BoroughCon: Our new business, my new passion

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As you know, I’ve had a rough couple years, both personally and professionally. No need to go into detail about any of that because this isn’t a note about venting or sense-making or woe-is-me. This is a celebration of the event that has dug me out of the morass my life had become and has made me optimistic about the future.

It’s called BoroughCon.

At the beginning of the year, my friend Gary Port told me he had hired a couple law students to help him with his practice, and that these 20-somethings were just as geeky about pop culture as we are. In fact, they used to run an anime convention when they were students at University of Central Florida in Orlando. Now that they’re going to Hofstra Law, they’re exploring the idea of starting another one on Long Island. Gary wanted to be part of that, and thought I’d have something to bring as well. After all, I had a deep background in IT management, credentials as a project manager and a graduate degree in business — yet also long-term unemployed.

So I took a call from Matthew Goodison-Orr and we impressed each other with our knowledge of conrunning as well as general geekdom and agreed to meet. A week or so later, Matt and I sat down, along with his longtime friend and business partner Victor Lai, at The Greene Turtle Franklin Square where we shared a couple beers and appies and talked about “Suburbacon,” the code name for the new project which we all agreed was just an awful name for a convention.

The biggest problem with “Suburbacon” is that there was no place in suburban Long Island to hold it. Anywhere west of Route 110 would be too remote to draw from anywhere but Suffolk County, we reasoned, and I suggested the fate of I-Con supported that premise. And there was no venue in Nassau County or eastern Suffolk (or the rest of Suffolk for that matter) that had a big enough room for the vendors’ and artists’ booths and sufficient breakout rooms for panels, screenings, workshops, green rooms, con ops and so on. There’s a small annual event called EternalCon at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, but by all accounts that space is constraining and not optimally laid out for this purpose; unless and until EternalCon finds another venue, we believe it’s not likely to grow attendance significantly going forward. We didn’t want that for “Suburbacon”.

So we expanded our search to Brooklyn and Queens. Surely the Barclays Center has enough … no. It’s got all the booth space you could ever want, but no breakout rooms. How about the Brooklyn Marriott and all those other four-star hotels near the Bridge that … no again. They had ballrooms adequate — barely — for vendors and artists, but not nearly enough other meeting rooms.Then Matt and Victor had a brainstorm. They learned the craft on a college campus, so why not look for a campus instead of a hotel or convention facility? After a short search, they settled on St. Johns University Queens.

At this point Gary invited his law partner George S. Sava onto the leadership team. Unlike the rest of us, George isn’t a nerd. He’s a jock. He probably spent high school shoving guys like us into gym lockers. But George has more than proven his mettle. He’d eventually be our guy for lining up investors and high-end sponsors as well as our negotiator with outside stakeholders (including SJU), but his first contribution was to coin the name “BoroughCon” which we all agreed to on the spot. (Then we spent two weeks quibbling over capitalization, spelling and spacing.)

It forced our event into a defining personality. We weren’t “Suburbacon” anymore. It’s not going to be about Long Island. By the same token, it’s not going to be about “The City”. It’s about the Four Boroughs — the neighborhoods looked down upon by Islanders, Manhattanites and tourists alike. Have your sterile tract housing and chemically enhanced lawns. Keep the shiny object that is midtown Manhattan. Spend all the money you made in the last five years selling farm equipment and get your picture taken with that homeless guy in an Iron Man costume. We’re focused on where real New Yorkers live. And let’s be clear: Queens and Brooklyn have the populations of Houston and Chicago respectively.It turned out the only weekend St. John’s had available for us was Memorial Day. So not only were we forced to accept a four-day programming schedule when other first-year cons are confined to one or two, we just had to have it at one of the few spots on the calendar when so many people are heading out of town that there’s really nothing to do in New York for the rest of us. I’m pretty sure we can find, out of the millions of people still stuck in the boroughs over a long weekend, 20,000 people interested in stopping by BoroughCon.

