Thanksgiving Tradition
November 28, 2019 11:25 AM   Subscribe

 
The illustrated version, for you visual learners.
posted by kozad at 11:35 AM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


I went to college far from home, and so while most students went home for Thanksgiving, I stayed on campus. I was a DJ at the college radio station, which had an "automation" system to keep it running even when nobody was in the studio, but being on the air llive was more fun of course. So one Thanksgiving I went in to DJ live for most of the day, and LORD did I get requests for that song. Once the day had progressed to a format block that it would fit into, I played it, and then 20 minute after it ended, I get another phone call. "Hey, you should play Alice's Restaurant!". No kidding.

I dutifully played it again later in the afternoon. It's a masterpiece.
posted by intermod at 11:52 AM on November 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


Needs a link to the legendary epic previous post.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on November 28, 2019 [13 favorites]


Full length illustrated version.
posted by intermod at 11:55 AM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I wanna kill
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


Kill
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


KILL
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


also the movie, which isn't as good, of course.
posted by philip-random at 12:02 PM on November 28, 2019


To this day, if Mrs Mosley or I point to a bench as a place to meet or rest, I inevitably follow it up with “The Group W Bench?”.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:06 PM on November 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wanna kill
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28 [+] [!]

Kill
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28 [+] [!]

KILL
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:01 PM on November 28 [+] [!]



From the previously:

(Years ago, I had a friend with whom I had bonded over this song. So when we met up, we would greet each other by shouting "KILL", "KILL!", "KILLL!!!" etc... which is probably not, on reflection, the best way to greet people across crowded train stations...)
posted by pompomtom at 10:44 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites +] [!]
posted by hippybear at 12:19 PM on November 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have frequently told a long story and then at the very end, made a pivot with "...but that's not what I came here to talk about."
posted by jquinby at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


I, as a Canadian, once spent 20 odd minutes in line at the dump, on the clock, listening to this song. It was a very pleasant experience, and built up a bit of goodwill for American Thanksgiving.
posted by LegallyBread at 1:14 PM on November 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


This was the first song I ever played in front of an big audience, in 1968.
I still have the 12-string I used, although it doesn't get played very often, and since I mostly play the ukulele these days, it seemed like my fingers wouldn't work on it any more.
Two years ago, I fixed it up enough and practiced for a couple of weeks, and played it again for an audience. Kind of a retirement party for the guitar.
One guy said he had never heard it except on Thanksgiving.
posted by MtDewd at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


Our local station played it today, we listened to the whole thing.
posted by vrakatar at 1:35 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


White man dumps a load of garbage Illegally; gets a minimal fine, and community service and then is able to use this “crime” to avoid the draft and the Vietnam war. Later he culturally appropriates African American musical styles to turn the incident into a hit song and eventually a movie deal. Maybe this isn’t really the right song for modern leftists to present as a thanksgiving anthem. His beef with the police is that they dared to challenge his decision to dump a load of trash in the woods because the dump was closed. Oh those awful terrible Pigs how dare they — they didn’t even say look at these fucking crackers they just dump their garbage anywhere — savages. No they just punished the guys who did it, and the judge didn’t even throw the book at them because they are just white boys who made a mistake - $50 fine and clean it up. We’ll overlook the dope.....

I’m conclusion this song enrages me.
posted by interogative mood at 1:45 PM on November 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


This song featured curiously in my childhood. My parents had it on cassette, and I had my own little cassette player. I’m pretty sure I listened to it dozens of times between the ages of 6 and 8. I never fully understood what was going on (I guess kids need pictures to accompany words) but was always drawn back to listen again. Then I forgot about it. Will be cool to listen again as an adult and connect all the dots.
posted by mantecol at 1:46 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well at least now I know where Harvey's Restaurant got their jingle from back in the 20th century.
posted by some loser at 2:03 PM on November 28, 2019


As a Canadian, this song is one of the more mysterious aspects of American thanksgiving ritual.
posted by rodlymight at 2:04 PM on November 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Not a lot of songs are 18 minutes long.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:08 PM on November 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


I never fully understood what was going on...

