“Wait. Are you guys talking about Hamilton?”
I was in the commissary at work when I overhead two women talking about the Schuyler Sisters.
“I’m going this Saturday.” I said.
The two women turned to me; their eyes grew wide and giddy. “You’re going?! It will change your life!”
They told me their Hamilton stories. One saw it last fall, the other this past January. They are still reveling in the wake of the experience. My relationship with the two women, whom I’d known professionally for a couple years, changed in that instant. We weren’t just co-workers anymore. We were Hamilton fans.
I've been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack over and over and over for the past few months. With each listen I fell deeper into the obsessive trenches of this sort-of, but not really, familiar story. It’s poetic lyrics roll through my head like a new dance I’m trying to learn. I’ve got feel for the rhythm but my feet won’t keep up.
But it’s not just about a catchy tune; it’s those people, the characters. Hamilton. Washington. Jefferson. Madison. Adams. Burr. I know those names. But I didn’t know them, not like this.
The show opens with a question and it concludes with a question. When it begins I think they’re telling me a story about Alexander Hamilton. Later, I think, no, they are telling me a story about America. By the end I understand; it’s a story about me. Those questions are meant for me.
I was visiting a long-time friend and kindred spirit over Memorial Day weekend. She had recently returned from a weekend trip to New York to see it. She said, Nathan you have to go. I hemmed and hawed. As much as I love the music, it’s a lot of money. Plus I live in LA. That’s a long way to go for one show. She said, “You don’t understand. It’s Hamilton. You have to see it. Do whatever it takes. You have to go, soon.”
I returned to LA. I had a dream I was there, watching it. I was moved by it. The next day a feeling of inevitability came over me. It was no longer a question of do I want to go or do I feel like going. It was a question of when. The decision was already made; now I had to make peace with it.
Last Sunday, I decided no more waiting. No more debating. It’s time to go. So I bought a ticket for Saturday night. I take a red-eye Friday night, see the show Saturday night, and fly back to LA Sunday afternoon. A 48-hour trip.
But it doesn’t feel like a trip. It feels more like a pilgrimage. I’m going by myself. The thought of inviting someone to join me never really crossed my mind. It doesn’t matter if anyone else is going. I’m going.
Doubts still whisper in the back of my mind: Is this really going to be worth the small fortune I’m spending to make this happen? I tell the whispers to be quiet. I can’t answer that question, not yet.
The definition of a pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for a spiritual reason. Some go to Jerusalem, some to India, some trek the Camino de Santiago. This weekend I’m going to the Richard Rogers theatre in New York City.
I’ll let you know if it was worth it.
A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES