Watkins Glen is a beautiful town in upstate New
York, located amidst rolling hills, majestic farmland
and incredible gorges. Residing in the "Fingerlakes
Region", it is not far from Cornell University.
It is also the home of Watkins Glen International,
one of America's premier racing facilities, which
has sponsored road racing of nearly every class for
over 50 years.
Over 30 years ago, The Glen decided to host an
outdoor concert in one of its many huge fields. Three
wildly popular bandsThe Band, The Grateful Dead,
and the Allman Brotherswere signed on to do
a "Summer Jam". 150,000 tickets were sold.
However, rumors spread that it was a free
concert, and over 600,000 young people showed up.
Even though most did not hold tickets, they could
not be turned away.
It was the summer of 1973; I was struggling through
a turbulent adolescence and thrilled to find myself
spending most of that hot summer in the company of
Laurie and Debi. Both were much more outgoing than
me and always seemed to be looking for an adventure.
On the shy side, I quietly felt at times like a tagalong,
albeit a happy one to be included in all their plans.
Both of my friends had just graduated from the middle-class
high school of our Long Island suburb, Plainview,
with Laurie planning to attend community college in
the fall and Debi working in an electronics factory.
I was a rising high school senior.
Laurie (aka "Mama Pfeff"), popular and daring,
had beautiful blond hair and such a pretty face and
body that she sparkled. Debi "Red" (nicknamed
because of her thick mane of carrot-colored hair)
was equally beguiling and popular, though a bit more
streetwise having hung out with the 'greasers' before
she migrated over to the friends Laurie and I had
been hanging out with since 1971.
These friends, somewhat eclectic and much mellower
than greasers, had taken on the moniker of "Jones
Beach Bums" because there were always some of
us who met daily at Jones Beach during the summers
of our high school years. Categorized as freaks (post-hippies),
mostly grungy, long-haired and always without money,
we were however joyous and loving, attracting teenagers
from all over the island to become part of our ever-growing
"anti" clique. And while always open to
newcomers, we were still a close-knit group, enthusiastically
loyal to each other, meeting anywhere and everywhere
we could find, our bond strengthening with each passing
As the "Bums" grew, smaller groups inevitably
formed, and I was excited that Debi and Laurie drew
me into their intimate subset that summer. Always
the follower, I usually went along with whatever they
suggested, with or without the rest of the Bums. Although
there were occasions that I didnt join them
in an escapade, such as the times they decided to
experiment with dropping acid (following the lead
of a few other Bums). But even though I was intimidated
in some situations, I was relieved that they continued
to give me the opportunity to participate in their
quests for fun and excitement.
In the summer of '73, rumors were rampant amongst
the Jones Beach Bums regarding the upcoming Watkins
Glen Festival. Most of us were frustrated by the fact
that we'd been too young for Woodstock. It was our
dream that Summer Jam would be our
Woodstock, that it was going to be our chance to party
and have as much fun as the lucky Woodstockians seemed
to have, and that maybe it would be even better!
While it was advertised as only one day (not three)
and only 3 bands (not many), no one believed that
was the truth. We all truly believed there were going
to be surprise visits by just about every band in
the world, so it had to last longer than one
day. Everyone I knew wanted to be a part of it... all
of us were totally convinced that it would surpass
Woodstock as the greatest concert ever.
So even though I was not as big a fan of rock music,
Debi and Laurie didn't have any trouble convincing
me to join them on this particular adventure. Even
though I preferred music that I could sing, such as
Neil Young, Cat Stevens, and especially Joni Mitchell,
I still thought it would be great fun to go to the
festival. After all, Joni Mitchell had shown up unexpectantly
at Woodstock. It was my hope and desire that my absolutely
favorite singer/songwriter would be one of the surprise
guests we all knew were bound to show up at the Watkins
Transportation to the festival was an issue, but
Debi and Laurie assured me that they would find
us all a ride. And true to form, not long after we
bought our $10 tickets they told me that they had
secured us places in a van with a group of other Beach
Bums. I was so excited! Confident that I would be
driven to the festival and then surrounded by many
good friends, I even talked my beleaguered parents
into buying me a bright orange, inexpensive sleeping
bag for the journey.
