It’s been fifty years since Michelle, a fifth grade childhood friend, interrupted me on the playground of Naples elementary and told me that ”President Kennedy has been shot.” The news did not impress me. I naively rooted for Kennedy in the 1960 election. Yes, I was suckered, but I was in the second grade! I didn’t discover the man was a shiny lying whore-monger until years later so cut me some slack. Kennedy dazzled my second grade mind but by November of 1963 whatever passing interest I had in him had dissolved. Despite Michelle’s worried tones Kennedy’s fate did not concern me but I dearly hoped that we would get the rest of the school day off! My hopes for a premature end of school ended with the recess bell. My first presidential assassination was off to a bad start and it only got worse.
We spent the day in class with distracted teachers; they were visibly relieved when our school buses arrived. I remember our normally genial driver had his civil defense drill face on. In the early sixties we enjoyed civil defense drills. As I was living in a remote rural corner of Utah the prospect of places like New York City getting nuked was cause for celebration. Civil defense drills were grand apocalyptic holidays. We’d get out of school early, pile on our buses, and then flee into the Uintah badlands. In a real attack I would be home in my basement long before the radioactive clouds killed everyone within a hundred miles of major cities. Maybe our driver thought that without our Marilyn Monroe banger at the helm the entire world would self-destruct. People worry about the silliest things.
I don’t remember the bus ride. It took forty-five minutes of highway driving and a change of buses to drop me in the middle of the Redwash oilfield where we lived at the time. Redwash was a small oil camp built to house oil heathens. Rural Utah in the 1960’s was almost 100% Mormon and oil people, like my dad and his coworkers, were almost 100% non-Mormon. Oil hicks and Mormon hicks did not mix. When oil was discovered under the Uintah plateau oil people first stayed in nearby Vernal and Jensen but there were too many fights. Oil people like to drink, smoke and whore while Mormons like to lecture, preach and ostracize. Redwash was the solution. We we’re twenty miles from the nearest small town and hundreds of miles from the nearest city: Salt Lake City. It was a good place to sit out the end of world but there was a problem: TV reception sucked.
When I got home my parents were glued to our fuzzy black and white TV. The Kennedy news was so riveting that my dad, normally allergic to technology despite being an accomplished petroleum engineer, went outside and fiddled with our rooftop TV antenna. No matter where the antenna pointed reception was awful. We got three channels and only one was watchable. TV talking heads were going on about Kennedy’s death. By the time I got home his death was certain. My normal after school routine consisted of TV cartoons, but I could see that there would be no cartoons and I was OK with it. I knew presidents weren’t assassinated every day, a little break in routine might be good. I expected the adults would go on about this for a few days and then things would get back to normal.
Boy was I wrong. Two days later I was eating a bowl of Cheerios in our small dining area when my mother stormed out of the living room ranting, “Why don’t we all get a gun and open fire?1” Ruby had just shot Oswald on live TV. My hopes for a return of afternoon cartoons took a major hit. I don’t remember much after Oswald’s death because my patience ran out. I didn’t watch the interminable lying in state, the never-ending funeral procession, the tiresome media bloviating or little Johnny F. Kennedy junior2 saluting poor dead dad.
Later on I remember sitting with one of my older friends in an oilfield garbage dump. We had been breaking discarded Mercury filled electrical switches to recover Mercury. At one time I had almost an entire liter of Mercury in my basement chemistry lab. I mixed it with molten lead and poured the mixture into water to form brittle 3D Jackson Pollack’ey insta-sculptures. When I was kid boys were allowed to be boys, we snuck cigarettes, shot out oil field gauges with our 22’s, stole welding blasting caps, had fist fights, had rock fights, shot sheep, called girls names and thrust 30-06 rifle bullets into bonfires. It was a golden age. I feel for the poor ADHD drug saturated eunuchs that substitute for boys in today’s pussy safe schools. It’s hardly surprising so many of them harbor volcanic rage that erupts in mass shootings. As my friend smashed Mercury filled switch tubes he bitched, “Jesus Dupont Christopher Christ, it’s been almost two goddamn weeks and there’s still nothing but Kennedy on TV. When the hell do we get back to regularly scheduled programming?” I really didn’t know but I didn’t expect to wait decades.
For years after the assassination we gorged on a steady nausea inducing diet of the handsome young president, so filled with promise, but cut down before his time, propaganda that somewhere between LBJ and Watergate I stopped giving a shit about anything associated with the Kennedy’s. When the stories about JFK’s drug abuse, whoring and general political ineptitude started surfacing3 I thought maybe the masses are finally developing some perspective. Kennedy was an average president. We remember him for five things: the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, starting the Apollo program, rabid skirt chasing and getting assassinated. Only one thing on that list, the Apollo program, is good! He had a meager legislative impact and everything liberal morons credit him with was actually implemented by the hated LBJ. If Kennedy hadn’t been shot he would be rated below Clinton and way below Truman and Eisenhower. Fortunately for Kennedy’s legacy, but not for himself, Oswald was a competent sniper.
And now that I have mentioned the “O-word “ will all you Kennedy assassination conspiracy nuts just fornicate elsewhere and expire. It’s been fifty years and you still haven’t definitely made your case. I will admit that a Kennedy conspiracy is possible, just like I will admit that aliens buzzing around in UFO’s is possible, but in both cases the “evidence” does not pass skeptical muster. I only change my mind when there are good reasons to do so and in Kennedy’s case there are no compelling arguments.
My intense disdain for Kennedy conspiracy imbeciles reached homicidal levels watching Oliver Stone’s absolutely execrable film JFK. There is a scene in JFK where two lead characters discuss “the shooting.” The film’s gun expert authoritatively intones that it was simply impossible for Oswald to fire as many shoots as he did and hit a moving target at such a distance. This is a simple outright lie and I would bet big bucks that Stone, another amoral lying reprobate, knew it when he was filming. How did I know it was pure and utter bullshit? Well I have been to the Dallas Book Depository and I have looked out the window Oswald shot from. When I saw just how far away his target was, it’s not that far, I immediately thought — I could have hit Kennedy. It would have been easy for any competent sniper. Go and look yourselves. To test the shooting another fallen liberal icon, Dan Rather, ran a test where he recruited a number of snipers to duplicate Oswald’s shooting. The verdict: it was completely possible. Stone was simply lying in the middle of his alleged historical big budget film. I have never watched another Oliver Stone film; don’t bankroll your enemies.
For a few months we’ll be subjected to a torrent of unbalanced Kennedy retrospectives. The few remaining magazine stands, in the few remaining bookstores, are filling up with Camelot encrusted crud. I only hope the generations born after Kennedy’s assassination will show their usual complete lack of interest in boomer nostalgia and let’s not fool ourselves Kennedy is pure boomer nostalgia. My hideous self-centered generation has always lacked historical perspective and here we are, fifty years later, still acting like fifth graders. Nobody gives a crap where we were when Kennedy was shot! So enjoy your 50th assassination anniversary because in another fifty years, when boomers are dead and gone, a new generation of American historical illiterates will be asking, “Wasn’t Kennedy the dude that nailed Marilyn Monroe on the moon?”
- Not a rhetorical question in hunting crazy rural Utah.↩
- Little Johnny grew into another loathsome entitled Kennedy. He was a dim witted echo of his dad and the original shiny pony. Perhaps we should encourage Justin Trudeau to take flying lessons.↩
- Before the Internet it was a lot easier to keep the lid on political dirt. Kennedy, like Obama today, was revered by a sycophantic slobbering press.↩