Alexander Hamilton Is Having a Moment

This 1806 portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (1756–1843) hangs at the Washington University Law School; the image is in the public domain.

This 1806 portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (1756–1843) hangs at the Washington University Law School; the image is in the public domain.

In the “About” section of this blog, I note that my family shaped my interests—that my mother was interested in culture and my father in history—and now when I travel (also an interest of my parents) I seek out the cultural and the historical.

I love when these things come together, as they have in the Broadway hit musical Hamilton. It looks fabulous. But, as Time magazine notes in the May 13, 2016, issue (transcribed by me from my subscription copy),

If you didn’t have Hamilton tickets before, good luck getting them now. The 70th Tony Awards nominations were announced May 3, and as expected, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop history juggernaut led the pack of Broadway plays and musicals with 16 nods, besting the record for Tony nominations previously shared by The Producers and Billy Elliot.

Miranda has already won a Pulitzer Prize for his work as creator and star.

I’ll wait for the road show to come to Nashville, I think. But what about all those folks who will be tourists in New York? (The NY Times says the show is sold out through November 2016, but that may have changed now.)

Well, a lot of folks are checking out Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, who has lots of personal history in New York.* Like his gravesite in the Trinity Church graveyard in Lower Manhattan. And, according to the Times,

When the curtain falls at the end of Act 2, many audience members aren’t ready to let go. They hunger to know more. Visits to Hamilton’s house at the Grange National Memorial in Harlem went up by 70 percent in 2015; a Hamilton-themed walking tour of Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights began last month. The dueling pistols are on display at the New-York Historical Society.

That’s right. Although he was born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton was, in the end, a New Yorker. As Curbed: New York points out,

Alexander Hamilton’s story is a classically American one; an immigrant kid who rose from nothing to become one of the most influential figures in Western history, his life reads like the American Dream before America even existed.

It’s also a quintessentially New York story: Hamilton forged his life and fortune in a Manhattan that, even in those early days of the nation’s history, was the place to be for an ambitious scrapper on the rise. “In New York, you can be a new man,” the company sings in Hamilton’s opening number. And many of Hamilton’s former stomping grounds are places you can still visit today.

This article and others list many Hamilton-related places you can visit in NY, such as:

• The graveyard at Trinity Church
• Museum of American Finance (Alexander Hamilton Room)
• Hamilton Grange
• The Fraunces Tavern Museum
• The guns used in the duel with Aaron Burr
• Statue near the Metropolitan Museum of Art
• Statue on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton Heights
• Columbia University

Here’s a map of many NYC sites, and here are more online articles you may find interesting:

• All Things Hamilton: Your information portal to Alexander Hamilton
• New-York Historical Society: The Man Who Made Modern America
• Forbes: Hamilton Sparks Interest in Historic Places
• NY Times: Hamilton’s Old Stomping Grounds

There’s a lot to do in New York City, of course. But with or without Broadway tickets (fans should check out this), I think an Alexander Hamilton tour would be very interesting, don’t you?

* Even the island of Nevis offers a couple Hamilton sites.

UPDATE: Here’s a post from a blogger I love, Chuck Wendig, and you might too. He’s hilarious, but if strong language offends you, better take a pass.


Good Grief, It’s Cold!

And it’s freakin’ May!

Thank goodness the lilies-of-the-valley are hardy. They’ve had to be this spring!

Thank goodness the lilies-of-the-valley are hardy. They’ve had to be this spring!

This spring we are getting a good look at little cold snaps that the old-timers (and gardeners) label “winter” … like:

Redbud winter
Dogwood winter
Blackberry winter
Locust winter

But wait! Here in Tennessee we’ve been through all four of those and are having yet a fifth. A friend of mine—a farmer’s wife—tells me this rare fifth spring winter is called—wait for it—

Cotton britches winter

Isn’t that fabulous? I’d never heard that phrase but a little bit of googling indicates that it is, in fact, a thing. The Tennessean tells us, “The cotton britches winter is … an old-fashioned term for the removal of the long underwear and the time for cotton pants.”

Now, if we have another cold snap after this one, it, too, has a name: Whippoorwill winter (late May, early June).

We shall see. Summer doesn’t officially arrive until June 20. 🙂


Tennessee, Tennessee, Ain’t No Place I’d Rather Be*

My friend Michelle was one of the folks who traveled a long way to come to our marriage celebration (that post hasn’t published yet; I’m still working on it). I’d spent a lot of time creating “Tennessee tourism” posts for friends coming from out of town (go to “Start Here” and choose “Visiting Tennessee”), and Michelle—an author who was planning to do some research for a novel on this trip—made good use of them.

Then she wrote a blog post about it, focusing on Lookout Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I even learned something: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited US national park. With good reason.


Taken from Lookout Mountain by Michelle Ule.

Taken from Lookout Mountain by Michelle Ule.

*Except, perhaps, on a travel adventure. 🙂
It should be noted these are lyrics from the song “Tennessee Jed,” by the Grateful Dead.


Dealing With Jet-Lag

I originally had titled this collection of notes “How to avoid jet-lag” but I’m not sure it can be completely avoided, especially as we age. Couple that with the fact that airports and planes are crowded, flights are late or canceled, everyone’s rushed and stressed … the travel—the getting there—itself is not a pleasant experience.

And then you’re hopping across all those time zones. Heck, I have trouble with the change from standard to daylight savings and back, and that’s just an hour.

So let’s talk about what you can do to minimize the effects of the trip as well as the time change. These are just my personal experiences, nothing scientific.

  • Don’t wear yourself to a frazzle before the trip, getting ready for it. Start fresh and rested. If you live a long way from the airport, travel in to the city the day before and stay in an airport hotel so you don’t have to rush.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid the effects of dehydration (headache, etc.). I also carry Body Shop hydrating spray, which I spray on face and arms and anything else. Drink water as soon as you hit the ground too—lots.
  • If you’re the sort who can, grab some shut-eye on the plane. Bring and use noise-canceling headphones and remember that blue-spectrum light—from your phone, laptop, iPad, the seat-back movie screen—keeps you awake. Make yourself a little cocoon of quiet, as much as possible. Sleep is usually iffy for me; I read until I get tired and then doze, maybe. Again, it’s that little cocoon of quiet.
  • Bring your own pillow; it helps on the plane and once you arrive too.
  • I stay away from pills; no melatonin, no OTC sleeping pills. I’ve tried both—melatonin didn’t have much effect and sleeping pills didn’t help enough. But that’s just me.
  • Alcohol on the plane is not your friend. Rule of thumb on booze is 1 in air = 2 or 3 on ground. So take a pass unless you want to add a hangover to your jet-lag.
  • Also, stay away from junk food and processed food as much as possible. Eat the good stuff. I know it’s more expensive, but you just don’t want all those preservatives and additives in your system, especially if, like me, you’ve made a concious effort to “eat clean” in your daily life. It’s like taking poison.
  • Wear compression socks if you have trouble with foot swelling on long flights, as I do. It will help. Don’t worry about looking good; stay focused on feeling good.
  • Don’t collapse as soon as you arrive. Stay up and as much as possible go to bed when the locals do. When I go from Middle Tennessee to Dublin, I arrive in the early morning and just stay up all day. Maybe go to bed a little early.
  • Do get some sunlight when you land—a walk outside is not just getting some fresh air, it’s resetting your body clock to local time.
  • Schedule a massage for the day you arrive (or the next day). It will make a world of difference to the way you feel. Do this, obviously, before you leave home.
  • Soak in a hot bathtub before you go to bed. At the very least, soak your feet in Epsom salts.
  • Give yourself time. Don’t jump into a vigorous schedule right away, and don’t expect to recover in one night. If you ease into things, you’ll feel better faster.

You can find all sorts of advice online, some of it contradictory, so use caution with unsolicited advice. The best thing is to use your head, be kind to yourself, and take it easy.

The Name Conundrum

The wedding’s happened (back in 2014), the Dublin reception has happened, and now we’ve weathered the American celebration and it’s time to address … my name. (Don’t worry, I do know who I am. It’s everyone else who doesn’t, it seems.)

People don’t know what to call me. Everyone is sooo confused. What should they put on the Christmas cards? The wedding invitations? The Swan Ball auction party invitation?* People actually call and ask me this.

So here’s the thing.

The last time I changed my name I was nineteen years old and a newlywed. I had a driver’s license, a Social Security card, and no debt, and it was a pain in the neck, all that paperwork. Eighteen years and one child later, I was divorced, but I did not change my name because I remembered my school years and how awkward it was to find a friend in the phone book when that kid’s mom had a different last name, either through remarriage or assuming her maiden name. Adults didn’t think of these things back then but it was a big deal for kids. So I kept Chavez because that is my son’s surname, and it’s a fine one.

By the time I remarried in 2014, I’d been Chavez for more than forty years. Gerry’s family, of course, immediately began calling me Mrs. Hampson or Mrs. H, and I take a great deal of delight in responding to those terms of endearment. But I haven’t changed my name (yet, if).

