Forget about capital mayhem; it’s autumn in New York

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. – Life without cable news can be very therapeutic.  Of course, we love the three Chris’s, Rachel and Lawrence, but a few nights without them, even in the worst of times, is not the end of the world. It is not, literally, climate change. But it does cool us down if not also the planet.

Viewed – or not viewed – from this capital of 1960s counterculture, away from the 21st century capital of mayhem on the Potomac, the world can look pleasingly — if only briefly — different.

Here aging boomers, who arrived in the 1960’s and 1970s as bead-bedecked, long-haired hippies, remain a benign presence, even as 2018 hipsters arrive from Brooklyn with young families and enough cash to own and operate local shops they buy from the now geezer generation.

The town of Woodstock, population 5,823, at 1,444 feet above sea level nestled in the Catskills, is 108 miles north of “the city” (always New York City, though Albany is less than half as far).

Since 1902, when the Byrdcliffe Art Colony was founded here, the town has welcomed creative types, including artists, writers and musicians. Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Joan Baez and The Band were drawn here by impresario Albert Grossman and his long gone Bearsville Sound recording studio, which brought my sister and her then husband, a sound engineer, here in the early 1970s.

For a while, my sister, Deborah Meyer DeWan, still a whirling dervish of activity after her recent “retirement” as executive director of the Rondout Valley Growers Association, managed Sunflower, then a small health food store and new a full-grown supermarket undergoing expansion and soon to add a sit-down café.

The village was roiled a few years ago by the appearance of a CVS, which occupies a reasonably tasteful brick-fronted former Grand Union on the main street. But nobody complains about it now, though some still refuse to step foot inside. (A current controversy revolves around a movement to abolish the town library district and board; it’s complicated.)

Elsewhere on Main Street are head shops, yoga studios, galleries, designer clothes stores and other visitor friendly businesses that draw so many New Yorkers here on weekends that Woodstock is sometimes referred to as “the sixth borough.” They come for the day or for a few overnight stays at the B & B’s and the hundreds of Airbnbs in and around the town. Their dollars help locals make ends meet but also elicit complaints about uncollected trash that attracts scavenger bears.

Bucking the trend, we stay at a 1930-era motor court, walking distance to the village center. When our boys were young, they enjoyed playing by the inn’s millstream, and our stays here are always nostalgic. Where did the time go?  Maybe here it moves more slowly.

Apart from our annual family visits, which this year included hikes in the Catskill Forest Preserve, with a sweeping escarpment view of the Hudson Valley, I was here to give a book talk at The Golden Notebook, which takes its name from Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel and is marking 40 years by the Village Green.

We try to patronize the local establishments, not just those catering to weekenders or tourists. Among these is Catskill Mountain Pizza.  There we happened into a conversation with a newly-retired couple from Cocoa Beach, Florida who had previously patronized a more expensive restaurant across the street but were happy to downscale this night.

They were staying at an Airbnb with their daughter and son-in-law, who now live in Brooklyn.  We pretty much closed down the place. We did not discuss politics, and it was lovely.

Where we live, inside the Beltway, it may well be Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  But up in this Catskill mountain oasis of Blue, if you cut the cable, it is possible to exhale. Here the colors are not stark Red and Blue but currently 50 shades of orange, yellow, (lower case) red and brown.  It’s Autumn in New York.

Update: I wrote this upon our return from the Catskills about week ago. Sadly, the Woodstock mellow has faded. The world once again intrudes, and events remind us that we cannot — indeed, we should not completely disengage.   Instead, we must engage. Remember to vote on November 6.   Turn on, tune in, drop out was a cute slogan, but it didn’t work in the 1960s. It is certainly no solution to what ails us today.


  1. John Greenya on October 16, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Very nice article. Makes one want to go there, which should be the result of reading any travel-related piece, For the record: I had a friend who was at Woodstock in its heyday. but he did not appear on stage; he dug trenches for the latrines. As has been written, They also ser

    • Gene Meyer on October 16, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Thanks, John.

  2. Erica Brody on October 20, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Loved reading this!

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