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From the publisher's desk: What do Woodstock and Rome have in common?

Last week I discovered a kindred spirit. The company that owns The Daily Triplicate also owns the Sonora Union-Democrat and it sends us its paper each week. A column by reporter/columnist Chris Bateman caught my attention. It was about Bateman's trip to Woodstock 40 years ago.

He described how he and a couple of buddies set out from San Francisco “two summers after the summer of love” in a van they converted into a hippie-mobile. The trio held three of the 180,000 festival tickets that were pre-sold for $18 each when the event was planned for Wallkill, near Woodstock, New York.

But opposition by local residents resulted in a late change of venue. Festival organizers considered fencing off the hastily leased 600 acres of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but with bigger challenges to tackle, the “3 days of peace and love” became a free concert. By the time they got to Woodstock on August 15, 1969, Bateman and his friends were among a half-million concert-goers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Two things about Bateman's column struck a chord with me. The first was about his ticket. Bateman realized during the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Woodstock that his ticket might be valuable. But he couldn’t find it. I know the feeling. I lost my Beatles ticket before their 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert. I got to see the concert be­cause I convinced a sec­urity guard that if no one else showed up to sit there, the seat was mine.

Bateman’s son found his Woodstock ticket in a pile of "junk" while cleaning the attic just a few weeks ago. He’s excited to see what it will bring on eBay.

My favorite part of Bateman’s storytelling was about his leaving Woodstock. He and his buddies left around midnight the first night. They walked out on what Rolling Stone called one of “50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll” because of a little rain and mud. It just wasn’t comfortable, he said. And ever since, Bateman has been haunted by his shame: he went to Woodstock and left before it really began. Before Santana, the Dead, Janis Joplin (how could he?), The Who (and their 25-song set), Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, Country Joe and the Fish and, yes, before Jimi Hendrix.

A couple years later, in August of 1971, I was traveling through Europe with my friend Denise. We had just spent two weeks with my grandmother in Yugoslavia where it was over 100 degrees every day. We survived without air conditioning because we had the Adriatic just steps away and spent most of our time in the water.

When we left my grandmother’s we took a hot dusty bus to Dubrovnik. We rented a room in a stuffy home at the top of a hill with over 100 stone steps leading to the door.  The unbearable heat and the steep stairs made us both a little cranky. We argued about something and we each stormed off and went our separate ways.

We bumped into each other a few hours later at the airport and took the next flight out to Rome.  On board the climate-controlled Alitalia flight we put our differences aside and grew excited about seeing The Eternal City. Raised Catholics, we wanted to see it all, from the Coliseum to the Vatican.

When we landed in Rome we walked outside the terminal and were nearly knocked over by a wall of humidity. We looked at each other and turned around.  We asked the woman at an information kiosk if she knew the temperatures in other European cities. She handed us a newspaper. We perused the weather page and pointed to Geneva, 72 degrees.

And that is how I came to miss all the relics of Rome and have fond memories of five days in temperate Geneva, the seat of neutrality. When someone asks me if I’ve ever been to Rome, I can’t lie, the same way Chris Bateman can’t lie about being at Woodstock. It was a trip, man.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate’s publisher at 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

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