Ben Stein's Diary

Clearing the Smoke

Sandpoint is a long way from Ukraine and Gaza.

By 7.21.14

Ben Stein
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July 19, 2014
Another hot, smoky day. The brown air sears the lungs. The sky is ominous, choking, dense. It is Saturday and I slept late and look forward to a lot more sleep. But I have miles to go before I sleep again. I am having the devil’s own time with slow downloads. I think I need a new computer. A trip to Staples to look around. Very nice people, but that store is extremely low on every kind of supply I was looking for. I wonder what its future is.

I bought a computer but Citibank would not let me charge it on my Citi MasterCard. There was some fuss about an earlier order. It took a lot of telephone struggle with a fraud department clerk to get things straightened out, or so I thought.

Then, a short jaunt to the Walmart. You can make all the fun you want of that store, but the people who work there really want to help. They search and search with you until they find what you need — in my case, immense quantities of Fiji Water. I find Fiji genuinely tastes better than any other brand.

I loaded up my basket with Fiji and headed for a checkout line. By chance, I encountered a clerk with a perfect memory for me and my son, from days long ago when he visited the store with me. That was twenty years ago and he was so incredibly sweet then it brought tears to my eyes to recall those days of his terrorizing shoppers riding in a handicapped, motorized cart.

She asked all about him. She could not have been friendlier.

But then, whoops, my Citicard was turned down again. Plus, I had a family behind me with five shopping carts of food. Madness while I yelled at the fraud department of Citi. It turned out that they had not cleared up the issue at the Staples. So while the clerk patiently waited and the people behind me checked out with — yes — five carts of food and five children, I struggled to get Citi to “unblock” my card. I had not brought my wallet and it was the only card I had with me. Finally, after prodigious yelling by me at the fraud clerk — who was totally innocent — I got the matter cleared up. I apologized to him for yelling at him. The real story, though, was the amazing politesse and friendship of the clerk at Walmart. As I have often said, if the postal service were run as well as Walmart, we would have a happier country. That is a super company.

Then a long rest and a meet and greet with our new babysitter, Miya. She is a beautiful, patient young woman from Santa Rosa, who is destined for greatness. We all went over to Ivano’s Del Lago, through the heavy waves and smoke — Alex, Kitty (daughter-in-law), Coco (granddaughter), Tim, boatman, Miya and I. The place was buzzing. A bunch of very pretty women in their 30s, I would say, and their men friends, same age, had brought up boats by trainer from Coeur d’Alene. They were apparently seeing who could play music the loudest and do the sexiest dances in their bathing suits on the docks.

The women were far better at it than the men. Have you ever noticed that when women are listening to music they more or less just automatically make up complex rhythms and move to them while we men look stolidly on? Women just have an inbuilt ability to move to music that only a tiny few men have. Plus, women are just about one million times more attuned to what is in their bodies in the way of moods and magic. Such is my pitiful observation anyway.

We had a great meal, spicy Thai soup, shrimp, steak, and I took lots of pictures. This has got to be one of the most wonderful spots on earth: a wooden deck leading down to an immense grassy lawn leading to a beach and the docks and endless lakes and Selkirks. The sun sets over the water and the sight is glorious. To be here in this safe place after a fine meal, surrounded by family and friends — that’s good.

A swift ride home over still choppy waters with our three year old screaming with happiness as she bounced around the Cobalt’s cabin. She loves speed and motion.

When we were buttoning up the boat, I talked to Miya about her interests. She said she was a musician and sang along with her guitar playing. Sure enough, when we got home, after we put Coco to bed, Miya sang and played “Hotel California” and two other fine songs for us on her guitar. She has a magnificent voice, perfect pitch, and plays that axe like she was ringing a bell.

Miya Siler. Keep your eyes on her. She will be a star if she cares to be.

Alex is sick, though. She had fish for dinner and, as often happens, she got sick from it. I made tea for her and put her to sleep.

Then I watched an hour of Dr. Strangelove, my new favorite movie. Then I watched Lolita with Jeremy Irons. It’s really too sad to watch for long, though. Really just such a sad subject.

I looked up my stocks on line. Yes, the market is high but my small caps have been clobbered. Just hammered lately. That’s not good. Money. Scary subject.

Too many scary subjects. I am terrified when Alex doesn’t feel well. She is everything to me and there simply would be no point to life without her. I will never find anyone with her kindness, patience, forbearance, wit, generosity, beauty. She was made for me. There are many wonderful women out there, but only one Alex.

I fell asleep listening to Mr. Buffett’s trains and just saying. “Dear God, thank you for Alex,” over and over until I feel into dream land.

Sunday
Miracle. The smoke is almost all gone. The sky is blue. Alex is fast asleep but I went next door to see my granddaughter and daughter-in-law. I had a great talk with the babysitter. She told me fascinating tales of junior high school life. I was so captivated by them that I took her with me to Walmart to buy DVDs of cartoons for Coco and to the Taco Bell (naturally, the cash register was broken), and to the world’s finest store, the Sandpoint Super Drug. While looking for incandescent light bulbs, I saw my old pal, the lovely Wendy. She formerly worked as head of the bakery at the Safeway and provided me with a glittering inscription for my wife’s birthday cake two years ago. She has five children, the oldest of whom is 27, but she looks like a 27-year-old herself. Just a charming, lovely woman.

Then, a walk around City Beach. It was fairly empty, perhaps because of a cool breeze blowing across the lake.

I met many friendly families, as I often do. This is a bit of paradise. There is hardly a jarring sight anywhere.

That reminds me. Last night I met a couple who have ten children — two biological, three from Ethiopia, and five from China. This kind of thing scares and bewilders me. But if they have the strength to do it, who am I to question it?

Alex was still feeling sick, so Kitty, Coco, Miya and I all went for dinner at Trinity on the beach in Sandpoint. Coco, Miya, and Kitten were all exhausted from playing earlier but I could just enjoy the evening. After watching the darkness settle on the water like the gift of peace, I listened to Miya play her guitar more. What a talent.

Then, Alex and I watched Fox. It featured Chris Wallace grilling Secretary of State John Kerry about the Russians’ shooting down MH 17. I am starting to feel sorry for Obama. What is he supposed to do about Ukraine? The Russians obviously did it, but what can we do about it? It was imbecilic for the airline to fly over territory where a war is going on involving highly capable surface to air missiles shooting down large planes at high altitude. Whatever international body approved that route was simply crazy. (By the way, when I hear the word “international” applied to any current body, I substitute the word “insane.” “International” groups are nests of fools, by and large, and usually anti-Semites and America-haters, too. After all, think of what the world looks like outside of the U.S. and Western Canada.)

And what can we do to Russia? We have very modest trade with them — consisting mostly of their sending us their porn movies, as far as I can tell. They have their fingers on the natural gas supplies for most of Europe. Nothing Europe can do to them is even remotely as bad as what Russia can do to Europe. If they are SOBs, that’s nothing new for Russia. If they want to make themselves look bad in Eastern Ukraine, that is not worth a war. I saw George Will, whom I love and worship, saying the U.S. should send lethal aid to Ukraine. Will is a genius and I love him, but do we really want to get into a war over Ukraine?

And sending out lethal weapons is no joke. We sent them to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to drive out the Russians. It was a total disaster. We would have been far better off if the Soviets had held on to Afghanistan and kept a lid on the Islamists. (By the way, the Russians showed great restraint when we sent in Stingers that shot down their helicopters and killed their soldiers.) What would we do if we sent heavy weapons to the Ukrainians and Russia replied by sending 100,000 heavily armed men into Ukraine? Nothing. So, let’s just butt out before we embarrass ourselves further.

And as to Israel, Obama is not attacking Israel anywhere near as much as his leftist pals would like. He’s backing the Gaza operation and he was indispensable on the Iron Dome. Compared with Carter, Obama is like Churchill.

He’s not Reagan. He’s not Nixon. But he’s not as bad as he could be. Just in my lowly opinion, there is only one indispensable step the U.S. should be taking in the face of all of this international savagery: a massive buildup of U.S. arms, even though that will mean a tax increase or an increase in the already unpayable debt. In the event, we will have to fight some day. Our opponents should respect our strength. If we do fight, let’s make sure we win. And let’s not fight any more wars we do not plan to win.

And if you want to see my idea of heaven, have a look at Sandpoint. I have to go pray for Big Wifey now. She is the sun in the sky to me.

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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.