STATE 10 - TEXAS
03/03/2011 - 03/06/2011 65 °F
Was there a conspiracy behind the assassination of JFK? Can Texas BBQ even compare to North Carolina BBQ? Who shot J.R.? Time to cowboy up and head to the second largest state in the US (in both population and size), I'm headed to Dallas, Texas.
Being halfway across the country from me, most of what I know about Texas comes from movies, tv shows, and country songs. I know you can shoot someone for just stepping on your property. I know that there is oil in Texas. I know that if you are going to play in Texas, you better have a fiddle in your band. Thankfully I have friends and family that live in Texas and were able to show me a lot of what north central Texas had to offer.
I arrived in the early evening on Thursday where my good friend Jason picked me up from the airport. We drove towards downtown Dallas to check into our hotel. After dropping off the bags, we hopped in a cab, and headed to the closest bar district, McKinney Ave. We found a pub that looked about our style, went in, and had a couple Texas-brewed Shiner Bocks. After the second round, we noticed a peculiar looking pool game stuck in the corner of the bar. The bartender told us it was free to play if we could figure out how to get the balls to come out. Being engineers, and also encouraged by a couple beers, we took that as a challenge. If necessary, we would take the whole table apart. The table looked to be at least 50 years old and somewhat rickety. Thankfully, a simple lever hidden inside the machine released the balls. Figuring out how to play the game, was an entirely different matter.
The rules for the game were posted next to the table, but there were printed in English english (as in from England), and were totally incomprehensible. Here's an example, "Each turn consists of a number of strikes and comes to an end when a player makes a non-scoring strike or a foul stroke, or knocks over a skittle, or hits a ball out of the trough". Now try understanding that after a few beers. We ended up playing a couple games of our interpretation of the rules, and then proceeded to teach the next guys how to play the game using terms like "skittle" and "strikes".
The next morning, Jason headed off to work and I pulled out my laptop to work as well. Things were going well until around noon, when I needed to get some lunch. Being in Texas, I was determined to get some BBQ. Let me explain something real quick, Texans mistakenly refer to BBQ as seasoned meat prepared slowly over low heat, which could be beef or pork, and sometimes even use barbeque as a verb (those of us in North Carolina know that true barbeque only refers to that delicious pulled pork drenched in vinegar and hot spices). So anyways, I decided I was going to get some Texas BBQ for lunch. I found a restaurant online that was only 2 miles away, and since I didn't have a car, I started hiking toward the heart of downtown. I walked past the American Airlines Center where the Mavs and the Stars play, walked past the skyscrapers, and all the way down to Main Street. I wasn't the only one enjoying the beautiful weather outside, all the restaurants were packed, so I decided to kill a little time and walk down Main Street until the lunch crowd thinned out.
I walked along Main Street passing more skyscrapers until I came to a little park with an interesting looking monument in the center. Walking up to the sign, I found out that it was the JFK Memorial in Dallas. I knew that JFK had been assassinated in Dallas, I just wasn't sure where. The memorial had four walls raised off the ground, and a low raised table in the center. Kids were running around the park and eating lunch on the memorial. I had reached the end of Main Street, and I figured that the Texas School Book Depository (where Lee Harvey Oswald hid to shoot JFK) was somewhere close, but I didn't know which building it was. My stomach was also growling incessantly, so I made my way back up Main Street to find some place to eat. About three blocks up, I delicious aroma reached me. BBQ was close.
The restaurant was appropriately decorated with cow heads mounted on the wall (since I like to stare my dinner in the eye as I eat it) and rolls of paper towels instead of napkins. I ordered beef brisket with a tangy sauce, red beans and rice, and a slice of texas toast. It was heavenly. After lunch, I walked back to the hotel and worked until Jason got back.
Before heading out to dinner, Jason and I decided to get an eagle's eye view of downtown by going to the top of Reunion Tower. You can see it in the background of one of the JFK Memorial pictures. It reminded me of the Sunsphere in Knoxville. Reunion Tower has a bar that slowly rotates to give you a 360 degree view of the city. They charge $6 a beer, and since it takes about an hour to make a whole circuit, you end up spending $20 for the best view of downtown. We also strained to see the X on the street 500 feet below marking exactly where JFK was when he got shot (we couldn't see it).
The Dallas Skyline is unique. I don't know how it started, but the skyscrapers are in some weird competition to see who can outline the most of their building in neon strips. The picture doesn't do the skyline justice, the neon colors give off a definite 1980s vibe.
Jason and I headed to the Greenville Blvd bar area based on the recommendation of my coworker, an ex-Dallas resident. We ate some delicious tex-mex at the Blue Gloose, and then headed down to the artsy Deep Ellum to go out on Friday night. We got a picture at dinner, but the rest of the bars we ventured to went undocumented.
Once we arrived back at the hotel, fueled by a discussion started at the bar, we began researching the conspiracy surrounding JFK's assassination. I admit, some things didn't seem to line up surrounding the investigation. Here's an overview:
- Oswald fired at least 3 shots in a very short period of time. The first missed, the second hit both JFK and the governor of Texas, and the third was a fatal head shot to JFK. Oswald was a notoriously bad shot, it seems improbable that he would become more accurate after quickly firing and reloading on three sequential shots.
- The car was traveling and accelerating away from Oswald during all 3 shots. Why would Oswald wait to fire until the car was moving away from him, instead of firing when the car was directly beneath him at almost a standstill.
- The route was changed just before the motorcade left, which could have been a security tactic. However, the secret service men that usually run next to the car and ride on the rear fenders were also called off, leaving the president entirely vulnerable for a rifle shot.
- There was a photograph taken of the window on the sixth floor of the TSBD where the shots came from. The man in the picture supposedly is not Oswald, but the picture was damaged while in possession of the committee. The picture was torn exactly where the man appeared in the photo.
- The rifle originally found in the TSBD was not the gun that matched the bullets recovered from the scene. The gun was later switched out after it had already been saved as evidence.
- The president's head seems to snap backwards, instead of forwards as one would expect being shot from behind. JFK's brain was never available for autopsy as it went "missing". An agent running behind the president was struck with brain matter, also inconsistent from a shot hitting from behind.
- Lee Harvey Oswald was only in custody for a very short period of time before he was also assassinated by a man, Jack Ruby, with known mob ties. Lee Harvey Oswald's interrogation wasn't recorded, and Jack Ruby died of a heart attack once in prison. The mob was hired by JFK to attempt to overthrow Castro in Cuba (they were obviously unsuccessful).
- The FBI and CIA withheld information from the Warren Commission, the committee formed to investigate the assassination, and the Warren Commission concluded there was no conspiracy. However, a second commission, the House Select Commission, completed their own investigation, and concluded that there absolutely had been a conspiracy.
These are only a few of the weird things surrounding JFK's death. You could go on and on, people are obsessed with it. The government was supposed to release the records a few years ago, but instead postponed the release of the documents for another 20 years. Jason and I got sucked into watching countless YouTube videos about the assassination. The first thing tomorrow morning, we were going to research the details first hand at the scene of the crime.
We arrived at the TSBD after breakfast the next morning and began looking around. There were actually 2 X's on the ground marking where both bullets struck the president. The first photo is of the window where Oswald was stationed during the assassination (second from the top, all the way to the right). The second is a recreation of how Oswald had arranged the boxes to make a "sniper's nest". The third is a look down from the "sniper's nest" in the Texas School Book Depository on the 6th floor.
Here is a picture showing both X's. The fatal head shot is the larger X to the right, the first shot to hit the president is up the hill past the lamppost and is a little hard to see. I'm standing on the grassy knoll.
We decided to investigate the angles of the shots, which required us playing frogger across the 3 lane road. There first picture is of the view from the top of the grassy knoll down to the fatal shot, and the last one is me posing as an assassin on the grassy knoll.
It was very intriguing, and I can definitely see what people get sucked into the conspiracy theories. The Sixth Floor Museum was excellent, and I think we could have spent a lot longer there, but we had to leave the conspiracies behind us and head north to Southlake to hang out my family. We did family stuff and hung out all afternoon, and although one of the best parts of the trip, family talk doesn't make the best blog material. My Aunt Peg and Uncle Bernie did take us to an awesome BBQ place that was located in an old feed store. BBQ twice in two days, sounds good to me!
One thing I noticed as we left Southlake, Texas goes a little crazy with the highway interchanges. Dallas is flat, really flat. It looked like there were no natural hills to use for building overpasses, so concrete bridges go off in nearly every direction. Every three miles there was an intersection to a major highway or beltway seemingly leading to nowhere. I think there may have been a conspiracy between the concrete salesman and the government highway designer.
Our next destination was the Stock Yards in Forth Worth, and a rodeo!
Twice a day longhorn cattle are driven through the roads of the Stock Yards. We arrived too late in the evening to see them, but I would get to see plenty of bulls yet.
The first event was the bull riding. 4 different corrals were being loaded with bull riders and their massive bulls. The goal was to ride the bull for a full 8 seconds while kicking the bull to jump higher and higher. However, not a single rider made the full 8 seconds on the first round. The second event was the lassoing/hog-tieing calf event. After lassoing a calf sprinting across the arena, the rider stopped his horse to viciously close-line the calf to the ground, and then tied his feet together. The riders were a lot more successful at this event.
I especially liked how all the event participants strutted away from the calf after completing the hog-tie. The calf has to remain tied for a period of time for the score to count, but each participant coolly ignored the calf straining against the rope (but I know they were nervously waiting for the official to raise the flag signaling enough time had passed).
The craziest part of the night is where they invited all the kids into the arena to try and pick a ribbon off a calf. Some of the kids going out there hardly came up to the belly of the calf, and from my experience castrating calves, those little buggers can pack a wallop. Sure enough, as soon as the calf was released, it sprinted right through the kids to get to the other side of the arena and back to safety. No one was injured. We sat through the rest of the events, including the bronco riding, and loved every second. In the second round of bull riders, 1 single rider successfully stayed on for 8 seconds.
We left the stock yards at the end of the rodeo and hit up the bars of downtown Forth Worth. The hotel we were staying in was the same one JFK stayed in the night before he was shot. Just like JFK, it was my last night in Texas.