In my novel, Hammer of God, a relic of the Cold War war-fighting machine plays a key role in a terrorist attack today. I grew up during the Cold War. It left an indelible mark on me, and probably everyone else who, as part of their school day, had to practice being immolated and turned into nuclear ash. Ostensibly as neat piles under our desks to make the clean up easier or why else have us duck and cover?
An iconic symbol of the Cold War was the Berlin Wall. An actual concrete wall, which was built after World War II, to split the city into two parts. The East Germans lived on the other side, the side that was connected to the Communists, the Russians or in short, the Enemy.
In later years, when things changed, I remember a factoid that the average East German visitor to NYC dropped $23.22 a day into the local economy. A Japanese tourist spent $989 per day.
The reason for all this nostalgia is that, last night, I went to a restaurant located behind the Berlin Wall! Albeit a piece of it, now residing in a plaza on 53rd Street in NYC. I was struck by the fact that the cheapest (and there was only one) entree on the menu was $37.50. My appetizer alone cost my host for the evening, $25.00. So just the first course would blow the average East German visitor’s budget into dust.
That fact caused me to remember that nobody fired a single shot during the entire Cold War! In fact, it ended like a game of Monopoly. The other side just ran out of money.
So as dozens of Christmas Party goers who collectively dropped $1,200 to $1,800 per table on this one part of one night’s entertainment, passed by this huge chunk of concrete on their way in to the restaurant, maybe 1 in 10 knew what the hell it was. And even smaller odds that it was America’s robust economy that defeated all the nightmares, terrorizing classroom drills and nuclear paranoia that gripped this country no so long ago.
Admittedly the restaurant goers I am writing about are the top end of business folks and well to do revelers and most of them are on expense accounts. But still the irony was not lost on me. That even though today America may be heading for a fiscal cliff, years ago we avoided the Wall.