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JEAN SHEPHERD TRAVELER 2 of 4 & (71) A.F

 ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY

November, 1963

jfk-nyt-dead

In my memory, Shepherd never made a political comment in his decades on the air, although some of whom I interviewed for Excelsior, You Fathead! said that, privately, he often spoke vociferously about political and social matters. A few months after the March on Washington, President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Shepherd’s wife at the time, actress Lois Nettleton, said in a recorded interview that she, her mother, and Shepherd, were intensely disturbed by the news, watching on TV, “We even went down, walked around, went over to St. Patrick’s and saw all the people sitting on the steps and everything.  And he was—he had a very emotional side—very strong feelings, but I think you have to know that if you know his work.”  Nettleton commented that she and Jean had been strongly pro-Kennedy.

In regard to the assassination, Shepherd did not travel to another geographical location as he did in the other experiences gathered here, but he used the occasion not only to express his strong feelings about Kennedy, but his strong feelings about the state of the American psyche in those early days of the 1960s. He took a heart-felt journey–a 45-minute odyssey–into the psychic innards of the deep mental and emotional problems he saw in the American culture of that time.

The power of his words about the president and about the feelings he had might be compared to Walt Whitman’s elegy upon the assassination of Lincoln in 1865: Whitman’s ruminations on death, and his homage to the president he loved, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”

*

Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usually engaging in an apparent, informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering heartfelt lectures regarding Kennedy and American culture and personal psychology. He suggested that the recent ferment of student unrest, the civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in the streets, with the America-bashing of those days, probably contributed to the atmosphere that led to Kennedy’s killing. He commented that there was a trend of righteousness in the country, “a super, hyper-thyroid Holden Caulfield.” Shepherd admitted that America had  problems, but said that other countries had more problems. He recognized that America was not living up to its ideals. His somber tone that week was underscored by his comment that he was not playing his usual, ironic, pompous, musical theme music at the programs’ beginnings and endings. Shepherd talked about Kennedy’s intelligence, humor, zest–all of which make people nervous. He talked about the problems of being a president in a democratic system.

I remember the first time I heard about Kennedy, and I suppose many of you remember… I’ve always been a Kennedy man. And–for probably different reasons than you can always state–how you like a certain person–very hard to know all the personal things that make you lean towards a man–make you believe in a man, and so on. The one thing that I have always noticed about Kennedy, that appealed to me specifically, was that Kennedy was a realist. And being a realist in today’s world is very dangerous. Because realism is not a thing that is easily accepted by Americans in the 1960s. And I always felt sorry for Kennedy because I recognized the fact that Kennedy did not give people a soft pap that most of them somehow wanted–on both sides of the political fence….

*

Noted by Shepherd–and probably by no others–at the end of the

Arlington Cemetery’s TV coverage:

Here was just this little, simple grave–and–it was just a hole in the ground–there was this little, simple bronze coffin. And there was a quick shot, which they cut away from, I don’t know whether you saw this or not–but it was one of the most poignant shots of all. It was a little moment after the funeral party had left Arlington and–the cars were winding back up the drive over the bridge, back over the river to Washington. And the four soldiers were still standing guard over the grave. You saw coming down from the lower left hand corner, two workmen. Did you see them? Dressed in overalls? Just two workmen with baseball caps, and they were coming to do the inevitable.

 And I have a–tonight I have a feeling inside of me–there is a great sense of–apprehension–I suppose you might say–a kind of feeling of–I hate to say fear, because it’s not that clearly defined. It’s a kind of free-floating thing–a strange unreasonableness–a fanaticism that brought about this unbelievable weekend–is not only still around but is slowly beginning to grow in this land.

