While our Mid-Manhattan Library is closed for a much-needed renovation, we’re accommodating patrons by opening a temporary circulating space across Fifth Avenue! The new space—called Mid-Manhattan at 42nd Street—opens today, August 29, and is accessible to patrons via the 42nd Street entrance of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Check out this short video to see the brand new space, or drop by and see it for yourself!
Two hours into their first rehearsal, Jamie Fraser asked
Claire Beauchamp for a break.
Ever since he had shuffled out of The Broch and shrugged
his shoulders against the cold wind pushing toward the East River, heading to
catch the IRT back downtown, his mind had been swirling.
At this time yesterday he had been ironing his jeans,
dreaming of taking the stage at Madison Square Garden. Standing by the side of
some faceless frontman whose wails matched those of his guitar.
Now he was sweating in a third-floor room of a run-down
factory, in between the flophouses and Chinese restaurants which reminded him
why he always steered clear of the Bowery, praying the electricity wouldn’t fry
his only amp – and trying for the life of him to figure out how to coax Claire
into sounding like a rock and roll star.
Claire looked from Jamie to Ian – sweating behind his
drum kit – to Willie Coulter, another guy from The Broch who Ian had quickly
pressed into service as a bassist.
“Sure – I don’t mind if you guys smoke. But I could use
Willie set down his bass and Ian stood, stretching. “Want
us to bring you something? I gotta take a walk.”
“The Chinese place two doors down has good lo mein. I’ll
pay you back.”
“Get me one, too?” Jamie met Ian’s eyes in silent
understanding. “And a Coke?”
“Sure.” Willie nodded, and soon his and Ian’s footsteps
echoed in the stairwell.
Jamie shifted his guitar and turned to face Claire. She
was perched on a high stool – just like she had been last night – pursing her
“Look – you got a gorgeous voice, Claire.”
“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” she sighed.
He licked his lips. “But you can’t just sing like you’re
on a Broadway stage, or in a cabaret. Your voice is too thin above the music
that way. It’ll get lost. And you *can’t* get overpowered by the music.”
“I’m not overpowered – ”
“It’s not *you,* Claire!” He stepped a bit closer to her,
feeling the ancient floorboards give a little. “Nothing is about you. It’s your
*voice.* It’s about how you present your voice – it’s about your attitude. You
have to really *feel* what the song is. To really *feel* the instruments – the
rumble of the bass, the thump of the drums.”
She stood then, holding her ground. “I don’t want to yell
or scream. I can’t lose my voice.”
“You won’t,” he promised. “I won’t let you. Look – you
brought me here to help you. Let me help you.”
His eyes searched for hers, pleading. Willing her to
understand what he was saying.
Wanting more than anything to establish that connection.
He launched into the opening riff of Blondie’s “Call Me”
– the song they’d picked as the first to rehearse.
“Color me your color, baby, color me your car,” she sang.
“Color me your – ”
Abruptly he stopped. “No, Claire – no. You can’t just
sway into it – it’s not supposed to be a smooth transition from note to note. That’s
not how Debbie Harry does it – that’s not how you’ll do it. Make it choppier.
She frowned, nodded. Wanting to argue back – but willing
to learn. Open to his advice.
Four bars – sixteen beats for the intro. He nodded her
“Color me your color, baby – ”
Again he stopped. “No, Claire. Too much. Too choppy.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Show me, then.”
“You’ve got to remember that this is a song about a
gigolo, Claire. It’s not a nice topic. Put yourself in his shoes. ‘Color me
your color, baby…’”
Then she tried it again.
“Closer. Getting there. You have to just let it out,
Claire. Forget every fucking thing your fancy voice coaches ever taught you. Push
yourself into it. Let that beautiful voice just GO.”
She looked like she wanted to say something – but then
thought again. Steeled herself.
Holy God, she was a warrior.
He plucked the opening chords again – and then –
Her gorgeous soprano floated aggressively over his raw
“Keep going!” he yelled over the chord progression
between the chorus and next verse. “You got this. Keep going!”
She smiled triumphantly. So radiant. And drew from some
spirit dwelling deep within her, and sang her heart out.
“Come up off your color chart – I know where you’re
coming from – Call me!”
“Call me!” Jamie echoed the backing vocal.
“On the line, call me, call me any, anytime. Call me!”
Her eyes locked with his.
It happened then – a connection sparking between them. In
an instant, he recognized himself in her. Saw his future in her.
“My love, you can call me any day or night. Call me!”
And from the stunned look in her eyes, she did as well.
They finished the song, transfixed in each other.
Shaking with adrenaline.
And woke to the enthusiastic whoops and whistles of Ian
and Willie, arms weighed down with paper bags full of egg rolls and lo mein and
By three o’clock they’d nailed down not just “Call Me,”
but also a fun, rollicking version of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “I Need A
Lover.” A more traditional rock song, but with much different timing and tempos
It wasn’t too difficult for Willie or Ian – but Claire
was clearly exhausted. She was too stubborn to admit it, but the last thing
Jamie wanted was for her to truly blow out her voice on their first day.
“Hey – let’s call it a day?” he suggested after they’d
finished yet another run-through, watching Claire quietly lean against the
stool for support. She had been on her feet since they’d finished lunch –
rocking and lunging and strutting as she sang. Her voice – and, more
importantly, her confidence – seemed to grow stronger and stronger with each
But there was such a thing as too much practice. And
Jamie desperately wanted to get some time alone with her.
“Yeah, fine by me,” she agreed, bending over to take a
sip from her Coke. “You guys OK with that? Will you be ready for Murtagh to
visit in the morning?”
“Not a problem.” Willie was already packing up his bass,
and Ian reached for the bag where he kept his drumsticks. “You OK, Claire? Want
me to walk you to the subway?”
“We’re going to stay back a bit,” Jamie interrupted,
slipping his guitar off his shoulder and nonchalantly unplugging his amp. “Want
to pick another song for tomorrow. Three is always better than two.”
He turned back to Claire, who had climbed back up on the
stool, watching the three men put away their instruments.
“I want to thank all of you,” she said quietly. Voice
strong, but a bit subdued. Awed.
“Oh, it’s nothing, Claire,” Ian smiled back. “We’re happy
to – ”
“With respect, Ian,” she interrupted, “You don’t
understand. This is – I’ve waited for this day for so long. It’s a dream I’ve
risked a lot for. And you’re helping make that dream come true. So thank you.”
Willie picked up his case and softly crossed the room to
gently lay a hand on Claire’s shoulder.
“We’re not done yet – tomorrow’s another day.”
She smiled at him – suddenly looking so tired. “Indeed it
is. See you here at ten sharp?”
Ian shrugged into his backpack, clapped Jamie on the
shoulder, and once again the drummer and bassist for their still-unnamed band
slipped out of the rehearsal space.
Jamie knelt to close his guitar case, then stood to face
How to keep her by his side now, for even a few more
minutes? How to extend this indescribable, incredible day?
“You want to get a drink somewhere?” he heard himself say.
This time when she smiled, it went all the way to her
Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in New York City’s East River. It lies between Manhattan Island to its west and the borough of Queens on Long Island to its east, and is part of the borough of Manhattan. Running from the equivalent of East 46th to 85th Streets on Manhattan Island, it is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2).
Roosevelt Island was a center of refuge and care for 100 years, with hospitals and asylums.
But the island had yet another career. For a century, it housed a grim penitentiary, where inmates passed their sentences along the banks of the East River, within tempting sight of freedom on the nearby shores.
The penitentiary, a long gray arcaded structure, was completed in 1832 on what was then Blackwell’s Island. Castlelike crenelations running along the roofline and a chubby turreted tower of a “feudal character” lent a “certain rudeness” to the work, according to Appleton’s Dictionary of New York of 1886.
Every few months or so I get a flashback to when I was on the 1 train in mid manhattan and these two gays were in a heated argument over which knowles sister is prettier. They started fighting and the thing that holds the map broke
Background: I’m a real estate developer and investor, and I own/manage several mid-size multi-family rental properties. I’m aggressive with rents, but I love the construction side of the business and take great pride in keeping my properties in excellent condition. I also ensure my staff provides top notch customer service - I never understood why property managers don’t have the same attitude towards customer service as hoteliers. Anyways…
One of my friends lives in a building owned by a very “traditional” landlord. A grumpy old lady bangs on the door to collect rent every month, things don’t get fixed unless you threaten to file a dispute, and in general everything is fixed as cheaply as possible.
My friend called me last week and said her fire alarm has been going off since 3am. Not the fire alarm actually, but the warning tone on the annunciator panel - this is the device that receives inputs from heat detectors, smoke detectors etc all around the building and monitors and provides power and battery backup. This panel was apparently detecting a fault, and sounding the warning tone. This isn’t the fire alarm, but it sounds like a loud smoke detector going off. It cannot be silenced until it is serviced.
In my buildings, they occasionally do go off (every few years) and, as with everything else, my staff must attend within ½ hour and in this case, appropriate action would be to call the fire safety contractor for an emergency service call. My friend’s landlord informed her that the contractor had been called, but it was not an emergency so they would be there in 4 days. 4 days of this alarm going off 24/7 constantly No sleep for anyone. This was likely to avoid the overtime surcharge for an emergency service. Or about $150.
But, the manager was kind enough to wrap the panel in several towels with packing tape, to slightly muffle the alarm. He made a half-hearted attempt to silence it by pulling the leads off the backup battery. Since the device is hard-wired, this just doubled the frequency of the alarm to include a “backup battery warning.”
I grabbed by panel keys, and went over to see if I could help my friend out. I was able to open the panel, since I have keys for my own, and they are the same. The battery leads had been pulled off, but the main was still connected, so the beeper was going off like crazy. The manager didn’t know enough to turn off the breaker in the electrical room, and I couldn’t access it. The manager didn’t answer the phone.
Upon opening the panel, I saw immediately why it had been failing on and off for years (according to my friend) - the batteries were 10 years out of date, and the leads on the terminals were blackened. It looked like the landlord had been swapping out the old batteries with new ones for the yearly inspection, then putting the old ones back in and maybe returning the new batteries for a refund. Now I realized why the service call was scheduled so late - so the LL could get some temporary “new” batteries put in time.
Now, I’m a licensed property manager, but not an electrician, so it would be unethical for me to remove the hot lead from the bus bar and silence the alarm, BUT low voltage wiring is a different story. Unfortunately my insulated screwdriver slipped as I was tightening the battery lead back on, and I accidentally bridged the hot side of the bus bar with the low voltage side of the circuit board. Luckily, my eyes were averted to avoid arcing injury. 120V right to the control board. Ouch. A big flash, breaker tripped somewhere, and silence. The circuit board was toast - the service tech would have to install a new panel with new batteries.
My friend contacted the landlord and reported that something had happened, and the panel was silenced. Also, did he intend to provide a 24 hour firewatch until such time as the fire alarm system is fully functional as required by section 6 of the Fire Code? He affirmed that he did not, and that she could fuck off.
Her next call was to the assistant chief fire inspector, since she happened to have his business card handy. His response was much more gracious - he was happy to provide the necessary firewatch, and contacted the landlord to inform him of the fact. The fireman’s union is a strong one, and their hourly rate for emergency services like this are comparable to a mid-town Manhattan law firm.
I’m told the bill reached $3000 before the landlord called the service tech to replace the annunciator panel. I’d like to say he also paid the $5,000 fine, but I understand he is fighting that in court.
In the meantime, the building sleeps peacefully with a fully functional and up to date fire alarm.
I am the writer of Hamilton: An American Musical. Every word in the show—and there are over 22,000 words in the show—were chosen and put in a really specific order by me. So I am painfully aware that neither Philly nor the great state of Pennsylvania is mentioned in Hamilton, with the exception of ONE couplet in the song Hurricane, where Hamilton sings:
“I WROTE MY WAY OUT OF HELL
I WROTE MY WAY TO REVOLUTION,
I WAS LOUDER THAN THE CRACK IN THE BELL.”
That’s it! One blink and you miss it Liberty Bell reference!
I am also painfully aware that this commencement address is being livestreamed and disseminated all over the world instantly. In fact, “painfully aware” is pretty much my default state. “Oh yeah, that’s Lin, he’s…PAINfully aware.”
So, with the eyes of the world and history on us all, I’d like to correct the record and point out that a few parts in Hamilton: An American the Musical actually took place in Pennsylvania.
The Battle of Monmouth, wherein General Charles Lee, in our show, “S’ed the Bed” and retreated against Washington’s orders. According to Lafayette, this was the only time he ever heard George Washington curse out loud. That’s right, the father of our country dropped his choicest profanity and F-bombs in Pennsylvania.
The Constitutional Convention, wherein Alexander Hamilton spoke extemporaneously for 6 hours in what is surely the most un-Tweet-able freestyle of all time, happened right here in Philly.
In fact, Alexander Hamilton lived at 79 South 3rd Street when he began his extramarital affair with Mariah Reynolds, creating the time-honored precedent of political sex scandals and mea culpas.
You guys, The Good Wife wouldn’t even EXIST if Hamilton hadn’t gotten the ball rolling on this dubious American tradition, right on South 3rd street, right near the Cosí.
Finally, I need to apologize on behalf of the historical Alexander Hamilton, because if he hadn’t sat down to dinner with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, desperate for support for his financial plan, Philadelphia might well still be the U.S. Capitol.
Hamilton traded Philly away in the most significant backroom deal in American history. As the guy who plays Hamilton every night, let me get into character for a moment and say, “My bad, Philadelphia.” Thank you.
But take the long view, Motown Phillly. Who really won that deal in the end? Look at D.C: it’s synonymous with institutional dysfunction, partisan infighting and political gridlock. YOU are known as the birthplace of Louisa May Alcott, Rocky Balboa, Boyz II Men, Betsy Ross, Will Smith, Isaac Asimov, Tina Fey, Cheesesteaks, and you can have SCRAPPLE, SOFT PRETZELS, and Wawa HOAGIES WHENEVER YOU WANT.
YOU WIN, PHILLY. YOU WIN EVERY TIME. WATER ICE.
The simple truth is this: Every story you choose to tell, by necessity, omits others from the larger narrative. One could write five totally different musicals from Hamilton’s eventful, singular American life, without ever overlapping incidents. For every detail I chose to dramatize, there are ten I left out. I include King George at the expense of Ben Franklin. I dramatize Angelica Schuyler’s intelligence and heart at the expense of Benedict Arnold’s betrayal. James Madison and Hamilton were friends and political allies, but their personal and political fallout occurs right on our act break, during intermission. My goal is to give you as much as an evening as musical entertainment can provide, and have you on your way at home slightly before Les Mis lets out next door.
This act of choosing—the stories we tell versus the stories we leave out—will reverberate across the rest of your life. Don’t believe me? Think about how you celebrated this senior week, and contrast that with the version you shared with the parents and grandparents sitting behind you.
Penn, don’t front. You’re a Playboy Magazine ranked Party school—you KNOW you did things this week that you’re never mentioning again. I know what you did this summer!
I’m going to tell you a story from my twenties today—a story I’ve never told in public before. I’ll tell you two stories actually. It’s my hope that it’ll be of use to you as you stare down the quarter life marker.
I am 20 years old, finishing my sophomore year at Wesleyan, and my girlfriend of four and a half years is home from her semester abroad. I cannot wait to see her again—she is my first love. I dread seeing her again—I’ve grown into my life without her. In her absence, with time and angst to spare, I have developed the first draft of my first full-length musical, an 80-minute one-act called In The Heights. I have also developed a blinding pain in my right shoulder, which I can’t seem to stop cracking. My girlfriend comes home. I am so happy to see her, even as my shoulder worsens. My mother takes me to a back specialist, ranked in New York Magazine, so you know he’s good.
He examines me, looks me dead in the eyes, and says, “There’s nothing wrong with your back. There will be if you keep cracking it, but what you have a nervous tic. Is there anything in your life that is causing you stress?” I burst into tears, in his office. He looks at me for a long time, as I’m crying, and get this—you’ll appreciate this Renee—he tells me the story of Giuseppe Verdi. A 19th century Italian composer of some note, who, in the space of a few short years, lost his wife and two young children to disease. He tells me that Verdi’s greatest works—Rigoletto, La Traviata—came not before, but after this season of Job, the darkest moments of his life. He looks me in the eyes and tells me, “You’re trying to avoid going through pain, or causing pain. I’m here to tell you that you’ll have to survive it if you want to be any kind of artist.”
I break up with my girlfriend that night.
I spend the summer in therapy. I tell a lot of stories I’ve never told before.
My father asks my mother, “What the hell kind of back doctor…Verdi? Really?”
I stop cracking my shoulder.
The story I had been telling myself—happy guy in a long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart—was being physically rejected by my body via my shoulder. I’d never broken up with anyone before—in my head, I was a “good guy,” and “good guys” don’t break up with their significant others when one of them goes off to study abroad. I was trying to fit my life into a romantic narrative that was increasingly at odds with how I really felt. In retrospect, we both were.
What about her story? Well, it’s not mine to tell, but I can share this much: she began dating one of her good friends the following year of college. Fast-forward to present day: She is happily married to that same good friend, with two beautiful kids. In her story, I am not the angsty, shoulder-cracking tortured artist. I’m the obstacle in the way of the real love story. For you Office fans: They’re Jim and Pam, and I’m Roy.
Story #2: I am out of college, I am 23 years old, and Tommy Kail and I are meeting with a veteran theater producer. To pay rent I am a professional substitute teacher: at my old high school. Tommy is Audra McDonald’s assistant. Tommy is directing In The Heights, and with his genius brain in my corner, my 80-minute one-act is now two acts. This big deal theater producer has seen a reading we put on in the basement of The Drama Book Shop in mid-Manhattan, and he is giving us his thoughts. We hang on his every word, this is a big deal theater producer, and we are kids, desperate to get our show on. We are discussing the character of Nina Rosario, home from her first year at Stanford, the first in her family to go to college.
