An Open Letter to Alexander Hamilton

Dearest Colo. Hamilton,


As I did last year, I am writing you on your birthday. I understand how this could be seen as an exercise in futility, as you have been dead for over two hundred years, but I believe spending a few moments out of the year to vocalize and take down the specific reason I dedicate time to the task is worth the endeavor itself.

In the time since the last letter, a great deal has occurred in my life. This includes getting the date July 11th, 1804 tattooed on my left shoulder. This, being the date of the due between you and Aaron Burr, was important to me as I see it as the day you gave your life entirely to the cause for which you lived.

Perhaps I am mistaken in using the word ‘dedication’ when describing your entire life. The mistake rising from your infidelity. Albeit brief, it is certainly your worst mistake. Although I have not fallen prey to the same temptations that ruined your political career and marred your personal life, I understand them. Perhaps one day I will write you and delve into the specifics, but for now I will remain silent.

If there is one thing I think you would want for me, dearest sir, it would be that I endure in my life as a better and happier man than you. I do not say this lightly or vainly. I say this because I believe that is what any good man would want. For his successor, spiritually and not in the literal political sense, to be a far more capable and joyous person.

The issue is simple though. Am I enough to be your successor? If I am to believe what those around me say about me in front of me or away from me, yes. If I am to believe myself is a different matter however. I am in a rare mood of clarity at the present moment. I just wasted away a day due to medical issues that plagued my mind and, even though that lingers, I do believe I have the conviction. I might even have the drive, if the wind carries fair and the stars are not misaligned.

Yes, dearest friend, I do have the temerity to believe in myself. Something you did as well. I would even go so far to say that if you still walked the Earth in this day and age and saw what I have done and knew what I was to do…Well, I would say that even you would be proud of me.

For that, among everything, is why I thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping me believe in myself.

Your obedient servant,

J. Fiene


Letter to A. Hamilton: January 11th, 2017

Dearest Colo. Hamilton,

I want to congratulate you on your 260th (or 262nd) birthday. Even though you passed away a great many years ago, your spirit has not been more alive since the days where you regularly wrote and spoke with little inhibition. I have entire volumes of questions and praises to ask and give. You have, in this past year, impacted my existence in ways that even I, who has the firmest grasp on my emotional ideals compared to the world I live in, am troubled at funneling into sentences and paragraphs.

Your boundless energy and near-psychic anticipation for the need for a financial system in our country’s future, your bravery at separating from the empire that grieved so many and intelligence to turn that enemy into a friend, your sharp wit that spared no man whose folly was interpreted as a danger and the refusal to hypocritically take another life which led to your all-too-soon demise have driven me to extents that still break barriers.

I must say, good sir, that I have not only learned from your successes, but I have learned from your failures. You worked yourself into exhaustion many times. Your quick judgement and assessment of character and situation led to preventable disasters. Your social and political rivals could not the do damage to you that you had not already done to yourself ten times over. Many of my contemporaries believe that your trait for oratory pyrotechnics (Chernow coined that phrase) led you right into your grave.

Whether the latter is true is unimportant. What happened at Weehawken is irreversible. You are, for all biological purposes, dead. I believe that new life has been breathed into your legacy. New generations are pouring over your writings. More people know the name Alexander Hamilton than every before.

That knowledge is my gift to you, dear sir. Your death was not the end of your legacy.

Thank you, dear sir, for changing the world and continuing to do so long after anyone thought possible.

Your obedient servant,

J. Fiene

Valley Forge (Demo) – How I Feel

First things first, listen to Valley Forge (Demo) from the Hamilton Mixtape and then finish reading. You might need the context.

It would be remiss of me to share any sort of falsehood on this blog. I believe that the posts made on this website should be completely clear intentionally. Although I have made several posts in a fervor of emotion, I have kept each and every one of my entries with their original intent and integrity.

I am proud to say that, even though I do not believe it is the case sometimes, this is a direct mirror of my life. I am clear emotionally with other people, as I can be, and this presents a genuine idea of who I am as a person. When I am in good spirits, which is, luckily, often, I am jovial and generally warm. When a mood, or cloudburst as I like to say, of depression hits me, I try to signal that to those around me in a way of melancholy acceptance. Aside from the oft jolly persona I give off, the most indicative showing of emotion I give off is when I am upset. I am distant and cold when this happens and it is very clear that I am choosing this type of reaction.

I do not live a life of ice. I prefer to keep my relationships and ideas kindled so they never burn out. Unfortunately, I have encased myself in a shell of frigid layers. The entire year has been travesty upon horror with the occasional pocket of good fortune given to a select group by divine providence. My oratory skills have been my only defense against a year of instability and pain. In the closing days of 2016, I seem to be nearly tapped out of speaking through difficulty.

Fortunately, the endless well of words that I own will never run dry. I can distract any problem with spectacle then slay it with logic. I can rapture my enemies with dazzling displays of multisyballic mania and chain them to my sentences with simile and metaphor. I can create waves of melancholia. I can summon pillars of delight. I can do anything I want to and the literate will bear witness.

Why do I bother warming my ink and paper with literary pyrotechnics if I can’t keep my physical life hot enough to melt the icy barriers I’ve set up?

I direct you to remember the song. Three men have lines in the song. Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. I recently read a biography on Washington (read about it here) and before that I finished the popular Hamilton biography (both by Ron Chernow) and long before that I was reading Thomas Paine’s work to help form my feelings of what I thought my country’s essence was.

