Havana: 01 March 2019

“We can report that Edward G. Partin has been under investigation by the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office in connection with the Kennedy Assassination investigation… based on an exclusive interview with an Assistant District Attorney in Jim Garrison’s office. We can report that Partin’s activities have been under scrutiny. In his words: “We know that Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were here in New Orleans several times… there was a third man driving them and we are checking the possibility it was Partin.1

WJBO radio, New Orleans, June 23rd, 1964; quoted from Walter Sheridan, “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” 1972

I walked into a bar and stood beside a stool to avoid becoming a statistic; at least five double blinded, randomized studies followed around 800,000 people in different jobs over at least fifteen years, and the evidence was that sitting was as dangerous to health, if not more so, than smoking; people who sit more than 20 minutes at a time have 4 times the rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and lower back pain. After a long day on flights, the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and order a drink.

I peered under the bar and saw a brass double purse hook with rounded ends to not tear your jacket or scarf, and with two phillips-head screws that made it look like a drunk fighting octopus. I draped my backpack over one of the tentacles, and rested a foot on the round brass rail below it that looked like a church pew, but was shaped to fit a cowboy boot in an old, intuitive way to set up bars: a slight elevation of one foot rests it and forces the other to pump blood back to the heart more vigorously, and reduces bending moments about the lower spine. Alternating feet keeps a body relaxed but alert, something that can be experienced rather than memorized. If you’re going to slowly kill your liver, at least stay alert and be kind to your back. Wendy was still on my mind, and my desire for a drink and humor about it was partially to squelch concern and begin my vacation. Calling it a vacation instead of a sabbatical was a start. A drink was the next step.

The bartender walked over with a genuine smile. He was about 28 to 30 years old, olive skinned, and fit. His hairstyle probably required a few extra minutes of effort each morning to look like it did, and I had the impression that he knew that women noticed, but that he did it for himself. He had a subtly confident demeanor that young ladies probably didn’t realize was what made him so attractive to them. He asked what I’d like. In the periphery of my vision, I saw a top shelf selection of rum behind him, and to my left was a handwritten board with daily seafood specials; to my right was the six-man band, wide open doors, and the statue where I could get WiFi. On a whim, I changed my mind from ordering a Hemmingway Dacquiri and began dusting off my Spanish. I said I was hoping to learn how to make a mojito, and that I’d like one with not his most expensive rum, but the rum he felt was – I paused looking for a phrase that matched “bang for your buck,” but couldn’t find one – a good value, a rum he’d keep at home for when someone was coming over for dinner who appreciated rum. His smile broadened and he tapped the bar top, said something I didn’t understand, and turned and took down a bottle. He went to work crushing fresh mint; it was like watching an artist immerse in his painting.

The band began playing something that sounded like the Buena Vista Social Club but wasn’t. They were band was good. All 20-something men who seemed fit and had darker skin than the bartender, probably due to creole descent. They knew how to play without drowning out conversations. They pointed the horns outside, and I suspect that the congo drums were padded to soften the sound. The guitar was acoustic, and the player was aware enough to adjust his strumming and blend seamlessly with the drums. They were all unplugged, could pack up and swap bars without worrying about finding outlets or dealing with electrical interference from kitchen equipment. The most laberous thing to move would have been the massive stand-up base that towered over the tallest of them. It looked to be at least 50 years old, probably older, and the aged wood sounded as refined as you’d expect. When Katrina swamped New Orleans, musicians lost at least a hundred standup bases that, if sold, were worth around $45,000 each because of the aged but maintained wood. After weeks of being soaked and growing mold, they were thrown away. I wondered if the Cuban band would sell their instruments if the embargo ended, and what $45,000 could do for their lives in Cuba. I sipped my drink and tapped my fingers to the beat and pondered the point of Kennedy’s embargo lingering after 60 years.

The mojito was everything I hoped for, and I took a deep breath and leaned back and closed my eyes at the ceiling and allowed the aftertace mint to tingle my tongue. I looked back at my drink, exhaled, shifted my feet, and took another sip. Despite enjoying the band, I still had a headache, my neck still hurt, and I still felt residual worry from Wendy’s phone cal. I debated for a moment, then reached in my backpack and opened my first aid kit and slid out an 800mg ibuprofen from the VA, a massive, chalky white horse pill that we used to call Airborne candy. I paused again. A few years ago, a research study showed that professional football players on a constant stream of anti-inflamatory ibuprofen were more likely to rupture tendons and ligaments, and a university had replicated that in a rat study; the tensile strength ligaments from rats fed prodigious amounts of ibuprofen was about half that of the other rats. I had been taking ibuprofen regularly since 1991. It, like other SSRI’s, keeps seretonin from escaping too quickly, and also acts as a mild antidepressant. I smiled to myself and wondered if the rats with weaker ligaments were happier. I popped the pill and savored the chalky flavor, knowing a placebo effect would kick in. I washed it down with a swig of mojito, and chuckled at myself for using an inflamatory depressant to wash down and anti-inflamatory anti-depressant.

I ordered calamari a la planca, which the board said came with a side of mojo sauce. The squid was chewy, but the sauce was deliciously tangy and cut the bite. I had noticed the cooks through an open kitchen cutout squeezing fresh orange juice, and assumed that was the tang. It cut the squid perfectly, without the harsher tang of limes or lemons; though the knife they provided wouldn’t cut butter. I wished I had a knife. Selfishly, I lamented life before and after 9/11, how I used to travel with a Leatherman tool on my hip and a 3.25″ one-hand-opening Benchmade clipped in my front pocket. Either would have cut the squid thinly enough to melt in your mouth. A Leatherman tool, incidentally, is named after Tim Leatherman, a University of Oregon mechanical engineering graduate who shunned desk jobs and drove an old Voltswagon van around Europe after graduating, armed with a Swiss Army knife and a pair of pliers to cut his cheese and fix his van. Five years of cardboard prototypes later, he raised money for sheet-metal versions, and then for decent 440 stainless steel blade and tools. In the early 90’s he won a contract to supply Leatherman tools to Delta Force, the army’s anti-terrorism unit in Fort Bragg, and soon he scored a national account with a major outdoor sports chain; I assume he omitted the Swiss Army corkscrew in lieu of a more American beer bottle opener. I had 30 years of versions at home, and yet every time I forgot to take one out, one of those TSA agents younger than my iPhone 8 reminds me that knives aren’t allowed on airplanes. Now, wishing I had one of my knives with me to cut the squid, I felt irritation at how much a couple of guys armed with box cutters could change the world. I pondered what to do about it, as if one person could do anything.

The bartender asked how the drink was. I wanted to push my Spanish, so I made a joke about why I don’t give opinions because opinions stifle creativity. It fell flat. I reacted to his blank stare by saying the Margarita was invented in Baja Mexico based on a customer and bartender having a good time, and the Pina Colada was invented similarly in Puerto Rico. I paused just a moment and added the Cuba Libre was from Cuba, though I didn’t know the history. He laughed at that, and asked if I’d like one. I almost said claro qui si!, but I opted for another mojito. I said to have fun, and that he could do no wrong. I said I was on vacation, and the last thing I wanted to do on vacation was think. His grin widened, and I again had the sense he enjoyed what he did and paid attention to detail. Just before he tapped the counter, I added that I was expecting a friend, and asked if he would put all of our orders on one tab and hand me the bill no matter what my friend said, and to please keep a glass of water with no ice filled for both of us. He smiled, tapped the counter, swirled around, and spent a few moments inspecting his shelf before choosing a different bottle than before. He glanced around, pulled down a second bottle, and went to work. He remembered the water, and didn’t ask if I liked the mojito; I’m sure my expression told him all he needed to know.

Tim showed up and walked right up to me with a huge grin on his face. I stood upright on both feet and opened my arms. We patted each other on the back vigorously, then held the hug for a few moments. I closed my eyes, and from behind his back I said: “It’s good to see you.” He said in my hear: “You too. It’s been too long.”

He sat on a barstool and I propped a foot on the bar rail, and we jumped back in to a conversation that hadn’t stopped since I had received my first Leatherman.

“Dude!” he said. “A beard looks good on you.”

I scratched it and barely heard the rustle over the band. I made a joke about the grey in it and said I was lazy about shaving, and that I had just spent three months in the Himalayas and grew it to keep my face warm. I said I’d shave before diving, so that my mask fit better. He was as clean shaven as always, with a round cherub of a face that was decievingingly innocent looking, and made him appear much younger than my grey and auburn beard made me seem. We chatted about dive sites for a bit. He was wearing an old Rolex dive watch that needed batteries and had a fancy looking band, but had stopped sporting the ostentatious ruby ring a lot of old SF guys wore and that I always chided was like a secret decoder ring for little boys who wore green berets. He said that he relied on his dive computer now, and hadn’t gone deep in since our u-boat dive off Cape Hatteras. We reminisced about North Carolina diving and climbing until the bartender arrived. Tim asked for a mojito. The bartender winked at me, tapped the table, and whirled around. Tim and I swapped a few updates about each other and people we knew, and he finally asked what brought me to Cuba.

“Wait,” I said, because the bartender arrived. “You gotta try this.” I smiled and nodded towards the bartender. “This guy’s a maestro de mojito!” I nod, I don’t wink, because unlike the bartender I never look cool when I wink. My wink looks like a half-face contortion, so I smile and nod to let people know we’re in on a secret.

Tim took a sip and uttered an explicative and agreed. He didn’t comment on the glass of water that magically appeared. Mine was refilled. I sipped it slowly to reduce the alcohol muddling my mind and loosening my tongue, and to allow Tim to catch up. We sipped and talked about rum and mint for a minute.

“I’m on some kind of entrepreneurship visa,” I finally said. “Obama added it towards the end of his last term. I’m supposed to ‘promote entrepreneurship,’ whatever that means. It was a chance to come here without going through Mexico.” He nodded as if that made sense, and said he was surprised I hadn’t gone through Mexico City earlier. I told him I had tried in 2013, but one of the two airlines connecting them went out of business the day I arrived in Mexico City.

“It was like Virgin Airlines,” I said. “Richard Branson got the idea after a flight was canceled. Everyone was complaining, but he walked over to a private jet company and chartered a plane. He walked back to the people complaining, and sold them seats. Virgin Airlines was born. I contemplated it, but I decided to spend a month in Mexico instead.” Tim didn’t reply; he has no entrepreneurial spirit.

The bartender came over and Tim enthusiastically ordered another mojito. So did I. I told Tim the calamar de parilla was okay, but that the mojo sauce was remarkable. I ordered another squid and a ceviche, and asked for extra mojo. The bartender tapped the table and went to work. I noticed a clip outside Tim’s right front pocket, and assumed he’d have a sharp knife to slice the squid thinly. When it arrived, I asked Tim to borrow his, and the thinly sliced quid seemed seemed like sushi in a Tokyo restaurant.

We kept chatting on a few topics like old friends do, and paused when the drinks arrived. After a few sips and more toasts to common friends for good and bad reasons, I told him about some of my students at the University of San Diego Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. The school was expensive, $56,000 per year, but the VA was subsidizing the college fund of soldiers wounded in the ongoing second Gulf War; a term only those of us from the first Gulf War used, and one that felt good to say without explanation. I told Tim about the 32 year old SF medic with a scar wrapped around his head from an AK47 bullet zinging around inside his helmet; the 28 year old engineer – the army’s version of an engineer – who lost both legs, his genetalia, his left arm, and most of his right, and how he was in a wheelchair with a service dog, and used the prosthetic on his right hand to draw designs for improved prosthetics on CAD software and make prototypes in the lab I ran. I talked about the handful of physically fine men with PTSD, not wanting to ever take orders again and hoping to become their own bosses – entrepreneurs – who took my engineering classes because I made them focused on innovation and included tons of case studies on patents and business models of what other engineers had done. One young lady I didn’t know well, a quiet San Diego latina who had been a helicopter crew person of some type and was a first-generation American and college student: she simply wanted an engineering degree so she could get a job in one of San Diego’s medical device or defense companies and earn enough to support her family. I mentioned a few more, though I knew less about them and relied on stereotypes. I grew quiet. It was Tim’s turn to share what he’d been up to. Our conversation returned to old friends, like it always does with old friends, and we grew somber.

“To Mike,” Tim said, raising his almost empty glass.

“To Mike,” I said, clanking his glass with mine.

Tim tapped his glass on the counter and we both drank. My jaw tightened and I lowered my gaze. My upper lip quivered. Tim rested a hand on my shoulder.

“Alcohol’s a depressant,” I said. I looked up and wiped my eyes; in lesser company, I would have said, “Sorry.”

We sipped silently for a bit. The food came out and we beamed and dove in. The squid was much better thinly sliced. I changed subjects.

“Get this,” I said. “Have you heard of the new Scorcese film coming out? The Irishman?”

Of course Irish-Tim had. I resisted the urge to tell him an Irish drinking joke; he could outdrink most soldiers in the 82nd Airborne, and that’s saying a lot. The joke was the AA on our patch didn’t stand for “All Americans,” it stood for “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Once a year, the entire 12,000 soldier division went on a five mile jog at some godawful hour early in the morning, and for generations the tradition had been for everyone to get hammered all night before. The tradition was so old that a parade car led us and carried the oldest surviving 82nd veterans. When Tim and I ran it, there was still a WWI vet from when the 82nd was the 82nd Infantry, twenty years before it was America’s first Airborne unit, and that old grunt cackled and rambled on that we were a bunch of pussies who couldn’t handle our alcohol. Most of us were too drunk to care. I was sober until my mid-thirties, practically the only sober paratrooper in those runs, but I could have gotten drunk from all the breathing of 12,000 soldiers moving in double-time. I was an oddity by being sober; a quirk about growing up as Ed Partin’s grandson was that he adamantly never drank alcohol, saying it loosened your tongue and made your mind sluggish. Though he wasn’t known to tell the truth, I never heard him lie, and his assessment of booze was spot-on in my limited and late-blooming experience. At 46, I only drank around people I trusted implicitly. Irish-Tim had always seemed immune to the effects, unless you knew him well and could read between the lines of what he was saying and what he wanted to say but was shackled by security clearances.

“The actor playing my grandfather called us to ask about the role. Craig Vincent. Do you know him?”

Tim didn’t. I thought about it for a moment, and asked if he remembered Scorcese’s film Casino. He did. I said did he remember the big guy in a cowboy hat who talked a lot of shit, the one little Joe Pesci’s character reached up and slapped on behalf of Robert Deniro. He did. That’s Craig Vincent, I said. It clicked. We went off topic and talked about films for a bit and the actors in The Irishman: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Ramono, etc. We talked about Raging Bull, The Taxi Driver, The Godfather, and the topic tilted to the 80’s war movies we grew up on, like Platoon, Apocolypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter. We made a joke or two about Robert Downey Jr. looking and sounding like our old Sergeant Major in the film Tropic Thunder, then we turned to Black Hawk Down and I grew quiet again and lowered my head. Tim rested his hand on my shoulder again. It was time to stop drinking. We ordered another round. Our waters filled magically.

“Anyway,” I said, “Scorcese changed the role to match Craig’s voice. Craig’s an old-school New Jersey brute. He has family ties to the mafia and knows the lingo, so the change made sense.”

