Kennedy Conspiracy Resurrected (Part 2)

I didn’t consider New York City to be a training ground for the Peace Corps. Official training was not to start for another month. Nor did I expect to see a doppelganger of Lee Harvey Osward, the man who’d assassinated President John F. Kennedy more than seven years before.

By 1971, my folks had moved back to Michigan, and I’d been accepted into a Peace Corps program in Thailand. But I had to take my induction physical in Manhattan first and then try to get some treatment for a cut nerve in my hand which was still causing me problems. The doctor at the induction center had given me a six-month deferral to get further treatment for my hand, but the specialists in New York informed me that there was no way to surgically fix the damaged nerve and that I had to just give it time. I wanted to be independent, so I decided to get a job in New York and stay at the West Side YMCA, just a block from Central Park, and wait there until my Peace Corps program started.

The Peace Corps harkened back to the Kennedy presidency. Some historians even say the creation of the Peace Corps was the accomplishment for which Kennedy was most proud or the apple of his eye.

Anyway, when I wasn’t at Cornell, I’d been living in Westchester County, not New York City, but my next-door neighbor, Billy Weber, had attended Fordham and driven a taxi in the City while going to school. On a whim, I walked into a taxi garage in the Bronx and applied for a job. “Sure, I can hire you,” the proprietor said. “Just take the hack test to get your chauffer’s license, then drive around for a while, and, when you feel ready, start picking up fares. I don’t care how much money you make, but, if you damage one of my taxis, I’ll never forgive you.”

I earned enough driving that summer to eat and pay the rent. Each night I was doing a little better. Some nights I’d t drive back and forth on one of the avenues and wait for someone to hail me. Some nights I’d wait in a cue at the airport or one of the large hotels. I had a few memorable experiences that summer, and the one which involved Lee Harvey Oswald’s doppelganger occurred right after I’d picked up two couples at the Hilton. One couple sat next to me in the front seat while the other couple sat behind me.

We’re from Minnesota,” an elderly gentleman in back informed me,” and we’d like to see a movie. Could you take up to the movie district and help us find one?” For the very first time I was being treated like a native which made me proud, and I and I knew just where to go.

At that time, there was no barrier between where the taxi drivers were sitting and the passengers behind them, so it might have been easier for a driver to overhear backseat conversations. In any case, it was obvious right away that going to see a movie had been the gentleman’s idea and not his wife’s.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” she told her husband. “I’m afraid that something bad will happen if we go out there on the sidewalk.”

“Oh, honey,” said the man. “Please relax.

I may not have been a New York City native as they thought, but I knew there were of lot of movie marquees hanging over the sidewalks around Times Square. In fact, I’d always thought of Times Square as being the pulse of New York City; the place where New Yorkers gathered on New Year’s Eve and the place where tourists go just to be there. I felt, naively as it turned out, that if this woman, who seemed so anxious about being on the sidewalk, were to immerse herself in the sea of humanity around Times Square, she’d have no choice but to learn that her husband was right and that there was indeed no need for her to be afraid.

I’d never actually seen a movie in New York City. Mom had taken me to the Radio City Music Hall and to see a Broadway play, the type of things tourists do, because, as far as New York City was concerned, we were tourists ourselves. The only reason I knew about all the movie theatres around Times Square was because I’d been driving past them for a month or two that summer. I didn’t know that all the movie theatres around Times Square featured triple x rated sex shows until I drove down the street this time and looked to see if there was something my elderly passengers might want to see.

Of course, my passengers were reading the letters on the same move marquees that I was, and the woman in back started going into a frenzy. Her husband, silent now, finally saw a theatre that was showing Gone With The Wind. Again. this was 1971. Whether Gone With The Wind is racist or not was not an issue to the man from Minnesota. What was important was that it wasn’t a triple X rated peep show.

“That’s it!” he said as soon as he saw it. “Stop here driver!”

At this point the front seat passengers paid me and disembarked, but, although he used all his powers of pursuation, the man in book was unable to get his petrified wife to move for quite some time. Then, as she finally did get out, a man in a hurry jumped in before the door was even closed.

At that point, she screamed a high-pitched blood curdling scream which pierced through the warm night air and drowned out all the street noise. Then, m when she found her voice, she shouted, “My purse! My purse! My purse!” as she clutched her purse to her breast and as her husband whisked her away, most likely to see a movie with the couple who was with them.

I looked at my new passenger, the man who’d been in such a hurry as to jostle the woman from Minnesota as he got in the cab. I noted he was a thin man with a swarthy complexion and short brown hair parted neatly on the side. It was time for him to tell me his destination. the place he needed to get to. He didn’t say a word. Then I looked to see the crowd that was forming around my taxi. It seemed like everyone who’d head that woman scream was now crowded around my taxi.

“Don’t take that man anywhere!” a loud voice boomed from the back of the crowd.

“What did he do?” someone asked.

“I don’t know what he did,” the loud voice replied, “but did you hear that woman scream? He must have done something. Don’t take him anywhere.”

By this time people were stopping not just because they’d heard the woman scream but also because of the crowd. They all seemed to know that something really bad must have happened. They just didn’t know what it was. The man in the backseat seemed dumbfounded. I was too. He didn’t speak, and I didn’t either.

That’s when he looked like Lee Harvey Oswald. I recently watched the footage again of Lee Harvey Oswald being murdered by Jack Ruby in the parking garage in Dallas. He’d already proclaimed his innocence in a holding room, and he was being ushered to a nearby jail. The newsmen were firing questions, but, by this time, Oswald was mute. He must have known his fate was sealed.

As for my Lee Harvey Oswald doppelganger, he finally got out of my taxi and shouldered his way through the crowd. I was scared. I wanted to get out of that place as fast as I could, but, before I could step on the gas, a couple college kids jumped in and asked me to take them across town. I said sure, and as I drove them to their destination, I told them what had happened and why my hands were still shaking.

“But nothing happened right?” one of them asked.

“That’s right,” I told him. “Nothing happened.” And then I felt very foolish and naive. (Note for Kennedy Conspiracy Aficionados who believe there was actually two Lee Harvey Oswalds. This would have been the second one, the Lee Harvey Oswald that Jack Ruby didn’t kill.)

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