The chosen.

By Abbe Aronson

Quite young I learned that blood isn’t thicker than water. I found lots of loving role models as a kid when my own parents fell very short. When I moved here as the parent of a second grader, I surrounded my son (and myself) with so much love that we practically vibrated with it, most coming from what we like to refer to as “Chosen Family.”

Just in time for this holiday season, let me share a little bit about my Chosen Family here in Woodstock, a place that’s home base for many of us, a second home for a few of us and a gathering spot of such epic proportions that, if I were the hippy-dippy type, I’d tell you this is surely a magical vortex, sucking us all in and intertwining our collective bloodstreams. 

My Chosen Family includes the people I’ve called Mom and Dad for more than a decade: artist and muse Sweetbryar Ludwig and musician and metalsmith Robin LeMartel. After running into Bryar and Robin on the streets of Woodstock again and again, all three of us nodding at each other in a sort of wackadoo acknowledgement of “like sees like,” I invited them to lunch at my house. They stayed all day. As they were leaving, I said, “Wow, you’re the parents I always dreamed of having,” to which Bryar responded, “Then, you should call us Mom and Dad!” In a sentence: they changed my life. Never have I felt so seen, so heard, so inspired to be the best human I can be. A story for the ages, they’ve made Woodstock their home for decades; Bryar arrived here prior to Woodstock ’69 and on her first day in town met Bob Dylan!

That’s very Sweetbryar. Honey to the bees every time. When Bryar died in November 2020, the outpouring of grief flowed in from around the globe. Robin—Daddy-O—carries on in her legacy while he continues to make music (he has a new blues record out now) and jewelry (among his many achievements is designing some of Billy Idol’s iconic bling). Their daughter Acacia Ludwig is a Jedi Master and my imaginary sister. Her husband Jason Bowman runs Rock Academy and is the only person on the planet with whom I’d ever open my mouth and sing out loud (I didn’t even sing lullabies to my son—that’s how tone-deaf I am).

To our mix, add in a cast of loveables that include singer-songwriter Pearl Aday, a true daughter of Woodstock. Her mom met her dad (the singer/icon Meat Loaf) here at Bearsville Studios back in the day, and Pearl’s husband, Scott Ian of heavy metal royalty Anthrax has become a de facto Upstater (Scott’s a nice Queens boy but definitely has drank the Kool-Aid that flows from the cool mountain streams around our town)—Scott has plenty of outer borough camaraderie in our other darling friend/Chosen Family member, Brooklyn paisan Steve Casa, who’s partnered with Suzanne “My Emergency Contact” Wind. 

The other people to whom I’d give a kidney? My perma-reality-check besties Michael Mills and Mark McGrath up the road in Shandaken; Glo 375 Spa Boss Lady Debbie Dougan; Michelle Silver, the Thelma to my Louise; Marc Nagelberg, a.k.a. “The Berg,” who’s The Straight Man in this delightful insanity, providing more comic relief than he’ll ever know. Newest to the fold? Violent Femmes drummer John Sparrow, who, btw, also calls Robin “Dad” and sends me texts from the road that read, “I can’t wait to come home” and by that, he doesn’t mean Milwaukee, from where the band hails. 

Happy holidays, Mountaineers! 

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