City Preps for the 50th. Just Don't Ask "The 50th What?"

This afternoon I attended a media event in the Old Red Courthouse Museum to announce plans for the 50th. Don't ask 50th what.

"The name is simply the 50th," Mayor Mike Rawlings said firmly at the beginning of the thing.

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So that would not be the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dealey Plaza. Obviously, and I think this goes entirely without saying and I can't imagine anyone even suggesting it, it would not be the 50th anniversary of the day Kennedy got his brains blown out in Dallas.


It's "The 50th." That's all we are to say. If we are to mention it at all to each other in the months between now and November 22, 2013, when it will take place, it would be merely to say something like, "Well, the 50th is coming up." "Yup. The 50th." And then we all sort of look at our shoes.

You know, they're almost starting to make me feel bad about this whole deal. Notice I said, "almost." I have written a lot here about the city's weird plans to shut down Dealey Plaza for a week. They expect hordes of international press here that day, and they want to make sure so no conspiracy theorists talk to the reporters and tell them there are suspicions about the Kennedy assassination.

Perhaps the most important omen auguring what will really happen was this event today, where a little tea party had been laid nicely in the hallway outside a room fitted out with 130 Ducky Bob folding chairs, of which maybe 30 wound up being occupied, at least half of those by city and museum staff.

They're all convinced -- and when I say "all," I mean the old guard -- that Dallas will be flooded with media teams next November. They're nervous. I think it will be like today. Way too many chairs and cookies.

I spoke briefly beforehand with Ruth Altshuler, chairperson of "The 50th," who is a philanthropic pillar of the city, always nice, always ready to gab about her days at Woodrow Wilson High School. I also traded a few words with former Mayor Ron Kirk, now a member of the Obama cabinet, who said some thoughtful things about how the assassination may have been good for Dallas because it forced some healthy introspection on a city that needed it.

I will have more details in a column next week. There's going to be a huge effort to control things with tickets and cops and all sorts of invitations to mayhem. If a media crowd does show up, it will be for that story more than the 50th itself.

The 50th. You know what I mean, right? OK, let's look at our shoes now.

I hope the Daily Show sends John Oliver, so he can go around sticking a giant microphone in people's faces and honking at them in that inimitable accent, "50th what? Hey, what's it the 50th of? What do you mean, 50th?"

I am picking up a note of sadness in all of this. I think I will put it down. Maybe what we need most is comic relief.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze