Haunted by Hamilton

I have a love-hate relationship with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

When I first read about Hamilton and the Broadway show that bears his name, I became fascinated with how a poor, uneducated orphan from St. Croix developed into a leading statesman and founding father, the guy who conceived of our present day treasury and the ingenious separation of powers. This was definitely not the Alexander Hamilton that I had learned about in middle school, whose only claim to fame was getting killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in Weehawken New Jersey, not far from where I grew up.

Curious, I read Ron Chernow's book, Hamilton, the inspiration for Miranda's play. I bought the musical soundtrack and sang along to the lyrics that I had printed off the internet. Weekly I phoned the box office to see when tickets might go on sale in hope that I would not have to mortgage our home to get seats. My husband bought Eliza Hamilton memorabilia for my birthday.

I became a devoted Hamilton fan. Okay, maybe I was slightly over the top.

As the date of the show neared I worried I would be disappointed--how could any show live up to this year-long wait, to the hype that surrounded it?

On the night of the performance I settled into my seat at the Richard Rogers Theater. As the lights dimmed I was instantly swept away by this story of intrigue, war, romance, sisterly love, infidelity, and grief. I watched, transfixed, as the performers brought to life the verses that had so captivated me.

My husband and I left the theater raving about the show. "Can you believe," I said, "how relevant the themes are even today?"

As we walked down 45th Street the songs began to replay in my head.

While I slept that night the King of England sang in my ear: You'll be Back. Soon you'll see. You'll remember you belong to me. That loop replayed again and again.

To my happy surprise I woke to Hamilton singing one of the jauntiest tunes: Hey, yo, I'm just like my country, I'm young, scrappy and hungry, and I am not throwing away my shot.

Over the next week, whenever I was not otherwise occupied or in conversation, my brain replayed another of Miranda's verses: Boy, you got me Helpless. Look into your eyes and the sky's the limit. I'm helpless. Like Eliza I was helpless to this soundtrack.

Was I losing my mind? I started to notice that whenever I was with friends, invariably I would chime in with verses from the show that seemed to fit with whatever we were talking about--or at least they seemed fitting to me. It was at this point my feelings of love and adoration for Miranda began to shift. He was driving me mad. When you're gone, I'll go mad. So don't throw away this thing we had. See what I mean?

Another week went by, non-stop Hamilton playing in my head. Miranda's show was tormenting me, refusing to leave me alone. Googling the phrase, "song stuck in my brain," I discovered that this well-known phenomenon is called an earworm and it usually lasts for a day or two. I was on day fifteen.

I learned that songs that tend to get stuck in one's head usually have a catchy, upbeat melody, often with an unusual rhythm. I wondered, was it the rap and hip-hop beat that had me hooked, or was it something about my emotional connection to the story?

At week three I researched ways to get rid of an earworm. The experts suggested replacing one catchy tune with another. I pulled out my iPhone and listened to the entire Graceland album by Paul Simon. The next day I hoped to wake to a loop of, maybe, I'm going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee. No, it was still Hamilton: I wanna be in the room where it happened. The room where it happened.

Interestingly, in my search I came across an article about Jean Harris, the former headmistress of the well-known Madeira School and murderess of her lover, the Scarsdale Diet Doctor. At her trial she said that the song Put the Blame on Mame had looped through her brain for over thirty years. She was quoted as saying that she was tormented, she couldn't even hold a conversation without it playing in her head. She told the court that when she killed Dr. Tarnower the song finally ceased.

My husband, who grew up in Scarsdale, is getting worried.