Monday, November 27, 2006

"You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant"

(In which we conclude the song and if there's any leftover turkey still lying around your house, you might think about moving it on.)

I went over to the sargent, said, "Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send you fingerprints off to Washington."

And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints. 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, and if your in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take 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 thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is , the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the guitar.

With feeling. So we'll wait for it to come around on the guitar, here and sing it when it does. Here it comes.

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

That was horrible.

If you want to end war and stuff you got to sing loud.

I've been singing this song now for twenty five minutes. I could sing it
for another twenty five minutes. I'm not proud... or tired.

So we'll wait till it comes around again, and this time with four part
harmony and feeling.

We're just waitin' for it to come around is what we're doing.

All right now.

You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Excepting Alice
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

Da da da da da da da dum
At Alice's Restaurant


There was Thanksgiving 2005, of course, which saw me back at the family table and mumbling through a prayer vague enough to exasperate a Unitarian. Or Thanksgiving 2003, when President Bush got on a plane of his own and presented a plastic turkey to the (vetted if not yet veteraned) troops in Baghdad. Which reminds me yet again that every single holiday under his watch has been a wartime holiday. There was Thanksgiving 2001, where the collective determination of the nation could have pulled every balloon in the Macy's parade by willpower alone and the commercial for the USPS featuring Carly Simon's "Let the River Run" and a montage of the ordinary postal workers of the nation had me crying through three balloon characters and a marching band. That year is now bookended with this year's Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.

There was this Thanksgiving, which saw me cooking pies and making the turkey gravy from scratch over at my brother-in-law's where we all played host to the three members of Josh Lederman y Los Diablos, the visiting Boston band on its first-ever west coast tour. Over turkey, I discussed the latest project offered to me by Culann's Hounds. "They want to do some Bay Area Celtic Music showcase," I said. Non-committal grunts from the boys reaching for seconds. "But I've been thinking." Indeed, I was thinking right there out loud, "I've been thinking more like a whole American roots thing. Inclusive. You could get a number of the Bay Area scenes going with that." Rick, the drummer, brightened. "Oh YEAH, that's a good idea!" And full-mouthed but still quite enthusiastic agreement from the table. So that concluded the market research on the feasibility of a Bay Area Folk Punk-Roots Festival and the more I think about it the more I like it. It can also be a benefit for the National Veterans Foundation, which Culann's Hounds has already done some community work for as well. There could be a whole day of ukulele jamming, some of the bluegrass, some klezmer. And who knows what the kids are up to on Grant Street?

I also sent around the bit of Alice's Restaurant quoted above to my lit-group list. One of them wrote back:

I'm sure you know there really was an Alice's restaurant, a coffee shop in Stockbridge, Mass., which is a beautiful town next to the one I grew up in in the Berkshires. The basement bar in the Red Lion Inn, a 200 year old big, wonderful inn, is still there, but no longer features Arlo singing, as it did when I hung out there in the 60s. Alice's was right around the corner, in what is a very small, picturesque New England town. Because of the number of colleges, prep schools, writers, poets and estates, the Vietnam War was heavily protested way out there in the woods, as the Bostonians refer to it and the hippie movement hit it in full force far quicker than the Boston area, which eventually came around.

Stockbridge looks like a movie set to this day, although Norman Rockwell's small house gallery has moved to a large estate overlooks a large pond and includes a barn workshop for artists, a house for fundraisers and a museum designed to feature all of his work in perfect style. Most of those covers for Post were 6 ft. x 6 ft. paintings. Some of them are breathtaking - such as the Thanksgiving one, the moon walk, the brotherhood faces - some are heartwarming and some are quite humorous.

