Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Hamilton, the red-hot, sold-out, genre-bending, politically explosive musical was so absolutely fantastic, it deserves its own post.

We saw Hamilton in Chicago, in its first-touring production.  Though we had heard the music and seen excerpts we (or at least I) didn't realize how powerful and immersive it would be.

Hamilton was a long time in the making.  The video above was recorded in 2009 when Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited to the White House to participate in the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.  Here, before President and Mrs. Obama, Miranda offers one of the first public performances of what was then conceived of as a "concept-album."  (This version, unlike many on youtube is in the public domain.)

Hamilton goes a long way from this to the amazingly staged and stunningly original performance we saw in Chicago.  So many riches  The use of hip-hop with its interior rhymes and puns suggesting the complex identity construction of not only the West Indian Hamilton but also all the many former British subjects who were struggling to identify themselves as American citizens in their new country.  The way Hamilton revels in its own history: the many references to the hip-hop and rap tradition within which Hamilton resides, as well as the gestures to the tradition of musical theater with references to South Pacific and HMS Pinafore (among others). Hamilton also pushes its diversity in the racial make up of the cast and the way that diversity is deployed. The hispanic Alexander Hamilton and the black Aaron Burr complicate the story that "history" has told us.  .

There are so many reasons to love Hamilton, but one that spoke powerfully to me was the emphasis on how historical narratives are constructed and deconstructed.  The refrain "who lives, who dies, who tells your story" echoes through the play.  The story of Hamilton is a narrative of a revolution, and the Founding Fathers--including Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, as well as Hamilton and Burr--are not archetypal heroes we have been taught about.  Moreover, we hear other voices history has silenced, for example Hercules Mulligan, the spy who saves the battle of Yorktown, Eliza Schuyler, Hamilton's wife who burned the letter she wrote to her husband.  Another refrain begun by Hamilton echoes throughout the play:  "I'm just like my country/young, scrappy and hungry/and I'm not going to lose my shot."  This young, scrappy, hungry Hamilton renarrates America, blurring race, ethnicity and origins. Who is an immigrant?  Who is an American?  What will America be?  Astonishing that a play about the first Secretary of the Treasury could be such a marvel.



Saturday, November 26, 2016


Okay, it is Thanksgiving, but the highlight was going to Hamilton with my whole family.

(My sister made me add that another highlight was sitting with her in her pjs watching the Duke Miami football game. She was being sarcastic.)

We are all in Chicago for the weekend.  Thursday we ate turkey, Friday we went into the city to see Hamilton, and Saturday we are basically hanging out.  All 17 of us. 

However the real stars of our show are our two little neices.  (Watch til the end to see real sibling rivalry.)

We really haven't had any arguments because we agree on all the important points; we like turkey and we hate Trump.  Here are some random shots of what it's like to have this many people together in one house.  


Saturday, November 19, 2016


Getting away from unpleasant topics outside and moving closer to home, this post is dedicated to Charlie Sweitzer who made these beautiful Shaker rockers for us.

Charlie is an artist who makes extraordinary Shaker chairs,and stools.  We have several at the lake.  When we moved to our new condominium, we wanted somewhere to sit and take in the view, so we commissioned these rocking chairs from Charlie.  They are cherry frame with birds eye maple slats.

In the South, where I grew up, people sit in rocking chairs on the porch and admire the view.  We don't have a porch, but we definitely have a view.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Not All Stories Have Happy Endings

Eight years ago, after Obama's first victory, many Americans were giddy with delight.  Tony and I were getting ready to go to Timisoara Romania for his Fulbright.  We decided to delay leaving for Europe until after the inauguration because even if we couldn't actually be in Washington, we wanted to participate in this great moment and have clear memories of the day.

Eight years hence, we are now in a very different--and for many of us very precarious--position.  It is difficult not to feel anything but fear, antipathy, and discouragement about the advent of a Trump (I can hardly write this down) Presidency.

Many of my friends, American and European, in person and on Facebook, have expressed dismay, anger, fear, even terror for the future.  I have read lots of responses--from people who have basically said they plan to retreat into a bubble and try to just live their own lives--to people who are looking for ways to try to make things better (e.g., allocating more of their charitable givings to groups like Planned Parenthood or ACLU or trying to find ways to make meaningful civic or political action)--to kids, like my nephew, who is protesting in the streets of Miami.

In all this, this only person who has made me feel better is Rachel Maddow who said we need to remember what makes us a country.  It's not just politicians.  Rather, it's our shared heritage, including rights like a free press, freedom of speech and assembly.  It's the fact that we don't have a military that is independent of the government.  We have (hopefully) freedom of religion.  We don't have a national language or religion. There were a lot more but that's about what I could remember.  I'm not saying it very well; she said it better.  Her point, though, is that we need to keep faith with our values and do what we can to protect them.

I said in an earlier post that I thought Nixon would be the worst president of my lifetime.  I hope (though I have very little faith) that will turn out to be true.

Re my other stories.  I went to the orthopedist last week.  He said the tear was not in a good place for surgery, which was fine with me as I didn't want to do surgery anyway.  I'm going to have a cortisone shot (guided by the MRI) into the torn sport, then re-start physical therapy.  Maybe more targeted this time, I hope.  (The word "piriformis never came up.)  He also said that there was no reason not to plan a trip to Europe, so yesterday I booked tickets.  A month (February) in Budapest at Apartment Andrei, then a week in Prague.  Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, I am keeping track of the new political world we live in, but trying not to be overwhelmed by it.

#Rachel Maddow

Monday, November 7, 2016

In the Middle of Too Many Stories

Life seem very unsettled right now. We are in the middle (maybe nearing the end) of too many stories.

Number One of course is the election--about which I cannot stop obsessing. (MSNBC is always on somewhere in my house)  I know that story will soon be over, and if I could pray, I would pray for a happy ending. But even on Election Eve, it's clear that the story of discord, acrimony, and numbing gridlock will surely contine after tomorrow's finale.  I always thought that Nixon would be the worst president of my lifetime; I never imagined someone could be so much worse. But, really, who could have ever imagined Trump?

Second unfinished story is my damned hamstring.  Short version:  I hurt something in the back of my leg while we were moving.  It got much worse after 3 days in the car driving to the UP.  The doctor I consulted in Houghton thought it was piriformis syndrome and sent me to Physical Therapy.  I had a wonderful PT doctor, but the stretches she recommended hurt too much.  Eventually I could tolerate them but I just didn't get much better. I had an MRI of my lower back, but nothing showed up.  By the end of the summer, I couldn't walk up hills or sit for any length of time without pain.  (And really sitting is one of my most important positions; right now I am typing this standing up.)

As soon as I got home I went to my own wonderful doctor, Sal Ciliberti.  He immediately ordered an MRI of my hip and leg and set up an appointment with an orthopedist.  MRI shows I have hamstring tear,  So not piriformis, not lower back. I spent a whole summer trying to feel better, and now I realize I wasn't even in the right story.  So I am waiting to find out what's next.

I am also settling into a new home.  And although I am so happy to have all that downsizing, and renovating and selling the house behind me, I still don't feel quite settled yet.

The bottom line, is that I haven't yet found the rhythm of my day.  I had hoped to walk the loop in Cherokee Park in the mornings (but I can't walk up hills), work on my architecture book in the afternoon (but I can't sit for long period).  All this, plus my intravenous connection to political TV, has meant days that tend to drift rather than go somewhere.

This seems way too gloomy (and self-obsessed) for a blog post, but it is part of the reality of retirement--a stage of life in which there are, for good or ill, lengthy stretches of time which are primarily comprised of waiting.

But trying for optimism, eventually waiting will be over and then there will be Thanksgiving and Hamilton, Budapest and Prague (if the orthopedist gives good news), and progress on my book.  And in the meantime of course--friends, movies, dinners out and a new home to settle into.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Good-Bye Keweenaw: Highlights of the Summer

Some of the highlights and random sweet moments of this summer at the lake. We are now back in Louisville, sorting through the challenges of normal life when you are not on extended summer vacation.  For another post.