This all started to gather steam around February and March. Ever since, I’ve been back to the kind of management consulting work I’ve been trained to do. I wrote a business plan to show BoroughCon’s potential investors. I crafted a project plan that decomposed the processes and illustrated progress along a Gantt chart. I developed a web and social media strategy and began executing it. I composed and curated web content ranging from reviews to blog posts to premium content of interest to other conrunners. Matthew Kressel, whose web development and genre credentials are both beyond reproach, agreed to craft our site. To see his outstanding work, please click http://boroughcon.com/.

This primed the pump for me professionally. I now had the confidence that I could get back to IT management consulting work, and have been growing my client list since.

I also took on the responsibility for BoroughCon publicity, which got me back into keyboard rhythm, and I’ve onboarded several new journalism clients concurrently.

Now, rather than being a victim of the gig economy, I’ve adapted to it and am now thriving.

So thank you, Gary, Matt(s), Victor, George and everyone else who has contributed to BoroughCon’s successful launch.I hope to see everyone reading this note at St. John’s in Jamaica, Queens, over Memorial Day weekend 2017. I’ll be the one with the biggest smile.

Thanks for letting me gush!

Bill Freedman

Web: http://boroughcon.com/

FB: BoroughCon

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope: @borough_con

#xclocal

Appearances, writing, recording, general update, and … (shhh, it’s a secret)

So a lot has happened since Indianapolis.

First, I’ve video-blogged the entire trip, and you can see entries on my YouTube channel. I’ll be editing those down, so be patient. These will form the raw notes for the non-fiction book I intend to write about the Cross-Country Local. A Big Name Author Of Whom You Have Heard is helping me develop my pitch, so I’m guardedly optimistic I’ll be able to go the traditional editing route. Meantime, I’m being invited to speak in front of a number of transit advocacy groups, and I’ll be posting those on the Appearances page.

I’ll also be making appearances at Albacon, Lunacon, and who-knows-where-else. Keep checking back.

As I completed the Cross-Country Local, I crashed at the home of a friend from high school, Richard Gutierrez, who now lives in San Francisco. Rich is a multi-threat creative type — actor, director, video producer, designer, foley artist, drone operator … he’s got so much talent it makes me sick. Anyway, he had need for some voice talent that day, so I went back to my undergrad major in radio broadcasting and, well, here’s the results. I figured I’d get this out there before the blackmailers did.

Also, I’m feeling much better, thank you. Clinical depression is well-controlled since I’ve added meditation to medication. And my back, which just got worse and worse as I went along to the point of being crippling by the time I got to Reno, is all healed up now.

Further, it looks like my technology and business writing business has turned a corner and I’ll be returning to positive cashflow in short order. For more on this, you can view my clip site, Freedman Freelance.

Lastly, I can only whisper about this, but I have something “yooooodge” in mind for 2017. Hope to be able to share more soon.

A clarification and an apology

I spent a great deal of time last night acting as the piñata at a Plurk costume party.

They screamed at me, called me names (some of which I’d never heard before, which is always welcome and novel), and basically did everything internet trolls do. Gosh, they even followed through on their threat to escalate their discussion of my loathsomeness into the vast public square of (no, no, anything but …) Tumblr. Here it is, for what it’s worth. In the ten or so hours since then, I haven’t gotten one threatening email, not one comment in this space, not one nastygram on my Tumblr account. I guess they have as much suasion out in the wide world as they do in their own little echo chamber on Plurk.

Which isn’t to say they’re wrong. Not about everything. They’re wrong about how they characterize me, and they’re wrong about who the “creep” or the “coward” is: the person burrowing down deep into the cybersphere’s lowest chambers to talk anonymously behind someone else’s back, or the person they’re slandering who finds their little troll-hole and drops by to say hello at the risk of his own name and reputation.

(My favorite part of the Plurk/Tumblr exchange: “Makes me wish someone takes him up on his offer and gives him exactly the review he deserves.” Oh, and these are not the droids you’re looking for.)

But they are a hundred-percent right about one thing:

I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.

I can’t tell black radical feminism from free radical oxidation. I was reaching for a catch-all term, and clearly over-reached. In doing so, I broke one of my own cardinal rules: Don’t skimp on the research. I did, and spoke out of ignorance and, for that, I am truly sorry and deeply disappointed in myself.

I’m not sure how much better informed the members of the Plurk pecking party are. Maybe they all got Ph.D.s in feminist theory, but you couldn’t tell from our exchange. They kept telling me “do your research,” but not one of them could recommend a starting point: an author, a book, a web site, any reference at all. One helpful soul posted a Google link with “feminism” as a search term, so I got to see the Wikipedia entry and the last nine things anyone on the Web had to say on the subject.

Well, I started there. I looked over the Wiki. The first thing that surprised me was that there are at least 41 different “variants” (Wiki’s term) of feminism, they don’t all agree, and they are sometimes hostile to each other or feel betrayed by one another.

Now that’s something I can understand. I’m not just a white guy, I’m a funny white guy, which in a lot of cases (including the current) means I’m a Jew. There are only 15 million of us in the world (Jews — there are even fewer funny white guys), to give the broadest number. Fair to say, for every one of us, there are 10 people who want to see us all dead. Not converted, not kept in our place, but taking a big, permanent, ethnic dirt nap. And yet we have at least 41 different variants ourselves and spend a lot of time talking straight past each other. They say the only thing you can get two Jews to agree on is what a third Jew should give to charity.

So it is with feminists, I surmise. It would be a mistake for you to assume that the hardcore Satmar Chassidim speak for all Jews, are the most devout, or express the purest form of our faith. Likewise, it was a mistake for me to posit that “radical, black feminist” opinions are the only ones worth soliciting. And for that I sincerely apologize with all humility and without reservation.

To take this one step further, let me open up the invitation. If you have a literary review blog that takes any feminist theory or racial theory as a primary position, please let me send you a free PDF of Mighty Mighty for your critique. I feel the need to re-clarify: I’m not looking for a favorable review necessarily (take it if I can get it), but an honest one so that my next book can be better.

I remain convinced that true feminists, true people of strong racial identity, and true people of good faith throughout the world have a sense of humor that seemed absent from last night’s chats. I also challenge that gang’s premise that “we’re not here to help you.” Yes, you are. Just as I’m here to help you. Otherwise, why are we all here, and why are we all so unique?

Of triumphs and trolls

First the triumphs.

I’ve been invited to participate on panels at both Lunacon and the inaugural LI-Con (which, I hope, will rebound again as the I-Con we all knew and loved). I’ll post my schedules as they come into focus. Let it also be said that I am a vocal and money-where-my-mouth-is supporter of my adoptive home town’s bid for the 75th WorldCon: DC in 2017!

I also had a blast at Arisia this past weekend. I posted a few vlog entries on my YouTube channel, which involved figuring out how to post directly from iPhone to YouTube (after I got it all synched up, it wasn’t hard at all). Since posting my last vid, two very surprising things happened there with regards to my work-in-progress, Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices. First, I gave the first public reading of excerpts from the first three chapters, and it seemed to me that people were keeping their keypads in their pockets and listening. Second, I participated in a how-to-pitch-your-novel workshop facilitated by a triumvirate of well-known agents and small-press publishers. They told me I had a strong message and that I should pitch them for-reals once I’ve heard back from my betas and completed the third draft. (Very proud of and humbled by my beta panel — anyone would be: Helen Marshall, Simon Logan, and Vince Liaguno).

So with Mighty Mighty advanced reader copies out to reviewers and a plan to soft-launch it at Lunacon and LI-Con before putting it up on Amazon, it would seem things are looking up for my too-long delayed major foray into the world of speculative fiction authorship. I truly believe they are.

So I can be philosophical about (gasp!) my reputation being impugned on the Web. Still, it’s grating.