“Dude!” I exclaimed, off topic and bouncing around time, probably because of the booze. “Scorcese got the rights to Frank’s memoir and raised $257 Million for the film. He could do whatever he wanted, but he said he was making it to sell tickets, not educate. It’s entertainment. So Big Daddy became Big Eddy Partin. But Craig wanted to learn the nuances about what made men like Hoffa fall for him. He was a humble dude. He said he was being given a chance to work with Scorcese again and wanted to do his best. He only had about 20 minutes and they edited down to about 5, but they ended up gave him all the clips for his portfolio. Scorcese had bought the rights to The Irishman book a few years before, but I think Craig was the only one who read it.”

“Think about it,” I began. “My grandfather fooled Hoffa, the FBI, Bobby Kennedy, Nixon, Hoover, and practically every mafia family in America.” As I spoke, I held up my left fist and counted off names by sticking out my thumb and then one finger at a time. I finished on ‘every mafia family in America’ by raising my left hand’s thumb. I made a pistol out of it, and pointed to indicate, in my mind, what it would mean to fool mafia families. Most people already believed that the mafia had Hoffa killed Hoffa, and that the mafia and agents in the FBI and CIA plotted to kill President Kennedy: Frank’s book alludes to him seeing other mafia guys loading up rifles that looked like the Italian carabine that killed Kennedy.

“And it irritates me how many people will use Scorsese’s film to form opinions. I bought the book after talking with Craig. I was looking for new information. “

Tim sighed. “Jason. I don’t think there’s anything there. The FBI isn’t conpiring against your family.”

I shrugged. I said I knew he was right, though it was his wording, not mine. I didn’t think I implied a conspiracy. I thought that his mind went there because he assumed that’s what I’d assume. What I though wasn’t clearly defined yet, and I couldn’t imagine what to do with what I thought once I distilled it down, which is why I simply shrugged.

I quipped that everyone needs a hobby. I laughed and told him about the calls we still get from cherry FBI agents assigned to Hoffa’s case, especially after The Irishman was announced, and how they were kids born after my grandfather had died. I enjoy picking on them – they’re only a small step above a TSA agent. I said Craig had gained more insight on what happened from reading the book, as if other actors had only read the simplified script, and that it had been so long since I read anything on the subject that I wanted to see if I could figure out what a bunch of desk-jockey FBI agents couldn’t. I felt I rambled on too long, a sure sign the alcohol was in full force.

“Hey Tim,” I said. “Did you hear about the Irishman who walked out of a bar?” It looked like he hadn’t. I shrugged my shoulders and held up my hands in mock doubt, and admitted with a smirk: “It could happen…”

He moaned. I changed gears and rested a hand on his shoulder and slurred that I always remembered him as the intellectual bookworm, a Boston college major in political science and world history, the soldier who was older than I was, but was still a cherry who always had a book in his hand. I reminded him that when he was a cherry, the first book I saw him reading had prophetically been The Quiet American. I borrowed it and read it and didn’t see the big deal; Tim pointed out the symbolism of the American lusting after the quiet Vietnamese lady without understanding her culture, and I was impressed until I went to college and could quote other people’s reviews of hundreds of books and could sound like an intellectual, too. He told me that carrying a book was his insecurities manifesting, and it made him stand out and have something to talk about with people like me; he meant seasoned soldiers, not non-intellectuals, but in the infantry they’re often the same. I said bullshit, he was smart and I wanted to be like him for a while. I told him I still used travel guides – in 1993, he had given me a Let’s Go for Israel and Egypt, up to date because Let’s Go was published by Harvard University and used as a hands-on class for graduate students in journalism and writing. I fished through my backpack and pulled out my Lonely Planet. He saw the notes and chuckled and said he remembered getting his copy of Let’s Go back marked up and dog eared, but using it to retrace my steps and seeing the joy of stepping into a town feeling like you already know it. I reached in my bag and pulled out my worn copy of I Heard You Paint Houses. I slid it across the bar and towards him.

