This Is My Potomac Life - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
This Is My Potomac Life

Off I go to do my usual rounds when I am in DC, as I am now. First, a stint on a TV show. A news TV show, not McGyver. I love doing those shows. A few people see me, and I also get to meet all of those cute interns, those cute, amazingly lively and polite interns. I don’t meet them in LA. I don’t know why I don’t run into them at the Fox or CNN bureaus in Los Angeles. Maybe they aren’t there. I love and worship the men and women I work with at CBS News, but they could hardly be called “young interns.” They are skilled, experienced news professionals.

I am not sure exactly why, but I have always greatly enjoyed being around young people. When I was teaching at American University, UC Santa Cruz, and Pepperdine, I had a fine time laughing and joshing with the students. I miss that. I am not around enthusiastic young people except when I am in DC. There must be a reason. I guess the young people with idealism and enthusiasm come to DC. Idealists probably do not come to Los Angeles, by and large. You come to LA to become famous or rich. Not exactly idealism. As to the young people in New York… well, I enjoyed them when I was one of them, but that was 46 years ago. Actually, maybe more. What are young people in New York like nowadays? I really have no idea.

The kids in Sandpoint are adorable, but I rarely visit with them for more than a few seconds at a time as I am riding my bike along the City Beach, so I cannot make much of a generalization about them. The ones in Rancho Mirage… well, Rancho Mirage is not a young person’s town. It is the town of retired people and a few people who sell us our medicines. So, again, I don’t know about them.

But the ones in DC, at the news bureaus — they are just peaches.

I made lunch for my wife and me at the Watergate. She is very tired and staying in, as she often does. We had sandwiches made with tasty Pepperidge Farm bread, the best bread I know of. Why can’t I get it in LA?

We did something we truly love to do after lunch: we took a long nap. That is paradise. Just bliss to lie in the same bed my parents used to lie in, her reading, me listening to Mozart. Just great stuff. Relaxing, reassuring, bliss.

Then, out with my pal and driver, Bob, to see Skyfall for the tenth time. That’s right. The tenth time.

That movie is the most powerful rumination on relations between mothers and sons I have ever seen. It is only superficially a spy story/adventure yarn. It is really about the maternal role in both helping and killing sons. It is also about the astounding devotion of sons to their mothers even when the mothers have been (as Javier Bardem so aptly says) “Very, very bad.” It is also a searing indictment of incompetence at all levels of government.

And it’s witty and the soundtrack is breathtaking.

My favorite movie of the past 32 years: Skyfall. It is a crime that it’s not up for all of the top Academy Awards. Just a crime. And the man who directed it? Mr. Mendes? He is spectacular. He knows how to direct action and dialogue and how to make a scene look just right. The final twenty minutes, at a deserted manor house in Scotland, are as beautiful as any scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Works of art. I guess that’s everyone, including the cinematographer, Mr. Deakins, and the designer and the lighting people.

Above all, the writers, Messrs. Purvis, Wade, and Logan, deserve hosannas. Their script is genius. Clever wordplay. Deep insights, recurring themes (“sometimes the old ways are the best…” which sums up what the movie is really about ), spectacular humor. To think they did not get an Oscar nomination — well, it just means that the Oscars, like the Nobel Peace Prize, are meaningless.

As I have said over and over, the ultimate kudos goes to Javier Bardem, who takes acting to a whole new level beyond which I have never seen it go.

Anyway, Bob and I went to see Skyfall at a theater in Georgetown. It was in some kind of digital projection format and worked beautifully. Two very large women sat behind me fiddling with their immense legs and feet and also playing with their phones, so I moved seats a few times. Still, a stupendous movie.

After the movie ended, Bob and I walked past a sushi restaurant on K Street. I idly looked in the window. At a table by the window sat a handsome young man with four breathtakingly beautiful young women. As I looked at them, he (possibly) recognized me and invited me to join their party by gesturing through the window.

Bob and I walked in and took seats at the table with the man and the beautiful young women. It turned out that the man is a wildly successful builder/contractor/scientist named Bill Dean. He is justly famous for his business acumen and his scientific achievements, but also a big charitable fixture and a Gatsby-like party giver. A larger than life character, in a few words. Immense homes in Georgetown and in Miami Beach. Jet airplane. Super successful man.

He was friendly and down to earth, no boasting at all, the sign of real class. The young women were delightful and I marveled at Mr. Dean’s social skills.

One of the women started out the evening with a bit of sarcasm, seemingly doubting that I was who I said I was. But she was soon smiling and pleasant. She turned out to be from Mongolia (although whether from Inner or Outer, I know not). The blond woman sitting next to me was over six feet tall, a highly accomplished financial regulator, and a black belt in karate. The woman across from her was a stunningly shapely actress model. The Mongolian worked for a defense contractor. The one next to her had the perfect name, Alexa, and perfect face.

They were all just dreams come true.

However, after very briefly talking with them (all excellent conversationalists), I had to make my apologies because — of course — I had TV early the next morning.

Still, I was entranced by the scene: the handsome, rich entrepreneur; the magnificent young women, the sushi, the James Bond movie. The women at the sushi place were far more beautiful than the women in Skyfall, and that is saying a lot.

Well, this is my life.

