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|The Naked Girl in the Pond at Woodstock|
By 55-Alive! Featured Contributor
My friend Susan has some pretty remarkable traits. One is that she is unable to forget a single person she has ever met and the circumstances of the meeting. This occurs even when she doesn’t want to remember them. Ever. But her memory overrides her every time. She remembers faces, names, and all the minutia of whatever contact she had with them. A friend was telling Susan about her ex-husband, and Susan said, “Whoa! Now I remember! I dated him for three hours in 1971!” The friend was not amused.
A couple years ago, Susan saw a man in an airport, strolled up to him and announced his name to him. The man was startled, to say the least, and asked how she knew who he was. Susan said, “I sat on a plane with you in 1983. You were coming back from a business trip in Orlando and you were meeting your wife, Marjorie, and your daughter, Ella, in DC.” Susan tried to continue to give him more vital information about his life but was stopped by the man grabbing his carry on and laptop and attempting to vacate the area. Somehow, Susan was able to convince him that she wasn’t with either the FBI or a reality TV show. The man calmed down long enough for Susan to give him the rest of the information that he had long since forgotten about.
Things like this happen to Susan all the time. Sometimes they benefit me. When I was single, I would very often forget tiny little details about the men I was dating, such as their names. I would ask Susan, “Who is that guy I am seeing who has something to do with some kind of building somewhere in the DC area?” and she would say, “That’s Robert So-and-So. He is an architect who lives in Bethesda. You met him at a dance two months ago. He has been divorced for 12 years and he has three kids. The older two are boys; the youngest is a girl. You told me he is originally from New York.” This was always great news for me. It was sort of like meeting the person all over again. “Wow,” I would say, “he sounds like a nice guy.”
But, as legendary as is Susan’s memory for the minutia of other people’s lives, this is nothing compared to her greatest claim to fame: She is the Naked Girl in the Pond at Woodstock. This event has been recorded for all time, as it is one of the scenes in the film “Woodstock.” And, since much of Susan’s time at Woodstock was spent traveling to other dimensions, it’s a good thing the event has been captured on film.
Yesterday, Susan and I and Roni, another friend, went to the Newseum in Washington, DC, an amazing place everyone should visit. There one will find unsurpassed state-of-the-art technology, a wealth of information about the most life-defining and life-alternating events of our time, a renewed understanding of the free press as the ultimate guardian of our personal rights, and a photo of Susan being the Naked Girl in the Pond at Woodstock.
It took us awhile to locate the photo in the Woodstock exhibit. But there it was, the very same photo used in the film. Although the photo was greatly enlarged, the people in the pond were still very small in comparison. But Susan found herself in all her naked glory, reduced to the size of the head of a pin. At first, Susan couldn’t do much more than stare at the photo while swaying and softly singing Janis Joplin’s rendition of “Ball and Chain.” After Roni and I felt we had given her enough time for her “trip” down Memory Lane, we were able to get her to step aside. She stood next to the photo, pointing to the Microscopic Small-As-A-Pin Naked Girl in the Pond. Roni and I then snapped one photo after another with our trusty cell phone cameras.
After a day at the Newseum, we exited onto the now rush hour crowds. Roni and I were overwhelmed by our experience, running non-stop through the 4-D film on journalistic firsts, commemorative wall of journalists killed on assignment, riveting photos and artifacts from 9-11, and the astonishing gallery of all the Pulitzer Prize winners for photojournalism.
After awhile, we realized Susan wasn’t contributing to the discussion. We both turned to her at the same time. Susan was walking slightly behind, smiling. Her head was bobbing softly, and when we bent toward her, we could hear the sweet strains of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” So the streets of DC had led the The Naked Girl in The Pond at Woodstock back to Woodstock again, if only for a brief, precious moment.
CoAuthor of The latest is Saving the Best For Last: Creating Our Lives After 50 (available at www.amazon.com).