Monday, September 25, 2017

What Are My Words Worth?

As the business of writing changes, writers have to change with it. The inability to see & adapt to that reality creates a situation where those writers—all artists, for that matter—may eventually find themselves behind the curve, or even completely lost, stuck trying to achieve things few writers can. I feel the time has come to redefine success, at least for myself. Joining the ranks of artists using Patreon is my attempt to do just that, by using an age old method of financing that takes advantage of modern technology.

For those of you who may not be aware of the history of patronage in art, it is a system that has been around nearly as long as art itself. It rose to prominence in Europe, in particular, feeding the movement that became the Renaissance. While the patronage model fell out of favor for a while, due in large part to the rise of a middle class during the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the internet allows for a new, more egalitarian version of a model that allowed artists to focus on the art rather than survival.

Philosophically, I’ve come to a conclusion about writing: Anything worth reading shouldn't need a price tag. Because of that, I've decided to offer everything I've written & will write for free. You won't even find ads on my blogs. I want my readers to view my work without distractions. As one of my readers, you get to decide what my words are worth to you, not a publisher, not the market.

This doesn’t mean I won’t make money off publishing my work. On the contrary, I may very well still self-publish compilations of my writing. As I’ve discovered, fans of particular writers will purchase those writers’ books, whether or not they’ve already read the work, if only to have the author sign it. But just because you’re willing to pay for my work, that doesn’t mean you can, or should have to, in order to enjoy it.

Joining Patreon also allows for an evolved concept of writing. The physical book, itself, is no longer the standard format for writing. With the advent of electronic publishing, the concept of labeling any written work as “finished” is irrelevant. I periodically edit pieces I posted years ago. This creates an opportunity for readers to be more than that. My readers will be witnesses to my process, especially as I release & revise new work. This may not only prove fascinating to my readers, but may also provide insight for the fellow writers who are part of my audience.

It also allows me to reward the readers that decide to support me. Right now, for a commitment of as little as $1.00, you will get Limerick Rolled by me. Every patron gets a handwritten limerick, inspired by them & signed by me. I will also post those limericks on a running Limerick Roll Call, unless you choose to remain anonymous. I will post other rewards as I come up with them. 

On that note, you will notice I am not listing amounts on my Patreon page, only the number of patrons. This is being done intentionally, to dissuade comparisons between what my readers are giving. You decide what my words are worth to you. No pressure!

If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit I’m tired. I’m tired of submitting work. I’m tired of rejections. I’m tired of being told why my work won’t sell. I’m tired of the having to hustle so hard: invest time, effort, money, even tears for little, if any, returns. My work speaks for itself, & my readers will let me know how the work speaks to them. If I earn it, perhaps Patreon will help free me from having to juggle a full time job & my art, a relationship where, in my experience, the art suffers.

Now, the ball is in your court, readers. How much are my words worth to you? Let me know be visiting my page on Patreon. 

Friday, September 22, 2017


I was thirteen years old the night I helped my newest friends drag a massive cross we had hastily built near the train tracks that served as one of our hangouts. We got it to the top of the hill behind Stemmers Run Middle School, the highest point on school property, drove it into the ground until it was deep enough to stay up on its own, smothered it in gasoline, and set it on fire. As I write this, I understand that many of you are immediately wondering how a little Puerto Rican like me, one that could never easily be mistaken for white, ends up burning a cross in Middle River, Maryland. Well, the first thing I had to do was become white, enough.

My first semester at Stemmers Run could almost be considered mundane. Once I got settled in, after my mom finally replaced my Sikes with a pair of Keds, I managed to make a couple of friends. As usual, I gravitated towards the smarter, nerdier kids, in this case, Paul & Pete, two boys who were already good friends. They invited me over, and we walked the two miles to Essex to get to Peter’s house, where we played with his TI-99, an early home computer put out by Texas Instruments. Usually, we would stay at school playing Dungeons & Dragons until it would start getting dark, but as the days got longer, as April turned into May, the walk to Essex became more appealing.

Our geeky trio fell apart when Pete’s dad, who worked at Martins Airport, was abruptly transferred out of state, with only a few weeks left in the school year. Paul and I needed him as a buffer. Without him, we were constantly clashing. The tension came to a head when Paul came to my locker after school and insisted I wait until he got out of detention so we could hang out. I had just been sick and had missed a few days of school. 

I apologized, showed the small stack of assignments I had missed and needed to make up. Actually, it was just an excuse. I was already tired of Paul’s over the top personality. He insisted, and I refused, back & forth, until he snatched the papers out of my hand, tore them apart, and tossed them in the air so they floated down to the floor, like oversized confetti.

I couldn’t let that go. I had always been serious about my schoolwork, making up missed assignments as quickly as possible. More importantly, I couldn’t let other kids that might be watching think they could get away with anything like that. As the smallest kid in 7th grade, it was imperative that everyone knew my size wasn’t going to stop me from defending myself. I pounced on him, but we were promptly pulled apart and escorted off school property.

I was still steamed as I walked home. We were pulled apart too quickly. I doubted I would get another chance to beat his ass, and I was right. That was my last interaction with Paul.

I would get another chance to release that rage. On my way home, I ran into my sister. She was upset. Some boy had come on to her, and when she rejected him, called her a bitch, grabbed her by the arm and flung her to the ground. I ran off in the direction he had headed. I caught up to him in a small patch of woods that separated the two halves of Riverdale Village, the apartment complex we all lived in. “Hey, are you the motherfucker who just called my sister a bitch?” I yelled after him.

He turned around, and I immediately regretted what I was doing. He wasn’t much bigger than me. He didn’t look faster. There was just something about him that scared me, a wildness. “Yeah, so?”

“So, don’t ever touch her again. Don’t talk to her. Don’t even look at her!”

He wasn’t the least bit intimidated. He just stepped right up to me and cold cocked me in the face. I was down before I even realized I was going down. By the time I got up, blood now streaming from my nose, he was just about gone. I got a quick glimpse of the apartment he went into.

My rage only swelling, I wiped at the blood on my face and hurried back to my apartment. Tony was there. Tony was my mom’s boyfriend, at the time. He was a Marielito, coming over from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift. He claimed to have been a political prisoner, a master chess player who would have become a grandmaster if only he had pledged allegiance to the Communist Party. His lack of loyalty to the party had also kept him off the national baseball team, if he was to be believed. In truth, he was little more than a thug, a wannabe Scarface without the drive or the wits, only the propensity for paranoia and violence.

Tony hadn’t been able to hold down a regular job since getting to the states, so he mostly sponged off our family’s welfare benefits, only supplementing them with the occasional odd job. He loved to offer fatherly advice, in the form of Cuban proverbs. You knew your actions were about to be judged when he opened a sentence with the phrase, “Refran dice…” As far as I could tell, though, his favorite pastime was getting drunk with my mother on weekends and letting himself get drawn into an argument that would inevitably turn physical.

Tony saw the blood smeared across my face, but even before he could ask, I told him everything that had happened. He insisted I show him where the boy lived. I took him across the open quad that was surrounded by the two story buildings that made up our block of the apartment complex, then across the quad the next block over, to the apartment I had watched the kid enter. Tony beat on the door until a short, older woman answered, and he immediately cut into his broken English, so flawed that the only word that could be made out was the occasional sprinkling of “motherfucker.” The lady, obviously the boy’s mother, looked scared and confused. I jumped in and explained. She turned her head and hollered. “Billy!” He came to the door, and all that cockiness had dissolved into fear.

She introduced herself as Sue, and she made Billy apologize to me and promise not to harass my sister, again. It should’ve ended there, but it wasn’t long before school was over, and perhaps out of sheer proximity, Billy Cook had become my closest friend.

His family had cable, a luxury we couldn’t afford, then. I would go over to his house to watch videos on Mtv with him and Joe, his younger brother. He introduced me to his crew, a group of boys from families as broken as ours. Together, we would haunt the parking lot at the Mars Supermarket a couple of blocks from Riverdale Village. We would help people with their groceries, collecting quarters and the occasional dollar bills, until we could pool together enough money to afford a pack of cigarettes, a fifth of liquor, & enough Coke for us to chase it with. We’d have just enough left over to buy a few slices at the pizza shop and dump some quarters into the Ms. Pacman machine. If we got chased away from Mars, we would walk the quarter mile up the road to the Giant.