“Do you want this?” I said. “I’m done with it, and I could use the space.” He said yes and flipped through my notes, pausing now and then to skim a paragraph I had circled or a sentence I had underlined.

“To paint houses,” I said, “was mafia lingo for painting a wall red with someone’s blood. Apparently, Hoffa introduced himself to The Irishman by asking if he painted houses. Frank talks about my grandfather a lot in the book. He says Hoffa assumed he painted houses, too. That’s probably where the trust came from.” I wanted to say more, but I was drunk and Tim hadn’t read the book yet. He flipped over and read the back, and I pointed out that Frank was in the infantry during WWII.

In my peripherial vision I saw the time on my watch and noticed the bartender approaching. Before he could ask if we wanted another round, I held my left palm up and pretended to scribble on it with an invisible pen held in my right, the universal sign for la cuenta, por favor. He nodded, tapped the counter, and went to his pile of notes and fished around for ours. Tim was flipping through The Irishman, looking at my notes. I pulled a few twenties from my money belt. I had done the math and knew the tally. Ever since the VA was concerned about my memory, I had been been exercising it by doing simple math in my head, memorizing the four-to-six digit codes on grocery store bulk items rather than writing them on the bags, and revising languages I hadn’t touched in almost a quarter of a century. Even drunk, I can do math well. But, just in case, I added an extra twenty and told the bartender to keep the change. If I had made a mistake, at least he’d think I was a great tipper.

Of course Tim protested, and of course I said he’d get me next time. He suggested something, but I said I wanted a few days to relax before committing and would text him then.

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “One more thing.” Tim perked up. “I need to make a joke about a tip, but I don’t know local slang.” I reached in my bag and pulled out a quart-sized Ziplock full of plastic thumb tips stuffed with tiny red handkerchiefs. I sometimes called them silk, but they had been made from some polymer since before I was born and did the same job more cheaply. Each one was barely big enough to seem like an actual handkerchief, but maybe one for traveling because it was only 4 inches square. The polymer could squish into the tip of the thumb tip and be retrieved without being so wrinkled that it gave away the secret.

“I give these away as tips after I do a trick,” I said. “I want to hand them a tip, and say it’s a tip and have them laugh.”

“Dude – what the fuck?”

“Seriously. It’s fun. And, it happens that Fidel was a magician.”

I smirked and waited. He called bullshit. I told him about Muhammed Ali being a magician and visiting Cuba’s most famous boxer, an Olympian like Ali had been, for a publicity tour with him and Castro. I told him to look it up on Youtube later, and said that Ali makes a red silk vanish then shows Fidel the thumb tip and gives it to him, saying he likes magic but doesn’t want to lie because of his relegion. (He was born Casius Clay, but when he was a young boxer he met with Malcom X and converted to Islam and assumed the name Muhammed Ali.) I briefly mentioned that my grandfather had been a boxer and that may be a clue on the trail, but mostly I got a kick out of giving them away, especially because I hadn’t found any mention of Cuban magic shops on the internet. I said I imagined that the mafia visiting Cuba would have recruited big guys like my grandfather – or infantry veterans with high kill rates like Frank The Irishman Sheenan, who was in the ??th infantry – and that big boxers would probably remember Ali visiting and fooling Castro. Mostly though, I told him, I like to travel with magic gimmicks and toys, like Frisbees or hacky sacks, to give away to kids, and that I wanted to be the American ambassador of fun. Tim loved that, and we talked about our time in the Middle East. We spent six months there as “communications liaisons,” unarmed peacekeepers, and had joked for 25 years that we failed miserably. We agreed that we would have accomplished more as fun ambassadors. I said I hoped that enough English blended in with Cuban Spanish to find a pun with thumb tips, something to stick in someone’s mind. Clean jokes and a focus on children could be a good way to loosen lips and find common ground; few people hate other country’s children or plot to harm them, and it’s a unifying connection among humanity untapped by people charged with being peacekeepers. We brainstormed a bit and couldn’t come up with anything. I offered him a tip. He declined. Like a lot of literary types, he never appreciated magic.