The big deal theater producer says:
“Now I know in your version Nina’s coming home with a secret from her parents: she’s lost her scholarship. The song is great, the actress is great. What I’m bumping up against, fellas, is that this doesn’t feel high STAKES enough. Scholarship? Big deal. What if she’s pregnant? What if her boyfriend at school hit her? What if she got caught with drugs? It doesn’t have to be any of those things, you’re the writer—but do you see what I’m getting at guys, a way to ramp up the stakes of your story?”
I resist the urge to crack my shoulder.
We get through the meeting and Tommy and I, again alone, look at each other. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it.
“Nina on drugs—“
“I was there.”
“But he wants to put our show up.”
Tommy looks at me.
“That’s not the story you want to tell and that’s not the show I want to direct. There are ways to raise the stakes that are not THAT. We’ll just keep working.”
If I could get in a time machine and watch any point in my life, it would be this moment. The moment where Tommy Kail looked at uncertain, frazzled me, desperate for a production and a life in this business, tempted, and said no for us. I keep subbing, he continues working for Audra, we keep working on In The Heights for five years until we find the right producers in Jill Furman and Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller. Until Philly native Quiara Hudes becomes my co-writer and reframes our show around a community instead of a love triangle. Until Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman take my songs and made them come to life through their orchestrations. It will be another five years before Heights reaches Broadway, exactly as we intended it.
And then the good part: Nina’s story that we fought to tell, keeps coming back around in my life. It comes around in letters, or in the countless young men and women who find me on the subway or on college campuses and take my hand and say, “You don’t understand. I was the first in my family to go to college, when I felt out of place like I was drowning I listened to “Breathe,” Nina’s song, and it got me through.” And I think to myself as these strangers tell me their Nina stories, “I do understand. And that sounds pretty high stakes to me.”
I know that many of you made miracles happen to get to this day. I know that parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and family behind you made miracles happen to be here. I know because my family made miracles happen for me to be standing here talking to you, telling stories.
Your stories are essential. Don’t believe me?
In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system. A story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done.
My dear, terrified graduates—you are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives.
The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children and grandchildren and therapists.
They are the temp gigs and internships before you find your passion.
They are the cities you live in before the opportunity of a lifetime pops up halfway across the world.
They are the relationships in which you hang on for dear life even as your shoulder cracks in protest.
They are the times you say no to the good opportunities so you can say yes to the best opportunities.
They are what Verdi survived to bring us La Traviata.
They are the stories in which you figure out who you are.
There will be moments you remember and whole years you forget.
There will be times when you are Roy and times when you are Jim and Pam.
There will be blind alleys and one-night wonders and soul-crushing jobs and wake-up calls and crises of confidence and moments of transcendence when you are walking down the street and someone will thank you for telling your story because it resonated with their own.
I feel so honored to be a detail, a minor character in the story of your graduation day.
I feel so honored to bear witness to the beginning of your next chapter.
I’m painfully aware of what’s at stake.
I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2016.”
It’s a cold night with a light drizzle. Dim lights gently touch the street. I walk by a couple giggling about something. Most likely an inside joke.
I began to think about my relationship, or lack there of. “Meat” I whisper.
I step into my favorite diner. I sit at the bar. And began scanning the menu.
“What would you like?” the waitress asked.
“Apple pie,” I said. The waitress nodded and went into the kitchen.
I began to scan the diner. There’s a couple in the corner sharing a late night milkshake. A women reading a book and drinking a cup of coffee. Besides that it’s mostly empty. I turn my focus to my phone. Not much happing there either.
The waitress returns with a slice of pie and places it in front of me.
“Here you go,” she said. “Anything else?”
“No. Thank you,” I said. She nodded and walked away.
I eat half my pie before I hear the bell ring. Its Meat. I turn back and try to focus on my pie. She sat down next to me. I feel my breath leave my lungs. She orders a coffee to go.
She looked at me. “Hey Puthy.” She says. I swallow.
“Hey” I say with a smile.
“Here you go.” The waitress says.
The waitress gives her a coffee. Meat pays for the coffee and walks towards to the door. She turns and smiles again. Then she’s gone.
“You want to photograph me eating chicken?” “Yep.” “Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message.” “What’s that?” “I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me.”