alice’s restaurant is closed today

Day 26, November daily post challenge.

It was hard to decide what to say today since it is a national holiday here in the U.S., and a favorite one for a lot of people. I won’t try to say all that meaningful stuff, because most everyone else is far better than I at that style of writing. So here goes with stuff you probably never needed or wanted to know.

According to Thanksgiving facts gleaned from an internet sweep,  over 535 million pounds of turkey will be consumed today, those apparently coming from 45 million brave turkeys who had no other choice but volunteer for the occasion because that’s how things are. And because of lots of other things that will appear alongside whatever the cook has planned for your dinner table today, the average American will probably have consumed 4,500 calories by the end of the day. It might be good to be thinking about a long walk after dinner or tomorrow first thing.

Now these facts could be easily disputed; it depends on the source you go to, but one of my favorite sources is the funny paper. They have about the same shot at accuracy as anybody else in my book, so I thought it might be fun to throw one more fact at you, this coming from Grand Avenue (Steve Breen & Mike Thompson). It’s estimated that Americans will consume ten million pounds of turkey today . . . and due to turkey’s high sulfur content, Americans will also produce enough gas to fly a fleet of  75 Hindenburgs from Los Angeles to New York in 24 hours.

While I was contemplating these fun facts, Hubby played a Youtube video of Arlo Guthrie singing Alice’s Restaurant. Apparently it has become a tradition for radio stations to play this every Thanksgiving at exactly 12 noon. It also seems to be catching on in blogs, and even the ABC network today will be featuring it.

The original Arlo Guthrie video that started all this runs 18½ minutes and the sound quality isn’t that good on the ones I saw, so I shopped around and found this one instead. It only runs a little over a minute so if you have time to read this, you could probably spare another minute or two to enjoy this guy. He’s a real treasure I’m glad I’ve discovered, another thing to be thankful for.


Alice’s Restaurant, the one Arlo Gurthrie wrote the song for, was located down an alley behind a grocery store at 40 Main Street in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was roughly six miles from the church, and true to the song’s lyrics, just half a mile from the railroad track. It ran the length of the building from front to back along a side alley. It was only owned by Alice for a year and then she and her husband Ray divorced. Since Arlo’s song became so popular, Alice’s Restaurants have sprung up all over the country, and I’m sure you can find one today if you know where to look. Also, I hear the original Alice is still out there somewhere too.

One further note, I can’t accurately count the number of strings on his guitar, but it sounds much too good to be the standard number of strings (six?). I think it might be twelve, which leads me to mention a post I have planned for tomorrow–to introduce a new blogger to my blogging world. She’s MountainWoman Silver, an artist and woman of many talents–one of which is playing the 12-string guitar–but that’s tomorrow. I hope you’ll come back for that.

As for today, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, because if you’re able to or just plain have time to read this, then that means you have access to a PC so that means you have a lot to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🙂

Concert Evokes Memories of Friendly Beasts

We spent Friday evening among 21,000 other guests at the Conference Center on Temple Square as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with the Orchestra and the Bells on Temple Square, rang in the holidays in grand style with special guests baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell and actor Edward K. Herrmann. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the concert, it reminded me when animals were always an important part of  Christmas specials (at least in my memories).

Edward K. Herrmann is probably best known for his portrayal of FDR in “Eleanor and Franklin,” but appeared more recently as Richard Gilmore on TV’s The Gilmore Girls. Against the background music “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” Herrmann related the story of how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to write his poem of hope and renewal of faith as inspired by the christmas bells he heard chiming on Christmas morning of 1864. Herrman’s voluminous story-telling voice was particularly inspiring as we are reminded of the current state of unrest in the world of 2008.

With his matinee-idol looks, baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell beguiled us with seemingly effortless renditions of several holiday favorites, as well as a couple not-so traditional, but no less memorable, songs  (“New Words” about re-learning about life through your young children, and “Through Heaven’s Eyes” from the 1998 movie The Prince of Egypt).  For lyrics, click here.

The selection I enjoyed most, the one sparking a special childhood memory however, came near the beginning of the program as Mitchell sang “The Friendly Beasts” in his engagingly versatile style. It took me way back to the early 1950s as I was reminded by the lyrics of the TV show  I Remember Mama.” Does anyone else besides me remember the beginning of the show, when Katrin leafs through an album of family photographs and speaks these memorable lines:

“I remember the big white house on Steiner Street, and my little sister Dagmar, and my big brother Nels, and Papa. But most of all, I remember Mama.”