My parents did not have much energy left to monitor
my activities. With three younger children in my family
(ages 13, 8 & 2) they were very distracted, and
were by this time somewhat worn out with my ever-increasing
Beach Bum activities. They reluctantly accepted my
plans with minimal protest.
Unfortunately something happened, and just two days
before we were to leave on our journey Debi and
Laurie discovered that our ride to Watkins Glen had
fallen through. If we still wanted to go to the festival,
our only option for transportation was the magic thumb.
I was disappointed that we lost the ride, but the
thought of hitchhiking to an unfamiliar town in upstate
New York didn't faze me at all. Hitching was something
the three of us often did because our friends (and
our various meeting places) were all over Long Island.
And to be perfectly honest, we considered it fun... not
to mention a great way to meet cute guys. The only
change we made to our plans (besides lying to our
parents, as knowledge of the hitchhiking would have
definitely put them over the edge) was to leave for
the festival a day earlier.
Since the festival was scheduled for Saturday, we
started our journey on Thursday. Did I have a clue
as to how to get to Watkins Glen, what route to take,
where exactly it was? Nope, Debi and Laurie
were always in charge of those kind of details, and
I trusted their leadership.
Around noon, I told my mom that 'our ride' was picking
us up at Laurie's house. Then I walked over to the
Old Country Road Exit of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway,
where I met up with Laurie and Debi. Giddy with excitement,
our thumbs went up and our spirits went soaring.
For enhanced visualization, see http://www.jonesbeachbums.com/1973_page.htm
Three girls, a mere 17 and 18 years old in skimpy
outfits, standing on an entrance ramp of a highway
carrying sleeping bags and backpacks would be a alarming
sight in today's world. But in the early 70's (at
least on Long Island) that was not uncommon. I don't
know if the world has changed, or people are now just
much more aware of the dangers. The three of us back
then, however, felt completely safe and confident
that we would have no problems.
Our first two rides were brief and took us to the
NYC limits, which was not a good place for the three
of us to be, even back then. It was the area where
if a car broke down and was deserted, in 5 minutes
flat it would be stripped of everything and become
an automobile skeleton. We all suddenly became awarethough
it was unspokenthat vultures were close by,
and we began to feel a bit uncomfortable.
I may have had no idea how to get to Watkins Glen,
but I did know it was over 5 hours from Plainview.
In one hour we had progressed about 20 minutes, and
then found ourselves standing in a dubious spot, to
say the least. That was the first time it struck me
that maybe I should have placed the Watkins Glen trip
in the same category as an acid trip.
But as luck would have it, in a short amount of time
a third car pulled over to pick us up. It roared,
clanked and sputtered, was painted psychedelic colors,
and inside were 3 guys. Two of them were young, while
the third appeared much older. Also, in the backseat
was a large, panting, drooling dog of indeterminable
Besides the bizarre paint job, the car was old and
could not accelerate above 50 mph. It had bad shocks,
no padding on the ceiling, the driver-side window
was broken and taped, and the radio was missing. Nevertheless,
we were thrilled when we were told that they were
on their way to the Watkins Glen Festival too. We
put all our gear into the trunk and climbed into their
The interior reeked of beer. Dozens of empty beer
cans littered the car floor, amidst a partial case
of unopened ones. The older guy seemed ancient to
me, but I was only 17, and at that time everyone over
25 seemed to look rather old. Also, drinking and taking
drugs can age a body prematurely, and he did not hide
the fact that drinking and using were two of his favorite
activities. He was tall, ropey, and had weathered,
grizzled skin. His hair was thick, wavy, shoulder-length,
and a beautiful golden color. His mane would have
been a wonderful asset on a different body. On him,
though, it was totally wasted, because in addition
to the aged skin, he never smiled, and had small,
ice blue and very mean-looking eyes. Except for an
occasional whoop or holler, he mumbled and growled
rather than spoke, and was very hard to understand.
Still, in a short amount of time he managed to make
it crystal clear to us that he felt superior to everyone
in the car, including his two buddies. This was becausehe
repeated it over and over till we were sick of ithe
had been at Woodstock, and we hadn't.
The oldest, withered and mean-looking one was called
"Sunshine"... I'm sure partly due to his
hair and partly due to his drug of choice.
