Thursday, May 26, 2011

New York, New York

Mika Brzezinski

Wafa Sultan

I spent a few days in the Big Apple last weekend taking a course in HTML and web site management plus - yes - doing a bit of jobhunting. Summer is approaching and with it, opportunities to speak in various places. In fact, I'll be talking about intentional community and my book at 7 p.m. this coming Monday (Memorial Day) in Pittsburgh; specifically in Squirrel Hill at the Upper Room at 5828 Forward Ave. at Murray St.
New York, as it turns out, was freezing (while it was in the 80s in DC) but I sure enjoyed the consignment shops and incredibly rich culinary offerings in the East Village, which is where my friend, Betsy Pisik, was lodging me. We ate everything from Korean to western Chinese to Ukrainian fare - in 2 days!
While riding up (and back) on the majestic-but-cheap Boltbus, I got some really interesting reading done. One was "A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam," by Wafa Sultan, a Syrian psychiatrist who says Islam's problems are due to Islam's God. Read about it here and here. A lot of people find fault with Wafa but she brings up the hard questions that I've not seen Muslims answer very well. Questions about Mohammed's treatment and acquisition of his 13 or so wives, especially Aisha, with whom he had sex when she was a 9-year-old. Just the very thought of that - as he was 50 years old at the time - makes me want to lose my lunch.
I whipped through that book fast enough that I ended up at the Fifth Avenue Barnes & Noble buying Mika Brzezinski's "Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth" which *really* got me going! She talked about being lowballed at MSNBC in terms of her salary being grossly disproportionate with that of her male co-host. Read about it here. IMHO, MSNBC does not come out well in her book, being that they were only too happy to offer her peanuts compared with men in the same positions who were raking in far more. One wonders: What *is* it about work places that see offering women less money than a man as second nature? What is it about work places that make the woman have to fight like crazy to get something close to parity? And any woman trying to get equal pay is labeled as 'difficult' and other words I will not use here.
Obviously the book struck a nerve with me, who has been underpaid all my career. Many of us in the Washington Times newsroom were beyond disgusted when we found out how top execs were making over $150,000 and, as far as we could tell, they were doing less work than we were. One top editor, who was rarely ever there, was raking in $225K. All this while we were upbraided by our bosses for asking for an extra $1,000 a year. I'd better not get started except to advise women who care about what they'd like to be paid for the rest of their lives to read this book. I would love to write something similar for the Christian market but I can just imagine the battles I'd fight getting that published.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

David Wilkerson and the reporter

Today is my birthday. Today is - or was - also David Wilkerson's birthday, he being the world-famous author of "The Cross and the Switchblade," founder of Times Square Church, Teen Challenge, you-name-it. He would have been 80 years old today had he not died in a car accident in east Texas three weeks ago.
I was born 25 years after Wilkerson, so do the math. I had two fateful encounters with this man, one in 1989 when I was interviewing him for The Houston Chronicle. Here is a snipped from the chapter "Annunciation" about our meeting:
That same month I was back in New York, on my way to catch the flight to Israel that landed me in that meadow overlooking the Sea of Galilee. I snagged an interview with David Wilkerson in his 2-year-old Times Square Church in the former Mark Hellinger Theater at 51st and Broadway. He was definitely not the showbiz type. He did not like being interviewed, he was uncomfortable posing for photos and low on media savvy. This artlessness made him easier to talk with, especially about his warnings to Jimmy Swaggart before the evangelist’s well-publicized fall in 1988.
"I don't think sex brings any man down," he mused. "I think it's pride." I asked him what had kept him out of sexual sin. Suffering, he replied. He looked a bit gaunt and obviously tired from having been up since early that morning leading Sunday services. I tried to pry something out of him about Redeemer and Graham. I had heard rumors that he was most unhappy with the turn that events had taken, especially since he was so publicly linked with Graham's spiritual baptism. Wilkerson was very vague, as if he had long since lost touch with both. As I was packing away my notes, he looked at me,.
"Graham came to me with a problem, you know,” he said. “He didn't only come for power." And as far as he knew, Wilkerson added, Graham had had victory over it.
"The only way to stay righteous," he then said, "is to expose your heart to God every day."
What is he hinting at? I wondered. It's either money or sex.

The next time I met Wilkerson was in December 1998 when everyone was worrying about Y2K and I was in New York doing a story for The Washington Times. By then, the news about Graham had long since come out. I went to lunch with David and his wife, Gwen and it was there that David told me more about his fateful - that word again - meeting with Graham in 1963 when he prayed over Graham to be baptized in the Spirit. Graham, David told me, was so tortured by homosexual longings that he was stopping in every rest area between North Carolina (where he was on vacation) and New York. As a former police reporter, I knew exactly what he was talking about; before the Internet, rest areas were where gay men solicited sex. In fact, there was a certain rest area just inside the Texas state line along Interstate 10 where, it was said, one dared not hang out after dark.
I sent a copy of "Days of Fire and Glory" to David's office a long time ago but never got any indication that he had received it, much less read it. A shame, because he played a crucial role in my narrative. I am on the mailing list for David's once-every-3-weeks pulpit series and I just got the latest one, penned by him no doubt several months in advance, encouraging Christians not to despair during hard times. He was one of the few well-known preachers out there who got it in terms of how crazed many of us feel. I, for instance, have been out of work almost one year.
His last words to people were to tell them to persevere during these dark nights of the soul, even when you physically don't feel you have the strength to do so. I can understand that; I often don't have the heart to sing the hymns I used to but I am still able to play worship music on the harp. That is the best I can do at this point. Discouragement does deaden things. Hope deferred - and deferred and deferred - makes the heart sick, as Scripture says.
At the end of my days whenever they may be, if I have even a portion of the good influence that this great man had on this troubled world, I shall be glad.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oma turns 83