Let’s rewind a second. Like I said, I just got back from Arisia. If anyone there thought for a second that I was racist, sexist, or homophobic, I’d have been kicked out of the Westin, if not dropped to the bottom of the Charles River. I don’t think anyone would hurl those accusations at me in public, where people could hear them and friends who actually know me could rise to my defense.

So a day and a half ago I posted a new blog entry in this space: “Seeking a radical, black feminist review of Mighty Mighty”. The headline sounds like a provocation but, if you read the article (after being provoked by the headline), you find out I’m sincere. I think I’ve got some well-drawn characters of both sexes, a spectrum of proclivities, various ethnicities, and of distinct class origins. I don’t believe any of them lapse into stereotype, or at least not for long. They all have arcs. They all change. Just like people.

But I don’t want you to take my word alone for that. I want reviews. And I don’t just want reviews from friendly quarters — that is, other white, het, cis, middle-aged men, particularly ones who also write humorous SF and who are also going to want a blurb from me one of these days. I want to hear from people who don’t know William Freedman from William Shatner and who’d be offended if I didn’t handle the characters with the care that is their due. I want to know what people who don’t have a relationship with me to lose think about my work. And if they say it sucks, that’s fine. I take feedback as a gift. If they really rip Mighty Mighty into shreds, that’s fine with me. It means my next book will be that much better.

Even so, I wouldn’t be making the invitation if I didn’t think this novel held up. I mean, what would be the point?

Funny thing happened with that blog post. This Auctor Lanx Satura blog got more views in the one hour after that post went live than it’s gotten in most months. Even funnier thing: absolutely no comments.

So hundreds of people saw that post, and nobody had anything to say about it.

Right.

Now, the reason I know how many people saw it and how many people clicked through to multiple pages is that I monitor the Stats application on my dashboard — like most WordPress bloggers do, I’m sure. That application also tells where these hits are coming from. Some of them were coming from my Facebook personal and author pages, as well as from groups where I announced the new post. And some were coming from Tumblr, one of a number of social media sites I intended to establish an account at in order to promote Mighty Mighty and subsequent works. But a bunch came from something called Plurk, which is apparently a microblogging site used mainly by people living in Taiwan and by trolls around the world who want to talk about you behind your back.

So I established both Tumblr and Plurk accounts, and started clicking on the links that had appeared under the “Referrers” heading of my Stats page. And here’s what I found (I won’t embarrass the individual involved, who obviously prizes her anonymity, by linking to her or referring to her by nom de Web):

ALERT ALERT straight white guy wants a black radical feminist to review his bullshit novel favorably because “it passes the bechdel test” and “women talk about math in it,” explains that he is not misogynistic or racist and that there is “satire” and that he totally has black and woman and gay friends and one time a famous lady novelist yelled at him on the internet and it made him a better person.fascinating, right? you should definitely give this book free publicity for being so not sexist and not racist and having ladies who don’t talk about boys in it.

If you read my original post, maybe you share my sense that she only saw the words she selectively wanted to see. So I called her out, sending her the following note via Plurk:

First of all, thank you, [name]. You’ve driven more traffic to my site in an hour than I’ve gotten in certain whole months. To clarify, I’m not asking for a favorable review, which would be presumptuous to say the least. I’m looking for an *honest* review and, based on your opinion of me at the moment, I’m sure I can count on you for that. So are you up for the challenge?

She responded in the negative, as you could predict, but then she went on to tell her friends:

oh my god so i linked the page about the black radical feminist seeking author on an entirely different (privated!!) social networking site so i could laugh about it with my friends and HE CREATED AN ACCOUNT AND TRIED TO ADD EVERY PERSON ON MY FRIENDSLIST. so fair warning to anyone who wants to link this guy’s blog, he can track links and he’s REALLY FUCKING CREEPY ABOUT IT.

But he wrote a novel that passed the Bechdel Test he can’t be creepy :((((((((

“Really fucking creepy”?

