Tatyana wanted to visit Top of the Mark, the 19th story bar-restaurant on the penthouse level of the Mark Hopkins hotel. I hadn’t visited since the mid ‘80s so what the hell. It opened in ‘39 and became quite the essential stopover for WWII officers (slender, nattily uniformed, in the company of classy ladies in bright red lipstick) bound for combat in the Pacific or returning from same.

The cultural atmosphere at the Top of the Mark is a little different these days. A few nice-looking people, sure, but also a fair amount of overweight, horribly dressed proletariat commoners wearing baggy jeans, knitted skullcaps and whitesides. A time-traveling anthropologist comparing the differences between 20th and 21st Century clientele would be struggling for the right politely descriptive phrases while conveying an honest assessment, as I am now.

The truth is that over the last 60 or 70 years certain aspects of American culture have not only gone downhill but sunk into the swamp. We’re talking about the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire here. Herb Caen would be in shock.