I’d discussed it with Gerry, of course, long before those moments on the courthouse steps. But I have a two-decade professional reputation in the publishing industry as Chavez. After Gerry and I talked about it, I realized he wasn’t concerned about my name at all. To change it legally will require time and paperwork—and time in particular is the one thing I just haven’t had in the last eighteen months, what with planning two overseas trips (2015) and two big parties (one in Ireland, one in Tennessee), and a zillion other things to handle—most importantly, work—have taken priority.

So I will continue to be Chavez professionally. I already answer to Hampson when it arises (and it does); Gerry’s just fine with the status quo. It will happen, or it won’t happen, but right now isn’t high on my priority list. (The jars in the garage will probably get taken care of sooner.) And you can address those Christmas cards however it suits you!

* Those of you who know me know I don’t run in these circles and would be really uncomfortable if I had to run in them, but it does happen that I donated my services and with that comes a hand-calligraphied invitation to a dress-up party. (But I had a pressing deadline.)

Two determined old people. Slieve League or bust!

Two determined old people. Slieve League or bust!

We Threw a Party: The Day After (Part 2)

When I got up at 6:30 on Sunday morning, there were two candles still burning. Now, that, my friends, is a good candle!

Here’s one of them. 6am.

Here’s one of them. 6am.

It was a beautiful day. We drank a cup of tea leisurely … and then we started to clear off the tables, fold up the (rented) tablecloths, and break down the chairs and tables. We rearranged the deck to its everyday configuration. Everything else was in good shape. Just about the time we finished this task, the guys from Murfreesboro Tent and Table showed up, and in half an hour the tent was down, the tables and chairs were loaded, and the backyard was clear. (The night before we’d put up the little bit of food that was left. And Jenny had been keeping a very sharp eye on trash and anything else that needed to be straightened up, so the yard was remarkably clear.)

You would have never known there’d been a party here. (Aside from that line of jars in the flower bed. They were there for about a week. Ha.)

Lifelong Friends

I grew up in California, graduated from high school there—and I have a group of friends from that time. We were all in the same class from fifth grade on (I came later, when we moved to town, and due to family relocation we even gained another new member of the group in high school). Lots of people form lifelong bonds in college, but I gotta tell ya, the friends of my youth are very, very special to me. I would say, in fact, that one of the rewards of growing older is having these friends, and having had them my entire life. (More than fifty years.)

When I see these women—and I do, every five years or so, since I moved “out east” when I was twenty—I see beautiful young girls. They will forever be about seventeen in my eyes. And I know that when they see me, that’s the Jamie they see too.

Four of the group (there’s nine of us, I think) came out for the party.

My besties.

My besties.

I virtually ignored them on the night—because we’d already planned to spend Sunday together, hanging out on the deck. And there were so many people to greet. (But late in the evening we did manage to get behind the picture frame together.)

The 5 of us.

The 5 of us.

The Day After

So the yard was clear, we’d had tea, and the day was fine. And now my friends were going to come hang out on the deck. With spouses and partners. This was going to be a wonderful moment.

We made sure to take a photograph, first. Because I was tired and not thinking all that clearly. (Indeed, the better part of the day got away from me undocumented.)

Two of our group had sent a handmade quilt, which I’d used as a throw across the hot tub the previous night. Husbands held it and we posed.

Two of our group (not actually at the party) had sent a handmade quilt, which I’d used as a throw across the hot tub the previous night. Husbands held it and we posed.

And we just sat around and chatted. Heaven! There’s not a one of us who hasn’t had some heartbreak, who hasn’t seen some hard times. But we are happy people; we find a way to be happy every day.

One of the husbands (Tom?) engaged my son in conversation, and asked him to play for us. (Jesse’s a professional tubist and music educator.) Was that asking too much? Maybe he didn’t have his music with him, Tom said. Maybe he didn’t have his tuba. No—as it turns out, Jesse is preparing for a competition. He had the tuba, and he played.



Thus the day slipped by. I’d worried that it would rain all day, but it was grand.

My dear friends. (Teri and Maggie.)

My dear friends. (Teri and Maggie.)

At some point Maggie and Tom ran out and got a couple pizzas, we threw together a salad, and gathered in the dining room. Which was just the right size. Gerry and I have many times been glad we have this dining room, and never more than on this night. 🙂

Tom, Maggie, Kent, Charmaine, Gerry, Mike, Kathy, Teri, Dan.

