Any local in New Orleans or fan of Treme knows that Kermit Ruffins cooks for the crowd and plays Vaughan’s on Thursday nights as he’s done since the early 1990’s.
Kermit Ruffins co-founded my favorite brass band, Rebirth, while still a boy at Clark High School in the Treme. If you doubt that there’s great music on every corner here, keep in mind that Rebirth Brass Band started playing for tourist tips on the streets of the French Quarter.
In 1992, Ruffins formed his own band, the Barbecue Swingers and they’ve been barbecuing and swinging ever since.
I headed out to the club in the Bywater with my friend, Lauren, and a couple of her friends (my new friends) to meet even more of their friends. On the way there, cruising through some of the sketchier neighborhoods, we saw a gas station surrounded by flashing blue lights. Someone in the car joked that we must be getting close. Then I spotted what I am uniquely qualified to spot after almost 18 years in one of the largest film and TV sets in the world – it wasn’t a shooting, they were shooting film.
My two worlds collided in that moment. L.A. to N.O.L.A. I was on my way to see a musician we know from a TV show but who is a real person and we were driving through a real high-crime neighborhood with a crime scene that wasn’t real and will end up in a TV show (I’m guessing – could be a film, but I’m thinking it was Memphis Beat). I was the only one in the car who’d learned long ago to look at everything and ask, “Is this real or is this a movie?”
Thursday night at Vaughan’s certainly seems affected by the success of the HBO’s Treme. The crowd was pretty darn big for a tiny spot with no air conditioning to speak of. The people I met were all from out of town, as far away as Sweden. And though people danced all night, the bar broke out into cheers when Ruffins and the gang covered John Boutte’s “The Treme Song.” We danced our butts off and sang our throats out to chorus after chorus. It was a pretty great night that ended with Kermit telling everyone where a band was playing at 3 am. New York thinks it’s the city that never sleeps but there are often bands STARTING their sets at that hour in New Orleans.
Today, I watched 12 Rounds, a film shot here a year or two ago. Though it doesn’t do much to highlight the beauty of this city or its residents or culture, watching it in L.A. would have made me terribly homesick for this, my new home. And I got a thrill seeing some of the local actors I’d just worked with flash on the screen in the smaller parts we locals typically fill.
I truly wish the oil spill was just a movie set for some epic disaster film about some scrappy locals who use what James Carville called “Cajun Ingenuity” to blow the well and make the bad guys pay. But it isn’t.
Here are the latest numbers according to Wikipedia.
The Deepwater Horizon is now 4th largest spill in the history of oil consumption if you count land and water spills. It has gushed 136,800–701,000 tons. That’s roughly equal to 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 barrels or 42,000,000 to 210,000,000 gallons. The Exxon Valdez is no longer even in the top ten spills in history and we’ve done at least 7 to 9 Valdez equivalents according to conservative estimates. So far.
The biggest ever spill on record appears to be the Lakeview Gusher of 1909 in Kern County, California, before the invention of most of today’s safety measures. 1,230,000 tons or 9,000,000 barrels (nearly 400,000,000 gallons) spilled on land over the course of 18 months. If you’re the competitive sort, looks like we’ll be #1 in no time.
The largest consumer of oil, by at least 3 times, is the United States. That’s the good news – it means we have some measure of control over our futures. And our military is the largest single consumer of oil on the world. Again, good news. Just changing the energy for military vehicles could have a greater impact on foreign oil consumption than any other change we could make. I’m a fan of the Pickens Plan which includes switching all federal vehicles to natural gas and harnessing more wind and solar power.
I believe in American ingenuity. I believe this country is capable of revolution. In my own lifetime, I saw men walk on the moon which would have been an absurd thought when my maw maw was a girl. She was born before the invention of the car. Her parents and their parents would have seen the industrial revolution unfold with its radios and telephones. We have an amazing imagination in this country. We can think of new jobs like when farmers had to become factory workers. We can think of new technology. The microwave, the first new technology for heating since the invention of fire, was invented by a self taught engineer – American.
I don’t like soundbite terms like, “Big government,” but it’s time for people to start getting out of each other’s ways. This problem is so much more significant than anyone running for office or reelection, so much bigger than earmarks and lobbyists. This is not a movie and this is not the dress rehearsal. This is real life happening in real time at the rate of at least an Exxon Valdez a week.
Often, on talent-based reality TV shows (the kind I like – think things that start with the word Top i.e Top Chef, Top Model), a young person who’s just been given the opportunity of a lifetime and botched it will say something like, “Just give me a chance” or “I just need a shot.” You just had your chance. I watched it on TV. You blew it. I feel like we’re in that sort of denial right now. THIS is our chance to save the Gulf, to eliminate our reliance on foreign oil and to find alternative energy and jobs. No selling these jobs off to India or Mexico. We’re at around 10% unemployment nationwide and 15% in California. We have to do what this country has always done best, put aside our differences for just a moment and revolutionize the world.
All of that is going to require leaders. True leaders, people more interested in what’s best for the country than what’s best for their campaign. President Obama has a unique opportunity to lead us from this time to the next. If he’s not up to the task, Bobby Jindal may become the next President of these United States.
Jindal was a congressman before being elected governor in 2007 at 36 years old. He’s the first non-white governor of Louisiana and the first Indian-American governor in the country. (He was the second Indian-American congressman)
Though he’s had his share of blunders in the past, he shows up everyday in shirtsleeves, assessing the situation, alerting us to the damage, making demands, and taking matters into his own hands when BP and the government move so slowly that we’re still talking about how MUCH oil is coming out 52 days later instead of how to stop it from polluting our country, poisoning our food supply and fouling our water.
The only thing that’s certain is that the oil keeps coming.