The song and The American Crisis  both start with the following:

 THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

In no way am I comparing the struggle and heartache that I have experienced this year to the trials that the colonists fought through during the Revolutionary War, but I am likening my resolve to theirs. The pain that has changed me unalterably this year is only temporary. The cold covering I have encased myself in will, as time passes, melt into warmth and happiness. The pain and terror that I have felt will crumble into dust and be blown away by the welcome winds of change.

I have this resolve in the middle of a harsh winter of my life.

Modesty does me no favors. I have strength in my words and that will unquestionably survive this sheer cold. I will write my way out.

Washington: A Life

Recently, I finished my second consecutive Ron Chernow biography. Washington: A Life , surprisingly, about the life of George Washington. Now, let’s say you don’t know who George Washington is. Aside from being the face on the one dollar bill, he is the Father of the United States of America. The novel delves into how the man became a legend.

See, George Washington wasn’t birthed into the six foot, powdered hair, military leading, President of the United States. He had an arduous journey from a very young age to his final breath. The novel is a one volume biography that examines George Washington’s life in its entire cradle-to-the-grave scope.

Chernow does something that so many historians have failed to do. He humanizes out first Commander-in-Chief. He presents Washington truly. Beyond the mountains and monuments, Washington was a fallible man. He made grievous errors, had a strained relationship with his mother, had a penchant for the ladies, and had an alarmingly furious temper. The amazing, and I use that word in its truest sense, thing is that, despite every mistake, George Washington was still just as strong and admirable a person as anyone could imagine.

The novel shows Washington throughout his long life and marks every tragedy that met him. His difficulties as a surveyor, farmer, soldier and politician never went away. He had to balance infighting and quell rebellion (several times). George Washington lived alongside Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Paine, Franklin, Madison, and countless other bright and unparalleled minds (each in their own right) and still, to this very day even, managed to become the most famous and admired American.

Although a single volume biography spanning all 67 years of George Washington’s life is comparatively light reading considering the scope and detail that has been put into examining him since the day he died, the novel is just a shaving over 800 pages long and, due to Chernow’s writing style, is a very high level of reading. The issue one has when reading biographies of historical figures is that each sentence is either a new fact or an analysis.  With several week-long breaks, the book took me about two and a half months to read. I was already used to chewing through this writing style because I spent the previous four to five months (with breaks, I am not totally modest when it comes to my pace of reading) reading Alexander Hamilton by Chernow. It is not light reading.

I finished this book at 2 am (after spending the entire day destroying the remaining 250 pages of the book I had. What can I say? He’s an interesting dude) on December 13th, 2016. The date this blog post is being published is December 14th, 2016, exactly 217 years after George Washington passed away.

This review isn’t meant to memorialize Washington or praise Chernow. These paragraphs are simply meant to give a brief glimpse into my experience reading this book. It is a long book, but worth the insight and humanization it gives George Washington.

You can purchase it used (like I did) from Amazon.

PS: The previous owner of the book wrote several very accusatory and unwarranted criticisms of Thomas Jefferson in the book. It was rather humorous reading these statements presented as facts being discounted immediately by reading Chernow’s analysis of whatever subject was pertinent.

Writing My Way Out

I write scores of things. I write scripts and lists and short stories and papers and poems and dialogue and blog posts and tweets and a truckload of other things. I love writing. I write so often that I get hand cramps. I have filled many spiral notebooks and have created countless (not literally, but it is provocative) Word documents.

Why do I write so much? Why, that’s a great question unidentified non-reader of these posts. I have to. You see, I have a very troubling life. Not because I’ve not been privileged or because I have had a terribly troubled home life. I suffer from a bountiful bevy of mental and emotional issues. They have slain my self-esteem, skewed my perception of social cues, and, some days, locked me up entirely to such a point that I am totally unable to function beyond basic breathing and moving.

Recently, (the past few years) I stopped reading and writing. I was in a relationship with a girl who found it a waste of time and I, like a big dumb goof, stopped. In high school, if I was reading, people criticized me for what I was reading. It wasn’t what I was supposed to be reading. I stopped entirely for awhile. Then, on Veteran’s Day, I read a small pamphlet of stories that were written by veterans. Everything jumped off the pages and surrounded me. I rediscovered the sensation that seduced me into reading all those years ago. I started devouring books, but I still wasn’t writing (which was the point of this blog post, get your act together me).

It was a slow process. Occasional journaling, especially after my last relationship ended, got me back into the swing of things. Eventually, I started scrawling with more passion than ever.

I finished Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and fell in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and had a small mental breakdown in my friend’s car.

I do that way more than I really want to.

I was having another depressive episode and didn’t know what to do. “I can’t drink . I can’t have one night stands. I can’t drive. I can’t yell. My asthma makes it hard to run. I can’t spend money. I can’t audition for shows. I can’t sing. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t do a single goddamn thing to relieve stress,” were a small amount of the things I was telling myself.

Then it hit me. I’ll write my way out.

That’s the main point of the song “Hurricane” (my favorite song  It is what Alexander Hamilton did. I started crying because the song made so much more sense now. I started writing furiously. I started blogging (even though no one is reading it) furiously. Eventually, everything else started to fall into place. Even though my life is a storm, a hurricane if you will, I can calm it by writing down everything I see.

I’m writing my way out.