Happy Birthday Oma! I wish we could have a cake at the ready but the best I could do was send her a spiffy new version of "The Red Shoes" on DVD. Included here is a photo of Oma singing Veeka to sleep with her famous "There is a boarding house" lullaby.
Also shown here is Veeka looking cute as usual. Other stuff; my travel piece finally ran here on Friday in the WPost. Am casting about now for assignments to do in June.
Yours truly has a birthday coming up on Thursday but I've little planned other than a trip to New York this coming weekend to take a class on web site construction and maintenance. So many - almost all - of the jobs out there in the PR field want people to maintain a site.
As for jobs in the media - those are disappearing by the day. I've not given up on those but it'll take a major angelic visitation to bring one about. Speaking of angelic visitations, isn't the Rapture or Second Coming supposed to happen May 21? Just wondered...
I took Veeka to see "Coppelia" yesterday as that's one of the easier story lines to follow in the ballet world. Trying to explain the Odette/Odile duplicity in "Swan Lake" or the whole thing about ghosts and spirits of women disappointed in love ("Giselle") is a lot. Veeka was entranced by all the dancing and by the girl playing the lead role, who was all of 16 years old. When I asked her if she wanted to dance like that, "But I can't sing," she said. I explained that one had to mime actions instead of speak them but she thought that was pretty boring.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A pleasant Mother's Day

Believe it or not, I was at a gathering yesterday with several friends and I was the only mother in the whole bunch! Two of the women there had been trying to get pregnant or adopt for some time; the other folks there were singles who'd like to marry and *then* have a child. Yours truly did this backward. Miss Veeka keeps on telling me she wants a daddy so who knows what I'll end up pulling off someday.
It's almost a year since I left the Washington Times and there have been benefits to it all. I have enjoyed doing things like sitting in the back yard today and dreamily eating my lunch while the birds flitted about and the sunny weather was in the 70s. This working-out-of-one's-home thing is very addictive. Veeka and I visited the Amish market last Saturday and bought our customary pile of cheap plants (the prices are the best anywhere) and flowers plus odd jellies. I really like some of the flavors like elderberry and zucchini/orange that the Plain Folk come up with.
Jobwise...sigh. So many false alarms. For instance, I've had officials at two major web sites call me up about working for them but the moment I asked them what they were thinking of in terms of pay, they got unhappy that I'd bring up the question. Like, I'm not supposed to eat? The low-balling out there is unreal. I continue to sell articles and my newest travel piece will be out this coming weekend in the Washington Post. Am about to shoot another piece off to the Economist tomorrow morning. Just this afternoon I got a phone call saying I made the first cut for yet another job possibility. The audacity of hope, as one famous person puts it.
The photo is of Veeka standing in a Holland America tulip field that we discovered in Woodland, Wash. a few weeks ago. It was just that time of year when the blossoms were out and I was so hoping for one of those vision-like fields with rows of beautiful colors. And voila, not far off the interstate, we found one.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Two weddings

We all know, of course, about the royal wedding that occurred last Friday for which some of us rose at 5 a.m. for a lovely few hours of watching TV fairyland where the prince and the princess marry each other in Westminster Abbey and take a carriage to Buckingham Palace.
A week before, we had our own little wedding; my brother Rob, who got remarried the night of April 23. He'd been dating Jan Conner - who he knew from his days at Severna Park High School 40 years ago - only since last October and by late November, he'd proposed. And so Steve flew in for the affair and we all drove there together. It was on the Eastern Shore just across Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis. The hotel was on an inlet off the bay and the wedding was in a large glass gazebo behind the hotel.
What started as a cool, misty day burst into sunshine, so it was a lovely evening. About a dozen of us were on hand for the wedding itself, which was at 7 pm and fairly short. The minister, a Baptist, knew Jan's family. I told him later he must be one of the few clergymen in the DC area who is not committed the night before Easter.
Then the reception started at 7:30. There were little cupcakes in the wedding colors of electric blue and white and the bride and groom wore outfits that pretty much matched the colors. We all drank champagne and munched off a huge pile of shrimp and hors d'oeuvres such as mushrooms and crab cakes. But the big surprise was Miss Veeka, who did some great dancing on the dance floor. Once the music started, she just danced and danced and danced. And so there are photos of her with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Duin Jr. and with a champagne glass looking like a vamp. Hmmmm.
The next day, Easter, was very warm and lovely. The bright point of our day as a huge Easter party hosted by a friend which involved an egg hunt for dozens of children. I hardly saw Veeka for several hours as all she did was play with the other kiddos. She's shown here with a bow in her hair with another little girl (Gloria Bowman), both showing off their eggs.