We stood to part ways, and when I straightened up to hug him I winced. He began to say something. I told him yes, I hurt, but I didn’t want to talk about it. Surprisingly, he pressed. I was firm. He hugged me and wished me well. A lesser man would have persisted.

We left and I dropped a folded up five in the band’s bulbous brass tip bucket – at least I thought it was a tip bucket, not a spittoon – with the 5 showing on top to alert other people. A one is too little for someone to see, a twenty too intimidating for others. A five feels right. They had been a good band. The place had grown packed since I arrived. I glanced down, and my five was atop of mostly US dollars and a scattering of local pesos. I looked back up and The French horn player, and our gazes met. He nodded without missing a beat.

I stumbled to the casa particular and arrived in plenty of time. The family was pleasant and the room was as expected. I cursed myself for drinking too much, then said it was worth it. Old friends are the best friends. I laid down a towel and stretched on the cold floor, and pondered what had led me to forget my yoga mat. I attributed it to fatigue. The same with worrying about Wendy. I realized I had forgotten to ask Tim about the Hotel Havana Cabana, and I ruminated about that while I stretched. Mindlessly, my hand gravitated towards the scar on the back of my head and I fingered it, an old habit when something’s on my mind. I noticed and stopped, then continued up and down the backwards C shape of the scar, counting the raised bumps from where skin had been pulled taut. PawPaw had exaggerated, it couldn’t have taken 82 stitches. That number stuck in my mind after serving in the 82nd Airborne, but by then I knew to put 1-2 stitches per centimeter, more on a scalp wound that reopens easily and bleeds profusely. I laughed – the alcohol was still creeping through my blood to brain barrier – and thought how ironic it was that Big Daddy was dubbed an all-American hero when Tim and I were, by every definition of the word, All American heroes. Life’s funny, I slurred out loud.

I moved my hand to my bald spot and chuckled; only a few months before, Cristi had noticed that with my bald spot beginning to show, the backwards C now looked like a semicolon; coincidentally, that was just after an internet meme started Project Semicolon as a way to bring suicide awareness, implying that an author could have ended a sentence but chose to continue. And there was Mike. It’s no wonder my mind went haywire and transcribed my spinning laundry of thoughts into feeling Wendy was pondering suicide.

Satisfied with that explanation – or too drunk to think more – I stood up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and collapsed on the bed. I fell asleep thinking about old friends.

Go to the Table of Contents


  1. New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison led the only trial for President Kennedy’s death. His work would become the book JFK and the basis for Oliver Stone’s 1992 film, also called JFK, and that film would prompt American voters to demand that incumbent president Bill Clinton release the then-classified congressional committee on assassinations report JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.’s murders. Coincidentally, in 1992 Tim and I were on President Clinton’s Quick-Reaction force, the 82nd Airborne, also called America’s Guard of Honor, when JFK was released and Clinton authorized releasing the JFK Assassination report that reversed the 1964 Warren Report. We were being reviewed for diplomatic passports, and my family was brought up and I was cleared. Tim and I have mentioned my grandfather and his role since then, and we realize the significance of the JFK report beginning two years after Hoffa vanished and being released two years after my grandfather passed; neither were available to comment on the report. To this day, Garrison’s investigation stands as a cornerstone for theories about CIA or FBI agents – not necessarily the CIA or FBI – being involved in a long and elaborate plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy.

