Once There Were Greenvilles - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Once There Were Greenvilles
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Thursday—Greenville, South Carolina

WHAT A GREAT TOWN THIS IS. It is very roughly two-thirds of the way between Charleston and Columbia. It is near Spartanburg, with which it shares an adorable airport. Spartanburg has become an industrial hub, with big BMW and Michelin plants and many others.

Greenville is a charming, ultra-cute, and friendly white-collar tourist town with a main street of mostly small stores. Alas, it is turning in a bad direction as immense office towers are built where small stores and cafes used to be. How long will it remain charming? Who knows? But the omens are worrisome. I started coming here about seven years ago when our son attended nearby and nearly perfect Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. Just since then it has gotten extremely built up. I was amazed to see—as I went for an introductory walk through town today—that there are many new buildings and new stores, and I worry about the future.

For right now, though, it is just about perfect. There are oaks and elms over the wide sidewalks and outdoor restaurants and friendly faces all around. Everyone recognizes me and greets me, and we all take pictures, and it’s swell. It endlessly stuns me how much socializing there is between blacks and whites. This country is changing and becoming genuinely integrated. It is a heartwarming sight.

I had a delicious cheeseburger and fries at a fine bistro called Sticky Fingers for its fine ribs. They remembered me from earlier visits, which touched me very much. Then I went straight to a series of receptions for the event I am attending, and speaking at, for the benefit of Goodwill Industries. Every single man and woman I met was delightful and friendly and attractive. Southerners truly are the salt of the earth. There are no more pleasant people to be around than Southerners, and I am married to the best one of all.

I spoke about the glory of work and how unbelievably important it is to create and maintain human dignity. I spoke about how a nation that does not believe in work, but believes in taking advantage of those suckers who do work, will not last long. Goodwill, of course, gives employment to men and women who have had challenges and makes them into new people. It is a great organization and I was extremely happy to speak to them.

It came to me as I was speaking that the real crusade we need in this country is not about fiscal policy or monetary policy but about morals: for life above all, but also about the morality of work. It is just indecent for able-bodied men and women not to work. It hurts them more than it hurts anyone else and is a form of slow suicide. The audience agreed.

I sat next to a man at the dinner who is a municipal court judge and also a successful businessman in the area. He was talking about South Carolina State University, which I gathered was a predominantly black school having some administrative issues. His discussion was extremely insightful and lucid.

When my speech was over, I shook hands and posed for pictures with many nice men and women who had been donors at the event. Then I posed for pictures and signed autographs with the waiters and bus people and cooks and dishwashers. After all, we could not have an event without them. They were very lively and pleasant. I was especially taken by a beautiful Russian woman who was working as a waitress but wanted to be a makeup artist. She was very well made up herself.

I went for a walk down Main Street by myself after the event, got some delicious pizza, and then headed to bed.

My wifey had not felt well and had stayed in bed all day but was super good company when I got back from my walk. I looked at her and wondered how I ever got so blessed as to find her and have her love me. She is the best creation of the universe, as far as I can tell. Most kindhearted, least angry, most generous, least judgmental, most beautiful, best sense of humor, smartest, a genuine gift from God.

Friday

A VISIT TO THE CHICK-FIL-A for a fabulous chicken sandwich, then a wait at the Greenville/Spartanburg airport for our plane. This terminal is a revelation.

At most airports, especially in L.A. and New York, the passengers look worried, frightened, dangerous, off the charts crazy. At Spokane they look fine. But here, they look positively great.

The men and women of Greenville are just brimming with good mental health. The people here look the absolutely best, beauty and mental health wise, of any people I have ever seen. Well, maybe the people in Charleston could compete. But these people look the way people should look. Content. Clean featured. Not angry. Happy with their lots in life.

I love Greenville.

The plane flight was fine. I slept the entire way. But we got out at the A gates at Dulles. Those are far, far away from baggage claim. Alex and I had to walk for a long time, take seven elevators, and get tired as heck to collect our bags.

Dulles is a nightmare from which I am trying to escape.

My dwellings at the Watergate were fine, though. My cable TV is not working, but what else is new? I love it here. Well, actually, there are a number of maintenance problems here. But I love it here anyway. Being here reminds me of my parents. My mother used to follow me down the hall and then down the elevator, staring at me the whole time. Now, I do that to Alex and she does that to me. When we are gone, will Kitty do that to Tommy? Kitty is Tom’s wife and very devoted, but will she follow him down the hall? I hope so.

Saturday

THE DAY FOR A HAIRCUT. Excellent at the Watergate Barber Shop, world’s best barber shop. I read an editorial in the Washington Post pooh-poohing the Benghazi cover-up, saying that looking into it was pointless. After all, the event already happened. Who cares about a cover-up?

