They’re Calling it ‘S.P. Woodstock’ – and I Was There: Prologue and Part One

A/N: So, first of all, yes, this is about a month late. Well, I’ve been busy, because soon the videos of the Getting Clear conference in Toronto will be up on Vimeo, on pay-per-view. (I’ll insert a link once it’s available.)

Why not free, some may ask? Well, to be quite honest, because the good folks who put on this great event did so at great expense – it ain’t cheap to create magic, people. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make back some of what we spent to make this conference happen, and people will be generous with their support.  

If you want to help, here is where to go.

A Comic Prologue:

Getting There Isn’t Even Half The Fun

In which Scientology is barely mentioned but the reader will get many cheap laughs at the author’s expense

I must say that, for me, the week didn’t start out in a very promising way.

First, I had decided to take a bus to Montreal and then fly to Toronto – believe it or not, that saved my pecuniarily imperiled bosses at least four hundred dollars. I used the services of a company I won’t name, but they have a dog-themed logo.

There. Got that? Good, ‘coz I’m gonna call ’em Basset Hound Bus Lines.

Have you ever watched a Basset hound run? No?

I was crazy, I was optimistic, I thought that perhaps – just perhaps – having three hours between my bus’ arrival time in Montreal and the departure of my plane from Montreal to Toronto would be ample time.

Ha. What a naïve child I was.

Well, first, I had to work a half-shift at the department store, and so I got up at four am, rushed around the store putting up signs for the weekend sale, and then left just before lunchtime.

By early afternoon, I arrived at the Basset Hound Bus Terminal at Burlington International Airport, with half my possessions stuffed into one tiny black fanny pack, one less tiny black messenger bag, and one not-at-all-tiny black duffel. The type with no wheels, which I dragged all the way to the Basset Hound desk to be told that if I’d already bought a ticket, then I should just go wait; the bus would be there soon.

Soon.

So I waited, with an ever-growing crowd of ever-more impatient people, who were also, for various reasons, expecting to get to Montreal on time. Foolish mortals all.

Basset Hound Lines does not, apparently, believe in telling any passengers who might be hanging around the terminal that the bus might be a little late, like, maybe, oh, more than an hour off-schedule. The man at the desk didn’t think there was anything he needed to tell us. The bus would be there, soon.

So everything from large motor home to food service tractor-trailer – anything with pressure brakes, basically – was greeted with a rapidly increasing crowd rising anxiously to its feet, only to sit down together with a collective groan. It was like a bad baseball game. With no game. And no baseball.

Basset Hound Bus Lines’ silver chariot arrived an hour and a freaking quarter late.

So that I would now have, *if* the bus only took the scheduled time to get to Montreal, less than the two recommended hours to check in to my flight. In fact, I would now have precisely an hour and a half to be at the terminal.

What is that, O Demons of Fate? The customs agents want everyone to get off the bus? Oh, and they want us to get our luggage out of the bus, and then stand in a small lobby for forty-five minutes? Apparently, yes.

A burly man whose very face broadcast his lack of humor questioned each one of us individually as our bags faced the not-so-gentle ministrations of his professional associates.

Oh, me, sir? I’m going to an academic conference. On what? Er, um, mind control. Uh, cults and such. Like Scientology. We’re against it.

Probably not a good choice of words on my part. Next time, I’ll just say “sociology.”

However, the man had obviously seen scarier things than me in his morning cornflakes. He let me go with an unimpressed wave into the next small room to wait with those already questioned. This room had bathrooms and a vending machine. Luxury.

So as we re-boarded the bus, I realized with a chill that I would now have a little under an hour to catch my flight. Fine, I thought: I can navigate Duval or Pierre Trudeau (or whatever the heck it’s calling itself now) in an hour.

Wait, what’s that, Ms. Bus Driver? The Basset Hound Terminal isn’t at Duv- I mean, Pierre Trudal anymore? it’s where? downtown? Oh, near freakin’ St. Catherine Street.

Nifty.

