Week 2 of HBO’s Treme covered topics from the Danziger Bridge incident and the school system to the governor’s race, FEMA subcontracting, Bounce music and fried turkey for Thanksgiving. As someone who’s lived here over 17 months and is still learning this city, I sometimes wonder how someone unfamiliar with the politics, food, music, history and tragedy of this place 14 months after Katrina (the setting of this season) can even begin to follow all the intricacies. I’m so glad people are watching and making the effort. The episode was deftly directed by Tim Robbins who’s directed here before (Dead Man Walking) and spent months here last year for Green Lantern (on which I worked a couple of weeks but we’ll see if I make the cut).
When I lived in Los Angeles, it was common to see people I knew in movies and on TV, but it’s somehow different seeing people from my community on Treme. Maybe it’s because so many of them are people I know from things other than acting that it’s more of a thrill to see them get their shot. The guy that served us beignets the night before played a cop on the episode and had a pretty good part, but almost no waiters here are actors so it felt different somehow. I get the same thrill from seeing local places. A scene took place at the racetrack and I still had dirt on me from sitting in the field there during Jazz Fest earlier that day.
I hated seeing Khandi Alexander’s mom leaving the home she’d been born and raised in, the only home she’s ever known. That happened to SO many people and each story is heartbreaking. Living as I have, bouncing from 2 apartment complexes in Maryland to a number of houses in Japan all by the age of 5 makes it impossible for me to understand the attachment the people here have to homes passed from one generation to the next, but it seems a profound loss that shouldn’t happen even once, much less to a chunk of a population.
A word on Bounce music. There are those, mostly from other places, who ask, “What defines New Orleans music?” The answer might involve soul and funk and ancient drum beats. It seems also to have a relationship to horns and blues and jazz. But, there are bands in every genre from Rock to Hip Hop and there’s Bounce, a genre much defined by its accompanying booty-popping dance portrayed in the episode (dancing on sample video starts about 25 seconds in and is PG sexy). Men tend to do a version that involves more knees and footwork. Maybe what defines New Orleans music is how rooted the music is in the city and how rooted the city is in the music.
Kim Dickens’ storyline is based in part on that of Susan Spicer, owner and chef of the wonderful Bayona restaurant. Having spent a few years in New York, it’s hard to watch her character suffer that city. Her ferocious boss showed her how to perfectly cook a piece of salmon without rushing it and by the time it was done, the impatient diners had left, unwilling to enjoy each other’s company long enough to let the meal be properly cooked.
I had the distinct pleasure of eating at Bayona this week with my friends visiting from L.A. I’d seen Susan Spicer in the street the day before, dispensing parking advice to a neighbor as I walked by and got excited to eat there again. The greens in the salad were so fresh and flavorful. The Garlic Soup was rustic and not at all salty as I feared. We all ordered different proteins, a steak, a salmon, shrimp and I had the lamb.
Everything, from the sweet potatoes and haricot vert to the various meats, had a purity of flavor. There were sophisticated sauces with each dish but they enhanced the flavors rather than masking them, like skillfully applied make-up on a woman’s face. We finished the meal with a Brandy Chocolate Pannecota and the celebrity sighting of Morgus the Magnificent, an Elvira-like television host. I’m proud to say that, although we were dining with someone who’d grown up watching Morgus, it was actually me who recognized him.
The meal was fantastic and I may order the steak if they have it again next time having sampled everything on the table, but I’m so grateful the Peppered Lamb Loin with Goat Cheese and Zinfandel Sauce is a permanent menu item.
In L.A., my city was a movie set and I constantly saw places and people I knew on the screen so I’m not sure why I get a bigger kick out of interacting with the city and people of this TV show. But I do know I’m loving the life imitating art imitating life aspect of Treme and I love that the show exposes the rest of the viewing audience to some of what makes New Orleans unique and truly great.