I could easily come up with a list of the top 10 days of my life. And… if I had to... I could also come up with the worst 10, too.
But never — ever — have I had a day that would compete to be on both lists.
Here's the story:
In addition to my work as a CEO and my regular family life, there have been two main things that have occupied my attention over the last year: Daylight Saving Time and Alexander Hamilton.
I've written at great length about DST. I haven't written as much about Hamilton.
My fascination grew in tandem with my son. Several years ago we watched this video. If you haven't seen it, or even if you have, here it is again:
My son actually memorized that whole rap, and last summer when we were touring around Philly and New York City he performed it several times.
One of those times he performed it was for the National Park Ranger who was the leading Hamilton expert in Philly. It was from him that we learned about some Hamilton events happening in New York City, and it was there we learned about the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, and went on a walking tour of Hamilton sites. We attended a fascinating lecture about Hamilton, one pointing out how he was absolutely the most important founding father after Washington himself. We attended a dramatic reading of the letters between Hamilton and Burr at the Hamilton Grange.
Then we visited Hamilton's grave on the anniversary of the day of his death. It was all my son could do to keep from correcting the tour guides who kept mangling the facts of his death, and never even mentioned that they were standing above his remains on the very day he died. They all made the same lame joke about New Jersey, and then moved on.
After that I picked up the book that inspired Miranda, Chernow's overwhelmingly compelling biography.
And so when Lin-Manuel Miranda announced that the play about Hamilton would be opening at the Public Theater, we snapped up two tickets on a night when the cast would be answering questions after the play (my son loves that stuff) and when he would only miss one day of school. We got a great deal on some tickets on Southwest, and planned to have a geek-out father-son fun trip to see the play about the "Ten dollar Founding Father without a father."
Then the play opened, and the reviews started coming in. They weren't just good, they were stupendous, they wore out the thesaurus. I don't typically even like theater and I really don't like musicals, but these reviews were so good that I got crazy excited.
Then the celebrities started showing up. It started slowly, with actors who were well known and highly respected. John Lithgow was the first one I noticed.
Then the celebrities kept getting bigger and bigger. The Clintons went last week, but the one that impressed me most was Weird Al Yankovik, who declared it a "Work of Genius."
A guy who clearly is a genius doesn't toss words like that around lightly.
So our excitement was off the charts, even before we knew that Paul McCartney went to see the play the night before we were scheduled to go.
We woke up to reports of bad weather, but we figured it would be OK. We're from Colorado, a little cold and snow is no big deal.
Then the flight was delayed a half hour, then an hour.
Then — just after clearing security and walking on the cool bridge at Denver International Airport (the only structure in the world that a 747 can taxi under) with the Native American music playing — I got the text. Flight Cancelled.
We didn't know it at the time, but there was a very good reason why.
We scrambled around at the airport, trying to figure out if there was some way to go to some other nearby airport, but to no avail.
There would be no trip.
So then there was the matter of the tickets. We came up with a plan to try to find someone else who had tickets for some future performance, and would be willing to trade with us. Through the magic of social media… Maybe?
Even Lin-Manuel Miranda himself retweeted my plea. Stand-up guy.
But it didn't work. We did have some offers to buy the tickets, and given that they are getting scalped for more than $1,800 a pop, and there are still none available, it's no wonder.
Luckily we have some great friends in New York who were able to get through the muck to see the show. As I'm writing this I haven't heard any reports yet, but I expect they will be glowing. Which is great, it really is.
Still, it hurts. Still sitting in my suitcase is my copy of the Chernow biography of Hamilton that inspired Miranda. I was going to bring it on the off chance that Chernow might be there the same night as our tickets.
So painful… And yet...
This is also one of the greatest days of my life. You see, on this day an idea I had for a way to fix it so we won't have to change our clocks back and forth twice per year actually got introduced into a state legislature. The text I wrote is now part of the legislative process.
Put another way, I had an idea that started at the dinner table with my family, and that idea became an official draft resolution being considered by the legislature of one of the 50 US States, and it will be real in other states soon.
I'll be writing much more about that over on the Time blog, but suffice it to say that this is the very first real step in growing that idea into a reality.
So, is this one of the greatest days of my life, or one of the worst?
I know what Alexander Hamilton would call a day with stunning highs and lows and a production of a couple of thousand words of prose.
He'd call it "Thursday."
Remember, this is a guy who had stunning public victories.
- As a teenager he wrote more persuasively than anyone about why the colonies should revolt against Britain.
- He became Washington's indispensable chief of staff.
- He lead troops to a decisive and yet honorable victory during the war, one of the few battles the Revolutionary troops actually won without help from the French.
- He was the only founding father that didn't own slaves and worked harder than any other to ban slavery.
- Nearly single-handedly pushed for the Constitutional Convention, and then lobbied harder than anyone to get the U.S. Constitution passed, something that was not at all a sure thing at the time.
- Decided that it would help if the new federal government had a working guideline, so pushed for the creation of the Federalist Papers and wrote a huge majority of them himself.
- Again nearly on his own, he pushed for a strong central government and forcefully but respectfully put down the Whiskey Rebellion.
- Founded the Federal Bank, the Coast Guard, a college set up to embrace the Native Americans, and the New York Post.
And crushing personal losses:
- He was alone with his mother when she died a horrible death.
- The cousin who became his caretaker committed suicide.
- The ship that brought him to America caught fire and was nearly lost at sea.
- He saw the slave-trade up close.
- He was lured into a America's first tawdry political sex scandal.
- His oldest son died in a duel defending his father's honor.
- And then with the same pistol that killed his son, he was shot down by repugnant little man in a duel over nothing.
Perhaps most impressive to me given my not-exactly-staggering literary output is that Hamilton would regularly crank out a few thousand words in a day, and he did it with a quill and ink.
I may not have gotten to see the play, but I got the message. The Hamilton play is probably the best thing to happen to hip-hop since the Sugar Hill Gang, the best thing to happen to theater since West Side Story, and the best thing to happen to American history since Schoolhouse Rock.
But Hamilton's story is not a feel-good story. It's not designed to make you happy to sit back and watch.
It's a call to action.
As it says on the poster for the play: Who gets to tell your story?
Embedded in that question is the larger question: What is the story of your life going to be? The play Hamilton (I'm figuring) and more to the point the man who was Alexander Hamilton challenge all of us to do more. We are not meant to watch, but to jump in with great vigor.
So instead of moping about not getting to come to New York, you can see me on HuffPo Live Friday morning (via a hangout instead of in person, alas) trying to take a stand and then later today you'll see me and my son down at the state capitol doing our best to advocate as best we can for a better world.
I hope Hamilton would approve.