“In New York, you can be a new man,” claims Alexander Hamilton in the musical Hamilton, as written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alexander Hamilton was born a “bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, impoverished, in squalor.” Yet, in New York, he “grow(s) up to be a hero and a scholar.” I asked myself as I walked the hot, humid rain-soaked streets of Manhattan this June, could I be a new man/woman? I had six nights to find out.
I began by taking the Hamiltour where I learned that Hamilton worked on Stone Street (called that because it was one of the first Manhattan streets to be layered with cobble stones) and lived near Bowling Green Park, erected in 1771, as New York’s first park. It was at this park that he helped destroy a statue of George III in 1776 as an act of liberty. Part of being a new man, I presume. This section of town is adjacent to Wall Street, (which earned its name due to the high wall erected around the stock exchange to protect it from the British.) My background is unlike Hamilton, in that I’m neither an orphan, nor the daughter of a whore, but I am a Daughter of the American Revolution and an ancestor of a Scotsman, so with those qualities (piss and vinegar?) how could New York make me a new woman?
I realized that to become a new woman, I must fit in with the Manhattan way of life and shed my California conduct. I figured it started with the ability to wear black and like it. Those of you who know me, know that this is difficult because I love color to the point of having blue hair. Secondly, to fit in, I must merge, I must master the art of fast walking, in fact, I must speed walk in heels. This could even make me a thinner new woman. Approaching the Times Square section of town, I would also need to navigate crowds with ease. I must bob and weave through strollers, tour groups, people in character costumes, selfie sticks, lost tourists, homeless folks, and various vendors selling everything from purses to hot dogs to warm nuts. By day three I had practiced and perfected all of these. I was well on my way to becoming a new woman but was it a change for the better?
I decided to take a helicopter ride above the city and get a new view to add to my new perspective. It was a gorgeous day (it had rained the day before), and the skyscrapers reached up to me like fingers reaching for friends. I could spot the 911 Memorial, the Empire State Building, the triangular Via 57 West residences, and Giant Stadium. Being above the metropolis gave me the feeling of unity amongst the Manhattanites. I understood the concept of living together in a noisy, bustling, municipal environment where urban survival skills are needed to coexist. Thankfully, duels were no longer acceptable forms of survival in Manhattan. I would embrace the community grit.
I spent the afternoon learning about two influential women entrepreneurs, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein, in the musical, War Paint. I experienced the toil that rivals in the same field can face when they are willing to do anything to be the victor. I learned that makeup could be a dangerous business. I thought back on my various careers and rivals for promotions or clients, and I realized that rivalries never made me feel inspired…. they always created anxiety for me. Would a New York new woman feel differently?
I visited Alexander Hamilton’s final resting place in Liberty Church Cemetary. Though he died at 49 years old, he had accomplished so much as a new man in New York. He was the founder of the nation’s financial system as the first Secretary of the Treasury, the founder of the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and The New York Post newspaper. All I accomplished as a new woman in New York was to spend money, enjoy Broadway shows, and live a little more like a local for a few days. I learned that Manhattan urban life isn’t for everyone, and it takes grit, stamina, and a thick skin to roll with the crowd who stroll Stone Street, Wall Street, and Broadway each day. As for me, I think I need a little more color, a lot more quiet, and a touch more namaste in my city.