A Monument To Times Past
By Theodore Willem
Sometimes I see the San Francisco skyline with its two tallest buildings in the center seemingly standing next to each other, the TransAmerica building and the Bank of America building. It’s always reassuring to see them standing so tall, just as it is to see the Golden Gate Bridge from afar, suspended in the air, with strength and pride.
The BofA building I know very well because when I first arrived in America I was working on its highest floor as a busboy, the 52nd floor. The restaurant was a private club called the Bankers Club. After 3 p.m. each day it opened up to the public for fine dining and was called the Carnelian Room.
I still remember how good the food was, how large and elegant the restaurant was, with all of its banquet rooms, and its gaming room and Pavilion room on the 51st floor. I also remember its large kitchen and the waiters and busboys fighting for their food orders, and the charismatic French chef shouting at me over the microphone: “Hey Dutchman! Pick up your order, mach schnell.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing was the view through the large, tall windows all around the floor. Though I was only a busboy at the time, I felt honored to be working in this restaurant. Later I was promoted to a waiter, but it didn’t matter to me what my position was, as long as I remained on top of the world -- both physically and spiritually.
At the time the president of the United States was Ronald Reagan. That too, had something to do with it, for there seemed to be so much confidence and goodwill in the air. I remember thinking at times, while looking out the window: this is the America I had come for.
I still enjoy seeing the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, but I see dark clouds on the horizon as well. Yes, everything is still standing, but things on the streets are not what they were. The culture has changed, the people have changed -- and not for the better. In a way, the buildings as I see them now are monuments of a better time.
During the Reagan years, I remember so many different restaurants opening up in San Francisco, everywhere, and people were out, everywhere, and there seemed to be a romantic vision of America’s future and a positive co-existence in society. I never could imagine back then that things could one day be so otherwise.
I remember a recent experience taking a Muni bus on Van Ness Avenue, and seeing so many broken people on it talking to themselves. Some were even shouting out loud, at nobody in particular. Many didn’t seem to know where they were going. Much like the silent bus driver seeing people sneak onto his bus through its back doors -- it didn’t seem to matter.
When I worked as a busboy, I took this same bus every day but I don’t remember seeing so many depressing looking people on it. Most people seemed like me in a sense, they had a purpose, such as going to work. But now this same bus line looks like it was stuck in a perpetual Halloween party. So many of these people seemed lost and defeated. Was I imagining this? Is my memory reliable? Or have I suppressed all my negative memories, and I’m making unfair comparisons?
I think of the police, and wonder how dangerous it must be to be an officer, especially in the Tenderloin district. I think of the other big cities in America with their skyrocketing crime, and wonder if today’s mayors are still backing their cops in the street.
I’m reminded of this world I live in today, with all of its political correctness and hate. Hate even for the people who risk their lives trying to keep the streets safe. Did I miss seeing this over 30 years ago? Did this hatred exist then?
Frequently when I read the Drudge Report, I will see articles headlined “City of Hate.” For Drudge that city is New York City, and the linked news articles are about people who for no reason are randomly and viciously attacked. But this is happening all over America, in all of her big cities, seemingly every day. Has America become a country of hate?
One thing I do know for sure, President Reagan wasn’t promoting division and hatred among the American people. First Lady Nancy Reagan didn’t have a close entertainer friend who promoted hatred towards the police. American school children didn’t come home and tell mommy and daddy about their “white privilege” and their “racist ancestors” -- as my children seem to do on a daily basis. Am I still living in America?
Perhaps it is symbolic that the Bankers Club/Carnelian Room no longer exists. Due to poor economic times, they closed their doors on New Year’s Eve in 2009, after serving their last meal. And again, for me, all that’s left are the pictures and the memories of better times past.
But before I turn to go home, I vow to myself to leave with a positive thought. So I look at the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge one more time and tell myself that America still can be turned around, and immediately find myself thinking of Donald Trump -- and the people he has chosen around him.
They could do it. They really could turn America around. “Yes they can,” I say to myself.
From The American Thinker (September 26, 2016)