Ben Stein's Diary

End of Summer

Sandpoint is emptying, like my account.

By 8.31.11

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Monday
Another insanely late day getting up. This time I was awakened by a real estate agent ringing my door bell up here in Sandpoint to slip some papers under the door. Why did he need to ring the bell?

Then a punch to the gut. I called my broker at a large firm and asked him how much money I had in my account there after the recent corrections. Uh-oh. Less than I had thought. I am not looking for sympathy. It was my own fault for not paying closer attention. I just feel better when I have more money. That's probably stupid of me. No, wait, it's not stupid at all. It's sensible.

I mentally changed the subject. I sat down and wrote a book review of a truly fabulous book about how oil had changed Alaska. The book is called Crude Awakening by Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger and it's must reading.

Then a hearty breakfast and then off on my bicycle to City Beach Park. But what a shock! The beach was nearly deserted. Yet school is not in session here. The weather is perfect. It feels like that great Don Henley song, "Nobody on the street, nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air, summer's out of reach."

Then there is that great song by the Bell Notes: "Summer's over, on the corner, the day I knew I was a goner." By some guys from Brooklyn, maybe. But a genuinely great song. "I've Had It." I think I'll order it from Amazon right now.

Then, back home and then out on the boat for a run over the Ivano's Del Lago. There was a strong southwest wind and powerful waves, but with the boat's great navigation tools and our pal Tim Farmin's firm guidance, Alex, Tim and I cruised into port unharmed.

That place, too, was deserted. Never mind. The sky was clear and there was a perfect breeze and the waitresses were their usual cheery selves. I was tired, so I went to a deserted table and put my head down like a kindergartener resting -- which is, I guess, what I am. A lovely hostess named Keely brought me ice water. I fell asleep and when I awoke, I was in paradise: Hope, Idaho. On the lake. My wife and Tim nearby. Fresh chowder waiting for me at my table.

The terrace rapidly filled up with cheery diners who called out kind words to me. Why doesn't anyone ever do that in L.A.? Only my bankers from First Credit Bank, who happen to eat lunch at Nonna, as I do, in West Hollywood, ever bother to talk to me. Otherwise, after thirty-five years there, I might as well be a stranger.

As we left, a lot of diners said, "Good bye, Ben. We love you." It reminded me of my great college fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Oh, the times we had there, 1963-66. The black tie parties, the pool, the drinking, the brothers. I will never have that many friends again.

Earlier, at Ivano's, after describing my insane extravagance to Tim Farmin, I said, "I hope you'll still be my friend when I'm broke." He said, "I'll always be your friend," and I was deeply touched.

The ride back on the water in the semi-darkness was perfect. The temperature was about 75. There was a mild breeze coming up the lake, and there were none of the usual insects that torment me at dusk. It was great. I did almost crash into the dock, but then I often do that.

When we got to the magnificent dock here at The Seasons, Alex and I sat in the dark letting the breeze blow over us for a long time. Just sitting in deck chairs looking at the dark lake.

Dana Martin and I buried dear Peter Feierabend's ashes out there. By now, it's probably fourteen years ago. I think of him every day and how much I miss him. He once told me he would take a bullet for me. Instead, he died. He drowned on a rafting trip. He was an Olympic swimmer. What happened?

At home, Alex went on the computer to try to do some charity work, but she could not find the documents she wanted and got very frustrated. No good deed goes unpunished.

I napped and then read the Wall Street Journal. Discouraging. Almost insane. Yet I will say it again: In my tiny world, my tiny, infinitesimal world, I cannot name one person, not one, who is well qualified, will take any job, has good work skills, and a good appearance and a flexible personality, who cannot get work.

I am sure that in the larger world, there are such people. In my tiny, unrepresentative world, employers have to go to Nigeria or Jamaica to get workers.

Maybe the solution to the unemployment problem is to explain to people that they have to be more adaptive about their job quest. They have to really want to work to get a job.

Anyway, maybe I am all wrong about that. But why can an Ethiopian immigrant get a job and an American college kid not get a job? Motivation is everything.

I have to go apologize to Alex now for telling her that her charity work always gets her in trouble. It is the job of the husband to always apologize.

But, what a breeze we had tonight. What peace. Sitting on the edge of the lake, communing with an absent friend.

I watched TV for a while as I took my fiber. Late night TV. A zoo. A crazy, insane, disgusting zoo after 1 AM. A mental hospital. Chimpanzees jumping up and down would be better.

But here in Sandpoint, life makes sense.

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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.