Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Exercise in Futility Meets Michelle Goldberg

As I posted last night, Michelle Goldberg was featured tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. It was the last appearance in her tour to promote the paperback edition of "Kingdom Coming," and as she is a Brooklynite, it only made sense to end the tour in her home town with a friendly local crowd.

Unfortunately for me, the babysitter for my kids got stuck in traffic and did not get to my house until 6:45 p.m. I had ahead of me a 20 plus mile drive from eastern Nassau to western Brookyln in rush hour traffic. At first, though, the traffic on the west bound Long Island Expressway (more popularly known as the LIE) flowed rather smoothly. But once I passed the border into Queens, the traffic slowed down frequently, and by the time I reached the Koszciuzko Bridge on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (the BQE), it was already 7:30. Still, I doggedly pressed on, and around 7:45 I found a parking spot several blocks away from the Barnes & Noble.

I ran the last couple of blocks and when I finally made it down to the lower level of the store where Michelle was giving her talk to the audience, I had to spend a few minutes catching my breath. But enough about me!

The audience probably numbered about twenty people. Michelle sat facing them from behind a table taking questions from the audience. Since I was about twenty minutes late, I don't know if she had read any excerpts from her book. Because of the small size of the crowd, it allowed for a more informal conversation between Michelle and the audience, which I liked. Several members of the crowd, including myself, were able to ask questions or raise comments throughout the course of the discussion instead of getting to speak only once.

During the course of researching "Kingdom Coming," Michelle would converse with people she would meet in the churches she visited. I asked her if any of them ever would make an argument to her that the cities where liberals lived had problems with out-of-wedlock births, crime, AIDS and other problems, as this was an argument I would hear a lot during my past lifetime as a right winger. To my surprise she said none of the people she spoke with brought that up, and that she wished they had. She said her response to that was that a lot of these problems are more prevalent in the conservative red states. She addresses this in page 67 of her book.

The conversation continued until around 8:30, whereupon the Barnes & Noble staff person announced that Michelle would sign copies of her book for those who were interested. I made my way around to await my turn, and as the Barnes & Noble staffer was standing near me, I asked her if she could be so kind as to take my picture with Michelle. She asked Michelle, who to my pleasant surprise, graciously agreed. I handed the lady my camera and stood behind the table next to Michelle. We posed, and the flash went off, but the Barnes & Noble lady said that we looked blurry in the camera lens, so she tried again. And again she cautioned that we were not focused properly in the lens. She did not seem inclined to try to position herself further back or to adjust the lens, and as it would be rude to try to take up any more of Michelle's time trying to get a crystal clear photograph with her, I left it at that. I should have the roll of film developed and on disk sometime next week.

I chatted with Michelle for another couple of minutes while she signed my book. I told her to write whatever witty phrase she liked the most, and she wrote: "TO TOM, SO GLAD YOU BECAME A CONVERT." I told her about my conversation with Republican Senator John Sununu at the Cato Institute event at the Waldorf Astoria, where I told him that fiscally conservative/socially liberal voters like myself felt alienated by a Republican Party dominated by the Religious Right.

All in all, despite getting there so late, I was glad I made it and had the opportunity to meet Michelle Goldberg. She was very friendly and approachable, and she strikes me as the kind of person you could enjoy spending all night with at a coffee shop talking about the issues of the day. On behalf of those of us who believe in the importance of secularism, pluralism and tolerance, I for one am very grateful that we have this wonderful lady on our side.


Andrea said...

Too bad about that traffic, but again, I'm jealous. It's so cool that you get out there and participate in discussions. And now I'm looking forward to reading her book even more.

Stardust said...

tommy, you sure go through great efforts to meet people in person! :-D Hope the photos turned out clear enough. Will you be posting it?

I have added this book to my reading list. It's about a mile long now, but I will get to it eventually...

speaking of books, I was very pleased to find at our local library books by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and the book about raising your children without religion (the title and author's name escapes me at the moment)...anyway, I was very glad to see that our library is finally offering books on secularism, atheism, freethought, etc. Nothing like this could be found in our library ten years ago.

Toni said...

So jealous...I hope the pictures turn out.

Tommykey said...

Thanks all.

If you are interested in her book, please note that in the post below this I provide a link to Michelle's website for her book. On the site she has several audio and video links where she talks about the book. That should tide you over until you are able to visit the bookstore.

vjack said...

It was a good book, and I've been impressed with the few interviews I've seen with her. Very cool that you got to meet her.