These days you can get DVDs and VHS versions of almost any TV show or movie you can think of, but not this one. “I Remember Mama” was presented live each week before a studio audience–except for the last 13 episodes. Sadly, this is the reason I’ll never be able to re-view my favorite one that aired around Christmastime in perhaps 1950 or 1951. The youngest character, Dagmar, fervently believed that animals could talk once every year, at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Everyone remembers Mama as played by Peggy Wood. And Judson Laire was Papa Lars. My favorite, because she was around my age, was Dagmar Hansen who was played by Robin Morgan. In my research around this post, I learned that this former child actor is now a radical feminist activist, a prolific writer and poet, as well as stints as editor of Sisterhood is Powerful and Ms. Magazine.

I was still pretty young and new to TV so I can’t remember the whole plot line to this Christmas edition, but I vividly remember at the very end Dagmar slipped out of the house to the barn to join the animals at midnight so she could hear them herself even if no one else believed her. Of course the rest of the family are very amused but accepting of her innocence.

What could have been more thrilling in the very last scene as the animals began to stir. . . then slowly began to talk among themselves as the clock struck 12. It was absolutely thrilling for me, a country girl whose own best friends at various times were a pig named Buster, a cow named Betsey, and a stubborn cuss of a mule named Jack.

Ask the Right Questions and Still Dare to Dream

Even though the material presented here on today’s post is not my original work, I feel compelled to put it up today. I may be breaking some sort of copyright law, but the fact that it’s “out there” on the internet already makes me feel the author would be happy to have it circulated.  It was sent to me in an email (how else?) and the questions are too good not to reach the largest audience possible. If anyone knows the origin, please let me know so that I can contact them directly. This exceptionally smart observer has this to say:

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight…..

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”

* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, [you’re] a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

*Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you’re a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you’re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America’s.

* If your husband is nicknamed “First Dude”, with at least one DWI conviction and no education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

And now, another discovery through a separate email, for those of you who need a little “pure pleasure,” or something that will take your mind of the election for a little while so your blood pressure can go down, there’s this video from YouTube and American Idol. I would say also it reminds us that in spite of the chaos around us in a country that’s becoming harder and harder to recognize from the one most of grew up in, we can still dream . . . and DARE to hope that this election turns out right after all the s**t making the rounds. I think you’ll find it very entertaining.

Olympic Athletes and Opera

We watched the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing last night, and though I’m not terribly interested in sports, I admit I get a lump in my throat seeing all those people from all those different countries, including ours, looking so proud and at peace with themselves and each other no matter who’s fighting each other politically or on the battlefields. The little flashlights passed out to everyone made an impressive backdrop for the stadium, and the Chinese athlete that let himself be hooked to cables so he could “walk” airborne to light the big Olympic torch was a rather remarkable feat itself. But I couldn’t help thinking how a fraction of the cost of producing such a spectacle could have done so much good in so many other ways for the Chinese people.

Now, with the last load of laundry in the washer and Hubby focused on the events in Beijing, this might be a good time to catch up here on my Wintersong. It rained fairly nicely in the valley yesterday, but only gave us a sprinkle–or as Mama used to say, a lick and a promise–so it’s still hot and sunny. Things could be worse. I try and remember that, and complaining doesn’t do any good anyhow.

I think this may also be a good time to tell you about the opera we attended in Logan on Thursday. Before I begin, let me just say that we both thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Not just the opera (Verdi’s Aida) , but the tasty lunch at Bluebird Cafe. We met some very nice and helpful people and enjoyed the slowed down atmosphere of this small town, and were amused by the waitress who tried for 30 minutes to think of something interesting to do in Logan after we finished at the Opera but couldn’t. It’s just that every time I attend an event like an opera or a concert or lecture on economics or some such stiff subject, my alter-ego goes with me. By that I mean the country girl–bumpkin if you will–that still lives inside me. The little girl who grew up in such different times and different surroundings, who is still easily overwhelmed by things like ballet, and opera, and Bell Canto. They remain so foreign to her experience.

There are those that say fiction (and I presume this means the storylines in operas too) only has seven story lines available. Anything else is just variation and plot twists. So opera can’t be all that complicated, can it? But Aida is the very first opera I’ve attended. I also appreciate the fact that opera is more about drama and art of the music than the plot. So how sophisticated do you have to be to appreciate it? Not so much, I think, in spite of everything. Just remember if you decide to read further, this “review” is written by that alter ego, not my more sophisticated self.

