Ben Stein's Diary

Drinking It All In

More often than not, drink is criminal.

By 6.26.14

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Wednesday
I am in Malibu. This is my first day off in a long, long time. It has been an extremely busy spring for me. This has included speaking and visiting my son and his family, including beautiful Kitten (daughter-in-law) and Coco, granddaughter. It has taken me to all corners of the nation. I have been in some of the worst hotels I could ever have imagined, and some of the best.

Oddly enough, the worst hotels, by far, were in cities where the people in the audiences were the friendliest. In a few cities, like Orlando, Houston, and, above all, Charlotte, I had great hotel rooms and lovely, jocular audiences.

Just very recently, I had the best audience I have ever had in my life in Charlotte, and a super room at the Ritz Carlton. That Charlotte audience, of well-to-do businessmen, medical people, businesswomen, lawyers, were so alert and hip I was inwardly crying with happiness. They got all of my jokes, got all the historical allusions. I just totally loved my time with them and I was floating when I was done.

As Bob, my loyal driver, drove me home, I thought, “I just cannot be any happier than this.” I stopped at a Waffle House and I was in heaven. Now I see why men and women become standup comedians. When the audience is with you, there is just no better feeling. It is as if you were making love to the whole audience at once.

That plus the Waffle House’s waffles and fried eggs — that’s all a man needs.

What did I learn this busy spring? That it’s physically painful to be tired. That fatigue must be avoided at all costs. It is like a disease… only worse.

That while I am an old man, I eagerly wait for the fire bell to start moving. (I think I mixed a metaphor here.) The fire bell in this case is that crowd, again. The thought of getting so old that I will be unable to get around the airport terrifies me. It happened to my father in his 80s and I guess it will happen to me. That gives me ten years. I had better enjoy them.

What else have I learned? That time is passing incredibly fast. Let’s assume I will live to be the same age as my father, which is 83. (He never took drugs but I never smoked three packs of Kents per day as he did.) I am now 69. That means that this year I will use up roughly 7 per cent of my remaining life, very roughly. By the time I am 77 — which will come suddenly, if it comes at all — I will be using up roughly 20 percent of my life every year. The thirty year old, by comparison, uses up 2 percent of his life every year.

Well, this is getting too morbid. I think I will change subjects. Let’s move away from age and death and go to TV.

I watch TV for about an hour each night. Usually, it’s Cops or Jail. Those shows scare me. The criminals are dangerously low in the empathy department. I guess that’s what makes them criminals. Maybe by definition a criminal is a person who is not able to empathize with other humans. Certainly this would be true of a burglar or a rapist or a murderer. But it’s also true of a Hitler or a Stalin or a Che Guevara, who kill in cold blood for their own power and prestige.

I notice that what deprives most of the criminals on Cops and Jail of their empathy is just plain mental illness, stupidity — but also alcohol. It is just startling how few of the men and women who get arrested are sober. Of course, some are high on drugs, too. But most are drunk. The psychological damage that booze does is just plain incalculable. How great it would be if there were no such thing as alcoholic drinks.

There are so many shows on TV that glorify drinking and yet drinking is just suicide. I notice that the women on The Real Housewives shows are almost always carrying around a wine glass with wine in it. I believe they actually think it looks classy. It doesn’t. It looks trashy. Drinking even small amounts is disastrously bad for marriages, parent-child relationships, and everything else good about life.

But let’s go on to another subject: the depiction of Jews on TV. Late at night, there are often ads for something called “E-Surance.” (I might have that wrong.) The commercials feature a fat, blowsy, stupid woman, whom they make as Jewish as they can. It is like a cartoon from Der Stürmer. The woman is just a walking, talking wet dream of an anti-Semite.

Then there are ads for a household cleaning product called (I may have this wrong) “Swiffer.” It features an elderly, incredibly idiotic male-female couple, again made to seem as Jewish as if they were wearing sewn-on Stars of David. They are shown to be totally oblivious until they discover this household cleaning product. Again, this belittles and mocks Jews. Who the heck came up with this viciously racist idea?

And speaking of race, some kindly soul sent me recent copies of the high school newspaper, “Silver Chips.” I was the editor of this paper at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, about fifty-two years ago. How it has changed! The lead story in the first issue I read was about a group of mostly African-American students marching and shouting and holding signs to “protest” the “achievement gap” between white and Asian students compared with black students. They demanded that blacks have higher achievement.

WTF? How will they get that by marching and protesting? Wouldn’t they be more likely to get “higher achievement” by sitting down and studying? Would they possibly learn better by marching and holding placards? Does it not always come from hard work and discipline, not from screaming? They say they want more black students in AP classes and I am totally with them. But wouldn’t they get into those classes if they studied more and shouted less? They want more money thrown at the “problem” but we know very well that more money rarely helps these situations, if ever.

I guess the real problem is that I am just not connected with modern life. But Montgomery Blair, dear, blessed Alma Mater, what has happened? I read that things are better at Blair than at other schools, but the whole subject is deeply dismaying.

What a world. I think that my classmates from ’62 grew up in better days.

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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.