The Fire This Time
Ben Stein
by

Sunday

Wow. This has been some week. I will leave politics to someone else except to note that the shenanigans in Broward County are a disgrace to humanity. Why don’t we just give every Democrat two votes and be done with it. Plus, tonight at Pavilions a scarily dressed man asked me if I were Ben Stein. I said I was. He asked, “Are you really pro-Trump?”

“Yes,” I said. “Graham was my first choice but I support Trump now.”

“I’d like to eat your brain,” he said with a weirdly lit up smile.

“I don’t think it would taste that good,” I answered.

“No, because I think you must know the secret of the universe.”

“It’s not a secret,” I answered. “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

He actually totally changed his look to ‘normal’ or what passes for normal at Pavilions, and said, “That makes a lot of sense.”

A moment later, an aging woman in a house coat, that is, a bathrobe, came over to me and shouted, yes. Shouted, “Ben! Did you escape the fires?”

She was referring to the TERRIBLE wildfires that have eaten up about 150 homes in West LA and Malibu and which have been scaring me to death. We have many homes but one of my favorites is in Malibu right in the path of the fire and we have not heard a word about it for four days. The highways are closed so I can’t send anyone out to look for it. We’ve been at our home in Beverly Hills.

“I wasn’t out there for the fires,” I told her. She threw her arms around me and cried. “It was so terrible. We had to evacuate with just the clothes on our backs.”

I patted her on the back and retreated to my car. I guess she must have been a neighbor in Malibu long ago. My memory for names is getting truly terrible. Faces and names.

In the car, I lit up my phone. On it was a message of extreme joy. “This is ‘X’. I lived near you in Malibu. I just wanted to tell you that your wonderful little jewel of a house is safe. There were six houses on the block. Three are gone. Yours is safe and so are the two just west of it. The others are gone.”

I was SO HAPPY. As you undoubtedly know, and as I just told you, we have been having the wildfires from hell out here. Just pure hell. This fire is now at roughly 83,000 acres and it has gone many, many miles borne by super high wind gusts. The way our house is situated, I think the embers must have blown over it and onto the houses even farther west (or southwest).

Either that or my new flame retardant roof that I had put on about ten years ago helped. Or else the fire fighters from just .8 miles away (8/10 of a mile) lined up their trucks to protect my little house.

Or, to summarize, God saved us.

I rarely use that house for anything at all except for storing my keepsakes from the Nixon days and some of my father’s voluminous papers from his decades as an economist. I also had my White House appointment certificate, my Yale Law School degree, and many fine pictures of my father and mother with the Nixons. Plus an oil portrait of my glorious Weimaraner, Mary Margaret of Santa Cruz.

Still, it was my house and about 25 years ago, I spent most of each week there all by myself except with my lover dogs, Trixie and Ginger, both German Short-haired Pointers. Both now in dog heaven. So in a way, it was home.

I am just so grateful. So so so so so grateful. Now, I don’t know what to do with it. It will probably smell pretty strongly of ash for a long time. But eventually, it will be beautiful again. The City of Malibu is difficult on building permits so I imagine my street will be empty for some time. That’s okay.

I just feel terrible for the people who lost their homes. Horrible beyond reason. And yet, a picnic compared with life in Stalin’s Russia or in Hitler’s Europe. Or as a slave in Louisiana in 1856.

Speaking of which, as I was getting dressed this morning, I switched on TCM and saw about half of A Raisin in the Sun. It is a famous play turned into a movie about housing discrimination against black people in Chicago in the forties or fifties. It stars Sidney Poitier. For some reason I cannot explain, it made me sob like a baby. “Black people have had it really rough in this country,” my wife said. “Or used to.”

Still, it made me cry. Maybe because I was still so worried about losing our home in Malibu. Who knows?

My sister and I talked about how horrible life was for Jews in central and eastern Europe in the 1920s. “Is our family from Russia or where?” I asked my sister.

“We’re from Maryland,” she said. She always knows best.

God bless this great nation and God bless every soul who ever served and whose family ever worried or mourned.

 

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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