Friday, May 19, 2017

Seeing Arlo Guthrie live

Cliff has been wishing he could avoid the 18th of May for a long time, having no desire to see anybody who doesn't sing old, pure country: especially not some aging hippy.  But he loves me, and I refused to coerce a grandchild, who would have had no more interest in Arlo than my husband, into hauling me there.  

Half the reason I wanted to see Arlo was because he is Woody Guthrie's son.

In the early 60's a folk craze swept the country.  I embraced it and bought a cheap guitar and a chord book so I could sing the simple old handed-down songs that the Seeger family had collected years before.  Peter, Paul, and Mary had several hits at the time, of which my favorite was "Blowin' in the Wind".  That got me interested in Bob Dylan, so I bought his first album.  Somewhere in those years, when I was only making minimum wage (starting at $36 a week), buying a record album was a big deal.  I wandered into some record store downtown and saw there was a three-album set of the Library of Congress Woody Guthrie recordings on which Woody got drunk, told stories, and sang. I must have skimped on groceries for awhile, because it was a major purchase for me.  I listened to Woody on those vinyl discs almost non-stop after  my bus ride home from work each day to my little apartment on East 11th Street in Kansas City.  Now at this time, Woody was in a psychiatric hospital and had been for several years (Huntington's disease).  But he was a true hero in my book.  He inspired people to form unions, to stand up for themselves.  That's what folk music is all about!

I've never followed Arlo's career that closely.  The only three of his songs I'm really familiar with are "Motorcycle", "Alice's Restaurant", and "City of New Orleans".  But he's the son of a legend!  I paid a pretty penny for the two tickets, buying them months before the event.

You can get to the beautifully restored Uptown Theater (where I saw Ben Hur as a teenager) from our house in less than 40 minutes, but we both wanted to allow plenty of time.  We don't do so well with city driving, and get lost almost every time we try to navigate Kansas City.  But we do have the faithful GPS, so we were pretty confident we'd make it OK.

Unfortunately, the GPS decided we needed more adventure in our lives and told us to get off I-70 at exit 5-C:  Jackson Avenue.  Cliff said, "This can't be right."

"You know what happens when we don't listen to the GPS," I said.  So he forged ahead, and things got interesting.  We ended up in the ghetto, each block looking more scary than the last.  I asked Cliff to lock the doors.  Cliff, meanwhile, was gritting his teeth, probably thinking it was just one more fine mess I'd gotten him into.  As we watched a hooker getting picked up, we wondered what on earth we were doing in that part of town.  

This strange route we followed took us to Union Station, where we couldn't follow the GPS directions because there was a road closed.  At least when you take a different turn, the GPS navigates you on a different path, so we finally made it to the theater.  Free parking!  How can you beat that?  And right next to the theater, too.  Things were looking up.

There were a couple of guys playing music on the sidewalk for spare change, and a line to the door had formed near them.  The music was decent.  When we got to the entrance, there was a man with a metal detector searching purses and pockets.  He asked Cliff, "Do you have any knives or guns?"

"What???"  Cliff said.  You see, his hearing, which is never great, is nonexistent when there's a lot of background noise (like music six feet away from us).  The guy asked him the same question four times, and each time Cliff said, "What?" a little louder.  At this point the man cracked up, because I think he realized how ridiculous it was to be asking an old, white-haired man in overalls such questions.  Finally I got right in Cliff's good ear and repeated the guy's question, and he told him "No... only her (motioning toward me)."

Seriously, what violent person would even think of attending an Arlo Guthrie concert?  He's a peacenik!

It was 7:30 when we entered and were directed to our seats.

(I'm going to make this a two-parter, so this concludes part 1.  It just goes on too long.  At least you know we made it there safely.)      


  1. I read these backwards. Maybe there is just a touch of hippy in you too, Donna.
    I would have considered the hooker & the hook-up pre-show entertainment.

  2. Loving the story so far...


I love comments!