July 1969 saw the landing of the first humans on the moon. It was a brief time of celebration in a decade of conflict. And chief among those conflicts was the war in Vietnam.
That is the world the characters inhabit in my first standalone novel, Born Under a Bad Sign, a world I knew only too well.
Like one of the book’s principal characters, the guitarist Hayden Quinn, I was of draft age and the Selective Service was hunting for conscripts. Jim, my roommate in college, pulled #3 in the draft’s lottery. I drew #4. We’d heard a rumor that every number south of 130 would wind up in Vietnam. To a pair of kids who’d only handled a rifle in target practice, the news was not encouraging.
Meanwhile, protests spread across the nation. At our university, students marched on a laboratory used as a Naval testing facility. Someone firebombed the ROTC building. Demonstrations became violent. On May 4, 1970 at Kent State University, the Ohio Army National Guard fired on students, killing four and wounding nine.
Jim was called to his physical. If I remember correctly, he rode a bus to a nearby town and took his physical in a gym. While he finished his last term that spring, I headed to Manhattan for an internship at Flying magazine. I felt my life was on hold. Everyone said President Richard Nixon would end the draft. With graduation approaching, the order couldn’t come soon enough.
Finally it did. I was never called. But until those orders came through, I kept a weather eye on the news.
Each night, Americans watched footage of soldiers and civilians, the wounded and the dead, in an endless march across television screens and into our souls. Through protests and coffins, the war had invaded the home front. Even for those immune to the draft, there was nowhere to hide.
Finding Woodstock is a personal reflection on a decade that changed many of our lives—the Sixties. A companion to the novel Born Under a Bad Sign, the collection of short essays provides the backstory to a generation that is still trying, in the words of Joni Mitchell, to get back to the garden.
With original photography by the author.