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The Kennedy Assassination

Gerard Jones

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Anyone who was over the age of six at the time remembers what he or she was doing the day Kennedy got shot. I was having lunch with Ralph Wood in Farmer’s Market, the food court at Hillsdale Mall. We were over by the Mexican food concession. Ralph was drinking a cup of black coffee. I was scraping the last of a scrumptious side order of shell macaroni in tomato sauce into a warm, buttered tortilla when we heard the news. A pimply-faced kid in a SF Giants baseball cap at the table next to us turned the volume up on his transistor radio. Other radios went on. A crowd gathered around the portable TV at the Bavarian Hof Brau. Ralph and I just sat there.

Ralph was tall and skinny and ten years older than everyone. He looked like a bird. He was a thief. The bones around his temples stuck out. He cocked his head, trying to hear the news above the crackles of static coming from the kid’s cheap black and yellow radio. “…earlier this morning, in Dallas, Texas…”

“Is he dead?” I asked.

“They don’t know, man. Shut up and listen.” He snapped at me, biting the words between his bad teeth...

Back when black coffee was still his drug of choice, Ralph Wood was just the guy you wanted to be hanging out with when you heard the news that Kennedy got shot, however. Not because he could put it into perspective, no, anyone could put it into perspective—what Ralph knew was how to capitalize on it. He was deep in thought, biting the inside of his cheek.

“You know what this means?” He looked over the rims of his glasses at me and slicked down his quivering coxcomb.

“Johnson’s President? Jackie’s a widow? John-John’s an orphan?”

“No, man. Jesus.” His eyes popped farther out of their sockets. “Get serious. It means it’s going to be a good time to pick up chicks, that’s what.”

“You think?” I said.

“Sure. Chicks are gonna be sad that Kennedy got shot, man. Sad chicks get all vulnerable and xxxx. They want someone to come along and comfort them.”

So we went off to do that. We roamed the wide ceramic tiled walkways of the Hillsdale Shopping Center stopping sad, vulnerable chicks to see if they might want to be comforted. We didn’t actually succeed in picking up a single sad, vulnerable chick, but we did try. Ralph thought Henry Miller would have done the same thing under the circumstances. Guys are idiots. Chicks are idiots. Henry Miller’s an idiot. How the human race continues to thrive is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Y'all can read the whole chapter (Eleven) of Ginny Good, which you can find out more about here:


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John Simkin, aged 18, apprentice bookbinder in a printing company in Barking, Essex.

As a teenager living in Britain I did not know anyone who was murdered. I mainly associated death with old people (although I did know a couple of middle aged people who had been killed in road accidents).

It seemed to me that until the arrival of John F. Kennedy on the scene, all politicians were old and their deaths had little impact on me. When they were old they died. That is what old people did. However, even to a teenager like me, Kennedy was not an old man. That was my initial response to the assassination. A man had died before his time.

I did not immediately realise the political implications of the assassination. I was not interested in politics in 1963 and just accepted the idea that Kennedy had been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

This all changed the following year when I became involved in the protests against the Vietnam War. It was while investigating the background to the war that I discovered the way the US government had conspired with the CIA to prevent the public from discovering the truth about the real causes of the war.

When books were published that claimed that the Warren Commission Report was a cover-up, I was ready to believe it. Although the evidence was not conclusive, I was willing to give people like Joachim Joesten, Harold Weisberg and Mark Lane the benefit of the doubt.

This had a lasting impact on my political understanding. Now, whenever my government tells me anything, I never immediately believe it. I always ask the question: “Is there any reason why this might not be true?” This was my reaction when Tony Blair told us that we needed to invade Iraq because the country had WMD. I was therefore not too surprised when evidence emerged that he had lied to us. In many ways, the death of John Kennedy marked the point when I no longer trusted politicians. I suspect that is also true of a lot of people.

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