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Pauline Lerner

Alice's Restaurant Part II

December 15, 2005 at 9:55 AM

Now the story takes an unexpected turn.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft.

(During the 1960s and 1970s, young men were conscripted, or drafted, into military service. Many of them went to extreme measures to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam.)

Arlo was sent to get a physical exam to determine whether he could be drafted. He was

injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected!... hung down, brung down, hung up and all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things.

Arlo was instructed to report to the psychiatrist on duty. He did so and told the psychiatrist

Shrink, I wanna kill. I wanna kill! I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I mean: Kill. Kill!"
And I started jumpin' up and down, yellin' "KILL! KILL!" and he started jumpin' up and down with me, and we was both jumpin' up and down, yellin', "KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!" and the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said "You're our boy". Didn't feel too good about it.

At the end of the day, Arlo was interviewed by one more official who asked him whether he had ever been arrested. Arlo

proceeded to tell him the story of Alice's Restaurant Massacree with full orchestration and five-part harmony and stuff like that, and other phenomenon.

When asked whether he had ever been to court, Arlo replied in the affirmative, and then he was told to join Group W.

Group W is where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committin' your special crime. There was all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly-lookin' people […] there . . . there was mother-rapers . . . father-stabbers . . . father-rapers! FATHER-RAPERS sittin' right there on the bench next to me!

Then a sergeant came by and asked Arlo whether he had rehabilitated himself, and Arlo said

I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench, 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug.

The Sergeant told Arlo that his fingerprints would be sent to Washington DC, and on his record album, Arlo noted that

somewhere in Washington, enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints.

(Fingerprints were made by applying ink to a person’s fingertips and transferring the ink from the fingertips to specially treated paper. These fingerprints were believed to be different for every human being and were consequently used as forensic tools before the advent of DNA fingerprinting.)

Arlo concluded by explaining the raison d’etre of his record album.

And the only reason I'm singin' you the song now is 'cause you may know somebody in a similar situation.
Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that, there's only one thing you can do:
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 […]
And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day . . . walkin' in, singin' a bar of "Alice's Restaurant" and walkin' out? Friends, they may think it's a MOVEMENT, and that's what it is: THE ALICE'S RESTAURANT ANTI-MASSACREE MOVEMENT!

You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant

Fast forward to 2005.

The church that was once home to Alice and Ray Brock is now the Guthrie Center, founded by Arlo himself in 1991 as a place for spiritual service and cultural and educational exchange. Its mission is described on its website (link):

As the world becomes smaller we must find ways to embrace the spiritual journeys of those whose traditions are different, without abandoning our own.

A plaque on the door reads:

One God - Many Forms
One River - Many Streams
One People - Many Faces
One Mother - Many Children

The Guthrie Center’s programs include the Walk-A-Thon to Cure Huntington’s Disease (the genetically based disease that claimed the life of Woodie Guthrie, Arlo’s father); the "Thanksgiving Dinner That Can't Be Beat" for families, friends, doctors and scientists who live and work with Huntington's Disease; interfaith yoga, meditation, and prayer for families and friends of people with HIV and other fatal diseases; art, music, and dance for children institutionalized and recovering from abuse; weekly free community lunches; Food Service Rescue, which delivers free food to those who need it; and Helping Hands Program for those who are homebound. The Guthrie Center’s income comes from donations and Arlo’s benefit concerts. The Guthrie Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation which shares space with the Guthrie Center, provides local cultures with the means to preserve traditional music, stories, medicine, dance, and spiritual practices in the face of an ever-encroaching globalization.

Arlo posted Season’s Greetings on Nov. 17, 2005.

The 2005 season is just about over here at the church. We got a lot done this past year - new construction - almost completed ramp - updated kitchen - all kinds of fabulous improvements. We are in our mostly dormant period at this time of year because we have no heat in the sanctuary, but there still programs going on

Before the year is gone I wanted to personally thanks everyone who came, who helped, who volunteered, all the above and more. Without you there would be no us. I am thrilled that we are still able to create and sustain the kind of community we have with all the abundant creativity and open hearts. Thanks to all who have helped with whatever tools were available - your hands, your hearts, your minds and your pocketbooks. It all comes together.

The beat goes on.

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.

The Guthrie Center

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