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Ben Stein’s Diary
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.
Friday–July 18, 2014
Well, this has been a depressing day. The smoke here in Sandpoint is like soup. A short walk through the city beach left my lungs on fire. Apparently the forest fire in Washington state blowing our way is one of the biggest forest fires in decades. Close to 200,000 acres burned so far. At times, the breeze blows away the smoke but then it comes back and it’s oppressive. The fire is zero percent contained.
Smokey, gritty Sandpoint isn’t the Sandpoint we know and love. But I love it anyway.
I slept late, as always when I can. Then I raced all over town doing errands for my big wifey. She has mislaid the stylus for her Samsung Galaxy Notes 3. Not easy to replace in a town the size of Sandpoint… roughly 7,500 souls. I never did find one. I found many stylus models but not the one I need.
A bewildering day. The Russians shot down a Malaysian Airlines Boeing777, killing roughly 300 men, women, children and infants on board. They shot it down over eastern Ukraine, basically by accident, but by the kind of accident that shows such extreme contempt for life that it would be considered a crime in any country.
There is no doubt that the Russian-controlled, Russian-armed “pro-separatists” shot down the plane with a Russian-supplied super capable SA-11 “Gadfly” anti-aircraft missile. It could not have been anyone else, unless it was the Russian army on Russian soil. Only the Russian proxy army has the SA-11 and the motive to shoot down planes over the Ukraine. Obviously, the Ukrainians would not do it. What would be their motive?
But the reckless, contemptuous Russian “rebels” have the motive — shoot down planes over Ukraine — and this part is perfect: They are on the record in phone intercepts saying they did it.
The Kiev government recorded them and if the Kiev government recorded it, the NSA must have it in 5.1 channel stereo.
Tuesday–July 15, 2014–L.A.
Again, there were the tiniest hints of rain. Again, no real rain fell. We are in big trouble here in California. Yes, we can go a while without rain. But this has been many years with no rain and it’s a disaster. I love L.A. and I would hate to see it dry up and blow away.
Why didn’t the authorities plan for this foreseeable crisis by making immense desalinization plants ? Or colossal aqueducts? They did nothing. There was no planning at all for a true disaster.
Amazing. We are being told to plan and change our ways of life for climate change fifty years from now but the powers that be cannot change the way we get our water for a catastrophe unfolding right before our eyes. Something is wrong here.
Speaking of something wrong… two days ago, as I was leaving a restaurant in West Hollywood, a man named Robert who works for me and with me, called me and in a shaky and horrified voice told me his mother had just died.
I cannot believe this. There are clouds in the sky and teeny tiny drops of rain are falling. Just a few tears from heaven, but still, rain here is nonexistent, so, baby, I’m amazed.
Wifey and I met Phil DeMuth for lunch at a sushi place in West Hollywood. The room is a triangular shape and today there is a horrible smell in the air. My lungs are closing up and I feel asthma coming on. I’m pretty sure it’s floor polish or maybe one of those HORRIBLE air cleaners that squirts some VILE smell into the air every few seconds. Poison gas, at least to me.
I gave the waitress a twenty (not her fault about the air) and we left in a great hurry. We walked across to L.A. Buns, an outdoor Mexican café. We ordered and watched all of the gay people walk by. The food — cheese enchiladas for Alex, burgers for Phil and me — was tasty and filling and cheap.
Back in L.A. I miss Sandpoint but the heat there was a killer. Just murderous. Except at night roaring across the neck of the lake on my Cobalt. That part of the day has a perfect climate.
Well, no lake here in Beverly Hills, but I do have my dog, Julie Goodgirl. And I have my swimming pool. Julie often just jumps in and swims alongside of me, an almost perfect event.
I had lunch today at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel with a very smart friend whom I will call P. Some of the local gentry are boycotting the hotel. The reason is that the owner of the hotel, whom I believe is the Sultan of Brunei, endorses Sharia Law. That kind of law is extremely tough on women and gays. So Hollywood people are boycotting the hotel.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Every morning I get up at about 5 a.m. I go out on my deck and take pictures of the lake and the sky and the Selkirk Mountains. Then I worry about America and Israel and then I watch my wife breathing and then I try to go back to sleep.
The lake and the sky always look fabulous. Not just good, but fabulously calm and enticing and reassuring. It is a different story inside my head. Fear of financial insecurity. The certainty that America is collapsing as a world leader. The endless whipping up of class envy and race baiting by the Obama administration. Stomach upset. The sad spectacle of my once slim and menacing self now overweight and gray haired.
However, I usually go back to sleep until noon, then feed my old self, nowadays mostly with Thomas’s English Muffins. Get dressed and go for a walk. Today’s walk was around the park at City Beach. It was mobbed with happy families, smiling, grilling, laughing, showing off their young bodies or hiding their old bodies. It is cruel to be old.
Monday, July 7
Another perfect day in Sandpoint. Instead of my usual late sleep, I got up, had a modest breakfast, and went for a walk along City Beach. Hardly anyone was there and the lake was glass. I was sitting at a table looking at the water when a woman with her gray hair tied in a pony tail — always a bad sign — sat down unbidden across from me. Another bad sign.
“You’re Ben,” she said. “Right?”
“I used to see you around and now I never do,” she said. “I used to see you on TV and now I never do.”
“I’m on quite a lot,” I said. “Fox, CNN, CBS. Many places.”
“In fact,” the woman said, “I thought you were dead.”
“Why on earth would you think I was dead?”
“Because I haven’t seen you on TV for such a long time,” she said.
“I just told you I am often on,” I said. “Besides, I suppose there are people who are both not on TV and not dead.”
The woman drew a heavy sigh. “Would you like to have breakfast with me?” she asked.
“No, thank you.”
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Still here in Sandpoint, Idaho, and it is too darned hot. It’s often hot in the middle of continents in summer and this is no exception. The real problem is the humidity though. We left D.C. to escape the humidity. It was unbearable, like being in a steam room with your suit and tie on. We do not have much humidity in L.A., but we sure have plenty of it here in North Idaho this summer.
However, it’s all fine. There are hundreds of friendly people out on City Beach, many wanting to say hello and pose for pictures with this old fellow. There is incredibly tasty kettle corn. And there is Lake Pendoreille, limitless cool blue expanse of water, blue sky, clouds, and mountain forests. My brilliant, world-traveling sister, called me to report on her just concluded trip to Tanzania. She generously noted that while it was beautiful, it was no more beautiful than North Idaho, and then added, “No place is.”