Monday, August 15, 2011

The beet goes on

OK, so I am an old fart. I graduated from Whitehall High in 1969 and spent my first summer as a legal beer-drinking adult, first as a lifeguard at a resort in Wisconsin Dells and then -- because there was nobody to save in the pool -- painting barns in Iowa. 

My new buddy Byron, who was a bellhop (or whatever they called 'em) at the resort, coaxed me into quitting and bolting to his hometown of Lansing, Iowa. There we worked with his grandpa, but it was his grandma I remember most for introducing me to boiled oxtail soup and beet wine.  (Well, his sister was also fine.)

The beet wine is responsible for us missing out on some pretty historic events that summer. You know, the moon landing. Chappaquiddick. The Manson murders. Revelations about Mai Lai. Hurricane Camille. Hey, we were in Iowa. I don't remember seeing any TVs. The folks there were more concerned about their hogs and the corn crop. At night we hit that beet wine and the world just spun around.

My way of saying we definitely weren't aware of a concert in upstate New York that began on this day that summer. Who really was, other than the 500,000 who showed up for the "Aquarian Exposition"?  If we had known, I'm guessing Byron and I would have loaded the car with jugs of beet wine and headed for Woodstock. If you think those acid trips were bad ...

Woodstock surprised everybody. I don't even remember when I realized the scope of it, probably after heading off for my first semester of college in La Crosse -- where Byron, his sister and I in a fit of boredom had driven up to watch True Grit at the Rivoli Theatre. John Wayne's only Oscar performance. Go Duke.

That was the most memorable event of my lost summer after high school. Music? We were boom-chick-a-booming to Johnny Cash's new album Live at San Quentin, on which "A Boy Named Sue" mentioned "kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer."

Almost like Woodstock.

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