A Woodstock Carol

(Any resemblance to anyone living or dead or somewhere in between was purely intentional. The names of some characters may have been changed to protect the as of now presumed to be innocent.)


Ebenezer Sludge was sitting in his office counting his newfound money when at the door there was a rap. He had his secretary let in the rappers. No, it wasn’t those kind of rappers, this being Woodstock and all. Rather, it was a group of beggars.

“Please, Sir,” they begged, “might you find it in your heart to clean up our water? We fear our wells will make us unwell.”

“Bah,” replied Ebenezer. “I’ve got this little document here that says, ‘Please excuse Ebenezer from cleaning the water….’”

Before he could finish, a young beggar boy limped forward. “I think you’re using that as a crutch,” said he. With that Ebenezer hurried out of the room amidst heated scoldings.

That night, while lying in bed he heard a sound, one getting louder, and it wasn’t music, there were new codes for that. It was the sound of jangling chains. Suddenly, the door flew open and standing there was Bob Dylan! “I am the Ghost of Woodstock Past” he garbled.

“But you’re not dead, Bob,” Ebenezer reflected. “Oh, right,” Dylan concurred, whereupon he walked back to the door and handed the chains to Levon Helm, who remarked, “It Ain’t You, Bob” as Dylan left. Helm approached the bed. “It is I who has returned from the dead!”

Ebenezer sat up. “No, actually you were from The Band, not the Dead, but continue. You have two minutes.”

“Mr. Sludge, I am here because you have failed as town leader and would-be Democrat to clean up the poisons that threaten these good people you supervise.”

“But my hands are tied,” Ebenezer pleaded. “Hmm, that’s a good idea,” responded Levon, as he wrapped the chains around Sludge’s wrists. “We will be going on a journey, back to the past, to the Woodstock of old. Actually, let me rephrase that, since this town sure ain’t the Woodstock of young anymore. Let’s just say we’re going back in time, is that cool?”

Before Ebenezer could reply, the going-back-in-time sound effects played and they were whooshed back to Woodstock BCVS.

Ebenezer found himself in an apartment above the Café Expresso. There, a young Bob Dylan was composing a song. He stopped long enough to acknowledge his visitors with a, “Hey, nice to see you again,” before returning to writing. “But it ain’t me, Babe. No, no…. oh, now I get that joke from before, Levon. Good one. But I’m in the right place now, right?”

“Yes, Bob,” Levon replied. “You’re in Woodstock, the home of peace, love and harmony.”

“Are you sure about that?” Ebenezer questioned.

“Yes, Ebenezer,” Levon answered. “Come, let’s look around.” With that, they were transported outside, to streets filled with the echoes of guitars and drums. Peace signs and tie dye decorated the landscape. Hippies roamed free, and people exchanged pleasantries as they passed. Levon took Ebenezer from one community store to another, each with its own distinctive smell of incense and sound of classic rock (or, as it was known at the time, “rock.”).

Then, instantly, Ebenezer found himself inside someone’s home. In it there was a family, with children, their voices innocent and joyous. One spoke up. “Mom, I’m thirsty.” “Go to the sink, dear, and get yourself a glass of water,” she directed. And so he went, pouring water directly from the tap and actually drinking it. Ebenezer looked back at the mother, who was showing no signs of concern.

Father was sitting at the desk writing checks. “How’s it coming, honey?” his wife called to him. “Fine and dandy” came the answer. “Our rent is paid and we have plenty of money left over to go shopping at the Grand Union.”

His wife walked over and hugged him. “Isn’t it wonderful to live in such an affordable town,” she beamed. “And to have so many families with children, and from different backgrounds, for ours to play with. Such wonderful and welcome newcomers. And what a great school we have.” “We certainly are blessed,” he responded.

Next, Ebenezer was flown to Town Hall. A meeting was in progress. The citizens and town leaders were sharing concerns and ideas together, with no signs of rancor, privilege, power, intransparency or time limits. Woodstock laws were followed. Board members were free to exchange ideas, free of factions and gag orders. It was truly an exercise in representative democracy.

“I don’t like this!” Ebenezer cried. “Take me away!” And so Levon did, back to Ebenezer’s bedroom in the present, whereupon he disappeared.


Ebenezer dismissed it all as a bad dream, and tried to go back to sleep.

But as he was tossing and turning, turning and tossing, another visitor popped up!

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.”

Ebenezer sat back up. “This is just silly. What are you doing here? I thought you were next door.”

