WEEKENDS used to be my salvation -- a time to restore mind, body and spirit for the upcoming work week. With four jobs, weekends now are too often extensions of the work week. I hit my typewriter at 9 a.m. drafting a proposal for a prospective client regarding a unique and amusing 1980 presidential campaign. (Privileged information about a yet undeclared candidate.) After typing some 30 pages, my neck, shoulders and head ached. The most tedious part of working on one's own with a tight budget: not having secretarial help as on my full-time job. I got in my car to deliver the proposal. Vandalized in a locked garage. Building management blamed "all those skaters in the neighborhood." They only trust travelers encased in metal.
My date fetched me in his unvandalized convertible. It was a glorious, dry day -- the first such one in otherwise humid Washington for a month. I could breathe again. My hair blew madly all the way to Merriweather Post Pavilion, and I felt free. A whole evening and the next day with no work. I fed popcorn to the ducks in Columbia and didn't know who enjoyed it more. Sunday
Another sunny, rare weekend day. Lathered with suntan oil and reading stacks of newspapers, I spent the day at my apartment pool. Even there, one can't get away from normal D.C. conversation. Salt II, the presidential race, the energy crisis, the Middle East situation, inflation and condo conversion were tossed about by high level types working for Bob Strauss, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, James Schlesinger.
No garage to repair my car. A friend drove me to Dulles Airport to collect a camera I had left there. We stared at the huge police arrest book since this allegedly "quiet" airport opened in 1963. A good story, I thought. A lawyer friend, noted more for his culinary skills than his lawyering, invited me over to dinner because "you've been working hard and not eating properly." My Jewish mother would appreciate his style. Another couple there was lovey-dovey. New lovers, I thought. She was in Washington on business. It was not until dessert -- chocolate souffle -- that it dawned on me that she was married. To someone else. After having written a coverlined piece for February's Playgirl magazine on affairs in Washington, I didn't recognize one under my nose. Could my brain have pickled in the August heat? Monday
I am beseiged by calls at NEA from reporters working on back-to-school stories -- everything from strike outlooks to education trends. Then they don't report any education news, other than crises, for the remainder of the year. Education reporting in this country is abominable. I personally prefer working with political and labor reporters. Lunch at Chez Camille with NEA outgoing president John Ryor and a Washington Post reporter. Disagreements over scampis and wine regarding NEA's backing of a cabinet-level Department of Education now in House-Senate conference. The Post has been running an editorial campaign against it. Fortunately, we found other areas of agreement with the reporter and wound up talking of The Future. More calls, memos, letters.
That night for 3 1/2 hours I taught my crazy Washington Connection class of 75 students. Who said no one is in Washington in August? I moved my class from Open University's small airless quarters to a church. It was strange teaching about the relationship between the Washington social and political scenes with a cross behind my right shoulder. Channel 7's Lark McCarthy arrived unannounced to film the class which has been attracting national and international publicity. Because too many class members did not want to be filmed because of sensitive jobs, we asked the TV crew to leave. Students lobbied and questioned me afterward. Good. It's what I teach them to do.
But I was tired and hungry since there was no time for dinner. Dinner was then a Swensen's sticky chewy chocolate ice cream soda to go. What would my students of Gourmet Dieting, another class I teach for Open U., think of me now? Home at 11:20 p.m. to prepare the evening's class cards and rental payment for mailing. Tuesday
I previewed film clips about an outstanding New Jersey teacher/coach who was fired because he was an outspoken maverick. NEA has hundreds of such cases in its files. The story line came from Richard Reeves' "Last Angry Man" article for Esquire. Reeves, who is working on the public TV endeavor, sent Media Four Productions to us for financial help. NEA gave them a letter of recommendation to take to other financial sources. NEA's TV recommendations are sought because they improve ratings -- the name of the game in television.
