A Confluence Of All Good Things

by Honest Babe on October 7, 2015

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I was asked by my aunt recently to paint her apartment for her; as a favor mostly but more so an opportunity for me to explore my long repressed talents with a brush. It was a mighty kind gesture on her behalf, and seeing how her new one bedroom was located on the upper east side of Manhattan and that I had just gotten into Hamilton, the musical, there arose in the paint-scented air of that high rise apartment a confluence of all good things.

This paint job was an important job, rest assured. Paramount in its need to be executed thoughtfully, the wall was now my canvas and was to be treated as such. It was my expression. My art. My je ne sais quoi. And, after listening to Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical once through already and reeling song after song – nigh unbearable as it was in its abundance of wit and talent and adorations of revolutionary history (of both the nation and hip-hop alike) and lest we not forget, a tipping of an honest hat to the human condition as a whole – I knew the wall deserved my best effort. It deserved inspiration worthy of such an all-encompassing soundtrack that now echoed off its sullen white-washed walls.

The walls looked soulless, I tell you. Empty. In need of restoration. I suppose that is why I was fingered for the job. Or perhaps it was because I was jobless and enjoyed fingering. Either way, the truth remains that Hamilton was about as far from soulless as you could get. “Where’s the color?” I asked aloud, demanding an answer from the walls. “The Vibrance!? Where is the LIFE?!” I thought about launching an entire can of paint at its dusty, chalk-plastered heart, abstract-like in the heat of uncontrollable emotion, but I knew that that had already been done many times before. I smartly put the paint can down and remembered how unoriginality is the ultimate sin, particularly to the crowd who are fluent in sin. Aritsts, that is. Worse even was that it would’ve been an act unworthy of the Hamiltonian splendor doing backflips and summersaults of originality on my eardrums. It too doesn’t need mentioning that my contractor probably wouldn’t have been too thrilled at the emotional anarchy that would have claimed both her ceiling and hardwood floors – dousing them in a Yellow Bisque aftermath – a natural byproduct of a true artist at work.

I kept on with the job, sanding the walls and mixing the paint and prepping the area, but it just wasn’t right. Something was off. Variables weren’t adding up. The paint wasn’t mixing correctly with the sound. So, mid set-up, mid-verse, mid-mental blogging, I stopped. I got outta there. A mindset still needed finding. The music was too good, too affecting, too…honest about life. And well, laying out drop cloths and taping down corners and plotting the fastest points of getting such a job done wasn’t living – it was living to get the job done. And what is worse then doing something just to get it done? Living through life just to forget it was lived? I for one wanted no part in that. Something else was sorely needed, another way to approach the work was desperately called for, perhaps something to make me appreciate the now, the everyday blue-collar work that allows the next day to come. I was down the elevator and out the door and putting tread to pavement before I knew it.

The crisp autumn air danced on my cheeks as I strolled toward Central Park. Leaves were on the cusp of changing and its coolness hit my lungs and lifted me, giving the upper east side an improper upper hand – affluent as it already is. I walked aimlessly, sort of foolish in that I thought walking would deliver an answer to my listlessness but I needed some clarity. As my pacing found rhythm, I thought about my sister and felt thankful that she had recommended Hamilton to me. More than recommended it, she had complimented me deeply by saying “there are so few people in my life who will appreciate this music – you definitely will.” I suppose the raft of deadly diseases we are sure to inherit later in life are worth the genetic charm that comes with the Colpo/Formisano namesake. And walking down Fifth Ave, shared memory after shared memory claimed my brain and how my love – or shall I say, openness to Broadway – was shaped directly by my older and much more well-cultured sibling. Whether it was the earth shattering arrangements of Les Meserables or pop-induced melodies of Rent or any of the other numerous shows she starred in throughout high school, all of these gems came amplified out of her room with some authority in my youth and left me, little brother and constant seeker of approval, with little choice in the matter. I still find myself humming Les Mes“One Day More” in public and have nearly lost many a close friend to what is admittedly, the ‘least manly thing a man can do in public.’ The good news, for any of you manly men who visit this here drivel-machine, is that I am not here to plea a case that might change your views on broadway and the absurdity of a story line where every line must indeed be sung. Yes. Every word. Every single syllable…Sung! My god! The horror! Sweet Christ! The Effeminacy! The Coodies! No, I will not be doing that. But I am here to make my case about art. And believe me, for much of my life, it was a case that had the same ring about it as does a foreign language falling on deaf ears. Imagine a romance language, though beautiful and entrancing and at its greatest times, liberating, but never to be understood in the first place without the ability to hear…or in this case of metaphor, to listen…to truly see.

