Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Giddy-up Dallas - Yee Haw! ~3

Downtown Dallas in bronze

I planned to walk to THE grassy knoll. I plotted a route in my iPhone and checked with the bellman. “Is it safe?” I asked, extending my iPhone to him.
“You want to walk?” he asked with a look of incredulity.
I made a face, “I’m sick of sitting.” 
“It’s safe,” he said nodding.
My destination was 2.5 miles east and a $17 cab fare. Google Maps estimated my travel time at 90-minutes. “I said walk not crawl,” I growled at my iPhone.
The day was hot, humid, and blustery. Telltale in retrospect, as I would depart Dallas-Fort Worth not twelve hours before twisters tossed semi-trailers like Tonka toys.
I initially headed east along the frontage road before turning north onto Oak Lawn Ave - a street that should terminate in a cemetery. Unlike the frontage road, Oak Lawn had sidewalks, albeit buckled and interrupted, and was lined in strip malls sprinkled with mom-and-pop businesses between empty storefronts. 
I walked passed a large campus of sweeping lawns, gently bent trees, and genteel brick buildings oozing Southern charm and design. The sign read: Old Parkland Hospital. I stopped to query a maintenance man, “Is this the Parkland Hospital that President Kennedy came to?”
“No,” he said, “This was closed before President Kennedy was shot. He went to the new Parkland Hospital.” I walked on through the urban sprawl surrounding Dallas.
The Texas School Book Depository was and is a nondescript, seven-story, brick building at the corner of Elm and Houston - on the northern edge of Dealey Plaza. The President’s car slowed to turn left onto Elm and the rest is history.
The Sixth Floor Museum is fascinating. Large pictorial displays line brick walls starting with the landing of Air Force One at Love Field nearby. The display recounts the hours... then slows to minutes... then... seconds.
The first half describes the early days in the White House, a country in love with a handsome President, his beautiful and poised wife, small children running and squealing in the Oval Office, the Peace Corp, Civil Rights, the end of open-air nuclear testing, and a promise to reach the moon. The scapegoat’s lair (er... sorry, but not that sorry) in the southeast corner marks the half-way and turning point.
The rifleman’s perch, Oswald’s “sniper’s nest” is sealed behind glass and remains as it was on November 22, 1963 - or at least replicates exactly, the large picture on the wall - book boxes pushed aside, the window partially opened through which, some say, a smoking gun barrel was seen.
President Kennedy wore a white shirt pinstriped in royal blue. They cut it from him. The jagged cut follows the button placard; the left shoulder and chest are stained in blood. Sealed in plexiglass, it hangs on the wall, a grim and tearful reminder of the man’s end.
I watched TV clips, live coverage of the day, of Walter Cronkite blinking back tears and biting his lips, distractedly pulling his glasses on and off, announcing the President and been shot and killed in Dallas.
I was a first-grader, my memories are culled from our collective memories and books. To view actual TV footage of the day, moved me to tears.
Book Depository: upper left building. His car traveled up,
turning left at Book Depository. 
Abraham Zapruder filmed steadily from atop the grassy knoll, never ducking for cover like those around him, even as he screamed, “They killed him; they killed him!” His uninterrupted 354 frames and 19-seconds would capture the most horrific, single event of the century. Stills from his film occupy the latter half of the museum. (Zapruder’s film can now be viewed on the internet in hi-def; it will turn your stomach.)
The timing and sequence of events were forever fixed in Zapruder's frames... into which the scientific and physical evidence HAD to conform. Could Oswald aim and fire three shots with a single-bolt-action rifle, at a moving target, with any accuracy in the given time frame? That the FBI’s most talented marksman could not achieve that feat did not deter the Warren Commission.
Could a pristine “magic bullet” travel through both the President and Gov. Connally, shattering ribs and wrists, collapsing lungs, and “fall out” unscathed onto the gurney at Parkland Memorial? That the FBI could never reproduce an unscathed bullet after firing it through equivalent cuts of goat meat and bone, did not deter the Warren Commission. Yes, apparently some “magic bullets” CAN cause lethal injuries, make 90-degree turns, fall out on gurneys, AND be deemed indisputable, irrefutable evidence. (Little has changed in Washington DC where magical thinking continues to prevail... but I digress.)
What about the “head snap”? What about first hand accounts of bullets from the grassy knoll and more shot reports than three? These inconsistencies give rise to conspiracy theories that were presented and explored without resolution. 
What follows is a synopsis of the investigatory committees, from information provided at the museum and further researched on the internet and Wikipedia. Underlined words hot-link to the source.