Okay, I’ll own this one; I misread the Basset Hound website; I just remember the bus lines going to Duvierre Truval Airport back in the stone age when I was in college, which is the last time I really went to Montreal. And honestly, I might even be mis-remembering that the bus lines were ever *at* Druveau, but that’s not the point. The point is that I now had to pay out an extra fifteen bucks for the pleasure of lugging my duffel, messenger bag, fanny-pack and fanny through the Basset Lines Bus station, to get to where I could take the bus to the Pierval Druteau Airport.

The bus to the airport.

That should be, forgive me if I’m assuming too much, a bus that goes back and forth from the airport, right?

What’s that?

Comment? Oh, this is a CITY bus that just stops at the airport?

So we’re not on an express?

No, that’s all right, really. I’ve always wanted to see Chinatown at rush hour, especially through the purse straps of some annoyed commuter who’s having to stand because of tous les touristes maudites. Especially the damn tourists who look like they’re closer to tears every stop the bus makes.

Not that I was anywhere close to tears or even remotely upset; I’m just saying. Moving right along …

So, fun trivia question: how many people can you fit onto a smallish city bus, anyway? Especially when that bus has already been packed with a bunch of weary travelers, luggage-laden, on their way to Duvreau Piedral Airport?

Well, if you’re Le Servis Metro du Basset, the answer is: a lot.

Apparently, you can fit a lot more than people on a busy crosstown bus than you would think possible.

Way more.

Trust me. We were packed in like proverbial sardines. But we did get there.

Eventually.

So after they turned the little key on the outside of the bus and drained us properly, I bade fond adieu to l’Autobus de Hound Basset, arriving at Driere Truveau Airport some twenty minutes before my flight was due to leave the tarmac.

That’s at the front door of Gruyere DuValley, mind you. It’s only a few rushed steps away from where one is supposed to check in one’s baggage at those newfangled kiosk things.

Now, I refuse to use those odious self-checkouts at the supermarket. So sue me; I just prefer human beings.

But there was no other choice: I very carefully placed my boarding pass underneath the scanner, as if at any moment a steel bolt might plunge down through my hand if I didn’t place the paper at the right angle.

Instead, the machine bleeped at me.

I looked at the screen.

It said ‘try again.’

I tried again.

Bleep. ‘try again.’

I tried again. And again.

Well, it was less expensive than a slot machine and about as absorbing, but I really wasn’t in the mood for games. Absolutely not wiping the tears from my eyes (because there weren’t any, okay?) I approached the desk for the appropriate airline.

The woman behind the desk smiled at me pleasantly as she hand-scanned my boarding pass.

“Well, the reason it wouldn’t scan is that it’s already too late to check your baggage,” she told me brightly. “The flight is leaving in just a few minutes. But for a late baggage fee of 75 dollars, I can get you on the next flight, arriving tomorrow afternoon.”

I’m not sure exactly what I would have done at this point (I probably would have begged; there might even have been whining involved), but the Fates hadn’t stopped playing with me yet. Having dashed my hopes at what looked to be the last moment, they cruelly re-kindled my faith. The woman smiled kindly at me, and picked up her phone. “I’ll see what I can do.

“Oh, you’re in luck,” she continued. “It looks like your plane was delayed, so we can hold it for you and another passenger. They’ll wait for another ten minutes.”

Indeed, there was another passenger, waiting. I hadn’t noticed him before. We didn’t have time to say hello, however, as another employee of the airline was running toward us. “Follow me,” she said, “and we’ll get you to the gate.” We’d run maybe a couple hundred yards when our guide’s phone beeped. “You left your boarding pass at the baggage check,” she told me.

I left him and our guide to wait there and dashed to retrieve the all-important piece of crumpled paper, returning only slightly out of breath and ready to join them in another mad dash to baggage claim, and thence to security.

This is where our guide left us. I stepped up to the nearest row of x-ray machine, belt, technician and gate, put all my accoutrements in the various plastic bins provided, and then walked through the metal detector.

Bleep.

What can I say? Machines like bleeping at me.

What, do I have metal on me? oh, yes, silly me; my barrette’s metal.

It joined my wallet, fanny-pack, and coins in the white plastic bin. I walked through again.

Bleep. Oh, yes. My belt buckle.