I wasn’t new to drinking. My mom was liberal enough to allow me the occasional sip of beer or wine, even the occasional shot of Bacardi. It wasn’t difficult for me to adapt to drinking regularly. I enjoyed the sensation. The numbness was preferable to how aware I often was that I didn’t fit in, that I was far from the place where I did, where you’d walk out of your home and straight into a wall of Disco, Salsa, or Hip Hop, sometimes all three colliding into a sonic wall of beautiful chaos. Drinking with my new friends was preferable to the drinking and violence I had to deal with at home. By the time I got home, walking off my buzz on the way, everyone would be in bed. I had missed any drama.

In Riverdale Village, the soundtrack was heavy metal. We would ride around Middle River on our bikes—or in my case, not owning a bike, on the back of someone else’s—singing Ozzy, Scorpions, Iron Maiden at the top of our lungs. We would ride along the train tracks until we got to this wooded area where we could congregate, but stay invisible. We set coins on the track to see how flat they’d get. We’d build terrible forts that would fall apart, almost immediately. We fought.

I wasn’t the only small guy in our crew. There was a boy named Keith. He was the youngest, just having turned twelve. Keith was pale, with bright red, closely cropped hair. Despite being younger, Keith was still a tad bigger than me. Billy came up with the idea that the two smallest ones in the crew should fight, to see who was the most badass little guy. The fight didn’t last long. We exchanged a few blows until Keith caught me upside , the head, sending my glasses flying. Everything stopped. Everyone of us were in the same situation. We all knew how expensive it was to replace things like a pair of glasses when benefits only covered a new pair every other year.

“I can see! I can see!” I shouted. We all laughed. I bent over, picked up my glasses, inspected them enough to see there was no catastrophic damage, and put them back on. We were still laughing, with echoes of “I can see!” coming from the others, as we walked on to find something else to do.

I was led to believe we had rivals, crews from the neighboring towns, like Hawthorne and, of course, Essex, though I never saw them. Apparently, they took on the name of their respective towns. Not us. Middle River didn’t sound as cool as Middlesex. Middlesex wasn’t a even town so much as a business district. Just beyond the part of I-695 that went over Eastern Boulevard near the school, it divided Essex from Middle River. We did spent plenty of time there, especially at Skateland, the closest roller rink, where Billy taught me how to stay on my feet, and by the end of the summer, skate backwards. It’s also where the closest library was, where I’d spent plenty of time, before Billy.

The closest I got to the library after was the time near the end of the summer when we were all supposed to meet up with a high school girl behind the library. She had promised to fuck us all. I was the only one of the group who was still a virgin, if you can believe the claims of a bunch of teen boys. It's unlikely I was the only one lying about it. I got as far as the shopping center, behind which was the library, before Billy pulled me aside.

“Listen, Freddy,” he said, “she said everyone’s okay, except for the one with glasses.” I was the only one in the group who needed glasses to see, at all. I got it. There was no point in my coming along.

“That’s fine,” I replied, “I’ll find something else to do.” I watched them walk behind the shopping center before I turned around to go home. On the walk home, I wondered if it had anything at all to do with the fact that I wore glasses, or if it had everything to do with the fact that I wasn’t white.

But times like those were few and far between. For the most part, Middlesex made me feel like I belonged. When I next saw them, they downplayed the encounter behind the library, telling me that she had smelled bad, so they just let her blow them before moving on. Once I developed a taste for hard rock and foreswore the WWF for the WCW, I was really no different. I might not be white, but at least I wasn’t black.

There were no black people in Middle River, at least none that I remember. Black folk were just the people we would hear about on the news, getting arrested for drugs and murder in Baltimore, about twenty minutes west of us down Eastern Boulevard. They were little more than rumors of race riots taking place after school in places like Patterson Park, instigated by black kids from notorious schools, like Hampstead Hill Jr High.

Despite my early upbringing in the diverse melting pot that is the New York Metropolitan area, I was not immune to racist thinking. Some of my mom’s closest friends were black. Hell, Puerto Ricans came in all shades! But my grandmother held a deep seated fear of non Hispanic Blacks, a fear that easily carried over to me as I watched the news and we discussed it among our crew. Blacks were taking over the city and taking the decent working class jobs away from whites. That’s what we were all taught. It came as no surprise that we wanted to cap off the summer by burning a cross at our school.

