26 October 2015

Me and Arlo at Sixty-Eight

Saw Arlo in concert last night as part of his Alice’s Restaurant Massacree 50th Anniversary Tour. For years we celebrated Arlo (and Pete’s) Thanksgiving concerts at Carnegie Hall, and then circumstances made it too difficult to continue our attendance. Nevertheless, I have followed Arlo whenever he was in close proximity and over the years have seen him in Eau Claire Wisconsin, Minneapolis and now St. Paul, Minnesota. The event is always a homecoming. For one, I don’t know anywhere else in the country where I can feel assured that no one sitting by me votes Republican. And the play list covers my life: there isn’t a name he utters that doesn’t situate me somewhere at sometime: they are all part of my community; they have all been my family for years.
     I didn’t need to hear “Alice’s Restaurant” again. I have listened to it every year for fifty years—on at least Thanksgiving Day. I quote some its lines over the course of any year. And there were songs included that I have heard Arlo sing for many years: “St. James Infirmary,” “City of New Orleans,” “Coming into Los Angeles”, even “Chilling of the Evening.” In fact, there wasn’t one song last night I haven’t heard him perform before, nor one narrated story I haven’t heard in previous years. But I would never think to say “Stop, I’ve heard that one,” or, "Darn, I've heard him do that one before," because I am not there merely for the stories or even for only the songs.These components are part of the event but not the event itself. I’m there for the community Arlo’s presence inspires, and the songs and stories are part of that community and presence. I can sing along with all of the songs because they have been part of my life as long as has Arlo and friends been present in it. And when he talks about his friends . . . they have been part of my community as well. Arlo brings into the concert some of the best people and parts of my life, and he has offered me a community into which I have brought my own children. Each of them is seeing Arlo on this tour though each will do so in different cities. But like all those past Thanksgivings at Carnegie Hall, we will be together again.
     When Arlo sings forever “This Land is Your Land” I believe him and maybe everyone else at the gathering does as well.


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