Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Vol.2.6: Liver and Onions: A Conspiracy

I hate liver and onions. Why I decided to order it in the dispenser of dysentery I sometimes ate at when I was in grad school in Syracuse has long escaped me (I think it’s because the onions grilling masked the aroma of the liver.) I vowed that day never to eat another internal organ, with or without onions, if I could help it, not knowing then some of the places I would later be traveling to.


Why bring up liver and onions (I mean in literally, not regurgatively, which is the usual way)? Because I think about it every November around this date, as I have for that past forty years. Everybody seems to remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard JFK had been shot. I was at a greasy lunch counter trying to force down liver and onions. It was just me and the 350 lb. short order cook listening to the radio in disbelief.

The only good thing that could be said of the moment was that it provided an excuse to plop down a tip and leave that plate of “L & O” sitting there barely touched without offending the chef. I left without saying a word. 

Not a very auspicious answer to the perennial “Where were you when JKF was shot?” Unless, of course, one of these days that liver and onions figures into some conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination, something I don’t consider all that far-fetched. After all, JFK’s death has become as much an “industry: as an historical event that shook this country out of an “innocence” to which it will never return. And the central product of that industry has been conspiracy.

Much has been made of the give and take of the conspiracy theorists that need not be reviewed here except for a few points, the first being that the ultimate conspiracy theory might be that JKF was shot for no other reason that to plunge the nation into endless speculation about the event, ending in an mutually assured armageddon among the contending camps. By now everyone knows, painfully, the theories about Oswald’s connections with the USSR and Cuba, the notions that Castro, the American mafia, the French mafia, the CIA, the FBI, and lately Lyndon Johnson, and assorted lesser figures have all been implicated in varying degrees of culpability with bullets that have been flying from every possible direction, from grassy knolls and book depositories. The spinners of such plots have been a legion that includes Oliver Stone (who must be blamed for ensnaring a whole generation that weren’t even born when there was black and white TV), and thanks to “dramatic recreations,” “reality” TV, Roswell, the X Files, the Loch Ness monster and the demise of Princess Diana, produced the most credulous generation since Nostradamus was in short pants.

With such an array of reality-bending devices, rampant attention deficit syndrome, and complicitous TV programming execs, an army of conspiracy spinners (why do these people always seem to have nervous ticks and wandering eyes and would make a polygraph look like it was in the midst of an 8.0 on the Richter?) have had a field day playing “here’s a bunch of dots, let’s see how we can connect them to make a conspiracy.” That’s how thousands of mystery and thriller novels are written every year. And that’s my point: at any time there are innumerable potential intersections between major current events and personal circumstances that could be connected in some way with a catalytic event and suspicious minds.


Yeah, really.

Consider this. I didn’t give you the full story on the liver and onions. That greasy spoon was recommended by a guy who also rented a room in the house where I rented. I’ll call him “Ted” for reasons that are related to my own safety. Ted was a butcher at the market a couple of doors down from the greasy spoon. He had tattoos on his forearms that I could never get a good look at, a salt and pepper brush cut, a ruddy complexion, and told me that he hired a whore every Friday night and got drunk every Saturday night. Then there is this, he had told me one time as we we both watching the news on our landlady’s TV, that he had shook JFK’s hand when Jack was campaigning in Syracuse, that he had stepped into the street when the motorcade went slowly by and grasped Kennedy’s hand. he remarked how easy it had seemed to shake a famous person;’s hand.

There ya go. Connect the dots. A loner butcher with tattoos (and an French surname I might add — remember the Marsailles hit-men theory), He once rushed into the street to grasp Kennedy’s hand (was it a test of some sort?). Lived in rooming house that also housed a graduate student who became a known liberal (maybe even “left wing”) professor. Moreover, “Ted” (who’s real name initials are GN, that’s right GN, as in “grassy knoll” was “away on vacation” and didn’t return until a few days after Kennedy was shot. And why did that graduate student order liver and onions, something he had never done before and then leave them uneaten, right around the time JFK was assassinated? Well, you might just have to wait and tune in to the History Channel, maybe around the next anniversary, maybe one or two later, to find that one out. But somebody is working on it. You can count on it.

©2003, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.23.2003)