Tom, Maggie, Kent, Charmaine, Gerry, Mike, Kathy, Teri, Dan.

The night wore on, and when I was afraid that I was going to do a face plant at the table (I was so, so tired), I told them I was going to have to kick them out. They laughed, and left. 🙂

The Day After the Day After: Gifts

Monday. Still exhausted. Still gradually picking things up and putting them back where they were supposed to be. Still cleaning the kitchen, trying to get back to normal. Slicing up the remaining strawberries for the freezer. Jesse and Katie had gone back across the Cumberland Plateau on Sunday afternoon, and the rest of our crew were heading off to Memphis for a couple days.

We were back in the middle of blackberry winter, so it was too chilly to sit outside. While we lingered over a cup of tea, Tom and Maggie called to thank us for a lovely time. They were on their way to Kentucky to see some of Tom’s family. “You were right to kick us out,” Maggie laughed. “Otherwise we might still be there!”

Over the second cup of tea, one by one, slowly, we opened all those beautiful, thoughtful gifts. (They’d been sitting in the dining room. More than one person in the house had looked at us, cocked an eyebrow, and said, “Aren’t you going to open those?” Yes, we were—but when we had time to savor it, to experience it. We were too busy enjoying our friends on Sunday.) So … we opened. Sometimes we laughed. Sometimes we cried. These were such personal things. So many people took the time to write special notes in blank cards. They decorated the envelopes. They decorated the boxes and bags. We were touched and … humbled … by how well our friends know us, know who we are. It is good to be *known* like this.



Later that afternoon, my sister and her husband came by to say good-bye. They were loaded up, ready to drive back across the country to the West Coast. (No, they don’t mind flying; but they enjoy seeing what they see along the way.) We managed a quick photo, and they were off.

Gerry, Jill, Barry, me.

Gerry, Jill, Barry, me.

Yes, yes, I did forget to post my professional blog on Saturday. Um, and Monday. (I post on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.) They were loaded and ready to go but … party. I was so exhausted.

A nice exhaustion.

Postmortem for a Backyard Party

There were things we did right, and things we might have done better. This is the biggest party I’ve ever thrown, and with the most moving parts. Here are some thoughts:

  • Hire a caterer. I love to cook, and I enjoy putting a nice table together. But that was out of the question here.
  • Keep the menu simple—and make sure the caterer is a good cook. No institutional food. A month later, people would still be telling me how good the food was.
  • Buy less booze. We had plenty and people just didn’t drink it. Many stuck to water and sodas, even people who would normally have an adult beverage. We were surprised.
  • Have a rain plan. The tent was brilliant. Money well-spent. And the rain kept everybody under the tent long enough for strangers to become friends.
  • Use social media to keep people interested in the party—so they show up. Otherwise, a little bit of rain scares ’em off. We had a great turnout—and I posted on the Facebook event every day.
  • Some people want to come but just can’t. A dear, dear friend of mine sent me a long note about all the crazy logistics they were trying to pull together to come from two states away. And it ended with, “I finally just said, what if we don’t go? And I chewed on it for a while. Now I think this is best and I am so sad. But this summer, we will come down for more than a day, and we will invite ourselves over and have you all to ourselves.” I know this was the right thing for them, and I look forward to seeing them later.
  • Hire someone to take photos. You won’t be able to take all the photos yourself, and it will take up a lot of your party time if you do try to do it yourself.
  • Live music is really nice. It’s a festive touch. People are still talking about it. This was a splurge for us, but it really made the night.
  • Good friends and a good network make a good party. There was no odd-man/woman-out, because everyone who came knew someone … or had interacted on Facebook, so they knew names. I’m at that age, I think, that I know really great people, the sort of folks who can walk into a party knowing no one and still have a good time talking with anyone and everyone.
  • Don’t clean the house before—clean it after. However, a sparkling bathroom is a nice welcome and makes a good impression. 🙂
  • Plan something graceful to say when you want someone to stop doing what he is doing. We invited our neighbors, and one of them relives his glory days by telling everyone he plays piano (and leaping to the keyboard if anyone so much as says “Oh, that’s nice”). At one point I noticed our back door was wide open and this fellow was in there pounding away on my piano … while the musicians we’d paid to play were doing so about fifty feet away. I was mortified and angry, and I wish I’d asked him, quietly, to stop immediately. Instead I glared and slammed the door shut. It (eventually) had the desired effect, but I’m still steamed. How rude!
  • Eat before the guests arrive. Otherwise you’ll be furtively sneaking food and talking with your mouth full.
Early in the evening.

Early in the evening.