Meetings/conversations with the sales and catering people at the Fairfax, Madison, Four Seasons Hotels and the new Polo Club to find a site for NEA's September media cocktail party to introduce our new president, Willard McGuire. The small Polo Coub layout doesn't allow the movement we seek. We'll use the Madison Sept. 11. I sent invitations to the printer and coordinated guest lists. With visions of pate dancing 'round my head from reviewing grand menus, I came home to a tuna fish salad and an evening's work on a flyer and PR mailings for my client, Karen Diamond's Figure Factory. Wednesday
A round of memos and letters. My new secretary looks worn out. Lunch at the Hay Adams with Garry Clifford, People magazine. We've become business friends since she did a February photo feature on my class. I gave her background material for two possible magazine teacher features involving the fired New Jersey coach and my client. Connecticut Mutual Life, the subject of my story in today's Post business section, called to say that I must take their jogging course before becoming a "medical failure" from four sedentary jobs and stress. My dentist agreed. I was there to get a root-canaled tooth capped. I'm obviously a major source of his child support payments. Pain, awful pain, drove me home.
My real estate agent phoned. "There are already two backup contracts on your condo," he said, "even though the plans still haven't been approved by the city and prices can't be guaranteed." This is D.C., and this apartment building at $100 or more a square foot will never hit the open market. "Even with your four jobs, you'll have trouble getting a mortgage on a D.C. condo unless you can come up with a huge amount down. But," he added, "you've got to do it. So you'll eat beans for a while." "Beans," I sputtered. "Who can afford them when my mortgage will consume every cent I take home net?" "Where's your sense of humor?" he asked.
Somehow, I don't find being overworked, potentially broke, angry over lack of D.C. living options and driven to purchase a lousy apartment I don't even want amusing.The agent sent me a house computer printout with items crossed out and in their place an advertisement of me in "contemporary flesh." He concluded that, with steep condo price rises, he'll have to find a buyer for me so that I can afford the apartment so that he'll get his commission. Real estate agenting is obviously taking a new turn. I end the evening at a condo class to learn what I'm getting into. Thursday
All of our NEA officials were at an Annapolis retreat so I had to do a Des Moines radio interview on testing. A number of other media calls followed on this story which I've developed urging a total investigation of the secretive, powerful, but unchecked testing industry which affects millions of lives. I'm proud of this effort. In just four months, NEA has gotten the Federal Trade Commission (through Freedom of Information Act requests) to release its reports on coaching for SATs and filed a court case against them to get underlying data; drawn national media attention to a New York truth-in-testing bill which was originally to be vetoed (then wasn't), and testified in federal truth-in-testing hearings this month following an appearance on the Today show with a testing company official. We want to give Educational Testing Service and the rest of the testing industry run by major textbook publishers a run for their money. We had been trying for years to get education reporters to investigate the testing industry, but all previously indicated they couldn't devote the time to something this complicated. We went to business reporters who understand money and power and now encountered our first breaks. Ralph Nader has spent five years researching this industry and still is not ready to release a report. "It's harder," he said, "than finding out about GM or DuPont."
Because I lunched at the library to research a cover story for Parade, I was starved for dinner and ate cold chicken while doing phone interviews for another story. Then off to the Roberta Flack concert. I was one of her earliest fans at Mr. Henry's and wouldn't miss her D.C. return even with the crowds. A mellow way to end the day. Friday
The phone company checked in about crank calls. Everyone I called was "out" today so I wrote a memo protesting NEA's inadequate new per diems for costly media cities. I lost money on every trip. I delivered work for my client at the printer during lunch. That evening, I prepared her bimonthly bill and status report and called a TV contact about network possibilities for Karen's exercise segment now on channel 7. Late night break to see "Breaking Away" -- best movie laugh in ages. I needed it. My tooth was still painful, and I had to work the whole weekend. I ran into a student there.
"Gee," she said, "you lead such a fascinating life." I turned to the person behind me. "She's got to mean you," I sighed.