Altamont at 50

A nuanced, intricate look back that I think is quite necessary.  Some thoughts:

If you were stuck in the sticks as I was, it took years to piece together exactly what happened, period. Could not have imagined that I would get to a place where, after I found out they wanted $700 for a ticket to their latest concert, the Rolling Stones were performers I could hardly bear to think about.

The worthy move now is to step away from the monster villains Hell’s Angels, the tainted, tormented, tortuous superstars, the cosmic cultural moment and focus on the key victim. And never again imagine that Meredith Hunter died because he waved a pistol around.

Who Wins If the Lottery Loses?

Here’s another issue that even Grown Olde me can’t quite sort out.

I was confidently informed in publications for kids that I read in grade school that lotteries were being ended and even outlawed in America because the people who could least afford it spent the largest part of their income buying tickets. The same problem casinos present. I’ve always disliked gambling because I know first-hand it can ruin lives and because ultimately it plays on human weakness.

But now I understand it isn’t as simple as that. Casinos, and more commonly the lottery, can be embraced out of desperation — the only way for true discriminated-against outsiders to grab some real power. I’m not certain how true it is, but I get it that they feel the lottery odds may be long but the straight-life odds are zero.

So I now argue that players can include the frantic as well as the foolish. That lotteries might be eliminated because they give too many undesirables a shot at moving up.

Floating around in my head, still.

My Altamount Snippet

I see there’s a new book about classic rock’s darkest day, Just a Shot Away. With what seems like a much-needed remedial main thread. (And I must say that the event is the one thing I utterly hate about the Grateful Dead.)

My most vivid encounter with Altamount horrors came when I mentioned the Gimme Shelter documentary to a music photographer (forgive me for not remembering his name) and he said he was at the show, taking photos. But it was such a drug-soaked and violently deranged scene — more like a riot than a concert — that after half an hour he put away the camera and volunteered to work in a First Aid tent.

It was the look on his face as he recounted this that froze me. This was someone who had witnessed an atrocity.