Thanksgiving - Alice's Restaurant Style
I am probably on the short list of people who love this song and listen to it from beginning to end each Thanksgiving. I didn't get to hear Arlo sing Alice's Restaurant at Woodstock, but I have my own history with it which holds a special place in my memory bank
Many years ago I was living in Los Angeles and had a significant crush on a girl I had known when I lived in New York. Unfortunately I met her while she was the girlfriend of my best friend so I just admired her from afar. When my family moved to Los Angeles I didn't see my best friend much any more, although we did stay in contact and had some memorable summer vacations together during our school years. He told me had broken up with his girlfriend and I was able to be marginally consoling. I found out she had a half sister who lived in Pasadena and would occasionally visit her. I wrote her and told her when she came out to visit to let me know and she did.
It was about a forty-five minute drive from my parent's house to Pasadena. I was about fifteen minutes from her house when Alice's Restaurant came on the radio. Aside from classical music, I couldn't name a song at that time that went on for over three minutes. As I drove and listened to Arlo's story I couldn't believe the radio was playing an eighteen and a half minute song. As the song kept going I slowed down, until finally I had to pull over and listen to it in its entirety. It was the start of a memorable evening. Although to be truthful, the only part I remember is listening to Arlo.
Some years later Arlo was playing with Pete Seeger at the Hollywood Bowl and I went with my parents. I didn’t go to a lot of concerts with them, but they were Pete Seeger fans and I had learned many of his songs at camp. My camp just so happened to be run by my 5th grade geography teacher who was Pete’s brother so Pete occasionally visited the camp to join in the sing alongs. Seeing Arlo and Pete and the Bowl with my parents is something for which I have always been grateful. He didn't sing Alice's Restaurant but they told the whole audience singing along to This Land is Your Land.
I have seen Arlo many times in concert and there is a lot of repetition because his best song writing years are probably behind him. I’ve heard many versions of his songs, heard the audience laugh at many of his stories and always walked away feeling better. Arlo’s father wrote This Land is Your Land, which is the one song he always sings. While the sentiments of that song are still true, it seems the values that prompted that song conflict with the greed that so perpetrates our culture.
I’ve taken many people to see Arlo as I think his spirit is the spirit of Thanksgiving. So I will listen to Alice’s Restaurant again this year and give thanks for the many blessings in my life and wish that we could put an end to war so that all could live in peace.