THE PARAFFIN OVERCAST sealed the sky over midtown. It was the last delivery on a sultry Friday afternoon. I was carrying an envelope filled with the self-serving hyperbole from a Fifth Avenue PR firm. I was carrying a press release that was generated from La Mosche a posh disco on the lower West side. The mid 1970’s Manhattan night life was then fueled by amyl nitrate, cocaine, and celebrity sightings. I turned the key to my horse-shoe lock fastening my bike to a parking meter in front of the Daily News building on Forty Second and Second Avenue. I turned around and noticed the back of a hefty bodied young woman. Her frizzy honey blond hair hung over her shoulders and backpack. She turned around and when I saw her face I was suddenly startled because I recognized Caroline Kennedy and this in turn startled her as well. I had read that she was doing a summer internship at the Daily News. On instinct, she glanced peripherally for her Secret Service agents. She might have thought I was Travis Bickle now incarnate as bicycle messenger.
I had seen her mother cross Fifty-Seventh and Madison a few weeks before. Jackie was scurrying across the cross walk seconds before the light was to change from red to green. Her long bow-legged legs stretched laterally as her skirt rode up her thighs. Her head erect. Her hair unfurled like a colt’s mane. Her jaw-line unmistakable even behind her over-sized shades. Once her high heels hit the curb, her head lowered so her gaze cowered; only looking now at the sidewalk. She deliberately swallowed her silver celebrity aura as she disappeared anonymously into the oncoming pedestrian traffic.
Caroline glowered at me as I stared at her. Neither of us blinked. Each of us harboring different perspectives because we both lived different lives. Yet here we were with our separate and respective lives intersecting in front of the Daily News building.
She had lived history while I merely lived through history. I wondered what she actually remembered from the White House. I remembered what I remembered of Camelot because then I was in Middle School. Meaning that I was cognizant enough to know what was going on in my limited young adult capacity. She was six. All of it must be hazy like gauze. All I have to do is lay in bed so my mind can play out that period. Maybe listen to song like “One Hundred Pounds Of Clay” to trigger a cavalcade of synapses to weave a memory together. But what does Caroline have? Remembrances of what her mother might have told her and history books to reconstruct her past.
Caroline and I stared at one another for a moment. The swishing of the rubber hinged door clamped shut, then the bus wheezed into a mechanical growl to continue down Second Avenue.
Caroline stood there in a whisk of everyday paranoia. I stood there in awe of seeing royalty who had in one way or another shaped our lives.
“Viggah” was a name of a bottle of pasteurized orange juice that was marketed on Cape Cod in the summer of 1963. The name, of course, came John Kennedy’s pronunciation of the word “vigor.”
And then when JFK was shot, it was as if we all were shot.