    What’s universally agreed upon is that Lee Harvey Oswald had been born in New Orleans, served in the US Marines (his records show he was either a lousy marksman or intentionally missed targets), defected to the Soviet Union, and returned to New Orleans with a Russian wife and son who would be eligible for citizenship; inexplicably, the FBI paid for his flight home. Oswald busied himself spreading pro-Castro socialist pamphlets around New Orleans and trained in the Baton Rouge civil air force under the alias Harvey Lee. Oswald tried to enter Cuba and see Castro by going through Mexico City, but failed and returned to New Orleans. He given a job at a bookshop in downtown Dallas the summer before Kennedy was shot and killed driving through downtown Dallas in a convertible; Oswald’s 6.5mm Italian army surplus carbine was found on the 6th floor of his employer’s book repository, outfitted by a Dallas gunsmith with a sniper’s scope, and with a row of 6.5mm bullets on the windowsill. The shots that killed Kennedy are still debated. Two hours after Kennedy was shot, a Dallas policeman spotted Oswald in a nearby movie theater, and Oswald shot and killed him: his name was Tippit. Oswald was arrested, and immediately said, “I’m a patsie!” His role is still debated. One of the key pieces of evidence was his carbine and shots fired by it into a US Army general’s study, barely missing him only six months before Kennedy’s death. Oswald’s wife confessed that Oswald had tried to kill the general; presumably, Oswald was still a lousy shot. What’s not debated, probably because it was witnessed by 110 Million people on live television, was that two days after Kennedy died, Dallas police were escorting a handcuffed Oswald out of the police station, and Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, low-level mafia gopher, and associate of Jimmy Hoffa – they had spoken on the phone several times in the months preceding Kennedy’s death – walked through crowds of police, walked next to Oswald, removed a Colt .38 Detective Special snub nosed revolver, and shot Oswald point-blank in the stomach. Ruby was arrested, and Oswald died a few hours later in the same hospital as Kennedy. Ruby was an air force veteran (I don’t know his marksmanship records, but it’s hard to miss from four feet away) who, like Oswald, had a lifetime history of mental illness, trouble in school, and a spotty military record.

    Ruby confessed to killing Oswald to save Jacquline Kennedy the heartache of seeing Oswald’s trial drug out; apparently, he shed tears over his love for the Kennedy’s, then inexplicably said that he must be a good actor. (Hoffa, on the other hand, never tried to fake condolences. He ordered all Teamster flags returned to full mast, said he was happy Kennedy was dead, and that his spoiled brat of a little brother, “Booby,” was “just another lawyer now. My grandfather never expressed his opinion on the Kennedys; or his opinion on much of anything, for that matter, other than saying alcohol loosens lips.) Ruby initially claimed he acted impulsively, but interigations showed otherwise. He had used his middle finger to pull the trigger, presumably a mafia technique to stabilize a snub-nose for multiple shots, and would later claim he had intended to shoot three times, belying his initial claim that he acted impulsively. Ruby originally denied any collaborations or conspiracies, but he would change his testimony many times in prison over the next two years, and he began claiming that government was trying to give him cancer in prison. He passed away on 03 January 2019 from complications secondary to lung cancer in 1964. He had been a lifetime smoker. Oswald was never tried, because the United States does not try people who are deceased and can’t testify.

    After an extensive investigation, Jim Garrison charged Clay Shaw as a participant in an alleged conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, but the trial’s jury voted not guilty. My grandfather was never tried. After Garrison suppeoned him and talked about photographic evidence of Ruby, Oswald, and probably my grandfather driving around together a few months before Kennedy’s murder, the two alleged witnesses were found beaten and refused to testify. The alleged photo of my grandfather with Oswald and Ruby was never seen publicly. In 1964, the hastily assembled Warren Report said that Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed Kennedy, and that Ruby acted alone when he shot and killed Oswald; Warren, who presumably knew everything about my grandfather remaining after Bobby Kennedy – probably – made his records vanish as cleanly as Hoffa’s body vanished, doesn’t mention him in the Warren Report. ↩︎