The second in command was overweight, had stringy,
greasy, long black hair, was 19 years old, and had
the interesting name of "Ripple." The youngest
guy said he was 17 (like me), though he looked a little
younger. He was the only cute one, although it was
in a grungy, elfish sort of way. "Spirit"
seemed to fit him. The dog's name was "Cocaine."
Despite this, there was no evidence of any illegal
drugs in the car.
At first thrilled about scoring the ride, in a little
while Laurie, Debi and I began to exchange concerned
glances as we tried to get comfortable in the bouncy,
sputtering car, getting drooled on by Cocaine, often
bumping our heads on the unpadded ceiling, and forced
to listen to increasingly irritating and obnoxious
merriment. We couldn't speak much to each other, and
so we just did our best to maintain a friendly atmosphere
with these three guys, who despite the noise seemed
At least an hour of drinking, yipping and yaying passed,
and then they settled down into small talk, finally
admitting they weren't going straight to the festival.
They were making a "slight" detour in order
to have an indoor place to spend the night. The oldest
guy had a frienda topless dancer, in factwho
lived in Rochester, and that's where they were headed
at the moment. But Rochester was 6 hours away
from NYC, and almost 2 hours from Watkins Glen! They
assured us, however, that first thing on Friday morning
they were going straight to the festival. "So,"
they asked us, "do you wanna go to Rochester
with usour friend will have room for you tooor
should we just drop you off somewhere?"
After a quick pow-wow, consisting mainly of looks
and telepathic thoughts, we decided to go to Rochester
with them. None of us were in the mood for hitching
anymore. It seemed the lesser of two evils. Truth
be known, by our advanced ages of 17 and 18, we had
already spent quite a bit of time around drunk, obnoxious
boys, and had even driven with drunk drivers on more
than a few occasions. So these three did not seem
very menacing to us, particularly the younger two.
The oldest one seemed relatively harmless, maybe due
to his apparent loss of brain cells. Whether or not
staying with them was the wrong decision, we will
never know. A fourth ride could have been worse.
Three times that day we got pulled over by police
and thoroughly searched. It most definitely was due
to the sight of the car. Purple and yellow stripes
stand out in my memory. In those days, not only were
teenage hitchhikers common, but cops were not concerned
about them driving around with weird-looking guys
obviously drinking beer. They were only looking for
drugs. And luckily, we didn't have any. But each time
we got pulled over and searched, we had to open the
trunk and allow the cops to go through all of our
stuff. Which, by the way, was not only time-consuming
and awkward, but also particularly embarrassing to
Debi and Laurie, who were both having their periods,
and therefore had a good supply of tampons in their
Eventually it got dark, and the searches ceased.
But still, Rochester seemed very far away. Of course,
the car couldn't go over 50, and all the searches
and pee breaks and beer refill stops we made hadn't
helped. However, it eventually dawned on us that the
true problem was they didn't know how to get to their
friend's house. A few times they would give up and
make frustrated calls at phone booths, but they never
wrote anything down, and seemed to forget the directions
as soon as they got back on the road.
During this time I considered whether or not we should
rethink our decision and continue onward towards Watkins
Glen by ourselves. But around dusk, I was in the front
seat with Laurie with Sunshine driving. When I turned
around to glance at Debi, I was dismayed to see her
making out with Spirit. Debi had joined in the drinking,
and I realized our group telepathy was broken.
I turned back around with a sinking feeling and tried
harder to help Sunshine figure out the way to Rochester.
But I was no help at all with directions. In fact,
no one seemed to be, so on and on we drove... all
over upstate NY, or so it seemed. It was interminable,
but we three hitchers could hardly complain. 8:00,
9:00, 10:00 P.M... around then I turned around to
check on Debi, and noticed the entire back seatDebi,
Ripple, Spirit, even the annoying muttwere passed
out, sound asleep.
Soon after that, Sunshine suddenly announced he couldn't
drive anymore, and he pulled the car over to the side
of the road. "I'm done with driving," he
said, "so one of you better take over."
It was up to Laurie, the only one of us with a license.
I hadn't even taken Driver's Ed yet. With a frightened
look on her face, she got behind the wheel. I moved
into the middle, with Sunshine next to me by the window
growling, and uttering things that were hard to understand
but did not sound reassuring at all.
The situation was tense, but then it got worse when
a thunderstorm broke out. Rain pelted the car in sheets,
and the old tattered windshield wipers barely allowed
Laurie to see the road in the dark. As the rain dripped
all over her through the broken window, she struggled
to keep the car driving straight.
