I saw “Hamilton” and here are my thoughts…

You can read my official review here.

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An Ode to House Lannister

In honor of tonight’s “Game of Thrones” Season 6 premiere, I decided to dedicate a post to my assigned House. (You can click here to find out which House you belong in.)

Everyone knows that being labeled a Lannister is sort of like being sorted into Slytherin. You’re misperceived as pretentious, power-hungry, and maybe incestuous.

Anyone with a real heart of a lion knows differently.

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Aside from the money and the proximity to power – qualities that often coincide with the negative perception of the Lannisters – they are loyal, complex, and brave.

Lannister Loyalty: Tywin, for all his other shortcomings, instilled family pride into his children. Once you have won the respect of a Lannister, you can expect their loyalty. Additionally, they inspire loyalty in others (i.e. Pod to Tyrion, Bronn to Jaime).

Lannister Complexity: Think of your favorite storylines in GoT. No doubt a Lannister is involved in some way. Because the Lannisters thrive in the morally gray department, they are more fascinating to watch. We want to know why Cersei is so loving with her children but so awful to the rest of the world. We want to know how Tyrion will outsmart his next foe. Their complexity makes them a compelling family.

Lannister Bravery: Even proud Lannisters are hesitant to defend Cersei, but you have to admire her unfaltering bravery. Hear me out! She was forced into marriage with a drunken brute who still pined for another, and she went to her duty without protest. Moreover, she would face anything, including the shame of being paraded through the streets in her birthday suit, just to see her goals achieved. Let’s not forget Jaime. Though he can be misguided, he has stared down death more than his fair share of times. And Tyrion! Where do we even begin? Tyrion’s whole existence is a shining example of bravery. Anyone else who had suffered his abuse and neglect might have given up, but Tyrion used it as the armor that made him stronger.

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Still not convinced? No matter. We Lannisters always have a way of making our roar heard….one way or another.

Enjoy tonight’s premiere!

 

Females are Strong as Hell

After the Treasury Department stated that Alexander Hamilton was safe on the $10, we fans of the musical were breathing a sigh of relief. What we didn’t know was that we were in for another treat.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew hurtled American currency into the 21st by announcing Harriet Tubman would be featured on a redesign of the $20 bill.

Finally, a female face will grace our money! What’s more, Tubman is one of the most impressive women Sec. Jacob J. Lew and his team could have chosen.

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After escaping a life of slavery at the age of 29, Tubman kicked off a long career of badassery. In addition to freeing hundreds of slaves via the Underground Railroad, Tubman was a spy for the Union army during the Civil War. Keep in mind that she was doing this decades before women even had the right to vote. Seriously, how much more impressive can a person get?

I mean, just look at her expression. It seems to shout through the centuries, “Don’t test me, for I am woman.”

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As if this historic update to our currency wasn’t special enough, it seems that it was inspired by a future female leader. An 11-year-old Cambridge, Massachusetts native named Sophia wrote a letter to President Obama two years ago with one simple birthday wish. She wanted a woman represented on the USD. Rejoice, Sophia! We’ve gotten our wish.

It begs the question: What will women do next?

How “Hamilton” Turned My World Upside Down (And Made Me Care About History Again)

How does a (usually) plastered, poor one, former Peace Corps one, living in Boston get dropped in the middle of the hottest plot?

That’s right, my fellow countrymen. I’m talkin’ about “Hamilton.” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s instant classic debuted in early 2015, and I have no qualms with admitting it took me until last month to discover it for myself. It also took me until 2009 to fall in love with “Wicked,” to put things in perspective.

But I digress. You all came here to read a love story. And as everyone knows, a good love story begins with a “Meet Cute.” Ham and I met at work, of all places. I run the in-house studio for a marketing firm, and one of our presenters is big in the East Coast theater community.  One afternoon, in between shooting video blogs for our clients, my thespian friend asked, “Have you listened to ‘Hamilton’ yet?”

My eloquent response can be found below.

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In short, no. Not only hadn’t I listened to this so-called masterpiece, I didn’t even know what she was talking about. With a patience level I could never have achieved, she pulled up the show’s opening number, the aptly named “Alexander Hamilton,” on YouTube . Nothing would be more accurate than to describe what I felt as love at first listen.

As any self-respecting Millennial would do, I immersed myself in the world of “Hamilton” via social media and music streaming platforms. The original Broadway cast recording became the soundtrack to my life. Honestly, I could probably log a marathon with the numbers of miles I’ve run to “My Shot,” and don’t get my started on the countless shower solos of “Wait for It.”

But more than making me feel culturally relevant and giving me disillusions about my rapping abilities, “Hamilton” reignited my passion for history. I even read “The Reynolds Pamphlet” and enjoyed it! I was inspired to listen closer to the songs, and I found something new to research each time. For example, the line “God, you’re a fox!” in “Blow Us All Away” sent me on a purely academic investigation of Philip Hamilton’s attractiveness. Let me just say that my journalistic curiosity paid off. He was indeed a fox. See below:

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Still, one of the best things about “Hamilton” is that it lends a fresh voice to those long dead. Moreover, that voice can be appreciated for generations to come. Amidst the addicting beats and clever lyrics, we are shown that, while our Founding Fathers wore powdered wigs and puffy breeches, they won this country with cunning and courage, battles and brains, words and war.

This Pulitzer-winning musical reminds us that those same men were human. Men who fell in love and learned to hate. Men who felt desire and pain. Above all else, they were just men (and women, of course).

In between the rap battle-styled songs and the Beyoncé-esque numbers, we’re taught that history was written by people just like you and me.  It gives one that notion that history does, in fact, have its eyes on you.

For a musical to achieve what “Hamilton” has achieved is phenomenal, and I wish it much continued success. If you need me, I’ll be listening to the soundtrack on repeat and praying for the day when I can get my hands on tickets. (Lin-Manuel, if you’re reading this, hint hint.)

 

 

An Adventurous Update

I realize it’s been quite awhile since my last post. A lot has happened in that time, compadres. For starters, I moved to Massachusetts last June for a writing/video production job.

As you can imagine, the adventures have been non-stop. In my tenure here in New England, I’ve hit just about every historical hot spot you can think of.

Today was an especially great day. After my first New England weather (an experience I’ll have to outline in another post), we had a bought of sunny, warm weather. I decided to trek down to Plymouth to see the notorious Plymouth Rock.

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I stood alone, facing the harbor and letting the chilly breeze whip my hair around. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the souls that left everything familiar and safe to start a new life in the completely uncharted New World. Too often I think we set aside the fact that these were real people who made the decision to seize life for all that it was worth.

Today, folks, I was inspired to live deliberately.

I’m Back…in the New York Groove. Part 3 of a Holiday Travel Tale

Apologies, dear readers, for these long absences. As Hemingway once said, “In order to write about life you must first live it,” and that is what I have been doing. As I promised, this post will regale you with the story of my first New Year’s Eve in Times Square while I’ll dedicate later posts to the subsequent drive to Montreal.

My travel companion and I arose on New Year’s Eve, once more dehydrated and blistered. We are vigorous travelers and frequently keep a pace and energy during our trips that must have some divine upkeep; for seeing cities like Paris in one day and New York in three should be impossible. We often joke about bringing along a “Subject C” to experiment with whether or not a person with lesser wanderlust could keep up.

So, fatigued but not faltering, we prepared for our frigid day in the pens. We had read online about the No Backpacks rule, and we also knew that once you were in the pen there was no access to bathrooms. Agreeing that we hadn’t come this far to be turned away from the Main Event for bringing along an impermissible item, we left our hotel for the city with empty stomachs and bladders and nothing but our cell phones, some money, and the four layers of clothing on each of our bodies.

It was only a quarter past ten o’clock by the time we reached Penn Station, and our plan was to hike up to Times Square and access the crowd. If the good pens were starting to fill up, we would jump in line. If it was still relatively empty, we would meander around the shops for awhile. We paused momentarily to snap a picture with the famous Naked Cowboy, wish him luck against frostbite, and continue with our mission. As fate would have it, there were already a number of groups beginning to fill the decent pens, so with over twelve hours to go until the ball dropped, we entered. As we assumed our superb spot just north of 44th and 7th, the realization that we were in for a long day finally hit us.

Ever the troopers, though, we ignored the biting cold and dragging time by killing two hours with a game of “I Spy.” If you’re wondering how two grown women can play “I Spy” for hours, I encourage you to play in Times Square. It is a challenge not meant for lesser individuals.

In the meantime, my stomach was singing the song of hunger.Various groups of Asians and one group of Germans had set up a small Hooverville-like structure in our pen. They came fully equipped with camping chairs, electronic entertainment devices, box after box of Dunkin Donuts, and several Thermoses full of an enticingly aromatic warm liquid. My companion and I looked on hour after freezing hour, slowly losing spirit and strength, as the visitors to our country nestled together under Space Blankets and laughed as they shared their meals.

By 6 o’clock, when the bands began their sounds check and the Revealers started passing out the free souvenirs, we were near to giving up. A near-trampeling incident when a free foam hat was passed out was nearly the breaking point.

“I can’t do this,” my companion said in a weary voice.

“We d-didn’t come all this way for nothing. It w-will be worth it,” I replied through chattering teeth.

Her retort was drown out by one of Taylor Swift’s backup singers performing “Shake It Off” for the leading lady’s sound check. Shaking from both exhaustion and hunger, we managed to join the crowd in dance. As the hours ticked down, the numbness took over and we were able to enjoy ourselves more. We made friends with two kind girls from Connecticut and another pair from Scotland. When Ryan Seacrest came by our pen to introduce a performance for Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, we even got on TV!

By 11:59:45, I no longer cared that I was cold, hungry, and the muscles of my legs were barely supporting me. My voice proudly rang out with millions of other voices in the countdown to bring in 2015. I felt so ridiculous as I choked up singing “New York, New York” as confetti rained down all around me. My friend and I embraced, feeling both entirely alive and near death at the same time. We reveled with the crowd and took in the moment for awhile before leaping the barricade and joining the surge of people headed to after parties or bed. The next day would see us on our trek upstate to Canada, so we forced on way onto the train and grinned sleepily the whole way back to Clifton, knowing we had just checked something pretty incredible of our Bucket Lists.

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I’m Back…in the New York Groove. Part 2 of a Holiday Travel Tale

`As I said in Part 1, my first taste of New York City was the hit that spiraled into an addiction. After an incredible- albeit pricey- dinner at Le Cirque, my travel buddy and I caught the train back to Clifton and crashed hard. We rose later than we intended the next morning, though it was still early enough to keep schedule with everything we had planned on our one full day in the city since the next day would be dedicated to finding and maintaining our spot in Times Square.

We started by being one of the first people in line to go up to the observation deck on the Empire State Building. If you like the city from the ground, it will make you fall in love from above. Elevated 86 stories from the cacophony of sounds below, you get an incredible panorama of the city in its entirety as well as a dazzling glimpse of the Atlantic. These visions were all that much sweeter because it was sunrise.

Now I did something illegal up there, but at least I got to cross it off my bucket list. I threw a penny off the ESB when the plainclothes guards (who were easily spotted) weren’t looking. It’s not something I suggest everyone go about doing, but I had dreamed of it since I was little so I went for it.

After the ear-popping elevator ride back down to ground-level, we hiked our way up to Central Park. I’d read about it, and of course, it is everywhere in television and movies. Yet nothing quite prepares you for the simple beauty of the park. The sprawling green snuggled amidst the grey skyscrapers sort of takes your breath away. So, loaded down with shawarma, we strolled through the park, climbing boulders, exploring trails and Belvedere Castle. As an avid Beatles fan, I made a point to pay respects at Strawberry Fields before indulging our literary spirits at the Alice in Wonderland statue.

By the time we walked from the South end of the park to the North end, we had seen a lot but not all that the park had to offer. We left enough unexplored for future visits because we were on a mission that day, after all. My companion Uber-ed us a ride, and before we could really rest our aching legs, we were let out at Yankee Stadium.

Yes, that’s right. Yankee Stadium! My personal baseball Mecca. I got my first glimpse as we pulled off the Major Deegan Expressway and nearly cried. Unfortunately, tour tickets were sold out for the day, but just standing on Babe Ruth Plaza was enough. There really aren’t words to describe what it feels like to finally stand in front of a place you had dreamed about your whole life. My friend indulged me a little extra time than we had originally allotted there because I think she could sense my elation and was maybe even caught up in it a little herself.

Finally, I agreed to bid adieu to Yankee Stadium so that we could make one of the last ferries out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Again, due to the holiday season and our last minute planning, we found out in the Uber ride to Battery Park that the ferries were sold out as well. Quick rebounders that we are, we chalked it up to one more thing that would bring us back to NYC and directed our driver to take us to Chinatown instead.

Chinatown and Little Italy were a blast. It was like stepping out of America for a brief time. As soon as we left the car, we were greeted by unique smells, foreign languages, and a million different sounds. We piddled around a little, bargained with the hockers, and snacked on some fried Chinese donuts before finding a little, local-recommended hole-in-the-wall joint with ducks hanging in the front window in which to eat dinner. Despite my worries about what food poisoning would be like if it struck the next day while we were pinned in Times Square, I scarfed down my delicious seafood soup.

Keep in mind that we had now been walking around and exploring the city in the cold for seven hours at that point. Sure, we were a little sore, but the food and temporary shelter from the wind re-energized us. We went on to explore a Buddhist temple and a bunch of little shops before starting the roughly 25 block trek to our last stop of the day: Ground Zero.

I can’t really say how I felt about the World Trade Center Memorial in any way that would fully encapsulate the event. It’s something everyone should experience for himself/herself. My travel buddy and I were about ten years old when the 9/11 attacks happened, so their history and the resulting impact has shaped our lives in more ways then we probably recognize. To stand where it happened-especially at sunset- robbed us both of words. By some unspoken understanding, we separately took in the memorial and silently ran our hands across the names of the fallen. The rest of the trip could be shared. That moment was for us each to individually experience and process. We choose not to go through the museum, to save it for another visit, but I think we both knew the real reason was that neither of us wanted to cry in front of the other and the museum would have certainly reduced us to tears.

