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 – Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie
I walked into the Drug Crisis Centre stoned on mescaline, freaked out, and they played that record for me, over and over, all night long, at my request. It was the only thing that seemed to calm me down, the kindness and compassion in Arlo Guthrie’s voice, singing about dealing with a pedantic authority, personalized as officer Obie, symbolizing our demands for order, an impossible goal, in the randomness of the universe. I was 18 at the time. I went on to be trained as a counselor in drug crisis intervention, an addictions counselor and a lifelong researcher in psychotherapy.
Fast forward to age 45, I am training in my new career as a fine artist and art teacher, volunteering at the Folk Festival with Edi my partner with Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder that progressively and terminally attacks the brain and everything the brain controls. Arlo’s dad Woodie Gutherie died of this, and his widow set up the Huntington Society, for which Edi and I volunteered endlessly, raising money for research.
We knocked on the door to Arlo’s bus at the folk festival and announced we were from the Huntington’s society and were immediately greeted with C’mon In!
Fast forward another 20 years, Edi has long passed, Arlo is still around and I am recovering rapidly from a stroke. I’m not used to people getting better from brain disorders, but here I am, (the brain, like a Cheshire cat, owes no explanations, it would seem), on the net and researching crime songs because I woke up this morning with the Sopranos theme song in my mind and randomly came across my old acquaintance through his music, classified as a crime song because as Officer Obie would have it, littering is a crime.
I had just received the news that I could expect to drive again, mobility is a huge symbol to me of free will and the power of choice. Arlo’s song symbolized that freedom to me, he chose to deal with fascism with humour and kindness rather than attack. As my fav psychotherapist Albert Ellis put it, you may have fewer choices (after a stroke for instance) but you still have some.
You may not be able to get <em>Anything You Want</em> at Alice’s Restaurant (life), but there are lots of choices.
And now driving is added to the list. Neat!