For those of you who have not heard read about it, this complex of performing arts center and museum is built on the site of the famous music festival held exactly 40 years ago this summer, which was not actually held in Woodstock, NY, but in Bethel, New York.
Forty years ago, I had just finished my junior year in high school in good old Haverstraw, New York. In that year I was still very immature, but I managed to see Hair on Broadway--and survive even tho I thought I would faint at the end of Act I. Here is a clip from the Smothers Brothers and some of the original cast.This song from that show played on WABC for half the year. That summer of 1969 was the summer of my seventeenth year-- a great and worry free time in my life. It was a wonderful summer, full of long hair, lake time, and lifeguards ( I dated an awful lot of lifeguards that summer, because that was when a casual "date" was just that--a date--and nothing more). It was a summer about getting excited thinking of my last year of high school and getting ready to go away to college and wondering and talking about where that college would be. Naturally, it was a summer of great music (actually it was a decade of great music, but that is another long post altogether).
Unfortunately for me, even though I grew up not too far from the location of the event, it was not a summer of great music at the Woodstock festival because I came from an old fashioned family that needed to know where I was at night and with whom. I had curfews, doncha know. Heading off for three days to listen to music and sleep somewhere other than my own bedroom? Ha! Sadly not in the realm of my growing up experience; my mother would have had the state police out looking for me, and I was not a good liar at making up plausible "where I was going" stories. So, even though I know there were plenty of kids there even younger than I who had the ultimate rock and roll experience in the summer of 1969, I
was not one of them.
Fortunately I have had the pleasure of f a) living through that whole time and b) visiting the Museum at Bethel Woods.
If you have not yet done so, you make a point of visiting this museum. This museum is not just about Woodstock, even though that event and this property were the driving force behind the creation of the entire Center for the Arts. This museum is really about the 1960s, a decade that started out like "American Grafiti" and "Back to the Future" and ended up like Gimme Shelter. To use yet another movie reference for those of you not yet alive or too young to know, think--"Hairspray" is set in 1962. That is a heck of a lot different from the whole hippie/love-in/flower children/ ambience of Woodstock just seven years later.
Our dear friend Micahel Egan was the person in charge of bringing this museum into existence and overseeing the project working with the multi-talented designers at Gallagher and Associates. The whole project was made possible by the generous upstate NY businessman, Alan Gerry, who purchased the land and funded the work with the very idea of creating the magnificent site that is there today.
Heading to Bethel Woods is well worth a trip. The museum does a great job of presenting the picture of 1960-1969 in a way that everyone will understand and will be able to grasp, no matter what point of reference is brought to the table. With a great many interactive displays it is a great hands-on experience for young and old alike, so bring the family.
Needless to say, it was a fun time machine adventure for me. I left wishing I had braved the wrath of my parents and lived life a little more dangerously in that summer of 1969. Ah, well, it would not have been who I really was back then, which was very young in so many ways--maybe even "younger" than the fourteen year olds who did indeed manage to sneak up there for three wonderful days.
Well, back to work for me. Lately, while I work I have been listening to a sixties music feed. My head is stuck somewhere between big giant rollers and Dippity-do. I must be trying to conjure up the summer of '69 once again. Not too hard when one is lost in thought and art and music of the time.
Part of me will be glad when the summer is over. I think it will be a welcome relief when I will return to 2009, which I expect to do with more energy once I step out of this endless summer of time travel.
But, until I do, I'm revving up the jukebox and thinking about Coppertone, Saturday nights, and Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Edited to add: I did forget to add that 1969 was also the summer of the Moon Landing, of course. Where was I? I was in the Kopper Kettle in New City, NY on a date (probably with one of those lifeguards) watching it on TV. Thank you, Carol, for reminding me about that special summer event!
For a wonderful movie that captures that summer, the moon landing and Woodstock, check out "A Walk on the Moon" with Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, and Liev Schrieber (with lovely additional performances by Anna Paquin and Tovah Feldshuh).
Well, I am back in town again, after my quick weekend away to DC and ALA.
First, I have to say that Washington, DC is a beautiful city. I had not been there for a good 12-15 years. And the area where I had been then, was not downtown. I was so surprised at how cosmopolitan, pretty and clean (and hopping!) a city, DC really is. (I sincerely asked my husband if he ever thought about relocating to DC. His reply is that he thinks he could NOT handle the summers.)
I arrived in the afternoon on Friday the 22nd after a crazy week at home which consisted of a Hoedown (I'll be posting those pics soon), end of school year craziness, getting kids from here to there and back again, and then getting ready for the trip to DC. I settled in to my hotel room, thought for a minute, and then decided to give myself the luxury of a museum visit with no distractions, and a great dinner out.
I saw three great exhibits at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. One was an exhibit entitled: "Illuminations"--a collection of wonderful works by Saul Steinberg. I have always loved his art, but never have I seen it up close and personal. Truly inspiring! I loved the playfulness and the confidence with which he manipulated his lines.
Also up was the art of William Christenberry along with an exhibit of folk art which he curated. I think that folk art is one of those genre's I NEVER get tired of. This collection did not disappoint. Between the three shows, Steinberg, Christenberry and the folk art, I left the museum filled with ideas about how to bring my own work to new levels of sophistication as well as naivety--at the same time. And it was wonderful to see how much the flavor of Steinberg's work was mirrored in the aesthetic of the art of the untrained artists. The three presentations were wonderful complements to one another.
Not even a block from my hotel was a wonderful French restaurant. Delicious food along a few champagne cocktails makes for a great evening. And my waiter even showed me his nice portfolio of DC photography. I came back to my hotel room thoroughly relaxed and I actually hit the sack before nine--something I have not done since about 1966. My apologies to the restaurant and the waiter--I misplaced their cards. Otherwise I would have mentioned their names and web sites (please feel free to email me, both of you).
The next day was my day at ALA, which began with attendance at the Children's Poetry Jam. This panel was moderated by Sylvia Vardell, and the panel members consisted of: Jack Prelutsky, Betsy Franco, David Harrison, Joyce Sidman and Marilyn Singer. It was entertaining as well as inspiring, since I love to write poetry. I was brought to the panel by my editor, Meredith Mundy Wasinger.
After the jam and after she and I had a great lunch at an outdoor cafe, we went back to the conference where I got ready to sign books.
I always find signing books to be a satisfying experience. This time was no different. It was a very enjoyable signing session, with me sitting there for about an hour and a half signing books for a nice steady stream of very enthusiastic new owners of Tex and Sugar. What a pleasure it is to meet people who want to buy your book. I never get tired of talking with each and every one of them.
Out to a wonderful dinner with the great folks at Sterling capped off the evening deliciously! They made me feel thrilled to be there.
Home again the next day....and back to reality....
I am in DC for my first trip to ALA as a signing author. I am not a big airplane gal, so DC and ALA is a BFD for M.E.--flying twice within a three month period. I even left the Xanax home....
I had the pleasure of going to TLA in San Antonio in April for my first real signing after TEX & SUGAR came out. Now this is my first at ALA for the same reason. If you are in town please stop by the Sterling Booth (on your way to Mitali's party, of course!). I'll be signing there from 3-4 PM.
I arrived on Wednesday to a beautiful sunny day in San Antonio. Considering I have not been on an airplane since 1999, that was no small feat for me! After checking into the hotel, I realized I had not eaten all day so I went out for a walk, and, not knowing any better, promptly found the most New York looking deli in all of Texas--where I got a boring sandwich. Had I known about how wonderful the Riverwalk was, I would have waited.
The Riverwalk was truly lovely. As the evening rolled around, I walked along and just enjoyed the people, the music, and the sights. And the birds. The birds in the trees along the walk sang and chirped so loudly, and with such vigor, I actually thought that they were artifcial sounds piped in for effect. You know--like Disney kind of artificial. But, no, they were real birds, chatting away nonstop. They were actually all over the city. I loved hearing them. When I made a comment about the wonderful chirping to the cab driver who took me back to the airport on Friday, he said "Those birds? We're trying to get rid of those darn things. They don't shut up and they poop all over."
It was great fun to spend time with Meredith Mundy Wasinger and also the great people at Sterling who have been such fun to work with. Having never been a signing author at something like this before, I was totally "in the moment" with the fun of it all, almost like a kid. I had my boots and my hat--and so did the rest of the Sterling staff. Here we are all decked out after I signed every copy of my book they brought to TLA, except the display copy. You can't tell, but they all have on cowboy boots, too.
The people standing in line were so very friendly, patient, and fun. It was a pleasure to sign their books!
Someone got to win the Tex and Sugar/New York gift basket, including two of the snowglobes I made.
My one regret was not having enough time to go around and take more pictures of my friends' books that have recently been published or are about to be. One publisher--whose name will not be printed here--neglected to bring a copy of a book that JUST CAME OUT by one of my friends, as well as the F and G's of another JUST ABOUT TO COME OUT! What's with that? As my husband's old Rabbi used to say, "Not so hotsy totsy, Mister."
I thought it was funny that I found one publisher who thought it was a great idea to set up some display snow, just in case you were longing for winter. Hey--check out those boots from Rocketbusters!
