It's always interesting to see what stories San Francisco Sentinel
founder Pat Murphy will be publishing. You never know -- it might be one you wrote
Yesterday, however, Murphy sent out a bit of a shocker. He's soliciting donations so he can pay down $30,000 in outstanding debts and amass another $20,000 for a planned move to Israel (where he promises to set up a Tel Aviv bureau of his Web site).
Murphy says the debts he's racked up are work-related: He owes one photographer $2,000 alone. Murphy's site features only one paid contributor other than himself, and a bevy of articles penned by volunteers. When asked how he could rack up such debts, he admits it was the trip to the hospital that dinged him the most. He was recently treated for emphysema -- he's a smoker -- and cirrhosis -- he used to drink heavily, but claims he last touched the stuff on June 5, 1988.
As for moving to Israel, Murphy long ago accentuated his signature tuxedo and spats with a yarmulke -- even in San Francisco, he cuts a noticeable figure
. He says he officially converted to Judaism in August of last year -- which was confirmed by Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of Congregation Emanu-El. "Yes he did indeed," said the rabbi. "And he is one of a kind. That's the way to put it."
When asked ledeber Ivrit? (Do you speak Hebrew?), Murphy was stymied. No, he's not a Hebrew-speaker -- not yet at least. "I decided I'd rather wait until I move to Israel to tackle mastering Hebrew and continuing my Torah study." He confirmed he'll continue to dress dandily once he takes up residence in The Holy Land. "As you get older, you have to work harder at getting people to look at you."
Murphy adds that he's "a third of the way through the process of making aliyah to Israel At this point they've confirmed that they'll take me, but they won't take me until a year and a day after my legal conversion. So that means I can get on a plane -- which they pay for -- as soon as August 13."
Until then, he'll continue fund-raising. So far, he's got "enough to pay the rent."