That time we saw Hamilton

 

3 words: overwhelmed, verklempt, ecstatic

We saw Hamilton*, and I’m still floating nearly a week later.

I just keep thinking how lucky we are to be alive right now.

We bought the tickets three seasons ago, and I’ve been flapping with anticipation ever since.

(The flapping last week reached record levels.)

 

 

The Dear Man and his dear sister and dear brother-in-law and I went downtown, and we ate lovely food

(photo credit: Dear Man’s dear sister)

and then lovely cookies.

And then: the theater.

And I’m tellin’ you: The experience was overwhelming.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for well over a year, and it usually provides my internal background music. (So many phrases set it off… and then I’m helpless…)

So I’ve got the music down.

And I knew what the set looks like, because I’ve read Hamilton: The Revolution twice and flipped through it dozens of times.

But the whole visual experience. I was not prepared. It was overwhelming. In the very best way.

I didn’t realize how hard my brain was going to be working to take in the people on the stage and their mannerisms and their movements and their expressions. There was choreography. There were changes to the set. There were interpersonal dynamics happening up there. There was so much to watch!

My eyes were hungry, and they couldn’t eat fast enough to keep up. I felt like Lucy.

I kept wanting to slow it down so I could savor it.

At the same time, I was completely swept along with the pace and the current of the thing. It was filled with so much energy and it was thrilling.

I felt like I’d internalized the words (by reading them but mostly by listening to them so often I’ve memorized them), and now there was another layer being added to an already extraordinarily rich text.

I knew I’d be awed, but I didn’t expect the way my senses would be swamped because I wanted to take in all the details.

I like having my senses swamped, so this is not a problem. But wow. It was seriously something.

The next day and the day after that, I kept telling the Dear Man the ways the experience was still dawning on me.

The thing that wasn’t surprising: my supposedly waterproof mascara proved my tear ducts are stronger than science. My face was kind of a mess afterwards (expected!) because: all that crying. I cried during the sad parts, yes (Hamilton betraying his faithful wife, their son dying tragically young, Hamilton dying way too young), but the part that always gets me while I’m listening (the part about government that only the Dear Man gets to know is my favorite) had me sobbing.

Ugly crying in the theater?

 

 

So, a week later… Am I still overwhelmed? Yes.

Am I Satisfied? HECK YES.

 

*So we’re doing this  (1:33)

Unspooling a story

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler 

3 words: homey, storytelling, heartfelt 

Just when I think I’ve experienced enough Anne Tyler and I could spend time with some other author’s work instead, she goes and ups her game. 

And now I’m seriously aching for someone I know to read this book so we can talk about the scene where the word “dashiki” made me burst out sobbing. 

Yeah, that was kinda weird. 

But also rather wonderful. 

Tyler has some serious storytelling powers, and she ain’t afraid to wield them.
This family story is fairly quiet, but it runs deep. 

The Whitshanks are a fairly ordinary family, but Tyler’s writing elevates them. And her unmatched ability to weave a story makes their family fascinating. 

Just when I thought the book would focus on the parent/child relationship of a prodigal son with his parents, it veered into the past and picked up the long-hidden, rather scandalous, very sad story of his grandparents. 

Another aspect of the book that had me from the start: the beloved family home is nearly a character itself. 

 At times, the dryly humorous, realistic depiction of family dynamics made me actually laugh out loud. 

And then there was that sob storm. 

Dang, people. This is some seriously good fiction action.

True blue

(photo credit*)

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne

3 words: entertaining, storytelling, honest

Ever love a book so much you keep talking about it until you become a total bore to
those around you?

Yeah, me too.

This summer, The Job was one of Those Books.

Why the introvert kept talking about it:

First, cops have the best stories.

Second, this guy’s a master storyteller.

Third, this guy’s one heck of a great writer. He does that thing I love, where a person
writes exactly the way he talks. So you can hear his voice.

(Before writing this book, he told his stories on stage for The Moth, and happily for us, he kept that same voice in his writing.)

His stories are an ideal mix of funny, heartfelt, sad, and unbelievable.

And some of the moments he describes are so weird they’re perfect.

His first day on a new assignment, he saw a guy march into the station house playing the bagpipes. “I glanced over to the cop on the switchboard, and he was still doing his crossword puzzle.” (p. 106)

Bagpipe dude was one of their regulars.

So there’s zaniness, and there’s adrenaline, and then there’s one chapter called “Cops Don’t Cry” that I can’t stop thinking about.

If you’re somewhere that people won’t see you cry, listen to it on The Moth.

 

*photo credit: Police Car @ Times Square via photopin (license)

 

 

I finally read it

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3
words: compassionate, lyrical, wry  
Worth
the hype? Yes.
So… Death
as the narrator. I know. But if you can get through the first chapter and meet
the characters he describes (I think Death
is a “he;” at least the audiobook narrator was), you just might get hooked on
the book as fast as I did.
The
thing is: to describe The Book Thief
makes it sound sad and depressing. Which it is, yet really isn’t. It has too
many moments of light and goodness amidst the difficulties.
It’s
Germany, WWII is raging, and Liesel is only 9 when she’s orphaned. Her new
foster parents are a study in contrasts: Rosa is foul-mouthed and harsh (yet a
good woman in a crisis), and Hans is notable for “the brute strength of the
man’s gentleness.” (CD 1, track 13)
And
then their small household grows in population when Max Vandenburg joins them.
But his presence must remain a secret, because he’s Jewish.
Since
Death tells the story, a person is rather on edge throughout the entire novel. Who’s he coming for? But then Death
becomes rather likeable himself, and that’s even more unnerving. He’s a darn
credible narrator, and he doesn’t sugar-coat things.
The
audiobook is a remarkable thing. Death’s voice is calm, cynical, wry,
occasionally kindhearted.
Zusak
has an extraordinarily strong ability to draw memorable characters. The good
ones have flaws that make them real, and they all have quirks that make them
believable. I won’t soon forget them.  

Visiting the Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story published by Anne Frank House

Back when I first read Anne Frank’s diary, I dreamed of visiting the house where she and her family and the others were in hiding. And I swore that when I first went overseas, that would be my destination. And then I wondered whether it ever would really happen.

A decade or two passed (or maybe three) and finally the opportunity presented itself. And I kept repeating to myself, “Lucky, lucky, lucky…” because really: how many of us get to actually realize a childhood dream?

And then I thought of how Anne’s childhood dream—of publishing her story—came true, but how it happened only after her much-too-young, much-too-terrible death. And then I felt that awful sick feeling that comes over me when it hits me that that was really real.

So when I visited the Anne Frank House recently, the experience was very real and also surreal.


And when I saw the swinging bookcase, I stopped in my tracks and blinked a whole bunch to keep from crying.

People, it’s an emotional experience to visit that place. 

The good people at the Anne Frank House museum have put together a remarkable website that allows virtual visits.  

But there’s nothing that really compares to being in that space. My God. Anne’s movie star pictures are still on the walls of her room, and one of the doorways still contains the marks the Franks made to record their daughters’ growth in height. 

It’s devastatingly moving.

The museum’s book, Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story,
is a wonderful companion. It provides photos of the spaces with the furniture in place, so you can get a sense of what it was like when the Frank family, Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer lived there. (The rooms are now devoid of furniture.)

At the end of the book, there are pages about the fate of each of the occupants of the secret annex. And it was in this section that I struggled to keep it together.

A small book, but an important one.