Tonight, I heard Arlo and Sarah Lee Guthrie at the Berklee Performance Center on their 50th anniversary of the Alice’s Restaurant Massacree Tour. Arlo told some stories I’d never heard before, and I cried when he sang the song he wrote 50 years ago after he first saw the woman who later became his wife, illustrated with pictures of her them, and the kids over the years and the song written by Janis Ian to Woody’s lyrics about his mother singing to him.
But memories of past encounters with Arlo over the years filled my mind. My first date at MIT was a trip across the Charles with someone I had just met at a mixer to see the “Alice’s Restaurant” movie which had just come out between Woodstock and the start of school. It was a class assignment for “Conflict and Community in America”; it seems we’ve done more of the Conflict and less of the Community than we should have over the past 45 years.
My next encounter was six years later in 1975 with my first spouse and two of our former housemates during a camping trip to Windsor Jams State Park. Other than an encounter with a bear and her cub in the woods, the high point of the trip was a trip to Worthington to hear Arlo Guthrie and Steve Goodman play at an outdoor benefit concert. Arlo sang Steve’s “City of New Orleans” at the piano, and I’ll never forget “Penny a point and no ones keeping score…” I can still picture the open field, the park’s small but scenic gorge, and the bears in the autumn woods.
Ten to fifteen years later, Arlo sang with Keith Lockhart and the Esplanade Pops for a Fourth of July Concert, specifically playing the No Trespassing verse of “This Land Is Your Land”:
“On the fence there was
A sign that said, “No Trespassing”.
On the other side, it didn’t say nothin’;
That side was made for you and me.”
I got up close enough to see him singing, and it was a great day, even though I was alone.