Thank you for this message. Obviously it hit a cord with me, a jog down memory lane, knowing that we need this sentiment today. My son and I were talking about this yesterday. His generation didn't do it (35 yrs. old), his sister's didn't (30 yrs.), but it's time for another 60s type thing to happen to slow down everyone's march for things bigger and better. Much as they seem like babies now that I'm over 50, I realize it does take energy and idealism of the very young, the 20 -25, those of college age, to start a movement, then the older join in. While the anti-war started the 60s movement, it was carried out via changes in education, psychology, workplaces, whole communities - a slow down and smell the flowers. 'Course, once the pendulum starts to swing, it seems to go way too far, and needs to head back a bit, but heads back too far also. Will we ever get it right?!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side"

(Still finishing up our meal at Alice's Restaurant)

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Alice's Restaurant Massacre, with full orchestration and five part harmony and stuff like that and all the phenome... - and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, did you ever go to court?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, I want you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W .... NOW kid!!"

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?" I said, "I didn't get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage." He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?" And I said, Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing, father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the bench. And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, until the Sargeant came over, had some paper in his hand, held it up and said:

you-gotta-say", and talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there, and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:



But Thanksgiving 2002 was a work-related absence and excusable and as has been told: an effort was made to observe the ritual pieties. Thanksgiving 2004 was a flat-out refusal to do any such thing, with the actual meal of Thursday being whatever the airline choose to serve to the handful of us passengers on the flight. The formal meal on Friday was at Milano's, an Italian restaurant in Dublin, and a fine, upscale swanky joint it was too. Too excited to do anything as mundane as eat, I think I managed a few bites of an artichoke and pesto pizza for one. At Milano's I was joined by a few of the other Horslips fans that I had befriended online in the course of the last two years. Some of them had traveled as far as from Cork and from Ballymena. Others were from Dublin. A few sent text messages in. To lend a certain weight to the thing -- to show the husband that my earlier boasts of a 'launch party' had some basis -- there was even a delegation from Horslips themselves. The evening unfolding with one of the community meeting us at the Baggot Street hotel where we were staying. I was given a bottle of Baileys, a package of Barry's Tea and, most prized and soon to hit the seasonal turntable, a copy of Happy Surfin' Santa, the story behind which has been related in this blog previously. Then we walked to the nearby pub where the rest of the party was gathering for pre-dinner drinks. And so with the rush of introductions and explanations, my husband and I were quickly embraced by a general mood of warm hospitality tempered, perhaps, with more than a little touch of curiosity from our hosts.

Then one of the band arrived and delivered an opening line that still reverberates in household travel lore: "This place stinks of businessmen's farts!"

Indeed, it did seem that the interiors of Irish pubs had changed subtly since one of my earlier visits and I became aware that the now banned cigarette smoke had performed its one forlorn beneficial function as a mask of other smells usually encountered where the monied and well-fed gather. My husband shot me a quizzical look. I smiled back in brave re-assurance. Still, as it stands, the remark was the closest thing to a Thanksgiving prayer we could come by on that year.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"I wanted to look like the all-American kid from New York City"

(Continues the saga of Alice's Restaurant)

They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York, and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I waked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the psychiatrist, room 604."

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it.

Proceeded on down the hall gettin more injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they was doin' to me at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty ugly things and I was just having a tough time there, and they was inspecting, injecting every single part of me, and they was leaving no part untouched. Proceeded through, and when I finally came to the see the last man, I walked in, walked in sat down after a whole big thing there, and I walked up and said, "What do you want?"

He said, "Kid, we only got one question. Have you ever been arrested?"


Thanksgiving 2004 wasn't my first time astraying from the amber waves of grain. In 2002, I spent most of November in Chichester, England working on a major transatlantic software project for my company. It was a great month. I quickly became a regular at the local Boots (that Botanica line rocks!) and adapted well to the custom of a pint at the pub right after work. Had one serious bout of homesickness, which was an actual physical reaction with nausea and insomnia and loss of appetite. Cured it by going to the local Chinese restaurant and pretending it was Grant Street and then going back to the flat and watching Full Metal Jacket on TV, reveling in the accents. Meanwhile, through the news, I stayed up to date with the Hans Blix and his UN team of weapons inspectors on their way to Iraq.

