Ben Stein's Diary

Inside the Gates of Eden

Ben's monthly Diary from the print edition.

By From the May 2013 issue

Send to Kindle

Saturday
ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY IN BEVERLY HILLS: blue skies, light breeze, temperature in the low 70s, no humidity. This is why we love Southern California. The smell of flowers out by our pool is intoxicating. It is March. In the east, snow is falling.

My pal M., a true sweetheart of the industry, came over to join me for a car wash. M. was once a high official in Hollywood. His favor shone upon me, allowed me to sell a number of scripts, become a movie cult figure, and then have TV fame. He has been a dear friend for at least 34 years now. If it were not for him, there would have been no Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I owe him a lot.

We went to West Hollywood and left our cars to the tender mercies of the INCREDIBLY hardworking men at the Santa-Palm Car Wash (corner of Santa Monica and Palm). Those guys, overwhelmingly Hispanic, work so hard with such a cheerful attitude, we should all be grateful they are in this country.

We strolled over along Santa Monica to Five Guys and ordered our food. We talked about our lives, our children, our spouses (in his case, his late spouse, whom we all miss terribly). M. asked me for advice on selling stocks, specifically, which of two stocks to sell. I told him I could give him good advice about that only if I knew the future, and, of course, I do not. Many people in money management pretend to know the future. I am not in money management and the only thing I know about the future is that it’s better to save money than to be in debt. I certainly cannot tell him which stocks to sell. Well, I can tell him, but who knows if I’ll be right?

“But you know so much about money,” he said.

“I mostly know about spending money,” I told him. “On that, I am a great expert.” I think I dwell on that a lot because my mother endlessly told me how extravagant I was. I think my father did, too. Certainly my shrink does. Maybe that means it’s true.

M. pursued that and asked me to detail what I spent money on. I told him I mostly spend on hangers-on and mortgages and other incidents of home ownership. He looked at me with deep concern and said, “For a smart guy, you’re an idiot.”

“Thank you, old pal,” I answered. He is right and I cannot be angry at him for being right, even if it hurts. It takes a good friend to tell a man a painful truth.

I went to my condo, a spectacularly good investment, one of the very few…well, that’s not right, I have made some superb buys—but I just spend too much and I have made some terrible buys as well, almost all in north Idaho, my favorite place. I studied the women at the swimming pool, all on the phone. Then I picked up my mail, drove home, took a long nap, and then Alex and I headed out to the desert in my five-year-old car: my glorious Cadillac STS-V, a virtual antique now. But still King of the Road.

We made fantastic time after we exited the mighty gravitational pull of downtown L.A. Soon, we were at the Bob’s Big Boy in Calimesa (so called because it is on a mesa near where the high desert starts to turn into the low desert, or so I have been told).

If you have not eaten at this particular Bob’s and you’re on Highway 10 anywhere near Calimesa, go there. If you ask specifically for a fresh triple decker, they will make you one and it is heavenly. Fresh meat. Fresh buns. Fresh relish. They also play ’50s rock and roll, and it’s just swell. Alex and I consider the men and women there family. It is way beyond fast food. It is home cooking in Bob’s home.

We got to our house in Rancho Mirage at about 11 p.m., unpacked, and Alex did something characteristic. A huge dying roach was on its hideous back in the living room thrashing its legs all around. I would have sprayed it with Raid and tossed it in the trash. But Alex took out a paper towel, wrapped up the poor dying thing, and put it down on the lawn in front. She is an amazingly kind woman.

I went for a long swim under the stars. It should have been perfection, but I kept thinking about Mr. Obama and North Korea and Iran, and just what the heck he thinks his job is as president if not to defend us against nuclear attack.

Here we have Kim Jong-un, or whatever his crazy name is, threatening us with annihilation, setting off nuclear weapons, testing long-range rockets. And Mr. Obama does nothing. Mr. Un is clearly insane. It is not at all impossible that he will attack us with nuclear-armed missiles. If he does, thanks to the Democrats’ killing missile defense, we will have virtually no shield. We did that to please Moscow and it was idiotic. So now if Comrade Un launches rockets against Hawaii and Seattle and L.A., we will have millions of dead Americans. Why are we even thinking of letting this happen?

We have to know where Mr. Un’s nukes are. We have to know where his rockets are. Let’s nuke them first. Why take even a small chance that he will attack us or Japan or South Korea? Why not just have one of our many cruise missile–carrying subs level wherever a nuclear strike could possibly come from in North Korea?

The North Koreans have already threatened us. They have already shown they are irrational. What the heck are we waiting for? Just take out the whole nuke/missile capacity of North Korea tonight.

