Popping Off From Coast to Coast - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Popping Off From Coast to Coast

I am back in Beverly Hills after a grueling trip. I don’t feel well so I am going to just give you a few snapshots of what’s been happening in my life.

One. I gave a speech in Orlando to a large (maybe 900) group of super smart construction engineers. They were mostly involved in energy projects and mostly from Houston, one of my absolutely favorite cities, a muscular, powerhouse super city.

After the speech, which was incredibly early in the morning, I took a long, glorious nap in my hotel room for about three peaceful hours. Long naps are far better than nighttime sleep. Then off to the hellish Orlando airport and a flight to Charlotte that was an oven. Why can’t the airlines and airplane manufacturers figure out how to air condition a plane?

At CLT, I met up with Big Wifey, who had flown in from LAX. We got some excellent meatball minestrone soup in the US Air Lounge, and then our diver, Bob Noah, took us in our lordly rented Camry to Greenville, South Carolina.

We got there at about 10:30. Our daughter in law, the staggeringly beautiful Kitten, and our equally beautiful three-year-old granddaughter, Coco, were standing outside in a hail of humidity and cricket noise waiting for us, backlit by a porch light. When Coco saw Big Wifey she ran up and cried, “Nana! Nana! Nana!” Then she took my hand and shouted, “Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop.” It brought tears to me old eyes.

Then, Bob and I went to get food at the Carolina Ale House on Main Street behind many leafy maples. As we sat there, overwhelmed by the immense TV sets showing brutal football, and horrifying music, a sort of psywar to break the spirit of the customer, a young man whom we know from previous visits came over to talk to us.

He smelled powerfully of marijuana. “Wow. You reek of marijuana,” I said calmly. “You must have been smoking it all day.”

“No,” he said with equal calm. “I’ve been vaping it.”

The smell was so strong that I started to get high and dizzy and left. I went back to my room at the Westin Poinsett. For hour after hour I watched a series of documentaries about World War I. Endless movies and stills of hurrahing crowds and eternal vistas of bodies and starving people.

I had not known that so many people perished in the Balkans. What a sad place that is. Too much killing in Europe. Then a documentary about the Spanish Civil War. Is there no end of it? I once read that Hitler had one meeting with Franco to get the right to fly over Spain to attack Gibraltar. Franco refused. He said that Britain never lost wars and he did not want to fight with them. (Reminding me of Churchill’s famous dictum that, “In every war, Britain always wins at least one battle: The last one.”)

What else happened in Greenville?

One great meal after another at the Poinsett Club, the most pleasant place to eat on the entire eastern seaboard. Polished wood floors. Heavenly crab soup. Waiters and waitresses who recall every detail of what I like.

If there is a better place to have dinner than at the Poinsett Club while Jean plays the piano, I don’t know what it would be. The first night we ate there I was tired so I excused myself and went to recline in an upholstered chair in the bar where a group of tuxedoed men had escaped from a wedding to watch football.

I immediately fell asleep and was awakened by Coco jumping into my lap and crying out, “Pop-pop. Coco love Pop-pop!” It doesn’t get a lot better.

One day, a 26-year-old woman with whom our family is on extremely close terms wanted to buy a gun. So Bob and I and a friend of our son’s went to a gun shop. The woman was in ecstasy. It was beyond emotion. It was as if she had been visited by the Holy Spirit. She wanted a big “Dirty Harry”-type .44 magnum. Then she wanted a sporterized version of an AK-47 with a built-in laser sight. She held it up and swung it at imaginary Islamists. Then she wanted a pistol she could shoot at a target. She practiced in the store’s shooting range. She was the best shot I have ever seen. Literally off the charts.

She bought a .38/.357 and put a deposit on the camouflaged greenish AK-47 lookalike. “I am getting myself that for Christmas,” she said. “Then I’m going to kill something. Maybe a bear.” Her blue eyes lit up the whole store. She was in bliss.

“I want to kill something,” she said and looked happy.

On another night, my brilliant friend, the future governor of North Carolina, Russ Ferguson, drove all the way from Charlotte to have sushi with us. He is a lawyer and super busy on pollution cases. His insights into my flaws are so keen and yet so pleasantly dished out that I cannot keep from laughing. He is not even thirty, I believe, or roughly that. I don’t see how he could be any smarter or kinder.

One day Bob and I went to the post office. Every single person in the room said hello and wanted a picture. Then to the Waffle House, by far the best restaurant chain I know of. Some major genius designed them. They look so clean and also so welcoming. Like a surgical theater with an old sofa.

One night, Bob drove me to a cash machine and I withdrew two hundred dollars. As I did, four very rowdy, very loud black youths came by. But they ignored me and I love ’em.

Then, brunch on Sunday at the Spoonbread Café at the Poinsett. The best bargain on this earth: waffles, steak, orange juice, yogurt, bagels, eggs — all for less than twenty-eight dollars per person. Plus friendly chefs who know what we all like. Coco sat between Mommy and me and then sat on our son’s lap. He is amazingly good with Coco and the Kitten is a goddess.

The mother goddess.

Then a short flight to Little Rock. We had a palace of a suite. Huge bedrooms and a huge living room. High ceilings. Silk curtains. Instant room service. This is living.

The next night we went to the rehab to visit Wifey’s Uncle, Bob Denman. He’s been through a lot at 87, but he looks great and he had a funny thing to say about ISIS. “They just stand there waving their guns around. They’re not going to have much of a life.”

Bob Denman knows guns so I took him seriously. He fought hand to hand with the Chinese at Cho-Sin in a blizzard. He took out a Chinese machine gun nest with his carbine. I worship him.

How amazing that Bob Denman, who did so much for his country, lives so quietly. Joan Rivers died. She lived to make people laugh cruelly at other people. The meanest kind of schoolyard yenta. But she was a star. So she gets lavish attention. Super attention.

Still, de mortuis nihil nisi bonum. She literally gave her life to try to make herself who she wanted to be. Did she succeed? You look at her picture and be the judge. By the end, I wonder if she even knew who she was. One of her books was called something like, “I Hate Everyone…Including Myself.” God help her, though. She was talented and it’s sad to see her gone. I liked her long ago on Johnny Carson and grew to find her extremely touching and even heart-rending. I wish her well in immortality and feel badly for her friends and family. She was an almost superhuman talent.

Still, she is not Bob Denman nor any policeman nor woman nor soldier nor sailor nor firefighter nor Marine nor flier and I wish attention were paid to those who deserve it.

The flight home was a disaster. First flight from LR to DFW blithely canceled. No apology at all from American Airlines, to whom we passengers might as well be dog droppings they scrape off their shoes. The next flight was delayed for an hour because no one knew how to get two handicapped people off the incoming flight.

The connection to LAX from DFW had broken A/C (again). The back part of the plane was freezing. My wife’s part and my part was a kiln.

On the plane I read the New York Times. They are on a mission to prove that blacks are being cruelly mistreated by police and everyone else. The Hispanic man sitting next to me saw the articles. “That’s the biggest lie in America. That whites are oppressing blacks. It’s the other way around and everyone knows it and some day it will all change,” he said angrily. “That will be a good day.”

Last night I took a woman from a recovery group to dinner at the Polo Lounge. She is twenty and grew up in Georgia and is moving back there. “Time to start singing ‘Dixie,’” I said. LOL.

“What’s that?” she asked.

She had never heard of “Dixie,” did not know there had ever been a Confederacy, nor a Civil War. She wants to be a famous actress.

Back at home, Julie slept next to me as I watched “Cops.” I do not recall any man or woman being arrested on “Cops” who was not high on something. Nor ever any man in a suit and tie. Not one.

Good night.

Julie is waiting for me. Plus, it’s time for “Cops.”

And to Bob Denman and every wounded and whole veteran and their families, eternal gratitude. 


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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