“What brings you to our fine city?” the valet asked. He was the kind of man who never met a stranger. He wasn’t in a hurry to remove you from your car and keys. Upon meeting, you and the valet became fast, best friends. He popped the trunk and pulled the bags out.
“I’m here for the NAILBA Conference.”
“Woooh. You guys are filling this place up.” He thumbed at the entourage of serious looking guys in navy blazers and shined, leather shoes who pushed through the revolving door to the lobby of the Gaylord Texan.
“What do you guys do?”
“I’m a reporter, but the event is for the insurance industry.”
“Hmmm. Okay. Okay,” he scratched at the salt that dotted his beard. “Everybody needs insurance. That’s for sure.”
“You talk like that and one of these guys will offer you a job.”
“Hah,” his laugh boomed, a verbal chop he delivered with the force of a karate expert breaking blocks of ice.
Another group of insurance men pushed past, broad shouldered guys with square jaws who headed straight for the bar.
“Where are you from?” the valet asked.
“Denver,” I said.
“Denver—the mile high city. You a Broncos fan?”
“Woo. You got a quarterback there.”
“Hah,” his laugh boomed again. “He’s the GOAT, man. The GOAT.”
“Greatest of all time.”
“He might need another Super Bowl or two to make that claim.”
“Hah,” his laugh once again threatened the air. After handing off the bags, the valet bid his farewell and turned to the next car to service and welcome his newest best friend.
At the conference, grief expert Amy Florian said, “thanatology is the study of death and grief. Thanatos is the Greek word for death. It sounds like it would be a depressing subject, but it’s not. It’s comforting to know I can offer people advice on how to talk to those who are left behind, what they need to say, what they need to do to help people through the toughest times in their lives.”
While it’s true that people struggle for the right words to discuss the death of loved ones and others they know on a personal level, it seems the opposite in the case of President John F. Kennedy. Every news show and book publisher puts their stamp on the subject of his death. And, as Nov. 22 looms, the 50th anniversary of his assassination, few people are talking about their beloved Cowboys. Kennedy’s death weighs heavy on the Dallas natives. They take it personally. They feel a certain responsibility — a scab they can’t remove.
On Friday at roughly 12:30 pm, the moment Kennedy was shot, I hand the valet the ticket to pick up the rental car.
“Denver,” he shouts. That big voice booms in the covered parking area. A windy rain blows through us.
“It got cold on us,” he says.
“It’s colder in Denver,” I say.
“I bet. I bet.”
“You going to write anything about Kennedy?” he asks.
“I might,” I say. “Everyone else is.”
“Ain’t that the truth. I saw where his daughter left for Japan so she didn’t have to be around for all of this.”
“I don’t blame her. I’d leave if I was her.”
“Yeah. You got that right. Did you pick up one of the Kennedy memorial newspapers? They have a reprint of the original Dallas paper. You can pick it up at newsstands around town.”
“No. But that’s a good idea. I’ll be on the lookout.”
He shuts the car door and I roll down the window to say goodbye.
“I don’t think there’s any way Oswald was the lone gunman,” the valet says. “Kennedy’s head jumped forward and then jumped back like he was shot from the back and then the front. You can’t convince me that was one gunman.”
“That’s an interesting theory. Can I quote you on that?”
“Yeah. You can quote me on that. You can quote me on this, too: Don’t judge us based on Kennedy. Him being killed here put a stain on Dallas. It put a stain on all of Texas. But don’t judge us on just that.”
“How about I judge you on the Cowboys.”
“Ha,” he says and I drive off with his laugh ringing in the air.