Standing Up By Sitting Down

Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands with teammates Derek Carrier (46) and Carlos Hyde (28) during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
― James Baldwin

“America is not static. America is striving. And sometimes, America requires critique. Jingoism is an avoidance of realism. You can simultaneously love and be disappointed in the object of your love, wanting it to be better than it is. In fact, that is a measure of love. Honest critique is a pillar of patriotism.”

― Charles M. Blow

I’m going to do this in two parts because I was torn on which way to approach this. If you want more thoughtful, flowery rhetoric that is respectful in tone, stop reading when you hit the bold heading below.

If you don’t mind curse words and salt, feel free to read the whole way through…

Last weekend, before a game where men accused of sexual assault and domestic violence were cheered without hesitation, Colin Kaepernick sat and drew the ire of many. Contrary to your uncle’s post on Facebook, Kaepernick sitting during the national anthem was not a sign of disrespect for troops. Those brave men and women, many of whom are people of color who come from poorer families, proudly protect our nation. But they do not hold exclusive rights to our collective symbol.

I am as much the American flag as you and Kaepernick are.

After Trayvon Martin. After Mike Brown. After Tamir Rice.

When righteously justified anger sprang loose the tightly sealed lid of oppression, bricks met windows, and roads were blocked. And the white majority said “this is not the way.” The white majority said “we do not listen to your anger unless you speak in our privileged tongue.” So Kaepernick spoke in passive, nondisruptive language.

Using America’s loudest soapbox, professional sports, Kaepernick peacefully protested injustice, just as the white majority told him to, in literally a silent gesture. He would later explain his dissent in no uncertain terms, leaving no grounds by which to assume his intent was disrespect for the military.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick used the very language of the GOP presidential candidate, who earlier this week suggested this country to be a broken mess that mistreats people of color.

But still they came…

Kaepernick’s white peers, knowing they must simultaneously demonstrate respect for the people of color who disproportionately comprise our best athletes but also recognizing where their “bread is buttered,” began dumping milquetoast comments. From Jim Harbaugh to Drew Brees, football goons walked a coward’s line, stating they agree with the principle behind Kaepernick’s intent but disagree with the method, the peaceful method, the non-riotous method, the non-traffic-disrupting method.

There can be no further proof that the real desire here is to ignore the “bodies in the street.” Why? Because, for the first time I can remember, attention was drawn to the suffering of people of color without requiring one of their dead bodies to gather it. For once, it didn’t take a black child shot to death to make us pause. A football player simply sat.

What Kaepernick did was patriotic. Period. Not bumper sticker patriotism. Not Lee Greenwood patriotism. Real patriotism.

His intent was to set eyes upon an issue that, if fixed, would make this nation greater, would help this nation fulfill the promise it made with fingers crossed behind backs, when color measured three-fifths. A patriot who fails to improve this country is no patriot at all.

It is okay that you are angered with Kaepernick’s actions. Smart, patriotic veterans have resoundingly explained that Kaepernick’s protest is the exact thing they and their brothers and sisters in arms fight, bleed, and die for. It is no wonder men and women asked to face the unimaginable following that flag would feel angry at his actions. Anger is the point.

If you’re angrier about a man sitting for a song than for the bodies of children in the streets, your anger is feckless and stupid. If what Kaepernick did angers you, that’s fine. Direct that anger where it belongs: to the systemic oppression of people of color. Be pissed at the people who made this protest necessary in the first place. You can disagree with his decision. You absolutely cannot fault him for trying in any way possible to draw attention to something this important.

I don’t particularly care for Kaepernick, the football player. And he’s done some profoundly stupid things on social media. But knowing the backlash would come, his jersey burned in effigy and his person subjected to intolerable racism, his decision to sit is unquestionably brave and inspiringly patriotic.

To put it another way: Either you accept that his message is more important than any irritation you feel at his method or you have your priorities terribly, terribly wrong.

Below here be angry swear words

You have to be fucking kidding me.

The NFL grinds its players into brain-dead lunchmeat and then jettisons them for fresher veal. There isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t have a member that beat the shit out of a woman or raped one. And people are pissed that a man sat during a song that glorified the murder of slaves?!

You “agree with his point but disagree with his message?” Dude, his method was fucking spot-on: He protested against black bodies littering the streets by sitting during a song that mentions black bodies being murdered.

What you are really saying if you’re overwhelmingly outraged by this action is that there is literally no way for a person of color to express fury on this issue. What you are really saying is “shut up, I don’t want to think about the bad shit we relentlessly allow and do to people of color, I just want you to chuck the football. Go Redskins!”

You know what we as a nation have done in the wake of the countless tragedies, from Sandra Bland to Eric Garner? Here’s a complete list:

Not a goddamn thing. Not one tiny baby step. If a player sitting down during a song pisses you off more than that, you’re literally the problem. YOU are the reason this shit keeps happening. Not Donald Trump. Not bad cops. YOU. This is YOUR fault. Because if you got half as angry about dead children as you do when a QB sits while everybody else stands, he wouldn’t have to fucking sit in the first place. Because we would have fucking fixed this shit ages ago. Don’t you dare clutch your pearls, suggest that the flag is “sacred” (Brees literally said that), and go right on not giving a shit about horrifying injustice happening beneath old glory.

You want Kaepernick to stand for the national anthem? Give people of color a goddamn reason to salute that flag.

 

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Who I’m Mad at More Than Donald Trump

Presumed sociopath and confirmed moron Donald Trump is a detestable asshole. The single best justification for his existence is the hilarious site that puts quote from Jenna Maroney from “30 Rock” over pictures of the human traffic cone in a toupee.

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And yet, Donald Trump isn’t the person I am most upset with in American politics right now. Trump is who he has always been: A naked emperor who doesn’t even bother to act like he’s wearing clothes; he just tells you “many people are saying that he was wearing the finest garments the whole time” and you’re a dummy for not knowing that. He makes no attempt to hide who and what he is. Fighting with a baby and insulting a Gold Star family was in absolutely no way off-brand for this shrimp-dicked loser who likely has less real financial assets than I do.

You may assume then that my animosity is strongest for the leaders of the Republican party who laid the groundwork for this human penis puppet to win the GOP nomination. Truth is, they are who they’ve always been too: Self-absorbed, myopic cash-grabbers more concerned with accumulating wealth and personal power than anything else. They’ve never once considered how detrimental to our democracy it is to have one of the only two viable parties in our system go loco for Coco Puffs. So long as the special interest checks kept coming, their eyes were watching that false God. At the end of the day, Paul Ryan still cares more about Paul Ryan than anyone or anything else, and that’s not a surprise to anyone who has seen those pictures of him flexing in that red baseball cap.

I’m also not the most mad at pundits and commentators. Their job has long been to give slobbery wet kisses to logic-defying positions held by those who sail beneath their ideological banner. If you can still manage to be outraged by Ann Coulter, you’re the only reason she still has a career.

So who am I most mad at?

I’m mad at the silent.

I’m mad at the intelligent, humane majority of Republicans who aren’t publicly deploring the state of their party. I’m furious with the educated, knowledgeable masses who are content to sit inside this house while it burns around them. I’m outraged by the bulk of conservatives failing to rise and demand better than a candidate who won’t disavow the Klan, who spreads lies as surely as he’s spread STIs, who is unrepentant and naked in his misogyny, who represents a clear and present danger to our security according to any and all who appraise him.

That infamous and depressing Edmund Burke quotation has been banging around my head, as the weeks of Trump’s inane candidacy stretched into months.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I am furious at those doing nothing.

Because I refuse to believe that this fascist zealot really stands for this many Americans. No, he stands because they refuse to. He stands because they are unwilling to demand better. He stands because millions sat and sit on their hands, refuse to call out blatant evil, and won’t hold accountable a process that left a narcissistic mongoloid as a mouthpiece with a huge megaphone.

Watching some Republican statesmen condemning Trump long after their voices would have done any good is embarrassing. That it is unlikely to move purely partisan voters from their solid red voting patterns is all the more cowardly. You know, I have a lot of old bumper stickers on my car. They are the ghosts of candidates past. Some haunt me with near-miss failures, others inspire me with a legacy they’re still shaping. But I would stand up and be accounted for supporting each one of them, even those that lost.

May the ghost of the Trump candidacy haunt every person who failed to raise their voice against him.

Pete Ricketts Is Totally Cool With Porn!!!

Hold on, an outspoken anti-LGBTQ politician who frequently bible-bashes and moralizes on social media was caught in a sexually compromising situation?! Why this is downright believable! I mean, I could barely completely and totally have predicted this!

Regional asshole and full-time prick, Bill “Pew, Pew, Guns R Cool, Immigrants R Bad” Kintner allegedly fell for a scam and recorded himself doing dirty stuff. Kintner’s intellect hovers around “falling for the ‘got your nose’ trick.” So I’m not really surprised.

This could easily turn into a long blog post blasting the horny goofus, shown below wielding a more socially acceptable stick:

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(Photo is from The Lincoln Journal Star)

But we’ve heard this story before. The hypocrisy of right-wing nutjobs is so well documented, it’s not necessary to show yet another pea-brained jaghole content to tell you what to do with your winkie while doing whatever he wants with his.

No, this is a blog post about how Pete Ricketts is totally cool with pornography at work! Cue squealing guitar riff and high fives!!!!

I mean, what other conclusion could we possibly draw? He clearly states that he knew last summer there was the possibility that Wild Bill had a video on his government-owned computer of him doing nasty stuff. What did Pete do? Suggest Kintner resign…”if the allegations were true.” Then he immediately did not investigate if the allegations were true nor instruct anyone to do the same. Now, remember, Petey ran on a platform of treating the governorship as a CEO role. Yet, after finding out that one of his “employees” played Pee Wee Herman, Petey did what all bosses would do: Nothing. Wait…

There’s absolutely no indication from the Governor after several statements that, despite having EXTREMELY credible information that Kintner had bow-chicka-wow-wow content on his work computer, that Ricketts initiated any inquiry (formal or otherwise) as to the video’s existence. In a full calendar year, Ricketts’ entire actions seem to have consisted of letting Buffalo Bill ride off into the sunset. We know that Pete is super busy spending our tax dollars on murder drugs he can’t use. But surely he had enough time to send Paul from I.T. down to see if Hairy Bill had some XXX personal  files on his state computer! The only conclusion: PETE RICKETTS IS TOTALLY DOWN WITH PORN! 

It’s also worth mentioning, and this is the truly, profoundly screwed up part, that Kintner’s wife has ovarian cancer. She also works for Pete Ricketts. You’d think that Petey Pie would owe it to one of his cancer-stricken trusted advisers to figure out if her husband has video of him doodling his dangle on a work computer. Nah! Because PETE RICKETTS TOTALLY LOVES PORN! 

Here’s the thing: It’s screwed up that Kintner did this. We all know he will eventually go down (pun not intended) for this. The bigger issue involves Ricketts. He only has two choices, seemingly the only two he constantly decides between: Either he’s a moron who failed to follow through because he didn’t think it was important (the Ricketts hearts porn theory) or he didn’t investigate as a favor to a party colleague (the Ricketts hearts cronyism theory).

Since taking office, Ricketts has wasted money on illegal drugs he can’t use to carry out a death penalty we don’t have and played footsie with a number of scandals. By his OWN ADMISSION, he knew about this video a full year ago and failed to launch or request any kind of investigation. THAT is unbelievable. The fact that Bill the Butcher would have such a video is dramatically more believable.

The question is this: Nebraskans, how often are we going to allow Ricketts to turn our state into a national joke before we demand better? Lest you think I’m exaggerating, Ricketts has been roasted by John Oliver and this latest fiasco has found its way into papers in New York and Washington. If Pete says he runs Nebraska “like a business,” I ask you what you think should happen to a boss who looks the other way when his employee uses his work computer to go “full Ray J?”

Are They Teaching Islam in Nebraska?! No. No they’re not…

Now that I’m trying to do this here bloggin’ business a bit more regularly—what with all the votin’ and whatnot comin’ up this fall—I asked some folks on “The Facebook “if there’s anything they thought I should talk about. A friend of mine pointed me towards this Omaha World Herald article:

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I’ll give you a second to wipe your spit-take from off your laptop/monitor/phone. WHAT IN THE NAME OF BILL MAHER?! OUR KIDS IS LEARNIN’ THE ISLAMISM TERRORISM?!

No.

No, they are not. Not even a little bit…

To follow Parker’s “logic”—and, please, do envision my hands making emphatic, obnoxious air quotes around this word—requires a degree of intentional misrepresentation…or at least internet access to right-wing websites like Brietbart

The company who makes the textbooks in question, Pearson, is not a corporation that I in any way vouch for. They are vouchless. Understand that. A quick Googling shows me they’ve got plenty of issues, including some with standardized testing and teacher education. It’s just that one of those issues is not actual ties to terrorism.

They are a publicly traded company. As such, any eligible party can buy stock in them. Owning stock in a thing doesn’t give you control of it, just ask any of the bajillion Nebraskans who are Berskshire babies. The questionable investment group that Parker fingers owns about 3% of Pearson’s stock. If you were to (somehow) buy 3% of Berkshire, would you get to tell Warren how to Buffet? No. No you would not.

So what the hell, Amber Parker? It sounds like you’re drumming up xenophobic outrage for attention! Wherever would you get that idea that would work?!

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(Note: This is one of the AMAZING illustrations from the brilliant goddess Molly Crabapple: go buy her stuff here.)

Hey, it’s okay! Unlike Donald Trump, it’s not like Parker is making claims she can’t back up!!!

“Islam is a threat in schools,” she said. “We do have indoctrination that is coming and taking place.”

DAYUM, PARKER! Okay. I see you. That is a pretty specific claim! So, show me where in Pearson’s textbook or in which classes this is happening!!!!

Parker did not question any specific passages in the textbook. Nor did she cite any instances of indoctrination in Millard schools.

Oh. I see…

So you literally read an article on Breitbart and tried to get attention by drumming up fake controversy and appearing “patriotic.” Well, I’ll have you know, the textbook was approved by the Millard School Board’s Americanism committee and OH MY GOD DOES AN “AMERICANISM” COMMITTEE SOUND TERRIFYING!!! Turns out, the statue mandating an Americanism committee dates back to 1949 and is somewhat less alarming than it sounds. Because I swear to you, I immediately envisioned this:

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Parker’s bullshit provoked two immediate reactions in me. Well, three if you count the usual flatulence that develops in the face of xenophobia and links to Breitbart.

First off, it’s important to vote in local elections and to be educated when you do. 

We make a big deal of the presidency because it’s a big deal. We make a big deal of congress, well, because they’re ineffective assholes who all need to be shot to the moon. We don’t make a big enough deal about the local politicians who actually dictate our day-to-day encounters with government. The vast majority of public officials are local politicians, not national ones. And yet, many people go to the ballot boxes wholly ignorant and either check names they kinda remember or ignore smaller races altogether.

Seek out information on these candidates! I love the League of Women Voters, but Ballotpedia and others do good work as well! If you don’t want synthesized information, feel free to look up a sample ballot when they become available and Google the candidates. You and I both know that you’ve Googled dumber shit before!!! For the record, it was Jeff BRIDGES and not Jeff DANIELS in that one movie…

Local elections are (A) more susceptible to your influence and (B) influence your life more. Pay attention.

Second, this is what happens when a party runs on racism.

Is the Democratic party without sin? Schultz no! The DNC has been outed (likely thanks to influence from the Russians…which apparently nobody is all that bothered by) for being supreme wangs to Bernie Sanders. And who acts like a wang to a guy who looks like your favorite angry philosophy professor?! But as bad as the DNC has been, the RNC nominated a guy who once answered a question about banning “heebie-jobbies” from being worn by TSA attendants with “We’re looking into that.”

Unlike capitalism, xenophobia can trickle down. Especially to those who believe everything they are told by suspect sources. The scapegoating of Muslims and Islam is a go-to bread-and-butter scare tactic. It’s morally reprehensible, but it is also effective. Hell, I didn’t know who Parker was before she whipped up this cockamamie porkshit about textbook ties to terrorism. She’s fighting for one of the three seats eligible on November 8 after finishing sixth in the primary. Gee, I wonder why she’s making a fuss?!

From the top of the ticket to low-level local races, we need to send a message that racism and fear of others is not an acceptable voting issue. Every time Trump dipped in the ratings, he’d make a controversial, hate-filled statement to get back in the news cycle. What his triumph in the primaries showed is scary: It can work.

So we have to show we won’t stand for it. Not nationally, where the baby-fingered obese orange-creamsicle intends to build walls and blow up Europe or something, and not locally, where a woman can claim “indoctrination” without evidence and make accusations of a textbook she’s never read.

Vote.

Vote smart.

Vote ethically.

Vote for local offices.

And vote to keep racist bullshit like Parker’s flibbertigibbet out of places it can have actual influence.

A Complete List of Reasons NOT to Vote for Hillary Clinton

Here is a complete list of reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election:

  1. We discover incontrovertible evidence that Donald Trump “Freaky Friday-ed” her, assuming control of her body in Lohan-esque fashion.
  2. Some time before election day, we learn that Ben Carson is right, as Lucifer ascends from hell wearing an “I’m With Her” T-shirt.

That’s it. Those are the only two scenarios in which you shouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

Listen, I totally get it. I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I find her to be a rather dishonest politician who consistently puts personal ambition before moral conscience. However, she also has the decided advantage of not being Donald Trump. Let me say that again so you really get it: Hillary Clinton is NOT Donald Trump. This year, that is literally the only criteria that matters: You have to actually have a chance to be president, and you have to not be Donald Trump.

Most years, third-party presidential voters simply irritate me with their smugness and inability to accept reality, but I just ignore them. See, they vex me because their ironclad political beliefs seem to bloom and blossom every 4 years, only to dramatically and invisibly wilt during the very non-election times when building a viable third party is a valid pursuit. I have yet to meet an active third-party voter in a non-presidential election year. Where do they go? It’s like magic!!!!

There are two choices for president

Either Hillary Clinton will be president, or Donald Trump will be president. This is an absolute, 100% truthfact. Wanting it to be otherwise will not make it a reality. If you vote for literally anyone but those two, your vote has the exact same weight as if you stood in your shower screaming “GANDALF THE WHITE FOR PRESIDENT!!!!”

You’re basically doing this:

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Do you have the right to piss your vote away and, in doing so, potentially allow a literal fascist to ascend to the top of American politics? Yes, you do. You also have the right to lick electrical sockets and wear a suit of armor in a lightning storm. The difference is, those last two will only hurt you…

I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before, and I know a lot of you hate being told to vote for “the lesser of two evils.” Personally, that seems like such an incredibly good reason to vote for someone.

Someone: “Ryan, why are you voting for that person?”

Me: “Because it’s between this person and somebody way more evil.”

Someone: “That seems to make sense.”

Me: “Because I want less evil and my only other choice is more evil.”

Someone: “Agreed! Let’s vote and then eat some delicious tacos!”

*High Five*

That seems to make an overwhelming amount of sense. Do you have to like it? No. Should you do it? Yes. Hillary is too warhawky for me. She waffles on issues I care about. She’s about the most establishment, system-loving, oligarchical candidate you can ever have. She doesn’t inspire me in any way. Yet, I will do whatever I can to make sure she wins and Donald Trump loses because I don’t want a grade-A, 4-star, lunatic fascist racist sexist asshole to run the country into potentially literal oblivion.

I’m back to blogging now, and future installments will be a lot more eloquent and sophisticated, I promise. I’m just stunned today. I’m stunned because a room full of people who support Bernie Sanders, who has long stood against the democratic party on a series of issues, booed when he told them to support the democratic party this election. It’s dumb. They’re dumb for doing that. They’re acting like children, and we already have a whole other party that has a monopoly on that behavior.

Please listen: Donald Trump stands for nothing that Bernie Sanders stood for. If you cared about anything he actually ran in favor of, you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you want to dismantle the DNC, hit me up November 9th, and we’ll talk. I don’t like what the DNC did. Screw Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Screw the Clinton political machine. I am not voting for them. I am voting against a man who has the full support of the KKK. If you think that voting against someone isn’t a good reason to vote, you don’t understand how voting works. If you vote to “send a message,” please Google “Brexit” to see how that turns out.

Yes, every election you are told that this is the “most important election of your lifetime.” If our country actually showed up to do its civic duty, maybe the hyperbole wouldn’t be needed. Thing is, this really is a very serious election, insofar as a political cartoon received the GOP nomination.

I was more excited to vote for John Kerry than I am for Hillary Clinton. And he did this:

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Still, I’ll be doing my damnedest to make sure Hillary wins this fall. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ve given (and will give) 0 dollars to the DNC this year. I will give money to specific democratic candidates, but none to the party. I’m disappointed in it. But I will also be voting for Hillary Clinton because I’m not pretentious enough to think standing on principle will excuse others from the consequences of a Trump presidency. Because make no mistake: There will be horrible, terrible consequences for the poorest among us, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, and so many more if that Cheeto-colored assclown gets to sit in the oval office. Bitch about Hillary. And then tell everyone why you’re voting for her anyway.

More soon, but for the love of God, if your IQ is above “potato,” please get on board with “her” immediately.

Sasse Mouth

I direct a lot of local ire at Omaha’s Mayor and gag-order-enthusiast Jean Stothert, as well as Nebraska Governor and death-penalty-obsessed-owner-of-a-raging-murder-boner Pete Ricketts. I want to make sure you know I have plenty of room left to violently loathe Senator Ben Sasse.

Sasse is one of those politicians drunk on self-righteousness. He’s also convinced himself that he’s quite clever, which had to take some doing. But beyond anything else, he’s a colossal human taint who is palpably arrogant. I despise the term “resting bitch face” for various reasons, but Sasse has a “resting smarm face.” I’m not kidding, you can’t find one picture where he doesn’t look like he’s saying “Sick burn, Ben. You really nailed it this time! You’re the best, Ben!” in his mind.

Last week, Sasse released this video. I apologize in advance.

I would like us all to make fun of this video for several reasons. Please join me!

1.) Ben Sasse: Mansplainer! 

How enormously arrogant do you have to be to talk down to the President of the United States at this level? This isn’t a video addressing the public. This is a video addressed to President Obama. And the first thing this smug-faced, pseudointellectual, hairless baboon does is lay out (incorrectly) the constitutional responsibilities of the president and congress. Barack Obama’s background is in constitutional law. But, by all means, talk to him like his full understanding of how the government works is an episode of Schoolhouse Rocks.

2.) “When I read MY constitution”

I’m sure he meant his copy. But I do not excuse the possibility that Ben “You’re thinking of Ross from Friends” Sasse has his own constitution separate from the actual one.

3.) “Teach the constitution”

This is one of the “core jobs” that Sasse says he shares with the president.  I am 100% confident that the presidential oath of office and the oath of office for the senate contain exactly zero references to “teaching the constitution.” I mean, that’s not stopping Sasse from literally trying to teach us “his” constitution. He just doesn’t have to and should stop.

4.) “Executive unilateralism?” I don’t think that means what you think it means…

Sasse says, with maybe the most condescending tone of the whole video, that the president should “take his potential nominee into the Rose Garden” and have that person essentially call Barack Obama a dictator to his face. Sasse’s completely unsupportable point is that President Obama has recklessly wielded executive orders. It’s just the silliest, craziest, dumbest, unprovable thing ever. Now, mind you, I could come at this from the angle that says Tea Party obstructionists like Sasse are grinding the wheels of democracy and lawmaking to a halt by behaving like narcissistic ideologues, thus necessitating executive orders in order for ANYTHING to get done. But I prefer the easier approach: Pointing out this whole “Executive Unilateralism” thing is a lie Sasse has been peddling for awhile now.

Barack Obama wouldn’t rank in the top 10 presidents by use of executive order. Ronald Reagan, the current conservative nostalgia poster President, issued 150+ more executive orders than Obama has. When Sasse makes this his primary talking point in the video, he may as well be saying “President Obama must make sure his Supreme Court Nominee will slay the vampire that is our current president before he changes into his bat form and flies around the country drinking the blood of the innocent.” Because that statement is equally based in logic and fact as Obama’s “executive unilateralism.”

5.) “Our founders understood, government doesn’t give us rights. God gives us rights by nature.”

Actually, our founders understood God gave those rights only to white men and when they weren’t shitting the glory of freedom out of every orifice they were buying and selling other human beings as slaves. You’re only allowed to unconditionally love our founding fathers as they currently appear in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.

6.) “Power corrupts”

Says the U.S. senator shot in the video from the Leni Riefenstahl angle as he talks down to the man elected to our highest office. I always love these attacks from people currently in government. If you think that holding office is bad, why are you holding office?

I could go on but let’s end with something more awful.

Sasse

It wasn’t enough that he share the link of someone praising his video. He had to make sure you saw that he’s compared to Braveheart. I will say, the feelings I have when confronted by Mel Gibson do mirror those of when I see Sasse.

Stay classy, Sasse.

5 Dos and Don’ts for Dems

Some of these should really go without saying, but ever since social media gave everyone a tiny bullhorn, many confuse having an outlet for an opinion with a need to share useless and stupid opinions with others.

Let’s start easy:

#1 – Don’t: Badmouth a civil rights icon. Ever. ESPECIALLY NOT ON RACE ISSUES.

Did it sting for those of us who #FeelTheBern to hear Representative John Lewis mention that he “never saw” Bernie during the height of the civil rights movement? A little. Does that justify calling the last surviving member of the “Big 6” civil rights leaders a liar or a sellout? You must be out of your GODDAMNED MIND! Holy SHIT this is a bad move. Stop it.

#2 – Do: Remember we generally agree with one another.

You may want to vote for Hillary, the better politician. I may want to vote for Bernie, the idealist. We both want better protection for minority groups, income equality, women’s health access, and on and on. AND SO DO BOTH CANDIDATES. We are dealing with differences in methodology and priorities, people. Stop trying to insinuate the other side is somehow secretly a member of Cobra or, worse, a closet Republican.

#3 – Do: Realize some people who support your candidate blow ass.

Glass houses and all that shit. Every time I see a Hillary supporter poo-poo the oft-discussed-yet-rarely-actually-seen-in-the-wild Bernie Bro and feel all high and mighty, I immediately see one of her supporters hype up some superdelegate bullshit or disparage Bernie supporters as naive idiots. Just try to remember that your candidate has the support of as many loudmouth idiots as the opposing candidate. And all of ours combined wouldn’t total a fraction of 1% of the loudmouth idiots that support any of the GOP candidates.

#4 – Don’t: Share articles without reading them.

Oh, how wildly embarrassing this is to see. You gotta actually read the whole thing, y’all. Got. To. Read. THE. WHOLE. THING. The whole thing!!! Because you sharing it is like saying (at the least) “I think this is worth reading.” If, in the final paragraph of what started as a promising thinkpiece, the writer devolves to some froth-mouthed rant, we all wonder why you shared it. I will judge you for this. I will judge you so hard. And so help me if you share a satire piece like it’s real…

#5 – Don’t: Discourage each other from participation.

Dems win elections when we have big turnout. It’s the reason the GOP tries to do everything they can to make it more difficult to vote. They’re not protecting the sanctity of voting, they know they win if you say “screw it” and don’t show up. With that in mind: Hillary supporters running out that superdelegate shit is BAD NEWS BEARS. It makes people hate the system so much they choose not to participate. “My vote doesn’t matter anyway” is said in response to the existence of things like superdelegates. And remember, we all want a big turnout. So in your desire to quell any shaky-frontrunner status for Hills, don’t mouth off about the thing that makes some people hate voting. And fellow Berners, as I’ve asked before, please tone down the “I won’t vote for anybody but Bernie” talk. I don’t want other people getting that horrible idea from you. And it’s a really, really horrible idea. Like, the worst idea. Ever.

I’m sure there are more, but this was mostly prompted by seeing colossally stupid things being said about John Lewis on Twitter. Do you know what I want to hear about the civil rights movement from a white millennial? “I’m sure glad it happened!” That’s it. That’s all I want to hear. Y’all are gonna kill me, I swear.

Raucous Caucus Talk…us…

Not much use having a political blog if you don’t post in the wake of the first results in a Presidential election…

Here’s what I know DEFINITIVELY:

  1. The results of the Iowa Caucus were GREAT for Bernie Sanders!
  2. Unless they were NOT GREAT for Bernie Sanders.
  3. Or it was a coin flip.

Presidential campaigns are long. Iowa has, in a lot of cases, predicted jack shit (especially on the GOP side). This current presidential campaign has been running since, I want to get this right here, 1962. At least it feels that way. And yet, we have so, so much longer to go. Do I think it was impressive that Sanders, who has stayed away from mega-donors, was able to go toe-to-toe with the Clinton machine? Yes. Do I think that indicates he can win? Maybe. Is there anything to point to that suggests he will? No.

We’re just now starting the narrative. Let’s make it a good, thoughtful conversation, okay? Here’s my two big thoughts the day after Iowa:

We Dems have forgotten what real debate is like

We’re not supposed to be the ones unfairly painting a wide swath of a candidate’s supporters as sexist. Or course, we’re also not supposed to look the other way when some of a candidate’s supporters are, in fact, sexist douchewaffles.

In a nutshell, I believe we’ve been defending President Obama as a collective group for so long against batshit, vile arguments and downright naked racism that we forgot what it’s like to have a quality, civil conversation about politics with non-assholes. The other side can keep flinging poo at each other, but we have to remember how to have a dialogue that leads to the best candidate winning.

Honestly, I forgot how it felt before Obama united the liberal folks I know, those early days of Barrie v Hillary. Good God, were they tense. You guys, it divided Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey. IT PIT HOUSE MORGAN VERSUS HOUSE FEY. That happened. It was a dark time… Watching my dem friends split now feels kinda shitty. It’s even more shitty when they start trashing each other hard and making claims about why supporting one or the other makes said supporter a bad liberal or an idiot. Stop that, mmkay?

I support Bernie Sanders. I wish he were stronger on guns, better with Black Lives Matter (although, no joke, Killer Mike’s word goes a long way with me), and had a shot in hell of doing a third of what he’s saying he will do. I prefer him to Hillary Clinton, and those are the only choices given to us would-be progressives (neither is all that progressive). I do not believe The Bern is a messianic, perfect politician who has somehow spent DECADES inside a corrupt system with nary a scratch or blemish on his record. If you think a lifelong politician in Washington has never taken suspect money or been influenced to vote by an unscrupulous lobbyist, you’re not just “drinking the Kool-Aid,” you’re gargling moonshine. I believe he is less tied to corporate money than Hillary. I believe he is more inclined to hold the wealthy elite responsible. So that’s why I support him.

Unfortunately, these days, you can’t just throw down a political Pokeball and yell “Bernie-chu, I choose you!” No, you apparently have to also show why the other candidate is a barbaric cave-person who represents the destruction of all that is good on earth. To paint Hillary Clinton as a forked-tongue corporate stooge is to buy into an unfair caricature painted by patriarchal bastards ever since she dared enter politics. She’s a career politician, with all the baggage that entails. If you think she’d be this hated if she had the same career and a penis, you’re insane. Yeah, she done messed up a bunch. She sides with people I don’t like. She took money from people I hate. She’s also really good at being a politician, gets shit done, and has overcome tidal waves of challenges to stand as the first truly viable shot at a woman being president. I don’t like that she seems slow to react; she’s down right Aaron Burr-esque in her willingness to “Wait for It” on key issues. I don’t prefer her to the other candidate. But, she’s not a monster. Stop. You know how I know she’s not a monster?

The GOP is full of f**king monsters

Ted Cruz has always been scarier than Donald Trump. Trump is an egomaniac who may well not mean a single word he’s saying. Ted Cruz definitely believes what he’s saying. He is willing to grind this entire country to a halt on principle, legitimately hates Muslims, and is so scary for women, the ones he’s related to don’t even like touching him. For the love of God, he’s ruining Princess Bride for me. That guy won yesterday. WON.

The guy in second place is either a snake oil huckster gaming the system for funsies or a racist prick about to lead people who would march right behind Hitler. In third place, is someone maybe worse than both because he’s electable.

If you’re a good person who cares about what happens to the less fortunate, oppressed, and vulnerable in this country, you have to keep all of these shitshows from the White House. AT ALL COSTS. PERIOD. You don’t have to like it. But you do have to do it. The next President is going to name maybe 4 Supreme Court Justices. That’s going to change America more than any Congressional body or Oval Office resident. We cannot risk one of these dumpster humans stocking the most important group in America with people who would deny equal rights to women and minorities. Those things are coming up the pike to SCOTUS, along with potential voter right defenses, gerrymandering issues, and on and on. You will live with the consequences of who wins the presidency potentially for the rest of your life, and that’s not an overstatement.

I understand the frustration of supporting flawed candidates as the “lesser of two evils.” I also believe strongly in having less evil. Just like sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “la la la” as a kid didn’t actually make the rest of the world go away, abstaining from the political process doesn’t get you a better candidate next time, nor does it fix the system or take you out of it. It just means other people pick what happens to you. It means that you run the risk of a horrible human doing things that will affect you and the people you love daily. I’ve heard several people say if their candidate doesn’t win the Dem primary, they won’t “hold their nose and vote” this time. That is literally the same thing as saying they’re okay with any of the three men I just mentioned above appointing SCOTUS judges that will change the face of the country they live in. That’s silly. That’s some “cut off your nose to spite your face” shit.

Now, you don’t have to vocally support a candidate you don’t truly like. You don’t have to donate to them or defend them. You can hold them accountable, demand better of them, make them work for your vote, and never stop criticizing them. But you have to vote for them if the only alternative is to leave the country vulnerable to actual evil. And the GOP has morphed into pure, unadulterated evil. Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, cartoonish evil.

If you want better candidates, you have three years starting in November to find them, donate to them, campaign for them, and support them. If you hate the system, you can scream against it, hold it accountable, fight every day to make it better, even on election day…and then vote for the non-garbage person at the polls. The system is rigged, broken, and dumb. But it’s what we have. You can’t escape it without moving. Wishing it away won’t work.

Fact: One of five people will be President in January:

  • Ted Cruz
  • Donald Trump
  • Marco Rubio
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Bernie Sanders

Fact: That’s it. That’s the list. Those are the options.

Opinion: I hope it’s the last one.

Opinion: I’ll vote for the second-to-last one.

Fact: I’ll expect all of you with a brain and a conscience to help make sure those top 3 are nothing more than Trivial Pursuit answers a few years from now.

Deal?

The Time I Saw Hamilton on Broadway (Only Spoils Stuff From the Soundtrack Edition)

This is not a political blog. The headline is not some clever ruse, attempting to obfuscate some complex liberal philosophizing. This is a slightly shorter blog about the time I saw Hamilton. And it was friggin’ awesome, yo.

I have tried my hardest to remove every “spoiler.” That is to say, things you could only know from SEEING the musical, for those friends who are still planning on going. I know I cut all the set descriptions and surprises, the most that may be below is my reaction TO one of the cool things. You should be safe, I swear!

Anticipation and hype are dangerous things. Many a brilliant work of art has suffered mortal wounds from the blade of expectation, cut down not by internal shortcomings but external projections. I haven’t intentionally listened to a song that wasn’t on the Hamilton soundtrack thus far in 2016. Its lyrics have infiltrated my daily dialogue. This is a deep love, an all-the-way love, I’ve got here. That obsessed love shit. The kind of love where you understand freely and fully how repellent you are to the uninitiated and uninterested.

And this was to be my first time.

That is to say, musicals have not been my thing. Save the rare exception, it’s an art form that merited my respect but not my interest. Hamilton changed that. It hella changed that. The first time I listened to it, I wept. I didn’t say I cried. I wept. I wasn’t sad. I was awestruck. I wasn’t melancholy. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how deeply, profoundly affected I was. Dumbfounded, I pressed repeat. That was about 9 weeks ago, and the circular, tail-chasing arrow icon that signifies “run that shit back again” remains lit on my phone.

When I found out I’d be seeing Hamilton, an anvil of expectation was cranked into the air. A cartoon baby grand piano followed above me, increasing in size the nearer I got to the show. To love something as much as I already did meant seeing it live was actually a risk. There were the run-of-the-mill concerns: What if understudies take the lead roles the night I go? There were the unusual concerns: What if I eat bad food before the show starts and spend the whole time focusing on keeping my bowels well behaved? And then there was the biggest, unspeakable worry: What if it’s just okay? What if the way I’ve seen these characters move and dance, touch and glide in my mind eclipses what could ever be shown on stage.

I got to the Richard Rodgers Theater about an hour and a quarter before the show was scheduled because waiting any longer would have violated the Geneva conventions. I promptly stood in the wrong line. When panicked/excited in a strange place, I can and will stand in any line available, applicable or not. After hearing murmurs about “cancellations,” I politely asked the least threatening human in my vicinity what was up. Shortly thereafter, beneath the judgmental stare of the Church of Scientology positioned across the street from the theater, I found my way to the right line. I say “line,” but it was only me and one other young woman waiting there, beneath a mural of the Schuyler sisters. I honestly don’t remember if she or I spoke up first, but once we started, we both rambled like schoolgirls. Which she was, and I just acted like. She was a sweet kid from California, a high-school freshman whose experience with Broadway flattened our lives’ experiential inequity. “I’ve seen 52 different shows, but this is the one I’m most excited about! How many have you seen?” Briefly tempted to lie, because who wants to look totally inexperienced about anything, I copped to the truth. She laughed, and we talked about favorite tracks and characters and the moments we were most excited for. Until our conversation car-crash stopped.

Moving at a brisk clip, toting a bright yellow backpack, and looking cooler than I have or will on the coolest day I have or will ever approximate cool, Daveed Diggs came bounding past us. Not walking. Bounding. She and I froze. He was in a hurry, so we couldn’t accost him. Even if we could, she and I were clearly both the sort who would only feel guilty for having even momentarily interrupted this bad-ass’s “work commute.” But someone had to say something. I looked at her. She looked away. Dammit, kid. “Mr. Diggs, I think your work is amazing” is what I intended to say. I know some combination of those words came out. Which ones in which order is a matter of debate. “Thanks, man!” He nodded and waved, entering the theater. And that’s the story of how Daveed Diggs and I became best friends for the rest of our lives.

From a distance, my line buddy and I watched as the key players arrived (save Lin-Manuel). Too far away for conversation now and moving fast and stealthy, we couldn’t even snap photos fast enough. No matter. We saw them. They were there. The lead roles were all there (save Lin-Manuel…”oh God, what if he’s not there,” my intestines asked noisly). Within minutes, we were inside the theater. We stood before the merchandise, shook hands, wished each other well, and went to our respective seats.

The theater was as expected, which isn’t an insult but is to say all theaters seem to share some ancestral origin: It was beautiful in that obvious, ornate way. A chandelier dangled like an upside-down wineglass filled with spilling diamonds beneath a gold patterned ceiling. It was crowded, and quarters were tight. Stairwells like slaughterhouse walkways. Unlike almost every other New York service position, the ushers here were beaming and ecstatic, one could dare say “polite.” A man so old I would have thought him CGI if I saw him in a movie was aided to a precarious mid-aisle position effortlessly. Impressive.

The lights flickered so soon. I swear we had all just walked in, the audience went dark as out he walked: Burr. Leslie Odom Jr. sauntered in. The opening number flowed, enrapturing as expected, until the most anticipated declaration: “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.” The crowd promptly LOST THEIR EVERLOVING SHIT. Now, I don’t pretend to know the etiquette of musical theater. But I am somewhat confident that lines of dialogue are not often met with full-throated cheers, the likes of which are more commonplace when baseballs leave ballparks and running backs find end zones. It was obvious: this was part rock show, part championship sporting match. These were not Broadway attendees, not mere patrons of the arts, these were rabid, passionate fanatics. These were my people.

As the fanfare of the opening ended, “Aaron Burr, Sir” seamlessly fused with the first show-stopper: “My Shot.” If there was doubt about Lin-Manuel’s ability to match in person the voice that had infected my headphones for weeks, such doubt was dead on arrival. The energy grew. The entire row in front of me, men and women of vastly varied ages, mouthed every word, fist-pumping, seat swaying. As the cast froze frame for the last note, I swear to God I thought there would be a standing ovation right there, just three songs in. Instead, the show smoothly transitioned into “The Story of Tonight,” which played shockingly and stunningly far more intimate and quietly moving visually than it did with audio alone.

Suddenly, there they were: the Schuyler sisters. Immediate, fierce, glorious, and sharply angled, Angelica; Eliza, the goddess. Peggy was also present… “Farmer Refuted” kicked in, one of my low-key faves if just for the line “Don’t modulate the key then not debate with me.” Before long came “You’ll Be Back.” If the audience lost their shit for Hamilton’s introduction, they lost twice amount of said shit for the king’s. Effortlessly belting out the playful tune, Groff paused and played with different words, coaxing humor from physical improvisation as much from staccato verbal stunting.

Of all the songs that improved upon being seen, “Right Hand Man” ranked second for me. You’ll hear why it’s number two later. “A Winter’s Ball” briefly changed setting from wartime battlefronts to aristocratic courtship, as the musical shifted into a stunning one-two punch. Eliza fricking goddamn ripped into “Helpless” like a regal chainsaw, her voice so pure and sharp you wonder if she really needs that microphone.

Full confession: If forced at gunpoint to pick (and it would have to be only in that scenario I would admit it), “Wait for It” may be my favorite song in Hamilton. The tiny, hair-raising pause before the orchestra blasts the backdrop to his first declaration of his intentions is one of my favorite moments in life. I would live in that moment if I could Seeing it live broke me. I wouldn’t say tears “fell.” I didn’t “ugly cry.” But I’d say it suddenly got very cloudy in my eyeballs.

A gunshot pop announced “Meet Me Inside,” which has one of my favorite singular moments in the play. Washington, proud pseudo-father turned disappointed replacement dad, tells the orphaned Hamilton that he must not be so rash. Then: “Call me son one more time!”

It wasn’t clear until seeing it live all of the work that the song “That Would Be Enough” is tasked with doing. Not only must it establish Eliza as a character with agency, it must demonstrate the bond between her and Hamilton with considerable economy, especially difficult given how often Angelica’s affections are underlined.

Holy shit. Then… Holy shit. Then it happened… HOLY SHIT! “Guns and Ships!” The audience to a person sat up, leaning forward. Every inch of shrunken space mattered. Bouncing kinetically, Burr screamed “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” as Lafayette entered.

Before long, the biggest applause line of the night was uttered: “Immigrants, we get the job done.” The orchestra seemed prepared, pausing the cue until the roar subsided. Hercules Mulligan was everything I envisioned. When he declared “When I get knocked down, I get the f**k back up again,” I was pleasantly surprised to see the 70-year-old grandmother in my row mouthing the words.

Another of my favorite tiny moments, Hamilton proudly declared “Lezgo” to Washington’s appointment to Treasury. “I am not throwing away my shot!” took us to Intermission. The audience gasped. I peed a little. Nobody left their seat for intermission, although much selfie-ing and texting was had.

And now we’ve come to the song that was most improved upon seeing it. “What’d I Miss?” Holy. Shit. Daveed. GODDAMN. Diggs. His Jefferson was a force of nature. To see still images is to get only the barest of glimpses into this performance. He was boundless energy, with knees like springs, bouncing with every step he took like gravity was an option, like he was moonbound and everyone else was stuck here on this boring-ass planet. Hair no longer pulled tight but exploding around his megawatt smile, he was Prince in his prime, sex and power and energy that honestly can’t be accurately enough described.

“Say No to This” is always a hard listen to me because anyone who would cheat on a Schuyler sister should receive heavy blows about the head and face. It was harder still to see.

“Washington on Your Side” was killer because it finally established what was hard to really envision by just listening. The scheming against Hamilton by Burr, Jefferson, and Madison seemed all that more nefarious to see than hear. Also worth noting, the elderly woman in my row was just as excited to hear “Southern MOTHERF**KING DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICANS” and silently sing along as I was. Oh, and on that line, I was half convinced Diggs was going to bounce so high he may never come back down again.

Lately, “One Last Time” has taken to hurting me a bit more. Maybe it’s that I almost lost my Dad last year. Maybe it’s just the poetry of Washington’s words is so haunting. Maybe it’s that I simply feel so bad for Hamilton losing the only person to ever keep him from succumbing to the worst parts of himself, since Eliza wasn’t entrusted to these moments.

But let’s get back to fun shit. Groff CRUSHED “I Know Him” in an almost impossibly perfect way. His giggle at the end isn’t just amusing, it’s tear-inducingly funny. Moments later, As Hamilton produces the documents that defend himself, we got our first Jeffersonian “Whaaaaaaa,” which I still want as my ringtone.

The rest of my recap here would be way too spoilery, so let’s cut to the end. The crowd lost their mind, sprang to their feet, and everyone caught their breath for a good 10-15 minutes.

I took longer.

I finally made my way to the restrooms and then outside, one of the last to leave. I knew I was holding on to it. But whatever.

I stumbled out into the wrong side of the stage door, now lined with throngs of fans, squealing with cameras ready. I wasn’t close enough to get into the throng for autographs or selfies, but I just happened to be in the right spot to see them very close as they first took steps out, close enough to talk to them. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica), as beautiful on a New York side street as on stage, was the first to stir the crowd. Then came Daveed Diggs. For the second time in our young best friendship, I told him how spectacular he was, as he grinned and posed with swooning young people. He shook hand after hand, took picture after picture, all the way down the entire row. Then, suddenly, the crowd went mental. There he was, adorably tiny but powerful, stocking-cap clad and grinning, Lin-Manuel. The throng pushed closer, edging me back a bit, but I was still close enough to click eyes with him as I told him he had made me love a musical for the first time. I’m bad at talking and taking photos, but I got the moment right after, as he smiled and looked down. The crowd followed Lin-Manuel, pacing behind the barrier as he walked down like coaches run down a football sideline during a big run. So nobody really noticed when Christopher Jackson stepped out. It was just me and him, face to face. Daveed is a scene-stealing golden God, but if I had to pick one person to shake hands with (besides Lin-Manuel, obviously), it was him. So I did. We actually know someone in common, a wonderful woman I met through local politics. I mentioned her to him, and he smiled broadly. “Oh yeah! She mentioned you were coming!” I told him how I admired his performance, but more than that, how all of my friends in Omaha were crazy obsessed and jealous. I told him how lucky I felt to be the one person of our “Hamiltrash” squad to get to see this in person. He said “Well, give my love to Omaha,” and shook my hand again, asking if I wanted an autograph. Which, duh, I did, but hadn’t actually asked for. So, yeah, that playbill is getting framed. My first one, maybe my only one (who knows), but it is dear to me.

I understand maybe 2-3 people are likely to read all these words. Honestly, this was as much a diary for me before forgetting what I saw as it was an attempt to give those I know TRULY, DEEPLY wish they could experience vicariously the feelings I did. It is a singular, amazing, religious experience. It defies hype, explodes expectations, and will forever be held as one of my favorite nights I’ve ever had.

Ok. I’m done now.

The Time I Saw Hamilton on Broadway (SPOILER EDITION)

This is not a political blog. The headline is not some clever ruse, attempting to obfuscate some complex liberal philosophizing. This is a very, very, very long blog (BY REQUEST FROM DEAR FRIENDS WHO DEMANDED “A NOVEL”) about the time I saw Hamilton. And it was friggin’ awesome, yo.

Hamilton One

Be warned: Lo’ there be spoilers.

Anticipation and hype are dangerous things. Many a brilliant work of art has suffered mortal wounds from the blade of expectation, cut down not by internal shortcomings but external projections. I haven’t intentionally listened to a song that wasn’t on the Hamilton soundtrack thus far in 2016. Its lyrics have infiltrated my daily dialogue. This is a deep love, an all-the-way love, I’ve got here. That obsessed love shit. The kind of love where you understand freely and fully how repellent you are to the uninitiated and uninterested.

And this was to be my first time.

That is to say, musicals have not been my thing. Save the rare exception, it’s an art form that merited my respect but not my interest. Hamilton changed that. It hella changed that. The first time I listened to it, I wept. I didn’t say I cried. I wept. I wasn’t sad. I was awestruck. I wasn’t melancholy. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how deeply, profoundly affected I was. Dumbfounded, I pressed repeat. That was about 9 weeks ago, and the circular, tail-chasing arrow icon that signifies “run that shit back again” remains lit on my phone.

When I found out I’d be seeing Hamilton, an anvil of expectation was cranked into the air. A cartoon baby grand piano followed above me, increasing in size the nearer I got to the show. To love something as much as I already did meant seeing it live was actually a risk. There were the run-of-the-mill concerns: What if understudies take the lead roles the night I go? There were the unusual concerns: What if I eat bad food before the show starts and spend the whole time focusing on keeping my bowels well behaved? And then there was the biggest, unspeakable worry: What if it’s just okay? What if the way I’ve seen these characters move and dance, touch and glide in my mind eclipses what could ever be shown on stage.

I got to the Richard Rodgers Theater about an hour and a quarter before the show was scheduled because waiting any longer would have violated the Geneva conventions. I promptly stood in the wrong line. When panicked/excited in a strange place, I can and will stand in any line available, applicable or not. After hearing murmurs about “cancellations,” I politely asked the least threatening human in my vicinity what was up. Shortly thereafter, beneath the judgmental stare of the Church of Scientology positioned across the street from the theater, I found my way to the right line. I say “line,” but it was only me and one other young woman waiting there, beneath a mural of the Schuyler sisters. I honestly don’t remember if she or I spoke up first, but once we started, we both rambled like schoolgirls. Which she was, and I just acted like. She was a sweet kid from California, a high-school freshman whose experience with Broadway flattened our lives’ experiential inequity. “I’ve seen 52 different shows, but this is the one I’m most excited about! How many have you seen?” Briefly tempted to lie, because who wants to look totally inexperienced about anything, I copped to the truth. She laughed, and we talked about favorite tracks and characters and the moments we were most excited for. Until our conversation car-crash stopped.

Moving at a brisk clip, toting a bright yellow backpack, and looking cooler than I have or will on the coolest day I have or will ever approximate cool, Daveed Diggs came bounding past us. Not walking. Bounding. She and I froze. He was in a hurry, so we couldn’t accost him. Even if we could, she and I were clearly both the sort who would only feel guilty for having even momentarily interrupted this bad-ass’s “work commute.” But someone had to say something. I looked at her. She looked away. Dammit, kid. “Mr. Diggs, I think your work is amazing” is what I intended to say. I know some combination of those words came out. Which ones in which order is a matter of debate. “Thanks, man!” He nodded and waved, entering the theater. And that’s the story of how Daveed Diggs and I became best friends for the rest of our lives.

From a distance, my line buddy and I watched as the key players arrived (save Lin-Manuel). Too far away for conversation now and moving fast and stealthy, we couldn’t even snap photos fast enough. No matter. We saw them. They were there. The lead roles were all there (save Lin-Manuel…”oh God, what if he’s not there,” my intestines asked noisly). Within minutes, we were inside the theater. We stood before the merchandise, shook hands, wished each other well, and went to our respective seats.

The theater was as expected, which isn’t an insult but is to say all theaters seem to share some ancestral origin: It was beautiful in that obvious, ornate way. A chandelier dangled like an upside-down wineglass filled with spilling diamonds beneath a gold patterned ceiling. It was crowded, and quarters were tight. Stairwells like slaughterhouse walkways. Unlike almost every other New York service position, the ushers here were beaming and ecstatic, one could dare say “polite.” A man so old I would have thought him CGI if I saw him in a movie was aided to a precarious mid-aisle position effortlessly. Impressive.

With the stir of seating settled, my attention turned to the stage. Wooden rails, but little else, framed the back and sides, forming a walkway around 15 feet in the air. In the center, although colored with the same wooden grain, there were clearly three circular discs. It was obvious they would spin, sometimes together, sometimes in opposite directions. From above, with a squint, it became apparent: This was “the eye of the hurricane.”

The lights flickered so soon. I swear we had all just walked in, as a familiar voice came across the speakers. “This is your king.” Jonathon Groff, pompous clown, barked playful instructions about cell phones, seating, and distractions to others before his invocation: “And now, enjoy MY show.” The emphasis would prove to only be half-joke. The stage still lit, not with spotlight but fully bathed in light, the audience went dark as out he walked: Burr. Leslie Odom Jr. sauntered in. It wasn’t cocky or arrogant, just heavy. Determined. No build-up. No warning. No music. Just familiar words and a snap: “How does a bastard orphan…”

Figures slid in from left and right, some recognizable and some a “visual choir,” male and female dancers in white corsets who would later alternate between nonspeaking characters and inanimate props. The opening number flowed, enrapturing as expected, until the most anticipated declaration: “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.” The crowd promptly LOST THEIR EVERLOVING SHIT. Now, I don’t pretend to know the etiquette of musical theater. But I am somewhat confident that lines of dialogue are not often met with full-throated cheers, the likes of which are more commonplace when baseballs leave ballparks and running backs find end zones. It was obvious: this was part rock show, part championship sporting match. These were not Broadway attendees, not mere patrons of the arts, these were rabid, passionate fanatics. These were my people.

The scaffolding that surrounded the center stage was modular, with pieces on wheels simulating the ship that brought Hamilton to New York. By the song’s end, the major players all announced the actions they were fated to play in the grand story ahead, illuminated overhead with soft light that made Xs of their silhouettes: a game of checkers played with lives set to the best music I’ve ever heard was about to unfold.

As the fanfare of the opening ended, faux lampposts slid out, simulating a New York side street. It was there “Aaron Burr, Sir” seamlessly fused with the first show-stopper: “My Shot.” If there was doubt about Lin-Manuel’s ability to match in person the voice that had infected my headphones for weeks, such doubt was dead on arrival. A bar table slid from the side, as (holy shit) Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens, and Lafayette took their place, pounding out the beat with beer mugs, spitting a baseline. And the energy grew.

Lit with bombastic bursts, props slid on and off stage, a fluid spinning assemblage, as that silent army of white-clad dancers populated the stage behind the major players. Hamilton took the fore, commanding a battalion long before the story would tell us he does. As the song reached its apex, the crowd quite simply couldn’t handle themselves. They had ceased remembering how to function in public. Luckily, I had never known in the first place.

The entire row in front of me, men and women of vastly varied ages, mouthed every word, fist-pumping, seat swaying. As the cast froze frame for the last note, I swear to God I thought there would be a standing ovation right there, just three songs in. Instead, the show smoothly transitioned into “The Story of Tonight,” which played shockingly and stunningly far more intimate and quietly moving visually than it did with audio alone. Something about seeing these men together, watching them clapping each other on the back, bracing each other’s shoulders, produced an authentic bond the lyrics and voices couldn’t.

Only Burr remained, as everyone else slinked both left and right into the wings. The spotlight crashed down, as a hazy light brought forth an urban setting seemingly out of thin air. And suddenly, there they were: the Schuyler sisters. Immediate, fierce, glorious, and sharply angled, Angelica cut to the front, flanked by her sisters. Eliza, the goddess, was the epitome of regal, cloaked in silken blue she wore like armor. If Angelica was fire, Eliza was ice. Both forces of nature and beautiful, so goddamn beautiful. Peggy was also present…

The women abandoned the street as Samuel Sebring slid in a soapbox, stepped upon it, and began “Farmer Refuted,” one of my low-key faves if just for the line “Don’t modulate the key then not debate with me.” Our heroes, huddled together just to Sebring’s right, began goading Hamilton to “tear this dude apart.” Burr backed him down with a condescending hand gesture (“Let him be”) but turned. Visually, his hubris is evident. He thought himself above Hamilton, as though an admonition and head nod of “nah, bruh” would hold Alexander back. At first opening, Hamilton ran right next to the soapbox and barked up towards Sebring, eventually demanding a portion of the soapbox for himself. As Sebring wobbled, nearly falling, Hamilton dared him to lose all balance with the sheer power of his voice.

Then, suddenly, the stage was bathed in bright red light. Those on stage fled to all sides, as from the back, slowly strut the king. If the audience lost their shit for Hamilton’s introduction, they lost twice amount of said shit for the king’s. Effortlessly belting out the playful tune, Groff paused and played with different words, coaxing humor from physical improvisation as much from staccato verbal stunting. When finished, he did not exist briskly; he slowly took his time, letting the next song begin and forcing the influx of dancers and players to move around him. He left when damn well ready, as a king does not rush.

Of all the songs that improved upon being seen, “Right Hand Man” ranked second for me. You’ll hear why it’s number two later. Washington was silhouetted in the back. Physically imposing, he was a leader in form as well as function; broad-shouldered and linebacker-swollen, the real George Washington would have needed a new pair of knickers and lied about the reason if confronted by Christopher Jackson, one of the kindest stars I’ve ever met (more on that later too). As Washington declared he was “Outgunned,” his saber produced and charging in, he frantically tried to coax order from farmers-turned-soldiers. Burr interrupted Washington at his desk, as the stage emptied save for the two of them. Enter Hamilton: Lin-Manuel and Odom give each other the “sup” head nod, as Washington dismisses Burr. It’s one thing to hear Burr’s humiliation at being told to go sit at the kids’ table, another to see his physical reaction to it. You can tell, that was where it started.

Once his sales pitch was executed, Hamilton ran to Washington’s desk. It was here that we saw the hint at a repeated bit of brilliant stagecraft. The desk was on one of the spinning circles. It seemed both to run to and away from Hamilton. He would chase it as it chased him. Writing was a circular pursuit, one he desired and was haunted by.

“A Winter’s Ball” briefly changed setting from wartime battlefronts to aristocratic courtship, as the musical shifted into a stunning one-two punch. Eliza fricking goddamn ripped into “Helpless” like a regal chainsaw, her voice so pure and sharp you wonder if she really needs that microphone. She and Hamilton proceeded to fall in love with letters. Voiceless dancers in white became the wind, passing message from him to her, from her to him, until they were both enamored. Well, actually, it’s clear he fell in love with her, attempting seduction with witticisms and poise; she simply chose him and that was that. Hamilton asked for her hand in the background, as Angelica encouraged the union with Eliza through clenched teeth in the fore. Her rigor, stiff smiles, and cold gestures embodied the emotional turmoil of “she who loves who she should not.” Ending with Eliza in a veil, wedding guests made of the white-adorned dancers and others surrounded Angelica at center stage about to toast. Then things suddenly spun backwards to the booming sound of a commanding “rewind.” Dancers painstakingly and precisely replicated their previous dance moves in reverse, the stage spinning the opposite direction, props sliding back to where they were, key players reversing into position. Hamilton and Angelica set about crossing their stars, pausing to be spotlit at key moments, none more heartbreaking than the pose she strikes when she realizes he is not, will not, cannot be hers. She is bathed in the coldest light, as sisterly love won out.

The brief reprise of “The Story of Tonight” was sparsely populated, with just Hamilton’s posse and Burr, who was soon enough left on stage for another breathtaking moment. Full confession: If forced at gunpoint to pick (and it would have to be only in that scenario I would admit it), “Wait for It” may be my favorite song in Hamilton. The tiny, hair-raising pause before the orchestra blasts the backdrop to his first declaration of his intentions is one of my favorite moments in life. I would live in that moment if I could Seeing it live broke me. I wouldn’t say tears “fell.” I didn’t “ugly cry.” But I’d say it suddenly got very cloudy in my eyeballs.

“Stay Alive” brought the first military skirmish, replete with Redcoats and guns taking aim against the ill-fated, ill-prepared Charles Lee. As the British marched in from stage left, Hamilton and Lafayette took orders from Washington on the railing above them. Cannon fire and gunshots were punctuated with precise, spotted, orange lighting. I felt those goddamn bullets, expressed as focused light and sound. I felt the cannons, bigger beams and louder base. But mostly, I felt the panic. With Lee’s defeat cemented, he fled up the scaffolding on stage left to bark out insults against Washington, firing “from a distance,” as physically far from him as he could get. The record scratched again, as the center stage circles began to spin frantically in opposite directions. John Laurens vowed to seek revenge for Washington on Hamilton’s behalf, and was promptly bathed in blood red light. “The Ten Duel Commandments” was all circles and spinning; it was “the center cannot hold” shit. It was foreshadowing endings and underlining themes. It was the hurricane unfurling. The different allied pairs (the duelists and their seconds) stood on opposite circles, stepping from one rotating disc to the other, orbiting and chasing each other as the rules were explained. Burr and Hamilton never took their eyes from one another. Make no mistake: This was actually their first duel. The ill-fated duo stared and spun until they took their leave, letting Laurens and Lee square off.

A gunshot pop announced “Meet Me Inside,” which has one of my favorite singular moments in the play. Washington, proud pseudo-father turned disappointed replacement dad, tells the orphaned Hamilton, standing on a dark and sparse stage broken only by intimate spotlight on the two of them, that he must not be so rash. The performers were on the very front edge of the stage, nearly teetering atop the orchestra pit. Hamilton surged forward, inches from Washington’s face: “Call me son one more time!” The inflection was different than in the recoding in the most authentic, organic way. He wasn’t performing it for a microphone: Hamilton was saying it to his makeshift dad. Washington flinched as if slapped. His shoulders slumped in disappointment, not rage. Hamilton’s face drew sullen, his body language a surrender. When told to leave, he knew why, and knew he should.

It wasn’t clear until seeing it live all of the work that the song “That Would Be Enough” is tasked with doing. Not only must it establish Eliza as a character with agency, it must demonstrate the bond between her and Hamilton with considerable economy, especially difficult given how often Angelica’s affections are underlined. The intimate scene was just the couple, intertwining and separating physically, pulling apart and fusing together amid virtually no props. What was evident in the choreography was Hamilton’s deference to Eliza. That is to say, in literally every other scene (save one), the man does not back down or insinuate inferiority to any other character. In the previous scene, he had just told the defacto “King of America” to stuff it. But here, every action, every note was a demonstration of weakness and submission. Eliza held him like a child at times, lovingly but clearly superiorly. By the way, falling in love with Phillipa Soo isn’t an option, it’s a commandment.

Holy shit. Then… Holy shit. Then it happened… HOLY SHIT! “Guns and Ships!” The audience to a person sat up, leaning forward. Every inch of shrunken space mattered. Bouncing kinetically, Burr screamed “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” as Lafayette entered and climbed the scaffolding, just so he could leap from it while mid-verse. I wouldn’t have believed it, but they had to have slowed Diggs down on the recording. They had to have. He’s faster lyrically in person. His flow so clean and crisp, so goddamn fast it’s like mainlining lyrics. Lafayette pounded on Washington’s desk, Diggs so full of energy, Jackson’s performance spiked to mach him. Extoling him, as the dancers swirled around, Washington conceded “I need my right hand man back.” And so the dancers once again became messengers, carrying the General’s missive to Hamilton into the arms of Eliza. Hearing the news, knowing what it meant, that he couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse, put his military jacket on him. She may not have been thrilled, but Queen Eliza has his back. The stage swirled as the bastard immigrant was face to face with the Virginian legend.

If you didn’t know the father-son dynamic prior to “History Has Its Eyes on You,” you couldn’t have misread it during that sequence. Washington is sullen as he offers a sabre of command to Hamilton. This is a father passing a legacy on to his son, even if it comes with warning. Hamilton didn’t hesitate, grabbing the blade and sliding it into the scabbard with a declarative clank. Washington exited as Lafeyette entered, and the biggest applause line of the night was uttered: “Immigrants, we get the job done.” The orchestra seemed prepared, pausing the cue until the roar subsided. The friends promised to see each other “on the other side” and the war exploded at “Yorktown.”

With a small number of players, the chaos was still communicated. Hamilton paced among soldiers in conflict, barking orders, as the dancers crissed and crossed around him. Until a cannonball of rhyme dropped in. Hercules Mulligan was everything I envisioned. Stocking-cap clad and throwing gestures like lightning bolts, when he declared “When I get knocked down, I get the f**k back up again,” I was pleasantly surprised to see the 70-year-old grandmother in my row mouthing the words. Then, finally, in the upper right of the stage, the white flag unfurled. The war was over, and the world turned upside down.

The stage emptied fast, as the royal red light bathed the stage again. With the same slow cadence, the King took lower stage left. As he declared “I’m so blue,” he struck his scepter against the ground, as the lighting changed to the blue color demanded. The quick song still demonstrated Groff’s unspeakable charisma and ability to elevate the briefest of moments into memorable gut laughs. A fitting contrast for “Dear Theodosia,” which saw Burr stage left, and Hamilton stage left. Burr seated at first in a chair seemingly rocking his newborn daughter, as Hamilton was peering down from behind a chair, as if looking into a crib. Simplistic mirroring to great effect.

The quiet humanity was quickly dissipated into the close of act one: “Non-Stop.” The spinning center stage circles had much work to do here, as this was easily the scene with the most diverse set of players and props. Hamilton argued a court case with Burr behind a table in the lower stage left before ascending to center stage where he declared his intention to seek public office atop a table. Jumping off and moving forward, he was surrounded by players seated in chairs, a simulation of the Constitutional Convention. The desk is there, representing the writing, chasing him from afar. The stage was emptied as Hamilton asked Burr surrounded in darkness broken by spotlight to defend the constitution. As Burr declined, you could see the physical frustration and irritation in Lin-Manuel’s body language. This was the second major dispute. Angelica and Eliza took their places on the spinning discs, the former explaining her choices and gaining distance from Hamilton physically on stage (incidentally getting a huge laugh on “he’s not a lot of fun” for some reason). The latter pleads her case sliding towards Hamilton as he moves away. Then the triumphant explanation of the Federalist Papers, as Burr can’t help himself in showing his admiration at Hamilton “writing the other 51!” It built to a frenzy of sound and people rushing on and off stage before emptying and leaving Hamilton center stage front, staring up at Washington atop the stage left railing. Another of my favorite tiny moments, Hamilton proudly declared “Lezgo” to Washington’s appointment to Treasury, as the key players all flood back on stage. Each offering their signature words of wisdom (“History has its eyes on you”), warning (“You will never be satisfied”), or opposition (“Wait for it.”) They all spiraled and circled, coming to a complete stop with Hamilton in front, the rest of the players spread out behind like a chessboard mid game, as the song rose to “I am not throwing away my shot!” Smash cut to black. The audience gasped. I peed a little. Nobody left their seat for intermission, although much selfie-ing and texting was had.

And now we’ve come to the song that was most improved upon seeing it. “What’d I Miss?” Holy. Shit. Daveed. GODDAMN. Diggs. His Jefferson was a force of nature. To see still images is to get only the barest of glimpses into this performance. He was boundless energy, with knees like springs, bouncing with every step he took like gravity was an option, like he was moonbound and everyone else was stuck here on this boring-ass planet. Hair no longer pulled tight but exploding around his megawatt smile, he was Prince in his prime, sex and power and energy that honestly can’t be accurately enough described. Dressed in royal purple, he swung his cane with purpose, surrounded on all sides by a swelling church choir, praising him. Okieriete Onaodowan, the nuclear Hercules Mulligan, shifted into the subdued, charcoal-voiced James Madison and joined his partner in crime on stage, as the choir fled.

A handful of chairs were placed in a semi-circle, with Washington at the top center. This was the first cabinet battle, and the crowd reacted as if they’d been attending rap battles their whole lives. Jefferson flanked by Madison in front of Washington, standing face-to-face with Hamilton, dressed in bright green. Diggs bit in hard, his physical reactions and facial expressions serving as his own hype more than the soft-spoken Madison, who was at least there to catch Jefferson’s mic when he dropped it at the end of his verse. But Lin-Manuel is no slouch, and the crowd “oohed” and “aahed” and “DAMNed” as he dispatched his opponent. The supporting players whisked the chairs away, leaving Washington and Hamilton conversing in lower stage left, as Madison and Jefferson waited to taunt Hamilton about his lack of votes from inside the circle at center stage. It’s worth noting even Jefferson’s jaunty exit got the crowd giddy.

The writing desk once more chasing and being chased, “Take a Break” gave us our first glimpse of Phillip, which admittedly brought laughs. A grown man playing a 9 year old will do that. It was still endearing, as the Hamilton family picture came into focus. When Angelica arrived from stage right, Eliza shrieked like a sorority sister. As they ran to each other, Hamilton softly and proudly declared them “The Schuyler sisters.” Peggy was not also present. The remainder of the scene relied heavily on the sisters chasing down and trying to convince Hamilton to not do the dumb thing he was about to do. But the desk, the writing, was lurking, circling him, demanding him. And as the sisters left, Burr entered, and things got icky.

“Say No to This” is always a hard listen to me because anyone who would cheat on a Schuyler sister should receive heavy blows about the head and face. It was harder still to see. Maria Reynolds, cloaked in tempting red, cleavage visibly throbbing from balcony seats, stumbles onto Hamilton behind his desk. The streetlight props came out (insert “streetwalking” joke), as Maria and Hamilton engaged in far too much necking for enraged folks like me at the front of the stage. It was short lived, as Mr. Reynolds strolled on to demand his ransom. The spinning discs, the hurricane, leapt into motion again, as Hamilton spiraled out of control. Maria on the ground pled her case, as Hamilton lamented his eventual ruin.

The stage emptied as Burr sauntered over to Hamilton to discuss legacy. Hamilton cut him off, as Burr slid downstage, and Hamilton slid up, joined by Jefferson and Madison. Their backs to Burr, as if ignoring him, we watch as the future duelist finds his final motivation. Visually, this was one of the more busy and gorgeous numbers, with key players standing atop props, sliding on and off stage, zigging and zagging into and out of each other’s paths. It was messy, like politics. It was ostracizing for Burr. It was optically frustrating to amplify Burr’s frustration. It was easily one of the top 5 songs of the night.

The brisk “Schuyler Defeated” was little more than another parry-and-thrust foreshadowing what was to come. The visuals of the play rely so heavily on swirling and circling, which was no different here. The Cabinet chairs slid back out, as round two between Hamilton and Jefferson began. Same set up, same results, with Hamilton hilariously mocking Jefferson’s physical theatrics as he uttered “Do whatever you want I’m SUPER dead.” Again, the delivery was different than expected and felt far more improvised on a line many (like me) get stuck in their head quite often.

“Washington on Your Side” was killer because it finally established what was hard to really envision by just listening. The scheming against Hamilton by Burr, Jefferson, and Madison seemed all that more nefarious to see than hear. Jefferson, was clearly the ringleader, framed center stage. But Madison was the brains, as he got a laugh by declaring himself the author of the Bill of Rights. Burr, set off far stage left, drifted closer and closer to the duo. He is Judas being swayed by the promise of a silver key to access “The Room Where It Happens.” Also worth noting, the elderly woman in my row was just as excited to hear “Southern MOTHERF**KING DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICANS” and silently sing along as I was. Oh, and on that line, I was half convinced Diggs was going to bounce so high he may never come back down again.

Lately, “One Last Time” has taken to hurting me a bit more. Maybe it’s that I almost lost my Dad last year. Maybe it’s just the poetry of Washington’s words is so haunting. Maybe it’s that I simply feel so bad for Hamilton losing the only person to ever keep him from succumbing to the worst parts of himself, since Eliza wasn’t entrusted to these moments. I keep repeating it, but this is another “intimate” scene. It began with Hamilton at Washington’s deskside, hilariously blaming Jefferson for “starting it.” But by the time it was apparent this is the General’s goodbye, everyone’s posture and body language changed. Dancers swirled around proclaiming “George Washington’s going home,” as Hamilton stone faced and shrunken read the proclamation at center stage front. Washington, once again fading into silhouette, eased back to the open ladder in the back of the center stage. The ascension here clearly made it feel more like death than resignation, something only hinted at in the song’s lyrics.

