The beginning of a beautiful Century
Morocco. When writing what will be the last column this observer will write in the 20th Century, there was an urge to write something eminently profound. But since I’ve never written anything eminently profound in the 17-year history of this column leading up to the millennium, why start now?
Besides, there is important news to report about Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca. As you may recall, the last time anyone saw Rick (Humphrey Bogart), he had just said farewell to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor (Paul Henreid) at the Casablanca International Airport. Even though Rick needed to flee the NAZIs as well, there were only two letters of transit to Lisbon, Portugal. So, Rick, in a life-changing attack of nobility, let Ilsa and Victor get on that plane while he stayed behind. In the final scene, Rick and Police Inspector Louis Renault (Claude Rains) walked off into the fog saying they were going to seek refuge from the Nazis with the Free French garrison stationed at Brazzaville.
Evidently, after World War II, Rick came back to Casablanca and, somehow, got his gin joint back from Sydney Greenstreet -- the fat guy to whom he sold it. But Fate would not leave Rick alone. Evidently, a huge hotel chain wanted the land on which Rick’s Café Americain was located. Rick, with his typical stubbornness, refused to sell.
But the clever hotel chain must of have slipped something under the table to Police Inspector Renault (I know you are shocked) and had the land rezoned so they could build a posh hotel right on top of Rick’s Café Americain.
So, if you go into the Casablanca Hyatt Regency (I’m not making this part up) you will find Rick’s Café Americain inside the hotel and in full operation. The only change from the way things were in 1942 is that all the waiters now wear trench coats and fedora hats.
Wonder Wife and I dropped by Rick’s Café Americain to relieve the thirst caused by fighting our way through a gauntlet of Oriental rug merchants. She wore one of those big, picture-box hats over her Swedish-blond hair and someone came over to ask for her autograph. You can’t be too careful in these foreign-intrigue places, so she wrote: Ingrid Bergman. The guy seemed pleased as he left.
Some Black fellow was playing the same song over and over again on the piano. For some reason, none of the patrons seemed to mind. As time goes by, I’ll try to remember the name of that tune.
As we left Casablanca and set sail for Tangiers, Cadiz, Seville and Lisbon, this observer couldn’t help but reflect on the great accomplishments of this fin-de-siecle voyage of discovery. For example, we are much closer to knowing who actually discovered America.
I’m leaning toward Christobal Colon; however, my Nordic-looking Wonder Wife favors Kristofors Columbusen. Also, we uncovered the origins of mayonnaise which, along with the crock-pot, may be one of the greatest inventions of all time.
But, we cannot rest on our laurels. Looking ahead to the next millennium, we have set even higher goals to accomplish such as: stamping out the mindless use of such inane and meaningless words and phrases such as: “cool” and “if-you-know-what-I-mean.”
So, gentle reader, as we embark on the next 1000 years, you can rest assured that you can always look to this column to cover the great problems of the time and to offer solutions for them. Meanwhile, and although Wonder Wife insists the Nazis shot them a long time ago, when we reach Lisbon I’m going to look around for Ilsa and Victor.
But there is always hope. As I said to her recently: You know, Wonder Wife, this could be the beginning of a beautiful century.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.