An open letter to my two children, ages 18 and 15:
As you have pointed out many times, I am old. I am so old I was actually at the original Woodstock.
But today I am young again. Invigorated. Naked with abandon. Flushed with joy. It is as though the "brown acid" has finally kicked in.
Hey, kids. This is payback time. Didja hear what happened at your "Woodstock '99" Sunday?
Your generation tried to show you were every bit as coolly disaffected as mine, every bit as saturated with love and tranquillity and an appreciation of the transcendence of music as a unifying force for peace and oneness and beatific harmonious munificence and thus such.
Here's what happened, as summarized in news accounts: "It ended in a destructive melee. There was looting. Marauding bands of shirtless, bellowing men set fire to twelve trucks and . . . "
This is payback for the way you laugh at my geezerdom when I refer to our home computer as a "machine," as in "Don't bother me, I'm on the machine." This is payback for the way you make fun of my hair, which I choose to wear au naturel, in solemn homage to the '60s, but which you say looks like an asphyxiated rodent. This is payback for the way you imitate me when I stand up and my joints pop like a manatee thrashing on bubble wrap.
Used to be that when my joints popped, it was because of seeds. I was not always a human petroglyph.
When I went to Woodstock, I was accompanied by my roommate, whom I will call Hieronymus to protect his identity. Hieronymus was addicted to Darvon, which was, among serious drug users of the time, the skankiest addiction possible, like being addicted to formaldehyde. He once stole my camera and sold it for Darvon.
I read today that many of the Woodstock '99ers breathed Vicks VapoRub into each other's noses for a "high." This makes Hieronymus look like Baba Ram Dass. I also read that the '99 partygoers paid $150 a ticket, $4 for a bottle of water, and that many signed up for "Woodstock commemorative" MasterCards.
Hieronymus and I, together, arrived at Woodstock with $12 in our pockets, which we spent immediately on Sugar Smacks and Pixie Stix. We "camped out," which meant we slept in the mud, in a tent constructed from a clear plastic drop cloth. We hung it from a tree and fastened the corners to the ground with forks we stole from our college cafeteria. The tent was airless and it concentrated the August heat like a convection oven. I remember crawling out into the driving rain in my underwear at one point on the theory that if I did not do so, I would actually die. Our tent was among the finest accommodations available.
We had neither money nor common sense, Hieronymus and I, but we had music. We had Ten Years After, which sounded acrid, like madness, and Richie Havens, who sounded growly and grave, like the sound of a heartbeat as heard by the gut, and Canned Heat, which sounded like weeping and hiccups, and Jimi Hendrix, who sounded like Jimi Hendrix.
You have Limp Bizkit.
I have heard Limp Bizkit, but my views are irrelevant, poisoned as they are by insane generational chauvinism. Instead, I shall quote an in-house Washington Post rock music expert: "They are an assaultive meld of rap attitude and beats and metal menace and volume, guaranteed to set sweaty, generally doltish young men to jumping around as if the floor were a giant trampoline until they notice the song is over."
He is too kind.
I am sorry. This is cruel. But I would like to reiterate that while my Woodstock ended with naked exhaustion, your Woodstock ended with police in riot gear. The "Peace Fence" was torn down and fed to the rioters' bonfire.
Also I would like to point out that, instead of a peace sign, at Woodstock '99 your generation flashed each other the finger. I personally have no quarrel with the presentation of a middle finger as an expression of contempt (though I prefer the New York Italian variation, which conjures a more invasive act). However, at Woodstock '99, the raised middle finger was so ubiquitous that it lost all significance, like a word reduced to meaninglessness through repetition. It was every bit as imbecilic as that thumb-linking handshake popularized some years ago by men with pompadours and cowboy boots.
Also, I would like to point out that you have recently made fun of my tendency to raise the volume on the television to a level you contend, without foundation, is evidence of advancing deafness. This plants within me a small carbuncle of fear which you then maliciously prod at the dinner table by moving your lips in speech but remaining soundless.
Okay, kids. Read my lips:
My generation may be old and slow.
But we're not lame.