Thursday, September 29, 2016

Who Tells Your Story

As I mentioned before, seeing Hamilton on Broadway was an incredible experience. It's weeks later, and I still think back to it all the time. The girls and I listen to the songs, and they know so many of the words already.

It is an incredible show that has blown away all the norms for a theater musical. It was nominated for 16 Tony awards. The cast recording album debuted at #12 on the Billboard charts, rose to #3, and has been streamed over 17 million times. It won a Pulitzer Prize. The Rockefeller Foundation donated $1.46 million to allow 20,000 New York Public School students to see the show every year at a reduced ticket price. Even the Secretary of the Treasury was swayed by its power when he decided to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill after a public outcry. It's a phenomenon to say the very least.

The hallmark of great storytelling is when people can identify with what they are seeing on a personal level. Hamilton is such a good example of that. There is a lot written about the parallels between the Revolution era and today, and Hamilton only enforces that. The non-traditional casting and hip hop score make it relevant to so many people who don't look like the founding fathers and who don't normally listen to show tunes.

For me, first, I love history. To see history told in such an amazing way and affecting so many people makes me all giddy. Second, I know how big a deal it is that I got to see the hottest show in the country (maybe the world) so early in its life. To borrow from something else I read, there was no place those people in the theater wanted to be more. What really got me in the gut though, was the last song. Alexander Hamilton's widow, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton lived 50 years after her husband was killed. She was in charge of protecting his legacy. She interviewed men he had fought with, she organized his papers, and she tried to make sure he wasn't forgotten. In the song, Hamilton's sister-in-law says "every other founding father's story gets told, every other founding father gets to grow old." Eliza imagines what Hamilton would have done if he had more time, and spends her time trying to accomplish it. And she laments that she can't do the job as well as he would have. She says that she's most proud of the private orphanage she established in New York, a place for orphans like Alexander and she gets to watch them grow up.

I sobbed shamelessly through this song. It started out with polite theater tears, but then I let the flood gates open. It is not often that I relax my defenses (mainly because I am afraid I won't get it back under control); that night I did. As we left, the usher told me to stop crying... THAT'S how bad it was.

I'm not really comparing Tony to Alexander Hamilton (although Hamilton was another great Scot!), but after sitting through that amazing show and seeing the ups and downs of their lives, I was very familiar with how Eliza felt.

I'll conclude with a few paraphrased quotes strung together...
"History has its eyes on you." You've got to take your shot, and not wait for it, wait for it. If you do, "you'll blow us all away." "Death doesn't discriminate, between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes." Do it well, because "you have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story."

Friday, September 16, 2016

Colbert and Back Again

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to have a once in a lifetime trip to NYC. It was first planned nearly a year ago when a batch of tickets went onsale for Hamilton (if you don't know what I'm talking about... crack a book... or even pop culture). My primo history nerd pal and I got tickets for the show for September 10th, also her 30th birthday. We laughed at trying to plan a trip nearly a year in advance, but we made it happen.

Hamilton deserves a post all to itself, but here I'll just say that it was completely incredible and totally worth waiting a year. I'd happily go back again and again.

Instead, I want to write about something I tacked onto the trip in the last weeks before we left... a visit to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Tony and I were fans of Stephen Colbert from the first time we saw him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When he got his own show on Comedy Central, we watched it avidly and more often than The Daily Show. He is smart, and funny, and so good at shining light on our political system and the idiosyncrasies of us.

Tony and I talked quite a few times about trying to go see The Colbert Report, and we tweeted at him and tried to engage with him about what we were going through. We loved everything he did. We watched his final episodes together and we were both so excited that he would be taking over The Late Show.

I wrote about him last August, after I read an interview he gave. He described his personal tragedy, how his mother helped him handle it, and how accepting it changed his life forever. I can't do it justice... so read it yourself...

This only made me love him more. It helped me with my own grief, and gave me hope that our kids aren't doomed.

So, I got tickets to see The Late Show and it was incredible. I even worked up the courage to stick up my hand during the Q&A before taping. I did it for Tony, or maybe he called on me for Tony... either way, STEPHEN COLBERT AND I TALKED ABOUT HISTORY!

This is what I would have said afterwards if I'd had the gumption...

Stephen, your star is very bright, and deservedly so. Thanks for all the laughs and for everything you do. Thanks for making smartness look cool. I'd love to have a beer with you someday... we could discuss the good times, the bad times, and Harding and his poor card skills!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Things We Do

Yesterday, the girls requested this song in the car. Then they asked me to turn it up... we were all singing along, and I know you were right there with us. I love you, babe.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Measured in Summers

My girls were caregivers to Tony, and most of my time and energy was devoted to him for a long time. Then, they had two parents, but neither of us could really be there for them. Now, they've just got me and I'm really trying to make sure I give it my all.

So, as the traditional end of summer looms I am pondering childhood and summer. It seems to me that childhood is measured in summers. I want to make sure my girls have plenty of golden summertime moments. I want them to have great experiences, like weeks at the beach, but mostly I want them to have nights catching lightning bugs, afternoons in the sun, and complicated contraptions built of string up in a tree. Those are the memories I cherish from childhood. I know I must have gone to school at least occasionally, but that's not what shines from my memory.

Logically (and meteorologic-ally), we can still enjoy summer moments beyond this weekend. I don't need to put so much pressure on these three short days. But fall is already creeping in...

Those golden days pass fast, and it means so much more to me to be here for theirs. I hope they remember that part too.

Happy summer, everyone... go catch a lightning bug!