Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock and Apollo 11

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Forty years ago this week I arrived on the east coast, New Jersey to be exact.

I traveled there after having death threats made against me for having photographs of Reies López Tijerina, below, and his wife burning a couple of US Forest Service signs in northern New Mexico.

I haven’t posted regularly for more than a month because I have been working on book length project of the Tijerina events. I’d hoped to post on the anniversary. It didn’t happen for a couple of reasons. My initial research showed that the history surrounding the event is nearly non-existent, what does exist is based more on myth building than fact. I intended to post a book a-la the Saint Pete effort of earlier this year.

I have been slowed by the need to follow up on a couple of interviews that are scheduled for later this month and at least one I need to schedule, and the fact that my photo scanner is in the shop.

When I got to my Aunt Cappy’s house, my cousin Carol, had a handful of tickets to a three-day concert in upstate New York. She was having trouble convincing her father my Uncle Phil, to let her attend. Knowing I was coming, she had gotten him to agree, that if I would accompany her, he would let her go.

So, I had Woodstock tickets in my hand, but I couldn’t see myself without any camping gear spending three-days in a field with who knew how many people. I passed. OK so I missed out on one of the largest and what has always been considered a most important cultural events marking the end of a truly significant decade. I had no regrets, then or now.

Some 400,000 plus people attended.

Did I ever mention that I don’t like big crowds.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

A few days later I went into the City for the first time and as I emerged from the subway, I walked into the largest crowd I have ever encountered.

The crowd was awaiting the Apollo 11 Astronaut's Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins ticker tape parade up Broadway, which was renamed Apollo Way for the occasion.

The astronauts had been quarantined after retuning from their July 20 visit to the moon’s surface.

Official police estimate was set at two million people in lower Manhattan’s City Hall Park.

The Astronauts, waving from the bottom, Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin, received the Keys to the City, on the steps of City Hall, from Mayor John Lindsay, waving right.

They proceeded to the United Nations where they also received international awards.

The estimated crowd for New York City was some four million people. The astronauts also were guests of massive parades in Chicago and Los Angeles. The total estimate was that more than eight million people saw them on August 13, 1969. I don't hold many heros; these guys count.

Did I ever mention that I don’t like big crowds? However, this one was worth it and it didn’t rain for three days.

I hope to post a series of photographs from the "Fall of '69," documenting the time I spent while attending the New York Institute of Photography.

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