“I once spoke to someone who had survived the genocide in Rwanda, and she said to me that there was now nobody left on the face of the earth, either friend or relative, who knew who she was. No one who remembered her girlhood and her early mischief and family lore; no sibling or boon companion who could tease her about that first romance; no lover or pal with whom to reminisce. All her birthdays, exam results, illnesses, friendships, kinships—gone. She went on living, but with a tabula rasa as her diary and calendar and notebook. I think of this every time I hear of the callow ambition to ‘make a new start’ or to be ‘born again’: Do those who talk this way truly wish for the slate to be wiped? Genocide means not just mass killing, to the level of extermination, but mass obliteration to the verge of extinction. You wish to have one more reflection on what it is to have been made the object of a ‘clean’ sweep? Try Vladimir Nabokov’s microcosmic miniature story ‘Signs and Symbols,’ which is about angst and misery in general but also succeeds in placing it in what might be termed a starkly individual perspective. The album of the distraught family contains a faded study of Aunt Rosa, a fussy, angular, wild-eyed old lady, who had lived in a tremulous world of bad news, bankruptcies, train accidents, cancerous growths—until the Germans put her to death, together with all the people she had worried about.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch 22: A Memoir

Sacrifice III, Lipchitz, Jacques, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

I am not sure what reminded me of the historical WWII movie (not a film, really, it was made for TV) Conspiracy – but I did a search and found it streaming on HBO Max. I had seen a good bit of the short (hour-and-a-half) work before. I had searched it out because I had seen a documentary on and was interested in the life and death of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich – a particular hideous man assassinated by a team sent by the Czech government in exile.

So I re-watched it and it was crackerjack. It is the story of the 1942 Wannsee conference, set at a posh estate outside of Berlin. A group of top Nazis meet and develop the monstrous plan to settle the “Jewish Question.” It is based on the only surviving transcript of the meeting and is an awful, yet illuminating record of the thoughts of the butchers involved.

What first struck me was the illustration of Hannah Arendt’s idea of the banality of evil. Despite the apocalyptic subject being discussed, the men are obsessed with jockeying for power, style, and the food being served. It is truly a slice of genocidal bureaucracy.

I watched it with the subtitles on so I could follow the exact language. The way the couched the subjects, the way they pounded on the table, the way they insisted what they were doing was not only legal, but the only moral imperative – was chilling. Absolute, pure evil was disguised and couched in the language of duty. Think about this the next time you watch a Zoom meeting where a disastrous or immoral conclusion is arrived at without anyone talking about what is really going on.

Oh, now I remember what reminded me of this movie…. The algorithm presented me with a YouTube video showing someone that had a tiny, bit part (a radio operator) in the film. I always enjoy spotting a future star with a background part in a film.

I guess it’s inevitable that Loki would be present at the conception of the Holocaust.

Oswald Tour

Lee Harvey's

Lee Harvey’s

I’m not really sure why – it was a spur of the moment “that sounds like fun” kind of thing – but I bought tickets for Candy and I to go on a bus tour of Dallas spots that are associated with Lee Harvey Oswald‘s crime and last days.

The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination is this November and Dallas is bracing for the event. When you live in Dallas, the assassination is an odd thing. It is the most famous historical event that has occurred here and it is what most people still think about when they think about Dallas. When the television show became wildly popular back in the day the people here were relieved because they figured that people would associate Dallas with J. R. Ewing, rather than the assassination. Same thing when the Cowboys are winning.

But those things have faded and with the half-century mark coming up, it’s time to live in infamy again. Dallas and most of the people that live here wish that the memory that horrible event occurred here – well, we wish that would be forgotten.

Everyone my age or older remembers where they were when they found out about the assassination. I was in third grade, in New York (state, a little up the Hudson from the city) and I remember going out to catch the bus home, and the bus was not there. I guess we were sent home from school early. We were waiting with our teacher with us and someone came up to talk to her, both women were very upset. We didn’t know what was going on and all I heard was “shot and killed.”

