Friday, February 9, 2018

Woodstock Rain

The new TV spot, "Rain" goes back to VW's glory days with scenes of hippies in a VW bus in a rainstorm. It's a paean to Woodstock with Joe Cocker singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" in the background. After hippies push a microbus out of the mud, a classic VW Beetle appears. It ranks with the LSD scene in Taking Woodstock, or Joni Mitchell's eponymous song, and of course serves nearly as an advertisement for my novel Miles From Nowhere, scheduled for publication in the Fall of 2018, just in time for Woodstock's 50th.

The commercial plays with my emotions, so perfectly it conveys the era; it's what I am hoping to do in print with Miles From Nowhere. Here's the shameless pitch (if VW can do it, why can't I?): The more Jay and the Americans sells - click on the links at the right - the more time I have to devote to Miles and to AM. So come on, my hippie friends, Woodstockers, music lovers, buy the book. In the meantime, here's a rough draft of a Woodstock scene from Miles From Nowhere. Enjoy:

The tent seemed bigger inside than out, maybe 12 by 12, like a gold rush retreat for transients, like there should be a roulette wheel in the corner and can-can girls.  There was a myriad of characters sitting cross-legged on Indian blankets.  They were smoking pot; some were tripping.  Others were sleeping or talking.  There was a little boy playing with Matchbox cars.  One was a pink travel trailer.  One was a VW van like mine.  He came over and showed me that the roof came off the trailer. Inside you could see bunks and a stove and a mini fridge. “Don’t let him bother you.” Must have been his mother. She offered us sandwiches. “You better eat. Nothin’ much to eat here.” Hatfield handed me a roll of paper towels.

“You two can crash if you want.” The rain fell on the tent like someone dropping dimes, but we were warm and thankful.

“Maybe we oughta try your Green Stamps.” I got the stamps from my wallet and licked the back.  Farm Girl did the same.  “Now what?” she said.

“Now we wait.” A half an hour passed. Hatfield’s wife made us tea on a white gas stove. “How do you know these folks? They’re awful nice.”

“I dunno.  Met ’em.” She finished her sandwich and drank her tea. “I like it here.”  I did too. It was like a Western; not a pretty western, not the John Wayne kind, not like Shane, but dreary and full of wet browns, gritty and dirty, or black and white like High Noon, with Farm Girl and her smile outshining the pretty perfect of Grace Kelly. “This is nice,” she said.  She was looking at her hands.
She sat Indian style. The rain let up. Hatfield played the guitar, a song called “Almost Persuaded.” He sang like a cowhand. It was kind of a sad song about a married man smitten by a young thing in a bar; about how he’s almost persuaded and all, and then he sees his reflection in his wedding ring and he leaves. A pretty good story and kind of nice in a way, like he forgot for a minute who he was and then he was reminded. Country songs were like that. He sang, “And I was awl – most persuaded.”  Farm Girl liked it and clapped her hands and smiled.  She put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes; so did I.

There was music in a restless sleep; jazz and then a crazy blues.  I awoke tripping hard.  Farm Girl was drinking tea. She said, “Get up, get up, you’re missing it.” Hatfield said to go round back. Said the fence was down round back. Said the stage was right there, then he melted into the dark green canvas.

The tent was hollow and dim, cavernous. There were stalactites and stalagmites, there were cowboys and prospectors, there was Ronald McDonald. Farm Girl took off her shoes and socks, her shoes flew away. She rolled up her pant legs and put on a sweater that said “Iowaowa.” Farm Girl put our things in the corner of the tent by a statue of Ganesh.

There was a chill in the air, so misty you could see your breath and everywhere was mud. It oozed around your toes like stepping in butter. It was on the tent and on the fence and drifts of mud like dark snow were piled against the stage. They’d put down a zigzag of planks on which to walk, and we meandered through a kind of demilitarized zone, separated both from the crowd and from the stage.  Up the knoll you could see the tens or hundreds of thousands, muddy and wet and sitting there in the slop, a kind of steam rising off their wet, muddy bodies, sitting there and grooving to Crosby, Stills and Nash, harmonizing that Judy Blue Eyed song in their do-do-do-do-dutes.  It was like the music and the aura overcame the mud.

On the side of the stage was a cairn of black boxes piled ten feet high, some that said Peavey, some that said Fender, and they rested on a floor of wooden pallets.  Stenciled on the sides were names like McDonald and Winter and E. Winter and Robertson.  Farm Girl and I scaled the boxes like we were climbing an Aztec pyramid, and we sat level with the stage and Farm Girl looked out over her muddy subjects and said, “It’s too beautiful.”  Stephen Stills sang, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night/ Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

I sang, “All your life/ You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

And Guinevere had such golden hair, and we were traveling, traveling on a train to Marrakesh, and out the window on the planks, avoiding the mud, stepping daintily was Neil Young with an electric guitar and he climbed onto the stage and the set went electric.  “Hello, Mr. Soul.”

And then I don’t remember and Farm Girl climbed to the top of the pyramid and there was a brilliant light shining upon her and she blazed up there and I followed and she smiled and in that gap-toothed smile there radiated joy, and I got to the top and I held her in my arms and I kissed her.  She said, “Hey, can I have some of your purple berries?”

“Yes, I’ve been eating them for six or seven weeks now, haven’t got sick once.”

“Prob-ly keep us both alive,” she said.

Suddenly the mud people stopped sliding down the hill, and everyone was quiet and then everyone sang as one in beautiful harmony, tens of thousands of us, “Find the cost of freedom,/ Buried in the ground.”  Farm Girl and I stood at the top of the mountain, and we sang, “Mother Earth will swallow you,/ Lay your body down.”