We stood there, around our flaming cross, and I genuinely felt nothing. Not hate. Not fear. Just an inkling of guilt that I swallowed down with whiskey and chased with Coke when the bottle of Jack made it back to me. We stood there, until we saw the flashing blue lights pop up over Eastern Boulevard. We jumped the low fence that separated school property from the woods surrounding it and scattered.

School started up again that fall, but the partying never stopped. School became just what wasted time before I could be free to hang with the crew. In the fall, we volunteered to work at the haunted house at Cox Point, setting it up and taking roles as ghouls and zombies. As Christmas approached, we abandoned our grocery carrying enterprise in favor of singing Christmas carols door to door for cash. I was settling into everything except the my schoolwork, but I had become oblivious to my grades. My effort had become minimal, but it’s not like I cared enough to want to change.

And then I came home to find out that Tony had finally found a real job. In Baltimore.

We had been here barely a year, and we were moving, again—another new year, another new town, another new school. As I went around to each of my teachers to get my grades, it finally became apparent how much I had neglected my schoolwork. I was failing everything except English, Drama, and Art. I was barely passing English! I think I was lucky that Ms. Fleming, the English teacher was also my Drama teacher, that she had seen my potential for both, maybe. Or maybe she just felt sorry for me.

That Saturday, I had to force my goodbyes, not just to Middlesex, but everyone that I’d become acquainted with because of them: Billy’s older brother, Chuck, the most level headed of the Cook family, who once flew out of his apartment to smother a scarecrow we’d set on fire with a lighter and a can of hairspray; Tasha, the cute, blonde girl I’d had a crush on since moving to Middle River, who when I told her I was moving finally invited me into her apartment and gave me the most amazing kiss I’d ever had up until then; and of course, Sue Cook, who despite our less than hospitable introductions, treated me like a son.

The following Monday, as my family was barely settled into our tiny apartment on Pratt Street, two blocks from Patterson Park, my mom walked me through the main doors of the notorious Hampstead Hill Jr High, my new zoned school. I sat in the guidance office, head down, as Mr. Gregory reviewed my transcripts. I could feel him looking at me for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time before he finally spoke.

“You know what I’m looking at, right?” I nodded, sheepishly. “Let me tell you what I see. I see a kid who doesn’t look like these grades. I can’t imagine that these grades are who you really are. So, this is what we’re going to do. Since these grades aren’t you, we’re going to ignore them. We’re starting over, here. I think we’ll see the real you, soon enough.”

I fought to hold back tears all the way back home. Once I found some privacy, I set them free. I needed to start again, but there was no part of me that wanted to. I had sacrificed so much of myself to belong in Middlesex. Now, I was right back to feeling like ever belonging anywhere was just an illusion.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Word of the Moment: Omnism

Word of the Moment

Omnism—a profound respect for all faiths, deities, & spiritual beliefs, or the lack thereof.

Gods were created to honor n
ature & ancestors, explain the unexplainable, & in attempts bring order to of the chaos of early civilizations. They are a reflection of who we are as humans. 

While judging the bad acts of any faith’s followers is perfectly valid, using those acts to attack a faith as a whole is counterproductive, even potentially dangerous. Despite their current status, all gods were real to the people that worshiped them. None hold all truths, but truth may be gleaned from all.

Sins: To intentionally harm another, except when defending yourself or others from harm. To allow others to come to harm when it is within your power to intervene.

An Omnist’s Prayer: I honor all the gods that were, all the gods that are, & all the gods that will ever be.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017



My favorite
part of the morning—
settling in
for a day of work,
finally getting a chance
to put a little food
in my stomach,
my lips get greasy
with soppressata & butter;
I wipe them clean,
my tissue shines
in pink & red hues,
residue from kissing you.

I’m loathe to throw
it away, rather
I tuck it in my sleeve,
because when I have
to be without you,
at least I can be
comforted by the ghosts
of our kisses.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dream Catcher: Lurch

There’s a Ride waiting for me outside Tech. My dream girl told me it would be there after she disconnected me from my Assistant. After the quick procedure, she let me know it wouldn’t be long before Control discovered the broken link, likely as soon as the technician returned and realized I’m gone. I tried to ask questions, but she wouldn’t allow me to speak. “There’s no time now. Go. Hurry! Find your Ride before you get caught. I don’t have to tell you what happens if you get caught with a disconnected link.”

