I awakened in a fine hotel room at the Hilton of the Americas in Houston, one of my absolutely favorite cities. I was up at 6 AM, Houston time, which is 4 AM my time. I am sort of still asleep thinking that I am dreaming until I have my morning toast. Then I am awake. I love toast. Also orange juice.
Anyway, I made my way down to the lobby to meet a lovely, capable young woman named Adrienne from The Washington Speakers’ Bureau. She escorted me over to a large meeting room at the next door convention center.
I waited just a few minutes to speak to the men and women of the International Dairy, Deli, and Bakery Association. I am so perfect for these people they cannot even imagine. I do all of the grocery shopping in my little family. I buy cheese, of many different kinds, sliced packaged meats and poultry, bagels, immense quantities of eggs, pre-made fried chicken. Milk. Bacon. It is insane how much dairy, deli and bakery stuff I buy.
The speech went well. I try to keep them laughing until the very end, then leave them with an uplift about the men and women who fight our wars and patrol our streets and put out the fires and guard the prisoners and teach the kids and parent the autistic.
It all went well, and then I strolled around the exhibit hall for a while. Great, great cookies, cheese, chips, dip, and the best of all, at the Pilgrim’s Pride booth, fantastically good fried chicken filets. Wow. I contemplated staying overnight just to eat more of those filets. They were so good it was sinful.
However, duty calls. I rode over to the airport, waited while thunderstorms rumbled through — standard for Houston — boarded my flight next to a female UPS truck driver who looked extremely sure of herself.
The weather in Beverly Hills was perfect when I got home. The temperature was about 72, with a slight hint of ocean moisture and a gentle breeze. Our front path has immense roses, which were open to greet me. The house is not particularly large, but it has a lot of nice flowers and the only grassy lawn on the block. Everyone else has put in parking lots for his Bentleys. But I don’t have no Bentley and don’t even care to have one, as Bob Dylan might have said.
I greeted the housekeeper, our wonderful Rosa (who has a Lexus and a home with a swimming pool and hard working, dutiful kids), and my feeble old dogs, who fall over if you even blow on them. I love them more each day.
Then I walked one short block down Carmelita, the street on our south to Rexford, the street just east of us. The air smelled sweetly, insistently of night blooming jasmine, which actually smells great starting in the late afternoon. It is a smell I associate with my time at UC, Santa Cruz, 37 years ago, when all the girls loved my thin, hip, long haired, Republican self and I didn’t have to buy them cars or bribe them or anything. There were night blooming jasmine all over the campus of College V.
The houses were immaculately landscaped, Bentleys everywhere, that fabulous breeze (why do breezes feel so good ?), and the slight tang of the Pacific in the air.
I felt as if I were in paradise.
I stopped at the crosswalk at Santa Monica Boulevard and Rexford for the crossing light to come on. Every person who passed waved to me, beeped to me, shouted out my name, shouted out, “Where’s Shaq” or “Clear Eyes” or “Bueller, Bueller.” Lots of people just said, “Hey, Ben.”
I love it.
I crossed the street, then walked into the Beverly Hills Library, a fine, modern structure, up a long flight of steps and thought, “I am about to vote. I am about to do something that human beings are rarely allowed to do. I am doing something that did not exist until America. I am doing something that Marines died for on Okinawa and Pelelieu and sailors drowned for and soldiers bled to death for and airmen were blown to pieces for. I am doing this with a vengeance.”
I walked into the polling room, and saw a familiar face. It was Judge Nancy Claypool, the lovely woman jurist who had officiated at the marriage of our son and his bride, Kitty. We talked cheerfully and then I voted. It was interesting. I was in the room about 20 minutes and did not see one Democrat voting. As Beverly Hills becomes more Iranian-Jewish, it is becoming politically conservative.
I talked for a while to a beautiful poll watcher, who turned out to be Judge Claypool’s mother.
Then I walked back out, on a cloud. How lucky can one man be? How BLESSED. Not luck. BLESSINGS.
I went home and changed into my bathing suit and waded into my fabulous pool. Then I swam black and forth, smelling the night blooming jasmine, the chlorine, blown onto me by that perfect breeze.
After a while, I started blessing and praying for our armed forces with every stroke. I thought of my nephew, Paul Landau, a well-known historian about Africa. He lives in D.C. and also loves to swim. “It’s the closest there is to flying,” he told me recently and wow, is he right.
I took a shower, got dressed, walked up the steps to my office. The evening sun was sending its last rays onto my tile and stucco stairs. The dogs were right behind me.
I slept for a short while, then watched the Lakers-Celtics playoff game. What a great game. I love especially Pau Gasol of the Lakers. Spanish guy, tough as nails. Nobody pushes him around. Most of the players on both sides are black, of course. They are so talented, so smart, so determined, it is as if they were beyond human. To think that within the lifetime of my great grandparents, men and women like this were routinely owned by people, could be worked to death, could be beaten, raped, had no rights at all. It is incredible. How horrible and how far we have come. To think that in my lifetime Jews like me were consistently murdered just for the “crime” of existing, is blood curdling. Nothing quite like that could happen again, could it? Only in a year if Iran gets the bomb. Well, no point in worrying. Mr. Obama has it well in hand. Hahaha.
The game fluctuated wildly and at the end, The Lakers won. I LOVE THE LAKERS.
I had some leftovers and just thought, “This has been a perfect game. PERFECT. I thought that all of the sacrifices and blessings of the whole history of mankind have devolved upon me. Thank you, God.”
I slept happily with my Brigid by my side. No one dares think how late it is. Certainly I don’t.