Before we left Ground Zero, we each drew a deep, life-affirming breath and shifted back into our shared existence. It was dark and late, by the time the Uptown N deposited us at Penn Station. Exhausted from a full, mercilessly paced day, we rode back to Clifton in a blissful stupor.

Part 3 will discuss Times Square on New Year’s Eve and our drive through the Hudson River Valley!

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I’m Back…in the New York Groove. Part 1 of a Holiday Travel Tale

My apologies for allowing myself to get swept up into the holidays. Then again, I’m not really sorry because if I had stayed put pecking away at my keyboard I would have missed out on some incredible life experiences. One of these experiences was a major part of my Bucket List. I’m unashamed to admit that I fit into the cliche of aspiring creative spirit who dreams of living in New York. Ever since I was a kid, I can remember watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and thinking, “Someday. Someday I’ll be there.”

“Someday” for me finally happened. My original plans for New Year’s Eve included a stay at my friend’s lake house on Tablerock in Missouri with a secret adventure up to London, Ontario on New Year’s Day. However, my best friend suggested that if we were going to go all the way up to Canada, we might as well see New York. It snowballed from there with my addition that if we were going to see New York, we might as well be there on New Year’s Eve. So, without telling anyone, she and I planned a week-long visit to New York City, Montreal, and Niagara Falls in one evening.

The next day we loaded down my ’06 Cobalt (affectionately nicknamed The Flying Dutchman) and embarked on our 20+ hour drive, shaking and even a little nauseous from excitement and nerves. We powered through grogginess and road grime until we reached the Howard Johnson in Clifton, New Jersey which was to be our home for the next three days. After stretching and showering, we set out for our first adventure into the Big Apple only to find that The Dutchman’s lights had been left on while we unpacked and she was dead. Panicking only slightly, we secured a jump and were back on our way to the train station in under 20 minutes.

I can’t even begin to describe to you what it felt like to be in New York City during the holidays. What it felt like to be in New York City period. I had finally made the pilgrimage to my own personal Mecca. Time finally moved at an appropriate speed instead of being stuck in slow motion like I felt it was in the Midwest. I could walk wherever I needed or public transit was readily available. It was both an introduction and a homecoming. I knew my adventures in NYC were limited to three days, but a gut feeling told me that soon enough I’d be back for good.

Part 2 (includes Times Square on New Year’s Eve shenanigans) coming soon!

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An Excerpt from “Is the Bar Open Seating?”

My newest novel-in-the-works, Is the Bar Open Seating?, is going to be a crass, semi-autobiographical work with Bukowski influences. Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter, Nice to Fucking Meet You.

“I have finally done it. I’ve succumbed to the cliché.  I’ve dug deep into the platitudes and situated myself in this coffee shop armchair to string words together and call myself a writer. The coffee itself is sub-par made palatable only by the healthy dose of whiskey I added to its caffeinated depths, but as I said before, I am not here for the coffee. I am here in hopes of embracing the banality and inspiring myself to spew some sort of literary substance.”

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. This work-in-progress is copyrighted, so don’t be a thief. Be original.  Enjoy!

A Gentle Criticism of My Generation

This past weekend I found myself engaged in a conversation with one of my former co-workers-turned-friends. She was expressing to me how thankful she was for Netflix and Desperate Housewives while I was supplying her with a running commentary on my ceaseless job search. I told her that I had just come across a position for a “Meme Creator” and didn’t know whether to be disappointed in the direction my field was taking or to embrace the humor of it all. I added that while I generally enjoyed the idea that somebody got paid to put clever words on a strategically comedic picture, perhaps humanity’s money was better spent curing cancer or researching a way to end world hunger.

Her reply was, “No, we got bored with that a while ago. Now we make people laugh.”

To which I riposted, “Ah, yes. Panem et circenses.”

After several minutes of digital silence, I received her confused “What??” in response.

I tried to explain the Roman concept to the friend in question, but the conversation soon faded as did some of my pride in my generation. Upon further reflection of this hollowing feeling, I found myself increasingly disappointed in the people I called peers. How is one supposed to carry on relatively stimulating conversation with a group of individuals who have formed the habit of expressing emotion and reaction with the use of gifs and emojis? How can we form basic human connections if we refuse to look away from our various screens for even the length of a meal?

In the past, I have Christened myself a “Defender of the Millennials” but not today. Today, the only word of which I can think to describe the majority of my generation is puerile, and I would wager that the same majority could not even define the word. Do not misunderstand me. In the ever-optimistic fashion of the Millennial, I have not lost complete faith in my generation. Yet for now I welcome the criticism from previous generations in hopes that some of my compeers will acknowledge our social responsibility to contribute more to humanity than text lingo and Grumpy Cat.