by Myke Johns
I’m going to tell you a story and you’re not going to like me very much, so I’m going to try to plow through this as quickly as I can.
A few months ago, I got on Facebook and basically said “Fuck ‘Hamilton.'”
If you don’t know, “Hamilton” is a Broadway musical based on the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. The twist is: it’s all rap and R&B. I have not– I want to be clear– seen the show.
I was home sick from work, I was listening to NPR and on Morning Edition, they were talking to the guy who wrote it and playing clips from it and I very quickly formed an opinion, and posted the following to Facebook:
I then fell into a medicated slumber for several hours.
When I woke up, I discovered my Facebook wall had gone fucking apeshit. Me being a writer and a performer, you can probably surmise that my best friends LOVE musical theater. They were pretty pissed at me.
This is nothing new for me. My Facebook and my Twitter feeds are clogged like hardened arteries with this kind of thing. Back in August, I posted the following:
I feel like I may have lost a lot more of you just now than I did with the Hamilton thing. That’s fine, I’m comfortable with that.
My typical reaction to any kind of fandom is basically: Oh you like Star Wars? Well that is insanity because nothing is good and love is a lie.
“Why are you so angry, Myke? Why do you hate so much stuff?” Two words: Monty Python.
I was raised on John Cleese, I was raised on the dead parrot sketch.” And that led to George Carlin and Richard Pryor and Chris Rock and Bill Fuckin’ Hicks. To me, outrage is a form of humor. Ha ha.
So when my friends were threatening to eat my heart in the marketplace over my crack about DJ Jazzy Hamilton, and my response was: Guys, I could be completely wrong about this whole thing. Important question: does Alexander Hamilton at any point throw up his mom’s spaghetti?
THAT SHOULD HAVE COME AS A SURPRISE TO NO ONE.
Instead, I got questions like WHO HURT YOU? And that actually got me thinking about my emotions and MY GOD IT BURNS.
So I’m going to tell you another story that is going to make me seem a little more sympathetic, so I won’t try to milk this too much.
I’ve had a little aphorism I’ve been carrying with me for a few years and it is this: I Hate The Things I Like.
Meaning I am more apt to aim derision at things I tend to derive pleasure from.
Up until early this year, I was in a band. We were loud. Over the last few years, when the subject would come up, I began reflexively acting embarrassed about being in a rock band despite no longer being 19. And I’d rail that the primary argument for maintaining capital punishment was the continued existence of dudes with guitars, roaming from front porch to open mic to house party. Death to Guitar Guy at the party.
I used to be Guitar Guy at the party.
And I’ve spent so much mental energy trying to kill that part of me that had any desire to play music in public.
And in spite of my shit talking about The Fresh Prince of Alexander Hamilton, I actually am a fan of musical theater. One of my few good memories of high school is getting to sing “Let’s Misbehave” as Sir Evelyn Oakley in our production of Anything Goes. When the touring production of Newsies came through Atlanta, you bet your ass I was there. By the end of the first number, “Carrying The Banner”– you know, where the audience is introduced to the newsboys of Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper and the machismo of Jack Kelley? Yeah, that tune. I was weeping. I had no idea I’d be that happy to see a fucking Broadway musical based on a movie I liked when I was ten. I learned things about myself that night.
And yet, a MacArthur Genius starts spittin’ writtens on a Broadway stage and I’m all GRAAR all of a sudden.
I have been, for years, calling bullshit on happiness. I am distrustful of joy. So who hurt me? When the question was asked, I had to consider it. Because I didn’t know. But then I remembered.
My son was born premature. 31 weeks into the pregnancy, my wife’s blood pressure went up and she was admitted to the hospital and put on bed rest. A week later, her liver started failing in the middle of the night, so she was rushed to the O.R. and our boy was born via C-section. I vividly remember his tiny, scrunched up face. His head was smaller than a tennis ball. They showed him to us for a moment before whisking him off to the neonatal intensive care unit.
The next day, as my wife was recovering from the surgery and anxiously waiting to be told she was well enough to finally go to hold her baby for the first time, she had a seizure. I was standing in front of her as her eyes glazed over, her jaw stretched unnaturally, her head went one way and her torso the other while her mouth made this horrifying clicking sound. Nurses flooded the room and she was hurried to ICU. It would be another two days before she held our son for the first time.
What was supposed to have been the happiest moment of our lives turned into a nightmare where both of the people who I love most on this awful stupid Donald-Trump-infested planet could have died.
And it took me three years to figure out that may have had some sort of adverse effect on me.
So I’m going to amend a few things I said earlier in my story as long as I’m being honest.
When I said “I hate the things I like,” what I meant was I hate that happiness has tricked me to such a villainous degree.
When I said that to me, outrage is a form of humor, what I meant was anger is the only thing that I feel, the feeling of which doesn’t create a small sense of animal dread in the further recesses of my brain.
When I was able to honestly answer “Who hurt you?” with “The birth of my son,” things hurt so much less. And things hurt so much more.