For the days right after the assassination, regular broadcasting on Shepherd’s station and most others was suspended for coverage of the event. Shepherd was quoted as saying, “For crying out loud, finally have something to talk about–they took us off the air!“ But it gave Shepherd some time to think carefully, not be forced to immediately improvise as he usually did on his broadcasts. It gave him time to compose his elegantly crafted eulogy for his first night back on the air, in which he suggested how the mood of the country had been changing to an unsettling dissatisfaction with the world, and that this mood-change probably contributed to the tragic events. He ended by saying, “It was a terrible weekend. And I’m not so sure that we’re not in for a few more in the next hundred years.” He concluded the broadcast in a way very unusual for him, that suggested to me that he knew he had expressed something very special in this night’s program–he did the equivalent of signing his name to the eulogy, ending it with: “This is Jean Shepherd.”

jfk-portrait

*

A close friend and I had taken a train from New York to Washington

and we stood in line overnight to walk past Kennedy’s coffin in the Capital Rotunda.

Then we stood outside on the curb, watching with thousands of others

as the Kennedy family and foreign dignitaries slowly walked by in tribute.

Afterward, the public then dispersing, I removed one of the no-parking signs

from a street-pole along the route. I saw it almost daily

hanging in my workroom

for over 50 years.

no-parking-sign

Yes, it has been over fifty years.

I still can’t think about the events or see documentary footage of them,

without welling up with tears.

I can’t watch those images–I have to avert my eyes.

*

[Now, over 50 years later, Shepherd would advise us

to keep our knees loose and not avert our eyes.]

*    *    *    *    *   *    *    *    *    *    *    *   *    *

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JEAN SHEPHERD–“THE BEST OF” & (30) ARTSY Guitar

I recently noted an LP record titled  “The Best of Jean Shepard.”

So I thought, why not a “Best of Jean Shepherd.”

This proves to be a difficult task to compile, in part because there are so many audios of his broadcasts and so many published stories and other works. My memory is deteriorating and I can’t listen to and reread all his published work. I’d appreciate suggestions about what to add to my list, including sources/dates and reasons for the choices.

As a representative selection for possible inclusion with my EYF! (which never happened–it was nixed by the publisher as too expensive) and for eventual distribution as a premium for WBAI, I compiled a CD-worth of excerpts from Shep programs.

RADIO

Assume that, as a given, I choose the broadcasts below because I feel or assume they are well-told besides having the particular attributes that especially gab me.

I, Libertine,.First comments and suggestion of a hoax. (4 ?/??/1956) One of the great “Holy Grail” Shepherd broadcasts. I have not heard it but I have thought about it and read little bits about it so often that it is a permanent part of my “memory,” and it must be one of the great moments in literary and shepherdian history.

March on Washington. Narrative told the day after the March. (8/29/1963) Shepherd describes his trip, not as a reporter, but as just another American. This conforms to his attitude as an informed and enthusiastic American patriot.

JFK Assassination. First day back on the air. (11/26/1963) Shepherd, from time to time, had described his feelings about psychological issues in America, and he takes this opportunity to reiterate some of them and link them to the assassination.

“Blues I Love to Sing.” Program I describe and partly transcribe in EYF! (6/16/1957) Shepherd interacts with the singer on the record and expresses his joy in the narrative situation he depicts. This but a ten minute portion of the four-hour program. He uses what is a familiar image from his earlier days of the “figure tattered and torn.”

“Why I am Such a Sorehead.” Discusses Mark Twain and Morse code–I describe in EYF! (1/6/1965) He integrates into his narration, Twain, one of his favorite predecessors. He develops the metaphor of the Mississippi as a dangerous path in life, and relates it to one of his favorite activities, Morse code, suggesting that we all have some activity that, in reality, we are not as good at as we think and hope we are.

“Shermy the Wormy.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (9/4/1964)

“Fourth of July in the Army.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (7/3/1963)

“Lister Bag Attack.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (6/17/1966)

“Boredom Erupts.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (9/18/1969)

“Private Sanderson.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (1/13/1971)

“Naked Baseball in the Army.” Told on the air, published in Playboy.

“Troop Train Ernie.” Told on the air, published in Shep’s A Fistful of Fig Newtons as

“The Marathon Run Of Lonesome Ernie, The Arkansas Traveler”

“Og and Charlie.” He told stories several times about these two cave-man-type-near-humans. They were a good metaphor for how Shep felt that humanity still was–not quite the mentally/emotionally advanced race we think we are.