Judging from the comment preceding yours, you were not alone.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:25 PM on November 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


We've reached the point Arlo Guthrie is insufficiently woke.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:58 PM on November 28, 2019 [60 favorites]


I guess he needs a Disney+ content disclaimer now.
posted by hippybear at 3:01 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm a Brit, more of less in the right age group for this song, and a real nerd for both music and comedy history. I've been aware of this song's chorus for as long as I can remember, but had no idea what its content was beyond that - let alone the fact that it was so firmly linked to America's Thanksgiving holiday. Now that I've finally heard it, though, I agree with intermod.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:08 PM on November 28, 2019


Oh those awful terrible Pigs how dare they

that's not really how I would describe the tone in which he tells the story, I'll say that much
posted by atoxyl at 3:16 PM on November 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


What’s interesting to me is what people think this song is about. I mean.... I mean...... I MEAN there are some people who think this song is actually about dumping trash and paying a fine for it.
posted by grimjeer at 3:21 PM on November 28, 2019 [20 favorites]


Arlo’s sense of bewilderment at every point in the story is palpable; he understands all the layers of absurdity involved. And as shitty as Trump and his ilk are, I don’t begrudge anyone avoiding the draft. Nobody should have had to go to that war.
posted by rikschell at 3:29 PM on November 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


So when we met up, we would greet each other by shouting "KILL", "KILL!", "KILLL!!!"

Similarly, thanks to The Mountain Goats, a friend and I would perplex our friends by screaming, "I hope you die!" at each other as a greeting.
posted by Candleman at 3:35 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m conclusion this song enrages me.

Perhaps, then, this is not the right thread for you? There are plenty of other threads to participate in without pissing in others' Thanksgiving Cheerios.

Another reminder to revisit (or visit, if you weren't here when it was originally posted) Miko's unbelievably awesome post from nearly a decade ago.
posted by tzikeh at 3:40 PM on November 28, 2019 [19 favorites]


I don't have any feelings about this song one way or the other, but I almost always appreciate hearing from the dissenting voices in a post. Metafilter is often the place I learn that there are dissenting voices on topics I thought were universally understood in a certain way. The dissent was presented as one person's opinion; I really don't think they ought to be told to go away. It gave me something to think about.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2019 [29 favorites]


Officer Obie has his own wiki page, he even played himself in the movie - was also the source for a number of Norman Rockwell paintings
posted by mbo at 4:07 PM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


“A Brief History of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’,” David Sears, Smithsonian, 20 November 2017

“The true story behind Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving staple, ‘Alice’s Restaurant’,” Constance Grady, Vox, 21 November 2018
posted by ob1quixote at 4:28 PM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


The movie had the first film appearance of the great M. Emmet Walsh who is still working and even has a roll in this week's Knives Out.
posted by octothorpe at 4:34 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I once wrote to Arlo Guthrie to ask him to come play at a halloween party my crew was having, and he responded and was even gung ho about the idea even with no money and him paying his own way, but he got a paying gig and he took that instead. He was incredibly kind to interact with (and it was weird to be interacting with him and not some manager).
posted by hippybear at 4:48 PM on November 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


I have heard it on the radio and on vinyl many times. Getting out of the draft doesn't make me mad at Arlo, it makes me mad at the US government. I got lots more things to be angry at the US government for, too, and I don't have anger to spare for the son of Woody Guthrie.

That guitar refrain, play it anywhere and I'd recognize it.

You know what? We're still at war in Afghanistan, and there's (still) an economic draft because, College. Keep singing, Arlo.
posted by theora55 at 4:49 PM on November 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


I just played it for my kids, and they were very much with interogative mood.
What I said was that it was like reading the Iliad, it's something you need to do to be part of Western Civilisation. To which they gave the usual "are you a racist or what?" I'm proud of them.
posted by mumimor at 4:50 PM on November 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


I’m conclusion this song enrages me

Lefties are getting better at Poe's Law and it's making Conservatives nervous.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:54 PM on November 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


I learned today that once upon a time my folks met the Alice of the Restaurant at an art auction in Provincetown.
posted by kokaku at 5:38 PM on November 28, 2019


This song is part of our modern family Thanksgiving tradition. My ex-hippie sister, my 80s child self, and my 83-year-old mother dance and sing to Ella Fitzgerald while the food is being prepared, and we do the cleanup while singing along to Alice’s Restaurant. “Kid...”
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:45 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is such a part of my Thanksgiving. Every year I sing along (usually to the cats, which confuses them) and then listen to rest of the album and remember that Chilling of the Evening is a crazy-beautiful song. When I worked in Wales, and my co-worker was also American, we would have a ritual Playing Of Alice's Restaurant while we were at work. This year I listened after spending Thanksgiving with a bunch of Quakers, and that just added a whole other layer to what the song is, really, about.
posted by kalimac at 7:43 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


WNEW at noon every Thanksgiving. I never missed it. Had my mother turn the radio from her Frank Sinatra station to WNEW. She would begrudgingly oblige.