I walked through a third time, my pants now perilously loose.

Bleep. Oh, for crying out – what? step aside? Oh, sure…

At least the kid who frisked me was friendly about it. Yep, I got frisked. She was cute and blonde and even I knew better than to ask her if she wanted to buy me dinner first. I still don’t know what made the machine beep at me, but she let me gather my various belongings from the wide range of plastic bins and sent me on my not-so-merry -way.

I knew my flight was leaving at gate sixteen, so I looked to see what gate was nearest.

Gate fifty-two?

Oh, gates one through twenty are on the other concourse? On the far side of the airport?

I don’t think I’ve ever run faster. Certainly it felt like I’d finished a major race when I arrived, relieved to see that there were still people at the gate; the plane had not yet departed.

However, the people waiting at the gate were looking a little concerned; apparently a huffing and puffing whirlwind of drama had just burst in on them. I delicately flung myself into a seat and bestowed a cheery smile on the poor people who had the misfortune to be nearest me. “I thought I was going to miss the plane,” I explained, demonstrating my skill at stating the obvious.

Now, of course, I had had to empty my water bottle before going through security, so I had done the whole jog sans hydration. Not good. So, I grudgingly paid two dollars fifty (!) at the ubiquitous vending machine for another quart of water and chugged it down, a fair deal of it not quite hitting my mouth.

Once you’ve made a public fool of yourself, you don’t need to worry about causing a scene anymore. Everyone is now studiously ignoring you.

It’s very fortunate, indeed, that everyone was definitely looking in the other direction, because at that moment the flight crew at the counter announced that everyone would need to get out their passports or other photo ID, and so no one saw me go into shock as I reached into my fanny-pack and failed to retrieve my passport. Believe me, there are only so many times you can search through an extremely small fanny-pack and not find a United States Passport. My messenger bag, though larger, did not yield any positive results, but my frantic searching had attracted the attention of the unfortunate soul whose job it was to deal with poor victims of the Fates like me.

I will admit that by this point, I had pretty much lost any semblance of cool, calm, or collected. I wasn’t quite to the point of tearing my hair, beating my breast and/or gnashing my teeth, but there was, I’m sure, a certain air of discontent about me, and the woman approached me much as one would approach a wounded porcupine.

She knew things were about to get prickly. “Are you all right?” she asked cautiously.

I was not at my most erudite, but somehow I managed to convey the information that, with one thing and another, I seemed to have mislaid my passport.

“Well, if you want to go back and look for it, we can get you on a flight tomorrow –”

I let her know that I was not open to considering that option at this time. Rather more forcefully than usual, I’m afraid. She only flinched slightly, recovering herself almost immediately.

“Do you perhaps have some other form of photo ID?”

Well, I did, in fact, have my Vermont drivers’ license in my wallet, but –

Apparently that’s a valid form of ID in Canada. Who’d’a thunk? If I hadn’t been clutching handfuls of carry-on luggage in my grasping hands, I would have facepalmed. The nice airline lady offered to call security to see if they could find my passport, while some other kind soul checked my ID and ushered me into the tubey thing which leads to the plane.

And that, after a few faith-in-humanity-restoring murmured reassurances from fellow passengers (“You lost your passport? Poor thing; no wonder you were upset. I’d have really freaked out.”), was that.

I boarded the plane and ended up sharing a row of seats with a young mother and her child, a happy two-year old babbling away to himself and us in a mixture of French and English, excited because he was taking his first plane ride. Even the flight attendant informing me that, no, security had not found my passport, could dampen the vicarious enthusiasm as I chatted with my seatmates about whether or not we were flying yet (the boy hadn’t yet grasped that he would be able to tell himself when we’d left the ground – the look of astonishment on his face when we finally did take off was simply precious). My French is not all that good, but I am able to say pretty much anything you could say to an elated two-year old on a forty-five minute plane ride.

Oui. Nous sommes haut dans le ciel. Nous volons par avion. Oui. Oui, nous sommes dans un nuage.

 

Oui.

 

There’s something wonderfully therapeutic about the joy of a child. I allowed myself to relax; I had survived and was still in one piece. The ordeal was over. I was able to claim my luggage and find the correct shuttle to the Sheraton hotel without any trouble, even managing to find the energy to go down to the hotel bar and see if I could rustle up a soothing cup of coffee. Yes, coffee.

No coffee? Just tea? Ah, well.

What’s the damage? Three seventy-five?

Ah, well.

I smiled to myself and enjoyed every last overpriced drop.

Part One: Nailing Jell-O to a Tree, Herding Cats, and Christians Who Don’t Believe in Hell – a course in accepting the miraculous

In which the author meets her heroes and learns that there’s no place like the Airport Sheraton Bar 

It was Sunday, the day before the conference would officially begin. I woke up early, feeling refreshed and full of anticipation for the coming day. Nightmare journey, lost passport and all that could be dealt with, I was confident; this was the week I’d been waiting for.

The Liverpudlian Lounge Lizard, shown here far from its native habitat.

The Liverpudlian Lounge Lizard, shown here far from its native habitat; a rare sighting indeed.

You’ll forgive a link-filled back-story explanation, of course. Back in February, it was cold, it was wet, it was dark, and I’d just gotten a facebook message from a hero in the anti-cult world. I’d admired him from afar after hearing the discussions he’d had on various skeptic podcasts critical of Scientology (his most excellent YouTube channel can be found here). It wasn’t just the chiseled jaw, the untamed mop of golden-blond hair, or the ocean-blue eyes that caught my attention, and it wasn’t even that Liverpudlian accent (proven clinically to render the female American brain into a mass of jelly), no: it was the valor of the man, and his determination to do the right thing, and to get others out of the cult. And he was messaging lil’ ol’ me! It was amazing. He actually invited me to come and perform at his “Enough is Enough” conference in Dublin, the footage of which can be found here. I wasn’t able to attend, but I was able to contribute: I was referred to various source materials online containing the names of people whose lives have been (arguably) made shorter because of the presence of Scientology in their lives, and, using them, I created a piece of digital art that was one of the technically simplest, and yet the emotionally hardest piece I’ve ever created. And, of course, as usually happens when I do a very heavy piece of artwork, the emotional energy spills over into one of my other media, and this time, the artwork created a matching song, which Griff was kind enough to play at the closing of his event.

So, of course I was listening to the livestream along with the rest of the gang, when I heard Griff’s interview with author Jon Atack about a new foundation which would be dedicated to educating the public about the mechanics of undue influence and mind control. Right away, I knew I wanted in; this is what I had been dreaming of doing for years now, ever since I’d escaped my own cult. So, some time later, when Griff confided in me that said author was looking for a personal assistant, I asked for the man’s e-mail and promptly sent my resume. Never mind that he lived on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Forget that his only previous experience with the name “Spike Robinson” would have been attached to a flippant question asked him during the Dublin event (regarding a tentative book deal with Xenu). I knew what had to be done.

Strangely enough, it’s at times like this that the Universe says “yes.”

So there I stood in the restaurant of the Toronto Airport Sheraton, some months later, looking to see if I could spot any familiar faces; although I had never met anyone “live” before, I knew that at least a half dozen people who I recognized from the graces of YouTube and Skype were possibly in the hotel, who might even now be eating breakfast. I was not surprised, then, to spot one of the most familiar faces; by now, I’d become well e-acquainted with Mr. Jon Atack and his work, and so of course I told the waitress I’d spotted my friends, and headed on over.

Jon greeted me cheerily, and introduced me to the others at the table: the wonderful, saintly Betsy from the Bunker, and Christian Szurko, the well-known therapist who coordinates DialogCentre UK, an organization which offers assistance to the members and ex-members of abusive groups.

They asked me if I’d had a good trip, so of course I had to regale them with the saga of my horrible ordeal, or at least the edited highlights. Betsy was especially kind; she’s the type of person designed to put people at their ease – friendly, warm and welcoming.

Soul of compassion by Divinity, tie by Jerry Garcia.

Soul of compassion by Divinity, tie by Jerry Garcia.

Soon I fell into conversation with Christian about the demand for more therapists educated about the needs of the survivors of abusive groups. He’s well aware of this demand for good reason: he specializes in working with people who have been broken by totalitarian belief systems, some of them soul-crippling. It’s hard to believe, but this laughing man with the boyish grin has looked deep into the abyss of some of the worst tortures a human can bear – and then reached in and lifted people out of there, regularly. The fact that he can still laugh shows you exactly how he’s managed to keep himself not only surviving, but thriving – and, most importantly, he’s taught many others to do the same. What’s more, he’s helped them to do so while still keeping alive that spark of faith which drew them to seek in the first place. He’s truly a special and saintly human being.

Humor, that balm of the healing process, flowed freely at the table that morning, and the practitioners were skillful indeed: between Christian and Jon, these longtime friends can claim more than a few hundred people whose lives they have helped de-tangle from cultic influence. With the combination of our admittedly grim subject matter and these two compassionate philosophers lobbing off-beat puns and obscure comic references across the table at each other, the atmosphere was much like the writers’ room for an extremely intelligent, pitch-black comedy. Later on in the week, I would learn to take such pyrotechnic exchanges of highbrow banter in stride, even managing to throw in a (very) few bon mots of my own, but that morning, I simply listened, agape, astonished, and, frankly, more than a little out of my league.

Then, the author of the definitive history of Scientology regarded me owlishly from across the table. “You’ve got egg on your face,” he told me not unkindly, gesturing.

The earth failed to open up and swallow me in my mortification, so instead followed that very human ballet when one must follow the mimed actions of one’s companions to understand which bit of one’s face needs the napkin’s attentions. Having completed the ritual and removed the offending bit of ovum, I stammered an embarrassed apology.

This smirk might mean he's going to spring for coffee. Or it might mean a few hours' extra time on the computer.

This smirk might mean he’s going to spring for coffee. Or it might mean a few hours’ extra time on the computer.

“Not at all,” Jon answered with a chuckle. After all, he pointed out wryly, how often does one get to use those exact words literally? Clichés like that are a part of the fun of language.

Well, that was very true: it was an observation I might have made myself, had I not been the one with the literal egg on my face. I allowed myself to relax a bit. Humor is also a great equalizer. Working for someone with a highly-developed sense of humor is a great blessing indeed.

Even if he does insist on spelling it wrong.

And, speaking of the Man Behind the Conference, what can one honestly say about someone who, if he isn’t actually the one signing the paycheck, is at the very least the one who requests it from the person with the checkbook?

What can one say, indeed?

Well, the man’s wit is drier than the cranberry juice he drinks, that much is clear to anyone who speaks with him for any length of time. Just as I am, he is fascinated by the interplay of words and language; we’re both professional musicians and writers who know very well how conversation can become jazz. An avid gardener, talented poet, author of some of the most amazing fiction I’ve ever read (seriously. His stuff’s brilliant), affectionate father and proud grandfather, he finds himself bristling when people refer to him merely as an “ex-Scientologist,” and rightly so. As with most of the people I would meet in the coming week, the so-called Church of Scientology is not what moves him now; the cult that L. Ron Hubbard built is just a symptom of a larger disease, and we both have bigger fish to fry.

Indeed, there are people out there who are taking the same mechanics of undue influence which keep organizations like Scientology going, and using them to convince other people to strap bombs onto their chests and walk into nightclubs. Or hijack planes and fly them into large buildings. Or walk into the offices of a magazine and gun down the editorial staff. Or release neurotoxins into the Tokyo subway system. Or marry a bevy of prepubescent girls to a middle-aged man. Or beat their children with inch-thick dowels and prepare for Armageddon by stockpiling weapons ….

I could go on and on. For every story we heard that week, there are a further dozen stories yet to happen, tragedies which Jon hopes to prevent through the work he’s doing now. Scientology is in its death throes, but cults are still big business, and, unfortunately, for too many other groups, business has never been better. But by teaching people a few simple ways to recognize and keep themselves aware of the influences they face, we can inoculate our society against these harmful groups, and hopefully put a serious dent in their prophet margin.

Speaking personally, this Sancho Panza thinks she would be hard-pressed to find a better Quixote to stand behind. And at least this guy has a sense of humor, Don Q very much.

And if I refrain from too many more jokes like that, he might even consider giving me a raise.

Leaving the restaurant in high spirits, we met the good Reverend Jim Beverley as he was checking in to the hotel. Let me say this: he is an amazing fellow in his own right, and at the same time one of the sweetest, quietest, mildest people I have ever met. He was too modest to tell me this story himself, but apparently he is fond of starting one series of classes by flicking on a cigarette lighter, and holding his hand over the open flame.

Portrait of a man who is much more badass than he looks.

Portrait of a man who is much more badass than he looks.

“Tell me when to stop,” he will direct his students, as he begins to lower his hand.

They invariably shout at him to stop before he gets burned.

He then asks his students how many of them can honestly believe that a Being of Ultimate Love and Compassion would actually condemn any of us to eternal Hellfire.

Apparently, the dude is more badass than he looks, but I didn’t find out just how brave the guy was until much later in the week – but I get ahead of myself, and speaking of getting ahead of myself, that’s exactly what I’m going to do – I’m going to skip a few hours and move forward to late afternoon in the hotel bar, at the Organizational Meeting.

Well, it was a meeting anyway. Organizational? Not so sure. Who was it who said one must create chaos to achieve order?

Whoever it was, they were spot on about this one. It’s important to stay organized, but all too often, life intrudes. Jim and Jon had, to my knowledge, constructed a carefully crafted schedule of who would speak when, deliberately grouping the talks by subject and weighing their effect on the audience. One doesn’t want to put too many intensely emotional discussions in a row, nor schedule an entire afternoon of technical dissertations. However, the speakers on this schedule were following their own carefully crafted schedules, which were, in turn, being interrupted by Life, and so even in your average conference, there’s always a few last-minute adjustments.

This, of course, was not your average conference. Not by the proverbial long shot.

Note to self: next time, bring our own signs!

Note to self: next time, bring our own signs!

There were, of course, about a half-dozen other conventions, seminars and conferences going on at the hotel, so there were people looking for their proper ballroom who looked perplexed and even a little freaked out when they saw the label by our door – because they thought we were Scientologists! – I even heard one wag remark: “I wonder if Tom will be there?”

I would have told them what we were doing, but they were walking away – very fast.

But once again, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s easy to do, when this meeting comes to mind. Expectation was the key mood here.

I’d already finally gotten to meet Griff in the flesh, after months of feeling like we’d been separated at birth (well, thirteen years apart and across the Atlantic), and I’d even managed to steal his red-and-white checkered scarf (though I had to give it back at the end of the evening, I think I’m still wearing it in one of the Bunker photos). So, the meeting started with me, Griff, Jim, Jon, and Christian, but of course, as I said, it was late afternoon, the day before the conference. And we were in the hotel bar, which is right next to the entrance of the hotel, and across from the registration desk.

So, needless to say, more people joined us.

Nora Crest, shown here not demonstrating the lost course

Nora Crest, shown here not demonstrating the lost course “TR-23/AK: Air Keyboard”

I’d first heard about Nora Crest from her excellent blog, Raging Buddha, and particularly the post where she chronicles her escape from Scientology’s dreaded Rehabilitation Project Force. I’d expected a gusty, strong goddess, and I wasn’t disappointed. This courageous woman, born into the cult, managed to wake up, to live, to leave – and to speak out. She’s seen some shocking things and lived through terrible events that have broken many, many people – but not this woman. Frankly, I don’t think anything could break her. She’s a helluva woman, and a helluva speaker.

She also made all of us cry like little babies, a fact I shall never let her forget. But back to the meeting.

Soon people were flowing in, and the schedule slowly coalesced there at the table, somehow getting filled in between the hugs of old friends greeting each other, the jokes, the stories, the laughter – and even the shock and awe as new friends greeted each other, and shared stories.

And, they compared notes.

Bookmark that thought. That’s going to be an important thread throughout the Week that Would Be Woodstock. The magic wasn’t just onstage – it was happening in the bar, in the lobby, in the restaurant and at the pool. People were talking, exchanging information, and learning.