Peru–The whole group of programs focusing on his trip, from how it came about to when he got home to contemplate the experience. At the time, he felt it was the best travel experience he’d ever had.

In addition to all of the above, one must add some of the innumerable bits and pieces of his delightful and cuckoo musical interludes on his silly little instruments–including on his sometimes silly head.

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artsyfratsy 10010

(30) GUITAR

I made my own classical guitar. I’m fascinated by how the shape/formation of objects combine form with function. (It’s my design training still influencing me after all these years.) How does the form of a guitar contribute to its sound? Encountering a two-semester, adult evening class in constructing (not from a “kit”) a classical guitar from the raw materials one buys in a shop that supplies such to professionals, I took the course.
guitar head drawingguotar 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kept notes and I took photos. Two parts of the classical guitar that might vary are the shape of the head and the luthier’s (guitar-maker’s) choice of how to configure the inside structural supports for the top of the body. I designed a simple, classical head, and chose internal struts for the body’s top that I thought would enforce high notes on the higher strings, and lower tones for the lower strings. I redrew all the instruction pages for the instructor’s future use–the upper left  of the head is one of my pages.

eb guitar rosette0002

An eb element of the rosette

around the sound hole.

I also designed and made the wooden rosette with my eb initials, and designed and installed my label.

label,rosetteguitar work 2

While I was peacefully working on my guitar construction, my then-wife, from Granada, Spain, threatened me with a kitchen carving knife and I grabbed and rolled up for protection, my Sunday New York Times Arts Section (Yes, the Arts Section–it was the closest at hand), and that’s as far as I’ll take that true story. Except that I did incorporate the episode into my fact/fiction unpublished novel, The Pomegranate Conspiracy.

I completed my guitar at the end of the course, and practiced playing, struggling

for several unsuccessful years. Now my guitar is hung on a wall.

20160609_133021 (4)

I love classical guitars and guitar music. I also like looking at Picasso’s guitar collages. So much so that I played around with one of his collage reproductions. First, with a color copier that scans one color at a time, I let it scan the first colors, then slightly shifted the original for the scanning of the black. Then I printed it and applied black-and-white photo prints of the underneath side of my guitar top, half on each side, with, in the middle, a photo of myself playing my newly completed guitar. One might title it:

“The Picasso/Bergmann Guitar Collage.”

Picasso guitar collage and eb (2)

I’m Conflicted About This Artsy Of Mine.

Is it a witty, clever, personal homage to an artist I greatly admire,

done by manipulating one of his works

(that he had first made by manipulating and reconstructing stuff),

or is it a fartsy, esthetic travesty for which I should be ashamed?

→  It is a unique collaged collage  

Would Picasso have liked it? *

ARTSY ARROWS0010

         *Picasso “Guitar” original for comparison. guitar collage (3) 

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Obdurate Acts, Extenuating Circumstances (4)

THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE

A Tragedy in Obdurate Acts

and Extenuating Circumstances

Consolidation

classic shep image

Why and how he was switched from the more innovative overnights (at the NJ transmitter) to the in-studio, earlier-in-the-evening slot, is unknown. That he seemed to have retained the impetus of the overnights into Sunday evening, is a major victory. He seemed to have retained the slow and easy-going style of the overnights (I’m assuming this, as the following, much shorter broadcasts are of a different kind–still seemingly loose, and definitely improvised, but a bit less free-flowing.) That this schedule gave way to those earlier, 45-minute weekday segments, also represents a change that resulted in a different kind of show with its own very high-quality use of the radio medium.

My chart, shown in the previous post on the subject–as well as in a much earlier post–shows the difference in his career trajectory. Most noticeable in the programs themselves would seem to be the much larger percentage of school-age listeners and what I observe is the absence of contemporary jazz.

Many prefer his more refined and organized, 45-minute improvised radio to his long, Sunday evening, looser style. There is something easier to take, more conventional, more traditional as art and organization in his 45-minute style. He recreated himself, and that is a great accomplishment. The variety from night to night over about seventeen years is a marvel to behold. His commentaries, wit, philosophical bits and pieces, his cuckoo musical interludes with jews harp, nose flute, kazoo, and head-knocking, his stories that seem both improvised and sometimes, somehow well-formed, coming out just right at the end of the show. We revel in the variety, the unexpectedness, the mastery.

