Why I Love Dealey Plaza, the City's True Soul

Dealey Plaza, subject of my feature story in this week's paper version of Unfair Park, is a monument to horror, a locus of global grief, a vortex of paranoia and all that stuff. But on a spring weekend when the weather's good, it's also just kind of a cool place.

Is that allowed?

You see the craziest stuff -- like a dozen self-conscious tourists with cameras and fanny packs riding single file through the plaza on upright two-wheeled Segways, shepherded by Segway guides. Something about seeing people move like that always reminds me of the abbey scenes in The Sound of Music.

Then you have the families who gather in the pergola on the Grassy Knoll to look at conspiracy theorist Robert Groden's display of really gross Kennedy head-shot autopsy photos. The parents are the ones who look shocked. The 10-year-olds mostly shrug and look bored, like, "I've seen better gore in a cartoon show."

My own favorite spot for sheer shocking juxtaposition is the assassination latte shop across the street from the plaza. Owned and run by the Sixth Floor Museum, the Museum Cafe perfectly expresses Dallas's desire to make this the world's nicest assassination. It peddles only super-nice things about the Kennedys, like Kennedy family paper dolls and books about Jackie's clothes -- no disturbing conspiracy theory books.

It also offers a coffee bar and tables. On the wall above the tables, vintage home movies of the fatal day play in an endless loop.

Since the place opened, I've always taken the movies on the wall for granted. But I made the mistake of taking my brother from San Francisco there recently to grab a quick cappuccino.

I forgot the films were even playing behind me on the wall. Then I noticed he had stopped stirring his coffee and was staring over my head in gape-mouthed horror.

"Yeah," I mumbled into my cup, mouth full of lemon cake, "I think some of that's from the Zapruder film."

"Jim," he said slowly, "when I go home, I cannot tell my friends in San Francisco about this."

"How come?"

"No one will believe me."

"Oh, piffle," I said. "You people out there are so touchy. L.A. doesn't have a nice place like this for Robert."