At that age, the world looks different. I put the phrase “shot and killed” together with our missing bus and assumed that our bus driver had been murdered. Later, when I found out it was the president, I was sort-of relieved. I knew my bus driver personally, after all.

At any rate, the tour was inexpensive and looked like fun – I am always up for learning about my city – so we signed up. It started, not surprisingly, at Lee Harvey’s – a beer garden/restaurant/live music spot/dive bar – in the Cedars. We met there, piled into an air-conditioned coach, and set off.

Our first stop was Dealey Plaza. There are always a lot of tourists there, and a lot of tours, guides and sellers of conspiracy theory books and materials. Our guide was really good. He was Jerry Dealey, the great grand-nephew of George Dealey – the guy that Dealey Plaza was named after. He said he was from the poor branch of the family.

Our tour in front of the Texas School Book Depository

Our tour in front of the Texas School Book Depository

Our tour in Dealey Plaza.

Our tour in Dealey Plaza.

What was nice was that he gave a “fair” tour – as far as all the conspiracy theories go. He said something that makes sense to me, “We will never know for certain exactly what happened, and anyone that thinks they know is wrong.” So he covered a lot of the more well-known theories… but also did point out those that are clearly completely impossible or flat out wrong (many having to do with Oliver Stone’s film).

For a rare moment, the area cleared. This is the spot of the fatal shot, marked by the X. Abraham Zapruder was standing on that white concrete pillar in the foreground when he made his famous film.

For a rare moment, the area cleared. This is the spot of the fatal shot, marked by the X. Abraham Zapruder was standing on that white concrete pillar in the foreground when he made his famous film.

I have, of course, been to Dealey Plaza many times – even went there before dawn to take photos of the sunrise.

I remember when I first moved to Dallas, I lived in Oak Cliff and worked downtown. My bus would go through Dealey Plaza twice a day – it was a month before I realized that was the assassination site.

The Texas School Book Depository from Dealey Plaza.

The Texas School Book Depository from Dealey Plaza.

Then we drove over to Oak Cliff to see where Oswald lived, then visited the site where Officer Tippit was murdered, and then on to the Texas Theater where Oswald was arrested (for shooting Tippit). That was surreal, because I spend so much time in Oak Cliff, especially on my bicycle, that I am very familiar with the streets and hadn’t really thought about the web of history that is overlain on such familiar turf. I have ridden my bike past Oswald’s rooming house, for example, a dozen times in the last few months, without knowing its infamy.

Then we headed out west, to Fort Worth to visit Oswald’s grave. It’s a fairly isolated spot, and hard to find (the cemetery will not give directions or help locating it). We parked the bus on a side street and then trudged over to the grave. It was more interesting than you would think… not because of Oswald per se. It’s especially interesting because of the mystery of NICK BEEF.

Oswald and NICK BEEF

Oswald and NICK BEEF

Lee Harvey Oswald’s original tombstone was stolen and replaced with a simple marker that says, “Oswald.” Then, in 1997, right next to his grave appeared a mysterious stone, the same size and type that said, simply, “NICK BEEF.”

Of course, that mysterious stone supplied fodder for all sorts of wild stories. It wasn’t until this year that the New York Times finally was able to run it to ground. No wild conspiracy, simply an eccentric New Yorker – nonperforming performance artist with a morbid artistic sensibility – that as a child saw Kennedy at Carswell Air Force Base the day before he died. It left a lifelong impression and when he found out that nobody wanted to buy the plot next to Oswald… well, NICK BEEF was, umm born.

We headed back to Dallas to see some spots related to Jack Ruby and his killing of Oswald. Then we returned to Lee Harvey’s for a couple beers and hamburgers.

It was a fun day. They are going to do some more tours – a Haunted Dallas tour around Halloween, a “Dirty Dallas” about the history of the city’s seamy side, and (the one that I am really interested in) a Bonnie and Clyde tour.

Sounds like a plan.

There was a famous person on our tour. They announced that the music artist/rapper MC 900 Ft Jesus was a member of the company. They wouldn’t say which person he was, but… after a bit of looking and thinking, I figured it out.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image - three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image – three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.