Woodstock Without Mud

The Sixties, I wasn’t there then,
in the hip places or the mind oases
where it was meant to be happening.
I was elsewhere, doing other things.

I was in the Air Force
learning guerrilla warfare,
me against them:
the noncoms, the officers
(apart from those I related to,
who taught me a thing or so,
even as I did some of them).
Four years, ending in a draw,
all of us pleased, relieved,
to be rid of one another.

Then marriages, children,
separations, affairs.
Plus selling encyclopedias:
Germany, France, Malta…
in due course Hong Kong.
When that went pear-shaped,
with the money well spent,
it was time to shift gears:
manage a restaurant,
run a whorehouse,
wheel and deal.
And on the side,
between flurries of bar girls,
get into boys, drag queens,
and let them get into me.

All the while scribbling notes,
writing stories, penning poems.
But not about the Sixties,
or free love or dropping acid
(my first joint was yet to come)
or ‘touching God’ through meditation.
I knew Zen, imbibed it in the Fifties;
along with Dylan Thomas, the Beats,
and Mike Hammer knocked back neat.
It was all cool. Just as jazz was cool,
Elvis was cool, Buddy Holly was very cool.
As Frank Sinatra is always & forever cool.
But the Sixties? Dunno, didn’t think about it.
I had other fish to fry: such as traveling, living,
observing people…and seeing Vietnam unfold,
thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t part of it.

And no, I didn’t tune in to Jimi or Bob
or the Beatles or the Rolling Stones
(for me the apotheosis of pure rock ‘n roll).
Nor was I ever close to becoming a Deadhead.
My ears also were grooving in different spaces.
But I got there eventually, to the Sixties.
Maybe got there better.
In the Seventies.
The Eighties.
Into the Nineties.
Caught up with it all:
the dope, the dreams,
the music and the scenes.
Did it in jungles, in mountains,
in deserts and in towns.
Did it on beaches in Bali.
In opium dens in Ceylon.
In Singapore, Indonesia,
the Philippines and Macao.
On my bicycle across India.
On my knees in a mosque.
In a cinema in Bangkok
watching Woodstock
without the mud.
Flying high on windowpane,
Thai sticks for hors d’oeuvres.
Did it in radio stations,
newspaper offices,
Buddhist retreats.
In churches.
In temples.
Down on the streets.
Did it hustling dollars.
Did it when making love.
You name the what,
I’ll tell you where.
The why is a given.

Yes, I did the Sixties.
Then kept the best of it
and threw out the rest.
I’m still doing it today,
well into my own sixties.
Guys like me never stop.
We keep right on truckin’,
till the truck runs out of gas.

Amsterdam, 2007

Published in Chanticleer Magazine (no. 16), Edinburgh, Scotland

To hear Eddie Woods reciting this poem, click here