It’s been too long since I last blogged, long enough to have missed posting on the Saints’ first win this season and the records broken by Brees and Colston. It’s also been long enough to have watched 2 more episodes of HBO’s multi-award winning Treme. The more I get to know this city, the more familiar the musicians, locations and traditions are for me this season. At some point in the season’s second episode, I heard the familiar refrain of Mr. Okra rolling through the neighborhood in his colorful truck chanting, “I have eggplant. I have collard greens. I have oranges.” In L.A., you never knew who or what you might see. I remember seeing a car that was a chicken, a 3 story-tall Oscar on a flatbed truck and a gladiator walking through a neighborhood. In New Orleans, you also never know who or what you might see, but it’s not because someone is trying to make movie magic, it’s because life here can be truly magical.
When I started working here, there were some local actors I recognized including Treme‘s NOLA natives Lance E. Nichols and Phyllis Montana LeBlanc. Nichols’ work with Khandi Alexander is a wonder. Their marriage is the kind you root for despite the couples’ obvious differences. Nichols has his hands full with Alexander’s “LaDonna,” but they both make it clear, she’s worth the trouble. Though their future looks uncertain, their love is not. It’s been a beautiful journey to witness and I gotta hand it to the “local hire” Nichols for shining in such a quiet way.
Wendell Pierce, also a NOLA native, has his hands just as full with equally funny and strong-willed Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, playing a woman just as fierce as Phyllis herself. I love watching Pierce’s character fall in love with the job Phyllis nudged him toward. His cranky, disappointed love for gigging with bands throughout town has found a place to blossom in the world of high school marching bands. Marching bands are a pretty big deal here and seen by far more people than high school football games are. I’ve never cheered on the athletes at schools like O.Perry Walker or McDonogh #35 or St. Augustine, but I get a thrill when I see their bands heading my way during Mardi Gras. As Pierce’s “Antoine” falls more in love with music, we also see him growing as a man and a partner.
Another local actor, Sam Malone, did a great job as “William Tanner,” the man whose car was involved in a real-life grisly post-Katrina murder. I met Sam on the set of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. A true gentleman and theatre-trained actor, I was impressed with him right away and was so glad to see him join the cast. Though I admire so many of the actors hired through L.A., I have to say I’m pretty darn impressed with our local hires. This show is in its third season and the talent just keeps on coming.
The episode explored some of the post-Katrina housing mess, visited the historic Preservation Hall, showcased one of my favorite singer/guitarists, Little Freddie King, then ended with the might of my favorite Mardi Gras Indian song ever, Indian Red. Wonderful.
Last week’s offering was a hyacinth for my soul. As the show creeps closer to when I arrived in 2009, the city is more like the one I moved to. I couldn’t help but think the scene in Jon Seda‘s office must’ve taken place on a Friday since his female employee was wearing her #12 Colston Saints’ jersey. I don’t know what “casual Friday” means where you live, but here, during football season, it often means wearing Saints regalia. I hope the show will eventually feature an actual game day, with everyone in town from strippers to priests wearing their black and gold. It’s a sight to see, an ocean of hope.
Kim Dickens “Janette” is coming back to NOLA to open a restaurant. I recognized the location immediately as an empty shop on St. Charles, just down the street from where we stand for most of the Mardi Gras parades. I’m not sure why I get a cheap thrill from seeing places I recognize in Treme when I had grown so accustomed to seeing locations I recognized in L.A. Maybe it’s because none of those locations ever featured 2 weeks of parades every year that fill me with childlike joy every time. Advantage – NOLA.
I loved seeing Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux onstage together at the Howlin’ Wolf. I don’t know what the rest of America makes of the Big Chief in his full regalia, but it fills me with awe. His face, worthy of carving into the side of a mountain, is framed by beadwork and plumes made by his own hands (and probably those of some friends and family). We were also allowed to see some Indians beading patches for their majestic “suits.” I love the idea of these tough guys doing such meticulous and tiny work.
Phyllis, again, showed us why she is no one to mess with and Khandi Alexander was just too good. I can’t wait to see what this weekend has in store for us.