Comic strip artist Bill Griffith, in his “Zippy the Pinhead” tribute, expresses it well: HIS WIT WAS LIKE A LIFE RAFT TO ME. I CONFESS…I WAS A CULTIST…AND JEAN SHEPHERD WAS MY GURU. WHO KNOWS WHAT DEEP SUBCONSCIOUS EFFECT HIS LATE-NIGHT LOQUACIOUSNESS HAD ON ME…?

Zippy detail 20005

The large influx of high school and college listeners was a good thing as far as sponsorship was concerned, and Shepherd also enjoyed the adulation. But he did not so much like the intense crowding of his personhood that such cult-like celebrity brought.

As I’ve suggested before, I believe that, despite such masterpieces of his post-1960 WOR days as: Eulogy of JFK; Morse Code and Mark Twain; March on Washington, etc., Jean Shepherd’s creative heights leveled off at the very high standard he maintained for another decade-and-a-half.

 shep portrait

Stay tuned for Part 5 of

THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE

JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 5

FURTHER TRANSCRIPTIONS FROM SHEP’S JFK EULOGY

WHAT THAT WEEKEND MEANT TO SHEPHERD AND TO AMERICA.

All in Jean Shepherd’s words:

I think that one of the great problems that lies in America today in connection with the presidency and I can’t tell you how deeply I feel this is our current trend and it’s been going on for some years in this country, to lay the blame for all economic and social conditions at the feet of the president personally….

I have a feeling today that the only difference between the liberals and the right-wingers is that the liberals read the headlines from certain newspapers and the right-wingers read the headlines from other newspapers. Hardly any of them read the stories….

Tonight I have a feeling inside of me that is a great sense of—apprehension, I suppose you might say—a kind of feeling of—I hate to say fear because it’s not that clearly defined. It’s kind of a free-floating thing—that the strange unreasonableness, the fanaticism—that brought about this unbelievable weekend—is not only still around but is slowly beginning to grow in this land….

You know, one of the things that I think that this thing taught us is [we’re] a nation of just walking-around men—just people trying to do the best they can. I wonder how many fanatics, watching the events of the last two days on television wondered whether they were right—wondered whether maybe something in their thinking was wrong. That it’s not that easy to solve problems. You don’t just shoot somebody, you don’t just demonstrate and that’ll take care of it. This is a subtle thing that’s happened to us and you know, I have a feeling that we will not know. In fact I wonder whether Americans ever will, and that includes me. I’m certainly not letting myself out—ever will now the full ramifications of what happened to us for the last four or five days….

[didn’t get job he wanted=went down and shot Garfield.] Perhaps this is because Americans and part and parcel it might be one of the more evil byproducts of the democratic system. That the democratic system often not only fosters individualism. It not only fosters things like idealism, but it also fosters selfishness. That many people confuse license with liberty.

We believe here in American and it comes up in every election—that if we elect the right man, somehow, all of the problems that are dogging the nation will be taken care of.

That it’s looking for that right man—that right man. Well, what you’re doing then, of course, is ignoring the fact that many of the problems that face America—and face all peoples all over the world are not necessarily solvable. They really are not. And if they are solvable, they can only be solved buy that long, slow, grinding passage of time and evolution. This is a very unpopular idea. A very unpopular idea. And one that could get you shot if you mentioned it. Nevertheless, this is faced by every president….

Today, more and more, we are beginning to believe in passion as a substitute for reason….I think there’s something growing in this country that is neither left nor right. It is the growing me-ism. And it’s a new kind of a political force. It’s the new, militant a-political man. He is a militant in his righteousness, who feels he is right. Who feels that he is more moral than all other people. Who feels that his inherent beauty—has caused him to transcend these poor people who believe in one system or the other.