I hop in the back, close the door. The Ride speaks. Good Afternoon, Mr. Somnian. Your destination has been pre-programmed. Are you ready to depart?

I look back at the entrance to Tech. I can see a squad of guards headed to the doors, most likely looking for me. I can’t go back. “Go!” I shout. “Go, now.” The car pulls off. I look back to see my technician and his goons pour out onto the street.

Getting caught with a severed link is not as simple as having it reconnected. It’s illegal to tamper with the wireless connection between your wetware and your hardware. First of all, it’s proprietary, meaning that any required work has to be done by an authorized technician. There are a few out there that take the risk of jailbreaking their units, but if they ever get caught, we're talking about arrest and interrogation. Many have their units removed and taken away, then promptly dropped into a Red Zone to fend for themselves. It’s not a good life. Without an assistant, it’s nearly impossible to find work. Most major employers look at being able to get in touch with you at all times as imperative.

A few actually get accused of espionage or treason, accused of working on behalf of a foreign government or some shadow organization looking to overthrow the government. Those violators get the most press, their names and faces disseminated throughout traditional and social media, before they disappear, never again to be seen or heard from. The rumor is that these most dangerous of offenders are quietly shipped to Gitmo.

You have arrived at your destination.

Lost in my thoughts and anxiety, I didn’t pay attention to where I was being taken. I unbuckle my seatbelt and look around. I’m on a narrow street lined with tiny rowhouses. I think I’m still in the city, but where? I grasp the door handle when someone opens the driver’s side door and hops in the front. “Don’t move!” says the voice.


“Don’t speak,” she says as she begins to fiddle with the display on the dash. She’s in a hoodie, with the hood pulled up. Only her voice gives her away. I watch as she connects something to the display and gets busy tapping on the screen. “Okay, I’ve disabled all monitoring. We’re in the shadows for the next five minutes. I just have to remove any memory of your trip. It won’t take me long, so get ready to move.”

“Can you explain to me what’s going on?” I ask, solemnly.

“Not right now,” she says, “I’m a little busy.”

I don’t know what else to say. I wait.

“Okay, go now. Hurry.”

We open our doors, almost simultaneously, and hop out.

“This way,” she says. I follow her to an intersecting alley of nothing but connected garages. She turns down that alley and walks to one of the garages, reaches down, turns the oblong knob. The garage door flies up with a pop. Inside is a older car, a pre 21st century Impala. “Hop in,” she says as she opens the driver’s side door and gets in behind the wheel. I open the passenger side door and slide in next to her. By the time I close my door, the engine is running. By the time my seatbelt is on, we’re out of the garage, turning back toward the street we just left. The Ride is gone.

I lurch forward as the Impala stops abruptly. My driver pops the car into park and hops out. I watch her hustle back to the garage, fling its door back down, and hustle back into the car. We’re moving again. My heart feels too big, like it’s about to break through my ribcage. Only once we turn onto a larger street do I realize where we are, somewhere in lower Fells Point, not far from Patterson Park.

We get to Broadway, and neither of us have said a word. At this point, I have so many questions, I don’t know where to begin. Once we cross Broadway, she glances at me. “So, you’re the dreamer?”

“Dreamer? Not that I know of. I mean sure, but we all dream, don’t we?”

“Not quite like you, Solomon.”

She also knows my name. I’m getting tired of meeting people who seem to know me while I know nothing. Her hood is down. I finally get a decent look at her. She’s got a round face, cocoa brown, childlike, save for the scowl. Her hair is just an organic puff of tight curls, like a homemade crown. “Everyone seems to know me today, but I don’t know them. Who are you? What’s going on?”

“Sorry for all the cloak and dagger, Solomon. We have to be careful. We can’t afford for them to find you, now. I’m Asia. As for what’s going on, it’s not up to me to tell you. All I can say is I have to get you into the Red Zone before they track you down." Nothing she said makes my heart any smaller. On the contrary, once she mentioned our destination, my chest only got tighter.

As we approach the entrance to the Red Zone, we stop behind a line of other vehicles waiting to get in, about a block long. “Okay, I need you to hop in the back. Pull that center console down and squeeze through into the trunk.”

I look at her. “Is that really necessary?”

