Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Existing in New York City: The Day of JFK's Assassination

Foto by tgw, New York City, November 2013
Say Goodbye to: Jim Hall, master of the guitar, esp. the jazz guitar.  I first heard him with Jimmy Guiffre doing "The Train and the River" and then so great on Sonny Rollins' "The Bridge." Jim Hall, 83, American jazz guitarist, composer and arranger.
Say Goodbye to: Chuck Willis: Willis wrote one of my fav tunes (I've sung it many times in public) with the line: "I feel so bad, like a ballgame on a rainy day." Chick Willis, 79, American blues singer, cancer.
Say Goodbye to: Chico Hamilton, one of the great jazz drummers and ensemble innovators.  Chico introduced me to Eric Dolphy. Chico Hamilton, 92, American jazz drummer.
One Day in Dallas
It's hard to believe that day was 50 years ago.  A lot of the characters in my life at that time are now gone.  Bobolink Bob, for instance, who while standing at one of the Dallas County Juvenile Home's floor-to-ceiling staff room windows that overlooked the Trade Mart where President John F. Kennedy was to speak that noon was pretending to be popping off rifle shots when I arrived for work that November morning.  "What the hell are you doin', Bobolink?" I asked curiously as I rushed to the staff room coffee pot to get my first cup of coffee of the day.  "Shootin' JFK," Bob said.  "He'll be right down there at the Trade Mart.  Be easy to hit him from here."

Bobolink Bob's pretending didn't bother me.  Though I was aware Kennedy was coming from Fort Worth to Dallas that day and there was going to be a big motorcade from Love Field to downtown Dallas before he ended up at the Trade Mart to make his speech, I divorced myself from the proceedings because it was requisition day at the Juvenile Home and I was the office manager with that budget-limited burden hanging over my head.

It was a nice day.  Sunny.  Clear.  And I was feeling my testosterone-primed oats because my bride to be and I were throwing a big party that night at her apartment out in Arlington where she was a sophomore at Arlington State College (now the University of Texas at Arlington).

Since I had moved to Dallas about all I ever thought about was partying.  Partying in Dallas at that time was an almost nightly affair and the parties were well attended and the booze flowed liberally and the meals were gargantuan and each party introduced me to a new bevy of absolutely beautiful and free-spirited women and women were my hobby.  I was fresh out of the U.S. Army, in tiptop shape, and my hair was golden blonde and thick and I drove an MGA1600 and I was eligible and sexually naive enough to be the target of both single and married babes who flocked to these parties.  Yes, I was supposed to be marrying a preacher's daughter who was seven years younger than I was and who was gorgeous and voluptuous and extra-attractive since she was underage and she knew I wasn't serious about marriage; in fact, I railed boisterously against marriage.  I felt marriage to be not only confining but also in a political sense simply a way for the state to glean another tax.  And since I also proudly proclaimed myself a full-blown atheist, marriage in a church under the auspices of a reverend, priest, or rabbi to me was ridiculous.

As far as JFK went, I didn't trust him, though my bride to be was a member of the Kennedy-for-President Club at Arlington State and she was also a worker for the Connelly for Governor campaign and as such was also doing campaign work for Kennedy and the Democratic Party.  There was a huge Kennedy cult in all the colleges in that part of Texas.  Young people loved the guy because he was young and well educated and rich and slick and so handsome and witty and to them he was promising whereas all presidents before him, in particular Eisenhower and Truman were old duffers who catered to the Power Elite while demanding young people become stooges of their elders, a state from which my generation was trying to escape.  We were in the midst of rebelling against our elders, breaking away from the Protestant Ethic and trying to fly free in skies of our own imaginations.  We were taking over the culture, forming our own culture.  Revolutionizing art via Pollack, de Koonig, Warhol; literature/poetry through Ginsberg, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, diPrima; music through Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Parker, Jr., Stan Kenton, rhythm and blues, and eventually rock and roll; and if we listened to classical music, we listened to John Cage, Steve Reich, Terry C. Riley, and electronic music.  We smoked pot.  We advocated free love.  We saw nothing wrong with abortion.  We accepted homosexuality.  So Kennedy was more our speed than the mean countenanced Tricky Dick Nixon.  The Republicans still even in those days stood for the obsolescent.  They stood for the Power Elite.  Our elders.  They were the war and money party; they represented the laissez faire. We went to college to study the fine arts, to study radical psychology and sociology, to get a liberal arts education.  When I started college, Economics was still in the Social Science Department.  We were highly critical of the School of Business.  We put the SoB down by chanting "Live and Play With a BBA."  The intellectuals were in the Liberal Arts; the dumbells (spoiled rich brats and athletes) were in the SoB, a notch below a Phys Ed. degree.

Kennedy and Jackie O symbolized true progressivism to young people in those days.

