Ben Stein's Diary

Out of Sorts

New York, Washington – they're not Sandpoint.

By 9.19.11

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Saturday
Now, let's see. Here I am in New York City. I am here with Big Wifey for my sister's 70th birthday party. We're here at the Essex House. It is a great hotel and my room is perfect except that it took forever to get the Internet to work and there is no radio. Other than that, it's great.

I met my pal Joel Block for lunch. It's his 66th birthday. We have been friends for many years and it's truly magnificent to have him as a loyal friend. I think in some ways he was my first real friend, even though I didn't meet him until I was 17. All of the others were jealous and competitive and some were downright mean and tricky. But Joel has been a great, wonderful friend for close to 50 years now. He is a scholar of French and of watches and a generally impressive man. We had some snacks at the Essex House and then said hello to Alex, and then Alex and I had to go to my sister's birthday dinner.

The dinner was fine and I don't really have much to say about it. The main point here is that my sister is probably the best sister in the world.

She is extremely intelligent, totally loyal, lovely to look at, knowledgeable about life, and just a great human being. I think I may have told you this story before, but it sums it up.

When I was 16, I had my first drunken evening -- on vodka and Hi-C. I felt great until I went to sleep and threw up all over my sheets and myself in my sleep. I awakened to a vile smell. Naturally. My mother said, "Let him sleep in it," which seems unkind but I guess it was her way of teaching me a lesson about drinking. My sister got up and washed and dried the sheets and put them back on the bed, without even having to be asked.

That was perhaps the most saintly thing anyone ever did for me in my youth.

My sister is the fount of many incredibly astute and insightful comments about life. Some are a little too true to be mentioned here. But just let's say, she has a great understanding of la vie.

As far as I know, there is no better sister than mine and I feel grateful to God every day for allowing me to have such a fine sister.

My mother and father somehow taught us to stick together and we really have never had a quarrel that lasted more than a few hours, always my fault. She's not on the same political page that I am on, or maybe she secretly is, or maybe I secretly am on a bit of her page.

Anyway, she is the best sister ever.

My wife and I walked the almost twenty blocks back to the hotel. I like walking in New York very much. We saw a variety of people. At a Starbucks, a homeless man tried to pick up my wife while I was in negotiations with the clerk about cupcakes.

At the hotel, time to sleep and listen to the sirens. How I miss the sound and rattle of the trains in Idaho. At some point, I turned on TV and watched a replay of the women's tennis match. It was Serena Williams vs. an incredibly brave Polish woman. Serena was unstoppable. What a machine of skill and endurance and courage. Surely, she cannot possibly lose the final to Stosur.

Sunday
A visit from my pal, W., who is a woman of almost 50 who is a workout maniac and looks great. She has many questions to ask me about investing. I have known this woman, this W., since roughly 1988. She was beautiful then and she is now.

Alex sat patiently while we talked and then wifey and I set out with our driver, Bob Noah, to Washington, D.C. It was 9/11 and I was reluctant to fly or take the train.

Besides, I love being driven in a car on the freeway. I sleep soundly. We stopped at an incredibly clean rest stop in New Jersey and got some magnificent Roy Rogers Chicken. Wow, they make good chicken.

Then to the Maryland House in Maryland for some cream of crab soup. That was good, too.

There is just a lot to be thankful for.

Then to the Watergate. Alex was not feeling well, so Bob and I were joined by Claire Magee who is the beautiful lawyer girlfriend of my pal, Russ Ferguson, who just that day moved to Charlotte to be a Federal District Court Clerk. We ate at a new place, Notte Bianchi, in Foggy Bottom. The meal was delicious, the service perfect. But we all miss Russ terribly. Russ, besides his many other great qualities, is the only human being I have ever known who enjoyed Junior High School. Washington is not the same without him. He is a super conversationalist and a devoted Republican and just a spectacularly funny man.

I turned on the TV back in my apartment to find that Serena had indeed lost. How did that happen? I will have to get a DVD and watch it. These top end tennis players are just super human.

Monday
Alex is still feeling unwell, so Bob and I drove over to the Tidewater Inn by ourselves. We got there and had crab cakes out on the terrace until a flock of insects attacked us. Then we went inside and watched the men's tennis. Djoko is just punishing Nadal. But Nadal still plays every point with superhuman skill and determination.

I was starting to feel ill, so we did not go over to Oxford. We just came straight home and then went to sleep. I hate feeling ill. Djoko beat Nadal and gave a gracious speech as did Nadal.

Tuesday
Now, we are at the Phoenician in Phoenix. Wow, this room is fabulous. Big, comfy, great views. Perfect.

I reworked my speech completely to bring it up to date, and then went to sleep.

I still miss Idaho. When I am anywhere else but Sandpoint, I still feel like me, a pitiful old man. But when I am on my boat on Lake Pendoreille, I feel like a new man, like more than a man, like superhuman. That's how great a mountain lake is. That's how great a powerboat is. When I am on my bike cruising around town, I feel the same way. Like a new man who has shed his ponderous old self and taken on the power of a Cannondale or a Cobalt. Or the power of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train. And the peace of a mountain lake, watched over by my nautical guru, Tim Farmin. I just love it there.

I miss Sandpoint.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.