Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Last night I watched the entirety of Gimme Shelter for the first time, trying to figure out which Maysles brothers film to show to my documentary class. Tonight I saw it a second time. It seemed to freak many of my students out. They just sat there for a few minutes after I turned the lights on. To be honest, it freaked me out. My nostalgia for the 60s I never got to experience has taken a severe beating. Ironically, though, the thought that's pounding away in my brain does not concern the horror of the Hell's Angels' creative approach to security but the horror that is Bay Area traffic. Looking at the seemingly endless stream of cars lined up outside the Altamont Speedway, seeing the congestion over the Pass, I realized that the concert was really a preview of the era in which people commute from San Francisco to Livermore and Tracy to Mountain View. Even though I've made numerous trips to the Bay Area since moving to Tucson and driven in on 580 each time, I can't say that the Pass ever makes me feel unambiguously happy. Those barren, windmill-swept hills look like a pumped-up version of J.R.R. Tolkien's barrow downs. I can't believe anyone ever thought that the location could bring peace, love, and understanding to 300,000 people, most of them higher than a hot-air balloon. Maybe that's why they gave the film that title: there is no shelter in those hills.

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