It’s such a joy to head to the Superdome to watch a Saints game. The city is cloaked in black and gold optimism. All the other teams that had to lose Sunday to keep our playoff hopes alive lost. All we had to do was beat the 49’ers and things were looking pretty darn good. Alas, it was not meant to be. Warren Easton‘s marching band opened the game and got me in the mood for Mardi Gras as they are always one of the favorite parade bands. Favorite person of the game this time was definitely our usher who didn’t even try to hide her enthusiasm for our team. Pictured below, she danced and flag-waved and Got Crunk and even riled up the crowd at times.
Most amazing moment of the game was when 5’6″ Darren Sproles tossed a giant over his shoulder before being tackled by a swarm of guys. At some point, it became obvious we weren’t going to be dancing to Rebirth’s celebratory Casanova on the way out. But, I did bump into 610 Stompers founder, Brett Patron. All week, the TV’s been running ads featuring the 610 Stompers dance at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Though we lost the game, seeing him put a smile on my face and, again, made me look forward to Mardi Gras and the “extraordinary moves” the Stompers might have in store for us. It’s so very sad when the Saints lose, but emptying out onto the street, there were brass bands every few corners. It’s hard to keep a bad mood going when all around is the joy of living in this city.
Which brings us to season 3’s last episode of HBO’s Treme. Music was the real star of the show, even more than usual. Steve Zahn’s “Davis” started us off with a remake of the real Davis’ raunchy tune I Quit. The eponymous Davis Rogan plays piano in the shot. Later, Zahn runs into Kermit Ruffins (playing himself) at the R Bar. My favorite moment in the entire series so far was during the first ever episode when Elvis Costello tried to lure Kermit away from NOLA with promises of riches and fame. Grilling in a barrel BBQ on the sidewalk in front of the ramshackle Vaughan’s bar, Kermit replies, “And leave all this?” Amen.
Wendell Pierce’s “Antoine Batiste” continued his search for purpose while watching Paul Sanchez play at The Spotted Cat with Shamarr Allen, Eric Bolivar and Bonerama’s Craig Klein among others. But it was just an appetizer. The feast was still ahead. Batiste finally paid a cabbie the whole fare, no complaints, with a tip. He’s finally come to see that, though he might be the best in any other city, he is only one of many great trombonists in this city. He’s come to realize that he’ll never be the best but, as a teacher, he’s in a rare position to nurture the best. And why not? In a town where people like Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick Jr. and Trombone Shorty were performing by 5 years old, rare talent isn’t so rare here. Heck, even the 13 year old boy – whose Bar-mitzvah Kermit and “Davis” entertained – played a hell of a piano. I can’t wait to see what “Antoine’s” new goals bring in the next season. He’s even enjoying his partnership with Phyllis Montana LeBlanc’s “Desiree.” Seems I was right that Ray Nagin and his merry band of thieves messed with “the wrong fuckin’ people” this time as Desiree and her new friends take down the housing scam.
Sometimes it’s interesting to see who’s willing to play themselves on the show. It takes a man as sure of his intentions as Grammy-winner Irvin Mayfield to own his journey trying to build the Jazz Center. I can’t imagine reliving the moment when the city hissed at him on local TV news coverage for his association with the project. Like Oliver Thomas, he is willing to show all the sides to his story for public consumption and judgement. Actors are often brave but we can blame all our character’s choices on the script. These are people playing out their own lives. It’s one of the most unique things about the show.
This episode’s slice of time all led to the benefit to rebuild GiGi’s, the fictional bar owned by Khandi Alexander’s “LaDonna.” In New Orleans, most events give back to the community in some way but once in awhile, a specific problem arises that brings everyone together. When Verti Marte – with it’s fabulous take-out and delivery food – burned down, the city mobilized immediately to fund rebuilding. When Spy Boy Ricky was wrongfully jailed, events popped up to fund his successful legal defense. It was no surprise that the city would come together to rebuild “LaDonna’s” bar, but it’s an indication of how long the show’s producers and writers have been here that they would know that. By now, they’ve seen how resourceful this town can get when they want to throw a party. All you need is a venue, food and good music.
The party brought together nearly all of the cast (very rare on this sprawling show) and was a who’s who of local musicians. “Antoine” and “Delmond” joined George Porter, Ivan Neville, June Yamagishi and Johnny Vidacovich then Bonerama was joined by Big Sam, Trombone Shorty and Wendell Pierce’s “Antoine.” That means there were 6 trombones on one stage. When they got going, I just kept saying, “Wow.” Little Freddie King stopped by looking as sharp as ever. That man can dress. John Boutte, who we can thank for the show’s peppy theme song, crooned for the crowd as “LaDonna” ducked out escorted by Clarke Peters’ Big Chief “Lambreaux.”
I’ve sung the praises of Khandi Alexander‘s performance as “LaDonna” before, but I have to say a word about her work with men. I’ve loved Khandi’s work since I first saw her seducing Chris Rock in CB4. In the last few episodes, we’ve seen her considerable heat with the Big Chief and I’ve always loved the depth of her relationship with her husband, Lance E. Nichols’ “Larry” as well as her familiarity with ex-husband “Antoine.” I’ve come to the conclusion that Alexander is chemistry personified. She can make any man look like a lover.
The episode took us briefly to Jazz Fest before ending with a montage including a wedding, a break-up, hellos and goodbyes, Obama being elected and a lot of plain old “life goes on” shots. The show returns next year with 5 more episodes. I have so many happy memories tied up in watching the stories unfold. It will be hard to let those stories go when the show finally comes to an end. The amazing and happy ending for me will be that many of the characters are people I will see again soon and all the festivals, concerts, parades and great meals will continue here long after the show ends.