Another installment of America’s number one Diary.
Ugh. A terrible travel day. After a long delay, my flight to DFW to connect with one to Orlando was abruptly canceled. My crafty travel agent got me on another one via SLC to Orlando on Delta. But I did not have an aisle seat and I get nutty, totally paranoid claustrophobic if I am on a long flight and not on the aisle.
Luckily for me, three incredibly kind people, Gentiles, of course, traded places with me so I could sit on the aisle and not against the bulkhead. That’s sort of the punch line of almost all of my experiences out there in middle America: your ordinary American is incredibly kind and nice. I would say especially your ordinary middle-class or upper-middle-class Midwestern, and above all, southeastern American Americans are just the most polite people on the planet.
I got to Orlando after midnight, had a driver whose fuel tank light was flashing empty, who refused to stop and buy gasoline even if I paid for it, and then got to my hotel within the gates of Disney World.
There were tired but pleasant people waiting for me. They showed me to an immense, prison-like room, slowly brought me the most tasteless room service I have ever had, and I went to sleep. I was awakened by a malfunctioning refrigerator. Luckily there was another bedroom in my suite, and I slept maybe four hours there before rising to give my speech, which I loved doing, tired or not.
After my speech, I slept for an hour, then went down the hall to film an interview with my old pal and shipmate, Chuck Colson. Chuck was a powerful corporate lawyer, then a high official in the Nixon White House. He had been a Marine (once a Marine, always a Marine) and he was legendarily tough and devoted. He got caught in Watergate and was sent to prison for seven months.
He emerged a new man, devoted not to Nixon but to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to prisoners. He started the Prison Fellowship, and at one time was making more than 300 visits a year to prisoners. His message was that while the world and “the system” might tell a prisoner he was dirt, to God, he was of infinite worth.
The Prison Fellowship has worked amazingly well. Recidivism rates for prisoners in his program are drastically lower than for prisoners generally.
Anyway, Chuck and my late parents were great pals. I really only got to know him very recently. He’s doing a documentary about ethical issues connected with the meltdown of 2007-2009, and he had a crew there in Orlando to film me. It was a lot of fun except for one makeup woman who wanted to pluck a hair on my chin. I told her men don’t do that and she was scaring me. Other than that, the interview went well and I will be eager to see the results.
After that, I packed my miserable belongings and went to Orlando airport, probably the worst airport in America. It is just way too small for the number of flyers and TSA never has enough lines open. But I had a guide who helped me with my luggage so soon I was through, waiting for my flight to DCA.
I had a simply horrifyingly bad hamburger at the Wendy’s at the US Air gates. If anyone from Wendy’s reads this (I am a small stockholder), please do something about that Wendy’s. The food is so bad it’s terrifying.
Off to DCA, my favorite airport, to rendezvous with my big wifey, who is flying in from LAX. (How do you like all of these abbreviations for airports?) I slept almost all of the way. I had a stunningly beautiful young woman sitting next to me. She is a photographer and her photos of water-scapes near D.C. were miraculous. Then to my apartment at the Watergate for a haircut and a nap. Then to pick up my wife. We met and then met with our pal Russ Ferguson for dinner at Charlie Palmer’s steak house on Capitol Hill. We had a table with a fabulous view of the Capitol. Breathtaking. The food was good and the service was fabulous. Not just great. Fabulous.
Then, to bed in our hooches at the Watergate. In my hooch, I have a shower that generates considerable steam. That helps my always sore lungs. I slept like a baby.
Our capable driver and friend, Bob Noah, appeared with a car and drove us down to Virginia. We stopped at a Super Target in Manassas or somewhere near there. I smelled fried chicken and bought a few pieces at the Super Target delicatessen. They were astoundingly good. Just amazingly tasty and crisp. I offered some to Bob. He went crazy for it. You have to try that chicken. It is as good as any fried chicken I have ever had, and it was virtually free. Congratulations, Target.
Then, hurtling through the Shenandoah Valley to Lynchburg to have dinner with my pals Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his beautiful wife, Becki. I love this part of Virginia. The trees are starting to bloom and the sky is a light blue and I can sleep while Bob drives.
The Falwells were fun, as always. They introduced me to a group of young people who were running for city council in Lynchburg. One of these young people was head of a pro-Israel student group that had just gotten recognition from Benjamin Netanyahu at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee meetings a couple of weeks ago. I thanked them profusely.