“Well, considering you need to show ID to get in, that you’re not authorized to enter the zone, and that by now, there’s an APB out for you, and you’ll be taken into custody at the gates, you tell me.”

Reluctantly, I undo my seatbelt, slither over the back of my seat onto the back seat, and pull the console down. I lurch as the car moves up the line. “Don’t dawdle,” says Asia. I squeeze my way through and into the dark. I reach an arm back through, grab the strap on the console, and pull it closed as the car lurches forward again.

I’m in pitch blackness for only a few minutes, the car moving along in short lunges, before I can hear muffled voices. I can barely make it out, a male voice asking for identification, Asia complying. The rest of the conversation is inaudible, until the male voice says, “I need to look in your trunk. Pop it!” I immediately start to shake uncontrollably, and am instantly coated in a layer of sweat.

“I can’t just pop it, man. I have to get out to open it.”

“Well then, you better fucking hurry. You’re holding up the line.”

I hear the engine stop, Asia’s door open and shut. I hold my breath, as if that was enough to make me invisible. I hear the key click into the lock, the lock pops, the trunk door squeaks as it opens. Light! None. I’m still in the dark. “We good?” I hear Asia ask.

“Move on.” the male voice replies. I want to breathe, but I can’t. So I try to remember how as I shiver in my now cold sweat. The car starts and we move forward with one last lurch.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

Eight years ago, I was in a bar not far from the National Mall watching you take your oath as I drank margaritas with my new, at that time, girlfriend. Although we'd left Baltimore early, the crowds were so thick, getting past the checkpoints and into the mall seemed impossible. Everything about that time seemed impossible.

I had lost my job that previous summer. I managed a watch boutique in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and I could tell that the country was in a bad place. I'd been working in that area for years, and I'd never seen it so slow. The usual bustle of locals and tourists had dwindled to a trickle. I wasn't the least bit surprised that my management, not the crashing economy, was blamed for my store's poor numbers. 

In a sense, I felt relieved. I predicted (accurately, it turned out) that the store itself would close down after not too long. Also, it gave me the opportunity to do something I had always imagined, but never actually tried before, working on a political campaign. By that time, I'd had the honor of hearing you speak when you stopped in Baltimore during the primaries. Now, unburdened of the stresses of running a retail operation and eligible to collect unemployment benefits, I finally had the time I needed.

In early September I applied to volunteer as a Deputy Field Organizer, and on October 1, 2008, I stepped off a train in Manassas, Virginia, where it had been decided I could do the most good. I cannot tell you, Mr. President, how proud I was to be there. Even for a Word Pimp, the words can be hard to muster.

It wasn't easy. I was immediately thrown into the fire, asked to debate a local GOP official at a local nursing home. Without talking points! I'm happy to say that I crushed him. Your ideas were so vivid, so eloquent, your arguments so cogent, that they rolled off my tongue as easily as if it were your lips moving.

I walked miles, made hundreds of calls, had issues with lodging, and I came home to a $1000 plus phone bill; but I knew in my heart that it was all worth it. Whatever small role I could play in winning Virginia for Democrats, for the first time in forty years, was worth the price. Besides, the rewards were priceless, like my unexpected debate, and the day I got to cater to Susan Rice before a speech she gave in Manassas.

Election night, when it was announced that we'd won Virginia, was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for making those experiences possible for me. Thank you for stepping right in and stopping the carnage the tanked economy had caused our nation. In an impossible job market, you helped me personally by making sure unemployment benefits were extended. When my girlfriend lost her business, it was your initiatives that helped her find a job.

As I write this, it's my understanding that a new president is being sworn in. I can't be sure as I refuse to watch it. For me, it would be condoning your successor's abhorrent behavior and vile ideas. How am I supposed to transition from the grace and wisdom that you showed over the past eight years to...

Apologies. This missive is not about what may happen, this is about you and how grateful I am for all of your efforts and accomplishments, despite the fact that many were intent on diminishing, even demonizing them and you. I am grateful for the way you carried and conducted yourself. I am grateful for how you represented our country around the world. 

You were a beacon during darker days, and I find it sad that we seem to now be drawn back towards darkness. Forgive me if I find myself dwelling on another inauguration, one that despite its bitter cold was full of cheer and warmth, even in a crowded bar off the National Mall.