily to his body giving out at age 53.

 

Guitar-wielding author Jordan Sonnenblick, (who happened to be six weeks old when Jimi took the stage at Woodstock and played that mind-blowing version of our national anthem), takes us on a time-traveling romp to Yasgur's Farm where we get to savor the joyful sea of chaos and humanity that was Woodstock.

 

But in the process, Sonnenblick exposes us to what, to me, is one of the darkest sides of the music scene and the world of us sixties kids: the illicit use of heroin.  And that, logically, leads my mind to a more general discussion of what are the common causes of young people  experiencing despair and wanting so badly to escape into hard drugs. That, in turn, prompts the question of how might today's society seek to mitigate those root causes of drug abuse through counseling, intervention, and other services.

 

"Someone like you makes it hard to live without somebody else

Someone like you makes it easy to give, never think about myself."

-- "Reason to Believe" made famous by Rod Stewart but written by and performed at Woodstock by Tim Hardin, who died of a heroin overdose at age 39.

 

I can go on and on about the famous and anonymous victims of heroin addiction.  In fact, I was just recalling an amazing publisher party in NYC eleven years ago where the entertainment was provided by Tom Tom Club and Dee Dee Ramone's band.  That show is one of my most memorable experiences being in the world of publishing, bookselling, and librarianship.   Unfortunately, it was Dee Dee's last ever performance.  He OD'd on smack the next month.

 

There are so many mind-boggling questions that arise from reading this story.  How and to what degree have the promises of the Summer of Love and Woodstock come to fruition?  How have they withered and died?  There is also a lot of discussion of destiny here.  This was 1969, when Woodstock performer Arlo Guthrie did not yet know whether or not he would be a victim of  Huntington's Disease and die the same unimaginable death that his father endured, or whether he would have a longer life.  And Hendrix, who is one of several famous musicians to make an appearance as a character in the story...well, I can't tell you more than the fact that he is a character here in a scene relating to fate that just really shook me to my core.  (I still have a vivid memory of the day they reported that Jimi'd died.) 

 

In fact, I've had quite an amazing couple of days, immersed in the long strange trip that is ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?  It is a tale that really touched me deeply.  There is just so much here with abusive parents and alcohol and drugs and famous characters who we know are going to die and the stupidity of war.

 

Finding myself sitting on muddy blankets with six young people amidst a sea of joy and brotherhood at the most famous rock concert in history, Jordan Sonnenblick has me thinking about the complicated issues surrounding the mind-altering substances -- including alcohol, pot, psychedelics, and heroin -- that continue to be an ever-presence in our twenty-first century world.  It also has me dreaming about how we might once again capture and employ the love and innocence of those magical days in making a better world today.

 

This book is quite the powerful experience.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php

 

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.