Rather than get too deep into the song and it's meanings, I just loved the cadence and the humor.
posted by AugustWest at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


It’s a song I’ve heard periodically ever since I was a kid, but I had no idea there was a thanksgiving connection. Maybe because it is long, I’ve never actually listened to it closely.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:49 PM on November 28, 2019


I had it played at dinner tonight but literally nobody else at the table knew of the ritual and only ONE other person knew the song by name. When it started a few people said ‘oohhhhh this song” by not because they knew the song, they just were sort of vaguely aware of the chorus.

There was a lot of talking and nobody sang along. I’m still glad I asked for it to be played.
posted by bilabial at 8:53 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


We played it after a raucous, hilarious dinner, and everyone sang along. It's a fun tradition.
posted by MissySedai at 9:57 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: One big pile is better than two little piles.
posted by pompomtom at 10:33 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid I saw a place called Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, California, along the wooded skyline of the coastal hills south of San Francisco, where lots of motorcyclists like to rest after racing along the windy roads in the area. I wondered if the song referred to this (of course it didn't).

I just discovered that it one of a franchise of restaurants that Alice started when her cookbook was first published.

Her original restaurant closed in 1979, but at least this one franchise is still going.
posted by eye of newt at 11:46 PM on November 28, 2019




Similarly, thanks to The Mountain Goats, a friend and I would perplex our friends by screaming, "I hope you die!" at each other as a greeting.

I hope we both die.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


White man dumps a load of garbage Illegally; gets a minimal fine, and community service and then is able to use this “crime” to avoid the draft and the Vietnam war.
I get your anger, and appreciate an alternate point-of-view, and I suppose I'm pretty invested in this song, but I find it hard to come down on Arlo for this, 50 years later. I don't see him as coming from a position of privilege.
The reason the song became so popular at the time was because he was just a hippie under the control of 'the man'. He didn't get away with littering- he got jailed and fined appropriately, and anyway, the littering was "not what I came to tell you about". It's about the draft, and if the song is to be believed (and Arlo says the song is about 97% true), he didn't use the incident to get out oif the draft- the draft board did that all on its own.
It's an anti-war song (“You want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses, and villages after being a litterbug”), and I find nothing wrong with that, in general.

I just realized I've probably never heard this song on Thanksgiving.
posted by MtDewd at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


A certain segment old people like to complain about the decline of moral values in the youth of today, and I think those people have always existed and always will. I think that the truth may be the opposite, and that the kids are usually more into morality than the adults, and I don't hesitate to bring it up at cocktail parties and thanksgivings and, evidently, metafilter threads. The example I've always used is littering.

My parents' generation thought nothing of driving down the road drinking, and tossing the empties out the window. There was a huge anti-littering campaign in the 70s and 80s, and now most people find the idea of littering like that to be appalling, and the litterers to be amoral degenerates. And they think that even if they ignore the drinking and driving or whether anyone was wearing a seatbelt.

On the subject of one big pile being better than two small ones... I use to live in a place where the corner of the property was screened from the house by trees and people would occasionally dump trash there, and what I noticed was that if we didn't pay attention to that corner, or if we noticed but decided not to pick it up until the morning, that one bag of trash would turn into two almost instantly, presumably because trash dumping assholes are Arlo Guthrie fans. A big pile of trash was way worse than a small one, because we only had the one garbage can. Leaving it for the city or the landlord wasn't an option because that could take weeks and the pile would increase, and I'm not gonna live like that.

SO when I was listening to this song yesterday, for the first time in probably twenty years, I had forgotten the illegal dumping, and I was surprised Mr Guthrie would start his story by painting himself as a such an unsympathetic and deranged trash-dumping monster. I guess time changes one's perspective, when I was twenty, I didn't pay attention to the littering, or I saw it as youthful rebellion. It reminds me of the scene in Five Easy Pieces where Jack Nicholson orders toast: watching it in my early twenties my sympathies were with Jack, and now all I can think about is that poor waitress.

