“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.WJBO radio, New Orleans, June 23rd, 1964; quoted from Walter Sheridan, “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” 1972
I arrived at the downtown casa particular after dinner and spoke with the hosts politely yet briefly, went to my room with a window overlooking a small courtyard, and laid down a travel towel. It was of the ones advertised to soak up many times its weight in water and dry quickly, and doubled as a yoga mat at music festivals and when you travel with a bulging backpack.
I stretched out on the floor and did about twenty minutes of yoga, meditated for about five or ten minutes more, and struggled to do ten perfect pushups. If you had been outside the door, you would have heard the crepitus in my right shoulder shouting at me, and me replying with grunts and creative curse words.
The closest thing to unsolicited advice my high school wrestling coach ever gave me, besides to not curse so much, was that ten perfect pushups was better than 100 unfocused ones. My record for acceptable pushups in a military competition was, by the way, 506, and my record for perfect pushups was 82 in two minutes, the coincidentally numbered pushups necessary for an 18 year old to make a perfect score on the army’s physical fitness test. It can suck getting old, and there’s little counsel knowing it happens to all of us. Coach Dale Ketelesen passed from Alzheimers in 2014. His obituary immortalizes his approach to life; outside of wrestling, Coach embodied Farm, Family, and Faith.
A year before, like Neo in the Matrix realizing he knew Kung-Fu, I learned that I knew yoga. I flew into Kathmandu singing the eponymous Bob Seager song and spent three months hiking across the Himalayas from Kathmandu to Delhi in northern India. It hurt. Along the way, a few gurus, pilgrims, and vagabond hipsters with Instagram accounts saw me stretching and asked if I were doing this move or that, saying I had a remarkable Hunanmansana, Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, and other words I couldn’t pronounce. I was just stretching, using the same moves Coach had shown us plus a few modifications to slowly elongate the scar tissue connecting my skull to my hips. Now, when I stretch, I say I’m doing yoga. People seem to accept that more than saying I’d like to stretch, and I don’t have to explain why my back hurts; I’m just doing yoga.
“Hunanmansana,” I later learned, is named after Hunan, the monkey god of wrestling whose name sounds remarkably like “human” in English, is used to demonstrate what good friendship and dedication looks like, so maybe Coach was a guru. As for meditation, I had begun practicing a form of vipassana about two or three years earlier, trying to clear my mind and stop taking opioids for pain, which had become a habit for too many years after the VA began prescribing me. It took hiking across the Himalayas to reset my brain after getting too deep into work. I was trying to decide whether or not to get the surguries the VA recommended: bilateral hip replacement and C5/6 fusion, a 33% failure rate for my bulging discs and osteophytes. I wanted to clear my mind before deciding, and opioids destroy your mind. Humorously, I learned about vipassana meditaiton form the monthly VA magazine that offered research and evidence backed alternatives to the opioids they prescribed.
I wasn’t alone in struggling to stop taking pills. Audie Murphy, one of my childhood heroes, and, to this day, America’s most decorated war hero, had become addicted to a combination of opioiods, amphetamines, and sleeping pills in the 1960’s. He was a badass, a young, handsome and charismatic soldier who lied about his age to join WWII. He was too small to become a marine or paratrooper, – we carried a lot of weight for months at a time – but he became an infantryman and won every medal America has to give. Audie Murphy had 278 confirmed German kills, and almost 40 Hollywood films under his chest of medals. He took pills because he suffered from PTSD. In the 1960’s, he locked himself in a hotel room without food for a week until he sweat out his addiction, and then he became a vocal proponent of treating PTSD and mental illness until his 28 May 1971.
To his dying day, Audie Murphy said the biggest trauma of his life was his mom’s passing. She had raised him after his father ran out, and he grew up in Texas, shooting rabbits for food with scarce bullets, and became a crack shot. The army fed him three meals a day, and he rose in ranks to become America’s hero.
Audie died in a private plane crash two weeks after visiting Big Daddy in Baton Rouge to negotiate Hoffa’s release on behalf of President Nixon. I was born in 1972, so I never met Audie, but he may have been the most popular hero of my dad’s generation. He was so well known that he was buried in Arlington Cemetery, and to this day his tomb is the second only to John F. Kennedy for number of visitors paying respect. I don’t know what have to say about the 2010’s prescription opioid epidemic and the VA’s role in it, or about what happened to Kennedy’s 1963 Community Mental Healthcare Act. I think I know what he’d think about drawn out wars without an end goal, or sending boys to fight old white men’s wars.
Big Daddy was the leading suspect in Audie’s death. For years, until my mid 20’s, I believed my grandfather had orchestrated the death of America’s most decorated war veteran. He never denied it, and in Uncle Doug’s self-published 2014 memoir, From My Brother’s Shadow: Douglas Westly Partin Tells His Side of The Story, he wrote an entire chapter about Big Daddy killing Audie. So did most other biographers of the Hoffa days; even the mafia tipped a hat to a man with 278 confirmed kills. Frank Sheenan, a vet with a mere 35 days in combat spread thinly over two years, mentioned Audie admirably; but, he also mentioned Big Daddy a bunch, so there’s no accounting for taste. But, in 1971, practically every journalist who covered Audie’s funeral and politician who capitalized on the moment pointed to Audie as their influence growing up. Texas renamed their Veteran’s hospital in San Antonio to the Audie Murphy Memorial Hospital, and all army medics rotate through that hospital in their advanced training. To this day, Audie Murphy’s tomb is second only to President John F. Kennedy’s as the most visited site in Washington DC’s Arlington Cemetery. As a child, I viewed what it meant to be an all-American differently than a lot of my friends who didn’t know that Big Daddy killed Audie Murphy.
Havana was my first sabattical since emancipating from opiods and tempering my drinking. I wanted to soak in the experience before going to sleep my first night. After my battle on the yoga towel, fighting age, fatigue, and arthritis to do ten perfect pushups, I took a shower in my room’s private bath.
I’m spoiled person who likes long hot showers, and the tepid shower lacked pressure and smelled like two day old seafood. But, only an asshole would complain when you were the only room in the house with a private bath; the host family chose to rent the master bedroom and sleep in the windowless rooms with a shared bath. Besides, for almost three weeks on the Anapurna Trail in Nepal, I went without showers and pee’ed in outdoor toilets to melt the layer of ice so I could poop. Rooms in India weren’t much nicer, but at least there was no ice blocking the toilets. For seven years in the military, I would deploy for months at a time without even a toilet and only those minuscule packets of paper in MRE’s to wipe my ass, and sometimes enough water in my canteens to wash my private parts. I could suffer a tepid shower for a few nights in Havana.
I fell asleep and slept surprisingly well, despite the long flight, worry about Wendy, and lack of pain killers. I woke to the smell and crackle of bacon frying. No one was shooting at me, and my headache wasn’t too bad. I could take another shower, and I had everything I needed in my backpack, ready to go. It was already the best day ever.
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