At Least Shrinks Are Not Sharks
Ben Stein
by
Trancas Canyon Park in Malibu (YouTube screenshot)

Monday

A full day. I slept late, but then I couldn’t swim because there were too many dead leaves in the pool. There have been powerful Santa Ana winds all over SoCal, and leaves and branches are everywhere.

Instead, I did some reading by my genius friend and colleague, Aram Bakshian Jr., about the George Floyd case. He basically pointed out that the two men, the cop and the decedent, had bad records, might have known each other, and that the blame lay in many places. But it does not lie on the back of Mr. Trump, who had zero to do with it. Aram has some choice words about the demonstrators, whom he aptly calls “Che Guevara wannabes,” and about Antifa, who use these fools as human shields.

Aram is amazingly smart. Aram, John R. Coyne Jr., and I shared a suite of offices in the Nixon White House’s final months and days. They were by far the smartest people I have ever worked with. They are both super great writers.

Then off to my shrink. I usually love seeing him and telling him stories about my misspent youth. Today I talked a lot about a woman who has been cadging money out of me for decades with sob stories about her parents’ horrible experiences during the Hitler years in Germany. When I think of the scope of the tall tales she told me, and how I fell for them over and over, I realize that I am probably the biggest sucker on earth.

But then my shrink did something that really blew my brains out: I am often telling him about how worried I am about the recession and the stock market and the real estate market. He always reassures me and tells me I cannot possibly run out of money and become homeless. Today, however, citing a dream I had told him about my having a limousine in New York City and my telling the driver I did not need anywhere near so big a car, he told me I must cut back on my spending and “downsize.” He told me this just as I was leaving, and I became extremely panicky.

I could just see the sheriffs pulling up at my house and throwing me and my belongings out onto the street in Beverly Hills. I asked him why he had changed his tune about my spending. “We can’t ignore the message of your dream,” he said grimly. “It’s telling you to downsize.”

Your humble servant was virtually hysterical. No, not virtually. Genuinely.

But the feeling diminished as I went into Bristol Farms market and bought some salmon from Iceland and some salmon from the Copper River. At least I’ll have one good meal before I enter homelessness.

Then a visit to my wifey, but she was on a conference call for one of her charities, this one for foster children. So I headed out to Malibu with my wonderful friend, nurse, and driver, Jeff.

The weather was clear and dry. The ocean was spectacularly clear and blue. I was happy again. We stopped for pizza at D’Amore’s, the best pizza I know of, then went into Pavillions to load up on olive oil. The store was deserted. A few weeks ago it was packed. What has happened?

Then off to the Vintage, another grocery near our house in Trancas. It was empty, too. We passed a stylish-looking middle-aged woman holding a sign reading “Black Lives Matter.” She was dancing rather smartly as she held her poster. She smiled at me, and I smiled back. That’s the kind of demonstration I like. At the Vintage, I bought still more Copper River salmon.

Then to our house in Trancas (a far-out section of Malibu, by the way). My pal Jeff and I had more pizza, and I lay down for a short nap. I was still furious at my shrink even though the ocean helped calm me.

I slept and dreamt of my dear friend Bethany. Decades ago, I used to make her salmon and steak at that house. She was a spectacularly refined guest and bought me many Civil War books and maps that still decorate my living room in Malibu. She’s been in Italy for several years, and now she’s back and is about to move to Seattle with her husband. We email almost every day and I wish I could see her, but I have not seen her in decades and maybe I never will again.

She was a saint and I miss her very, very much.

I left her company because my shrink at the time told me she was not right for me. What an idiot I was to believe him! This was the same shrink who told me I must sell the beautiful house we had in Aspen. I sold it, and it’s probably gone up 20 times in value.

So much for taking the advice of shrinks.

Jeff and I drove back to Beverly Hills, with me certain that homelessness was my next stop. We passed a legion of homeless on San Vicente Boulevard in front of the VA Hospital, all in little tents with immense U.S. flags out in front of them. How long until I am there with them?

We got home and I made the salmon in olive oil, and we brought it to Alex and her nurse, and then I had some and so did Jeff. Surprise! The Copper River salmon, stunningly expensive, was nowhere near as good as the regular Skuna Bay salmon. My wifey, my usual late-night TV viewing companion, got sick from the Copper River dish and went to her room to recuperate.

I watched a documentary in HD on Netflix about World War II. As I hit the controls to make it play, all of my pitiful self-pity disappeared. The visuals and narration of these U.S. fighters made me feel ashamed of my self-pity. And rightly so. These men and women really, really suffered. They were blown apart by German 88s. Their ships sank in the Pacific near Luzon, and sharks ate them as they floated praying for help.

They were heroes. A large part of the documentary was about Korean labor slaves on Saipan and how horribly they were abused. I started texting my very dear Korean friend about this horror show. She was already familiar with it, and it seemed to make her sad to text about it, so I let her sleep.

For my part, I was in deep shame about my self-pity. I have it so good, and even if it gets a lot worse, it’s been an amazing ride. No captivity. No wounds or death in a concentration camp. No long-term separation from my loved ones.

Thanks to the incredible bravery of those men floating near the sharks, getting eaten by the sharks, I get to live a life Napoleon or Caesar would have envied: peace, plenty, comfort, air conditioning, cars, fresh fish, a loving household. My problems are other people’s dreams come true, at least for today, and that’s how I’ll live today.

One day at a time under the sunny skies of Southern California. God bless all who fight for us, in every war and at home.

Ben Stein
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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