By Hassel Velasco
Currently working on: Untitled Beatles Project
Currently listening to: “Hamilton,” Original Broadway Recording
Currently reading: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
Alexander Hamilton on Wheat
"Hey man, who would you say is your favorite Founding Father?"
That was a question I was asked on the Fourth of July by my "Sandwich Artist" at Subway. Immediately after picking my sandwich, the choice to pick a favorite Founding Father was inherently more difficult than the choice between wheat and Italian bread. At first my response was:
"Can I have a footlong carved turkey on wheat?"
But as he began crafting my sandwich I really began to think and quickly responded,
"Well, it has to be James Madison. The Father of the Constitution."
He seemed to acknowledge my response and thought about it before answering,
"Did you want this toasted?"
"Sure... “ I said. “Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration Of Independence"
"So that's a yes on the toasted?"
Since January I've been on a whirlwind ride of emotions listening to “Hamilton,” the Broadway musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The more I listened to the hip-hop-induced tale of our independence, the more I found myself compelled to read the biography that set this crazy idea in motion. I picked up the book about a month ago, but just recently started reading it as a result of my new friendship with the sandwich artisan.
There aren't many people in the world who would think of turning the West Indies-born Founding Father’s life into a musical as a result of reading Chernow’s bio; let alone use hip hop and R&B influences to tell the story. Miranda has managed to do something every middle and high school social studies teacher has tried to do but miserably failed. He managed to grasp an audience that would otherwise shrug at the thought of learning about our own history. He made it modern. He allowed the sounds of America now, to tell the story of America back then. And let's face it, the bars every character "spits" are as, the kids would say, "straight fire emoji."
Miranda just finished his run as Alexander Hamilton in the show, and tickets for his final performance surpassed $20,000 on StubHub (a small price to pay to watch someone make history by re-telling history). LMM (we're on that friendship level where he doesn't know who I am and I don't know him personally but I still like to call him that), I want to personally thank you for doing something to expand this country's knowledge of its own; I want to thank you for doing it in such a creative way, a way that only a creative genius like you can. But most of all, I'd like to thank you for showing an aspiring Hispanic writer that success is achievable through hard work, perseverance, creativity, and mad rhymes. From the bottom of a theater kid/history geek's heart, I thank you.
So as I continued reading and thinking about the question my "subrista" asked, I felt I had a new answer. Alexander Hamilton is the Founding Father I would most like to be, and therefore, my favorite Founding Father. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury, established the national bank, authored a large portion of the Federalist Papers, died in an old fashioned duel, and spat mad rhymes. Move over James Madison, Hamilton just took your place at the top.
So with my newfound favorite, I went back in to see my friend, the one who set this thought train into motion.
"Alexander Hamilton!" I shouted in rejoice.
The blank stare on his face indicated he wasn't as excited and/or forgot who I was and what he had asked me.
"What can I get started for you?"
I looked at him, hurt and forgotten.
"Actually, I already ate I just came in to tell you who my favorite... You know what, let me just get a footlong carved turkey on wheat flatbread."
He begins the sandwich.
"Did you know Alexander Hamilton died 212 years ago today?" I asked.
Another blank stare.
"Yeah, pepper-jack cheese is fine," I said.