Thanksgiving Traditions

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions actually has nothing to do with food. It is a moment of time, 18 minutes and 37 seconds to be exact, where my family comes together to listen (and sing along) to Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. Up until a few years ago, we used to drive down to Philadelphia to my aunt's house for the holiday. For the majority of the ride, my brother and I would listen to our own music, but at 12 noon, as my dad tuned to Q104.3, we'd remove our headphones, and all four of us would start to sing, "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant!"..."with feelin'". By now, we know all the words and have gotten pretty good at mastering the folksy accent. Although the tradition started with my dad introducing the song to me, my mom, and my brother, it has extended beyond my immediate family. We now celebrate Thanksgiving weekend at my parent's house and my uncle will call just before the start of the song to make sure we're all by the radio. A few hours later, my aunt will arrive singing one of the verses. Although the song has become a holiday tradition, it has very little to do with Thanksgiving. It's an anti-war song from the 1960's about Guthrie getting arrested for littering and how that crime eventually helped him avoid the draft for the Vietnam war. Over the years, the song has played like a movie in my mind, and each time, I discover something new.

In anticipation of this year, I decided to sketch a few of the scenes that stand out most to me. Follow along to the song and have a happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a "meal that couldn't be beat!"

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Alice and her husband never took out their garbage so Arlo decides to take it out for them. The local dump was closed so they toss it off the side of the road on top of another pile of garbage.
Alice and her husband never took out their garbage so Arlo decides to take it out for them. The local dump was closed so they toss it off the side of the road on top of another pile of garbage.
They drove back and "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."
They drove back and "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 a envelope at The bottom of a half a ton of garbage and I just wanted to know if you had Any information about it." Arlo is told to go to the police station and is immediately arrested.
He said, "Kid, we found your name on a envelope at The bottom of a half a ton of garbage and I just wanted to know if you had Any information about it." Arlo is told to go to the police station and is immediately arrested.
Since they're in a small town, this becomes a very big deal. The cops document the scene of the crime with "wenty-seven 8 x 10 colored Glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of Each one explainin' what each one was, to be used as evidence against us."
Since they're in a small town, this becomes a very big deal. The cops document the scene of the crime with "wenty-seven 8 x 10 colored Glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of Each one explainin' what each one was, to be used as evidence against us."
Alice bailed Arlo and his friends out of jail and they go back and have another Thanksgving dinner that couldn't be beat before showing up for court the next day. They're charged with a $50 fine and having to clean up the garbage.
Alice bailed Arlo and his friends out of jail and they go back and have another Thanksgving dinner that couldn't be beat before showing up for court the next day. They're charged with a $50 fine and having to clean up the garbage.
But that's not what this story his about. "I'm here to talk about the draft. They got a buildin' down in New York City called Whitehall Street, where you Walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and Selected!"
But that's not what this story his about. "I'm here to talk about the draft. They got a buildin' down in New York City called Whitehall Street, where you Walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and Selected!"
Arlo wanted to look his best and be the "All-American kid from New York" so he got good and drunk the night before showing up to his appointment.
Arlo wanted to look his best and be the "All-American kid from New York" so he got good and drunk the night before showing up to his appointment.
He meets with the psychiatrist and tells him, "'Shrink, I want to kill. I want to kill! I want to see Blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I Mean: Kill. Kill!'" They both started jumping up and down yelling when a sargeant pinned a medal on him and told him, "you're our boy."
He meets with the psychiatrist and tells him, "'Shrink, I want to kill. I want to kill! I want to see Blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I Mean: Kill. Kill!'" They both started jumping up and down yelling when a sargeant pinned a medal on him and told him, "you're our boy."
Group W Bench
Group W Bench
The sergeant responds with "Kid, we don't like your kind!" and says he'll send his fingerprints off to Washington. Arlo's advice is that if you find yourself in a similar situation, walk into the shrink and sing a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walk out. "Friends, They may think it's a MOVEMENT."
The sergeant responds with "Kid, we don't like your kind!" and says he'll send his fingerprints off to Washington. Arlo's advice is that if you find yourself in a similar situation, walk into the shrink and sing a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walk out. "Friends, They may think it's a MOVEMENT."
Alice's Restaurant
Alice's Restaurant