Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gloom Can Last A Very Long Time

As I was preparing to go to Fort Worth, Texas, last week to conduct the wedding ceremony of a long time friend I decided to download a new book onto my Kindle. I've always been a little bit intrigued by the assassination of President Kennedy. I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade when it happened. I remember it clearly. And so it wasn't unusual that I would purchase a newly published book, "The Kennedy Detail." This book chronicles the tragedy from the perspective of the Secret Service detail that was assigned to protect the President in Dallas. These agents have remained quiet for 47 years. They have finally come forward with their story. Due to their ever advancing age they realized that the world needed to hear from them before they were gone.

So I settled into the flight from St. Louis to Love Field in Dallas and began skimming the book. I found myself fast-fowarding to the part that describes the presidents last night on the planet. He and his wife, Jackie, spent the night at the "Hotel Texas" in downtown Forth Worth. That intrigued me because downtown Forth Worth was where we would be staying. Our address would be the Hilton Hotel for the next two nights.

We arrived in Dallas, got our luggage, rented a car, and drove into Fort Worth. The hotel check-in process went smoothly and in minutes we found ourselves in room 434. I stowed the luggage and took a break to check the place out. In the restroom I found a framed print of the building we were in. On the bottom of the print was a engraved brass plaque that read, "This hotel is the former "Hotel Texas." This is the location where President and Mrs. Kennedy spent the night before giving a speech and leaving in the motorcade that would forever cost our country its innocence."

Whoa. This is the place. I had just read about the Secret Service Agents walking its hallways. Riding its elevators. Trying to catch a quick nap while rotating guard duty on the 8th floor. Hearing the Presidents New England accent through the door as he chatted with his wife for what would prove to be the final time. It felt ... strange. Not ghostly. Not haunted. But certainly historic. It made me want to find someway to reverse everything and shout at whoever would listen, "Don't go! It will mean the end of Camelot!" And there was a certain overwhelming hint of sadness. I can't say that I liked it.

We left the hotel for an evening at our friends house in suburban Burleson. After enjoying time with the families and a wonderful meal we returned to downtown and left our rental car with the valet parking guy. As we entered the lobby we were greeted by the concierge. He quickly asked us how our evening was and if we needed anything. I couldn't help myself. I asked him what he knew about the history of the hotel. How much had it changed since the fateful night of November 21, 1963? He walked us through the lobby, pointing out that, while most things had stayed the same, it had pretty much been made-over to look much like it did on that night. He told us that suite 850, the Kennedy Suite, no longer existed. The management realized that it would be a place of morbid curiosity and so they expanded suites 349 and 851 to occupy the space that once house 850. (I actually walked the hallway and the number 850 did not exist.) And he asked us if we would like a tour of the current Presidential Suite. Well, duh. YES WE WOULD!

I have to tell you, it was pretty cool. And it was certainly big. The walls were covered in Kennedy photographs and paintings and all sorts of things that are dedicated to his memory. Huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The bathrooms are the size of my home bedroom. And, honestly, I could not sleep in that place if I tried. It felt more like a museum or a library than a hotel suite. 15 foot ceilings, huge thick drapes, marble floors, not exactly places where I like to kick my shoes off, lay on the floor, and watch a football game. Not to worry though. I'm not really considering spending the $2,500 per night that the room costs to rent!

All in all it was a very interesting experience. However, I felt that it was difficult to sleep there. The sense of history overwhelmed my sense of sleepiness. And it takes a lot for that to happen.

A slice of history. Another time in that same place held some amazing moments. There is really no good way to wrap up this little article. It is obvious how it ended. Not well. Not well at all. 47 years is a long time. But evidently it is not long enough to erase the sadness held in a building that never expected to be historic. Occasionally gloom can last a very long time.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Great blog, Ron.

Kelly said...

Wow. Great blog, Ron. said...

And by Anonymous, I mean Kellita.

Anonymous said...

Even though I wasn't around yet, I'm fascinated with the Kennedy assassination, which sounds so morbid. When we were in Dallas a few years ago, we went to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, and it was one of the most interesting places I think I've ever been! Of course, it would have probably been far more interesting without a 3 year old and 6 month old in tow, but you get what you get.

I'd love to see that hotel...I'm glad you talked to concierge so you could see the suite!

Sherrie said...

WOW! How cool was that. Thanks for sharing!