So I was hunched over my trusty laptop, with Nancy Many (whose biography, My Billion Year Contract, also made me cry like a baby) chatting with me like an old friend, helping me put the finishing touches on her bio, when we both realized that we’d been hearing a strange story indeed unfolding on our right: it was Hana Whitfield, telling her amazed companions what really happened in Morocco to make Hubbard flee the country. The story is covered in one of the videos; I’ll link it here as soon as I know which one it is.

Not only were the stories surreal, but so was the entire situation. There I was, Spike Robinson, small fish and longtime Scientology-watcher, in the same room with Gerry Armstrong, Jon Atack, Nora Crest, Pete Griffiths, Nancy Many, Jesse Prince, Christian Szurko, Spanky Taylor, Hana Whitfield, and –

A blonde head bobbed into the lobby. My roomie.

One of the

One of the “Rock Stars” of S.P. Woodstock, up close and personal.

“Tory!”

It was like we’d known each other forever; it was her wonderful YouTube channel that had re-ignited my fervor to help in the fight against the cult. And she was followed closely by Paulette Cooper and her wonderful husband, Paul Noble … what a sweet, sweet couple! Everyone was so kind, so friendly, all of them, just, well, Super People. Or is that Social Personalities?

As Jim described it later: Heaven.

And apparently Heaven is a chaotic place, but in a jostling, friendly sort of way. The aforementioned intellectual banter between Christian and Jon had picked up a chorus of voices (the two of them by themselves are a scream, add Gerry Armstrong, and suddenly you have A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup, and Harold and Maude rolled into one; add the rest of the cast, and… well, even I can’t imagine it, and I was there), and yet the good Reverend Jim somehow kept bringing us back to task (I would only pick up this skill later on; at the moment, I’m afraid I was basking in the wonder of it all), and though he did have to struggle to shepherd us through many amazing tangents, strings of puns, witty repartee and plain old chatter, he managed valiantly.

At one point, when a chance phrase had spun out into another comedic tour-de-force from the S.P(eanut) gallery, I looked over at him sympathetically. “It’s like herding cats, isn’t it?” I asked him.

“More like nailing Jell-O to a tree,” he agreed with a rueful smile.

Of course, one of the Brits overheard us and had to remind us that it was “supposed to be” called “jelly.” I don’t remember which Limey started it; both Pete and Jon were in excellent form by then, but TransAtlantic Rivalry Revue had to fly a few rounds around the table, with both sides reveling in the language which divides our shared culture, or something along those lines. It was all absolutely amazing.

Somehow, I’d done it; I had gotten myself to a place where I might be able to touch my dreams, actually help change the world, and even have a few laughs while doing it. I felt a surge of energy, a rush of purpose and vigor that filled me to the very brim as I sat surrounded by such greatness, soaking it in, grateful just to be there.

It was going to be a week of miracles. And I was a part of it.

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12 Responses to They’re Calling it ‘S.P. Woodstock’ – and I Was There: Prologue and Part One

  1. David Pike says:

    Awesome Spike! You almost lost me with your intro cuz most of us had travel horror stories to tell and I didn’t care to re-live mine… But when you finally got to the magic of the Sheridan you had my complete attention… I now have something to tell my grand kids… I was AT THE (first ) COS Activists Woodstock!!! I look forward to your next entry! and god bless the loving human being who bought you a swimming suit! 😉 BTW I will never, ever be able to repay Dr Jim and Jon. Money could not fit the bill… 🙂 In Lak ech…. 🙂

    • phoenyxrose says:

      I know… I almost put a “read more” tag to separate out the horror story for those who didn’t want to hear it, but couldn’t figger out how the gizmo worked.

      And no fear, I’m getting to you! 😀

  2. pedrofcuk says:

    Excellent post from a truly wonderful SP! Words fail some of us at times like this 😉

  3. David Pike says:

    Reposting at FACTnet.org… 😉

  4. Thanks for this!
    I’m so looking forward to the videos.

  5. Pingback: S.P. Woodstock Interlude – The Basset Hound Howls | Phoenyxrose's Blog

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