For what seemed like a long time, the only sounds
we heard were the rain, the wipers, the thunder, and
Sunshine rambling. Laurie's fingers got whiter and
whiter as she gripped the vibrating steering wheel.
The pounding of my heart increased in speed and intensity
as the words Sunshine were mumbling became more coherent.
Much to my dismay, I discovered that due to unfortunate
experiences in his life, Sunshine hated women, including
his mother. He wanted revenge, and worst of all he
considered the three of us to be just like all the
women he had known, and now hated. Now I really regretted
our decision to go to Rochester with them.
Trying to come up with some way of distracting him
from his venomous thoughts, wishing the radio worked,
I suddenly remembered his bragging about being at
Woodstock. "Hey, Sunshine," I said, "I
bet you like Joni Mitchell, huh? You know what? I
could sing some of her songs if you'd like."
He stopped talking, a confused look on his face. At
first I thought he didn't understand me. But then
he stared at me and said, "Yeah, I do. Sing!"
I immediately launched into the first one that came
to my mind, "California" (sitting on
a park in Paris, France, reading the news and it sure
looked bad...). He was quiet the whole time. A
short silence ensued when I was done, after which
he ordered me to sing another. Then another.
For the next three hours, I sang continuously...
as soon as one song was over, another was demanded.
As I sang I glanced at Laurie, and could see relief
on her face. She must have been worried about my stamina,
though, because at one point during my vocals she
touched my leg and murmured, "You're doing great,
Shari. Keep it up. Please.
She needn't have worried about me, though, as I had
no trouble going for hours without stopping. I knew
every word and every nuance to all the Joni Mitchell
songs in existence at that time. Music and singing
were my passion, usually reserved for times alone
in my bedroom. Although I often sang at at the beach
and sometimes at a Beach Bum party, I never sang Joni
Mitchell in public because her music was too difficult
to play on a guitar.
So despite the bizarre conditions, with Joni Mitchells
deep and melodic words effortlessly pouring out of
my throat I became very relaxed, and it must have
gone on for a long time because I was able to sing
my entire Joni Mitchell repertoire. It was when I
was about to start over that salvation finally came.
12 1/2 hours from the time they picked us up, we arrived
at the topless dancer's apartment in Rochester.
Debi, Ripple and Spirit were woken up, and we carried
our stuff inside the woman's run-down dwelling. She
didn't seem to mind, which was surprising to me since
it was after 2 a.m. As we walked in I remember feeling
totally drained and exhausted and having just two
thoughts: 'I don't care what anyone else does, I'm
crashing in my sleeping bag immediately,' and 'That
woman is really quite unnattractive for a topless
Formalities be damned. Two minutes after crossing
her threshold, I was in a dead sleep in the corner.
So I didn't know until the next day the situation
my two friends found themselves in next.
According to Laurie and Debi, after they settled
down in the living room (with me sleeping in the corner
and the dancer back in bed), they smoked a little
pot they had copped from the dancer. The guys had
suddenly become aggressive and insisted upon it. When
the five of them had gotten high, Debi and Laurie
were told that it was time to have sex, and have
They were horrified at the thought, but kept their
cool, and apologetically explained that having sex
was impossible, since both of them had their periods,
which was true. While at first the guys were outraged
because they assumed they were being lied to, apparently
the large stash of tampon supplies in Laurie and Debbie's
backpacks provided enough evidence to convince them
that Debi and Laurie were telling the truth.
Then the guys said, "But what about her?"
pointing to my inert body in the corner. They said
there was no way I could be having a period too, and
after checking found no tampon evidence in my backpack.
They were going to wake me up.
My friends came to my rescue and managed to talk
them out of doing that by somehow convincing them
that I was really, truly also out of commission: I'm
not sure how they accomplished this. Maybe the drinking,
smoking and early morning hour had finally taken its
toll because a short time later the partying ended,
and they all fell asleep. All I do know for sure is
that I was indeed left unmolested.
The next morning Debi and I stood in the dancer's
dark, dingy kitchen, frying two eggs that the dancer
had generously given us along with one piece of bread,
as Laurie slept a bit later. It was our first food
since early afternoon the day before. The guys had
never stopped to eat, only to pee and buy more beer.
Apparently drinking constantly can dull one's appetite.
Debi told me the story of last night in whispered
snatches, emphasizing the obvious fact that we should
get away from these guys the first chance we got.
I was appalled at the story and wholeheartedly agreed.
But we were still frustratingly far from Watkins
Glen, even after more than 14 hours of traveling!
After thanking the ugly topless dancer, we reluctantly
climbed once again into that weird-looking car, this
time keeping our belongings close. An uneventful three
hours laterstill on the New York Thruwaywe
came to a dead-stop as traffic was backed up a few
miles from the entrance to the racetrack. What a godsend
for us! With every car at a standstill, walking was
clearly the best way to get into the festival, so
we were easily able to rationalize our escape. Ignoring
their frustrated objections, we grabbed our stuff
and scrambled out, promising to look for and meet
up with them later. We never saw Sunshine, Ripple
or Spirit again.
Having escaped that situation unscathed and having
finally arrived at Watkins Glen, we were exuberant,
on our way to participate in the next Woodstock! We
couldn't wait to find our Beach Bum friends, figuring
there would be about 50 of them and that all we had
to do was look for the Beach Bum flag. Another contingent
of Bums had promised to bring it and hold it high
so we could all find each other.
Little did we realize that over 600,000 young people
eventually assembled for this festival, so finding
a group of 50flag or no flagwas like looking
for that pesky needle. The Watkins Glen racetrack
was over 3 miles long, and there were many enormous
fields surrounding it. Summer Jam personnel tried
to check for tickets, but it was an impossible task,
so sometime early on Friday they gave up and allowed
the ticketless hordes to enter unchallenged. The fields
became deluged with youtha large percentage
were just kids like us most probably also expecting
Yearning to find our friends, we scanned faces all
day long, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of faces,
searching constantly for the red and white flag. While
we were a generation who saw a kindred spirit in anyone
the right age with the right hair length or clothes
("Love the One You're With" was a common
mantra), the three of us became increasingly frustrated.
It was only the Bums we wanted to be withat
least as a starting point. Only after we found our
"family" of friends would we be ready
to make new ones.
We were unrealistically optimistic and didn't give
up on our quest until dusk, and only then because
it became difficult to see. By that time we felt quite
forlorn. Frolicking and partying was going on all
around us; giving up on finding our family of friends
was difficult, yet sometime that evening we did. We
latched onto a group of kids from Pennsylvania. We
must not have connected with any of them because not
a single face or name remains in my memory. I think
they were all too drunk and/or stoned to be particularly
appealing, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were
partying so hard that they barely took notice of us
either, despite the fact that we were three cute unattached
The day had been thrilling and interesting, but it
had also been frustrating and tiring. Having participated
in only a small amount of partying, again I was the
first one to curl up in my sleeping bag, bedding down
on the periphery of the Pennsylvania delegation, right
out in the open, hoping Debi & Laurie wouldn't
wander away and leave me.
Sometime in the middle of the night, when all had
pretty much quieted down and I was sleeping soundly
(as only a teenager can do in a thin sleeping bag
on hard ground), I became aware of a body next to
me. One of the guys from Pennsylvania had unzipped
my bag and taken the liberty of joining me. He was
totally wrecked, which turned out to be a good thing
because it rendered him unable to do anything but
grope ineffectively and scream, "Fuck! Fuck!
I woke dazed and confused, as it slowly dawned on
me that I was being attacked by an idiot. I couldn't
see his face and wondered what was going on and why
he was screaming "Fuck!" It eventually became
clear to me, but it was obvious he was too wasted
to be threatening, and I was able to literally kick
him out of my sleeping bag. I could hear him rolling
away, flailing on the dry grass, continuing to scream
for a while longer until he finally passed out. I
actually found it humorous and, chuckling, fell back
asleep shortly after. That night turned out to be
the better of the two nights I spent at the Glen.
In the morning the sky was clear, the sun was shining,
and everyone around was preparing to walk over to
where the show would take place. Once again hopeful
we were going to find our friends, we followed the
throng to the immense field in front of the stageonly
to discover with a shock that the place was already
completely jam-packed. From where we were standing
we could barely see the stage.