When news came of the president's being shot got to us, we were stunned, unable to believe what we had been joking about had actually happened.   After word of the president's being shot, I was ordered by my boss to take a young man, who being involved in a fight in our gym had had his front upper teeth knocked up into his nostrils and was suffering quite some pain, to Parkland Hospital, which was literally just walkable yards up an alleyway from the Juvenile Home facilities on Harry Hines Boulevard.  By the time I got this kid up to Parkland, the area around the Emergency Room was cordoned off by gaggles of Dallas police and Secret Service who were warding off hundreds of curious onlookers.  I wasn't aware that they had taken JFK to Parkland but when I got up close to the area, I saw the presidential limo (ironically, President Eisenhower had had that limo fitted with a bullet-proof glass top that it was said JFK made them take it off for his tour of Texas).  Since I carried a Deputy Sheriff badge due to my working in a Dallas County incarceration facility (the Juvenile Home was a jail), I was able to get into the Emergency Room with my suffering ward.  While in there, I was totally forbidden to get anywhere near the curtain-enclosed ER area where JFK was being cared for. It was, however, easy to feel the tension in the room made even more tense by the heavy police and FBI and Secret Service presence.  By the time I got back to the Juvenile Home, I was at Parkland about an hour, Walter Cronkite had announced that JFK had died.

In spite of this historic occasion and the sullenness and weeping and wailing surrounding it, by the time I got out to Arlington that night, I was ready to party hearty as planned only to find my partying mode quelled by my bride-to-be's anger and the fact that she had called off the party, an action, she told me, that was unnecessary since all the possible party participants had agreed with her and weren't coming anyway.

In subsequent days, Dallas was aflame with assassination news, rumors, conjectures, with the Dallas Police almost immediately telling us they had a suspect they were after.  They said they had found evidence on the 6th floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building that proved the shooting of JFK originated there.  They had found a weapon and spent shells and were in the process of apprehending a person they said had committed this foul deed.  After following this suspect all over Dallas, the Dallas PD announced they had finally cornered the rat in the Texas Theater where he was hiding out.  The rat turned out to be Lee Harvey Oswald.

In those days, the same as I thought it odd that after the World Trade Center towers were blown down the FBI almost immediately published the names and photos of most of the Saudis and the Jordanian who were responsible for carrying out the attack, I thought it quite unusual that the police and the FBI came up with a Kennedy-assassination suspect so fast.  As they hauled Lee Harvey Oswald into jail (on television), he looked at the camera and said he had been framed.  Almost immediately contradictory information of all sorts came flying into the news. Though there were many problems with some of the timelines, the Dallas Police and the FBI stayed sure they had their man.

And what a man they had.  Lee Harvey Oswald.  He had been a Marine.  He had trained in counterespionage at a U2 spy plane base in Japan.  He had taught himself Russian.  He had defected to the Soviet Union and while there married Marina and had a daughter with her.  Then, unbelievably, this defector to Communism three years later was allowed to come back to the USA with his Russian bride and daughter, amazing in that at first he was accused of giving the Soviets secrets that would make him a traitor but then suddenly he had had his passport renewed and was allowed to reenter the USA with no charges against him.

Pissed off at right-wing Dallas and my job, the new director of the department under which I was employed accused me of stealing hams (I requisitioned all the staples for the Juvenile Home kitchen and merely filled out the orders given me by the head cook), so after marrying my bride-to-be in January of 1964, my new wife and I pulled up our Dallas stakes and moved to New Orleans where I began working for the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.  My big boss in New Orleans was D.A. Jim Garrison.

Going out for lunch one day, I happened into Don's Offshore Lounge and sitting at the bar was Jim Garrison.  I introduced myself and he in a friendly gesture bought me a drink, recommending that I join him in his favorite drink, a Bullshot (vodka and beef bullion).  I saw Jim Garrison many times thereafter during lunch at Don's and began to find him a very interesting man on all aspects of New Orleans politics, Louisiana law, and later became closely aware of his interest in the Kennedy assassination and its relationship to New Orleans.  Through Jim Garrison I learned several truths about Lee Harvey Oswald who had lived in New Orleans just prior to his moving to Dallas.  Through Garrison I learned of Oswald's deep connections to the CIA and a cast of weird anti-Castro characters like David Ferrie, Clay Shaw,  and New Orleans (and Dallas) Mafia boss, Carlos Marcello.  In New Orleans, Oswald posed as a pro-Castro Commie, passing out flyers on New Orleans street corners in support of Fair Play for Cuba, a movement whose intent was a thing called "Tractors for Cuba."  According to Garrison, the CIA had sent Oswald to the Soviet Union as an agent provocateur where he pretended to be a pro-Communist sympathizer.  On his return to the US, Oswald had open connections with a man who had been the former head of the CIA in Chicago (also the Mafia home of Sam Giancana (who helped throw the '60 election to Kennedy in Illinois) whose mistress, JFK had been banging).  Ironically, too, in New Orleans I had moved into a Vieux Carre apartment owned by G. Brian Corp., a real estate front for the Marcello family.