The Lorax coughed back, “I am the Ghost of Woodstock Present.”

“Present?” cried Ebenezer. “You brought me a Christmas present for being such a good boy all year?”

“Hardly,” responded the Lorax.

“That’s okay,” Ebenezer sighed, “I already gave myself one.”

“And it’s not “Woodstock Presents,” it’s “Woodstock Present.” Do I look like an elf? It’s like, you know, the now, capeesh?”

Indeed Ebenezer had to, from all that drinking earlier. After returning from capeeshing, his next thought was, “Okay, so how can you be the Ghost of anything, you’re not dead, you’re fictional.”

The Lorax responded, “Well, admittedly, ’The Ghost of Woodstock’ himself was supposed to be taking over this time slot, but he thought I could provide more poetic justice. Besides, we’re all kind of fictional here, though some of us more than others. Anyway… ahem….”

“Get out of your bed, you’ve slept on this too long
It’s time to account for the things you’ve done wrong
Through the windows and walls, with a hop, skip and jump
Your legacy calls, the next stop, Shady Dump”

“Again with the rhymes,” Ebenezer moaned, as he was whisked away to a place he thought he would never again have to see, or so he prayed, Church Road.

“Some of the fragments in this soil bed
Are arsenic, mercury, pyrene and lead
They threaten the water that your neighbors drink
A leader should care and take action, ya’ think?”

Ebenezer huffed. “We did clean it up. The DEC says there’s no problem.”
With that, the Lorax got mad.

“You said you would clean it, the people here begged
You said it would all go, and then you reneged
Instead you decided to go with ‘Plan E’
Which just cleared the big stuff that people could see
And spread out the rest though it’s still within reach
Allowing the remnants to fester and leach
That two page report that you’ve used for excuses
They wrote just to cover their own sad cabooses
But they even said that the town has permission
To follow its own laws, it was your decision
It was clear all along this case had to be tried
So now you’re in court, but you’re on the wrong side!”

As was his way, Ebenezer tried to make his escape, but the Lorax lifted him deeper into Shady, into the home of the Eighmey’s.

“The Eighmey’s had pleaded, you ignored their voice
So finally they felt that they had no choice
This family’s spent more than one hundred grand
To take you to court so you’d clean up their land
A GoFundMe to get them out of this jam
Was labeled by you nothing more than a ‘scam’
You’ve continue to dismiss this neighborhood’s fear
So answer this question, would you, Sir, live here?”

Ebenezer wouldn’t answer, so the Lorax turned on the faucet.

“How would you feel if they got a court order
Requiring you to drink from the same water?”

The Lorax approached him, holding a freshly filled glass. Ebenezer backed away. “No, take it away! Take me away from here!”

And with that, Ebenezer was, once again, back in his bed.


Ebenezer lay shaken and thirsty, paranoid now about drinking even his own water. Dibenzo(a)anthracenes and acenaphthylenes and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrenes danced like toxic sugar plums in his head. He had almost drifted back to sleep when a shadowy, hooded figure crept in.

“I am the Ghost of Woodstock Future,” he hissed.

Ebenezer shot up. “Hey, I’d be interested in purchasing some futures,” he replied eagerly, his self-gifted bonus still beside him.

“Here we go again,” moaned the spectre. “It’s not Woodstock Futures,” it’s “Woodstock Future! Geez! Not everything is a material matter.”

“Well you’re sure not,” cracked Ebenezer. “I can see right through you.”

“And I you, in a figurative sense, of course,” the Ghost retorted. “Now, can we get on with it?”

“Okay,” Ebenezer relented. ”What now?”

“No,” the Ghost corrected. “Not now, then.”


“The futu….” Oh, just follow me,” the spectre hissed, as he beckoned with his bony finger.

The next thing Ebenezer knew, they were standing on the Village Green, beside a misshapen Christmas tree and a prematurely lit menorah. “Don’t blame me,” Ebenezer commented.

“We should put that on a t-shirt for you,” the Ghost countered. ”But on a more serious note, you are here standing at the intersection of two possible paths….”

“I can see that,” Ebenezer interrupted, “one heading up Rock City Road toward the cemetery and one leading down Mill Hill toward the golf course. Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to have a really professional golf course in Woodstock?”

“Uh, no… no it wouldn’t. And anyway, you’re being too literal. I was referring to two spiritual paths. We’ll get to the cemetery bit later. So, Ebenezer, which path do you wish to travel first, the one we’re on or the one that could be?”

