+
samaan ashrawi, john kander, twitter

Sama'an Ashrawi and his grandpa Dave. Years later, Ashrawi met John Kander, his grandpa's college boyfriend.

You never forget your first love. Even if it doesn't last, it leaves an indelible mark on you. Sama'an Ashrawi, a writer, artist and host of the podcast The Nostalgia Mixtape, discovered just how true that statement is. In a Twitter thread, Ashrawi details a discovery he made about his grandpa's past romantic life. It goes to show that while we may know a lot about our elders, there's always something new to learn.

"My Grandpa Dave told me he was sure he was gay when he was moving into his dorm room freshman year of college and there was a boy 'with the prettiest eyes;' after Grandpa passed, I learned from my mother who that boy was," the first tweet of the thread reads.


Ashrawi reveals that the boy was named John Kander. If the name isn't familiar to you, I assure you, you know who he is. Kander, along with his creative partner Fred Ebb, wrote the music to some well-known musicals, including "Cabaret," and "Chicago." They also wrote the song "New York, New York," which became a staple song for Frank Sinatra after originally being sung by Liza Minnelli.

In a special episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape, Ashrawi explains that his grandpa Dave and Kander were boyfriends during their time studying at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. And when he was little, he remembered his grandpa sitting down at the piano to play songs from "Cabaret." While at the time he didn't know the emotional significance and deep connection his grandpa had to the music, he says that knowing what he knows now adds a certain "romantic" element to the piano playing.

"It's kind of like when you're in love, and you're far away from the one you love and you look up at the moon and you imagine that maybe they're looking at it at the same time as me," he said.

He then fast-forwards to the pandemic and how it led him to make an interesting revelation about his grandpa Dave's relationship with Kander.

"I had been stuck in the house for about a year," he begins. "There was this one bookcase that I walked by almost every single day, and this particular time I was walking by, I noticed something that for some reason, I had never seen before."

He found a 7" vinyl record, and "everything on the label was written in pencil." The title "Our Boy" was on the label, as well as the year the record was pressed—1951. The composer? None other than John Kander, his grandpa's old boyfriend.

"My mom told me it was a song John had written for Grandpa. I put the record on and listened … some very moody piano solos, it sounded theatrical. I needed to know more. I went online, was John even still alive? To my amazement, the answer was yes! 94 years old," he tweeted in the thread.

Ashrawi felt that Kander's email address wouldn't just be floating around the internet, but after some good ol' internet sleuthing, he discovered that Kander's great-nephew, Jason Kander, is a politician in Missouri. So he slid into the younger Kander's DMs, telling him about his discovery of "Our Boy" and hoping for some more insight and stories about John Kander's relationship with his grandpa Dave.

"Two days later, I had an email from John Kander," he said on the podcast.

He revealed that "Our Boy" wasn't just a song; it was a full one-act musical that Kander had written with the intention of it being a star vehicle for Grandpa Dave. "It was a play about a boxer grappling with the existential feelings of defeat," he tweeted, including a photo of a newspaper clipping featuring the show. Kander also shared some photos from the show that Ashrawi and his family had never seen. He described seeing the images as "beautiful."

On the podcast, he explains that Kander extended an invitation for a meeting if he ever found himself in New York City. "So I went to New York," he says, the theme Kander had written playing in the background. Ashrawi, his mom and one of his sisters had lunch with Kander. His mom hadn't seen Kander since she was a little girl!

After talking to Kander, Ashrawi gained a newfound understanding of his grandpa and the time they had been living in. It was an era when being openly gay could literally ruin your life, and it was clear that being an actor must have gaven him a sense of freedom he couldn't have in real life. Playing another character allowed him to put his own troubles aside for a little while and be free. Kander revealed that the theater was the most special place for he and Dave.

Even though they went in very different life directions (Ashrawi revealed his grandpa became a doctor), it's clear that their time together left a deeply beautiful mark on both of their lives.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the Peoples

True

Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.

Keep ReadingShow less

Delivering packages AND safety.

This article first appeared on 6.15.22.

Amazon delivery drivers don’t have the easiest job in the world. Sitting through traffic, working in extreme temperatures, hauling boxes … not exactly a fun time. So when a driver goes out of their way to be extra considerate—people notice.

One delivery driver has gone viral for the way she delivered a little bit of safety education, along with some lighthearted advice. The TikTok video of the encounter, which now has more than 4 million views, was shared by Jessica Huseman, who had only recently moved into her new house.

The clip shows the doorbell cam recording of the driver approaching the house. As the delivery driver makes it to the front door, she sings, ”Hello … I hope your Monday’s going well. You have no markers on your house that says what number you are.”

From there, the driver’s song quickly changes tune, going from funny jest to helpful PSA.

Keep ReadingShow less
True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

An update on the 'corn kid,' a powerful airport haka, some moving mama-baby reunions and more in this week's roundup of joy.

Image by Robert Vincent from Pixabay

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Thanksgiving week in the U.S. is a time for practicing gratitude, and we want to take just a moment to give thanks to you.

You, dear readers, are a big part of Upworthy's mission to celebrate the best of humanity and to show how people can be a force for good. Every time you share our stories, drop a positive comment on a post or tell a friend about something you saw here, you help create the world we all want to live in. A world where kindness and compassion are the norm, where humanity flourishes in all its beautiful diversity and where genuine joy and laughter abound.

Without you, we'd just be throwing all this good stuff into the ether, so we are so very grateful you are here.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Guy forgot to change his address in his Chipotle app and it resulted in the sweetest exchange

"Take it with you bro" turned into a tear-jerking story of human connection.

Shahid Davis told a delivery driver to keep his meal and the result was a sweet moment of human connection.

This article first appeared on 3.3.22.

Sometimes the silliest of mistakes can result in the sweetest of coincidences.

Shahid Davis had ordered dinner from the Chipotle app and was checking on the map to see how far away the driver was when he realized that the driver was half a continent away. Davis had been staying at a hotel in Iowa the last time he ordered, and he forgot to go back and change the delivery address to his home in Hagerstown, Maryland. He contacted Chipotle, but the customer service person told him they couldn't do anything since it was already out for delivery.

So when the delivery person texted Davis to let him know they were there, he explained what happened.

"I'm here with your order," the person texted.

"Take it with you bro and enjoy the lunch," Davis responded. "I forgot to change my address and I currently in Maryland."

Keep ReadingShow less

Megan Montgomery and Jason McIntosh.

This article originally appeared on 12.16.19


If you were to look at Megan Montgomery's Instagram account, you'd see a beautiful, smiling woman in the prime of her life, her youth and fitness the envy of women the world over. You'd even see some photos of her with her husband (#datenight), with comments saying things like "Aww, gorgeous couple!"

But beneath her picture perfect feed was the story of a woman in an abusive relationship with her husband—one that would start with his arrest shortly after they got married, and end 10 months later with him shooting her to death in a parking lot.

In a Facebook post, one of the people who was out with Megan the night of her murder detailed how her estranged husband had come to their table, put his hand on her neck and shoulder, and escorted her out of the building.

Keep ReadingShow less