While in New Orleans as a member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), my wife became friends with the comedian Dick Gregory and comedian Mort Sahl.  Both men, especially Mort Sahl, were convinced Oswald was a CIA stooge and was involved in a plot by the CIA and the Mafia to kill JFK due to JFK's not supporting the Bay of Pigs Cuba invasion and also saying that he was going to break up and do away with the CIA (he had fired Allen Dulles, the creep who was first head of the CIA (during WWII known as the Office of Strategic Services), and ironically who Lyndon Johnson later put on the Warren Commission that investigated the Kennedy Assassination and who through Arlen Specter came up with the single-shooter theory, a theory that has become the official line of the Federal Government and our national media). [Note: later Allen Ginsberg became an avid theorist on the connection of the CIA and the Mafia.  Watch the following video of Rage Against the Machine doing Ginsberg's poem "Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox":]

After the assassination in Dallas, no one that I knew believed in the single-shooter theory.  No one that I knew believed Oswald acted alone.  We heard people at the scene say that shots came from the grassy knoll that lay ahead of the presidential motorcade.  We heard about three men (called tramps by the Warren Commission) in a railroad boxcar on the railroad overpass that bridged the street down which Kennedy's car was traveling.  We later heard that some of those men were CIA agents (it has been revealed by E. Howard Hunt's son, St. John, that his father was in Dallas that day and confessed on his death bed that there was a plot to kill Kennedy.  It has also since been rumored that George H.W. "Pappy" Bush, who Gerald Ford later made head of the CIA, was also in Dallas that day.  George H.W. "Pappy" Bush was also in NYC the day the Saudi-Arabians and the Jordanian blew down the strongly constructed World Trade Center towers and several other buildings in that complex. The day after his son, Marvin, resigned as the WTC security chief.)

One weekend in Dallas, my old college roommate came to visit me.  He'd just been released from the U.S. Army in which he'd been forced to serve during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  During a night out on the town, we ventured down Commerce Street to the Carousel Club, a strip joint.  During the comedian's time on stage, we started heckling the unfunny guy.  Our heckling got so on point that the audience started joining us in booing the poor unfunny slob.  Soon this man came over to our table and politely told us we had to leave the joint.  "You're ruining my show, boys."  He escorted us to the front door where he gave us two business cards.  "Boys, my sister runs this club out on Oak Lawn.  These passes will get you in her club and I'm buying you boys a couple of drinks."  He showed us the backs of the cards where he wrote "Free drinks for these boys" and signed it "Jack."  It was Jack Ruby.  What a surprise I had when later watching television, I saw Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald.

My involvement with the Kennedy Assassination is further connected since my brother at the time was editorial page editor of the afternoon Dallas newspaper.  He wrote a series of editorials both condemning and defending Dallas citizens' roles in the sordid affair.  The streets were jammed that fateful day with thousands upon thousands of cheering Dallasites and after JFK was shot and killed there was a morbid sadness over the whole town.  When I was up at Parkland Hospital while JFK was there in the ER, outside were hundreds of people filled with anxiety and all of them with tears in their eyes.  My brother also interviewed Jack Ruby in the Dallas County Jail and he said Ruby was a shattered man.  Only a few weeks later, Jack Ruby was dead.  The official report of his death said that he had died of cancer.  [Note: Lyndon Johnson much later, after he had resigned from running for a second term due to the Vietnam War protests (he had lied us (the Tonkin Gulf Incident) into that war that now it has been revealed Kennedy was intent on keeping us out of), just all of a sudden died...of cancer...rumors having it that he had been injected with cancer by FBI agents while on a helicopter flight from Austin out to his ranch on the Perdenales...also the same was said about Marilyn Monroe's unexpected death).]

So that in a hasty way is my story of where I was on the day Kennedy was assassinated.  I could go into this story deeper but there are tons of articles and reportage on the strange unexplained happenings surrounding that assassination.  Some said there were several Oswalds (look alikes) involved in the conspiracy.  Lately I've read that Lyndon Johnson might have had a hand in the assassination, too (he did hate the Kennedy brothers).  A long list of characters involved or rumored to be involved in the assassination were found either murdered or shot and declared suicides, including David Ferrie.  Later while living here in New York City, I met this California woman, Mae Brussels, who proved through hundreds upon hundreds of cross-referenced newspaper and magazine articles that there was a conspiracy involved in JFK's murder.

From New Orleans, I moved to Mexico City.  I lived on Serapio Rendon just around the corner from a bar called Granma.  I was told by my wife's Mexican Airforce lieutenant "admirer" that that bar was where Fidel Castro had first planned his invasion of Cuba...and he later sailed to Cuba from Mexico in a boat called the Granma.  I was told if I were going in there, and I was drinking Cuba Libres at the time, to order my Cuba Libres as "Cuba Libre con Castro, por favor."  That I did and much to the delight of the bar patrons.

for The Daily Conspiratorial Growler
Goya: "What Illness Will He Die From?"

1 comment:

Marybeth said...

Well, holy crap! That's a story!