In a conversation at work several years ago, everyone was reminiscing about where they were on 9/11, and then what they were doing when the Challenger shuttle exploded. So I asked what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, and as their wide-eyed faces all turned my way I realized that I might as well have asked where they were when the Magna Carta was signed or Rome was sacked. None of them had been born by 1963 and I was talking about something they had to study in history and hope they'd guessed correctly about on a multiple choice test. This was the oops moment when I realized that I was officially An Old Person.
However, when we old-timers manage to shuffle our walkers back from the bar with a margarita and get on the topic of "where were you when...," it's amazing what vivid memories we all have of that moment, that day, and that weekend. Most of us stayed home from grade school on Monday so we could watch JFK's funeral on TV. Did I say grade school? I meant kindergarten. Actually, I'm sure I was watching TV over the edge of my bassinet.
Anyway, the rest of the country blamed Dallas for years. When I moved here, one of my first questions was "what was it like to live in Dallas when it happened?" My in-laws, who travelled extensively, told me that it was years before they stopped getting open animosity when people learned they were from Dallas. It wasn't until J.R. Ewing and the rest of the larger than life (and nowhere close to reality) characters in the TV show Dallas hit the airwaves that the tide began to turn and people would say "Dallas! Do you know J.R.?"
This fall will be the 50th anniversary of JFK's death. Since I had never been to the Sixth Floor Museum, I finally visited it today before the crowds overwhelm it as November 22 approaches. Far from being a morbid exhibit, it's really a celebration of Kennedy's presidency and contributions, but it does walk you through that fateful Friday and you'll experience all the same emotions all over again. Yes, I still tear up at the photo where John-John salutes his father's coffin passing by.
But I never knew before that the entire world stopped in its tracks and sorrowed with us: Big Ben tolled every minute for an hour as it does for deaths in the British monarchy, sixty thousand West Berliners held a torchlight parade (this was when the Wall still stood), the Soviet Union broadcast funereal dirges by radio as that's what most of its citizenry listened to then, and even Cambodia ordered a three-day moratorium on attacks against the U.S. (I guess it's the thought that counts).
My visit to the museum also solved one of the mysteries of Dallas life for me. When I started a career in marketing thirty-some years ago, I had to go south of downtown frequently to review photo proofs from our ad agency (this was before digital photography and we used this stuff called film which was developed with chemicals and you had to look at tiny little proofs with loupes because there was no Instagram or Photoshop, and well never mind I'll just shove my dentures in now and shuffle my walker back to this new-fangled computer thingie and focus).
The first time I drove south with my account executive, she said "watch out for the Ex-es!" as we came up on people standing dead-center in the middle of a major street. She was an Aggie, so I figured this was the old rivalry between Texas A&M (Aggies) and the University of Texas (Texas Ex-es) and she was implying that people dumb enough to stand in the middle of a major downtown street must be from UT. Almost every time I drove that route, I'd have to dodge people standing out in the street and I just added it to the list of other endearing Texas behaviors like threatening to secede every decade or so.
But today as I stood beside the glassed-off fateful corner window on the sixth floor of the school book depository, the mystery was finally solved. Looking down on the street where Kennedy's motorcade passed, two large white Xs are clearly visible to mark the locations where he was hit. Apparently people want to pay homage to him by going out and standing in the street on those exact spots (risking death by photo op as multiple tourists were doing today). So apologies to UT and the Texas Exes: some of the folks standing on those Xs might actually have been from A&M, or Tulane, or Kyoto University. Hook 'em horns.
The bottom line: the Sixth Floor Museum gets a thumbs-up from me, particularly if you remember the event and even more so if you don't. Just please don't go stand out in the street on one of those Xs as not everyone knows to slow down.
Now for my health update: it's good! I had another port flush this week (makes the boating crowd out there want to ask about the starboard flush, doesn't it?) and all is well. I went to see my ovarian cancer doctor, who I still need to visit every six months in addition to everything else, and he gave me a thumbs-up; no surprise there as no ovaries are left to do any damage. He did tell me that after weathering chemo for lymphoma, I'd passed one of the worst chemo regimens in existence, and I was doing quite well to get through with only neuropathy as an ongoing side effect. On the down side, he told me to stop dithering around and "pill up" - the neuropathy isn't going to go away and I need to start taking the maximum dosage of gabapentin and think about taking Cymbalta on top of it so I get back to life at full strength.
I immediately googled Cymbalta and found that it is primarily an antidepressant, in addition to helping neuropathy pain. Me - take an antidepressant? I already wake up every morning happy. Me on antidepressants would be like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music + Kelly Ripa + the latest Miss America on the morning after crowning. I don't think I'd want to be in the same room with me, it would be like being beaten to death by the bluebird of happiness. So I'm forging on with the gabapentin at full strength and will give it another month to get me back on my feet in the afternoons. Then we'll see about the Cymbalta. If my blog posts start sounding as though Disney scriptwriters were drafting them as part of a new Sleeping Beauty script, sound the alarm.
For those interested in the pottery updates: yes, I'm still enjoying the clay experience, particularly working with glazes. Some of my big pieces are starting to come back from the kiln and I am actually going to keep some, including this bowl, which was an experiment in multiple layers of glazes to achieve some of my favorite colors. PLUS - I tried the pottery wheel on Monday for the first time ever and managed to throw several really fabulous pots! OK, I discarded all of them except one. And it was wobbly. But still magnificent in my eyes and I'm keeping it.