Last night, I made it to my friend’s house in the Treme to watch HBO’s Treme and eat a great potluck dinner. The opening credit song, John Boutte’s “The Treme Song,” is still one of the most infectiously cheerful songs I’ve heard. I can’t make myself fast forward it even when I’m watching at home alone on TIVO.
I loved several moments in this week’s episode. There was a shot of a tree full of beads left over from Mardi Gras. I moved here in December and there were still beads in some trees along St. Charles, one of the major parade routes, 10 months after the parades.
The host of our potluck loved this episode because his favorite musician, Jon Cleary, was featured. I got a kick out of how much of the episode took place at Vaughan’s, Thursday night home of Kermit Ruffins, which I just blogged about. Life imitating art imitating life… And maybe it’s not good to bring a baby to a bar, but I can’t say it’s never happened. The club actually looked bigger on film than in person and it’s way more crowded now. The band is relegated to a few feet next to that back wall near the window, as they were in the episode, but with the larger crowd, you can only really see a hat here, a trombone there, poking out from the bopping heads.
And maybe you didn’t understand all that talk between the cops and the Mardi Gras Indian chief. Here’s a little backstory – the legend of Tootie Montana. Tootie Montana started making his own Mardi Gras suits at the age of ten. With his 3-D innovations of the beading, he was “the prettiest.” He rose to the title of Big Chief “Tootie” Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe and became known for his battles of craftsmanship rather than violence. As a result, he was crowned the first and only Chief of Chiefs.
After years of run-ins with police and permit offices over the Indians right to parade, the Big Chief took his battle to the New Orleans City Council where they were holding a review of complaints of misconduct by police during Mardi Gras. He was speaking for his people, discussing his 52 year history as an Indian when he died, right then and there, of a heart attack. His funeral was one of the largest second lines in the history of the city and he is considered a martyr by many still seeking equal permitting for Indians. His niece, Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, plays the mother of the baby in the bar on Treme. More life/art/life stuff. Everything here doubles back on itself (try making a left while driving in New Orleans and you’ll know what I mean).
As to the parties continuing during power outages here, I can attest that I shopped for groceries once and bought and ate pastries at a yummy bakery during power outages here. I have no doubt that I will party without power here eventually.
It was nice to see hear Irma Thomas’ standard at the party but I can say that there’s nothing like seeing Irma Thomas herself singing as I did a few weeks ago. For photos and a recounting of that experience, click:
In yet another life-imitating-art moment, one of our poluckers, a singer/musician, had to excuse herself early to go play a gig.
I really related to the relentlessness of crap that rained down on the Kim Dickens’ restauranteur character. She even said something I’ve said about Los Angeles after Steve Zahn’s character reminded her of all the beautiful moments here, “They’re just moments, they’re not a life.” Only I wouldn’t describe my adventures in L.A. as beautiful so much as fantastical, surreal. Many people do figure out how to make a life for themselves in L.A. I watched friends do it. But I never felt at home there. I feel at home here and the moments here are often so beautiful that I find myself crying with happiness in public all the time. I just get overwhelmed with how much love, community, talent and skill surround me here on a regular basis. I’m a fairly tough broad and few of my friends have ever seen me shed a tear, but strangers can catch me crying here at concerts and parades all the time. Dickens’ character will be moving to New York (been there, done that), I predict she’ll be back.
Everyone at the potluck loved the scene about calling the cops for loud music in the Treme. I can say that the house we watch the show in often plays loud music. And when I told you all that people do, in fact, sometimes leave their stereo on when they leave the house – I was referring to this house in Treme.
It was wild seeing the John Goodman scene at Cafe du Monde. I couldn’t help but remember that it was the scene Treme was shooting when head writer and producer, David Mills died. It added even more gravitas to a scene about someone’s last day.
Though I took a class on Southern literature in college, but we never studied, “The Awakening.” Nonetheless, the future of John Goodman’s character seemed like writing on the wall throughout the episode. Unlike Dickens’ character, I fear we’ve seen the last of Goodman. Damn. I loved his character. I can’t really relate to what it must have been to live here before and after the storm. The 1994 quake in L.A. is as close as I’ve come to watching a city shut down, but trust me when I say it had no effect on our local culture, our identity, our city’s soul. As the oil continues to flow and everything continues to die and a whole way of life chokes to death before our eyes, I fear I will learn to relate to Goodman’s despair.
Two exchanges got BIG laughs from our crew. The first was when Khandi Alexander tells Wendell Pierce. “That nonsense last week ‘tween you and me – that was a Mardi Gras fuck, that’s all. I’m just sayin’, we in Lent now. The legs are closed.”
The second was when the bouncer/builder said after offering to fix Khandi Alexander’s roof, “I’m from the state of Texas, ma’am. No disrespect, but y’all got a defective work ethic down here.”
Some of the best movies of all time have only one truly great line, so I’m going to give it to these writers for packing 2 into a single TV episode.
Next week, the show ends on St.Joseph’s day with the Indians masquing. As you’ve heard too many times, I LOVE the Mardi Gras Indians and will never forget seeing them on Super Sunday, St. Joseph’s day. For anyone who sill hasn’t watched my footage, enjoy it now:
And here’s some photos from my life-imitating-art moments. (holy crap, the sky just opened up and is seriously and noisily dousing us!)