Ben Stein's Diary

High on Life the Right Way

What was Barry smoking in college?

By 1.23.14

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Saturday
Up at about noon at my apartment in the Watergate. I said my prayers, had a breakfast of English muffins and eggs, dressed, got my hair cut at the world’s best barbershop, the Watergate Barber Shop, showered, and got dressed again.

Then, Bob Noah, pal and driver, and I headed towards the Bay Bridge. As always, I fell asleep only to waken as we were on the span. Oddly enough, there was only one tanker in the Chesapeake Bay. Ten years ago, there would have been five or six. I guess shale is making an immense difference. We headed down Route 50 past the endless hideous shopping centers of Kent Island, and then into the green lushness of Talbot County. There really cannot be many places more beautiful than Talbot County with its fields, forests, many, many tree-lined rivers, sailboats, estates with piers going out into the water, blue skies, eagles — yes, eagles — and waterfowl of all kinds.

Small wonder Talbot County is the home of so many of America’s many rich. Why not?

We zoomed past Easton, which has way too much development but whose downtown is still a jewel of colonial building.

Then down to my favorite, Oxford, and the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity. I took many, many photos of the Columbarium and the sunset but the air was far too cold to linger outside.

Bob and I went into the church. A charming and lovely organist named Cora Bruner was playing the instrument magnificently in rehearsal for a service the next day. She was super friendly and kept asking me what hymns I wanted her to play. “How Great Thou Art,” I said, “and ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’”

“You must have been raised Baptist or Methodist,” she said with a smile.

“Not at all,” I said. “Jewish, but I learned to love them when George Beverky Shea sang them with Billy Graham on ‘The Hour of Decision.’” (Or was it called “The Hour of Power”? Time has done so much damage.)

When Cora hit the power chords of “Then sings my soul, my Savior’s God to me, How Great Thou Art....” I could so well recall lying in my little bed on Harvey Road listening to that gospel music coming to me from Minneapolis. “Just write to me at Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota. That’s all the address you need,” he would say.

My father hated for me to listen to Billy Graham but then, mirabile visu, he became friends with Dr. Graham when he kept running into him at the White House. I have a great pic of my father and Rev. Graham laughing hysterically at some joke with George Pratt Shultz looking on back in 1972 or so. Oh, time, you savage.

I was deeply stirred up by the music and so I strolled down the hideously cold main street towards the Robert Morris Inn. I meant to walk all the way in the cold but it was just too damned bone chillingly cold. So Bob picked me up and fetched me to the Inn.

It was Scottish Night, with a few dozen ultra-well-dressed men in kilts and women in furs and tartans listening to bag pipes as they drank their Glenfiddich. I am not sure I have ever seen a more attractive, self-confident group of men and women in my life. All wealthy retirees, I should guess. They greeted me cheerily and complimented me heartily on my commentaries. It was a sparkling evening.

As crazy, dangerous, and avaricious as men and women look in LA — that is how confident, calm, and well mannered the men and women at Scottish Night looked.

I had calves liver and fried onions. Heavenly. Bob and I sat in front of a roaring fire. The room had been built before the Revolution. Nothing modern. Nothing neon. Just reasonable, happy people in a warm reasonable space.

After a time, Bob and I drove under brightly starlit skies to the Tidewater Inn at Easton. I just had some tea, lounged in the lobby, listened to Frank Sinatra favorites. I remembered when Alex and I used to go the Tidewater Inn for the weekend and they would have civilized ballroom dancing and the gentry of the area came in and danced politely.

What happened to those days?

Maybe they are still here at the Villages and at the Robert Morris Inn and the Tidewater Inn. Maybe the real world is not like the thuggish world on TV. Let’s hope so.

How blessed can a man be to live this kind of life? I mean, really, who gets to live this kind of life? All gratitude to God.

Sunday
Lunch with a stupendously beautiful 41-year-old woman loosely connected with the American Spectator Dinner of a few months ago. She is a successful entrepreneur of some scale on the Internet. She showed me pictures of her two daughters, 16 and 12, both breathtakingly gorgeous. It is unbelievable how lovely they are. The mom is a stunner and also rich. Recently divorced. She has to fight off the men with a club. She says she wants to just ride around the country on a mountain bike with a 1968 VW bus. Ha! That’s what Bill Gates said, too.

Then, to the airport to fly to Greenville. I sat next to a New Hampshireman who is now a guard in a South Carolina prison. He said only about 20 percent of the prisoners were genuinely mean. He asked me if we would ever have a GOP President again.

Of course, says I, if we get a good candidate. That’s a big if.

I see that Barry Obama is now saying that marijuana is not that bad for you. Not as bad as alcohol. Disgusting. Just revolting. If he had a drug addict child he would sing a different tune, but ignorance has never slowed him down in the past. When I think of how marijuana ruins lives, destroys brains, wrecks families, and communities and Barry thinks it’s fine? Dégoûtant.

How does that song by Elvis go? “You’re the devil in disguise.”

Wednesday
CNN is in hysterics because 85 families have more wealth than 3 billion of the world’s poorest people. Hasn’t it always been that way? Didn’t kings own all of their countries? The solution is to use the Asian model and allow free markets and free people to improve themselves. It isn’t the rich people’s fault that poor people are poor. Poor people who get an education and work hard in this country will stop being poor. That should be the goal for all poor people everywhere. Getting people jazzed up on envy accomplishes nothing at all useful.

Anyway, my sister was down here Monday and as always had something brilliant to say: “God didn’t put me here on earth to tell people how to live their lives,” and wow, is she right.

She’s the smartest Stein.

BACK TO THIS INEQUALITY THING: Do the media and the Obama staff really believe there is a finite amount of wealth in this world and if Bob is richer that makes Roberta poorer? People getting rich in a free society in general — with some scammy exceptions which are rare —makes everyone else richer too. Does Barry really not get that? What was he smoking in college?

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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.