Fathers and Sons: The Day JFK Died


The first time I learned about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy I was a little boy. My father kept a book about JFK on a shelf in the living room. In it was the famous photograph of Kennedy waving to the crowds as his motorcade made its way through Dealey Plaza.

Years would pass before I understood the full impact of the president’s assassination; that time came when I was a freshman in high school. I was listening to the radio on December 9, 1980. John Lennon had been shot dead the previous evening. From John Kennedy to Bobby Kennedy, from Martin Luther King to Malcolm X, and, years later, John Lennon, I developed a growing sense that anyone remotely associated with changing the world for the better ended up dying.

My father never talked to me about Kennedy’s assassination; nor did he ever mention, except in passing, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and other public figures. It wasn’t that he didn’t care; perhaps it had more to do with protecting his children from the ills of the world. Later, after he died, my mother told me a story about how on the day Kennedy was killed my grandfather walked through Yorkship Village to my parents’ house, knocked on the door, and asked to speak to my father. My mother invited her father-in-law in, but my grandfather, so the story goes, insisted that he wait for my father on the common across the street.

It was a Friday afternoon. My mother said that a silence had fallen over the town that day, much as it did in many parts of the country, and my grandfather and my father stood for what my mother thought must have been at least two hours quietly talking.

It has been fifty years since the assassination of President Kennedy, fifty years since my grandfather knocked on my parents’ door and then spoke to his son about what had happened in Dallas earlier that day. I will never know the content or the context of that conversation, a conversation that I imagine happened with many fathers and sons across the country. Whatever wisdom may have been shared between my father and his father, I still wish would have been passed on to me. One day in the future I may have to knock at my son’s door. It would help to know what words to say…

Boa Feathers and Leather: The Downside of Daytime Dreams

“…where did devout Party enthusiasm end and sardonic lampoonery begin?”

~ Philip K. Dick from “Faith of Our Fathers”

Between daydreams and daytime dreams lies a wide chasm. Daydreams are essential, if for only allowing to rise above the tedium of daily life. Daytime dreams are another story. Daytime dreams leave me ragged, worse off than nightmares.

Today, I felt sick. So, I came home from work and took a nap. That’s when the daytime dreams began.

The first one took me to a park where I saw some familiar faces. There were others there as well; those strangers who populate our dreams and who, for reasons unknown to us in the waking life, appear as if dear old friends; the populace of the dreamscape who know us by the other lives we lead there.

In the park I saw a guy I knew from high school. He was with his daughter. They were kicking a soccer ball back and forth. The daughter kicked the ball and it veered right, away from her father and headed straight for me. It was a good kick. By the time it reached me the ball was airborne, about waist level; so, I trapped it the way they taught us in school, brought it the ground, and booted the ball back to the girl. The ball went sailing over her head. Several yards behind her there was a marsh. The ball landed in loose mud, kicking up a splash.

This is where the dream went off the rail.

The girl’s father, the guy from my high school, started shouting like a madman, jumping up and down like a monkey on crack, using every name in the book as he verbally assaulted me. It would have been comical if not for his daughter being there. The bland “what the fuck, dude?” soon turned into a rant against liberals (“They‘re what‘s fucking wrong with this country!”), Barack Obama (“Commie Muslim!” — though I suspect, and I have to research this in order to be sure, you cannot be both a follower of Islam and a devotee of revolutionary socialism), and all things that did not jive with his outlook on life.

I left the park, feeling sorry for the guy’s daughter. Soon, as it happens in dreams, I didn’t have to walk far to return to my neighborhood. Where I lived in my dream was a cross between a boardwalk shore town, an amusement park, a rather run-down version of Key West, and all the buildings in the business district there were framed by perpetual scaffolding that had been there so long vines had grown up and around the metal framework.

I remember thinking in my dream that all I wanted to do was go home and write. But the town was too noisy, not New York City noisy which, when you get used to it, I imagine is tolerable. Philadelphia is the same way; only, it offers a different sort of noise. My dream town offered none of these things. I passed people on the street who appeared to be in a festive mood. Some wore costumes; others were nearly naked. I remember boa feathers and leather. Despite the wild festive flair of the townsfolk and the tourists, there was something off about the whole thing. The faces in the crowd were fatigued; as if something drove them against their will to be happy, to have a good time, to sing and dance in the streets.

Before I could get back to my dream house, I woke up. It was 4:20PM. The significance of this number, I will admit, did not go unnoticed.

I hope I feel better soon. I can’t imagine a steady diet of these daytime dreams. They bring back too many memories from when I used to work nights and sleep throughout the day. That, however, is another story for another time.

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