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Ben Stein’s Diary
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Wow, this has been a crazy few days. Wifey and I drove down to the desert two nights ago. It was uneventful, but when we got to our house in Rancho Mirage, the garage door would not open. I tried to lift it manually. No chance. Okay. Not a big deal.
I unpacked and put on my bathing suit getting ready for my favorite part of the trip, swimming under the stars. Guess what. The pool was ice cold. Had the heater stopped working? If so, why? I instinctively knew the answer. The pool man needed money, so I would need a new heater at staggering expense.
I went to sleep after watching for the millionth time about the incredible heroism of U.S. sailors at Midway and Leyte Gulf. What a pitiful creep I am to complain about getting gouged by resort repair people when I am at peace in my quiet bedroom with a roaring fire and my dog by my side. So, to sleep with a better attitude.
But, sure enough, on Thursday the pool man lifted the immense heater from its bunker and mournfully told me it needed to be replaced. The sum involved made me stagger. It hurts to get ripped off. But that is my fate all too often.
I drove over to my apartment to get my mail. It is a funny thing about the apartments I have for offices at the Shoreham Towers in West Hollywood. I bought them first to have a quiet place to write that came with a good view, and then to get rid of a noisy neighbor. It never even occurred to me that they might be a good investment.
Yet they have done better than any other real estate investment I have ever made. Now, bear in mind, the sums involved are barely pennies by Manhattan or Brooklyn chic apartment prices. Just nothing. But the point is that luck has a lot to do with it. Or maybe it’s because the Shoreham Towers is one of only two real high-rises in West Hollywood, and young, well-to-do people like views.
Anyway, I went over there to see if I had any interesting mail. As I did, I ran into Miss X, a beautiful woman whom I have seen coming and going at the Shoreham Towers recently. She has almost glowing blonde hair and a lovely smile. She was having car trouble when last I saw her, but today she was thinking of something else.
Here I am in Topeka, Kansas. It has been a long day of travel after several lovely days in Greenville. The best part of Greenville was — as usual — the Spoonbread Room of the Poinsett Hotel. It is good and it’s served in a beautiful room with sunlight streaming in the windows. Every dish is heavenly. Alex, Kitty, Coco, Bob Noah and I ate there yesterday. I enjoyed every minute. Every morsel.
Then Bob and I walked the streets of Greenville just taking in the intensely lush friendliness of the passers by.
Then, off to a swim meet which I found by accident. The swimmers were top notch and the setting was space age with sophisticated electronic timing systems. But it was a bit damp in there so we left. More power to those strong, dedicated young swimmers, though.
This has been a busy, interesting week. One week ago, flew from LAX to DFW, rested, changed planes, flew to Oklahoma City. I slept in a strange hotel room with strange noises coming from all over but with a super pleasant woman running the lounge on the lounge floor. It makes my hotel stay a lot more pleasant if someone at the hotel considers me more than an inconvenience and a burden. It was going to be a struggle anyway because I had to go to sleep at 9 PM Central time because I had to be up at 5 AM the next morning. Very tough on someone like me who is a full scale night owl, almost a vampire.
That 5AM.…That’s 3 AM my time. But I was able to fall right asleep and actually felt good when I awakened. There might be something to this “early to bed and early to rise” advice after all. (I believe that Ben Franklin commonly stayed up late and slept late though.) I was picked up by a ruggedly handsome driver/security man (as if I needed a security man). The air was stunningly cold just walking the few seconds to the SUV and hoisting my ponderous bulk onto the seat.
I am weighed down by some thoughts I have been having lately. I think that since you are my family out there is Spectator-land, I will share them with you. (Although usually family are the last people who want to hear your thoughts. My sister is an exception, of course.)
First, a few days ago, I had a brief talk with a thoughtful high school student in my beloved Greenville. The topic was whether or not Osama bin Laden had realized his objectives in the attack of 9/11.
The woman had all kinds of brilliant insights, and herewith I add my gloom and doom addenda:
HOLY SMOKE!!! It is cold here in Greenville. Very cold. Bitterly cold. Nothing like the Northeast, but too damned cold.
I awakened, listened to the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th, then got dressed and had my pitiful breakfast. Then, off to the U.S. Post Office to mail a letter. The beautiful Clement Haynesworth Federal Building here says it’s a post office but it isn’t. (Who here remembers Judge Haynesworth? A Nixon appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court who was deemed inadequate for the job. Was he the one who was too “mediocre”? Or was that Carswell. I just remember that when some Nixon official was asked about one of the judges being too mediocre, the spokesman said, “Well, there are a lot of mediocre people out there and they deserve a voice.”
Anyway, the guards at the federal building sent Bob and me to a building some ways away in the poor part of town. It was supposedly a post office but its computer was broken, awaiting a part, and they had not been able to send any special sort of mail for three days.
Unbelievable. Just stunning.
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.
This has been a whirlwind of the last nine days.
Last Sunday, I flew to Orlando. A wonderful driver named Tom McKneer drove me about 90 minutes through the dark Florida night to an immense set up called The Villages. It is (I believe) the world’s largest retirement community. It has either 50,000 people on 100,000 acres or 100,000 people on 50,000 acres. Anyway, it’s huge.
It has many different communities within it, shops, stores for food, many, many doctors, cafes, bistros, thousands of holes of golf, many lakes, innumerable tennis courts. You have to be 55 or older to get in. There are 2200 social and athletic clubs.
The first morning I was there, I was awakened by a hundred or more men older than I am getting up to row their sculls on one of the many lakes. They were hale and hearty. Everyone there is hale and hearty and super friendly.
The Villages calls itself the friendliest town in the world and it probably is. Everyone who greets me comes up to me and says something like, “Hi, Bill Jones, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”