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Pauline Lerner

Alice's Restaurant Part I

December 13, 2005 at 8:45 AM

Arlo Alice's Restaurant

This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's Restaurant.
Arlo Guthrie

So begins Alice’s Restaurant, a song, recitation, record album, movie, and cultural phenomenon which commenced in the 1960s in white, middle class America. It can’t be paraphrased, and I wouldn’t even try. Instead, I’ll write about it and explain some of the historical terminology and obsolete technology.

Alice’s Restaurant is an 18 minute long song/recitation written, sung, and recited by Arlo Guthrie on a record album produced in 1966. (“Record album” is a recording on a flat, disc-shaped piece of vinyl commonly used in the first half of the twentieth century before tapes, compact discs, and mp3s became common.) Arlo has since noted that the length of this opus is almost exactly the same as the length of the infamous deleted section of the Watergate tapes of Richard Nixon. (For information Watergate, see the book All the President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein or the movie by the same name starring Robert Redford. For information on Richard Nixon, see Liars and Other Scoundrels in the White House in the Twentieth Century.)

You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant
Walk right in, it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant

The saga was based on events which occurred in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day in 1965.

I wanna tell you 'bout the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where this is happenin'. They got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car

On that fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1965, Arlo and his friend Rick had dinner with Alice and Ray Brock, teachers at the high school Arlo had attended, in the Brocks’ home, an old church building in Stockbridge. The Brocks had accumulated a lot of garbage in their home, and Arlo and Rick agreed to haul it to the city dump in a bright red VW microbus (a vehicle commonly used for hauling equipment before minivans and 4WD vehicles became prevalent in suburbia). They loaded up the microbus with garbage and some

shovels and rakes and implements of destruction

(Implements of destruction preceded weapons of mass destruction.)

but when they got to the dump they saw

a big sign and a chain across the dump sayin', "This dump is closed on Thanksgiving"

so they drove around looking for a place to dump their garbage, and

we didn't find one till we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road was another fifteen-foot cliff, and at the bottom of the cliff was another pile of garbage.

They dumped their garbage on top of the other garbage and returned to the Brocks’ home, where they had a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner. The next morning, officer Obie, of the Stockbridge police force, called Arlo and said

"Kid, we found your name on a envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage and I just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And [Arlo] said, "Yes sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie. I put that envelope under that garbage."

Officer Obie told Arlo and Rick to come to the police station. As soon as they got there, Officer Obie handcuffed them, put them in a patrol car, and drove them to the scene of the crime, where Obie and his colleagues collected evidence.

They was takin' plaster tire tracks, footprints, dog-smellin' prints and they took twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin' what each one was, to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner, the southwest corner . . .
and that's not to mention the aerial photography!

(Colored glossy photographs were taken with film cameras. They could be annotated on the back side with verbal descriptions. This crude but effective method was used before the development of digital photography and Adobe Photoshop. Aerial photography, once considered sophisticated technology, has been replaced by satellite photography, which has far greater resolution at lower cost.)

Afterwards, Arlo and Rick were taken back to the police station, and Alice came and bailed them out a few hours later. The following day, the young men were tried, convicted, fined $25 each, and ordered to pick up the garbage.

Now the story takes an unexpected turn.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft.

To be continued………………………..

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