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Hamilton and me


After eight packed days in Ottawa, I came here to NYC for some rest and entertainment. Last night I went to see a Broadway play: Hamilton. It is pertinent, a message for today. And it is fun, good music, great acting, wonderful choreography. My daughter won four tickets in a raffle. Second row seats, quite the treat. The show was right in my lap!

My best memories of going to Broadway plays was when I was young, probably around eight to ten. My aunt Paula would take me. I remember seeing Guys and Dolls and Porgy and Bess with her. We must have been visiting NYC. She lived in New Rochelle with her husband. He had a pharmacy and she organized the store.

Once when I was visiting them, I was running up the stairs of the apartment building and tripped. The result was a seriously bloody nose. I still have the slightly deviated septum, but thankfully only I notice it. I stayed with her after I had my wisdom teeth pulled when I was in my sophomore year of university. And she drove me into Bethesda to get weighed at the drugstore there when I was about twelve and she thought I was gaining weight. To me it was a kind gesture but fostered a lifelong emotional need to watch the scale, to bring her back.

Paula was the kind of aunt every young girl wants. Supportive and warm to me. I know she had some problems with one sister, but not with me. She had no children and indulged me with kindness. I loved visiting her. And I did whenever possible. When I lived on Broome Street in Manhattan, she came and helped paint my new loft. I was in my early 40s; she was 72 at the time. Later, when she had a stroke and was in a coma, I travelled to the hospital in Westchester to visit. I was told she wouldn’t know I was there, but she did. When I moved away from standing by the bed, she was visibly upset. She did recover somewhat and was moved to a nursing home in Cleveland to be near her step-daughter. We corresponded for a while, her letters being almost illegible, the writing very scratchy and running downhill off the paper. I assume a nurse read her my letters. Gradually they became less and then stopped. I was not told when she died. Another sad part of my friendship with my aunt was when she needed to go into a nursing home, her step-daughter assumed Paula had given me money and asked me to return it. She hadn’t. But it was hard for her family to understand that we simply liked each other, enjoyed being together.

One other happy memory of musical theatre was when I was sixteen. It was summer, probably August, and I went to see Porgy and Bess again. This time in an amphitheater in Washington, D.C. with a boy I had been eager to date for a while. It was a magical evening, a perfect first date.

When I was in art school, a fellow student introduced me to Miles Davis’ recording of Porgy and Bess. I would play it all through the night sometimes. When I moved out, I met my next door neighbor who gently told me there were times when it was more than he wanted to hear. I still love listening to that recording, often when I am painting. Today I’ve been listening to the music from Hamilton, another happy memory.


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