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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

May 09, 2019

Local Author Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Woodstock 

By Joanne Colella

Sea Gudinski 1969 woodstock

The photo that appears on the back cover of the book was taken at the site of the original Woodstock festival. The road runs behind where the stage once stood and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts now stands at the top of the hill.

For those who remember – as well as those who don’t – the 1960s were a distinctly unique period in American history. In countless ways, 1969 proved to be an iconic year, and to many young adults of that generation, the most memorable event that came with it was Woodstock. It may be hard to believe that this year marks the 50th anniversary of that historic three-day music festival on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, that began Aug. 15, 1969. It was attended by 500,000 people, with another half million who descended upon the area but never made it to the event itself because of the logjam on local roads. And it took place when the United States was mired deeply in the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, drug culture, the sexual revolution and an evolving pop culture.

Like that era, a recent book by local author Sea Gudinski is a blend of history, spirituality, psychedelics, fantasy and fact, with a bit of science fiction thrown in for good measure. Entitled “1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back,” the historical narrative tells the story of one girl’s incredible experience with the hippie counterculture. A naïve teenager and rock musician, Rhiannon Karlson goes from an ordinary life in the conservative town of Fresno, California, to what is, quite literally, “the trip of a lifetime” after taking a potent and mysterious substance from a drug dealer. The book tells the story of her journey as she searches her soul, expands her consciousness and seeks life’s truths. And it paints an elaborate picture of the landscape and the people of the nation as she travels cross-country on her quest.

Gudinski speaks with exuberant passion about the book – the sixth she has written and the first one published so far. Her inspiration came from family members who had been at Woodstock and spoke often about the event and the era that surrounded it.

“So many people had such great idealism and interest in literature and philosophy,” Gudinski said. “I used it as my inspiration and research. I wanted to write something that gave personal insights, telling the story of a transformational coming of age. And I think readers today will be interested in seeing what it was like then and the effect it still has in culture now.”

The author says that she found it fascinating and enlightening to research so many people and events, providing the viewpoint of looking back on an era that had such an important and dynamic impact.

“I really feel like the story came through me, rather than out of me,” she explains.

The years of dedicated research are evident in the novel, which is no lightweight work, numbering a total of 569 pages. The book is very immersive in the time, with music playing a huge part in the storyline.

“There are a lot of references to what was popular then and the personalities and musicians of the day that I think people will enjoy seeing,” Gudinski said.

Careful details about the people, places, events – even the phases of the moon – bring the story and the characters to life. The author spent time in San Francisco visiting the Haight district, which was considered Ground Zero for the counterculture generation, to explore what it would have been like there in the 1960s.

One page of the book describes, “Walking through the Haight was like being on the inside of a prism. There were people and posters, vibrant colors and elaborate architecture, and cars of all makes and models passing up and down the street. There were trollies crammed full of freaks, heads camped in stairwells, and hippies loitering in storefronts and gathered on street corners. There were legions of backpackers, knapsackers, bums, and trash-baggers. There were freaks with the Jesus Christ hair and the tunics and turbans, ankle bells and beads, amulets and cigarettes. There were girls in mod skirts and high boots with Twiggy-style haircuts standing alongside men wearing braids and flowers. There were mime troops and minstrel shows performing for free for the general populous out on the streets of San Francisco, their feet bare on the gray, gum-covered sidewalks.”

Writing the book has brought unexpected experiences to the author. In a chance encounter just weeks ago, she met a man who told her he was born at Woodstock. And she now communicates with Abigail Yasgur, who has also written about the famous festival held on her cousin Max’s farm. She also plans to attend at least one of the events that are being planned this summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

Gudinski’s website at SeaGudinski.com includes a timeline with notable events from 1969, a sampling of music of the day and a list of the books, authors, films and television shows used as sources of research and reference, plus a message from the author with her reflections about the book and the subject matter.

Gudinski invites readers to join her in taking a trip “down the rabbit hole” without ever leaving the comfort of your living room. Whether you are a former flower child of the ‘60s or the child of someone who was, a Woodstock devotee or an aficionado of Americana, or just in search of the next great book to put on your summer reading list, check out “1969: A Brief and Beautiful Trip Back.” It is currently available on Amazon in both paperbook and Kindle format, soon to be released at Barnes & Noble, or can also be purchased locally at Jack’s Music Shoppe on Broad Street in Red Bank, Hazlet Pharmacy & The Perfect Gift on Route 35 in Hazlet or Holmdel Firewood on Route 35 in Holmdel. To contact the author directly, email SeaG@seagudinski.com, or write her at P.O. Box 312, Hazlet, NJ 07730.