Really Stoked, Ready for Tomorrow's Very Weird JFK Ritual
Getting pretty stoked, have to admit it, pretty revved up for the 50th Kennedy Assassination Celebration downtown tomorrow. Lots more calls coming in from the curious. Friend called from New Jersey asking if there will be a parade. Had to tell him no, sadly. They were afraid they wouldn't be able to keep the floats tasteful.
Just could not stay away yesterday. Went down there. Dealey Plaza was all flashing blue lights, cops and heavy equipment scraping the X's out of the pavement on Elm Street that marked where he got it. I watched the big dozers chipping away at the street with clanging steel teeth and thought, "Enter Lady MacBeth, with a taper."
Digging and scraping, digging and scraping. Who would have thought it would be that hard to get a couple painted X's off the pavement?
"Out, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, 'tis time to do 't. ... Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"
Saw here on Unfair Park how Patrick Williams and all the young people are bored with it already. Screw the young people! What would you have us do, give up our greatest ghost, one of our few legitimate claims on tragic dimension? Take away our assassinations, all my generation would have left to show for itself would be weed and The Monkees. Well, Vietnam, but that was a draw.
Dropped in on the little gift shop across the street from the Sixth Floor Museum. It's in the space that for decades was occupied by the old privately owned assassination museum -- kind of a hillbilly Tussauds. Swear I saw trick dog poo there once.
When Hillbilly Tussauds folded and the space came open, The Sixth Floor grabbed it, even though they already owned a nice gift shop right across the street in the School Book Depository Building. Always looked like a pretty clear exercise of Manifest Destiny to me. Anyway, there you have it, an assassination-themed cappuccino and gift shop that seems to have no name, let alone a mission or purpose. I call it the Hey-Hey LBJ Café.
I dropped into the Hey-Hey for a quick cuppa joe, and, as usual, it was 89 percent empty in spite of the biggest crowd of tourists outside on the sidewalk that I think I have ever seen down there. The Hey-Hey is a super-odd place. Took my brother visiting from San Francisco there once. Something about Jackie-O cut-out dolls, costume jewelry, lemon cake and 8-mm assassination films on the wall: just doesn't really hang together.
But where in the world were all those tourists outside going? I wiped my mouth on my sleeve, brushed crumbs out of my gray hippie beard and went outside to see. Oh my gosh! It was a homecoming! Everybody out there was a mouth-wiping, crumb-bearded aging hippy! I joined the lemming multitude, swept along cheek by jowl in a great shuffling migration of my clones. Across the street we shuffled and down, on down to the grassy knoll!
Ahead I saw a Biblical throng gathered beneath the beautifully restored and repainted art deco pergola where my old friend, conspiracy theory author Robert Groden, puts on his show. Seated at a table signing copies of his lavish new assassination coffee table book, Groden was resplendent and magisterial. So nice of that committee or whatever it was to repaint the place for Robert.
I'm telling you, members of my generation were approaching Groden in absolute reverence, knee-walking pilgrims speaking in hushed tones, then suddenly silent to catch any fragment of a phrase from Groden's own lips, all of which were passed back through the crowd in meaningful whispers.
I picked up on something I hadn't quite articulated before -- the assassination eye-roll. You know Groden has a guy who does the speeches for him. You didn't know that? Yeah. Hurts his feet. So the other guy stands and does the spiel while Groden signs books and tapes and handles the cash.
The speaker will say something about the Warren Commission -- blah-blah-blah -- and then he'll say something like, "But apparently the Warren Commission didn't get the memo on that." Then he does the eye-roll. And then everyone in the throng does the identical eye-roll, and they all say in unison, "Oh, sure."
Listen, I'm telling you, I think this is how the Roman Catholic mass must have started. It's that powerful! The hushed whispers and reverential eye-rolls in perfect chorus transport us to some other place and time. "It is not down on any map," the novelist Herman Melville wrote. "True places never are." But the eye-roll nods the way toward a place that is truly central and important for my entire generation.
I stood at the back of the crowd and had a whispered conversation with some dudes my age from Indiana. "What was that song?" I asked.
"I have always been a wand'rer, over land and sea, yet a moonbeam on the water casts a spell o'er me. A vision fair I see; again I seem to be [Chorus] -- Back home again in Indiana."
Yeah. Always loved that. Grew up hearing those Hoosiers singing it around campfires on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Hoosiers are great people. Best white basketball players ever.
So tomorrow will be the ultimate weirdness, when Dallas will try to make Groden and me and the Hoosiers and the aging multitude all disappear like those X's on the street. Gotta be a good show. Patrick Williams: Go to a bar for the day, willya? Leave us to our sad and shuffling ways.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter