So I spent most of last week thinking, not about Barack Obama, not about history, not about the future, but about Russell Simmons:

Upstairs, the V.I.P. area was called the Hennessy Lounge. African-Americans reportedly purchase as much as eighty per cent of the Cognac imported to the United States. Hennessy, knowing its customer, was premièring a limited-edition bottle "in honor of our 44th president," with a portion of the proceeds going to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Smiling women in black blouses served cocktails engineered with the Presidential hooch. A flat screen flashed images of the bottle. A row of models of indeterminable race, wearing black dresses, stood off to the side having their photographs taken with various guests.

Simmons ambled in with a small entourage, and the room got tighter. He pulled aside the rapper T.I. and talked to him about the importance of mentorship. In March, T.I. is expected to go to jail on federal weapons charges. He was to be honored at the ball for "bringing an awareness to this election season," according to his Web site. He introduced Simmons to a teen-age boy from Georgia whom he'd taken on as a mentee, along with a few others. "This is just one of them," he told Simmons.

This wasn't the first time we'd crossed paths.