But the IT team -- Kevin, Dennis, Neville, Andy, Saroj, Malcolm, Sarah, Ian and Gwenda-- were mindful that I was missing out on the traditional four-day bacchanal of food and shopping, so they organized an ad hoc substitute for Thursday's lunch. A local pub had a carvery and confirmed a supply of turkey for sandwiches. The cranberry sauce was a little closer to chutney, but present and accounted for. The 'mash' half of a bangers and mash regular lunch supplied the potatoes and I think they even managed stuffing. Brussel sprouts were apparently the available greens, but an anti-sprout cabal made sure they never made it to the table. No doubt, for the best.

We had a great lunch. All that was missing was the televised roar of a stadium of American football fans and the rapid East Coast patter of a sports announcer in the background. Malcolm even tried for an obligatory heated family discussion when he took me to task for the undeniably poor track record the American settlers left in their dealings with the Native American tribes. Which was another one of those strange moments of zen that life likes to throw at me now and then.

In the evening after work, the town rounded the day off with a Christmas tree lighting and street fair marking the beginning of the longer shopping hours of the season. A local charity had a table selling small mince pies, so I was happily covered on that issue as well. It was on this visit, probably even on this evening, that I found my second Horslips CD - the Best Of double CD set on the Edsel label -- in the MVC music store on South Street.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"But thats not what I came to tell you about"

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog. And then at twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but thats not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.


Sometime during the summer of 2004, Maurice Linnane made an announcement in the Official Horslips Guestbook that the footage shot at the Derry Exhibition had become the genesis of a full documentary on the band, with archival footage, interviews past and present, and much more. Then as summer drifted along into autumn rumors flew about that the members of Horslips were gathering at Grouse Lodge and recording a new album. That was confirmed as Roll Back. Rumors then flew about a launch party in late November, conveniently timed for Thanksgiving. At the Halloween office party (a potent place of mojo for me) I hatched a scheme in the Horslips chatroom that I would get myself over for this album launch. There was some discussion back at the house on the subject of traveling on a day usually held sacrosanct for America, Flag and Family. And not just traveling. Traveling to Europe. For a rock album release party. And even after tickets were tentatively purchased, there was a further bit of anxiety when another session in the chatroom revealed that there was no launch party really and the album release had been delayed by artwork issues. But by this point, the November elections had passed and Bush was relected and I would have dissed Thanksgiving that year for a Westlife autograph session at the Patrick Street branch of HMV in Cork. What I managed to tell my husband I really can't remember, but we packed our bags and headed for the airport.

"And we went back to the church, had a another thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat..."

After speaking to Obie for about forty-five minutes on the telephone we finally arrived at the truth of the matter and said that we had to go down and pick up the garbage, and also had to go down and speak to him at the police officer's station. So we got in the red VW microbus with the shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the police officer's station.

Now friends, there was only one or two things that Obie coulda done at the police station, and the first was he could have given us a medal for being so brave and honest on the telephone, which wasn't very likely, and we didn't expect it, and the other thing was he could have bawled us out and told us never to be see driving garbage around the vicinity again, which is what we expected, but when we got to the police officer's station there was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon, and we was both immediately arrested. Handcuffed. And I said "Obie, I don't think I can pick up the garbage with these handcuffs on." He said, "Shut up, kid.
Get in the back of the patrol car."

And that's what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to the quote Scene of the Crime unquote. I want tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusets, where this happened here, they got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the Scene of the Crime there was five police officers and three police cars, being the biggest crime of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it. And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station.

They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining 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.

