Ben Stein's Diary

Gratitude on Passover

God bless those who have risked all for us and still do.

By 3.26.13

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Sunday
This has been a great day. Last night, I drove down to Long Beach. This formerly drab Navy town has been spruced up and looks like Vegas. Bright, inviting, cheery. I checked into my hotel room at the Hyatt Regency right on the Harbor and settled down to do e-mail. This room has exactly right fifties modern furniture and blond wood flooring. It is almost a museum piece room. I was loving it.

Suddenly, at about 10.30 PM, a party started nearby. The bass music was so loud it shook the whole building. Apparently, the Yard House, a nearby eatery, decided to have an outdoor party with ear splitting music at 10.30. It was unbearable, but after about an hour, they closed down.

I had vivid dreams of my son and his being happy -- something I hope and pray for constantly. I had dreams of missing Big Wifey. Finally, I fell into a deep sleep. Then I awakened to prepare for my speech. My audience were spectacularly responsive, lively men and women. They loved my jokes and got all of my points, applauded wildly for the military, were a speaker’s dream audience. This is paradise for me. Years ago, a wicked creature had complained that my jokes were too sexist. Out of probably five hundred thousand people I have spoken to in person, one woman complained about jokes most women love because they are basically making fun of men. Feminists? No, I like feminists. Killjoys. But this audience was great.

I felt as if it had been a paradisal 24 hours, because earlier the day before, I swam for a long time in Beverly Hills. Every thirty seconds or so, I stopped to throw the ball for Julie. It wrecks the exercise value of the swim but Julie loves it. So, overall, well worthwhile.

I came back to our house in Beverly Hills after the speech. Alex was out getting her hair done, so I lay on a green padded chaise by the pool and slept. The dogs lay near me and slept. This is good stuff. I never dreamed life could be quite this good.

I got dressed in my immense light blue swim trunks and swam more. As usual, Julie chased me with the bright yellow tennis ball to make me throw it for her.

I kept thinking of how when I was a lad, I played tennis with Jim Thompson on an asphalt court in Sligo Creek Park in Silver Spring. We usually had at most two balls so if we lost them, we had to look for them until we found them or give up the game. Now, that seems like poverty. At the time, we were happy with it.

We realized well that it was a great advance over the lives our parents and grandparents had led.

Then, after swimming and reminiscing, a shower, more nap time by the pool, and then out to Malibu to check on my mail. I once lived full time in Malibu and still get my car insurance, home insurance, and many other bills there so I have to go out there and pay them often.

I stopped at McDonald’s in Malibu for a Diet Coke. A lovely black woman waited on me. She had such a kind smile that I thought she might have been an angel at McDonald’s. In the parking lot, I was almost crashed into by an SUV full of what looked to me like Hispanic gang bangers. That was a scare.

Then a stop at Pavilions in Point Dume. Everyone is friendly, but decidedly peculiar looking. Two almost pretty high school girls sashayed past me at the checkout line. They swiveled their hips and (I guess) thought they were hot stuff. I started to laugh out loud.

Oh, you poor, poor girls. You have no idea what life is going to dish out to you. If you knew, you would walk humbly with your God. If you knew how hard life was going to smack you, you would probably take up purdah.

Then home to Malibu to pay my many bills. I really am deeply crazy to have so many bills. No sane person would have this many bills. No sane person would have this many homes or cars or dependents. When I go broke, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Then some delicious Pavilions seasoned, broiled chicken and then the pièce de la résistance: a long nap in the bedroom with Julie Goodgirl. Sleep with my lover dog snoring next to me. Glory be. Occasionally waking up to look at the stars and the airliners flying by. Hearing and feeling the waves crashing on the beach. Glory be. Best of all is Julie.

I was so happy I felt as if I were walking on air when I left. That dog has me totally under her spell. I stopped at a gas station in Brentwood near where O.J. killed Nicole and Mr. Goldman. I was the only customer. There was no one on the street. The night was balmy. It was a dream of peace.

At home, Big Wifey made me tea while I watched some horror movie about a mother/daughter vampire team. I think it starred Jennifer Garner. Excellent special effects.

Movies have changed completely from my youth. They are all about movement, fear, illusion, swirls of violence, and lust. There is little of the theater in them. The plots make no sense at all. Today’s movies are more like optical illusions than like plays.