WHAT????? The Washington Post is saying a presidential cover-up is pointless? Quick, tell Ben Bradlee. Tell the Pulitzer Prize committee. Tell Sam Ervin’s ghost. Tell that Judge Sirica.… Hey! We at the Post made a mistake. White House cover-up investigations are pointless. We apologize to Richard Nixon and B.B. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman and Chuck Colson. We made a boo-boo.

What a bunch of crap. What sad, sad people those scoundrels are. Well, politics. It all comes back to legal realism. People just have their own prejudices and then cloak them with righteous, seemingly righteous, righteous-sounding “neutral principles” (phrase learned from Robert Bork), but they are really just prejudices. Then they call it logic and precedent. But it’s just prejudices. There is political and economic realism, too.

Well, onward and upwad.

Alex and I went to the fabulous Lichtenstein exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Glorious. Beyond belief glorious. We saw it in Chicago a few months ago, but here it is just as wonderful. See it if you possibly can. Lichtenstein speaks to me. I cannot stand abstract art, but photorealism and comic book art work well for me. “I would rather see a painting of a dog I know than all of the abstract art in the world,” said Samuel Johnson. Brilliant as always. (That is a paraphrase.)

Afterward we went for Vietnamese food in Georgetown. We sat by the window. I watched the people go by. So many beautiful Irish girls, from Georgetown University, I assumed. So cute and sweet-looking. They remind me of my sweet colleen, Pat, from long, long ago. Also, many Asians. There seem to be more Asians everywhere every day. I love it. They are a spectacular people. All people at their best are spectacular. At their worst, when they are calling murder “choice,” they are not so good. But Asians—wow, can they cook, in every way. Academics, food, looks. Impressive people. Look at what China and Korea have been through and look at them now. Look at what Indochina has been through and still it is booming. These are astonishing people.

Wednesday

WOW. I stayed up way too late last night watching the Obama and Romney speeches. Mr. Romney’s was the best I ever saw him give. I feel so bad for him. He is suffering so terribly that he must be in agony. Tonight, he was gracious and even a bit emotional. I am sorry he made so many mistakes during the campaign. But a man near the top of the Romney campaign told me very recently that there just were not many experienced, talented, smart people to choose from for a GOP presidential campaign. It showed in many different ways. Mr. Romney really has to blame himself, though. He could have won this election in the third debate, but he backed off. I knew he would for sure lose after that. Well, agree with your opponent in a debate in haste, repent at leisure.

As for Mr. Obama, he gave a fine speech. It was way too long and included too much kowtowing to various special interests, but that’s how politics works. I liked it when he praised his daughters but told them they could not have more than one dog. But why? The Nixons had three dogs: King Timahoe, Pasha, and Vicki. I remember them all well. I used to walk them when Julie was out of town.

Of course, Obama’s promises about healing the sick and raising the dead are all nonsense, too, because the government is simply not going to be able to solve everyone’s problems. That’s up to us people. We have to solve our problems. I guess Obama hinted at that and good for him.

Well, anyway, I got up about noon, made a wonderful breakfast of one scrambled egg, sausage, and English muffins. It never fails to amaze me how much food is available. I guess I have some pre-life memory of a time of real hunger in Russia or Israel or somewhere. I really appreciate food.

Then Alex and I went to the airport and had a super-good hot dog at Five Guys. Their restaurants are spartan but the food is fabulous.

Then, onto AA flight 75 to LAX. Lots of passengers coming up to me to commiserate about the election. I keep thinking that this election was a huge thing: The white man’s reign in America is over—at least the white man without being allied with some other man (by man, I mean human). That’s a big change. I wonder how long it will take us to become really violently racially divided. I hope and believe never, but it could happen. I really, really pray, never.

But I worry about prisons, where whites, blacks, and Hispanics do not associate at all—at least from what I have read. In some states, you can get killed (I am told) for sitting down at a table with prisoners of a different race. I wonder if prisons are harbingers of the future, telling us what our most basic feelings are. I sure hope not.

The flight home was madness. A nutty-looking man in front of me kept putting his seat back in my face. He was a teeny-tiny little fellow and he didn’t need to do it. But he kept doing it. He gave off a vibe of complete insanity. He had a peering rabbit face. He was with an equally nutty-looking woman and a hugely fat young man, who also looked distinctly ill, physically and mentally.

I went back to an empty row in coach to get away from that group’s horrible aura. I made a list of all of the times God has spared me, saved me, from wildly crazy drunk driving, from very bad, potentially life-ending misconduct with drugs, from association with bad girls.

Most of all, I thought how God has put my wife in my life when I did not even remotely deserve anyone as wonderful as she is. She is beyond wonderful. She is super-humanly wonderful. I consider her genuinely Divine. I am sad Mr. Romney lost, but I win every day I have Big Wifey. I am sure Mr. Romney feels the same way about his wife. God is good.

Photo by Jas&Suz | Flicker; Creative Commons 2.0

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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