If you say Alice’s Restaurant to an old school hippie around Thanksgiving you will most likely elicit a huge smile and happy reflective eyes. Why? Alice’s Restaurant is a Hippie tradition, and just about anywhere you go in the country you can find a radio station playing Alice’s Restaurant Massacree at 12 Noon on Thanksgiving day. It’s a song by Arlo Guthrie based on a true story about a hippie commune celebrating love and life on that day and the hilarity and banality of events after it to an at the time unpopular group of peace loving peoples called hippies. It’s sung by Mr. Guthrie in his trademark style, with a monologue center guaranteed to bring tears of laughter to all true hippies. The tune lasts for 18 and a half minutes and for many of us it goes way deeper than just a tune on a day, it’s a memory of an era. A golden memory. Many others have a tale similar to mine so lets just reflect on my first epiphany on how much this song really means.
As soon as I turned 18 I made good on my threat to move out of my parents house so I wouldn’t have to follow all the ridiculous rules while I was “Under my roof” in the authoritarian gospel according to Dad. So now I’m on my own, my hair is not an issue under my roof, and its okay to indulge in activities that I had to do by an open window while burning incense. But I still had to go to Thanksgiving dinner at home because I didn’t move far enough away, and you just couldn’t say no to Mom. I was at the age where family get togethers were more of a torture once you’re no longer sitting at the kids table. That didn’t mean I had to go there unprepared.
I invited my best friends over for a pre T-day dinner soiree to get us all in the right frame mind to combat the inevitable bevy of put downs. So I told some friends to come on over around 11,we’ll smoke a few bowls and listen to Alice’s Restaurant. That’s how I sold it and the response was overwhelming. Eight of my closest friends stopped by and each had their own version of temperament enhancing herb. So we sat in the living room of my basement apartment, which of course was also my bedroom, rumpus room, den, and dining room. We sat around on milk crates and bean bag cushions passing chamber pipes, chillums, sticks of Thai, and even a well weathered meerschaum pipe. We were all feeling exceptionally good and listened to Alice’s Restaurant on our rock station. As usual it had us all laughing and grooving without any thoughts to what lay ahead with the family function. Each of us had reasons to not want to go to our homes for thanksgiving, most because we would get the litany of when are you gonna cut your hair?, what college are you going to?, why do you dress like that?, you call that music?, anything to put us down in front of the family. Not wanting to make the convergence into fake family fun all of my friends stayed until 2 o’clock and left my humble basement room feeling like we could take anything our families had to give. As each person left we swore to do it again next year, same time.
Thanksgiving dinners became so much more bearable that day and the tradition continued the following year. By year three, two of the group had moved away, I had moved four towns away, and life began to just sort of happen. By year four it was two friends, each of us with our girlfriends, and after five years all of us had gone our separate ways but promised to keep up the tradition wherever we were. This year two of our original group have passed away, two are just missing without staying in touch, one doesn’t speak with me anymore, and of the other three I am still in touch with one, but every year since then I have listened to a radio at noon wherever I was and reflected on my eight friends. These days I no longer reflect on the eight revelers in particular, but all my friends and acquaintances from that era, many whom I have reconnected with on social media. So every year, I celebrate the epoch of the best people that ever lived, my hippie friends from the early chapters of my life. My radio is set, and today the tradition will continue. Peace