Ben Stein's Diary

The View From Malibu

On a clear day, you can't see Obama.

By 3.22.13

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Sunday
Here I am out at our house in Malibu. It is a small house but on a good lot with sweeping ocean views. It was designed by a well-known Malibu architect and built in the 1950s. My wife and I painted it pink (wifey’s idea) and my idea was to put in a lot of trees around it.

When I first started planting, I put in six palms and six oaks on the north side of the house. Both kinds of trees flourished in the great Southern California climate. Plus, I watered them a lot and applied Miracle-Gro.

Our house is next to a vast canyon owned by the state as a water wash, so that when giant floods come down the mountains behind us, they have a place to go without washing away all of our houses.

This wash is thickly vegetated and the combination of my palms and oaks and the forest on state land made a super side view of the house. I often lay in the guest bedroom, my dog in my arms, and looked at the endless greenery while I heard the waves and the occasional motorcyclist.

Then, for reasons I will probably never know, Tino, my ancient, hulking gardener, started to chop down the oak trees. I told him never to do it again after the first one but he kept doing it.

A few days ago, he chopped down two magnificently robust, healthy oaks, leaving my view changed quite severely and for the worse.

He then presented me with a bill of almost $4500 for doing this sabotage. I told him the whole thing was an outrage and I would not pay. He made up a whole series of tall tales, just total nonsense, about why he had to cut down the trees and why it was so expensive.

All lies.

I paid him $2500 just to keep him from murdering me, although, of course, he did not really threaten to murder me. But I am just furious at him. He does not fertilize the jacarandas at all, and only I do it, and when I do, they grow, and when I don’t, they die. I really hate him. But I guess I am stuck with him. He does a great job at the house in Beverly Hills. Except that he cuts the wiring for the outside lights every single time we get it fixed.

There is something deeply unsettling about his anger towards me. It may represent the rage that workers have for people better off than they are. It may be a personal thing. Whatever it is, I hate it.

Meanwhile, as I was watering and Miracle-Groing my jacarandas, my pal B, a beautiful 39-year-old woman, appeared with homemade chicken soup.

She apologized for being late (which I had not even noticed) and said it was because she was comforting a friend who had suffered a major anxiety attack.

Why had the friend suffered an anxiety attack? Why, in Malibu, had the friend suffered a panic attack? Because her former husband had yelled at her for doing nothing all day, and because the same evil doer had cut back her allowance so badly, so brutally, that she could not afford to feed her horses the usual horse food she likes to give them. “Their ribs are showing,” said my friend in a tone of moral indignation. “That man doesn’t care about her horses at all.”

Hmmm. For one thing, why wasn’t the ex-wife working? The rest of us work. For another, I find that women who keep horses in Malibu operate at a high level of anxiety all of the time, no matter how much money they have or don’t have. Anxious women and horses just go together. That’s just the way this situation works out. It isn’t that the horses make the women anxious. Women with high levels of stress are drawn to horses. Why? Who knows.

Anyway, such are my observations and I hasten to add that I might well be mistaken.

Things in Malibu are a bit upside down right now, for what it’s worth. My electrician, a likeable and capable fellow named Mr. Peak, had a fist fight with a paparazzi a few years ago and was charged with assault and battery. The community rallied behind him and he was not only acquitted but elected to the Malibu City Council with a huge number of votes, by far the highest of anyone running.

Now, it turns out that he’s suffering from some bi-polar disorder, has threatened various people in the parking lot of Pavilions (high end Safeway), and has done some seriously reckless driving. That’s our Malibu. He’ll probably get even more votes next time. I would vote for him if I could. He’s a great guy and hey, who doesn’t have mental problems?

I visited briefly with B., and after she left, lay down and watched the planes fly high above the ocean. The stars were alight. It was glorious lying there with Julie. Just glorious.

Peace is glorious.

Monday
Wow, what a busy day.

I awakened feeling suicidal, as always, and took a brief swim, pursued all around the pool by Julie wanting me to throw the ball for her. I do throw it but it ruins the swim.

Then a shower, then an egg, then rushing off to a recording studio to do an instructional video for a very large insurance company hoping to encourage people to buy its fine annuities. That took a long time because there was a lot of extremely complex copy about rates of return and standard deviations.