In Memphis (that’s not Tennessee, folks), Radames is outside Pharaoh’s palace when he learns that Ethiopia has invaded Egypt. He hopes the Pharoah will choose him to lead the Egyptian army against the invaders because if he wins he thinks he can use his hero’s leverage to free his lover, Aida, from her slavery. She’s a favorite slave to Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Unbeknownst to Radames, however, Amneris has a crush on him. We know this because, while Aida is singing about being torn between her love for Radames and her love for her native land (which is Ethiopia, incidentally) Amneris is singing a similar song out of Aida’s earshot. So we know right away that both Radames and Aida are both in a pickle, but they don’t know yet.

Naturally Radames is chosen as the leader of the Egyptian army. The High Priest, Ramfis, gives him a golden spear and blesses him. And then everybody prays to Isis to let them kill those bad Ethiopians, so we’re pretty sure already who’s going to win the war already, because without Radames, there’s no plot left.

Act II, scene 1: Yup, sure enough the Egyptian army is victorious. We know because Amneris is jumping around in her bedroom, surrounded by her servants, just beside herself because Radames will be returning in all his triumph pretty soon. So she flops down on her couch and calls him on her cellphone and tells him to hurry on back and get his just desserts and we’re pretty sure she means herself. (No, she wasn’t really on a cellphone, but just for a minute it looked like she was but I guess that was a theatrical gesture, that throwing her hand up on the side of her face covering her ear.)

But all this time Amneris is a little worried about Aida and Radames because she saw how lovestruck they looked when the three of them were together one day; so later, when they’re all alone in the princess’s room, Amneris tricks Aida into confessing her love for Radames by telling her that Radames died in the war, just to see her reaction. Up to then Aida had been her favorite servant, and she always seemed to be nearby carrying a very large basket in which she carried tons of needlework, no doubt sewing and mending to keep Amneris dressed like the princess she was. Well, I guess you can imagine the commotion Aida caused when she thought her lover was dead. But right there Amneris has her AH HA moment, as Oprah would say.

They all celebrate with a big party and the Pharaoh drops by and meets Radames. He tells his daughter (Amneris) to place a victor’s crown on Radames, and then sure enough offers him whatever his heart desires, just as Radames had thought he would. In the meantime, to complicate matters, the prisoners have been led in, and who should be in the lead but King Amonasro who–as luck would have it–is Aida’s father, except that he’s disguised as an officer. Radames knows this, so instead of asking for Aida’s freedom and hand in marriage, he feels compelled to ask that the prisoners be released instead. He knows Aida would be really upset to lose her father. The Pharoah agrees and then quickly gives him Amneris’s hand and they all celebrate and begin to plan the wedding.

Amneris is led by the High Priest (Ramfis) to the Temple of Isis in order to prepare for her marriage the next day. Amneris tells the Priest to go and pray all night in the Temple and she’ll go with him, so he does. I don’t think Amneris trusts many people.

Meanwhile Aida, who’s been demoted (we know this because she’s carrying a smaller basket now) is grieving for her homeland and is waiting for Radames, presumably for one last little fling before his marriage to Amneris. But while she’s waiting, her father creeps up (remember, he was freed because of Radames) and he convinces her to ask Radames to reveal the plans of the Egyptian army so Ehthiopia can have one more go at them. She refuses, but then agrees to talk to Radames about it so Amonasro hides nearby so he can listen.

When Radames finally gets there he assures Aida of his never dying love for her. They start singing, both of them trying to be louder than the other one, like a couple does when they’re fighting, and somewhere about then she gets him to reveal the Egyptian army’s next war strategy. Then Amonasro struts out and Radames realizes too late that he’s made a big mistake!

Then, who should pop in on the scene but Amneris and the High Priest. Remember, they’ve been praying all night within hearing distance right there in the Temple of Isis, which is apparently a very popular meeting place, and Radames and Aida have been singing loud enough to wake the dead all that time. Radames knows his time has come so he surrenders to Ramfis as a traitor, and at that point we know things are only going to get worse.

Finally we’re at the Palace Hall of Judgment where Amneris offers to spare Radames if he will marry her and forsake Aida. By this time the Ethiopians have mostly all been killed already, and that includes Amonasro, Aida’s father. “Nothing doing,” he says, “my heart belongs to Aida,” whom nobody has seen for awhile. After that the High Priest comes to give him his sentence: buried alive. Now Aida, who’s able to sneak around a lot better now that she only has a small basket to carry around, leaves the palace and goes and hides herself in Radames’s tomb to wait.