Ignoring the protocol to sit down where we were,
we squeezed and fought our way forward. For about
an hour we worked our way towards the stage, pissing
people off left and right. I was aware that most of
the people we stepped through thought we were quite
rude, but we didn't care... all that was important
was finding a familiar faceor at the very least,
getting a better view. We persevered, stepping on
blankets and hands, causing more than one muttered
curse to be flung our way, but not a single fellow
Beach Bum was to be seen. When we got close to the
stage we gave up for the last time, and managed to
carve out a tiny spot in which to settle down.
At first the people in that area were annoyed at
us for invading their already small territory, but
eventually they accepted us and even became friendly,
as the air was highly charged. The excitement was
tangibleeveryone's spirits were soaring, even
those who weren't taking any of the drugs that were
plentiful and being passed around like candy. The
crowd was determined it was going to be just like
Woodstock, and drugs were everywhere to be seen and
The music did not begin until noon, and it was extremely
hot. Water was in short supply. We hadn't thought
to bring anyall we brought were little jars
of baby food, and not nearly enough to satisfy our
hunger and thirst. At one point I felt like I was
being tortured... I was hot and sweaty and thirsty
with no room to stretch out my cramped limbs.
The highlight of that particular interminable time
period was when I decided to stand up and take a look
back to where we had walked from. It was the most
amazing vistaa humongous sea of people. 600,000
hot, thirsty, anticipatory and joyous people. It was
breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and I will never forget
When the Grateful Dead finally began to play, everyone
stood up to dance, giving at least the illusion
of more space. Everyone was smiling, grooving... how
blissful it was to be young and free, part of this
once-in-a-lifetime event, personally entertained by
the best bands of our time! But the Grateful Dead
played for five straight hours; they just went on
and on... eventually we all sat down, our minds reluctantly
diverted to the more mundane problems of our bodies.
I noticed medics squeezing their way through the
crowd. There were many people passing out, probably
from lack of water and food and too much heat and
drugs. And then I saw a welcome sightgallons
of water making their way through the crowd, hand
over hand. I remember grasping one and deeply sucking
on it. I was so thirsty and grateful I didn't even
think about all the strange lips that had just been
around that jug opening.
I was temporarily rehydrated, but it was still so
hot, and the concert didn't seem that enjoyable to
me. All three groups had apparently planned to perform
true jams. The drummer for the Grateful
Dead actually did a two-hour solo. The group
played for five hours before giving up the stage for
The Band. The music just went on and on and on, while
Then, a seeming miracle took place during the The
Band's three-hour performance. Halfway through their
set, clouds gathered, the sky darkened, and a drenching
rain began, as if orchestrated simply to cool off
the steaming bodies of the suffering festival goers.
"Wow! Just like Woodstock! We all cheered.
It lasted for about 30 minutes.
During this time I did a very stupid thingI
generously suggested to my friends that we use my
orange sleeping bag as an umbrella, thinking it waterproof.
"Let's be cozy!" I said, opening it up and
holding it over our bodies and heads. Halfway through
the rain storm I realized it was not waterproof, since
it was getting soaked, and rolled it back up. Then
our bodies got wet too. I was not terribly concerned,
since it felt so nice to be cool, and I assumed the
sun would come out again. Unfortunately the sun never
reappeared, and I stayed damp.
After the Band finished playing, it became time for
the climax of the concert, the Allman Brothers. Once
again everyone jumped to their feet in a renewed frenzy.
However, I couldn't shake the chill that had seeped
into my bones from my damp clothing. Not having a
great love for rock, the music failed to distract
me, and I spent the rest of the festival enveloped
and shivering inside a large piece of clear plastic
that had belatedly made it's way over to us (in the
same way as the jugs of water).
All during that time I was downright bored and miserable,
and I wondered what was wrong with me. Everyone else
was stoned, tripping, loving the music or a combination
of all three. But I just sat inside the slimy piece
of plastic in an effort to conserve my body heat,
nodding on and off for the four long hours that the
Allman Brothers played their music.
I must have been quite a sight, a small lump in the
middle of a huge, gyrating crowd. Every now and then
Debi and Laurie would interrupt their dancing to
check on me and show their concern. They would say,
"Shari? Are you still alive? You haven't suffocated,
in there, have you? Get up, silly, you're missing
the best part!"