I didn’t try to add every person on her friends list. I didn’t even know they were on her friends list. They were just the ones who visited my site and whom I could identify via my (standard, free, nothing-special) Stats app. Since they read my blog, I think I’m entitled to assume they might want to (at their own discretion) be included in future signals I send out publicly via the internet. But if they really were “EVERY PERSON ON MY FRIENDSLIST” then I feel badly for her: She has only 14 friends.

“Really fucking creepy”?

Maybe I am, but if you’re anonymous, and you take your passive-aggressive acting-out all the way to Taiwan to keep it that way rather than have the guts to post comments on this blog, and you have only 14 friends, you don’t get to be the one to call me that.

For good or ill, I live out loud. I write finance and technology articles as well as genre fiction. I also contract out as an IT management consultant and financial analyst. And I’m a suburban husband, father, and assistant scoutmaster. I try to keep these spheres compartmentalized for  purposes of marketing as well as my own sanity, but I use the same name — the one I was born with — for all of them. I have a listed land-line number. Two, in fact. I have over 600 connections on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Some of these are people I’ve added as recently as today, and others I went to kindergarten with. I’m not hiding from anyone, and I have damn little to hide.

But enough about the Troll from Taipei. Fortunately, her opinion doesn’t matter to me. I figure it matters to, at most, 14 others.

Now, as for the people I know in real life from participating in convention programming, their opinion — at least in the aggregate — does matter to me. I shared a link to the controversial blog post in a number of Facebook groups, one of which was for Lunacon. That’s where somebody reported me to Principal Zuckerberg. Credit where it’s due: The group’s moderator (whom I won’t name here because I’m sure she’s catching enough flak) clicked through, looked at the blog post, found nothing wrong with it and replied publicly with the comment:

Not sure why this post was reported, but it *is* genre relevant. And while the headline may not seem appropriate, it is actually an ongoing discussion and issue within SF/F conventions and fandom.

That’s all I’m saying. Let’s talk about it. Out loud. With each other.

I’m not going to go digging too deep around my Stat app anymore. Guess I found out more than I wanted to know. And I don’t want to become a creep.

Admittedly, I’m new to Tumblr and Plurk, but I do have a Reddit account. It’s been dormant, as I haven’t really had a use for it until now. But maybe it’s about time I got it up and running.

So you can Ask Me Anything.

Freedman’s back! Why now? What does he want?

I’m going to be honestly brutal here. I haven’t been blogging because blogging is what you do when you’ve got time on your hands and are otherwise completely unproductive. If you’re a blogger, you probably have some inflated sense of self-importance that deludes you into thinking people really give a rat’s ass what you think about something. If you’re in the ADHD spectrum and blogging, then your delusion compels you into thinking people give that rodent’s posterior what you think about any random thing that misfires in your brain. In short, you have to be some lame, pathetic loser to blather on via the internet about your life’s minutia.

I am blogging today because I have formally joined the ranks of the losers. I’m blogging because I now need the money.

I have never before mentioned my day job on the Web. I tried to be sensitive to those Muggles who paid the mortgage for this crazed, manic scribe of satire and fantasy and science fiction and horror and all those other things that separate me from reality. But they laid me off in July along with 8,000 other poor saps; I helped them sell around $3 million worth of hardware, software and services between February and May, but apparently they didn’t notice. They missed their Wall Street numbers and somebody had to go. They missed the next quarter too, so maybe they’ve figured out by now it wasn’t my fault. I still have enough respect for the company (which did give me a fair severance package) not to mention them by name. Contrary to what people say, I didn’t work for I’ve Been Moved. Or I’m By Myself. Or I’d Buy a Macintosh. Or It’s Better Manually. Or Inexorably Bound to Mephistopheles. But you get the idea. I didn’t talk too much at work about my literary pursuits. That’s because there were only two kinds of people in that company: Those who didn’t appreciate my sense of humor, and those who didn’t get my sense of humor.

So anyway, my corporate career has served its purpose. I live in a house that I can sell any time for more than I paid for it. I have a good chunk of the money I’ll need to retire on. I also have a good chunk of what my kids will need for college. And I have enough to carry me through a few more months of transition.

Transition to what is a question. At first, I figured that I’d get snatched up by some other IT consulting practice. That didn’t happen. I then figured I’d go over to the client side, get a job calling bullshit on the consultants. The fox-guarding-the-henhouse thing came awfully close, but no deal. So that leads me here.

I’ve given up on the whole corporate thing (immediately after the whole corporate thing gave up on me). I’m going to piece together an entrepreneurial, blended career. I will continue to take IT management consulting gigs, but as an independent contractor. I’m also rebuilding my book of business as a financial journalist and, considering my 15 year sidetrack with Azul Grande, I’ll also build clientele as a technology writer. I’ll try to get some adjunct teaching gigs in Business, Information Systems and Creative Writing faculties. Maybe I’ll tend bar.

But I’m also going to start taking my income from fiction writing seriously. It didn’t matter before. I could lose money. I didn’t fucking care. Now I do. If you really like my work, if you really like me, I could really use your help now.

If you haven’t bought my books, please go to either Amazon or Rebel ePublishers and buy them now. If you have, please tell the world how much you loved them by posting reviews in Goodreads and on Amazon.

Thanks for all your support up to this point, and thanks in advance for your continued best wishes.

So who said I’m an atheist?

About a hundred years ago, Don Marquis coined the phrase, “A hypocrite is a person who — but who isn’t?”

That quote occurred to me often over the past week — the week after I finished editing the Age of Certainty anthology written mainly by atheists of stories which cast God as a speculative element, a week during which I hit up leading “rationalists” for blurbs to help hawk it — a week in which I took my family and a couple Catholic kids from the neighborhood to Israel to celebrate our 13-year-old’s bar mitzvah, praying at the Western Wall in tallis and tefillin, visiting the spot on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where the original Christian church was founded, leading a traditional Shabbos dinner with prayers and rituals and discussions of text from the Torah. Oh, and for extra credit, three of the kids of I took with me — including two of my sons — are members of the Boy Scouts of America, an organization with which I am also affiliated as an assistant scoutmaster, and part of my brief on this trip was to help the boys earn a merit badge; there are only two things that can get you kicked out of BSA: being gay or being an atheist — and while lifting the ban on gays is at least being discussed, nobody is making a case for lifting the one on non-believers. (There are scouts who are Buddhists, Hindus, members of native American religions, and even some Wiccans, but you have to claim to be “reverent” toward something.)

So, in short, where do I get off?

Let’s start with my own identity. I’m a Jew. Whether or not I’m Jewish is beside the question. I have no choice in this matter; it is a circumstance of my circumcision. There are only about 15 million of us in the world and I guesstimate that for every one of us alive today there are 10 people in the world who want to see us all dead. Nazis, Klansmen and Islamic militants rarely follow up the question, “Are you a Jew?” with “How into it are you, really?”

It should also be pointed out that most Israeli Jews you’ll encounter are not religious stiffs. They don’t cover their heads. They don’t keep kosher; I was surprised by the ease with which I could find a bacon cheeseburger or a pepperoni pizza. They don’t keep the Sabbath (although there’s a strong cultural aversion to talking business on Friday nights). We timed our trip to coincide with the Jewish festival of Purim. If you’re not familiar with the story of Purim, I can tell you it’s on the same theme as every other Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us all. They couldn’t. Let’s eat.” What makes Purim unique is that it commemorates the events of the Book of Esther, the only biblical text that at no point mentions the name or even overtly suggests the existence of God. As far as the pious community is concerned, the holiday takes place over a one-day period that this year fell on Saturday night to Sunday. As far as the larger secular community is concerned, the party started Thursday night and, as far as I can tell, is still going on. It’s like Jewish Mardi Gras.

So I count myself as a secular Jew, but even that’s not the entire story. I went through a significant portion of my life trying to “return” from my Reform (i.e., virtually Episcopalian) upbringing to a more authentic (no ironic quotes) form of Judaism. I learned the rubrics of prayer and observance, as well as the customs and small-talk that would allow this frequent out-of-town visitor to pass for a fully observant Jew. What my Shabbos hosts didn’t know is that, after nightfall Saturday, I’d be returning to my red-headed Irish wife. Our three children are considered bastards or worse by the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox community (although, in fairness, not to all individuals therein) because their mother isn’t a Jew.

