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HEIGHTS AND LOWS
21 August 2019
We went to see In the Heights, Lin Manuel Miranda's big hit before Hamilton. Miranda started writing a show talking about the neighborhood (Washington Heights), where he grew up when he was in college. It was put on as a one act and was very successful. Later, with the help of someone to help him write the story itself, it went to off Broadway and was such a hit that it went to a full fledged production on Broadway, where it won four Tony awards.
We really enjoyed it, though really weren't sure what the plot was. I'll tell ya, for shows like this, I could not be a critic if I didn't have Wikipedia, which lays out the whole first and second act so now I know how all the music fits in with the plot. I never can tell if my problems like this are from not having my hearing aids with me (though the music is so loud it would have killed me to be wearing them) or if the sound system in the theatre tends to distort things so you can't really understand most of what people are singing (which makes it difficult to figure out the plot, when it's contained in the lyrics!). Also, it's a lot of rap, which takes more careful listening.
I was also distracted throughout most of the show. The story centers around the people in the Hispanic neighborhood, so most of the characters come from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or some other country. But one of the main characters is an African American man and every time I centered on him I thought about Henry.
My friend M called me yesterday. I had not spoken with her in about 3 years or more and she has started reconnecting with old friends. She said she had sent me an email about Henry but I hadn't received it. "What's going on with Henry?" I asked. "He died," she said.
I was shocked (he was one year younger than I), but not filled with grief. I didn't like Henry. I didn't like him a lot.
Henry was M's ....what do I call him? lover? partner? friend? father of her child? all those things? ... She met him here in Davis when he was teaching at the university and she was working for a typing service. She was in an unhappy marriage to an alcoholic and as she and Henry began to hit it off, things got serious.
To my eternal regret, I helped them with their affair, driving M to places to meet him and keeping her secrets. Eventually, Henry was transferred by his job to the other side of the country and asked M to come with him. There was the little complication of his marriage, though he and his wife were separated. His employers moved Henry and his "family," though his wife stayed here, so M could not be seen by anybody with whom he worked for decades because the wife, like Henry, is African and M is not.
Over the years there were highs and lows. Maybe I just heard more about the lows because they were very low. But I was angry for M for the things that he put her through (not physical abuse or anything "easy" like that) I was happy for her "highs" because she had so many lows in her life that I was pleased that she was finally having the life she deserved, much of the time.
Inevitably, M became pregnant and when she went on maternity leave from her job, she arranged for me to come and fill in for her, but Henry made things difficult for me to settle into the job and I didn't want her bosses to know what problems I was having because of Henry that I ended up probably being the worst person they ever worked with...but I never let them know what was going on at home. I know they wondered why M had selected such a stupid person to fill her job.
I was also so afraid of Henry, a very large man, that I eventually felt threatened and blocked the door to my bedroom at night with suitcases and furniture, though I'm sure that wasn't necessary, but in the last week of my six weeks there, I was on the phone to Walt in tears because I was so unhappy because of Henry.
After I returned home I think in the ensuing nearly 30 years, I only saw Henry once, at a social engagement we all attended. I ignored him. I saw M now and then, but never when Henry was around.
M finally more or less separated from him ... or at least he moved to his own house, but they do share a son, so they still did things together. In fact the night before his death they had gone out for dinner together.
So the guy in In the Heights was a constant reminder to me of those bad days with Henry, and I found myself in tears for M's pain, because I know she still cared for him.
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