I Saw Hamilton. (The Musical, Not the Shitty City)
Well, I’m in Chicago. I’ve been through O’Hare airport many many times. Once, a decade ago, I had an unplanned overnight stay here when I was en route to Memphis to give a presentation; but I didn’t have a real chance to see the city then.
So this is my first time. And…. wow. What a place! I officially declare Chicago to be the only other actual city in the USA. New York is clearly the other one.
What? Los Angels, Atlanta, Tampa… aren’t those cities? No. Those are large assemblies of people clustered in an urban environment. New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Istanbul, Rome, Mumbai, Beijing…. these are cities. You know what I mean. And now I think I might add Chicago to that list.
I know that will trigger some of you. Get over it.
My taxi driver from the airport today was from South Sudan. I commented to him, “Ah, the world’s newest country!” And he replied, “And the world’s poorest country.” Then we chatted innocuously for a bit. Upon dropping me off, he sheepishly asked, “Can I ask, are you from Canada?”
“How did you guess?”
“Only Canadians are polite and take an interest in other people’s countries.”
Take THAT, other countries!
I’m staying at a fairly swanky hotel (hey, I’m not paying), but spent wayyyy too much time chatting with the front desk person, about life, beer, climate, nutrition, and Zod knows what else.
Later on, walking down the street, I would fall into an overly long conversation with another random person on the freezing streets; this time about climate change and indicators of development.
What is it about this place that compels me to have lengthy conversations with strangers? Or maybe I’m just lonely.
Oh, here is the view outside my window:
Yep. I am constantly exposed to the giant letters that spell the name of an orange buffoon. But at least I always know where I am.
The first challenge, of course, was finding a meal that meets my weird and stringent dietary restrictions. On the plane, all I could find that was vegan was: a muffin, a slice of banana bread, a bag of chips, and a glass of tomato juice. Not exactly a healthy meal:
But I was excited to see on Google Maps that there’s a vegetarian-friendly restaurant near to the hotel. So I got my sweet ass there lickety-split, and got this sufficient spread of tofu burrito and veggie chili:
In my new talkative state, I of course had to start a conversation with the people who made my burrito. They were excited to learn I had just arrived from Canada. They were less sanguine about my dismissal of Chicago’s supposed frigid weather.
It’s only -4 degrees (Celcius) here. Jeebus, people, it was -18 in Ottawa this morning! Minus four is nothing!
I’m here to attend a global health conference. But no one wants to hear about that. I don’t even want to hear about that. This evening, though, I saw the musical Hamilton.
Let me tell you… I was absolutely enchanted. Hamilton really is everything I love and admire about the USA. First, the performance skills of its actors and singers is, I think, unequalled in any other nation. Beyond that, though, there is something charmingly and specifically American about how these people are able to celebrate their founding mythology –or more accurately, mytho-history– through contemporary swagger, attitude and musical form.