Now you’d think the bunch of mean men the Pharoah hires to do his dirty work would have the common sense to search the tomb before they kick Radames in and leave. Instead they just cuss at him a little bit and leave, and don’t even notice the lump of rags over in the corner. Well, we know that’s Aida, but Radames doesn’t know that just yet so he starts to sing about how he’s lost his Aida forever, and prays that she’ll find her way safely back to her beloved homeland, Ethiopia.

His singing wakes Aida up, so the lovers finally embrace and sing together, and just as the spotlight sweeps up to show Amneris above them (but she can’t see them–she’s outside the tomb) he lays a big one on her lips. Then Amneris starts singing and praying to Isis for peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

If I could have talked to Aida and Radames, I would have reminded them that they probably had several days left there in the cave all by themselves before death took them, so they might just as well make the best of that time they did have left. Either that or start digging. Because I can’t believe a girl from Ethiopia wouldn’t have planned ahead and smuggled in a little shovel. What else could she have been keeping in that little basket anyway?

So there, you have it. My country girl alter ego’s explanation of the simple story of Aida, as performed in four acts, sung in Italian, and with projected supertitles (across the top of the stage) in English, at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan, Utah, estimated population just under 7,000. Not quite the sweeping production Hubby saw in Vienna years ago, to be sure, but my very first Opera. Now that I have a Verdi under my (opera) belt, I think I’m ready for Puccini. Maybe next year.


I discover something new everyday. And it’s even better when that discovery gives me a good belly laugh or two. Yesterday it was just happenstance that led me to discover another very funny lady who’s also a mom. Here’s a video of comedian Anita Renfroe singing the lines moms everywhere say to their children everyday, day in and day out. These are the same things their mothers said to them and they swore they’d never say to their own children some day. What makes it even more fun is that she sings it to the tune of the William Tell Overture (or the more familiar Lone Ranger theme). This version has subtitles which help a lot because, as you know, the Overture is fast and it’s hard to understand all the words. It may just be the most hilarious 3 minutes and 15 seconds of your day, I promise.

Still Alive & Well

“Your mouth falls open in delighted incredulity even as your throat is wrestling with a lump of golf-ball proportions… All in all, it’s the best night out of 2000.”I read that line from a review from The Independent describing the experience of the reviewer at a Young@Heart concert in London in 2000. Those words pretty much sum up my feelings about this concert better than any words I might have conjured up. Hubby and I attended a hastily arranged local benefit concert by Young@Heart last night here in Utah.

They were everything I’d hoped they would be: a little rowdy, a little raunchy singing songs with lyrics from rock groups I wouldn’t have wanted Mama to know I was listening to when I was young, and as full of life as I hope to be when I round the bend in the road that leads into my seventies and eighties–should I be lucky enough to live that long. They included a mix of music from Rolling Stone (You Don’t Always Get What You Want), Gloria Gaynor (I Will Survive), Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven), and many I didn’t recognize to others like James Brown (I Feel Good!) that I did. Needless to say the lyrics sounded different coming from the mouths of these life-experienced oldsters.

One of the last songs they performed made an imprint on my mind. “Heaven” is from Talking Heads, a group from the 1970’s when I missed out on quite a bit of the contemporary music being played over the air because I was busy taking care of children and chauffeuring duties. While Hubby thought it was pretty, he didn’t understand what the lyrics were trying to say, but I must say it really appealed to me. I’m not sure what that means, but I figured the lyrics would be a good way to end this post. So here ’tis:

Everyone is trying to get to the bar.

The name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven.
The band in Heaven plays my favorite song.
They play it once again, they play it all night long.

There is a party, everyone is there.
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.
Its hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting, and so much fun.

When this kiss is over it will start again.
It will not be any different, it will be exactly the same.
It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting, could be so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

Sometimes, when I get way too busy, the idea of a place where nothing ever happens really appeals to me. Especially if it means no more gyms, which is where I have to get ready to go now. Gotta keep moving. Young@Heart brought me that message at last night’s concert.

