…scanned from my archive. 1969 - Fifty years ago I went to Woodstock

…scanned from my archive. 1969 - Fifty years ago I went to Woodstock

I arrived at the Woodstock Festival three days before it was scheduled to start. My friend Clifford and I actually had tickets for the festival, we were 14 and 15 years old respectively and ready for anything. Cliff’s mom was going to be driving to her country home near Bethel and she offered to drive us up, but the deal was we had to go up a few days early if we wanted the ride.

When we arrived, we found the few people already there doing the work of building and putting together the festival grounds. We somehow migrated to the area the Hog Farm had set up, they had a free kitchen that fed us and in return we helped build some concession stands and other structures around the area. They also gave us free hash breaks, which made the work a bit more pleasant.

Once the music started there were two options: cram yourself into the throngs of people sitting on the hill around the stage, or walk around and take in the scenery. I spent a lot of my time doing the latter. People would offer up a variety of drugs as I walked around, both the smoking kind and the pill kind. Sometimes they would just hand you a bottle, jug or goatskin canteen (a bota) filled presumably with wine, but often with some mescaline or other hallucinogen diluted in. Taking a sip was always an adventure, which I sometimes indulged but often didn’t. I suppose I would size up the offerer before making my decision.

The music was always there, whether you were looking directly at the stage or off somewhere in the rambles or over a hill or in one of the few unfortunate Porta-Pottys. I had seen many of the bands perform before, I was a regular at the Filmore East, usually as the result of my asking for free tickets from the parade of concert attendees filing into the theatre. But The Who, The Band, The Dead, were always a must see if I could. I had seen Hendrix a number of times, always magical, but I was long asleep by the time he played at sunrise.

I remember the one band everyone was talking about and anxiously awaiting was Crosby, Stills and Nash, it was to my knowledge one of, if not the first time they were playing together in front of a large crowd, and we were all looking forward to it. They were great, and it was to be the only time I would ever hear them perform.

The last night I ran into a girl I had met earlier in the summer on a bike trip to Nova Scotia. We gathered around some others who had found a dry spot on top of about 1000 Screw Magazines someone had given out. We all sat around a campfire on our Screw Magazine blankets talking about the last few days. Someone had also given out inflatable orange pup tents, which we blew up and then squeezed into for the night.

To this day I have no idea how I got back home to New York City. I remember walking a bit and then perhaps a bus, really not sure. Really doesn’t matter.

My memories of the whole event was that of a strange tableau of people and freaks, as we called ourselves then, having fun, being outrageous and loving and laughing with each other, all to the most amazing soundtrack every presented. I wish I remembered more of it, but as they say, if you say you remember Woodstock, you probably weren’t there.

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…scanned from my archive. My mom’s 97th birthday

…scanned from my archive. My mom’s 97th birthday

…scanned from my archive. My mom’s 97th birthday

Yikes! Today my mom turned 97 today. In honor of this event I pulled out a few of my favorites and a few I’ve not shared before.

I literally have hundreds of photos of my mother growing up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. As I’ve mentioned many times, my grandfather had a photo studio right on the boardwalk near Brighton 4th Street. In our family, growing up in front of the camera was a big part of our lives. My mother, her brother Jerry, myself and my cousins Michael and Leslee all spent part of our formative years posing in the studio for my grandfather.

The five older photos I chose were all taken in the studio or on the boardwalk railing just next to it. My mom still has the same haircut she did as the child in the photos, as you can see from the photo I took last week of her and Luke. She did try the big hair thing for her prom. The dress is from Orbach’s I’m told.

Happy Birthday Mom, your spirit is an inspiration. More photos here…

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…scanned from my archive. Boris Lenoff, Fire Island 1958

…scanned from my archive. Boris Lenoff, Fire Island 1958

…scanned from my archive. Boris Lenoff, Fire Island 1958. While growing up, there were always certain photos that seemed to be present, either in frames on the wall, taped to cabinets, stuck to the fridge or in one of the several photo albums lying around. My father and my mother’s father Boris, were usually the photographers of most of the family photos, so they aren’t present in as many of the family photos as other family members. Boris was a professional photographer, so like myself, he was usually much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

So this particular image was always very important to me because it was one of only a handful of photos that had both my grandfather and me in it. It was also taken at one of my favorite places in the world – Fire Island. This was shot on the side of our house in Fire Island Pines with the big dune that protected us from the winds and our neighbor’s eyes looming behind us.

If you know Fire Island at all, you know it is all sand and dunes, so if you don’t like sand you are in a lot of trouble. I loved sand and I loved standing next to my dad or granddad and watching them saw, hammer in nails or do just about anything with wood. So I was a really happy kid in this photo, and by the looks of Boris, he was having a good time too.

Emotional connections with photos are made through repeated viewings, and that through that process we start to develop the visual narrative of our life story. The photos on our walls, our fridge and our family albums will always be the way I remember those parts of my life, and I was so lucky to have had so many great photos to tell that story. This one will always be one of my favorites. Larger photo here

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…scanned from my archive. Mom, circa 1928

…scanned from my archive. Mom, circa 1928

…scanned from my archive. Mom, circa 1928. Mom just celebrated her 96th birthday last week. She’s here in LA, a long way from her Brighton Beach, Brooklyn roots, but she is close to her family, especially her grandson, and that is more important to her than geography. These are a couple of photos taken in her father’s photo studio which was located on the first floor of the apartment building she grew up in. The entrance to the building was on Brighton 4th street, but my grandfather’s studio was entered to directly from the Coney Island Boardwalk, just a hop, skip and a jump from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The studio awning prominently displayed its name - Boris Lenoff’s Photo Portrait Studio, and all family members were at one point or another required to pose for their picture.

My mom had her eye scratched when she was very young and was virtually blind in that eye all her life as a result. Now she has macular degeneration and is losing sight in her other eye. She can’t read anymore, so she listens to mystery novel after mystery novel sent to her by the Braille Institute,  a truly amazing organization. Her spirits are high and her mind is sharp and I can only hope I am in half the shape she is if I am ever lucky enough to be a nonagenarian. More photos here…

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