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Arlo, at the Scene of the Crime
To the Dump, Then to Jail
Every May, when snow is a distant memory and the Berkshires are revving up for the summer arts season, the Guthrie Center holds its annual Garbage Trail Walk. The 6.3-mile tour, which raises money for Huntington's disease (Guthrie's father died of the degenerative neurological illness), follows the route spelled out in "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." But the tour is hardly seasonal; in fact, to accurately re-create the 1965 event, go in the fall, when the leaves crunch underfoot and the air smells of spiced pumpkin pie.
To remain faithful to the song, start at the third stanza: at the old Trinity Church by the railroad tracks.
Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on --
Two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant,
But Alice doesn't live in the restaurant,
She lives in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog.
With its high peaked roof and round stained-glass window, the church is a textbook example of New England architecture; only the peace-sign flag in the window gives away its bohemian reincarnation. When Alice and Ray lived in the church, they stashed their garbage in an adjoining sanctuary. The detritus is long gone, and the annex now is used as an entrance to the nave. Inside, posters, photos and other memorabilia capture Guthrie during his more rebellious times. In the main hall, tables and chairs form a thick wedge around a stage. A solitary office chair sits like an abandoned throne at the back of the stage. The chair belonged to Chief of Police William "Obie" Obanhein, Guthrie's arresting officer. The singer and his adversary became friends during the filming of the "Alice's Restaurant" movie, and though Obie has died, his memory still attends Guthrie's shows.
Stop 2 is about four miles away, at the old Town Dump, which was closed 41 years ago, forcing a young Guthrie to search elsewhere to unload his trash.
So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump.
Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across the dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving."
And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before,
And with tears in our eyes we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.