I went home and made a roasted chicken dinner for my wife. Then I watched a documentary about World War II and heavy fighting in the Marianas.

The world is so wildly unfair and I get the benefits of it nonstop.

Gratitude. That is my mantra.

Fox News. Helped to get miked up by a kindly Fox girl named Heather Leigh Gustafson. Just as helpful as can be, tall and beautiful. Lynn University grad. I spoke there about ten years ago and had a great time.

In the makeup room, I fell into an argument with a man from the entities that make violent video games. I recall (perhaps incorrectly) that he owned some games himself. He said that parenting problems were the issue, not violent video games. Well, duhh? What would he say?

I told him our son spent whole weeks at a time watching violent video games and playing them and I thought it had hardened his moral senses. “That’s poor parenting,” said the game owner. “It’s not the games.” (Paraphrase.)

“It was poor parenting,” said the man, again, just to be sure I got the point of my own idiocy and weakness.

“Poor parenting letting him play the games,” I said. “That was the problem.”

James Buchanan, RIP, would have understood. I could hardly have expected this man who has gotten rich from violence on the video game scene to criticize video games.

Then yet another trip to the National Gallery to see the Lichtenstein exhibit. I feel blessed beyond words to have seen it so many times. It is just unique. His power is haunting.

Then, back to the Watergate to make lunch for wifey (barbecued beef), and then a long nap. Then a visit to the Social Safeway where I met more beautiful women, including two from the Russian Embassy who were extremely secretive. “You are the King of the Safeway,” said my checkout clerk. Good thing to be, after a war.

Then to Five Guys on Wisconsin Avenue for hot dogs for Bob and me, and a large fountain Diet Coke for my wife. Five Guys is my new favorite place. Hot dogs made to order, Heavenly. Then more soda at the bar at the Ritz Carlton. Bob and I met two witty middle-aged women. One of them said she went to Harvard Law School.

“Really?” I asked. “I know a number of teachers there.”

“Not really,” she said. “I went to Syracuse.”

A perfectly good law school, but who knows what was in her mind. Her companion was beautiful and charming, a recent divorcée, and a great catch for some lucky man.

However, I think it’s not easy being middle aged and single. She needs to adopt a dog.

We zoomed out to IAD with Bob, bid him good-bye, then had our greeter, Luis, a handsome man from South America, take us to the gate. Luis is a humblingly moving case. His son was murdered by drug dealers in Florida a few months ago. For something like one hundred and fifty dollars. Really, horrible. Now, the perps have been caught. They turned on each other. But they are apparently so hard to deal with that no lawyer wants to handle their case, not even the public defender. So the prosecution drags on and on. Just excruciating.

The plane ride was fine except for the man across the aisle from me. He was the single fattest man I have ever seen on an airplane. He was rude about stowing his immense suitcase. Worst of all, in this devastating flu season, he coughed nonstop the entire time. Typhoid Marvin. Six hours (because of immense headwinds) and he coughed the whole time.

When we landed, I said to him, “So, how’s your health, pal?”

“Allergies,” he said. What a jerk.

We got home and I rushed over to the Shoreham Towers to get my mail. Many letters from my pal who is incarcerated. Great letters about him dawn to dusk work helping rehabilitate his fellow prisoners by teaching them reading, writing, math, and hope. This is a great man.

I stopped at a gas station at Sunset and San Vicente in the midst of all the rock clubs.

Two aging rock and roll women walked by and smiled. “You should be writing speeches for Obama,” one of them said. I was startled that she knew that about me, i.e., that I was a former White House speechwriter.

Two other hipsters walked by. “I need Clear Eyes,” he said. “My eyes are red every morning.”

“We love you,” I said.

A homeless man, with almost no teeth, started sifting through the trash can next to my car. He looked at me carefully.

“Is the recovery for real?” he asked me. “You think it can last with housing so weak?”


“I think it can,” I said. “We might hit 800,000 starts and with strong retail and services, it could work.”

“But can the housing starts be sustained?” he asked in a calm voice.

“We never know, but these trends upwards rarely end abruptly. At least not this far from the previous peak,” I said.

“I guess employment is the key,” he said, and then went back to his sifting. He looked up at me as I was leaving and said, “Did you ever own a pawn shop? You remind me of a man I know who owns a pawn shop. Very intelligent man.”

I went home, thought about a swim but it was far too cold. Then I showered, read the best history book I have read in a long time, Hitler’s Central European Empire, by the late Jean Sedlar, about the horrifying cruel regime of the Nazis in central Europe and about the extreme hatreds of the various ethnic groups towards each other.

How lucky, how blessed, how glorious of the Lord God to let us live in America. How blessed I am to have had parents who could do so much for me, who could advance my life so much beyond what my father’s father or mother’s mother could do for them. I can trace almost everything I have back to some connection, some inspiration, some motivation from Mom and Pop.

When I was a child, my father told me, “Don’t expect to inherit anything but your brains from me.”

How wrong he was. I inherited connections, education, position, role modeling, above all, the gift of gratitude, from my old man.

And my mother did so much for me in the way of connections in DC. I would not have remotely what I have without them. I have to be endlessly grateful. How blessed my sister and I have been. Beyond words. And now I have my wifey, too, world’s best human, and Julie. It’s all good.

Ben Stein
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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.
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