Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Dallas: Meat,Murder And Margaritas

Craig Writes;
Special hi to Jazzy, glad your enjoying the read:)
1/05/13 We flew into Dallas Texas today. It's a big state. They wear big hats, they've got big cows with big horns - six feet across-, they have big steaks- 28 oz of Prime Rib anybody? They have big cars and there must be some big bank balances. Real GDP here in 2010 was $US325 Billion and they have the third highest number of Fortune 500 companies in the country. They only have a population of about 418,000 but a booming conference industry that brings about 15,000,000 people a year.  That's big.

Big Chops
Kurt and his "Big Momma"
Bloody big horns
And when it comes to conspiracies, they have, "THE" biggest. In fact the Grassy Knoll was why I wanted to come here in the first place. 
Food wise there's a Bobs, a Billies, a Billy Bobs, a Riscky's, a Randys or a Smokeys Steakhouse or Smokehouse or one of a hundred different Tex Mex's on every corner.  They love their meat, their margaritas, their rodeos and they love their Texas.
I'm going to pretend I know a little about architecture here because they have a real eclectic mish mash of styles here.  When you take your eyes off the pavement and look around you it's a really interesting city to walk through.  You'll see everything from Victorian to Neo Classic, from Post Modernist to Gothic Revival. The hotel we are staying in, The Indigo, was built in 1925 and was the first hotel to bear the Hilton name. It is an early Modernist building. 

                               Some stunning displays of architecture

But, as I said earlier I'm not here for the great steaks, the buildings or the hospitality, I'm here to get up close and personal with the worlds most infamous Book Depository and explore for myself the worlds most conspicuously suspicious assassination. A murder fuelled for all eternity by a worthy conspiracy and the blood of a good President. Like many, the story and the events leave me ponderous for what this young President may have achieved and in awe of the audacity of the deed.
Today we walked the eight blocks from our hotel to the site of Kennedy's assassination. As we approached the corner of Elm and Houston the first thing we saw was the Book Depository. A seven story red brick building originally built in 1894. It was mostly destroyed after being hit by lightening in 1903 and was rebuilt in a Romanesque Revivalist style. Standing at the traffic lights looking over the road to Dealy Plaza, I looked up and counted the six levels to "the" window, just a plain ordinary looking window with a couple of boxes stacked against it.

"The Window", on the left side of the building, 6 floors up, square frame window on the right corner.
The boxes positioned as they were found. There to support the rifle
A window, where nearly 50 years ago, some of the shots that shook a nation and quietened the world rang out from. Over the road from the Depository and slightly to the right is a small sloping hill about 60 metres long and maybe 20 metres wide, the Grassy Knoll. The original picket fence behind it is long gone, picked clean by souvenir hunters but there is a faithful reproduction. It was from this spot that the irrefutable second gunman fired the shot that blew off the side of Kennedy's head. 

The Grassy Knoll, The picket fence to the left
The area demands contemplation
It was from here that 35 witnesses testified hearing shots ring out and from where small puffs of smoke were seen. It's a surreal place to be. I stood atop the same concrete plinth that Abraham Zapruder shot the most famous 26.2 seconds of silent colour footage ever taken in the history of film. I stood in the spot behind the picket fence where it has been confirmed that a second gunman had fired that final shot.  Zapruder's footage plays in my mind, it  leaves me cold and I zip my jacket.

