clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW EXPOSED: DEATH COMES TO WOODSTOCK

New, 843 comments

PEACE, BLOOD, AND UNDERSTANDING

Occasionally, Antiques Roadshow features someone with an item they acquired not because they believed it to be rare or old, but because it had some value for them as a contemporary memento. Through the passage of time, that item then becomes a collectible, and the owner brings it to the Roadshow to see what it's worth. That's the situation we're dealing with today - if you believe Dale's account of events. (All names are made up, because Antiques Roadshow is too cowardly to tell you who these people really are.)

Dale's doing something very cunning with this explanation. He's weaving in a true story - yes, most of the programs at Woodstock went undistributed and were just left in stacks after the festival was over - to help hide his lie. There's no way somebody just left that jacket in the mud. Though I can't prove any of this, I'm absolutely willing to assert that this is

HOW DALE ACTUALLY GOT THAT WOODSTOCK JACKET

Dale remembered the first time he hid a package for Il Contadino. Going home from school on a windy winter afternoon, a man had approached him, walking so fast he looked more like a shoddy animation than a person. Before Dale could react, the man shoved a surprisingly heavy manila envelope into his hands, growling "keep this safe and The Farmer will make sure you and your mother have a very merry Christmas."

For weeks, the envelope stayed hidden under Dale's bed, tucked in between two of the slats. The thought of what might be inside terrified Dale - was it a severed hand? - but he didn't dare break the seal. And then, one Saturday morning when his mother had already left for her hospital shift, the man returned. He said nothing when Dale opened the door, keeping one hand tucked into his coat pocket and extending the other towards Dale. It held a crisp fifty dollar bill.

That was nine years ago, when the simple thrill of playing a small part in a plot was all an eleven year old needed to feel important and capable. Of course, that eleven year old didn't know he was entering into a long-term relationship with a gangster, and he definitely didn't know that gangster was charitably considered eighth on the New York City totem pole. Eleven year old Dale was proud to be associated with Frank "Il Contadino" Piersanti, the kind of guy who walked around Alphabet City like he owned the neighborhood. Twenty year old Dale realized he'd hitched his wagon to a wannabe crime boss who would never do much more than run numbers out of the back of his grocery store.

Naturally, Il Contadino didn't acknowledge his organized crime ceiling. He wanted to expand into a new territory: narcotics. But the consequence of being so far down in the pecking order was extremely limited access to supply. The larger crime families "negotiated" near-exclusivity, meaning Il Contadino's crew either had to buy from another boss or take the risk of working with a disreputable source.

The Farmer figured if he couldn't buy the loyalty of the suppliers, he'd win the approval of the buyers. (He was prone to stupid pronouncements like this.) That was what led him to send Dale, another underling named Victor, and 1700 squares of LSD to Woodstock in a Jeep Wagoneer.

Well, not exactly 1700 squares. 200 were legit, purchased at a steep markup from one of the more notable families. The rest looked identical, but they weren't acid. Dale didn't know what The Farmer had used instead, and he knew better than to ask. He and Victor were instructed to start selling the authentic LSD on the first day of the festival but to limit the amount they sold to any one person. The idea was to use those early doses to build a reputation, and then sell the fake stuff off as quickly as possible.

"Those lousy hippies don't have the brain cells to know they're being duped anyways," Il Contadino had chuckled when he'd explained the details to Dale. Dale had his doubts. People who wanted drugs tended to be pretty angry when they didn't get the experience they expected, pacifists included. Still, Dale hadn't made it this far without surviving an altercation or two, and, unlike Dale, the average Woodstock attendee probably wasn't carrying a knife.

As they drove up Route 17, Dale looked at Victor, who was dozing in the passenger seat. He was nearly old enough to be Dale's father and had worked for The Farmer for at least twenty years, but he'd never moved up the ladder an inch. Was Victor happy? Did he have unfulfilled dreams? When Victor looked at his future, what did he see?

Victor snorted and rolled over slightly.

The first day of sales went smoothly, though the whole event struck Dale as an absurd exercise in unnecessary escapism. Wasn't it weird enough to belong to a species that could travel to the moon and murder Sharon Tate within the span of a month? Getting high and listening to Arlo Guthrie seemed pretty tame compared to that reality. If you had to flee the cities to find peace and harmony, then peace and harmony were luxury items most of the world would never touch. These people aren't building something that will last, Dale thought. They're political Bedouins.

To Dale's curiosity, his skepticism wasn't shared by Victor in the slightest. He spent most of the first day laughing and chatting with everyone, like a kid on the last day of summer camp. Dale couldn't recall Victor ever talking about the war or Nixon or, well, anything that took place outside of Alphabet City, but there he was, taking his shoes off and swaying along to music he'd never listen to normally.

"Check me out!" Victor bellowed, proudly showing off a blue jacket he'd gotten from who knows where. "Very sharp," Dale replied. He drifted off to sleep to the sound of Victor humming.

Day two of The Farmer's plan got off to a strong start; Victor's unexpected friendships established an easy groundwork for Dale to move the less-than-genuine article fairly quickly. Around midday, Dale paused to look around. There was something ethereally peaceful about this place, he had to admit, something that made you consider how the world could be better, or at least different.

And then he felt the poke of a handgun against his spine. "Are you familiar with the concept of tarnishment?" growled the voice behind him. "It rests on the idea that a good, quality product can be unfairly diminished when some asshole confuses the market by circulating shitty product that isn't distinguished from the good one. Now turn around, slowly."

Dale obeyed, careful to keep his eyes lowered. "In this case, you are that asshole. Your partner is that asshole. And your boss, that fucking idiot Farmer, is most certainly that asshole. Because you morons failed to consider that selling product associated with our organization followed by whatever Brand X you made in your basement damages what we do. It tarnishes our name. And my superiors do not take kindly to finding their names tarn-"

Without warning, Victor rushed Dale's captor, lowering his shoulder directly into the man's hip. All three fell to the ground in a twisted heap of limbs, the gun somewhere amongst their tangle. Dale scrambled to free himself, desperate to hide. As he sprinted headlong towards the crowd, he heard the unmistakable pop of the gun discharging. He froze for a moment, hoping Victor was on the right end of that bullet. Hope was all he could offer, though, and he kept running until he got back to the Jeep.

It wasn't until he'd put a hundred miles between himself and Woodstock that Dale noticed the blue jacket resting in the backseat.