A Walk in our Secret Garden

It was a quiet weekend along the Wasatch front. The sun was out in full-force and it was hard to believe we’d endured a surprise hailstorm just Tuesday–mothball sized pellets filled the deck and yard and poked holes in the new plant growth–confusing the heck out of all of us, especially Hubby and son-in-law who had just assembled their brushes and stain buckets and were ready to resume staining the woodwork on the front balcony they’d started the week before, one of those “best laid plans of mice and men” gone quite awry moments.

What a day to take camera in hand and explore the garden before the hot weather comes and the snakes come down from the mountain to slither about since no place in these mountains is secret to them. So, up one of the garden paths we go. Many though not all of the flowers in our garden are wild and indigenous to the area. Notice the small shrubby bush on the left at the foot of the irises. It has large white poppy-like blooms. I think it’s a variety of desert primrose.

This is the hidden deck Hubby is building for himself in the middle of this thicket of Gambel oak trees. He’s planning to put a table and chairs here to hide himself when he feels like getting away from me now and then. But since I know where it is now, I may just meander up and surprise him once in awhile. He’s been very busy making several pathways that amble here and there through the garden.

You see from the slope of the ground here that the garden is a steady but gentle climb from the deck behind the house all the way to the back gate at the top where the yellow flowers from the picture post a week or so back are waning but still blooming.

The irises are so gorgeous, and they seem to jump out in front of my camera begging me to take their pictures. See this camera hog? See the way it juts its way into the picture I was trying to take of the wild pink flower that looks like desert lupine? But again I’m no expert on wildflowers.

A little while ago a yellow butterfly with black designs along the edges of its wing fluttered by. He was a Swordtail. I wanted him to stop and let me take his photograph, but being the suspicious sort he declined and flew on. He sauntered back and forth a few more times, the flirt !, before heading off for who knows where?

This little “nicotinic” or “tobacco” looking flower just came up from nowhere in the lower yard last summer. This year it’s taking root in several areas over the whole garden. It has a small reddish purple bloom the develops in clusters near the top of the plant which grows to about two feet. If the irises are the royal ladies of the garden, this shy little thing is the blushing milk maid trying to be inconspicuous as possible so as not to attract too much attention lest someone question her fortune. It takes weeks to unfold from its tight little buds as if it isn’t sure it’s safe to show its full beauty.

These wild roses are in front of Hubby’s secret deck area and completely blocked from view from the house. In fact, I see them today for the first time, the direct result of the brush clearing Hubby’s been engaged with for weeks preparing his hideaway. Fancy that. I never knew we had a wild yellow rose.

Here it is a little closer up. [Below] Moving to the other side of the yellow rose and descending downward towards the house, is the red wild hedge rose I look forward to all winter long. It usually blooms heavily the first two weeks in May, and then it rests all summer long as a non-descript green hedge, and waits quietly to dazzle us again for two weeks next spring. It has finally decided it’s time to bloom this year–a full month late. Better late than never, I say! Can you hear the song I’m hearing? Blooming here, by my path, grows a lovely wild rose, greeting so shyly, all who pass by. Or something like that.

On the other end of the hedge above, [below] you’ll notice still another pathway leading down behind the house in another direction. I know the grass needs to be pulled and it would look a lot neater if it were, but it isn’t, and that’s okay. We’re hired a garden service that comes every two weeks in the summer, and whatever gets done gets done. We choose not to worry that our garden doesn’t look like a ritzy suburban garden. In order to keep it that way, I know, would require much more work and effort that either Hubby or I are willing to expend at this point in our lives. Luckily, we both rather like the informal, natural look of our garden just the way that it is.

That’s it for now. The flowers and the view changes over the weeks as the summer leaps along. Soon the tea roses will be blooming, and I’ll have cut roses in vases to enjoy inside. That will be for the hot part of the summer when the snakes may decide it looks really cool and shady here, especially in that hideaway of Hubby’s. But we won’t mention that word anymore today. If the walk hasn’t mellowed you enough, or if all that talk about you-know-what has you all edgy, here’s something sure to settle your nerves–if you have time–that is.

This is Edward MacDowell’s famous composition recorded in 1929 by the Musical Art Quartet. It consisted of Louis Kaufman on viola, Sascha Jacobson and Paul Bernard violins and Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff on cello. A picture from the 1920’s shows them to have been quite young. All were quite well known at the time, but Kaufman (on violin) later became quite famous. He was known for promoting newly written music. Merrihew uploaded this on YouTube about a year ago “because I really like this piece and Columbia Vivatonals sound particularly good on the Orthophonic.” There are many YouTube videos for this piece, but this is one of the prettiest and unusual.