“Well, the traffic is usually lighter going toward the cemetery….”

“Forget the traffic! Forget the cemetery! This is a metaphor. Just choose one!

”Okay, okay. Let’s go for the second one.”

Instantly, the scene changed to a renewed Woodstock. Back were the artists and youngsters and hippies, oh my! Locally owned small businesses, co-ops for food and energy, modest single family dwellings and the gifts of the natural environment thrived. Music and the mixed scents of clean air, incense and weed filled the air. Tourists flocked, diversity grew, and newcomers were welcomed. The doors of Woodstock Elementary remained open, there were parks and playgrounds, and families stayed, passing on the treasures of Woodstock to their children and their children’s children.

And Shady? The water was clean and the neighborhood was at peace. And it was all due to the legacy of Ebenezer Sludge, whose statue sat on the Village Green. Having seen the error of his ways, his honesty and ethics, dedication to transparency and democracy, and championing of the environment and affordability saved the Town.

“I always knew I’d be a hero,” Ebenezer laughed as he polished the statue.

“Hold on there, buddy boy,” the spectre admonished. “You haven’t yet seen the other path.”

With that, this glorious scene melted away. In its place, Ebenezer found himself standing at the border between New Woodstock and Old Woodstock, two towns divided by wealth and politics.

Looking down over New Woodstock, Ebenezer saw a shiny new Starbucks where Candlestock used to be… and one on the other side of the street in the old location of the laundry. The heart which had stood in front of Mirabai was still there, fronting for its new tenant, the “Love Travel Agency.”

Further down, what had been the Sunflower plaza now housed a huge L.A. Fitness club and a Jared jewelers. A luxury apartment building, “The New Woodstock Arms,” spanned much of the street space between “Starbucks 1” and CVS, and Airbnb’s abounded. And behind CVS, on the field where Mower’s flea market had graced the area for just short of fifty years, a gated condo community was now situated, after having had to clear nearly a half acre of trees, of course.

As the pair ventured further, past Whole Foods and Monsanto, they came to the Zena Woods development, with its now famous “Woodstock National Golf Course,” the “Open Space Helipad,” and the newest addition, the members-only, Olympic size “Drudge Pool and Spa.” Behind it, condo developments broke up the mountain view.

“Well,” remarked Ebenezer, “this doesn’t seem so bad. Actually….”

The Ghost cut him off. “Wait, you haven’t seen Old Woodstock.” Swiftly, they were back at the Village Green, now green in name only. “Come with me to the other side.” And so they backtracked up Tinker Street.

Tattered tie-dye and rainbow flags still hung over the town. Two bohemian stores were still there, albeit empty and in decrepit shape, alongside a McDonald’s and a 7-Eleven respectively. Street people and what few families remained were entering and exiting the dollar store and food pantry. A multiplex housing unit stood on the field where children once sledded during winters such as these, and a row of abandoned “affordable” homes stretched past the Post Office.

The old Tinker Street Cinema was now a check cashing storefront, and the Woodstock Library had never opened due to the excessive costs of its decontamination. The drum circle had moved to Bearsville, in the center of the complex that included the Bearsville bar and grill and the Taco Bell. And Shady? It was a ghost town, its streets strewn with plastic water bottles and discarded legal papers blowing in the wind.

“Who’s to blame for this?” Ebenezer asked. The spectre shook his cowled head and then spoke. “It’s time to visit the graveyard, Ebenezer.” “No! No!” Ebenezer pleaded, but before he could attempt to make a deal, there they were, standing before a black cloth-covered headstone.

“Who’s to blame, you ask?” the Ghost cackled. “Look and you shall see!” He lifted his hood, and a trembling Ebenezer stood face to face… with himself!
Now the Ghost pointed his skeletal finger at the gravestone. “Come closer, Ebenezer, and look at what lies beneath the cover!”

“Why must I?” Ebenezer begged. The Ghost sighed. “It’s another metaphor, you know, for the lies and cover ups you have been guilty of. Just go do it already. It’s getting late and I’m wanted in Washington.”

Fearfully, Ebenezer approached the gravestone, knelt down, and pulled up the cover, expecting to see his name. Instead, the tombstone read, “Woodstock. 1903-?” All at once, the Ghost was gone, and Ebenezer was once again back in bed, pulling up the cover.

Was it all a dream? Would Ebenezer change? Would Woodstock, as we do, did or could know it, survive? Would the Lorax ever find happiness or be left to pine? Only time will tell….