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I'm a pretty stoic person.  It takes a lot to move me.

I've hurt others; others have hurt me.  But I will never, ever forget coming home from school for lunch on November 22, 1963.  I watched Cronkite inform the nation that our President was dead.  I was hurt, but didn't understand how hurt in the moment.

When I went back to school after lunch, the adults were crying.  Maybe because I was in third grade, I didn't really understand why the emotion was pouring out of the very people that I expected to be stoic in whatever the situation arose.

What I didn't realize in that moment is that Ms. Smails was human.  She wasn't just my teacher - she was a first degree authority figure.  I don't know any other way to put it, but if you asked me to recall the names of any of my teachers, even through high school, I'd be hard pressed.  

Ms. Smails was a mess that afternoon.  But before school dismissed immediately after we returned from lunch, she told us she loved us.  Every single one of us.  There were black kids, white kids, and chicanos and none of us gave a good flying damn about the ethnic or racial heritage of the friend who sat at the desk next to us.  We were all in the same boat - sad and scared.

How can you be 9 years old and not be scared when every adult around you is a blubbering mess?

In the following days, I watched the TV, just like everyone else, as a nation mourned.  It was surreal, and even 50 years hence the pain remains.  The assassination of JFK was probably one of the first true world changing events broadcast in near-real time, through to the live murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by a strip club owner.  

To this day, I don't believe that we know the full truth, and yet it really doesn't matter.  November 22, 1963 is when my world changed.

A few years later, my dad was driving my sisters and me to Six Flags in Arlington, Tx.  He had asked us where we wanted to go for vacation.  Six Flags was only a dream for bumpkin kids from the high plains of New Mexico.  But he went for it.  And so we were enroute; staying overnight at some no-tell motel in the middle of nowhere.  The next morning, in the newspaper box, the headlines screamed:


Alright, ok, we were in Texas.  And there was one part of me that really, really wanted to believe that, even in 1968, the headlines were from a very old newspaper.

You might or might not be able to figure out the rest of the story.  The times were pretty tumultuous, and in ways not known to me back then, formative. Even as I write this today, I pause, trying to string together the words.  It's really that hard for a geezer like me.

When I started to put this diary together, it was only Monday night.  By circumstance, I happened to catch Whoopi Goldberg's homage to Jackie "Moms" Mabley on HBO.  If you can watch it, don't miss it.  Mabley had a deep, civil-rights driven connection with JFK and MLK.

50 years.  Mother of God, was it that long ago?

Even today, as I write this, the pulse pounds in my ears.  

What we, as a country, could have been.

What we, as a country, were even then as we entered into the quagmire of Vietnam.

What I, as a young man, believed and dreamed possible.

What we, as a country, would be today given the chance back then.

Maybe it was all a dream.  Maybe it was all manufactured bullshit, not all that much different from what we deal with today.  But there's a part of me that would like to believe that it wasn't bullshit - that there really was an America that could rise to the challenges and future that Jack Kennedy put in front of us.  He challenged our nation to go to the moon.


We did.

In 2013, government can't keep the grass cut in median of the local Interstate highway because we've been conditioned to not want to pay the bill.

I long ago gave up on my flying car.

Thanks for suffering through the memories of a borderline senior citizen.  In the immortal parting words of Kenny Powers:

“Yup, I’m finished.”
Carry on...

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    UID: 14791 Join Date: 7/7/2004 Status: Lifetime member Mojo: nearly infinite Any questions?

    by Richard Cranium on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 04:00:13 AM PST

  •  I missed out. I was a 3 month old fetus (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, churchylafemme, chimene

    when JFK died and Moms, I vaguely remember on Laugh-In., but nice post, thanks. Hugs.

    "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." - Woody Allen

    by blueoregon on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 04:34:06 AM PST

  •  Interesting that I just (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Cranium, chimene

    Watched the Moms Mabley special on HBO yesterday.

    "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley"

    "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." Levon Helm

    by BOHICA on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 05:46:00 AM PST

  •  1st Family Spoof Album: "The Party" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, churchylafemme

    A lighthearted comedy album led by Vaughn Meader impersonating the President was a huge popular hit during the JFK administration. What touches me so much about this short bit is the complete innocence of how they would soon pass into history.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 05:47:30 AM PST

  •  This: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, churchylafemme
    The next morning, in the newspaper box, the headlines screamed:


    Alright, ok, we were in Texas.  And there was one part of me that really, really wanted to believe that, even in 1968, the headlines were from a very old newspaper.

    I was living in L.A. and had a similar reaction when a friend woke me with a late-night phone call and began by saying, "Kenndy was shot!"

    My first thought was, of course--we all know that JFK was shot; why is she telling me this?

    What a terrible time it was.

    Being the single intellectual in a village of 1,100 souls ain't much fun, especially when 1,099 of those don't think you're all that smart.--Lucy Marsden

    by Miniaussiefan on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 06:02:18 AM PST

  •  Lots of horrific stuff to get exposed to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Cranium

    growing up in that decade (probably every decade--I wonder about my mom's story about being given away by her family to live on a farm during the Depression because they had to give up at least one kid to make ends meet). I know that the experience altered her self-image, her way of managing money and other essentials all the way along, and her view of what family should be. Unfortunately, she never realized her dreams in any of those areas and so became disillusioned too. We have a lot in common and I'm grateful she's still here for me to trade stories with.

    But the music sure was amazing through it all, wasn't it RC?

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 08:50:27 AM PST

    •  Sometimes, I think... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      offgrid, dannyboy1

      the only thing that got me through the 60's and early 70's, was the music.

      And an hallucinogenic or three.

      It was definitely a different world back then: a time that those who weren't around then simply don't have the frame of reference to relate to.

      In one of my rare moments of sobriety, I enlisted.  At the time, the results were mixed.  But I'll forever be recognized (for VA purposes) as a Vietnam era veteran.  The dividends that decision paid  out n my geezerhood are immeasurable.

      I'll never apologize for that.  I made the commitment when few others would, and I'm proud of that now.

      I'm sad on this 50th anniversary.  But without JFK challenging me as a child, I would have never made the commitment as a young man.  Time has elapsed.  I'm an old man now.  

      I still believe, when I look back at what I did, that I made a difference.  That I met Jack Kennedy's challenge.

      UID: 14791 Join Date: 7/7/2004 Status: Lifetime member Mojo: nearly infinite Any questions?

      by Richard Cranium on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 07:27:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Our stories aren't too different, (0+ / 0-)

        though you were a couple of years ahead of me. I'm not even sure about the moment of sobriety before enlisting, but I do recall that first day going to basic, still with the long hair (most of us had it), and 55 gallon drums in the reception all for all the "contraban," which were filled to overflowing as we were told to get rid of our goodies. As I passed by and dropped in my little baggy, I looked in and drooled a bit. It would be a long time before I got a taste again...

        I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

        by dannyboy1 on Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 05:19:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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