I'm standing on the same plynth Zapruder stood to shoot his film
2/05/13 Our friend Helen from Houston arrived today so we returned to the Grassy Knoll for another look and a trip to the museum on the sixth floor of the Book Depository. Before she got there I went out into the city to get some shots of the buildings that stand around us. I walked into a park opposite our hotel to get a shot of the beautiful Neo Classical Municipal Building. I met a woman walking her dog who told me it used to be the county jail and it was in the basement of that  building where Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Really, right there, 50 metres from my hotel. I got my photo and walked over to read the plaque out the front and met the lovely and very accommodating Sergeant Perez who was standing out the front finishing off a cigarette. I introduced myself and asked if it was possible to get a look at the basement where Ruby shot Oswald.  She graciously said yes and got on her two-way to arranged for Officer Powell to meet me inside and to take me down to the basement for a tour. He was very very helpful. He showed me the room where Oswald was processed, the wall he stood against for his identity parade, the narrow side door he was escorted through and the exact spot where Ruby shot him down.
Oswald was taken through the door on my left. Ruby shot him on that black line.
There is a set of glass doors that were put in in the 80's but apart from that it's all exactly the same. Now, it looks like nothing, just some scuffed lino and painted walls in need of a recoat. An underground parking lot with a spread of early model motors.  But here, in this innocuous little corner of a basement carpark was where one of the more sinister chapters in the greatest conspiracy of the modern era was played out. Oswald was never going to make it to a trial. His fate was sealed long ago when the sinister wheels of power began to roll and the cogs of deception began to turn. Officer Powell mentioned the abandoned cells on the fifth floor where Oswald was kept but said it was off limits and he wasn't able to take me there.  But a quick chat to the very obliging Sgt Perez and she was more than happy to give me a personal tour of the long defunk jail cells. In particular, cell number two where Oswald was kept the night before his own slaying. I wish I could put into words the feeling it was to have my hands on the bars of his cell door, to be in that tiny space where he spent his last night. Was he cool, was he calm, was his mind a scrambled mess trying to calculate how he had become the centre of one of modern histories greatest intrigues. This small man in this big big drama. 

Sgt Perez
Senior Officer Powell
Oswald's last night was spent here in cell two
The museum is on the sixth floor of the Book Depository and the corner where Oswald supposedly took the shots is exactly as it was back in 1963. Piles of scattered boxes, a few stacked against the window to allow for a steady shot. The window and the floor boards with the scuff marks are all original. The scene is all set behind thick glass to protect and maintain it, but there it is, two metres from you, the spot where the shots were taken from. You can look out the adjacent window and get practically the same view the shooters would have had on that day. There are two big white X's clearly marked on the road below. The first cross indicating where Kennedy was when the first bullet hit and the second cross where the car was when he received that last and fatal shot. The Grassy Knoll is clearly visible on the right.

The second X marking where Kennedy was when the final and fatal bullet hit 
I don't quite know what drew me to want to come here and wander this space. There was no other reason for us to come to Dallas, this leg of the trip was more for me. I wasn't old enough at the time for it to have made an impact on me but I guess over the years films like JFK, documentaries and the internet make you more aware and pique your curiosity.
I think it was the inconceivable fact that the most powerful man on the planet in a country that holds itself up as a beacon of democracy and all things good and true could be killed in a conspiracy orchestrated by members of his own government.
I wonder how that's effected the psyche of every President since, knowing that your not really the most powerful person on the planet and that if you piss off the wrong people you too can join that small infamous club.

4/05/13 Today we headed out to Fort Worth to see the famous cattle run down Main st. It was a dozen tired old bovines shuffling out of their pen for a slow meander down a side street. A small crowd of tourist snap some shots.
They came..
...they went.
A hundred metres down the road they automatically veered left and back into their pen for a "well earnt" rest. Beats having your rump on a large white plate covered in peppercorn sauce. It was cute and a little funny. The town certainly does have a bit of an old cowboy town feel about it which is fun. For $5 you can sit up on top of a genuine Long Horn Steer. Yeehhaa!!  The Japanese tourists were queuing up and I almost did too but in the end it was just a big cow so I decide to keep my fiver in my pocket. We all had fun on the bronckin buck but the operator cranked it up when I got on and I fairly knackered myself trying to not fall off. I got an admiring "well done for a fella of my age" at the end. Cheeky bastard. 

He wasn't smiling by the end but he hung on
So did Charlie
5/05/13 Today Helen heads back to Houston, the sound of many empty Champagne bottles clinkin in her boot and the memory of some very nice dinners and interesting chats to add to our collection. We're now off to Sacramento.

No comments: