Poetry and the musical, “Hamilton”, again.

As part of this semester’s curriculum, my daughter and her class learned about poetry. The lesson(s) culminated in them writing individual poems, which would be displayed for parents on Poetry Night and subsequently on the bulletin board outside her classroom.

My wife and I missed Poetry night. We didn’t realize it was Poetry Night. And we also had no idea our daughter was working on a poem that was to be included in any type of exhibition. But thankfully and mercifully, it didn’t seem to be that big a deal, which was tacitly confirmed when there was nary a whine let alone a mention of missing it. A narrow escape.

I did get a recap the following morning from a buddy of mine. He had snapped some pictures to memorialize certain poems he “liked.” And by “like” I mean a show of shock and concern. He proceeded to share…

He read of dismemberment, sadness, loss and death. All extremely upliftings subjects. I was taken aback and felt a bit uneasy. I asked him, in his completely unprofessional opinion, if I had cause for such concern. He didn’t think so and I supposed that since these poems were put up for public consumption, enough folks who were professionally trained, read: TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS, had plenty of time to review and assess.

And then he mentioned that he saw my daughter’s poem.

“Really? I didn’t realize her work would be displayed let alone that there was a Poetry night.”

(I have an admission to make. I usually give informational emails sent from her school, no make that the subject lines of emails sent from her school, a quick glance and that’s about it. I don’t pay much attention to the content so a miss like this is common. I’d like to work on that a little bit more for next year.)

I was curious to see what she’d written and made my way to her classroom to review her poem hanging on the wall just outside the class. I found hers and read it. And I was pretty disappointed. Truly. But not because of the content or syntax of her poem –  it was well-written and celebratory – I was disappointed in the subject she chose to write about. She chose to write about soccer.

As it happens, I love (watching) soccer. (I prefer to call it “footie” to respect the nomenclature of those who created the sport and not blindly subscribe to American ethnocentricity.)

But I know she doesn’t.

marcus-rashford-manchester-united-premier-league_3434875

Marcus Rashford!

She certainly might like it. But definitely not to the extent of enthusiasm she showed in her poem. She’ll watch with me on television on occasion (but I think that’s more about watching television), but as she’s made it abundantly clear by refusing all our overtures to sign her up for a league, as well as sitting off to the side at soccer-themed birthday parties and lastly, asking out of soccer after school, she has absolutely no interest in playing. But you certainly wouldn’t know that from the poem.

I literally stood there shaking my head because I knew why she chose to write about “soccer.” She wanted to fit in. She wanted to be a part of something that’s very popular in her class even though it isn’t something she likes. And that did not make me happy.

One of the things that keeps me up at night is worrying that my daughter will not honor who she is as a person, and won’t be secure enough to pursue and speak openly about what she does like.

So far she’s been great. As I’ve written, my daughter is very secure in her individuality – https://worlditson.com/2016/01/19/dapper-dandy/ – and while it’s still at times tiring to remind folks she’s a girl because of her style, we’re so very proud of her and all the more happy to do so. But I really want her mettle to shine through in every aspect of her life. And in this case I felt that she was failing herself, and this disappointed me.

So I talked with her about it. It turned out to be more of a one way conversation – she opted against engaging. Which was fine.

I gave her my famous ice cream example. The one about some people loving vanilla. Some people loving chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan and on and on and on. It’s a perfect example because no child has ever said they loved all flavors equally. In fact, strawberry is always left over in all Neapolitan cartons (except mine)! And when asked, they’ll always throw their support around the flavor they do love best regardless of who’s eating what.  And it’s okay… to be different.

I think she understood. I’m hoping she did. But maybe it’s something to be learned along the way. And I need to let this be handled experientially. But it’s hard to back off in some cases.

I don’t think I mishandled this one though. I’m going to continue to support her and encourage her to speak her mind as long as it’s respectful of others.

Apropos of speaking one’s mind and having the confidence to dissent, I’m going to try a little sociological experiment. (Wringing of my hands… Mmmmwwwwahahahahahaha.) Let’s call it A/B testing of a piece I wrote.

I recently reviewed the play “Hamilton” in  “No, I did NOT love Hamilton” , and some folks didn’t like what I’d written. I received a bit of discordant feedback which I found amusing because the fact is we LIKED the show, just not as much as most folks. From some of the reactions one might have thought we absolutely hated it.

I think it started at the mere sight of the name “Hamilton” adjacent to any word with negative connotations, in this case, “NOT”, which drove people to read the post with a bias and get angry instantly. So let’s try this on for size:

I LIKED Hamilton!

My wife and I went to see the hit sensation, “Hamilton,” last night. I bought the tickets directly from the box office nine months ago as an anniversary gift to us. Face value. Yeah, boyyyyy!

And we liked it! So much so that while we usually grade Broadway shows on a harsh scale, Hamilton earned a 7 out of 10! Bravo!

We were particularly impressed with the melodies and lyrics, although we felt the sound system might have impaired our hearing a bit and made the words a little more challenging to decipher.

King George

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be back.

We absolutely LOVED King George. I think it goes without saying anyone who’s seen the show recognizes how masterfully played that role was, regardless of which actor they saw. Apparently, during its limited engagement, there’ve been three men to play the role. And from what I’ve read, all of them to equally fantastic reviews.

Had a great laugh watching Thomas Jefferson’s “What Did I Miss” performance. In fact, speaking of what did I miss, I think I had my head in the clouds during that lesson in American History and didn’t realize Jefferson was in France the whole time. Or maybe I did know that… at some point in my life.

My wife (not I!) cried during the extremely poignant scene where Philip Hamilton died from gun shot wounds as a result of losing a duel. (Sorry if I spoiled that for you. Actually, I’m not sorry… it’s American History.) Again, very well done.

With a nod to the brilliantly written and performed rap battle, one final moment that caught my eye was the curtain call the whole cast took… together, as opposed to individual bows. I’m not sure whether this happens a lot, but it’s something that stood out to me and that I appreciated.

Again, BRAVO to Hamilton. On a good day, and maybe if I listen to the soundtrack a bajillion more times, I might increase my score to ≈ 7.5/8. We’ll see. Until then, I recommend going to see it, but wait a couple of years to secure tickets at face value.

In the meantime, considering what an influential man Alexander Hamilton was in our great country’s history, I, who lives in HAMILTON Heights (get it?), fully recommend you go visit the Hamilton Grange National Memorial in St. Nicholas Park. The grange was Hamilton’s home for the last couple of years of his life. It’s a National Memorial, and the NATIONAL Government did a wonderful job preserving it and curating an exhibition to support it. I HIGHLY recommend going to see it.

EPILOGUE – Since I wrote both Hamilton pieces (the above had been sitting in my queue for weeks), I’ve tried to listen to the soundtrack on a couple of occasions (at the gym). And it’s simply not working for me. Neither my wife nor I ever play it in the apartment let alone talk about the idea of playing it in the apartment. Looks like it’s not going to happen for us and Hamilton. I very much appreciate that a great majority of people got so much joy and pleasure from the show, and again, I’m in awe of the idea and production of it, but it just didn’t work for me on that level.

And speaking of people getting a lot of joy and pleasure from content, the latest youtube craze, that woman in the Chewbacca mask, just didn’t do it for me, either. I’m thrilled it made so many people laugh and lightened up their days, and I’m happy this woman got her children’s college paid for, and it’s nice to see she should be able to profit from this both monetarily and “professionally,” but boy did I not get it. I think (and have been told) I have a great sense of humor but I don’t think I broke a smile once. I kept on waiting for someone to knock on her car window or bump her car or… SOMETHING! Anything other than to hear that laugh and see her play around with a kid’s toy. I just didn’t get it. But to each his or her own.

I’m going to enjoy my STRAWBERRY ice cream. And World… it’s on!

Thanks so much for reading!

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Yes, I have to.

I consider myself an extrovert. Contrary to popular belief,

extroverts are not just friendly and outgoing, they are people who are energized by being around other people.

Some famous extroverts. I guess it’s good company.

But that’s not always me one hundred percent of the time. And I wonder, would that then disqualify me as an extrovert? Is there such a thing as a semi-extrovert? There are simply moments when I, like everybody else, just don’t feel like being around other people.