But let’s get back to fun shit. Groff CRUSHED “I Know Him” in an almost impossibly perfect way. A pause can produce as much comedy as a line. After declaring no one able to follow Washington’s lead, The King is told by a staffer that John Adams is now president. He repeated the word “John Adams,” and then he stood there for a beat. And then another. And then another. And then the audience erupted with laughter. It was like Groff was going to wait until we exploded before continuing. If you think “Jesus Christ this will be fun” is a great declaration on the track, you should see Groff skip and prance after singing that. His giggle at the end isn’t just amusing, it’s tear-inducingly funny. And here’s the best part: The King Stays. He sits in the corner, observing the beginning of “Adams Administration” while clapping and dancing in his seat. The best moment in that number being Hamilton’s declaration “Sit down John, you fat MOTHERF**KER!” He delivered it from atop the railing in center stage, dropping a stack of newspapers. When it hit the ground, a concussive thud was heard as the stage exploded in red light. That explosion sent everyone scattering.

At his desk, Hamilton was startled by the imposition of Madison, Burr, and Jefferson, who strait up STRUTS over to accuse the immigrant in “We Know.” As Hamilton produces the documents that defend himself, we got our first Jeffersonian “Whaaaaaaa,” which I still want as my ringtone. As Madison and Jefferson exit up stage right, Hamilton chases Burr to center stage, asking him to protect his secret. When Burr clearly said “Nah,” Hamilton is left in the center of the spinning discs. It is finally time for the “Hurricane.” One of the most gracefully blocked sequences, the dancers simulate the wind. They picked up objects and slowly, gracefully, moved them as if they were carried by the wind. Hamilton in the center, stood tall, as the discs spun the dancers in slow motion, controlling their every movement with insane precision. Until Hamilton declared his own undoing. From offstage came the warnings “Wait for it” and “History has its eyes on you,” but the desk chases Hamilton down on the spinning circle and catches him. He sat. Penned the “Reynolds Pamphlet” and undid his marriage and my goddamn heart.

Visually, “The Reynolds Pamphlet” is a keeper too. Why? Because THE KING IS IN IT! Jefferson, Madison, Burr, and THE KING dance and primp around Hamilton, bathed in embarrassing red light. They threw copies of the paper at him like confetti, with the King foppishly spinning gleefully around as Jefferson “made it rain” copies of the document down on Hamilton in utter shame. The white-clad dancers again swirled the papers up and emptied the stage for heartbreak.

Eliza, on a darkened stage, walked from upper stage left to front stage right, sitting on a bench with only a lantern and a bucket in front of her. In a moment I will never forget, Soo’s voice softly filled the room with sorrow, as her blue dress seemed to shimmer from regal ice to tear-stained. As she listed Hamilton’s crimes, she literally set papers on fire, tossing them into the bucket in front of her. She was more illuminated by that fire than by the spotlight. I will never, ever, ever forget her hoarse, throaty condemnation “how they perceive you…YOU, YOU, YOU.” She exits in silence, the bench sliding off behind her, as Philip strolls in from above. “Blow Us All Away” is visually busy as well, with Hamilton’s son strolling to chat with street folks before finding George Eacker at the “play.” They illustrated this with a clever bit of work. Two actors dropped candle lights in a semi-circle in the middle of the stage and then collapsed, recreating some tragic work, as Philip was lower stage left looking up at the scaffolding where Eacker sat, telling him to “piss off.” As expected, Phillip explaining the duel specifics brought a huge ovation for “Everything is legal in New Jersey,” a line I’m betting hits FAR HARDER when watching the musical in New York. The second duel of the night happened just like the first, with the participants walking in opposite directions on the spinning circles until Philip was lower center stage and struck with the bullet that would make everyone who has ever heard this musical very sad.

In the reprise of “Stay Alive,” the key action all took place with Philip laid out on a table, and his father by his side until Eliza arrived. I was ready for a lot of emotion in these songs. I was not ready for Eliza’s blood-curdling shriek when her son passed. I don’t think the hairs on my neck have laid down since. And just like that, we were in the brutal “It’s Quiet Uptown.” This one did, in fact, bring me to tears. Because, you know, I’m a human being with human feelings and emotions. Here’s what did me in: Most of this is just Angelica off to the side narrating as Hamilton and Eliza, cloaked now in mournful black, stand near each other. Eliza barely moved. Sullen, stiff, she conveyed the shellshock so hauntingly. But when they got to the most emotional moment for me, “Forgiveness, could you imagine,” what I saw was what broke me. Angelica told us “She takes his hand.” And Eliza does. Coldly in a way. She simply lowers hers and puts her hand inside his. That’s not the moment. A few beats later, after the swelling “could you imagine,” Eliza seems to finally break and rests her head on Hamilton’s shoulder. Done. I was done.

Hence why the whole crowed erupted at “Can we get back to politics? PLEASE!” “The Election of 1800” was another very busy scene. Burr flitted around, handing papers to the white-clad dancers, now representing voters. His exchange with Hamilton was even more ominous in person. “I learned it from you” looked like the threat it was always meant to be, as Hamilton in black was surrounded by the white-corseted dancers. As Madison tried to convince Jefferson to procure Hamilton’s support, the stage was full of movement and motion, with Hamilton using the opportunity to drift to the top level center scaffolding. Madison declared “it’s a tie,” Burr moved down to the lip of stage right. On “it’s up to the delegates,” Jefferson was positioned opposite on the lip of stage left. Both were bathed in the same reddish light. “It’s up to Hamilton,” hit our hero with a spotlight on the upper stage scaffolding. Burr and Jefferson never looked back at him, just at us. So we could see the moment that Burr decided to give in to the hate, as Hamilton proclaimed his vote for Jefferson, who looked pleasantly amused, pleased to walk over and taunt Burr as the latter tried to make a cordial concession.

The stage emptied. Burr strolled, dazed, mumbling about his frustration. The desk that had chased Hamilton now found its way to Burr. The two would engage in letter writing duels, as “Your Obedient Servant,” saw the desk on the spinning circle and the dancers once again as the wind passing the letters back and forth. It’s a quick song, but a great one. And by the end, the two were side by side, ready for their fate. The very brief “Best of Wives and Best of Women” was little more than Hamilton in a chair calling out after Eliza. I still got all weepy. I love Eliza. I knew what was about to happen to her.

The duel began like the other two, circling on the spinning discs. Hamilton in his glasses did look older. His determination seemed less like the murderous rage Burr claimed and more like the resignation of a man who doesn’t know what he’s living for any more. And now, I get to tell you about my favorite single moment in theatrical history. “The World Was Wide Enough” crescendos to the gunshot we were all allegedly prepared for, a lone dance in white stands next to Burr at the top of the center stage. The circles stopped spinning, as the players all froze. Except her. She became the bullet. Slowly, her hand tracks the path of the deadly slug, inching toward Hamilton. In that frozen moment in space, he flashed his life before his own eyes, staring up at the scaffolding (now heaven) to glimpse Washington, Laurens, Philip, his mother. As the bullet got closer, more and more dancers came out to give it more weight. They passed the original dancer who represented the bullet over above their own bodies, carrying her as if simulating the speed behind it growing stronger and stronger. Hamilton made his peace, said his last, aimed at the sky, and the bullet struck. The dancers disappeared, letting the sound of bulleted echoes do their work. I have never, and will never, see anything so gripping on stage. Burr ended his lament, his body humbled, his voice fragile, his shame palpable. The first beats of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” feel like Burr’s struggling heartbeat.

The characters who died shrouded now in heavenly white advanced onto the stage. Washington and company begin the eulogy. Jefferson from the top of the scaffolding on stage right, cocky until the end, leaning on the beam praised his financial system to audience laughter. Madison from across the stage declared his admiration. Angelica advanced, center stage, stepping aside to answer the question asked in the theme of the work: Eliza. Eliza tells the story. “I put myself back in the narrative” broke me. She mentioned the revolutionaries, who sang their thanks under spotlight. She clasped Angelica’s hands before releasing her to her passing. The song built again, Eliza in front of Washington mentions his monument, as he belted loud and strong “She tells my story.” And there, by the lip of the stage, she told us of the orphanage, as chests around me began heaving, my own eyelids burst their dams, and the crowd melted.

With one more surprise: As Eliza declared she couldn’t wait to see Alexander again “It’s only a matter of time,” Hamilton walked out garbed in black to take her hand again. Standing next to her inside the spiraling circles, he turned forward to us as the rest of the cast filled out around him, hitting the final somber note. Slightly in front of Eliza, Hamilton doesn’t bow. He steps to the side, and Eliza takes that first bow. The crowd lost their mind, sprang to their feet, and everyone caught their breath for a good 10-15 minutes.

I took longer.

I finally made my way to the restrooms and then outside, one of the last to leave. I knew I was holding on to it. But whatever.

I stumbled out into the wrong side of the stage door, now lined with throngs of fans, squealing with cameras ready. I wasn’t close enough to get into the throng for autographs or selfies, but I just happened to be in the right spot to see them very close as they first took steps out, close enough to talk to them. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica), as beautiful on a New York side street as on stage, was the first to stir the crowd. Then came Daveed Diggs. For the second time in our young best friendship, I told him how spectacular he was, as he grinned and posed with swooning young people. He shook hand after hand, took picture after picture, all the way down the entire row. Then, suddenly, the crowd went mental. There he was, adorably tiny but powerful, stocking-cap clad and grinning, Lin-Manuel. The throng pushed closer, edging me back a bit, but I was still close enough to click eyes with him as I told him he had made me love a musical for the first time. I’m bad at talking and taking photos, but I got the moment right after, as he smiled and looked down. The crowd followed Lin-Manuel, pacing behind the barrier as he walked down like coaches run down a football sideline during a big run. So nobody really noticed when Christopher Jackson stepped out. It was just me and him, face to face. Daveed is a scene-stealing golden God, but if I had to pick one person to shake hands with (besides Lin-Manuel, obviously), it was him. So I did. We actually know someone in common, a wonderful woman I met through local politics. I mentioned her to him, and he smiled broadly. “Oh yeah! She mentioned you were coming!” I told him how I admired his performance, but more than that, how all of my friends in Omaha were crazy obsessed and jealous. I told him how lucky I felt to be the one person of our “Hamiltrash” squad to get to see this in person. He said “Well, give my love to Omaha,” and shook my hand again, asking if I wanted an autograph. Which, duh, I did, but hadn’t actually asked for. So, yeah, that playbill is getting framed. My first one, maybe my only one (who knows), but it is dear to me.

I understand maybe 2-3 people are likely to read all these words. Honestly, this was as much a diary for me before forgetting what I saw as it was an attempt to give those I know TRULY, DEEPLY wish they could experience vicariously the feelings I did. It is a singular, amazing, religious experience. It defies hype, explodes expectations, and will forever be held as one of my favorite nights I’ve ever had.

Ok. I’m done now.