Now this is perhaps a new kind of anarchism that’s growing, but eventually I have the feeling that in a few short years it will become a genuine political force.

usa flag of jsa

________________

________________

nyt 11.21.13

REMEMBERING

November 20, 2013

__________________

This is the final post in this JFK series.

_________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 4

JFK photo

Recorded below, from my EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!:

 A portion of Shepherd’s eulogy

given the night he returned to the air after

the non-stop news coverage of the

Kennedy assassination and funeral.

__________________________

“I remember the first time I heard about Kennedy, and I suppose many of you remember… I’ve always been a Kennedy man. And–for probably different reasons than you can always state–how you like a certain person–very hard to know all the personal things that make you lean towards a man–make you believe in a man, and so on. The one thing that I have always noticed about Kennedy, that appealed to me specifically, was that Kennedy was a realist. And being a realist in today’s world is very dangerous. Because realism is not a thing that is easily accepted by Americans in the 1960s. And I always felt sorry for Kennedy because I recognized the fact that Kennedy did not give people a soft pap that most of them somehow wanted–on both sides of the political fence…”

[Shepherd talked about Kennedy’s intelligence, humor, zest–all of which make people nervous.

He talked about the problems of being a president in a democratic system.]

AR 8255-3D

582px-JFK_Funeral_and_temporary_grave_November_25_1963

______________________________

“Here was just this little, simple grave–and–it was just a hole in the ground–there was this little, simple bronze coffin. And there was a quick shot, which they cut away from, I don’t know whether you saw this or not–but it was one of the most poignant shots of all. It was a little moment after the funeral party had left Arlington and–the cars were winding back up the drive over the bridge, back over the river to Washington. And the four soldiers were still standing guard over the grave. You saw  coming down from the lower left hand corner, two workmen. did you see them? dressed in overalls? Just two workmen with baseball caps, and they were coming to do the inevitable.”

John_F_Kennedy_eternal_flame_after_2013_upgrade_-_2013-05-30(Eternal flame, 2013)

“And I have a–tonight I have a feeling inside of me–there is a great sense of–apprehension–I suppose you might say–a kind of feeling of–I hate to say fear, because it’s not that clearly defined. It’s a kind of free-floating thing–a strange unreasonableness–a fanaticism that brought about this unbelievable weekend–is not only still around but is slowly beginning to grow in this land.”

JFK photo

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JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 3

Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usual engaging in an informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering a heartfelt lecture. He suggested that the recent ferment of student unrest, the civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in the streets, with the America-bashing of those days, probably contributed to the atmosphere that led to Kennedy’s killing. He commented that there was a trend of righteousness in the country, “a super, hyper-thyroid Holden Caulfield.” Shepherd admitted the problems in America, but said that other countries had more problems. He recognized that America was not living up to its ideals.

His somber tone that week was underscored by his comment that he did not play his usual, pompous, musical theme music at the program’s beginnings and endings.

________________________

The above is one of the rare times

that Jean Shepherd is known

to have expressed in public, a political notion.

________________________

JFK photo

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

________________________

November 22, 1963

Yes, it has been fifty years.

I still can’t think about it or see documentary footage of it

without my eyes welling up with tears.

I can’t watch those images–I have to turn them off.

____________________________________________________________

______

Two lesser matters:

This is my 100th post on the blog;

I just received this info– On Friday night, the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia have their annual Hall of Fame and Person of the Year banquet. MCs are Larry Kane and Dom Giordano. The person of the year is longtime Philly radio guy Tom Moran. Hall of Fame inductees include weatherlady Kathy Orr of CBS3, NBC10 sports announcer Vai Sikahema, and the street-corner doo-woppers Danny and the Juniors. Poshumous inductees include the very great Jean Shepherd of KYW and WOR announcer Dave Zinkoff. What a radio town!

