An Evening With Arlo
April 14, 2014

For the most part, Thursday was a lousy day. It started when I was running late to work, and had to stop and put air in one of my tires. It has a slow leak, I found out, and have to get it fixed. Then, shortly after I got to work, my computer got a virus, and is toast. Every story I had written and saved since I began working there, gone. I had a year's worth of data on gas prices, and my list of phone numbers. They're all gone too. I'm working at another desk with a computer that's slower than a TRS-80 loading programs from cassette tape. I felt the biggest mistake I made that day was getting up that morning. But then in the afternoon, something happened that at least brought a little sunshine in through all of the previous gloom. I got a phone call from Arlo Guthrie.

Okay, this wasn't a random phone call from a random folk singing legend. I was half-expecting the call, although I was expecting it the previous day and it never came. Guthrie was to perform Friday night at the Grass Valley Veterans Auditorium, and we were going to chat about that performance. Now if you know anything about Arlo Guthrie, you know the man can tell a story. After all, he made a 20-minute song out of getting arrested for littering.

Guthrie is winding down a two-year tour, celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of his father Woody in 2012. I asked Guthrie about growing up being known as Woody's son, to which he replied, “If you are what they call you, it can't be all that bad.” I'm of the age where I knew Woody Guthrie as Arlo's father, and he got a little kick out of that.

His show on Friday went pretty much the way he said it would. A lot of Woody Guthrie songs at first. Most of the sold out crowd didn't know them, but listened intently as Arlo spun stories about Woody, his family, and all the people that the elder Guthrie knew. Fascinating stuff, even if the names mentioned weren't all that familiar.

Guthrie said he wasn't going to do Alice's Restaurant. That tale will be 50 years old next year, and he'll start another tour in 2015 to promote that occasion. After singing Woody Guthrie songs for about an hour, he told what he said was a true story about a neighbor of his working on his bike, getting ready to ride it after a long winter. He was working on it in the house, and his wife, getting a little tired of the mess, put some of the gas, oil, and grease in the bathroom. The guy, unaware of that, decided to use the restroom and have a smoke, and ended up in the hospital. Guthrie then quickly segued into the Motorcycle Song (I don't want a pickle, I just wanna ride my motor-sickle). Intermission.

His second hour was mostly his stuff. Songs people knew like City of New Orleans, and Comin' Into Los Angeles (lohse an-gel-EEZ). He even did a few bars of Alice's Restaurant, enough to tease the audience of about 800, but then talked about the upcoming 50th anniversary tour. He concluded the show with Woody's This Land Is Your Land, written in 1940, and encored with a sing-along called My Peace, that Woody had written the words to, but never a melody. Some family members found it years later, and Arlo put some music to it.

The crowd exited the hall feeling pretty good. I started to file out with them, but one of the station sales staff, who got me into the show, motioned me to come over, and I stood in line for a short meet-and-greet. In the approximately 90 seconds I got to talk to him (and get that picture taken), I told him I was the one he talked to on the phone, and asked him what he thought of Grass Valley. He said the hall sounded much better than it looked (which I guess is a good thing), and said that he would definitely be back here one day.

Of course, like about 800 other people, I've been humming Arlo Guthrie tunes all weekend. I worked the early morning shift today, so I put air in the tires last night, and got in around 5am to my computer that still doesn't work, sitting at the unfamiliar desk with the slow PC that at least does work eventually. I didn't seem to be as mad about it, though, as I was last week. It's difficult to be grumpy when “I don't want a pickle, I just wanna ride my motor-cycle” keeps rattling around in your brain.

I'm not one for posing for pictures, but you gotta wonder what this guy's thinking. We look like we could be related, right?...Happy Birthday to my Mom, who turned 88 yesterday. She doesn't look it, and it seems like with the ordeal of her fall behind her, she doesn't feel it either. I'm so happy to report that.

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