Casablanca Blues

Doug Wallace Issue: Section:

Wayward youth relentlessly peddle boxes of Kleenex to stopped cars waiting at the traffic light.  A donkey cart piled with brush and trash, stumbles along and jostles for position amongst the Audis, BMWs, and decrepit European automobiles of the less fortunate or less connected. When the light turns green, shrill honking commences, and the chaotic horde lurches forth.

It is at moments like these behind the wheel when I am reminded of the power of Hollywood to distort reality.

72 years ago, a war propaganda film hit the big screen, 99% of which was filmed in Burbank, CA (and 1% at the Van Nys Airport). This film today still fuels a legend in the minds of Americans. The legend, as far removed from reality as the Tooth Fairy, is that Casablanca is somehow a “Romantic City”.

Casablanca is many things. It’s Morocco’s largest city and commercial hub. A significant port. Home to the mosque with the largest minaret in the world. But romantic? Perhaps it’s a trick of word association that contributes to the myth. Casa – Casanova? Blanca – Blanche Dubois? The image of a “white house” perhaps on a hill, like an ethereal cloud floating high above the earth?

High, high above, like the expectant tourists seated atop their buses looking down upon the streets of Casablanca, searching for some sign, some link to the legend. Yet the faces of the tourists often reflect mild disappointment as their bus plods along in clogged morning traffic.

It’s not a bad place, really. On a blue spring day, the ocean beats against the shore, and the palm trees sway in the breeze. Fine coffee and pastry are a plenty. There really is a ‘Rick’s Café Americain’ in Casablanca, and finding a tragic American expat here today is easy enough too.

But finding something today as romantic about Casablanca the City as Casablanca the Film is about as hard as finding those elusive letters of transit.

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