Monday, July 6 2020

swatch mad, sourdough choni, and hamilton hot takes

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Welcome back to the regularly scheduled work week. I hope you had a restful holiday weekend, and now that the barbecues, day drinking, and comforting our shaking dogs in the bath tub is all behind us, you're feeling eager to venture into July.

Speaking of shaking in the bath tub, may I just say that our cousin dog Jojo continues to be a very delightful house guest. While she spends quite a bit of down-time in the tub, she seems to get an extra burst of social energy whenever she has to go potty in the yard. So this morning, she greeted me wagging her big thick tail and lumbering body by our upstairs baby gate.

"You puppies GET BACK," I yelled with a hushed voice, pushing Ollie and Ziggy into the living room with my leg, reeling the retractable gate in front of them. "Jojo needs her space to eat breakfast."

Jojo wolfed down her breakfast out of my largest cooking bowl. When she was finished, she smacked her lips a few times, then made her way over to the living room to stare blankly out the window for a few minutes while the fresh kibble sloshed around in her tummy.

She looked over her shoulder at me in a way that seemed like she would have said Thanks Uncle Alex, I'm going to go back in the tub now. Well, thank you for spending the morning with me, Jojo. You are excused.

Sip. We had a good day yesterday. After climbing out of bed, Rodney and I hung out in the living room and fooled around with swords, claws, and nerf guns. Marissa set up at the dining room computer where she worked like mad on her swatches.

"Look at this," I said teasing her for the array of water bottles, dishes, and coffee mugs she had collected around her makeshift workstation. "It's like you've gone mad with swatches. You've gone swatch mad."

For lunch, we slapped together some quick sandwiches with Krang Bread, warmed up steak, and grilled belled peppers right out of the fridge. And because it felt like the right thing to do, I poured the steak juices into a little shot glass and served it on the side, like how they used to serve the extra wet Italian beef at our favorite bar from our Rockford days.

For dinner, I made a sfincione, and I tried making the dough from sourdough starter instead of yeast. At first, things felt like they were on the right track. The dough puffed up beautifully under tinfoil in the warm afternoon sun, leeching the smell of an old world pizzeria onto the deck. Even before the pizza was assembled, I was already starting to feel proud of myself - not only for improvising a pizza dough, but for finding a resourceful way to use the small amount of starter I have to discard every day to feed Krang.

As soon as a rubber spatula pierced the glossy surface, the doughy parachute collapsed. The pizza dough turned to a warm brown soup, rolling out onto the oiled pan with the same spirit and vigor of a melted smoothy.

"The texture is a little different," said Marissa. "But it tastes good."

"You know it's interesting," I said inspecting a wedge of crust in my hand. "It kind of reminds me of the earlier sourdough loafs I tried that didn't rise in the oven. Only since it's covered in cheese and sauce, I don't mind eating it."

"You just can't beat classic choni," said Marissa.

After dinner, we played Candy Land on the back porch. And for those keeping score, I finally shook off my deep losing streak. I scored big with the lolipop card early in the game, then sealed the deal with a solid arc of double cards. Scooting my little gingerbread figurine into the Kandy Castle, I was tempted to leap onto my chair and taunt my family like John Cena.

"See, I sat to your right this time," I said to Marissa. "I think that gave me victory today."

We even let Baby Miles play a round with us. Rodney was nearly howling with laughter as Marissa swung Miles' arms and used his chubby fingers to grip the little cardboard cutout cards. Figures - Miles won his first game. Not unlike Rodney's first game, he drew the icecream card and swept the floor with the rest of us.

Rodney went upstairs to get ready for bed. I sat in his room while he changed into his pajamas and brushed his teeth. Just before shutting of the bathroom light, I heard him whisper "Good night Jojo - good girl."

Marissa and I would clean the house up and listen to Hamilton for the rest of the night. Ah, Hamilton. Has anyone seen it yet? I haven't meant to hold my opinion so close to my chest. It's just taken some time to figure out how I feel about it.

"It's a bad musical and I don't like it. Want to listen to it for a bit?" - that's our running joke for Hamilton. The songs are so catchy. They worm their way into your life, and if you're not careful, you'll find yourself letting the soundtrack run on repeat all day, which just worsens the effect.

I'm sitting on some hot takes, I suppose. For one, it doesn't feel like there is any time to process things in Hamilton. Every song crescendos into a big blazing musical number with a whole suite of flailing Taylor Swift dancers, and it feels like you're missing out on a sense of intimacy. The rapping has its moments, but through the duration of the musical, I can't shake the feeling of embarrassment, like I'm watching an episode of The Magic School Bus or a video from the played out "Epic Rap Battles of History" YouTube channel.

And perhaps my hottest take of all, I wasn't a fan of how Hamilton used race in the story. I have no issue with a "colorblind cast" as a creative decision, but what felt dirty about Hamilton is that diversity was used to reinforce who the good guys were. The Brits were very white - played by white actors who lacked rhythm and coolness. And Hamilton went on to make the case that America was great because of how we treated other races. "Immigrants get the job done," winks Alexander at an adoring audience. He struts with confidence around a tavern that bustles like a modern day Harlem. Together, he and a multi cultural cast of founding fathers lay the groundwork for the great American experiment.

"We were colonists too," I sneered at the television. "Hadn't we just finished driving out like thousands of Native Americans out of their homes?"

I don't think there's any sinister agenda in Hamilton. I think it's entertainment. But at some point, I started to worry about how comfortable it felt. Race relations continues to be a big problem in this country, and I don't think a piece like Hamilton adds anything special or honest to the conversation. Our founding fathers were white - many of them slave owners. And they didn't warmly invite other cultures to take a seat at the table of creating America. I'm not sure if we've yet earned the right to pretend they were as cool as they were portrayed in Hamilton.

If you have any thoughts about Hamilton, send them my way. I'll be thinking about it - and unfortunately probably listening to it - all day. Thanks for stopping by.