I did manage a quick shot of this display of F amd G's from FSG, including my friend Maryann's upcoming book, Jack's Talent.
I would love an opportunity to go back to San Antonio again. It was too short a time to enjoy everything the city has to offer. I did find some great Mexican folk art Wednesday evening at a gallery on the Riverwalk. Hey, would I pass up an opportunity to COLLECT? I had my treasures shipped. My suitcase was almost unzippable even before I left Boston. Add a San Antonio Snowglobe or two, and a tee shirt, and that was about it. So I eagerly await my carved and painted art: a colorful Armadillo and two angel pieces from Oaxaca. The angels looked kind of like this cheerful soul.
Hey, maybe that's why I had such a good time--lucky charms!
PLUS: Where could be a BETTER place to kick off a book about country music kitties than Texas, the place I have been thinking about since I was a little girl? And, when I say I used to dream about Roy Rogers and everything cowboy, AND dress the part, to boot (pun intended), I mean it. I had the whole get up: fringed skirt, vest, hat, and boots. Even gloves. I had cowboy gloves.
But back to TLA. I am very eager to help launch the book, and to connect with librarians and other people who are as obsessed about books for kids as I am. I also hope to be meeting in person some people I only know on line-- like Chris Barton, Dotti Enderle and several others. My friend Ruth McNally Barshaw will be there in spirit, represented by her book. It is just about to come out in May: Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel. She is so busy working on Book 2 that she is virtually chained to her studio, and cannot attend. Finally, I am excited and looking forward to spending time with Meredith, my editor, and meeting all the hard working people at Sterling that I have heard about and spoken to, but not met yet.
If you go, look for bright red and black cowboy boots with TEX & SUGAR written on them. I'LL be sporting my brand new cowboy boots from Rocketbusters, along with a hat. FINALLY! I have a genuine reason to put on a cowboy hat. When you see me try not to laugh too hard at the New Jersey cowgirl, all grown up and now hailing from suburban Boston. My kids would have a field day making fun of me, but they will be home in Massachusetts. They'll never see the pictures.....so don’t tell them.
If I do take any nice photos, you will get to see them. I hope to bring the camera, shoot pictures, and report back. Serious time has to be given to checking out all the wonderful new books that are making their debuts, so I want to try to capture the displays if time allows. Many new books are coming out, and a good number of my friends are among the new authors.
With what little time is left over, I hope to enjoy a little bit of San Antonio, which I am told is wonderful.
Most of all, I will be trying to savor the moment. Let me tell you I am not so jaded as to be afraid of admitting: I am thrilled. I've been illustrating for a long time. I think I first dreamed about something like this 25 years ago.
The book that is. I first dreamed about the book 25 years ago. I dreamed about cowboys long before that.
Like a gazillion other people I am in NYC for the SCBWI midyear conference. I've been coming every year for a while. Five? Six? Lost count. I love getting to this event and I love getting to NY, the object of many of my fantasies.
Rode the train down from Boston. Luv that Acela! Enjoyed a little wine, Annie Lenox, Bruce and Sting on the way down. Smooth sailing. A little over 3 hours and I was in a cab heading to the hotel.
I'll try to get to the Kid Lit Drink night tomorrow. My editor met Betsy Bird at ALA in Seattle and told me she is very nice and that I should meet her. I follow directions very well, so off I will go.
And I'll be getting together with other authors and illustrators who have flown in from all over the place.
Hope to meet a lot of people IN PERSON, that I only know ON LINE! Even if we've never met, I'd love to meet YOU and hear where you are from--whoever YOU are!
Pictures to follow on this blog or on the Picture Book Illustrators blog next week.
I know it is not nice to covet...but I think I would very much like to live the lifestyle of Aline and R. Crumb, although I think one husband is more than enough for me to love, thank you very much. I love their sense of humor, I love the sound of the kind of artistic community they live in, and I would love to learn to speak French. And French food? Did I mention French food?
I think I remember that in the documentary "Crumb", Robert said that he traded one of his sketchbooks for a house in France. So this must be the place?
Can I interest any French property owners in some old sketchbooks? How about ALL my old sketchbooks? If I added about 100 cookie jars? How about my dog? I'll throw her in. She's a FRENCH bull dog, ya know.
If you have never caught their "reports" in the New Yorker, then you have missed some of the funniest stuff I have read in years.
I first discovered R. Crumb and his comix in 1972, while visiting a friend at SUNY Buffalo with my husband to be. I was riveted by his stuff--so retro in art style, so in your face and so raw. Loved it!