The woman who supervised me was very charming, though, so the time went quickly.

Then, a mad rush over hill and dale to Studio City to do a commentary for CBS about a major foreign affairs challenge from North Korea.

Our usual makeup girl, Jodie, was absent, and we had a new artist with the lovely name of Leilani. Just a stunner, but obviously down. She was subdued, she told us, because her father, a world name in surfing, had died a few months ago of a burst colon. “It went septic very fast,” she said.

“I am so sorry,” I told her. “Losing a father is agony. I lost mine in 1999, and I miss him keenly every hour of every day.”

Leilani was grateful for my empathy.

“When you lose a parent,” I said, “it’s as if a brick wall had been put up in front of your front door. It will never go away. But after a few years, it is covered with ivy, and after that, it occasionally has roses.” My genius friend, Babs Bernstein, M.D., told me that metaphor.

Leilani was very touched by that story.

However, she trumped my ace.

“I wanted some distraction after my father passed,” she said, as she applied my makeup, “so my best girlfriend and I went on a trip to Turkey.”

“Oooh, scary,” I said. “Look what happened to James Bond in Turkey in Skyfall.”

“Actually we loved it,” she said. “Until something bad happened.”

“What was that, if I may dare ask?” I asked.

(Remember we were in a video recording studio with a prompter girl and a director/cameraman.)

 “My friend’s ex husband killed their two children and then himself,” she said, fighting back tears.

“ARE YOU KIDDING?” I asked. “THAT IS HORRIBLE. IS THAT REALLY TRUE?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“He was mentally ill, plus he was in the middle of a divorce with her and they were fighting about child support. He had always had problems. He thought 9/11 was some sort of government conspiracy.”

He had mental problems? There’s a shock. Wow. That changed everything.

We finished the recording but we were all in a state of deep, deep sorrow. What a story. What an amazing, horrible story. Apparently, he drugged the kids, both teenagers, then shot them as they slept, then shot himself. He left an angry note and a bag of pennies in his safe deposit box.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t the wife know him well enough not to leave her kids with him while she visited Turkey?” I guess not.

I drove home in a very roundabout way because Laurel Canyon, my usual route, was blocked off because of an accident involving a motorcycle policeman. It took over an hour to get home.

I slept for a good hour, and in my groggy state, when I awakened, I could not recall where I was or who I was. I guess I never know the answers to those questions.

Then we got in our car with Julie and our new GSP, JoJo, and drove down to our home in Rancho Mirage. We stopped for chicken at Carl’s, Jr. Delicious. I swam for a long time under the stars, but my head was spinning.

There are too many sick people in this world. Too many of them have guns and some have nuclear weapons.

Thursday
I see that my close pal, Barack Hussein Obama, as in “Sweet Home, Mister Obama,” has spoken in Israel asking the Israelis to stop being so mean to the Palestinians. “Imagine if you were a Palestinian kid under occupation and under someone else’s control all of the time,” said Mr. Obama (I'm paraphrasing here). "You’d feel bad."

What a creep Obama is. The Arabs in Israel have more rights, more legal protection, access to better education, more representation in the government than Arabs in any other Middle Eastern country. Israel has offered peace to the Palestinians over and over again. Israel gave back the Gaza strip to the Arabs twice, once fully equipped with modern agricultural facilities.

The response of many Palestinians is terror, murder of civilians, destruction even of what the Israelis gave them.

Doesn’t Obama get it? The Israelis want peace. The Palestinians don’t. It is that simple. The Israelis want peace and the opportunity to live in Israel. The Palestinians -- a lot of them anyway -- want the Israelis dead. Doesn’t Obama get anything this basic?

Obama burst upon the national scene with a speech at the DNC in 2004 pleading for Palestinians, totally ignoring the terror threat to Israel from them. He is still beating that dead horse.

He just does not get it about Islamic rage and how intractable envy and jealousy are. I wonder why Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t get it. A deep mystery. I will have him talk to Tino.

I cannot think about it. I lay in bed for an hour as the sun set. My wife sat out by the pool in a red pantsuit. How did I get such a perfect being as wifey? A living deity in my life, by my pool, Glory be.

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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.