Heart of the City Archives

October 6, 2002: Thousands march on Union Square in opposition to President Bush's plan to launch a military strike on Iraq. Detail
What's old is new, like Elvis and war
by Hank Donat

There's enough nostalgia floating around lately that the world is starting to look like a redux 20th Century. Elvis has a hit single. Labor battles close California ports. The A's and Giants could face a rematch in the World Series. And then there's Gulf War II. 

San Franciscans are legendary for nostalgia as much as for their sourdough bread and cable cars. In fact, the cable cars might count as nostalgia in and of themselves. At the risk of betraying the fraternal order, I never really cared for sourdough bread. 

Our representative, Nancy Pelosi, has gone out on an even longer limb with her opposition to the congressional resolution giving President Bush sweeping authority to launch a unilateral, preemptive military strike against Iraq. Opposing the war puts Pelosi, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, firmly in the minority of the minority. 

Pelosi is a great patriot who knows, as it says on banners over City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, "Dissent is not un-American." Others have voiced opposition to war, of course, but thanks to Pelosi it won't be a total rollover in the Congress. 

Supervisor Mark Leno stepped forward, too, calling on Americans everywhere to raise their voices and demand proof that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. A nationwide anti-war protest is planned for October 26.

I encountered Leno at a dinner celebrating the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. at the Hilton earlier this year, where humble pie was on the menu. 

Since I've met Leno about a hundred times over the years, I shook his hand like an old friend and said, "Mark, I knew you'd be here. My friends have said to me, 'There are two people who come out to absolutely everything, who would come to the opening of an envelope, that's Hank Donat and Mark Leno.'" Returning my enthusiasm with a wide smile and a vigorous handshake Leno said, "Who's the other guy?" 

Meanwhile, President Bush sides with Elvis, "A little less conversation, a little more action please." All those aggravating weapons inspections ain't satisfactioning Bush. His radical shift in foreign policy promises to cause seismic political changes that will make the earthquake that shook the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series look like a hiccup.

This year's baseball playoffs are being celebrated as a much needed distraction from events of the world, but I say that's balderdash. Autumn is one of the busiest seasons in the Bay Area and San Francisco. There are the street fairs, opera and symphony openings, the Grand Prix and Lance Armstrong visit, Fort Mason's 25th anniversary celebration, and much, much more in every community. As San Franciscans our lives are staged against the backdrop of this exquisite 7x7 playground by the bay.

Besides, anyone with a television set needs no more distraction from real life than that. If the playoffs are a distraction from the war, which is a distraction from the economy, then when will we cease being distracted and face the difficult domestic issues that plague our country today? Or will we bury our heads in the sand and wait for Halloween, Christmas, and the Oscars to further distract us?

It's easy to turn a blind eye on AIDS, homelessness, the uninsured, labor, and growing poverty since most Americans still think they're closer to striking it rich than they are to ending up on the street when sadly, the opposite is true. 

In our upcoming municipal election we have the opportunity to make some important decisions about the future of our city. I hope folks aren't too distracted to read the ballot, understand the issues, get to the polls, and vote. 

Onward: The economy stinks but you wouldn't know it judging by the quality of food and service at a few of the City's well known eateries, where even in tough times your dollar isn't worth more than a buck if my own experience is an indicator. I'm committed to keeping this space positive, so rather than name the offending institutions, I'll instead put out the call for your favorites and choices for the city's finest. 

I'm looking for the following: 1. A fun place to have a gourmet dessert. (A non-surly greeter or hostess is a must.) 2. A great steak at a hot French restaurant whose chef knows what medium rare means. 3. Real Belgian frites.

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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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