Plugging Away - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Plugging Away

IT’S SUMMER. Wifey and I are up at Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho, Bonner County. We are in our condo and we’re both ill.

Wifey got back about two weeks ago from a trip to Durban, South Africa, for our son’s Hindu wedding. Of course, he had already been married in a civil elopement ceremony in the Beverly Hills courthouse several months ago. Of course, going to South Africa for this kind of show and tell is expensive on a scale I cannot even slightly afford. Never mind. They went. Wifey’s been extremely ill since she got to South Africa — not just since she returned. In fact, she was ill before she even got on the plane. In fact, now that I think about it, she’s almost always ill. I am not happy about it. She’s Big Wifey and there is no one like her. There cannot be any replacements. I worry that she’s so ill so often. Accept no substitutes for Big Wifey, mostly because of her wit.

Just for example, many years ago, when we were taking the dogs for a walk near our home in Beverly Hills, we saw a mail woman picking up the mail at our corner post box. The pickup time noted on the box is 11 a.m. The postal woman was picking up the mail at about 2 p.m. “Ahh,” said Wifey calmly, “right on time.”

Maybe you had to be there. Anyway, now that I think about it, Wifey is definitely (possibly) a bit better. This makes me a bit relieved.

I have had a flu off and on for a few weeks. Now, I feel better. But I am bound to say this has been about as difficult a year as I have ever had: many, many bouts of lung issues, many bronchitis episodes (but I have not missed one speech — I feel great when I am speaking and mingling), economic worries, loss of the government to people I do not trust. (I consider Mr. Obama to be like Maggie Thatcher compared to Nancy Pelosi. I can remember her father when he was mayor of Baltimore long ago. Tommy D’Alessandro, if memory serves. A real big-city Democrat of the old school. What he was to the old ways, she is to socialism.) Anyway, there have been some difficult days. In a way, socialism is a lot like old-time big-city bosses: government takes your money and controls your life. As my genius cousin Jeffrey used to say, “They take their half out of the middle.”

But we are not in a big city. We are up in Sandpoint, Idaho. Weather perfect although warm. Lots of friendly people. My great little Thompson boat with its pastel blue-green upholstery, like a Beach Boys boat. I am happy to be here. The kids come up to me for autographs. I love that. The girls giggle and want their picture taken with me. Everyone who drives by waves at me. Contrast that with Beverly Hills, where no one even says “hello” when you walk past. Or Malibu, which I love beyond words, but it really lacks friendly people except for Cruz, my pal at Howe’s Market, and Dusty Peak, my electrician pal.

True, people are super friendly at Morningside and Mission Hills, the two clubs where I belong in Rancho Mirage. That’s because they are mostly Midwestern folks who are not imbued with that mean Brooklyn-Tehran fearfulness. Also, at the Watergate, my neighbors are friendly, albeit extremely elderly by and large. My favorite neighbors by far are Mrs. Long, widow of Russell Long and longtime pal of my late mother, and Prof. and Prof. Kristol, real seriously polite, refined people of the old school. This time, the old good school. They are super smart people. Irving and Bea. Smart, good-natured, great.

Like many of the people at the Watergate, I would call them “refined.”

For some reason this reminds me of a hotel that used to be on 14th Street NW in Washington. I believe it was called the Tunlaw. It had a big sign in front that read “For Refined Colored Adults.” Even then I winced at that sign, and that was a long time ago. Now there are hardly any refined adults of any race. Except at the Watergate, Rancho Mirage, and northern Idaho.

Anyway, how dare I complain? My bud Sgt. John Quinones is in some ungodly forward operating base in Iraq. He gets rocketed and mortared day after day and never complains. He’s in 120-degree heat with terrorists, spiders, and bad food, and he just keeps on keepin’ on. He is my hero.

Really, the whole nation rests on the broad and fearless shoulders of our military. Let’s pray for them all day long.

So, back to the top, I am here in Sandpoint with Big Wifey. We have been up to Hill’s, over to Bottle Bay, and we are well fed. There is construction going on next door, but we don’t hear it too badly. There is a huge highway bypass being built nearby but so far we don’t hear that either. So, we are happy except for illness, recession, and a vast armada of “no-see-ums” — which are tiny bugs that drive us mad. They attack us everywhere at night and we cannot go out on our deck because of them. Never mind that. There are so many good restaurants up here, it’s amazing. Right next door at the Edgewater, there is a wonderful place called Trinity — scrumptiously great. Then there’s Ivano’s, also great, and Bottle Bay, also great, and we have more good restaurants here than in Beverly Hills.

So, enough whining. I marvel at all of the great things I have: FREEDOM, Wifey, son, daughter-in-law (the most beautiful woman on earth), dogs (to me, more beautiful than any human), sister, a saint, real estate, Cadillacs, FREEDOM, no Storm Troopers running after me shouting “Jude, Raus!” Idaho, Malibu, Beverly Hills, D.C., FREEDOM. What can I ever do to thank God enough?

Actually, one thing I do is employ a lot of otherwise unemployable persons to help me file, and that keeps them alive, and keeps their kids alive. My favorite is Lizzie, daughter of my dear, dear artist pal, Jane. This kid is a little angel. Lovely, sweet, kind-hearted. I wish I were in high school and she sat next to me in European History class and I carried her books home before I went to my home and went to my real gf, Brigid, the German shorthaired pointer.

Well, I must go pray now. How did we ever get so blessed? And all resting on the military and their families. God bless America.


IT IS SMOKY UP HERE IN IDAHO TODAY. There is apparently a huge forest fire near Kelowna in British Columbia, not far from here, and smoke is blowing our way. (“Blow some of that my way,” as an old cigarette ad used to say.) But it’s also hot and dry so I will go out on the boat soon. My wife is ill again so I’ll just go out with my pal Tim.

As I sit here in my bedroom of my condo at the fabulous Seasons resort, the ultimate resort, I am sort of staggered at how many things I have plugged in. Computer. Great HP printer. Two phones. Many, many, many cell phone chargers. Five lamps. My beloved XM radio, one of the great inventions of mankind; a TV; a DVD; a stereo, in fact, three different stereos. I like it. I like music. I like being connected.

Plus, I have many battery-operated things… flashlights, Discman, iPod. Earphones with batteries. What a great world. Thank you for electricity, dear God. Please do not allow Nancy Pelosi to take away my electricity just so she can satisfy her insane wish to control.

But I am writing this in tears because I am so grateful for the e-mails I just got from my pals Wlady Pleszczynski and Bob Tyrrell. I have been a bit mistreated by some other people lately, and Bob and Wlady, as usual, have rushed to the support of their pal, moi. My sister has also been incredibly helpful, as have Barron and Phil. I am really blessed to have such good friends and sister. My longtime pal Victoria Sackett used to say that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” I am incredibly blessed in both family and friends.

Meanwhile, I am thinking about Mr. Obama. Wow, he really is a control freak. Not as bad as Mrs. Pelosi but bad. My theory is that he has “control” just stamped into his brain because he has felt compelled to undergo such self-control all his life to get over his childhood losses. So, he has to control everyone else around him and in the nation: control health care, control cars, control energy use, control what kind of heat and cooling we have in our homes, control everything that can be controlled. Za Stalina! The real goal is not to save oil (it was a hoax that we were even low on energy), not to save on medical costs (an impossibility considering how many goniff doctors there are), not to save the environment (which is another hoax issue). The real goal is to control human beings and at that, Mr. Obama is doing well, or, I should say, catastrophically badly for human freedom.

Never mind. I think I will go out on my boat while I am still allowed to do so, still allowed to burn gasoline and ruin Gore’s Green Earth.

So, now it’s evening and I am resting after a long trip to Bottle Bay and then to Beyond Hope, two great cafes on the lake. I love my boat but everyone tells me I have to get a new, bigger, better boat. I always wanted a Chris-Craft, but they are a bit expensive for me. Maybe a Cobalt. Well, anyway, good problem to have.

How long will I have problems like what kind of boat to get? How long until it’s much more serious matters like health issues? Well, I have been morbid most of my life. I’ll skip it tonight. I’ll have my leftover spaghetti from Ivano’s and pizza from the Loading Dock, and go to sleep in my bed with the waves of the lake lapping below me, and the spectacularly powerful sound of the freight trains lulling me to sleep. I wish I had my dogs here with me but I will see them soon, if all’s well.

How I wish I could live like this forever.

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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