Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22

Photo by Stan Stearns - UPI.com

I saw no mention of it anywhere today but President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on this date in 1963. November 22 is a date I used as an example for my writing class of moments in history you experience and will always remember where you were when you learned about it.

I was in an elevator at City Hall in Buffalo, New York, when two people entered it and were talking about the shooting. I had been sent there as part of the job at the Buffalo Evening News to pick up some materials for a reporter. I listened to the two people intently and when the elevator let me debark I raced back to the paper to find out if it was true. A newspaper during such an event is something to see, something between a madhouse and a group of people totally focused on only one thing, amid the chaos, get this news out correctly as fast as you can. I remember my father calling me there (he never called me) to ask if it was true also and I told him it was.

We got the paper out that day but it was by no means the end of the experience. That day holds another special memory and the two are so intertwined I cannot separate them. It was a day I planned to share with my first real love, we had such plans. This is the woman I wrote about earlier whose family introduced me to sailing on the Niagara River. I wrote also that we had fallen in love with the Beatles singing in the background. I drove to her house and I recall walking up her sidewalk with a dozen roses in hand and a necklace with a tiny diamond in it in my pocket because this is also her birthday and it was the first one we would share. I had no idea what to expect; it certainly didn't feel like a day to celebrate. When I went into the house I found the whole family seated around the black and white television as the news unfolded again and again. The roses were laid on the table ignored, the necklace stayed in my pocket until we had a private moment later and I sat with her on that couch for the better part of two or three days. Tears welled in our eyes constantly though not to overflowing as we watched Walter Cronkite barely able to contain his own emotion as he tried to make sense of that day and the ones that followed.

We saw Jackie so regal and holding in her grief in order to show the nation courage and strength. We saw Lynden Johnson sworn in as president. I think we might have seen live Jack Ruby shoot Lee Oswald, I can't remember for sure; it was played over and over again. It all seemed so otherworldly holding hands almost trembling as we watched and wondered what was happening to our nation. Many young people saw Kennedy as our president, young vibrant living in Camelot, he was the new generation and we were part of that, and now he was gone and the man who replaced him came from the old school. Just for example Kennedy was the one who said we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and we did (the day of the landing, incidentally also one of those when we remember where we were). America had such promise and now it seemed that promise had been snuffed out.

How we moved on from those days I don't recall vividly. We watched the funeral with the riderless horse and the boots backwards in the stirrups and little John John saluting. I see that salute picture today and it still raises some emotion.

And, to a certain extent every November 22 I lose myself for a time in the memory of that event, the assassination, the first love, the birthday, the music and all the emotions they engender. One year on this date long after we had gone our separate ways, I sent her a dozen roses just to mark that anniversary. Today driving to work I listened to all the Beatles music I could in the lonely hour it took to travel that "long and winding road" to work at another newspaper.


Marian Nattrass:  It is true that we remember where we were and what we doing on that devastating day. It was on our news today
Doug Nattrass: Kindergarten. Berwyn Elementary. My teacher started to cry
Tim Jones: I think that speaks a lot to how etched that event is in our memories, that you carry one from kindergarten
Jan Wiliams Simone:  6th grade. I still remember that my classmate Danny was the one who told our class. He was sitting near the door and could hear teachers crying in the hallway. After school I went on a visit to a nursing home with my Girl Scout troop and I can still hear the sad voice of an old man talking about "our young president". Only a few years ago I discovered that Danny and I are distant cousins.
Laurie Hanley Konefke: Sitting in a Graphic Design class at Univ of Buffalo. Hello to you Tim.
Peter Leitzke: Physics quiz section in Sterling Hall with Mr. Coker - instructor, grad student from U of Maryland. Bill Brooks burst in breathlessly and told us that Kennedy was dead.
Betty Sederquist Truly poignant writing. My own remembrances are much more pedestrian. No great love stories, as I was a geeky, shy 16 year old. I was in gym class trying to do gymnastics, disastrous in my case, dreadingly walked into the room that held all the gear, and my fellow PE students were clustered around a couple tiny transistor radios listening to the crackling news. I too remember Cronkite crying on the air, remember the Ruby shooting.


  1. Wow. Just...wow.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Of all the blogs you have written, this is my favorite. Other than that, what Suzy said.

  3. Still hard to think of those days. When idiots would talk about wanting to see President Obama assassinated, I would seethe inside and think, "If you only knew, dumbass..."

  4. ...and one more year has come and gone. For those of us who survived it, it is still a landmark in our lives. I was in high school biology, and it was the day Sister Elizabeth Claire cried. That in itself would have marked it indelibly in my mind, but there was so much more. Life changed.

  5. I was only two months old. I swear, I remember my father holding while watching the news, and him sobbing. Weird.... Was this a memory that was spoken to me? I guess I will never know. He did love Robert Kennedy. Is it even possible to have this memory??

    1. This is Tim, anononymous is the only way it will let me comment. Cherish the memory no matter how it happened. I think it's quite possible all that emotion could have been transferred.


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve