An Oxford Education - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
An Oxford Education

So… It is Thursday night and I am in Greenville. I just had an incredibly good meal at the Commerce Club in downtown Greenville. Tommy and his wife, the spectacular Kitten, were there, and my angelic granddaughter, Coco, almost 4. And my perfect wifey, and my pal Bob, and Tommy’s pal, Matt. We were on the 17th floor overlooking the upstate of South Carolina. The sky turned pink and gray and the fried chicken was outstanding. So was the service. Coco was in a rare mood. The Kitten told us a story. A few days ago, Coco came to her with a sheet of paper with some writing on it, not really saying anything.

“This is a letter to my school from my mother saying I don’t have to go to school tomorrow,” said Coco.

“But, I’m your mother, and I don’t remember writing that,” said The Kitten.

“I know,” said almost 4-year-old Coco. “That’s why you have to sign it.”

A born lawyer.

I had just come from a street fair on Main Street. Happy, happy, happy men and women. Music. Diet Pepsi. Really happy, cheerful, smiling, healthy-looking. This is a happy place. Don’t miss out on it. Happy place in a sad world.

It had to be to keep me going. This has been an awful trip, for the most part.

I flew to Miami a week ago. That flight was fine. A tasty chicken breast with nutty crust. Yum. Then it all fell to pieces.

I was at a hotel that claimed to be le dernier cri in environmental goodness. In fact, it was a dump. My bedroom air conditioning did not work. My phones did not work. At 3 AM my neighbors played loud music that startled me and woke me up. The music began again at 8 AM. Torture.

I spoke to the AARP and they were great. But that hotel needs a lot of work. It is on the grounds where the super-fancy Roney Plaza Hotel used to be. Too rich for the Steins’ blood when I was a child but my rich relatives stayed there. How I envied them. Now, I stay on the same spot and it’s a mess.

Then up to D.C. to my wonderful home at the Watergate. There was a big garage collapse there a week or so ago, but my apartments were fine.

Bob, my pal and driver, took me over to Oxford, Maryland, Talbot County, Maryland, my very favorite spot near D.C. It was a fine night but with storm clouds gathering. I walked by the colonial era homes and took a photo of a bench overlooking the confluence of the Tred Avon River and the Bay. As I did, a lovely middle-aged women emerged from the house next door and looked at me.

“I’m not taking a photo of your house,” I said. “I’m not a real estate agent.”

“I know who you are,” she said. “Would you like to come in?”

“Thank you,” I said, “but I am on my way to get crab cakes at Salter’s at the Robert Morris Inn.”

“I make the best crab cakes in town,” she said pleasantly. “My husband is watching basketball. Come in and sit with us.”

“Thank you, but people are waiting for me.”

“My husband went to Annapolis,” she said. “He was a Navy pilot.”

“God bless you and him,” I said. “God bless you for your service.”

“We’d love to have you live here in Oxford,” she said. “We’d love to have you be our neighbors.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I am humbled.”

“My name is Winfrey,” she said. “No relation to Oprah.”

I thanked her again and went on my way. My head was spinning. I have been in my home in Beverly Hills for 18 years and I don’t even know the names of any of my neighbors. I have never been in their homes. Back in the 1950s, an epoch ago, everyone on Harvey Road and Grayrock in Silver Spring was in each other’s homes day and night. The neighborhood meant something. Not now. Not in Beverly Hills.

At the Robert Morris Inn, dozens of diners wanted their pictures taken with me. A dazzling lightning storm commenced. The wind and raindrops lashed Bob and me as we drank crab soup and ate liver under a small roof. Three young girls decided to walk in the rain. They soon returned. “That wasn’t really fun,” one of them said.

Everyone asked me to buy a home in Oxford and maybe I will. This could be a real home. Of course, Sandpoint is a real home and so is Greenville. Speaking of Idaho, soon it will be time to go back there for the summer. Fun, fun, fun, and lots of boating. I miss my First Mate, Tim Farmin, something fierce.

Dinner the next night with my childhood best friend, David Scull. He is still tall, aristocratic, a genius, a Democrat, filled with wisdom. We talked of friends who had suffered nervous breakdowns. “We humans are complex chemistry,” he said, or something close to that but more poetic. His insights on adoption, on race problems, on growing old, were dazzling. Lit up my head. Blinded by the light. I hated for him to go. He told me he had a crush on my sister 56 years ago or so.

We ate at District Commons, my new fave on Washington Circle. I had eaten there earlier with another genius, a staggeringly well-informed colleague from the Nixon days. Aram Bakshian. I have some super-smart friends.

None of them is Nick Kristof of the NY Times. He ran a piece a few weeks ago about how police were 21 times as likely to kill young black men as young white men. I wrote him a letter saying that was not true. One of his researchers sent me a polite letter. It cited me to an article in a super-silly website (just my opinion) called ProPublica. It read off how many black men of young years were killed by police as a ratio of their numbers and how many white young men were killed by cops as ratio of their population. Indeed, blacks were killed as a ratio of their numbers far more than whites.

But that is meaningless. What counts is how many young blacks who were in confrontations with cops were killed as ratio vs. how many whites in fights with cops as a ratio. Comparing the death rates of a group fighting it out with law enforcement with the number of whites playing golf who are killed by the police tells us nothing.

Just another example of media mistakes about race. That’s a bottomless pit. Let’s walk away, Renee.

Then yesterday, travel hell. Crowded DCA terminal, interminable delays on the runway. Deregulated airline travel is Orwellian torture, The hotel room had new carpet with glue that smelled like RAID.

Oh, well. Plus, ISIS in unstoppable and Obama doesn’t care and has basically killed our whole security position on this earth. The Kenyan Candidate. The man from Tehran. But never mind about the loss of the earth. Michelle Obama is all over the Internet in skintight workout clothes showing how to get a firm back, God help us. While Ramadi burns, while there are 3,300 abortions per day of the totally innocent, while schoolgirls get kidnapped and raped en masse by Boko Haram, Michelle shows how to be toned. Nice work, Princeton. A tribute to old Nassau.

Oh, well. As Bob Dylan says in the great film, Masked and Anonymous, we humans cannot figure anything out. I do know that this afternoon Coco came up to me and put my finger in her sweet mouth without biting me. “I’m eating you,” she said. “I know my wife is a goddess sent from heaven. I know I miss my Julie. Lying in bed with that dog is paradise. I will leave it up to Fox News to save the world.

A final note: For Mr. Obama to try to deflect attention from his catastrophic failures in defense and foreign policy by blaming Islamic terror on climate change… it is the lowest, most dishonest scam of a low, dishonest scammer. Mister President, no one has even remotely been able to connect Syrian drought with man’s actions. The problem is not climate change, if climate change is even real. The problem is not climate or fossil fuels. The problem is you.

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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