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JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 2

Shepherd reportedly burst into the Village Voice offices, where he wrote a column for them, excited. He’d just heard that, “Wouldn’t you know! It was a Fair Play for Cuba guy who did it!” The Voice‘s Jerry Tallmer described Shepherd as being very excited that “it wasn’t some right-wing fascist but a nutcase of the left.” Barry Farber remembers that right after the Kennedy assassination, “We didn’t go on the air for four days. I didn’t want to–I was too affected. [Shepherd came in, saying] ‘For crying out loud, finally have something to talk about–they took us off the air!’ “

Actress Lois Nettleton recalls Jean Shepherd’s reaction when President Kennedy was killed. She and Jean had been married since December 1960.  jean and lois c.1962

Jean and Lois circa 1962

She and her mother and Jean were together in Manhattan: “Those three days I guess it was, when everybody was watching.  The three of us watched that whole thing and Jean was absolutely absorbed.  We even went down, walked around, went over to St. Patrick’s and saw all the people sitting on the steps and everything.  And he was—he had a very emotional side—very strong feelings, but I think you have to know that if you know his work.”  Nettleton commented that she and Jean had been strongly pro-Kennedy, and Jean had said in his radio eulogy that he had “been a Kennedy man” because of Kennedy’s intelligence and wit, among other characteristics. After Kennedy’s funeral, when Jean got back on the air, he gave his masterpiece of a eulogy.

Back on the air, Shepherd broadcast his beautifully composed elegy in which he described how the mood of the country had been changing to an unsettling dissatisfaction with the world, and that this mood-change probably contributed to the tragic events. He ended  by saying, “It was a terrible weekend. And I’m not so sure that we’re not in for a few more in the next hundred years.” Very unusual for him, he concluded by doing the equivalent of signing his name to the eulogy, just saying, “This is Jean Shepherd.”

As on so many occasions, Jean Shepherd, as indicated in this

last paragraph above, predicted accurately.

And it’s not just in other countries.

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JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 1

jfk-assassination-two-new-york-newspapers-11-23-63_290494559026

N O V E M B E R  1963

coffin in rotunda

A close friend and I took a train from New York to Washington

and stood in line overnight to walk past

Kennedy’s coffin in the Capital Rotunda.

jfk jr.

JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin.

___________________________

Then my friend and I stood on the side of the street and watched

with  thousands of others

as the Kennedy family and foreign dignitaries

slowly walked by in tribute.

Afterward, the public then dispersing,

I removed one of the no-parking signs

from a street-pole along the route.

I have had it

hanging in my workroom for 50 years.

no parking 11.25.1963

_________________________________________

Shepherd’s style the week after the assassination was not typical in that, instead of his usual engaging in an apparent,  informal dialog with listeners, he spoke as though delivering a heartfelt lecture. He suggested that the recent ferment of student unrest, the civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in the streets, with the America-bashing of those days, probably contributed to the atmosphere that led to Kennedy’s killing. He commented that there was a trend of righteousness in the country, “a super, hyper-thyroid Holden Caulfield.” Shepherd admitted the problems in America, but said that other countries had more problems. He recognized that America was not living up to its ideals.

His somber tone that week was underscored by his comment that he did not play his usual, pompous, musical theme music at the program’s beginnings and endings.

________________________

During the eulogy is one of the rare times

that Jean Shepherd is known

to have expressed in public, a political notion.

Stay tuned.

________________________

JFK photo

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

________________________

Yes, it has been fifty years.

I still can’t think about it or see documentary footage of it

without my eyes welling up with tears.

I can’t watch that footage–I have to turn it off.

__________________

As the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, increased interest takes place in the media. I was interviewed by an NPR station regarding Shepherd’s broadcasts about the event.

Here is the information about part of the interview (heard in the SEG2 portion 3:02-5:40), and the entire Jean Shepherd eulogy about Kennedy. The  info also includes the schedule for the live streaming of the interview that will occur on 11/25. The last line has the Internet address for the  Shep eulogy. Below is the info from the broadcaster, Mike Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio News :

<The Jean Shepherd JFK show is in the can and ready to air at noon CT on Monday Nov. 25 on Minnesota Public Radio’s news station. You can stream it here when it airs: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/services/nis/listen/live/ It’ll also be archived here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/programs/mpr_presents/

 I also produced a national version for other stations to air, but so far nobody has picked it up. You can hear that here:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/105637-jean-shepherd-remembers-jfk  >

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