Also, holy crap, Alice had half a ton of garbage on the ground floor of her house. They make cringey reality tv shows about people like that these days, and it doesn't really do a lot to dispell the dirty hippie stereotype. It also doesn't give me a lot of confidence in the cleanliness of her restaurant.

But the song isn't really about littering. Arlo was punished, payed the fine, and it sounds like the officer Obie really tried to put the fear of God in him, which is more than ever happened to anyone who dumped trash at my house. The song is about the draft and being young at a particular time, and the craziness of bureaucracy.

I wonder if Arlo Guthrie had problems getting into Canada after that.
posted by surlyben at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Rather than absurdity of a litter-bug being unsuitable for military service for his “criminal” past; I just get hung up on the fact that so many young men of his era when charged with similar minor offenses — vandalism, shoplifting, etc — were sent to Vietnam as a way to avoid jail or prison and get some discipline in them.
posted by interogative mood at 2:12 PM on November 29, 2019


Stop me if you've heard this one...

When I went for the draft physical, the kid in front of me in line was from my home town. His name was Bill. Bill was what we used to call a juvenile delinquent. We filled out forms where they wanted our criminal histories. Bill needed additional paper. He also had been in the Navy, and said he was discharged because of his varicose veins.

We got to the hearing test, which was in a soundproof booth. You put on headphones and were supposed to press a button when you heard a tone. Bill didn't understand. He held the button down the whole time while the guy administering the test yelled at him from outside the booth. It being soundproof, Bill couldn't hear him. The guy let Bill out and wrote on his papers. I gave the guy my letter from the head of Mass General's Eye & Ear Dept. saying that I was completely deaf in one ear. The test was consistent with that.

Bill was classified 4-F because of his hearing. Me? 1-A.

I suspect Arlo's hometown wasn't in a Selective Service district like mine, where most kids went to college and were deferred because of it. The draft boards had quotas, and the district I lived in had to take everyone they could, because so many kids escaped their clutches by being in college. I don't know if hearing-test guy mislabeled my results, or what, but the draft board grabbed me up, and off I went to the war.

I do not begrudge Arlo his escape from the draft. I'm also OK with all the kids I knew who used one dodge or another to avoid it. I met other draftees in the service, and some of them were convinced that all draft-dodgers should have to suffer as they did. Not me. So long as they weren't GW Bush-level chickenhawks, I had no problem with their being better than me at not getting captured.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:52 PM on November 29, 2019 [20 favorites]


I met other draftees in the service, and some of them were convinced that all draft-dodgers should have to suffer as they did. Not me. So long as they weren't GW Bush-level chickenhawks, I had no problem with their being better than me at not getting captured.

I wish more people grasped this distinction. GWB avoided the war by whatever means were required (smart), then a few decades later, went and initiated an unnecessary f***ing war (Christ, what an asshole!) ... likely due to daddy issues (a previous unpardonable asshole).

I'm not a huge fan of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam fiction/memoir (a little too self-consciously Literary), but one story sticks with me. I'm pretty sure it's memoir, his own experience. He tells of deciding to dodge the draft, escape to Canada. He gets to the border, Canada just across a narrow river ... and he more or less freezes. He books a room in a motel, stays for a week, then ends up driving back south. Because ... what would his family think? his dad and uncles who'd fought in WW2. What would his friends think? the ones already over in Vietnam. What would America think?

Long story short. He ends up concluding that his failure to cross that river to Canada was the single most cowardly thing he ever did in his life. He bowed to conformity. He betrayed the freedom that was his for the taking. But he didn't take it and ended up in a war he could have avoided, following orders, doing all the horrible things we now know that American boys did over in Vietnam.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


GWB avoided the war by whatever means were required ...

Yes, the absolute minimum required. As in signing up for a Reserve unit, then not bothering to show up, because his being the son of GHWB meant he could get away with it.

Also on my chickenhawk list: Sylvester Stallone, who spent his draft eligibility teaching a gym class in Switzerland, then came back to make movies. Movies where he pretended to be a Vietnam veteran whose solution to every problem was sowing death. I don't know if his Rambo character started the tide of crazed-Nam-vet characters that were so much a thing in the late '70s, but he was the most prominent, and made the most money from it. Fuck him.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:53 AM on November 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'd nominate Taxi Driver or The Deer Hunter. First Blood seems very much like a product of the Reagan-era 80s to me. Point very well taken in any event.
posted by jquinby at 7:00 AM on November 30, 2019


My son - 10 years old now - is finally old enough to take in the entire story. I had him listen as he ate his pumpkin pie on Thursday, placing my dad’s old record on the player, and we sat and heard Arlo tell us about that day in 1965.

