Ben Stein's Diary

Perfect Day

There's no other way to describe it.

By 12.13.13

Tred Avon River/Creative Commons

My pals, such as they are, in Hollywood, ask me why I love to travel to DC so much, why it’s a vacation destination for me. I say, “Because I sometimes have perfect days there.”

A perfect day would vary greatly from person to person, but here’s one that I had on December 11, 2013.

I awakened to the sound of WBIG on my clock radio playing sixties songs from The Who. I looked out of the window of my apartment at the Watergate. Blue skies. No snow.

I made English muffins, dressed in my glad rags, and headed over to CNN to be on with Wolf Blitzer (star of Skyfall) and Paul Begala. On the way up in the elevator, I discussed Chanel sunglasses with a young woman from CNN who was wearing a pair with real pearls in the frames. Naturally, she was from L.A.

On the show, we all made nice with each other and I emphasized what Nixon would have done about meeting Raul Castro and negotiating with Iran. I got to get in my plug for RN as Peacemaker.

Wolf wanted to talk about being on Air Force One. We all had been, but, I added, “Mine was when Air Force One was a bi-plane.” Hahaha. Ain’t we got fun.

My pal Bob was waiting outside CNN with his Kia. He was irate about the Redskins benching RG. Just hysterical.

We listened to a clearly furious RG3 talk at a press conference until I was let out at the National Gallery. I bought gifts for the many people who work for me, and then off Bob and I flew (by Kia ) to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge McDonald’s. A lovely cashier there took our order and we heartily ate our fries. Four high school girls sat near us giggling like high school girls. We don’t know why. I told them to glory in their youth. A policeman told me he was a fan.

Across the bridge and over to Oxford, Maryland, the most charming town I know of. No neon, no modern buildings at all, no McMansions, no big stores. I took pictures of the neat Anglican Columbarium on the Tred Avon River’s confluence with the Chesapeake Bay.

The church’s reverend, Kevin Cross, talked to us about the sermon he was working on for the Sunday service. “It’s about Mary and what a huge job she did for the faith.”

“She had a lot of help,” said I, and Bob and Kevin and I all chuckled.

It was dark by then. I walked by the century old clapboard houses along bricked sidewalks, the air reeking of boxwood perfume. There were small lights everywhere. I walked past the park as the last pink rays of the sun heading for Beverly Hills were fleeing west.

I walked to the ancient hotel at the end of Morris Street, the Robert Morris Inn. Incredibly, it’s owned by a Scot named Ian Fleming.

Bob followed me in the Kia. We had bar snacks at the hotel. Incredibly tasty cream of crab soup and a brilliant seared calves liver. Bob and I were the only eating customers. The chef, Mark Salter, came out to visit with us about RG3 and liver. A toasty wood fire burned in the fireplace a few feet away.

It felt safe.

Bob had an oyster pot pie while I texted our son in South Carolina.

Then, good-bye to all at the Robert Morris Inn. Back along the silent Oxford streets to the highway to Easton. The moon barely lit the sky above the corn stalks.

Then, to the Red Brick Tidewater Inn in historic Easton. We greeted old friends there, had Smith Island cake, sat by an immense fire, slept in a lobby easy chair, and headed back. I have been coming to the Tidewater Inn for sixty years and it gets to feel more like home every year. The perfect small-town hostelry with magnificent wood paneling, fine food, and ever friendly people.

There had not been one cross word, not one traffic jam, no friction at all, not even between Paul Begala and me.

Then, across the wildly illuminated bridge where endless nighttime construction did not slow us at all. Then a race to Hamilton’s, in the sacred space where my mother used to shop at Garfinckel’s at 14th and F. A parking space appeared as divine gift seconds from the front door. Handsome young lobbyists and pretty young law students said hello at the sushi bar — which has as good sushi as I have ever tasted. They took my picture and asked for career advice.

Back at the Watergate, the doorman helped me with my cookies from a tiny grocery in Oxford. I sent my aunt a present. I said bye-bye to Bob. I looked out at the lights of Rosslyn.

A man next to me at the sushi bar had said to me, “I see all these people taking your picture so you must be famous but I don’t know who you are, so how famous can you be?”

Just famous enough to have a perfect day in DC. But my heart is back there in Oxford.

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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.