But I’ve found that in the moments when I know I should be engaging, if I power through and activate, whether it’s going for that cup of coffee to talk shop, attending those meetups to learn something new, hitting that party to interact on a social level, or simply having that chat, what always seems to play out is that those moments result in positive outcomes.

This past Saturday I went to a Cinco de Mayo party. It was May 7th. (Pause for laughter. Although that’s really not that funny.)

I really didn’t feel like going. The party was in Jersey City and aside from the usual schlep to get there, the fact we were taking the subway on the weekend at the mercy of all those service changes, only added to the impending pain of said schlep.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you were a tourist in New York City and had to get around on the subway over the weekend? The fact is the repairs, and therefore, the service changes, are necessary evils, but those announcements and the signs. Oy, those signs.

scanners

Exploding head = tourist on NYC Subway on the weekend.

None of them, and I repeat, none of them make any sense. Not one tourist, let alone any veteran, daily rider has any clue where they’re going to end up when they hop on any train over the weekend. But I digress.

I ended up going to the party and having a really nice time. And in the course of the evening, I met a very interesting fellow. He’s a lobbyist who had tales aplenty and I imagined the connections to boot. We hit it off. I think it had something to do with the fact we both hailed from Queens. He was from Jackson Heights and me, well I’m from Rego Park, but you knew that already. We made plans to meet up over a cup of coffee the following Friday, which was later today.

Every Friday morning, after I drop off my daughter in Chelsea, I hop right back on the train and shoot back up to 145th and St. Nicholas. I volunteer at Heritage Health and Housing that “provides health care, housing and a wide range of social and support services within a community of healing.” Specifically, I work at the Pantry giving out food to folks with HIV/AIDS who are on welfare.

I really enjoy volunteering at the Pantry. Not only do I really like the folks I work with – incredible people who work in a dingy, basement office for no glory and certainly little money – but I really enjoy interacting with our clients. (And I love that they’re called clients. In this case it’s a term used to ensure they maintain some level of dignity.)

And also, on a selfish level, it’s very zen for me. I’m completely present in what I’m doing and not concerned with any of the challenges currently going on in my life. And the reality is, while it’s all relative, my issues pale in comparison to theirs.

The Pantry items change on a weekly basis. Today, we were giving out, among other things (from all food groups), frozen dark meat chicken. Each client receives five pounds… if they want it. Which is something I wasn’t quite understanding. Why wouldn’t any of our clients take the chicken? After all, most of the other goods are canned or boxed. Here they’re getting free, fresh poultry.

So I asked Garrett and his husband, Blaine, a couple who were refusing the chicken, why they would do this. Garrett told me they passed on the chicken because they had little room in their freezer. They still had chicken left over for a couple of weeks, and didn’t want to take what they weren’t going to use for fear others might miss out. I appreciated this answer. I assumed everyone was in it for themselves – there’s usually a jockeying for position to get pantry first – and that our clients would stock up if they had the opportunity. I was clearly wrong.

Then I found out the reason they had left over chicken in their freezer was because they couldn’t cook it. They, and their neighbors, have been without gas for the last two months. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t pay. They live in government subsidized housing and the landlord just didn’t care.

Garrett followed, “and there’s no one to help us.” And without hesitation, I stepped up. “I will help you,” I said. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I was going to help them. And I am going to help them.

Fast forward to this afternoon and coffee with my new friend. We chatted in the comfortable confines of Irving Roasters on Irving Place, far, far away from the Heritage House in Harlem. We chatted about things, and then got around to my experience earlier that day. It turns out my friend has had a lot of experience dealing with issues like this and, with a twinkle in his eye and a powerful, determined grin, said that he “LOVES doing things like this” and would “love to help me!” We slapped each other a high-five and started feeding of each other’s enthusiasm for our newest task at hand!

I am incredibly fired up to do this. I’m looking forward to working with him on it, gaining this experience and most of all, fighting for those who don’t know how or can’t fight for themselves.

I realized later on that had I not gone to the party and met my new friend, and had I not gone to volunteer that day (which is entirely optional) and learned about the challenge facing these good folks, I never would have had this opportunity.

World… it’s on!

Thanks so much for reading!

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