You see, my stroll had taken me unexpectedly into the halls of The Metropolitan Art Museum. A one dollar donation later and a light walk past the Hellenistic sandstone sculptures and bounty from the times of Alexander the Great, did I drift by divine providence into the world of the Impressionists. And there they were: Monet, Renoir, Degas, Camille…

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Names I had once relegated to only be understood by the supremely educated, the rich. The decadent gold frames that surrounded each of these masterpieces along with the fact that they were located on the most expensive street to live on in the entire country were reminders of why I figured a strong majority of wealthy prep-schoolers go on to become art-history majors, and in turn, go on to become the snooty curators of museums who talk to you like you don’t know anything. Those little privileged bastards were lucky that I didn’t know anything today, otherwise I might’ve taken offense. Especially when the lady informed me, coughing-gasping slightly while pressing her spectacles firmly back onto the bridge over her nose, that “Degas does not, in fact, rhyme with Vegas.” The bitch. It was also why I figured that you could only understand art if you were raised around it. Which, of course, to me was still a luxury only to be afforded by the wealthy. But sitting there, in whose company deserves uninterrupted silence, gnawing at the hanging skin around my thumbnail, taking in Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies and lulling mindlessly into the slight fuzz that came to my eyes…so with it came the vision that was Monet:

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The clarity of the soul that he wielded with each brush stroke, the levity he garnished with each reflection of the light, the child-like abandon of color that resided at the heart of playing with paint, and only there could I start to glimpse the actual reality in which art’s greatness exists purely because its result is democratic. That all who can afford a dollar can walk into a museum and witness its beauty absolute. That it doesn’t even need to be understood, nor broken down, nor opinionated nor critiqued nor used up intellectually to the point that both canvas and artist lie bleeding on the floor in exhaustion…that in truth, those who bear the greatest fruit from such beauty don’t think about it, they feel it.

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The unexpected revelation of art being a democratic experience transported me directly back to the apartment. Back to the blue collar, back to the work. Back to brush in hand and paint in motion…and through it, back to greatness, to Monet and Renoir, to work becoming something timeless; and through them, back to Hamilton, to the importance of originality in music and storytelling and the idea that history is written by those who are privileged to write it, but a legacy, a legacy is left by those who are willing to create it. To the lofty notion that greatness and ambition are married to one another and resemble perfectly the two sided coin of life – it is only up to our character to decide which side that coin lands on. And finally, to the gift that is sharing these resultant passions, sharing what we love with one another. And just as a museum offers that gift to millions, so did my sister charmingly offer the brilliance that is Miranda’s exquisite musical to me, and here I am, regurgitating the same implication, with half the charm of course, to dare you to experience a story that has taken both broadway and history and completely flipped the script.

Rare does a boy with such an affinity of the founding fathers as well as harboring such a staunch belief in music and comedy find himself so plainly spoken too – personally. The confluence of all good things comes in the form of Hamilton in that it is a modern musical for a modern generation and yet, speaks so frankly of things that transcend generations. For fear of ruining the storyline that I hail to be worthy of replay – over and over and over again – I can only tell you that Hamilton’s story is one of humanity, its thirst for greatness and its inherent need for forgiveness that comes from such a perilous pursuit. It is accomplished without a whiff of pretension, intricately woven with the cultural roots of the nation’s black community and has quite magically created a storyline that is at its heart wholly patriotic. What was, up until now, a rather yawnfest to any passerby you asked on the street, has now become a compelling, dramatic tale written by a virtuoso who has seen fit to deliver history in such a way that it is edifying to all. More than that, enjoyed by all. Beyond that, needed by all. It is, by all means, what education should be: something you cannot live without.

I told you before that I wasn’t here to plea a case on account of broadway nor the absurdity that can be a sing-song musical, that I was only here to make my case for art. It shouldn’t surprise you then that the democratic enjoyment of both reassures us that they are one in the same, and Hamilton has written the sentiment into law. Should you find yourself in doubt over such a statement, you would do well to remember that it is being put down on paper by a longtime fan of Jefferson, and if he can find it in his ridiculously ideological and lionized heart to tell you this, you better believe it is a law worth abiding by…just you wait:

Zip DL Link: Hamilton Soundtrack

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