INTO THE FUTURE
Maggie Van Ostrand
AND INTO THE PAST
in Texas can you bypass summer's deadly heat, avoid Transylvanian
mosquitoes, and never feel the sting of a bee?
The Gaylord Texan, that's where.
It may be 99 degrees Farenheit outside, but the temperature under
the Gaylord's biosphere, referred to as a "climate controlled atrium,"
remains at 72 degrees.
They say that hot Texas air was personally lassoed by Guy Allen and
dragged under the biosphere to cool.
It's a unique experience to leave your room in the evening, go "outside"
to the gardens, and look skyward to see the stars. Here, however,
all the stars in the heavens are combined into one, a gigantic, golden
Star of Texas at the atrium's crown.
Guests stroll along inviting stone paths which wend across bridges
and rivers, through "Texas Hill Country," rock formations and waterfalls,
Alamo façades, a replica of the San Antonio River Walk, swimming pools
(outdoor and indoor), statues of Texas Longhorn, and the occasional
cowboy who's very much alive and twirling.
The Gaylord is so large that several of the 2000-member staff can
be found almost everywhere. "Turn left at the blue cow," is a popular
direction, as is "Turn right at the fountain." It could take some
time to find any specific fountain, since there are many, some with
geysers of water and some with fountains of chocolate.
That's right. Chocolate. A three-tiered fountain of flowing chocolate
awaits guests who wish to dip into it with their giant strawberries.
God is in the details.
The real San Antonio River Walk, the contiguous United States, and
the Empire State Building, could probably fit under this massive atrium,
with room left over for for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists'
members had occasion to leave the Gaylord's protective confines only
once during their stay. We attended a special event in Dallas: the
pre-opening of "Covering Chaos," a new exhibition featuring media
coverage of the Kennedy assassination.
Organized by The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the exhibition
explores the challenges facing Dallas reporters in November 1963.
Journalism back then, long before cell phones, faxes, and laptops,
was quite different. No CNN cameras were there to block the motorcade
view from ordinary citizens. The Abraham Zapruder 8mm, silent color
home movie of the motorcade is the only known film of the entire Kennedy
Three eyewitnesses to history spoke to NSNC members. Journalist Hugh
Aynesworth was standing in Dealey Plaza as a spectator to see Kennedy's
motorcade, and ended up covering the day's catastrophic events. His
eyewitness account can be read in his book, "JFK: Breaking the News."
Aynesworth said that only three shots were fired, and there's no doubt
about that, despite "more than 200 conspiracy theories" which are
still cropping up in 2005.
The second speaker was James Leavelle, former homicide detective,
known worldwide as the man in the white Stetson and white suit, handcuffed
to Lee Harvey Oswald.
Leavelle, tall and lanky, recounted his story with clarity, telling
it like it was, and dispelling the "JFK" movie version, though he
was a consultant on it. Instead of truth, director Oliver Stone insisted
on inventing "facts" for the purpose of entertainment.
Leavelle originally became involved with Oswald in the case of slain
police officer JD Tippet, and did not know at the time that Oswald
was also a suspect in the assassination of JFK.
The third speaker was Bert Shipp, then WFAA-TV's Assistant News Director
who, like Aynesworth, was not assigned to cover President Kennedy's
motorcade; he just happened on by to the story of a lifetime.
When one hears such eyewitness accounts, one is reminded of how much
revisionist history is out there in today's schools. Perhaps our students
even believe Hollywood director Oliver Stone's imaginary events of
History can also be seen "in the flesh" as it were, when taking a
guided tour of Grapevine,
the delightful town which lies between Dallas and Fort Worth. Costumed
actors portray various local figures from Grapevine's rich historical
past, stopping to tell tourists their characters' stories of Grapevine
After the conference closed, I was waiting at Dallas-Ft Worth Airport
for my flight back to Los Angeles, when the clerk behind the American
Airlines desk pointed at the large black "GAYLORD TEXAN, GRAPEVINE"
on my shirt. She said there's a year's waiting list for a reservation.
Small wonder. It's a rare city that can take a visitor simultaneously
into the future and into the past.
Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
July 30, 2005 column