The Reform movement, which is much more OK with soaking money from Jewish dads who married out of the religion, doesn’t see a problem, but I have a problem with Reform. Basically, Reform Judaism doesn’t believe in anything as far as I can tell. They don’t practice anything except a couple of photo-op kid-oriented holidays and a once-a-year guilt fest that their temples rely on for funding purposes. And they don’t know anything. Although their rabbis tend to be quite adept at chanting from the Torah, few of them could converse in Hebrew long enough to get driving directions from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea. Reform laity knows even less about their supposed faith — those that know anything at all. I come away from Reform Judaism thinking it’s not a religion at all except in maybe the same sense that the Southern Baptist Convention is a religion: It’s got less to do with worshiping God than with providing ecclesiastical cover for a political party — the Democrats to the Baptist Republicans.

The Orthodox and Reform movements have one thing in common, though: They both consider me someone else’s problem. I’m generally unwelcome in both camps. (Exception to the rule: Chabad Lubavich. They’re “ultra-Orthodox” — to use a journalistic term they themselves find ridiculous — Chassidic Jews, but are refreshingly non-judgmental.) The Orthodox can never get past the fact that I maintain an “inappropriate relationship” with a gentile woman and continue to be part of the lives of the children I sired by her. The Reform don’t like the way I call them on their bullshit. So what’s left for me?

Well, there’s always Christianity. Nothing would like my wife happier, I’m sure. But to be brutally honest, I think the reason a lot of people have an issue with religion in general is that they grew up in a country where the prevailing religion is this misbegotten Rube Goldberg device slapped together from spare parts from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and both Greco-Roman and Norse mythology. I’m astonished by how many otherwise perfectly reasonable people buy into this nonsense in such a big way. You can make fun of the whole concept of religion, but Christianity is the one religion that all the other religions make fun of. It’s intellectually, morally and spiritually bankrupt. Well, maybe not spiritually. If you define “spirituality” as the energy to jump around, a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ with abandon, then yeah, it’s spiritual. If you define spirituality as getting in touch with quiet, still, divine voice within yourself, good luck.

So I’m an atheist, right? Wrong. I feel the need to believe in at least the possibility of something.

So I’m an agnostic, right? Wrong. Agnostics are to atheists what bisexuals are to gays — maybe they’re for real, but maybe they’re just kidding themselves. I like to think I know myself better.

I’m a believer. A believer in what? I don’t know. Not Giant Space Daddy. Not Flying Spaghetti Monster. Definitely not some Jewish guy who took time before fulfilling his death sentence to get his hair bleached and nose fixed.

But I believe in justice. I believe in kindness. I believe in charity. I believe in abstract thought and free will. And I believe that these are the traits than natural selection tends not to favor over cunning, camouflage, sharp claws and powerful jaw muscles.

So I choose to believe in a purpose, a direction, a human nature that is distinct from animal nature. That doesn’t mean we didn’t descend from animals. Of course we did. That makes all living things on earth our cousins, and our responsibility as stewards, not as masters.

It’s often said that Unitarianism “believes in, at most, one God.” The same quip applies to Judaism too. So it’s fair to say I too believe in, at most, one God. Judaism, at least, concedes its inability to adequately describe this God. Usually, Jews refer to “Adonai” — the enforcer of justice who does what He can to temper His indignation at your affronts with mercy and understanding. But some people don’t respond well to that. There’s also an emanation of God called the “Shechina” — and She (yes, this side of God is perceived as female) is a protective, motherly presence. There are others as well, culminating in what’s called Ein Sof, That Without End, that which cannot be manifested or understood, that which is forever beyond our comprehension. This is God with all the tinsel torn away.

This is something I can believe in at least the possibility of.