But I stayed put huddled in my little piece of plastic,
too tired to care about music anymore... and the Allman
Bros played on and on. Towards the end some of the
crowd began dispersing in exhaustion, but Debi and
Laurie wanted to be there until the final note, which
did not happen until close to 3 A.M.
Then it was finally overafter only one day,
with no surprise guests! Not only that, but we were
once again painfully aware that we were bereft of
our friends, and had not connected with a single other
person. In addition, the nightovercast and starlesshad
become genuinely chilly.
When the music stopped, the partying was completely
over. Everyone was spent, and the hordes of depleted
people still left in the music field moved back into
the sleeping fields. Some set up tents, while others
just laid their sleeping bags out in the open, as
we had done the night before. However, because of
the temperature drop, sleeping out in the open was
not as desirable as it had been the night before.
So we walked around talking to people, and managed
to cajole our way into a group's large tent, picking
them to focus on because they were from Long Island
and we hoped for a ride the next day.
Laurie and Debi had nice, dry sleeping bags. They
pulled them out and were asleep in minutes. But I
had only a sodden sleeping bag that didn't offer the
tiniest bit of comfort. I rolled it out and lay on
top of it, trembling in my halter-top and damp jeans,
wishing I hadn't discarded the plastic. There was
no one awake to talk to. I shivered so hard my teeth
were chattering. All night long I lay there, thinking
that I had never been so cold in my life. My misery
was constantly finding new heights. I kept swearing
that I would never, ever again take being warm for
granted, not ever again. I kept imagining getting
back home and taking a hot shower or a hot bath, and
oh what heaven that would be. I just couldn't wait,
but I had no choice, it seemed I had to wait forever,
and suffer the whole time. How come I never realized
that nothing on earth felt as good as being dry and
warm? There was no point in crying or moaning, I just
had to lay there, thinking I would remember this torturous
night for the rest of my life. And sure enough, I
I remember lying there as the seconds ticked by,
wondering how time could move so slowly. It felt as
if I would feel miserably cold forever... I
tried to entertain myself by thinking about the day's
events, but that didn't help at all, since it was
also depressing to realize that I hadn't enjoyed the
concert like everyone else seemed to. I liked rock
and roll music, but I guess I didn't like it enough
to ignore the discomforts of the day.
What to do to make the night go by, what to do...
then a thought occurred to me. There was music that
I loved. Next to Joni Mitchell, I loved an
amazing new rock opera. It was so interesting and
moving and melodic and rhythmic that I must have listened
to it on my record player hundreds of times,
and I knew and loved every note and word. So starting
with the very first note of the electric guitar in
the overture... "neir, neir, neir, neirrr, neir,
neir, neir, neir neir neirrrrrrr...," I listened
to the whole soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar,
hearing every single note and voice in my mind, relishing
each one. When I got to the end, I listened to it
all over again. Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tim Rice and that
original Broadway cast have no idea how much they
helped get me through that night with my sanity intact.
Sunday finally dawned, the sky cleared, and to my
delight it became blistering hot again. The sleepless
night receded in my thoughts, and the people in the
tent woke up, the owners informing us that they had
no extra room in their van. They could not give us
a ride anywhere, much less to Long Island, as we had
hoped. Once again the three of us were alone.
Alone in that sea of thousands! Cars lined up for
miles trying to leave the Glen. Instead of hitchhiking,
we decided to walk from car to car asking for a ride
directly to Long Island, preferably one with cute
guys. In about 10 minutes we came to a van that met
those requirements. There were two nice-looking young
guys in the front seat.
Unfortunately, the driver and owner of the car, Bernie,
did not feel inclined to give us a ride. While he
was obviously in a bad mood for some reason, we were
relieved to discover that his friend Rob was not,
so the four of us lobbied Bernie until he grumpily
relented. We climbed happily into his nice, clean
van, while he firmly stated he would not go out of
his way for us, that he would drop us off at the closest
expressway to his house in Garden City, about 20 minutes
Relieved to have a ride for the vast majority of
the distance, we accepted, not minding his scowling
proclamation. Well, at least at first we didn't mind.
His van was wonderful! It was the exact opposite of
the car we had arrived inspacious, clean, new,
no animals, and both Rob and Bernie were well-groomed
and seemingly normal.
