Miles Traveled: 196; Current City: Dallas, TX

A couple of months ago, when a friend told me that she had visited the Dealey Plaza Museum and saw the spot where Kennedy was killed, I decided that I too would visit this historic landmark one day.  And then I wondered when “one day” would come and started to think about the other things in America that I also wanted to see on that “one day.”  I made lists and talked to people about their favorite sites in the United States as I became increasingly enthralled with the idea of going on my own “perfect tour of America.”  Of course, there are things that I won’t make it to on this trip, and I will learn of new things that will be added to the list, but these are some of the sites and locations (random as they seem) that have held the highest priority for me.  I decided, after hearing about my friend’s tour of Dealey Plaza, that I had no idea where I was heading as I march into the future but that I could find out where I had been, as an American, in the past, and I thought that maybe having this knowledge would inspire me as I attempt to carve out my path ahead.  So it is because of my desire to come to Dealey Plaza that invigorated this “quest,” as I have now termed it, and prompted me to quit my job and move across the country with virtually nothing concrete on the horizon…. it’s because of you, Dealey Plaza, that I’m driving 6800 miles in a two-door Civic.  It’s because of this.

As a result, this day is one that I had been especially looking forward to, but of course before I toured Dealey Plaza, I had to travel to Dallas and bid farewell to Austin, a place I had grown to love.  Last night, Rebecca and I went to Peter Pan mini golf, as I had promised we would, and I had a great time taking pictures with the array of weird statues that covered the course. (And I won). Afterwards, we took a trip to one of the food trailers in a rickshaw (something that apparently doesn’t only happen on Seinfeld) before heading back to her apartment so that I could rest up for my next stop in Texas.

Traveling to Dallas brought me face to face with the Texas of my imagination.  The entire trek, nearly 200 miles, is lined with chain restaurants and stores as well as plenty of hotels and of course, churches.  Churches and churches.  I have never seen so many churches.  And it goes without saying that, to accompany these churches, is the constant presence of billboards reminding drivers about God and the existence of the giant churches that due to their massive size, are easily visible from the highway anyway.  The billboards are very informative.  Thanks to one in particular, I learned that Jesus is the only way to God.  One can only guess how my future might have turned out had I not received this life changing information courtesy of that sign.  Bullet dodged.  Billboards save.

Signage has been one of my favorite elements of my experience in Dallas.  For instance, while stopping at an Exxon, I saw a sign that read, “Drugs, Chips, Snacks”… I directed the proprietor directly to the billboard about Jesus.  Drug dealing, gambling, gluttony.  I suspected gambling involvement due to the use of the word, “chips” unrelated to the word, “snacks.”  Must be a different kind of chip, I assumed.

As tempting as all of the many, many churches were, I was on a mission to get to Dallas.  The book depository was calling my name, and the anticipation of this particular sighting was starting to grow in my mind.  As I mentioned yesterday, there are few things that interest me as much as 20th century American history, so to me, this particular outing felt like the holy grail.  I arrived at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and was instantly overjoyed with the experience when I saw that the front entrance displays a sign prohibiting firearms in the building.  “Too bad,” I thought to myself, “if only they had thought to post that notice a little sooner.”

My enthusiasm for the Sixth Floor Museum waned moments later when I saw several more signs outlawing photography in the building.  I felt like a kid in a candy store who was sent home without any candy.  Naturally, I took a few photos anyway before being firmly reprimanded by security.  I inquired as to the reason that photography wasn’t allowed, and I was told that it’s “due to policy.”  Ah, policy. Now why couldn’t they have explained it like that sooner?  I found this “policy” particularly ironic when I got to the section of the museum that displays the cameras from that day  and explains that without the where-with-all of onlookers to photograph the event, there wouldn’t be any recorded history.  Luckily for us all, there was no “policy” standing in the way of Zapruder.

Overall, I’m saddened to report that I was disappointed with the museum.  When compared to the other things that I’ve visited, the $13.50 fee is on the high side, and though I didn’t mind forking over the money for admission, after touring the building, I felt that it wasn’t worth it.  The LBJ Library is beautifully done and offers what feels like a real insight into American history while the The Sixth Floor Museum seems to promote a sense of sensationalism that feels more appropriate for Alien Zone.  They recreated the boxes that were there when Osward stationed himself in the window, and they can be viewed through a glass case.  Other than the boxes, and seeing the trajectory of the bullets through the sixth floor windows, the rest of the museum can be found on Youtube and Wikipedia, without charge.  And you can keep those photos.

While the museum left something to be desired, walking around Dealey Plaza offered me the experience that I had been seeking.  As someone born years after Kennedy was shot, seeing the location of his assassination provided me with a tangible reality of that day.  I’ll never be able to answer the question, “where were you when you heard that Kennedy was shot?” but now I have an illustration to accompany the news stories and accounts that I read and hear about from 1963.  I was glad to find that both the museum and Dealey Plaza were crowded, and many adults were there with their kids, still debating that long standing question: what do you think really happened to Kennedy?  It seems that the general consensus remains, “we will never really know.”

If you do make it to Dealey Plaza, I recommend skipping the museum, and finding the marijuana-smoking gentlemen behind the fence on the grassy knoll.  He was there that day, and he will tell you what actually happened for a reasonable fee of fifty cents.  Tell him I sent you, and ask him to point out where the real shooter was standing.  You can see that trajectory for free.

Tomorrow I’m off to Arkansas where my friend, Melanie, and her boyfriend recently moved.  I will be there for several days and will eventually be joined by my father who works nearby at the Walmart Headquarters.  Something tells me that the Whole Foods headquarters aint got nothing on Walmart…. But I guess we’ll see!