Monday
Up too early to drive down to the desert with Big Wifey and the dogs (including our maddeningly whiney new GSP, JoJo). It was a quick trip broken by a fast snack at Taco Bell in Calimesa. Their food is virtually free and super tasty. Taco Supreme, Crunchy, Yummy.

When we got to our home at Morningside Country Club, I took a long nap. Then we dressed to go over to the clubhouse for Passover Seder. It was a cheery crowd of older well-shod Jewish people and some older rich Gentile people, and their children and grandchildren. These are the nicest people on the planet. They are just as friendly as can be.

I find that they are almost all in business. Hardly any of them just sells his or her labor, the way I do. Mostly, they are in real estate, but other businesses, too. No lawyers, no doctors, at least none that I have met. These people have capital. They often inherited at least the beginnings of it. They are extremely happy about it, too. They don’t complain and they know well how blessed they are.

As we went through a very brief prayer service, I thought of how amazing Jews are. The ancestors of these people came to the U.S. in rags two or three generations ago, maybe at most four. They figured out that it’s all about acquiring capital, and this they did. Now, the descendants live like kings in houses so glorious that I didn’t even know houses like this existed until I bought here eight years ago. Light, large, uplifting. And many of these people have many other houses, too, where they can hang out at other seasons. By the way, there are clubs down here where the members are generally far more affluent than our membership. El Dorado, Thunderbird, The Vintage, Big Horn, Tamarisk, others. There are a multitude of rich people here. I am NOT ONE OF THEM.

“Before I came to the desert, I thought I was old and rich. Now that I’m here, I realize I am young and poor.” So goes the joke about the desert. I really am old and poor but enough of that.

I did get a great meal among kind, intelligent people, and for this I am grateful. I also got to say my prayers of thanks to God.

Not enough prayers, though. The missing prayers, it occurs to me, should be prayers on our knees with our foreheads on the floor, for the men and women who fought to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese. For every bite we Americans at peace take, some brave Marine took a bullet in the belly on Peleliu. For every sip of wine we sip, some Naval aviators flew on suicide missions against the Japanese at Midway or Leyte Gulf.

For every insouciant laugh, there is a family rent asunder because a German sniper found their father’s or grandfather’s head in his cross hairs and squeezed the trigger. For every family that is singing songs tonight or any night, there were men whose legs were blown off at Anzio or Monte Cassino by a German 88 shell.

Good men died so we Jews could be free in America. Good women and parents and children suffered madly so all of us Americans could watch horror movies while we took our fiber. The happy times we know now were paid for in blood and tears and broken bones and broken homes. Let’s have some prayers for these saints.

It is still happening. When will we ever get wise to the debt we owe the men and women of the military? When will we ever learn to pray for them every day? We do not deserve such fine people.

After Seder, an endless cavalcade of elegant cars pulled to the front of the club house, brought by running, smiling valets. I wonder how many of their brothers and cousins fought in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I thought of my late father in law, Col. Dale Denman, Jr., fighting the SS hand to hand near Zeitlen. When he captured an SS “Oberst,” the vile creature spat in then Lt. Denman’s face. I thought of his brother fighting the Chinese hand to hand at Chosin, half frozen to death, now in assisted living in Little Rock, knowing that God loves him.

There is no end to the gratitude we must feel.

There should be a special chapter in the Passover Hagadah for Richard Nixon, probably the most helpful President to the Jews except for Truman. Maybe more than Truman. Nixon risked nuclear war to save Israel in the Yom Kippur War. His treatment at the hands of the Jews in the liberal media was appallingly terrible. This was and is a true disgrace. I hate ingratitude.

We praise him endlessly in our house. In a history of heroes, Richard Nixon rides very high. In my mind, sainthood.

By the way, as my genius pal, John R. Coyne, Jr., says, why the heck don’t we nuke North Korea right now and end that horrible threat? What is Obama waiting for? Chicago on fire? Destroyed Seattle? What’s he waiting for? God help us with leaders like him.

Well, never mind. If he can screw it up, he will screw it up.

But right now, a balmy breeze is blowing and I am about to swim. And so, Happy Passover, and to all, a good night from the desert. God bless those who have risked all for us and still do.

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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.