Reflections in the Pool - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Reflections in the Pool
by

Saturday
This has been another hot day here in glorious L.A. I got up, swam, threw the ball for my Julie by the pool as I swam, got out, showered, got dressed. My wife is still not well and she was sleeping.

As I swim, what I see is a cloudless light blue sky (I swim on my back), a long line of Cedars next to my pool, my dog pacing furiously, two fake ducks, my white stucco house from the 1920s, a famous playwright, Clifford Odets, who wrote Waiting for Lefty, used to live here, and I endlessly think, “Hey, this is great. I love this. Who gets to live like this?”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not at all rich. I am just a hard working guy who had some major lucky breaks. I am rich in gratitude. Rich in blessings. The main one was being born in the USA and growing up in the best time ever to grow up — as my brilliant sister says, she grew up in the best time ever to be a woman, to be a Jew, and to be an American. I also had successful and helpful parents and friends. I really cannot imagine how much more difficult my life would have been without a power player as my father.

I’ll just give you a few examples:

Forty years ago or so, when I was a young lawyer, I was helping anti-war demonstrators get released from the central lockup in DC. One of the kids I got released was a girl whose father was a Naval Commander. He hated his daughter and did not want her demonstrating, so he started a big ruckus to try to get her put back in jail and censure me for getting her out.

My Pop called Melvin Laird, then Secretary of Defense, and Secretary Laird got this Navy man to understand that while he had as many rights as I did, tormenting me about getting his daughter out of jail was not in his job description.

A later Secretary of Defense, the glorious “Cap” Weinberger, the nicest guy in the world, Secretary of Defense under Mr. Reagan, did something even greater. The military in the era was about to create a “wound laboratory” where dogs — LIVING DOGS — would be shot to see what effects different kinds of bullets would have on them!!! I called my father and he called Mr. Weinberger and he said that if even a cool headed economist like my father, a man whose judgment he could trust, was against it, he would shut it down — and he did! God bless Cap Weinberger!!!

It was far better than that. Because my Pop was close pals with the ultimate human, Peter M. Flanigan, Mr. Flanigan got me a job as a speech writer at the Nixon White House. It changed my life. No more law practice. Fun people like John Coyne and Aram Bakshian to work with. A cause I believed in. I am still close with Julie and David Eisenhower and Aram and John are daily phone call friends, or almost daily.

I was transformed. I got to have lunch with my Pop a few times a week. It was fabulous to be that close with my father. Changed his life. Changed my life. Grilled steak, French fries, string beans, and a vanilla sundae with chocolate sauce. Two dollars and fifty cents. Pure joy.

Well, anyway, so there I am, just finished swimming away, and getting dressed and eating my dilled rye toast, and who should appear at my door but my old pal, Jane, mother of ultra capable and beautiful Lizzie, who will soon graduate from college and be a star in policy. Jane wanted to sit and soak her feet in my pool. My pleasure.

Her parents were Holocaust survivors and her mother, at 91, is still raring to go. Superstar survivor.

Then my pal, Michael Chinich came over. It is his birthday today. He talked briefly for a while with Alex, who is really too ill to talk much. Then we went to lunch at the Cabana Café at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was hot, but we were cool, talking of past glories in Hollywood. I am pretty much out of it by now, but once upon a time I was in it. My wife was really a lot more successful in the studio biz than I was, but I got to be famous.

Again, thoughts of gratitude washed over me. Chinich’s father was a big time World War II Army Air Force hero. Alex’s father was a huge hero. My father did secret things for the Navy having something to do with invading Formosa. He was never allowed to talk about it, or maybe for 20 years, and then we had all lost interest in it.

I thought of my grandpa Dave, who fought with the U.S. Cavalry against Aguinaldo in the Philippines, riding through the jungle with a Springfield, on a donkey. And I am eating fried eggs by a swimming pool with palm trees around it and waitresses who all call me by my name. Far from Festung Europa.

“What is in these people that they can charge into machine gun fire?” Michael asked me.

“They train for it, and they’re brave, and they’re motivated,” I said. “Things we will never be.”

After lunch, I bought Alex four strawberry milkshakes at the Fountain and brought them home to her. When she’s ill, all she wants is milkshakes. Luckily, the ones at the Beverly Hills Hotel fountain are among the best. She ate two of them almost instantly.

Then a long nap, then picking up a portrait of my father-in-law when he was about four, taken at a little shop in Prescott, Arkansas. I was getting it put in a new frame. He looks like a little angel. That was 1926. Who would have dreamed that 18 years later he would be fighting the SS hand to hand?

Well, he’s probably the finest man I ever knew. He never held it against me that I left Alex and when we got back together, I said to him, “You must hate me,” and he said, with tears in his eyes, “I’m just glad to have you back in the family.”

The Denmans are beyond human.

Then a trip to a hippie supermarket called “Trader Joe’s.” I was afraid the shoppers would be mean to me because I am a conservative. But, no, they were all as friendly as could be. I got my frozen organic vegetable and cheese ravioli and left.

By the way, I am still on a cloud from my visit Monday to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. I spoke to some wildly smart people connected with a high powered financial entity called Loring Ward. Talking to smart people is so much more pleasant than talking to stupid ones. It is just amazing.

Bear it in mind when you think of who you want to marry.

Meanwhile, I really, really miss Sandpoint and the friendly people at the Sandpoint Super Drug. Now it’s time to watch a fine French documentary about World War II called Apocalypse World War II. How can people be so brave? How can people be so cruel? What a piece of work is man. Small wonder we love dogs so much.

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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