Last night, I drove out to Malibu to see if my jacarandas were blooming. They are an obsession of mine, one of many. They won’t grow at all unless I fertilize them like mad with Miracle-Gro, and then they grow but they rarely get those great blue flowers that we have on some streets in Beverly Hills.
On the way to my house, I stopped to buy dog biscuits and groceries. A woman with many missing teeth stopped me in the parking lot. She said she was a former teacher and was now retired and writing poetry. She insisted on quoting some of her poetry to me.
It was lovely, about the forgiving power of the Lord, and about how God loves the Arab and the Jew, and I thanked her. She smiled at me wanly. “I need money for an oil change for my truck,” she said.
I gave her twenty dollars and she thanked me.
At home, the jacarandas looked great, bushy, green, lively, but no blue blossoms. Boo hoo.
When I came back into the house, I discovered to my shock (and awe) that the toilet in the main bathroom was not working at all. Maddening.
I took off its top and studied it. “I know I can fix this,” I said to myself. “I know I can because when our toilets were broken at home when I was a child, my father could always fix them. He was a Ph.D. economist and a true philosopher, but he could also fix the toilets and could also make storm windows to keep down heating bills in the harsh winters we had in the 1950s. So, if he could do it, I could do it. He was my Pop.”
I examined the mechanism and realized that it was really a very simple problem that I could indeed fix. So, I fixed it.
How much we learn from our fathers. How much we learn if our eyes and ears and hearts are open. I learned the simple lesson that if you study even a little bit and know your subject, you’ll do better in life. I learned that nothing comes without a combination of luck, work, and the prepared mind. I cannot call myself much of a man because I never fought in a war, but I learned to be enough of a man to support my family, and that’s something.
I feel terrible for the black children who have no fathers who can teach them anything and maybe cannot be there at all. How sad for them and how sad that this goes on for generation after generation.
On my way home, there was an enormous moon over the Pacific Ocean. Many the time I called my pal DeAnne Barkley from my car as that moon rose. DeAnne was the wonderful, loving woman who said that she didn’t care how other people felt about her. She only cared about how she felt about them. If they did not love her, she still felt free to love them. She was a true Christian, and is deeply missed. Keenly missed.
When I got home, Alex was fast asleep, as usual. She has been terribly ill. I lay in bed and watched Casablanca — a genuinely perfect movie. I was struck by how much like my pal Bethany Ingrid Bergman looked. I was also struck by what a wonderful thing it would be if wars were fought in night clubs by men wearing dinner jackets escorted by impossibly beautiful women in Schiaparelli.
The relatives of Ben Stein killed in World War II were lined up by ditches they had dug themselves and machine gunned, then covered up by other bodies. But how wonderful it would be if wars were indeed fought in dinner jackets.
The nightclub scenes in ’40s movies always remind me of our wonderful parties at the Alpha Delta Phi house at Columbia, circa 1963-66, black tie, live bands, lots and lots of Scotch, and also of our end of the evening rides to the Stork Club or the Tower Suite or the St. Regis King Cole Bar. I felt very cool there with my beautiful girlfriend, Mary, now an active Democrat. Fine with me. So was Andrew Jackson. I don’t think college is like that now. How great it would be to time travel back there again. Well.
This morning, I had a dream that I was on a TV commercial set. The producers brought over some letters from Marcia Hurwitz, my agent. My super agent. In the papers were some memories of Jim Meagher, my dear pal from Barron’s who died two weeks ago.
I actually cried in my sleep about Meagher and awakened crying. There’s a song about that. “Your ma said you cried in your sleep last night, bom, bom, bah, bom bom.”
I swam for a while with Julie, who has a huge rash on her back. How she loves to swim though. Then I did a conference call with a radio host who wanted to talk about the economy. Annuities are good. Hedges are good. Relationships are good. Bom, bom, bah, bom bom.
Then off to the vet, who kindly sat on the floor with Julie and looked at her, recommended antibiotics and anti-flea meds, and charged me so much I thought he must have been joshing. But he wasn’t.
Then a short nap and then a trip back to Malibu to see how well my plumbing fix was working. Just fine, Yay.
BUT!!!! On the way, I got a series of hysterical calls from a woman friend. She told me that apparently someone had set up a bogus Ben Stein Facebook page and had the bogus Ben Stein announce that I was ecstatic about the Supreme Court decision which seems to make gay marriage legal (but really doesn’t). The bogus FB page also said I was now announcing that I was gay and that I could now marry the man of my dreams. (Who would that be? Jimmy Kimmel?)
Apparently, this bogus entry made some kind of “News Feed” section on line and the woman calling me was extremely upset about it.
Now, pay attention: one of the things you learn from having a sister as smart as mine, a father as smart as mine, a boss as crucified as Richard M. Nixon, is that people don’t play fair. I have been slandered so much online, so much in print, so much on TV, that I take it as just part of life that people will not fight fair.
My sister said it well, and I have quoted it before, “Your basic human is not such a hot item.” So true. Bob Dylan said it even better. “There are a lot of people out there with knives and forks but they don’t have anything on their plates and they have to cut something.”
So, I got to my computer, and here was the joke. There were hundreds of messages from people telling me how proud and happy they were for me that I had “come out” as gay. This was by far the largest response of a favorable kind I have had in months, maybe years.
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and right now, it’s blowing from San Francisco, West Hollywood, and Greenwich Village.
So, I’m not gay. I’ve never been gay. I never will be gay. But the bogus FB page seems to have helped me more than it hurt me.
Strange days. Are these the final days? I hope not.
I just wish Alex would get well. I don’t care about Obama. I care about Alex, my wife of 45 years. I am scared.