Best Thanksgiving song ever? “Alice’s Restaurant.” Hands down.
(Then again, I can’t think of another T-day song except for “Over the River and through the Woods,” which was written by another kick-ass American dissident, Lydia Maria Child, who fought for the rights of slaves, Indians, and women. Her song wasn’t political – unless I’m missing a subtext – but I do want to know more about her.)
If you don’t know “Alice’s Restaurant” – or if you haven’t listened in a while – here’s Arlo Guthrie playing it a few years ago, with scenes from the “Alice’s Restaurant” movie interspersed. (The original lyrics are here, but Arlo updated and edited them a bit for this performance.)
Astonishingly, my very Republican, anti-hippie, draft-dodger-deprecating dad loved this song. He used to play it on the piano all the time when I was a little kid in the early 1970s. My sibs and I would sing along and dance. Only later did I read all the spoken-part lyrics and wonder: what’s a father-raper? By then I was maybe twelve and able to plunk the tune out myself on the piano. I was also abundantly old to realize my dad was not a good person to ask.
“Alice’s Restaurant” has been running through my head the past week or so, and it’s not just in honor of Thanksgiving. I’m thinking it’s time for a new edit of its final lyrics (with apologies to Arlo):
And the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, or maybe you’re just tryin’ to hop a plane without gettin’ all irradiated and nekkid-scanned. So if you find yourself inspected, detected, infected, neglected and seee-lected for a backscatter scanner, just sing, “Officer, You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.” And opt out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t grope him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re batshit and they won’t grope either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement.
Maybe it’s not a movement. Maybe it’s just one guy who convinces a couple of other people to opt out.
Or maybe you don’t care about opting out in the airport. Maybe you’re okay with people viewing your, ahem, junk. (Geez, I hate that term as much as I hate “vajayjay!” Now we’re stuck with it!)
Isn’t there something in your life, though, that just has to stop? Isn’t there some occasion that demands you sing a bar of “Alice” and just opt out? (And no, I don’t mean an irritating relative at your Thanksgiving table … though I just learned that my sister’s husband’s father’s third wife conducts training (??!!WTF??!!) for the TSA, so perhaps it’s just as well I missed out on this years family gathering in California, even though I’m aching to be there.)
If you’re ready to sing a bar of “Alice” – well, I’ll join in on the harmony. And I might – just might – sing it solo at the Columbus airport a week from today.