And yes, a lot of innocent people will die. That’s tragic. It was bad fortune to be born in North Korea. Likewise, it was very bad fortune to be living in Hamburg or Bremen or Dresden or Tokyo or Hiroshima or Nagasaki while the U.S. was bombing the hell out of those places in World War II. But the supreme duty of our chief executive is not to save North Korea; it’s to save America.

What is he waiting for? For the crazies to have 10 or 20 more rockets and warheads? Let’s just put an end to it right now. That’s what any president who really cared about America would do. This whole idea of being pusillanimous with the North Koreans is just plain crazy.

Playing footsie with a crazy man with hydrogen bombs and long-range rockets and a deep hatred of the United States is insane. Let’s stop it.

And if we were to do it, if we were to actually behave as if we had a pair, it would be a fine educational experience for the Iranians.

Also, why aren’t the Republicans talking about this? Gay marriage? Who cares, compared with taking out North Korea? Lowering entitlement spending? Again, il n’y a pas de quoi, compared with eliminating the threat from Pyongyang.

It is just astounding to me that this is not discussed at all in the national media. Are we waiting for the incineration of Tokyo?

I thought these thoughts, and meanwhile the scents of night-blooming jasmine and orange blossoms wafted across the desert air. This is paradise. All America is paradise, and I don’t want some sicko in North Korea taking it all away. I don’t want him to kill any Americans at all. Not one.

Sunday
AS LEON RUSSELL SAYS in Mad Dogs & Englishmen, “It’s Easter, for those of you living by the days.” It is Easter. Alex and I dragged ourselves out of bed. She did her hair and I swam. The weather continues to be perfect.

Then we went up to the clubhouse here at Morningside and had brunch. No human being, no matter how perfect a life he has led, deserves a brunch as good as this one was. Eggs, bacon, sausage, roast beef, ham, lamb (I don’t eat lamb, but Alex does), biscuits and rolls, paté, cheeses, shrimp, smoked salmon. Salads of many different kinds. This is beyond what anyone could realistically wish for. Every kind of dessert you can imagine. Perfect, attentive service. Great stuff.

As always, Alex and I sat by ourselves and talked about how much we miss our son and his wife and our granddaughter. We looked out at the golf course and the mountains.

Believe me, I am aware that someone died for and someone lost a limb for every free breath we take. I am grateful. It is unbelievable how the Lord has blessed us.

It has to be unearned grace, because I didn’t do anything. Yes, wifey is a saint, but I am the worst kind of sinner. Still, the Lord gives us these blessings. Grace.

After brunch, time to render unto Caesar. As you all know, we have many homes, so we have many property taxes. This is not only expensive, but time-consuming. I paid a number of them, but then got weary.

I staggered out of the house to a 12-step meeting. It had as a guest a poor homeless man. Alex was with me and we felt bad for him, so we gave him money for a small room for a few nights. Will he use it sensibly? Who knows?

Alex wanted to go home so I took her home, then came back for yet another meeting. This one was a heartbreaker. The treasurer of the meeting, a young girl with red streaks in her hair, was texting through the entire meeting. Strictly forbidden. She will have a difficult time in life.

Many pretty young blond girls strolled around at the break. It must be an amazing thing to be pretty, young, blond, and thin. I have known many such creatures. The only one who ever amounted to anything was my pal Cathy Rasenberger. I have not seen her in at least 40 years, but I know she’s super successful in cable TV. The others have drifted off into parts unknown.

When I got home, I watched a documentary about the pharaoh Ramses, of Passover fame. In the documentary, the Egyptians are all African Americans. Well, I guess we would call them African Egyptians. At any rate, they were what looked to me to be sub-Saharan Africans. I had not known that the Egyptians of old were black Africans. I guess you learn something new every day. TV is a lifesaver that way.

More swimming, and then to bed, to dream of black pharaohs and North Koreans.

Monday
A WALK WITH MY WIFEY AND OUR DOGS around a tiny portion of the grounds here at Morningside. There were oceans of flowers. Purple and yellow Pansies. White and yellow Lilies. Tall, blooming Phlox. Asters. Roses. Ivy. Many more flowers than I can name. I get to walk among them with the love of my life, Big Wifey, and my super dog, Julie. Blessings indeed.

I kept thinking of the Bob Dylan song “The Gates of Eden.” Somehow, here at Morningside, we have wound up inside the gates of Eden. I know it cannot last in any way—money-wise, health-wise, mortality-wise. But I am determined to enjoy it while I can.

My pal who is in prison has told me over and over that the main thing he has learned in confinement is that when free, he must never avoid joy.

Good advice.

Meanwhile, I see that Mrs. Obama is on the cover of Vogue. Nice for her but the issue is North Korea, Mr. President. Not Vogue

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
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.