Bernie, however, continued to scowl at us, and soon
there was a high level of tension in the car. The
fact that it took 3 full hours just to get out of
Watkins Glen Raceway did not help. He did not like
traffic... and he also made it clear he did not like
Once again, we found ourselves exchanging concerned
looks. And though the traffic improved after we finally
got out of the Glen, it continued to be very heavy
on the New York Thruway, making it likely that we
were not going to get back to Long Island until late
evening. The knowledge that we'd eventually have to
hitchhike from Garden City to Plainview, exhausted
and in the dark, was not pleasant to think about.
But think about it I did. If only I could think of
a way to make Bernie like us.
Unfortunately Debi and Laurie were very offended
by Bernie's seemingly misogynistic behavior. They
decided to return his animosity, which only made the
already uncomfortable atmosphere even worse.
Seeing that diplomacy was needed, as soon as Rob took
over driving and switched seats with Bernie, I leaned
forward and started chatting with the owner of the
car and the one in charge. I asked him questions about
himself, complimented the van, tried anything to stroke
his ego, desperate to improve his mood. It seemed
like a lost cause, since at first he wouldn't even
turn around to look at me. But I didn't give up...
and after about 20 minutes he finally started to respond
to me and to talk.
Twenty more minutes passed... then, tiring of twisting
his body around to chat with me, Bernie decided to
move into the back of the van with us, ignoring the
glares of my friends. I then spent the seven remaining
hours of the trip with Bernie talking nonstop to me,
as Rob drove and Debi and Laurie napped. To my dismay,
though, Bernie's long monologue slowly descended into
a streaming consciousness of worries, depression,
anger, darkness, resentment, fears, problems... on
and on and on. I hardly said a word during it, as
I could tell only nods of sympathy were needed...
though once again, I felt the discomfort of time passing
slowly and painfully. What a struggle it was to keep
a sympathetic look on my face and not give away my
discomfort, but I thought to myself I should now be
getting used to endurance tests! And at least I might
be rewarded for this one, at least I might soften
his hard heart. So, I gritted my teeth and listened,
changing positions often to ease the cramps in my
legs (there were no seats in the flat bottom of the
back of his van).
It got dark, and we got closer to Long Island. I continued
to listen to Bernie's deepest darkest secrets, never
relinquishing hope that his catharsis would give him
a change of heart, and that he would not leave us
stranded in Garden City.
And... Bernie did have a change
of heart. When we got near Garden City, his diatribe
came to an abrupt end as I heard him direct Rob to
take each of us to our front doors in Plainview, saying,
"and Rob, take the one with the long dark hair
home first." The surprise I felt that
after all my hours of sympathetic listening he didn't
even care to know my first name was dwarfed by a flood
of relief and triumph. Sure enough, a short time later
I was released from the van, and crossed the threshold
of my wonderful, cozy little home into the arms of
my relieved parents. The highly anticipated adventure
that had morphed into a grueling ordeal had finally
It wasn't the kind of adventure I had hoped for or
enjoyed... but after it was all over, and I was able
to think about the sequence of events in the comfort
of my warm bed, I actually felt enriched. I will never
forget the discomforts, but it certainly was an interesting
experience and I felt glad to have been through it,
especially since I survived both physically and emotionally.
Later that same summer, we all heard about another
rock festivalthis one being held near Washington
DC. Debi Red and Mama Pfeff asked me if I wanted to
hitch to that one with them also. Once again other
Bums would be going, and they said since it was definitely
going to be a much smaller festival, we would be more
likely to find our friends this time.
But I wasn't tempted in the slightest, and quickly
said, "No thanks."
Unperturbed, they went without me. (Taking along a
bunch of tampons, this time only to be used as insurance.)
When they returned I heard all the details enthusiastically
described. The bottom line was they had a blast, even
though it rained and they all got extremely muddy.
There were no problems hitching, and this time they
actually did manage to meet up with a handful of other
But at the end of listening to all their new stories,
they sighed and said to me, "Yeah, you missed
a great time. But don't feel too bad, because it wasn't
nearly as great as the one we all went to at Watkins
Glen. Wasn't that so much fun, Sha?"
Summer Jam at the Watkins
Glen Racetrack has gone down in history as the largest
rock festival of all time.
But because of the rambling, non-memorable
performances, it is also largely forgotten.
of "Summer Jam"