I arrived at JFK during the quiet hours and I was in Manhattan an hour after dawn. The sidewalks were peaceful, just me and the homeless. Makes sense, I can’t imagine you get much sleep when you’re sleeping on the streets.
It was 13 hours until show time, so I spent the day with the reminders that New York is one of the greatest cities in the world: the High Line, the museums, Central Park, NY delicatessens. The city captures my imagination. The forest of buildings, concrete and steel, has my mind daydreaming. Each apartment, each office, each space unique. I can’t help but wonder: who are the people that occupy so much space?
I checked into my Air B&B. The view from the 40th floor flat is mesmerizing. Out the south window I see One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. Out the East window I see the Empire State Building and Times Square.
After a brief, but much needed nap, I went to the Met. I waded through its crowded halls, observing the framed masterpieces of the greats. I then strolled through Central Park, which teemed with life on this warm and sunny day. I couldn’t have scripted a better day if I tried.
The evening came. I arrived at the theatre and took my seat. I found a friend in the girl sitting next to me. We swapped stories. I discovered she was on a pilgrimage of her own. We waited together for the show to begin.
The danger going into this was that my expectations were so high they had become fantasy. Was I asking too much of the experience? Did the show I dreamed of really exist?
The houselights dimmed and thunderous rapture erupted in the theatre. The audience’s anticipation was feverish. Everyone in the room was there because they wanted to be there. Some, like me, have journeyed far to be there. The show began and I immediately felt I was witnessing something special.
Over the next two hours and forty-five minutes the story of Alexander Hamilton and the birth of our nation unfolded like a Shakespearean tragedy. Courage. Ambition. Love. War. Power. Politics. Pride. Friendship. Loss. Forgiveness. Betrayal. Death. It truly has something for everyone.
I’ve had a week to think about the show and to talk about it with fellow fans. Hamilton is one of the greatest pieces of performance art I’ve witnessed. Its story, and the telling of it, affects me, much like Les Miserable and RENT.
When the bullet exits Aaron Burr’s gun, time stops. Hamilton launches into a soliloquy.
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. Is this where it gets me, on my feet, several feet ahead of me?
I see it coming. Do I run, or fire my gun, or let it be? There is no beat, no melody.
Burr, my first friend, my enemy, maybe the last face I ever see. If I throw away my shot, is this how you remember me?
What if this bullet is my legacy?...
In the end, Hamilton does the one thing he swore he would never do: He throws away his shot and by doing so he writes his place in history. He is the flawed but brilliant founding father who overcame impossible odds only to be killed by his rival, Aaron Burr, in a duel.
Aaron Burr goes down in history as the prideful and jealous villain, remembered for his worst behavior on the worst day of his life. What does it say about me that I find Aaron Burr’s character the most compelling of them all?
My 48-hour pilgrimage to see Hamilton was worth every penny. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go and be a witness to this culturally significant event. I left humbled. I left inspired. And I left with this question: who tells my story when I am gone?
A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES