In her new book on aging, women’s health expert Dr. Christiane Northrup advises that if you want to stay young, don’t ask for senior discounts. These reminders that you’re old enough for AARP will soon have you thinking of yourself as aged and infirm.
In the same vein, here’s another piece of advice for keeping your mind-set youthful: Don’t go to museums showcasing events that you’re old enough to have witnessed firsthand. There is nothing like seeing a gaggle of ninth graders gawking at “historical” items that might have come out of your junk drawer to make you feel like a geezer.
That’s my takeaway after visiting The Museum at Bethel Woods at the site of the legendary Woodstock music festival—three days of peace, love and the mightiest collection of bands ever assembled. Just across the border in Sullivan County, NY, Bethel Woods is a place I’ve long meant to see. So it was that my friend Joyce and I decided to meet there recently for lunch.
Neither of us made it to Woodstock. Joyce was out of the country in 1969 and I was working that weekend. In retrospect, it’s probably just as well. Although the music was amazing, as seen in the movie and subsequent album, I don’t think I would have liked the crowds, the drugs or the mud. Even in my best Emporium India dresses, I never passed as a hippie. I was more in the category of uptight white chick.
As Joyce predicted, the museum café had fare named after musical groups (Country Joe and the Tuna Fish wrap). But while the food was good and the setting lovely—manicured fields in every direction—we found the exhibits underwhelming. Much of the installation consisted of multimedia displays and videos about the period and the music. But if you lived through the Vietnam War, and grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, these were anticlimactic.
There were few actual artifacts other than ticket stubs and iconic 1960s albums, many of which I had bought when new and still own. The orange caftan made “in the style” of the one Richie Havens wore to open the festival looked like someone had run it up on their sewing machine yesterday.
The flower-power VW Beetle and psychedelic bus were awfully clean. Indeed, a museum staffer came in to sponge the seats and walls of the latter while we were inside, something I’m betting never happened in 1969.
Bethel Woods is mainly a venue for music. Lots of ‘60s rockers appear, including—this summer—Neil Young and Jackson Browne, along with contemporary artists. A museum visit might best be enjoyed as an adjunct to your concert experience, not as a special trip.
A recent study suggested that most people stop listening to new music at around the age of 33. Maybe a season ticket to Bethel Woods, with its roster of old and new performers, could jar us out of that trap. Just don’t ask for a senior discount.