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Thursday, June 13, 2019 12:25 am

We are stardust, we are golden

The Y Block and Yasgur’s farm

Hundreds gathered on the Y Block last week to hear the Skatalites.
photo by lee milner

 

We are arriving, this year, at some important anniversaries.

Already, we have observed one. The big day having passed, D-Day, 75th Anniversary: A Millennials Guide, is on steep discount at Amazon. “D-Day is one of the most recognizable terms in World War II lore and the invasion of Europe that it signifies is being commemorated in a big way in Europe in the spring of 2019,” says the tease. “See the awesome equipment – tanks, planes and ships – that made it possible.” Updates on Band of Brothers as well as secrets of Saving Private Ryan are promised.

Coming next month is the half-century observation of man’s landing on the moon, the earliest historical event I can remember. For me, the day began with a visit to an arts-and-crafts fair, where my sister and I were gifted stones painted to resemble ladybugs. I ordered a Filet-o-Fish for lunch – I liked them, and there was no telling how long the new McDonald’s sandwich would stay on the menu. Come nightfall, I yelled at the moon, loud as I could, but neither Neil nor Buzz answered.

My favorite 50th is due in August, when a lot of people may, or may not, gather in upstate New York. Folks haven’t quite figured out whether Woodstock 2019 will go ahead, and with tickets not being available, I did my part by buying a quarter-sized piece of the original Woodstock stage for $100. Friends, gently or otherwise, have asked: How do you know it’s real? Because the guy who sold it to me said so, and he has an affidavit, and it cost a lot of money.

Soon after my piece of history arrived via first-class mail, Champ The Wonder Pug seemed unusually smitten with something he had on the floor and was starting to devour. Generally, it’s toilet paper or a scrap of pizza box – he’s big on paper products – but this time Champ was chewing Woodstock. Foolishly, I had left the relic on a table alongside assorted kitchen detritus that included soiled chopsticks. My dog picked vintage plywood.

Champ enjoys both people and music, and so gnawing on the Woodstock stage was a natural. I snatched it away before he really got going, plus it was inside its no-extra-charge burlap carrying sack, which got a bit unraveled but, on the whole, proved pug-proof. The wood inside was unscathed, powerful evidence of Woodstock magic – any doubts on authenticity I might have harbored were gone.

With such an outcome, Champ and I were in high spirits when we arrived to see the Skatalites on the Y Block last week, the second in a series of free summer concerts aimed at making sense out of a seeming boondoggle. The city so far has sunk nearly $2 million, including the cost of tearing down the old YWCA building, into land that drew no interest this year when it mistakenly was included on a list of surplus public property with a $500 minimum bid.

We paid too much, but I think it has turned out money well spent. There were six outhouses, two food trucks – shoulda been twice as many – and a few hundred people for the Skatalites. Champ and I parked three blocks away. No roadways of consequence were closed, a welcome change from street-closing confabs that are fine if you’re there, but a nuisance if you’re trying to drive through downtown. There was plenty of room for dancers and jugglers and hoola-hoopers and coolers and lawn chairs and, for lack of better word, socializing. Kids played while older folks doodled in sketch books, chatted and discreetly sipped Old Milwaukee from coffee mugs and pale ale from Solo cups. An overburdened PA system was gritty and cool.
It was, in short, a dandy backyard party in a struggling business district that for too long has lacked a backyard, and this was just the second time out, on a Thursday night under moderate threat of rain. Closed-off streets and paved pavilions, delightful in their own ways, cannot compare with real grass, the kind that invites folks to spread blankets and relax amid revelry while drawing pickup soccer games on off-nights – I have seen one while driving past.

The Y block, I think, is turning out just fine. The biggest drawbacks – indoor/outdoor carpets of fake grass laid over the real thing and a concrete pad to sustain a small wooden stage – would seem a temporary nod to an unnaturally wet spring. Once things dry out, Champ can eat the stage.

They had rain, too, at Woodstock, and things turned out swell. Let’s not be too eager to give up this garden. 

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