Contrary to the Warren Commission, in 1979 the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that President John F. Kennedy was likely assassinated as the result of conspiracy. The HSCA found both the original FBI investigation and the Warren Commission Report to be seriously flawed. 
All Warren Commission's records were submitted to the National Archives in 1964. The unpublished portion of those records was initially sealed for 75 years (to 2039). The 75-year rule no longer exists, supplanted by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and the JFK Records Act of 1992. 
The Assassination Records Review Board was commissioned, not to make any findings or conclusions, but to release documents in order to provide public access for independent analysis and conclusions. From 1992 - 1998, the Assassination Records Review Board gathered and unsealed approximately 60,000 documents, consisting of over four-million pages.
At the conclusion of the Assassination Records Review Board's work, all Warren Commission records were available with only minor redactions.
The remaining Kennedy assassination related documents are scheduled to be released to the public by 2017 - a full fifty-four years after the assassination! It is this sealing of records that engenders mistrust and reflexive questioning: What are they hiding?
The museum closes with two clips: first, President Kennedy’s speech in Berlin ending with, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (And the crowd goes wild.) But more telling and illustrative of his visionary qualities is the commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C. June 10, 1963.
So, let us not be blind to our differences. But let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
Is this philosophy not iconic and lexiconic in the new millennium?
For more information about The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza visit: http://www.jfk.org/
I dried my eyes and walked to the grassy knoll. A large X on the roadway marks the approximate position of President Kennedy’s Lincoln at the moment of assassination. Several blocks east, I found the Kennedy Memorial - a cenotaph - an open tomb of white, granite walls that entomb a black marble seat for quiet contemplation. 
The ghoulish, Gaudi-ish (see Gaudi - famous Spanish architect) building next door is the old Dallas Courthouse turned museum. It reminded me of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (see Harry Potter) and is note/picture-worthy for just that.
Dealey Plaza is downtown. I headed north past Uptown. Rather than hoity-toity Highland Park, known as the Beverly Hills of Dallas, I went Bohemian to Knox/Henderson: a collection of romantic wine bars along side the Apple Store, unique boutiques, vintage clothiers, and antique shops. There, I lunched at Chuy’s.
Chuy’s is a local Mexican food chain originating in Austin. It is kitsch and cheap, and gawdy, and bawdy, and serves menu favorites like Burritos as  Big as Yo’ Face and Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom. Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom? Okay - I’ll admit it was a little scary. 
My eating utensils were sealed in a white paper sleeve straight from the 1950’s emblazoned with: This silverware has been SANITIZED for your protection. The back of the wrapper was printed with three prayers: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish blessings. 
A hand-painted replica of the Abbey Road album cover, replete with life-sized  Beatles hoisting platters of steaming Mexican food, covers the entire back wall.
Invoking Chris once again, I assessed the crispiness of their chips and the snappiness of their salsa. Their chips were greasy; their salsa snappy. My chile rellenos was strongly reminiscent of a corn-dog, a six-inch, battered, and chicken-deep-fried extravaganza. A bit greasy for my tastes and I swear I could feel the endothelium of my coronary arteries get sticky and attract LDL cholesterol - my anxiety of it alone, causing chest pain. 
Time to eat and run; I had a plane to catch. I routed my bipedal return to the Anatole along the edge of Highland Park, home of the landed gentry, and past the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks. By the time I reached the Anatole, I had covered over eight-miles and explored yet another city alone and on foot. I had an A-ha moment, suddenly understanding why I often explore alone. My interests and want for physical activity are far from mainstream and seldom shared by my companions. Cabbing it to the mall for lunch does little to excite me.
The trip to the airport and flight home were nondescript. Back at the ranch, I had a new perspective on my population-management workflow at Kaiser and a new date to track - 2017. I expect another series of theories floated when all Kennedy assassination material is available. That too will pique my interest. Yours?

So ends the recounting of my Texas tale. Mahalo for your readership, devotion, indulgence, and numerous tender mercies. You leave me with the experience of a life fulfilled. Many mahaloz ~ lorin