Birthdays, moon landings, and why you should visit the Kennedy Museum

Posted on
Jul 28, 2009

My cousin was born on the day of the moon landing, which makes it incredibly easy to remember his birthday. The day Aston was born is part of family lore: journalists came to interview my aunt in the hospital, thinking that she was going to name him “Astro.” Thank god, at the last minute, she came to her senses, and changed it to Aston. Except for a brief stint in middle school, where kids would say things like “Aston? So your ass weighs a ton?” (a particularly stupid insult, since he had a thyroid condition that made him very underweight), he fared fine. Better than he would have stuck with the name Astro. But I digress.

The newspapers made a big deal of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. And Aston made a reasonably big deal about turning 40. I celebrated both: I went to San Diego for Aston’s 40th, and this past April, I went to the Kennedy Museum just outside of Boston.

But since I can’t really tell you to go celebrate my cousin’s birthday with him (I mean, I suppose I could … he’s a pretty friendly guy. But you’d have to wait until next year), I’ll just tell you about the museum.

Rand’s grandmother had been raving about it for years. We had to go. And frankly, I had absolutely no desire to see it. Really. I mean, an entire museum dedicated to Kennedy? Really? Was I going to be staring at his old governement files for hours? It sounded awful. We went, begrudgingly.

And holy crap am I glad we did. It was amazing. Seriously. Of course, it succeeded in part because of my incredibly low expectations, but still. Even the admission stickers were cool:

I am stupid proud of the awesomeness of this photo.

I am stupid proud of the awesomeness of this photo.

The museum walks you through Kennedy’s entire career, from his campaign …

 … to the Democratic National Convention :


His inagural address …

There was also a video of the inauguration, which we watched almost in its entirety.

There was also a video of the inauguration, which we watched almost in its entirety. Not because we are dorks, but because it was actually interesting.

… and even notecards from the infamous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

Notice that he wrote things out phonetically so hed pronounced them properly. Unfortunately, his translator was a moron.

Notice that he wrote things out phonetically so he’d pronounced them properly. Unfortunately, his translator was a moron.


You’ve probably heard the background on this. If not, please watch Eddie Izzard’s brilliant account of it:

 This all inevitably led up to his assassination, which was handled respectfully …


Walking through it, Rand and I both independently noticed a lot of similarities between Kennedy and Obama. Sorry – if you find that oppressively cheesy, feel free to go to hell. It was simply that the way they addressed a country in turmoil was very similar, as was their overriding message of hope and optimism.

And, of course, there was Kennedy’s legacy. His promise to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Which seemed insane. And yet …

... and now I never forget my cousins birthday. Go figure.

… and now I never forget my cousin’s birthday. Go figure.

At this point, we were kicked out of the museum. No, seriously. The people who work there are total morons. Rather than warn you that the museum is about to close, and that you have, say, 15 minutes or a half-hour left, they simply walk through at closing time, with no warning, along with a security guard and push you all out. It was one of the most poorly organized things I had ever seen, and came across as totally ruthless. They need to work on this. Fortunately, there is still something rather incredible to see outside of the museum. Namely, the president’s sailboat:

I know, probably seeing the photo, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But seeing it there, on shore, but right next to the water – it just looked so lonely. We had just seen a video of JFK and a very young Bobby Kennedy playing around on the boat – they must have been in their early twenties, at the most. And despite having spent a few hours among his posessions inside the museum, this was more moving than anything else. Rand, as usual, put it best: Those other items were from his political career. This was from his life.

So – if I haven’t made a clear enough to you already – go. Go, because it will put history, and his presidency, and the Cold War, all in perspective. Go, because it will remind you that there are men behind the seal. Go, because it is incredibly interesting. And, of course, go, because it will make your grandparents-in-law so very, very happy.

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  • If you write for no other reason, write because I have a terrible memory, and years from now, I’m going to want to relive these events the same way you get to in your head.

  • RiderWriter

    I’m looking back through old posts here, and must say I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Especially since I’m a sailor, and can see why you’d find that stranded boat touching. Just looking at the photo brought on a sniffle here. Plus, I can now regale you with my one and only claim to fame: I was born the day before Kennedy was shot. (I’ll spare you the mathematics exercise, since I know you hate them – I’m 47) My poor mother was lying happily in her hospital bed, musing over the wonderfullness of her first child, and suddenly heard people crying, running footsteps and general carrying-on out in the hall. She thought the nurses were coming to tell her I was dead. I wasn’t there with her, of course, since rooming-in with babies had not been invented in 1963.

    Mom spent the next five days (still in the hospital, because back then you also got a full week to recover from birthing) trying to be happy about her new baby while watching the entire funeral saga play out on TV. The upside of this is that my relatives never forget my birthday, either! The media is always quite happy to remind them of the anniversary of the President’s death. In a few years everyone will be making much over the 50th anniversary of the assassination, while yours truly will be “celebrating” officially being waaaaay over the hill.

    The museum sounds fantastic, though I agree, closing time could certainly be handled in a more tactful manner. I would have been quite annoyed.

  • RiderWriter

    P.S. I hope that picture of you and Rand with the g’parents is framed somewhere because it is really wonderful.

    P.P.S. They say 50 is the new 40, right??? I’m trying very hard not to pre-stress… :-/ If you’re still blogging then I’ll remind you, and you can wish me a Happy “You’re Old Enough To Belong In A Museum Yourself.” Harrumph.

    • Everywhereist

      Several years ago, I asked a friend of mine what he thought of this getting older business (I was on the verge of turning 27 at the time, and for some INSANE reason, thought this made me old. He was approaching his 40s). His reply?

      “It’s either that, or dying.”

      Kind of made me change my perspective on things. 🙂

  • RiderWriter

    LOL – good attitude! I also like what someone said to me recently: “Just say you’re thirty-seventeen… sounds much better.” I plan to employ that technique for a while. 🙂

  • Agathe

    Hi there! I discovered your blog like a week ago and have since read like a hundred random posts… I just love the way you write, and your pictures are beautiful! I tend to be a lurker, but here I had to comment: the whole time I was reading about the Kennedy museum, I had Eddie’s “I’m a fu****g doughnut!” sentence going round in my mind, and then all of a sudden you post the clip! Joy and squealing ensued, so thanks for that 🙂

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