The end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end. A way to say goodbye and hello at the same time. You lose something, you gain something. I was close to passing from one iteration to another. I just had to get there. Put Woodstock out of my mind. Concentrate on the task at hand, and everything would fall into place.
We had the address to the warehouse, but of course—being who we were—we soon became lost in the dark, tangled arterials of Denver. In those days, we used maps; yes, real maps, huge swaths of crinkly paper that you’d unfold at your peril and spread out over your lap, trying to read in the dark with a penlight dangling from your mouth. Most of the time you’d have to stop in some godforsaken place and ask for directions, usually at a rundown gas station where the night clerk didn’t know any more than you did. An exercise in futility. And good luck folding the map back up to its original form and shape.
The Doors were firmly locked into the eight-track. “The End” was spiraling down into its agonizing, yet groovy, finale when we arrived at our destination around nine. This is the end, my only friend, the end. We tumbled out of the car, but couldn’t find our way into the building. We were marbles rolling around and around on a table that was tilting one way, then the other. It was dark as hell without the fire burning, and this gargantuan structure blocked out the sky and the stars, a faceless monolith with no way in—just like the one I remembered in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I saw at least ten times the previous year. I wondered if we did get in, how would we get out? No Exit? Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d step into that black hole like they did in the film, and end up on the backend of Max Yasgur’s farm. Hell, I was smoking too much weed.
A train with boxcars was parked beside the building, sniffling and coughing in the cold. A door the size of a barn slid open, and light flooded the dark. Ah, yes, the way in. Like Frodo schooling Gandalf on the riddle written on the stone door that led into the Dwarven underground kingdom of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter.
The foreman met us at the door and immediately put us to work lugging out rolls of carpet from the boxcars. We lifted these tootsie-roll monstrosities onto our shoulders that I was sure, in my stoned mind, were as heavy as the blocks of the agglomerated limestone concrete the Pharaohs used to build their pyramids. We then placed them precariously onto what looked like small motorized tables the size of a 4×8 sheet of plywood, which were driven by the full-timers farther into the seemingly endless warehouse stacks. Forklifts with long lances speared the centers of the rolls and placed them in the racks above. After a while, the foreman led us to another rail car where we unloaded pallets of paint, using pallet jacks and hauling them inside to a forklift, which would then scoop up the pallet, pivot and whisk it away into another area of the warehouse. I was itching to drive one of those machines.
They gave us a break around midnight, and we went out and smoked a joint on the tracks. In the frigid air my sweat started to freeze to my skin. Carrying those rolls of carpet was some of the hardest work I’d ever done, and I’ve done some hard labor in my life. Three hours in and I was already exhausted, sore and stoned. I wanted to quit then and there. Wanted to go home and sleep. But the thought of heading across the country for a three day festival of music and fun kept me on the beam. We finished the joint and went back in. Stick to the goal, but don’t get caught up in it. Work hard now, go to the concert later. That’s the stuff, I told myself.
Over the next few months, we neared our goal. Another couple of weeks and we’d hit our mark. Sven gave Autumn our paychecks every two weeks, and she banked them in a special account so we couldn’t touch them. I was feeling good. Haggis was even going to take care of the tickets for us. If it weren’t for him, we never would have made it. He’d probably end up as CEO of an up-and-coming American company. Maybe a marijuana business in the far-out future, when it was legalized. I could see it.
One night, after our first break, we came back into the building. The foreman and the full-timers seemed to have vanished. The forklift and little table cars were parked in the aisles. We waited and waited, but no one appeared. Had they gone home and left us in the lurch? We needed to work to get the money. We were nearly there. Woodstock lay heavily on my mind. Maybe I could quit now and borrow the rest, I thought, which wouldn’t be much. I was sick of the work. My body ached and I was tired all the time. I didn’t give a damn. I should walk out and go home. I wasn’t there any longer—I was already in Woodstock.
The table cars looked inviting to my stoned mind. Sven grinned at me and took off. He was reading my thoughts. All of us took off toward the machines at a gallop. This was just what I always wanted to do. We each jumped on one, pushed the starter buttons. They roared to life. In front of me, a steering mechanism on a tiny panel gyrated when you pressed it. I stepped on the gas and the thing jumped forward. I fell off the back and rolled into a pallet of paint. I got up and got back on. This time I eased into it and moved the beast forward. Like a pro. Soon we were all driving around the warehouse. Bumper cars in a carnival. The Keystone Cops on a roll.
But then the foreman and his men returned, and proceeded to chase us up and down the aisles. We eluded them. Zigzagging in and out of the stacks. The batteries, however, began to die. The cars, one by one, stopped. The foreman took us into his office and sat us down. He told us he’d have to let us go. He didn’t want to, because the company was having a devil of a time finding people to do this job from hell, but he had to follow corporate procedures. As I listened to him, I picked up an accent I hadn’t noticed before. I realized he was from Appalachia. When I told him I was from a town called Lysippus, he looked at me and cracked a smile. It turned out he, too, hailed from Lysippus. He had moved away before I had come of age. Said he knew my parents. I told him we were trying to save up for Woodstock. He smiled and replied that he also wanted to go, but had two kids and a wife to support. He then gave us his blessing and told us to get back to work, before he changed his mind. Don’t fuck up.
We worked a couple months longer than we needed to so we would have an extra helping of moola for the big trip. I figured Haggis was going to pay for plane tickets to New York, but when he visited us the morning after we resigned, he told us we weren’t going to fly, but drive. I had seen his car many times, a 1963 beat-up Volkswagen Bus he called “The Blue Bus.” It could hardly make it down the street without dying. He was constantly starting and restarting it. He should have been able to afford a better car, but he was the type who saved his money. Unlike us. He said he had a surprise waiting for us. Tomorrow, wait until tomorrow morning, then we’ll leave for the concert. The end was nigh. A new beginning beckoned.