One of the main attributes of any good hippie is buying into the concept of non conformity. We were down with counterculture, down with breaking traditions, down with zippers, free love, and expensive weed. Tha said, many of us did indeed hold on too, and some of us still do hold onto a Hippie Tradition every November. Alice’s Restaurant is our beloved 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 written and sung by Arlo Guthrie based on a true story about a hippie commune celebrating love and life on Thanksgiving Day along the hilarity and banality of events that followed. With a touch of creative license Arlo lays down a folk song with a tale guaranteed to make every true hippie smile. The tune lasts for 18 and a half minutes but for us aging rebels it goes way deeper than just a funny song, it’s a memory of an era. A golden memory. I know this story is very similar to many other potheads of my era but this is how the tradition I still uphold began for me….
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 our roof” in the authoritarian gospel according to Dad. So now I’m on my own in a shitty basement apartment in Kings Park with my hair no longer an issue to deal with on an hourly basis. Finally able to indulge in herbal activities without needing to be 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 unenhanced.
I invited my closest 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 and why can‘t you‘s. So I told them to come on over around 11,we’ll smoke a few bowls and listen to Alice’s Restaurant on the radio. 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. Although none of us were truly sure our feet were on the ground we trudged of with our smiles surgically implanted on our faces laughing for no reason whatsoever. 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 at least two of our original group have passed away, another two are just missing by choice, one doesn’t speak with me anymore, and of the other three I’m still in touch with one thanks to Facebook. Every year since I have listened to a radio at noon wherever I am and reflected on the friendships both lost and sustained and have found other friends who do the same thing. These days I no longer reflect on the eight revelers in particular, but all my friends and acquaintances from that era, some whom I have reconnected with on social media, some better left in my past, and all those who have passed.
So every year, I celebrate the epoch of the best people that ever lived, my hippie friends from the early chapters of my life, new hippie friends who lived through similar times, and other people who just love to hear Alices Restaurant each Thanksgiving. That’s what I‘m thankful for… Friendships, love, and a shared desire for peace and equality . My computer will be streaming Alices tomorrow at noon on Q104.3… Tune in and Turn on!! Have a fantastic Thanksgiving Day…. Live and Love in Peace