The record is scratched and the sleeve is battered - it’s my dad’s copy, like I said, he picked it up ca. 1967 or so - but my son liked it and was happy to share in the family tradition.

Perhaps Arlo isn’t sufficiently woke these days. A lot of people aren’t. But voices of protest are never unwelcome, and never a bad idea. Can you imagine? 50 people a day - they’ll call it a movement, and for damn sure we could use one of those right now.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


"But he didn't take it and ended up in a war he could have avoided, following orders, doing all the horrible things we now know that American boys did over in Vietnam."

Yes, as everybody knows, Vietnam Veterans are all psychopathic baby killing napalm dropping murderers. Thanks for bringing that up; I don't know how that slipped my mind.

Oh Rambo, where did we go wrong? I think it may have been in the sequels. It's just the first one that mattered. Rambo explains how he was taught to be a hammer; it's not his fault, he says, that you guys are all nails. He should have gone to the vet center for counseling; probably would have, except that his story was set in a time before ptsd was invented. Times were much simpler then, you know, because nobody realized that when you got that way you tended to stay that way. You should know that this was not just failure to communicate, but it went down the same rathole. The struggle is exhausting, and eventually all you want is to get a good night's sleep and to quit beating your dog.

And thanks to Tim Obrien for a nuanced look; I was taken by his candor. I carried a notebook and a pencil, too; they were used to keep track of most used tactical radio frequencies--you know, for calling arty or the fast movers--and make trail notes for debriefings: anybody here ever heard of the SALUTE format? Lots to know for the even moderately informed.

Hats off to Arlo for his story. It's about choices, right? I remember lots, you see. I mean, if I had to choose whether to sleep in the mud listening to artillery do H&I runs every night, or else hang out with hippie chicks, I dunno. I might first have done some research into how many hippie chicks lived in Canada. Hang on, if I go to Canada, can I come home again after the war? Or, should I go to jail or go to ...you know, exotic countries with interesting cultures and kill people I don't know. Okay, that wasn't really a question. I had lots of choices, but they were sequential and time-bound. We assholes who graduated high school in 63 got a different offer than the assholes to graduated in 65. It was about poorly informed options, you see. Also, it was about John-fucking-wayne in those days, not Rambo. Maybe I should have just gone down to the demonstration to get my fair share of abuse, but in real life there were any hippie chicks or demonstrations until I got back after my second tour.. Or maybe I should just blow off the spring semester--the one where I was wrapping up four years of study for my B.S.--to add my voice to the Peace Coalition's statement in DC. I love the smell of tear gas in the morning.

Sarge, I'm only eighteen. I got a ruptured spleen. Don't make me go all politically incorrect on you. Anyhow, if you have any war without any gore, then I'll be the first to go. Hey, I already knew that Thanksgiving was at once a celebration of blessings and the run-up to the shop til you drop days in December. We don't talk about expropriation of native lands and genocide at the Christian table.

You have my number; just call me.

P.S. Don't begrudge me one of the best ragtime riffs of all time.
posted by mule98J at 9:53 AM on November 30, 2019 [8 favorites]


Whether Arlo's 'woke' or not is a funny conversation. His father had a populist, socialist orientation, but Arlo himself is, and really has always been, someone with a strong lean toward anti-authoritarian libertarian views. Since I've known that a long time, I now hear the song as really about that rather than about peace and peace movements. Arlo is one of those "both sides are just as bad" people that thinks the government should just leave him alone. And this is coming from someone who learned the song from her Vietnam vet father, learned to play this song as one of the first I learned on the guitar, can do it in full at the drop of a hat, subscribed to the Rolling Blunder Review for many years, has made two (2) visits to the church in question as well as to the former site of Alice's restaurant, etc.

Sometimes the actual views of people whose work we enjoy are surprising or inconsistent with our own. This is one good reason not to expect moral cohesion and moral purity from your entertainers, no matter how you interpret their work.
posted by Miko at 5:06 AM on December 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh Rambo, where did we go wrong? I think it may have been in the sequels.

The fact that there are sequels at all is a start. In the book and the original version of the script for First Blood, Rambo kills himself. (The author balked at including language about “sequels” in the contract since how could there be any, but turns out it was good for him that it was.)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:48 AM on December 6, 2019


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