Why does the first Woodstock festival in 1969, almost 40 years ago, continue to symbolize the hopes of the hippie generation? The Closerâ€™s Song, a novel by Christopher Cole revolves around this critical moment.
Gerald Calderone, the hero of The Closerâ€™s Song experiences this epiphany while Sly and the Family Stone perform:
â€œHe awoke late that Saturday evening. It was dry and he looked up to see rockets being shot into the dark sky. Just then â€˜Sly and the Family Stoneâ€™ came on stage. As Sly began blasting his music to the multitude, a half million young people stood and clapped and worked out on top of vans, and raised their arms displaying the peace sign, working themselves into a wild frenzy shouting the words â€œgotta get highyer!â€ As Gerald raised his arms in unison with his fellow brothers, for the first time he felt that he had belonged. He knew that that very moment would be the essence of the Woodstock experience that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.â€
Coleâ€™s book is a great story about Geraldâ€™s long strange trip from abused child to seminarian to drugged out hippie. The ending is quite surprising. Gerald becomes the closerâ€¦ an ace car salesman.
Iâ€™ve been through so many of the same experiences that I felt like Calderone was my brother. In fact, my life has revolved around many of the same placesâ€¦ Greenwich Village, Woodstock, upstate New York and San Francisco. The search for enlightenment and internal peace led me, and Calderone, to ping pong between wild hedonism and retreats into reclusion and introspection.
Iâ€™ve become cynical about Woodstock. To me, it has become just a small town where I live when I am not on the road working. But, the name Woodstock remains a symbol to people all over the world ofâ€¦ what? I donâ€™t exactly know.
You will, however, find some clues in The Closerâ€™s Song.
written by Stephan Thomas