After the ordeal, we went back to the jail. Obie said he was going to put us in the cell. Said, "Kid, I'm going to put you in the cell, I want your wallet and your belt." And I said, "Obie, I can understand you wanting my wallet so I don't have any money to spend in the cell, but what do you want my belt for?" And he said, "Kid, we don't want any hangings." I said, "Obie, did you think I was going to hang myself for littering?" Obie said he was making sure, and friends Obie was, cause he took out the toilet seat so I couldn't hit myself over the head and drown, and he took out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars roll out the - roll the toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape. Obie was making sure, and it was about four or five hours later that Alice (remember Alice? It's a song about Alice), Alice came by and with a few nasty words to Obie on the side, bailed us out of jail, and we went back to the church, had a another thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and didn't get up until the next morning, when we all had to go to court.


Officer Obie and Arlo Guthrie have little to do with Horslips or the year 2004, but 2004 had been a milestone year for the Horslips fan community. It began that March with the first History of Horslips Exhibition in Derry. Organized by three of the band's most dedicated fans (Jim Nelis, Stephen Ferris, and Paul Callaghan), the Exhibition gathered together Horslips albums, posters, tickets, instruments and other memorabilia from all over the world. The Exhibition travelled on to Drogheda in October 2005 and Belfast in February 2006. The Derry installation, being first, also had Maurice Linnane on hand to film the evening as it unfolded. All of this made the Official Horslips Guestbook chat and even a relatively new fan of the music (I have only recently seen them perform live) could tell it was important.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before..."

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.

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

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room, seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump.

Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.

We didn't find one. Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw our's down.

That's what we did, and drove back to the church, had a thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning, when we got a phone call from officer Obie. He said, "Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And I said, "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage."

Yes indeed, this is gonna be a multi-part post dedicated to Arlo Guthrie as the mood hits me. Gotta beat the tribute to Wednesday Addams's Thanksgiving what we did post in this very blog last year.

It might also be noted that I used Thanksgiving Weekend 2004 to get myself on a jet plane as it taxied down the runway leaving these great United States and to fly on over to Dublin to attend the launch party of Roll Back, the new CD from Horslips.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Is it true this was a place of sin?"

In the office, I am to Horslips what Roger H is to The Beatles.

And so it was that Sunday evening I was on my way to the City with Roger to see Sean Lennon at the Great American Music Hall. Now I went mostly to have a good time and to see if the kids are alright (they seem okay) and how Lennon Og grappled with the family legacy.

And, interestingly, even though his own music was squarely in the style of today's sophisticated, dense, neo-psychedelic, alt-indy what-you-will, there were undeniable traces of a paternal influence. "It's the chord progressions!" I said to Roger after a song or two. "The key changes and whatever is going on in the tonal structure."

But it struck me that this still did not separate his music from his contemporaries or stigmatize it as derivative, but rather that they ALL have absorbed something from a primal source. Indeed, one album in particular.* So on the turntable today: Magical Mystery Tour.

Another surprise was Sean's easy-going relationship with the audience. "Great album!" someone shouted. "Whose album? Houses of the Holy by Led Zepplin?" he batted back. "That's a great album." This led to a few quick runs of signature Led Zepplin riffs to cheers and hoots. "Yeah, that shit's rad." he concluded. Another extended discussion with the front of the room on the subject of Maxon Crumb, holy madman and street sufi of the City. Then a shout-out to sister Kyoko in the house. Finally, the obligatory honoring of the locale. "Is it true this was a place of sin?" Sean asked, hand sweeping out to indicate pillars, balconies, bars, and dancefloor. Indeed. Cat house, opium den, rat-gambling pit, Shanghai floor saloon, or church: there isn't a nineteenth century structure in San Francisco without sin. The audience affirmed Sean's question.

"Well I'll tell you," he said. "It's a beautiful place to get a blow-job in."

And from the back of the house, male voice, booming: "Where isn't?"

*I already had an inkling of this when I went to see The Decemberists two years ago (at the very same venue) and one of their opening bands did a trance-electronica take on Blue Jay Way. It was pretty cool, actually.