Buncha random thoughts while I catch my breath
Jeezus, I’m kinda at a loss at the moment. No deep thoughts but a lot of random first impressions.
I sort of get how a media critic who isn’t from here could think that Episode 1 was a little scattered. A lot of characters to introduce, a lot of plot threads to kick off, and if you haven’t lived through the back-story you might have trouble seeing how all of them will come together. But as a New Orleanian, I thought it was fantastic. I am less confused about where things are going and who is doing what than I was after the first episode of The Wire.
I’ve heard it said that the music is the star of this show, that the whole episode is totally infused with music. I can’t remember, but I think I even read someplace that it seemed almost forced, like the audience needs to be put on a crash diet of the music to get up to speed. I disagree. This may be hard for y’all who ain’t from here to believe, but yes, we do have that much of our own music in our lives here, all the time. That’s the difference between here and a place like New York which is a hub of the music “industry”, or Austin which has a great music “scene”. In New Orleans, it’s not an “industry”, it’s not a “scene”. It’s part of the very fabric of our existence, like the weather and the food and the architecture. The music drips from the trees in the spring, it bubbles up out of the gutters and radiates off the sidewalks in the summer. The music is everywhere, all the time. It’s not relegated to some “entertainment district” or to a few annual festivals. It is part of our lives, every day, all day. Simon and crew get that. I hope at some point the audience gets it, too, that they understand that this is not a musical, this is not educational television, this is an accurate depiction of how we live.
Clarke Peters as a Mardi Gras Indian chief was stunning. He had a lot of those qualities of Tootie Montana that you see in Tootie’s Last Suit…the work ethic, the stubbornness, the iron grip he keeps on the traditions, not just wanting them to be honored, but demanding that they be done right. And the disconnect from how his love of the traditions creates a gulf between himself and his kids’ desires to spread their wings and go elsewhere. If you get a chance between now and next week, try to get a copy of Tootie’s Last Suit and watch it, it’s beautiful and heartbreaking. (If you’re in Austin, come over to my house, maybe we’ll have a Tootie viewing party later in the week.)
The kid who was in OPP during the storm and has been completely missing for three months…again, that’s not a contrived television plot. That is sadly all too real. Scores of New Orleanians were trapped for months in a third world gulag with no due process and no contact with the outside world. Guantanamo existed right here in the U.S.A. at St. Gabriel and other places. See David Egger’s fantastic book Zeitoun for the true story of one such man.
A few things made the kids and I squeal:
* The tall drunk guy in the green shirt that keeps getting in Davis McLary’s way when he’s at Vaughan’s cycling back and forth between Elvis’s table and the stage…that’s the real Davis Rogan.
* When the NOPD cop doesn’t let the lawyer have a seat at Lil Dizzy’s cafe (a real restaurant on the edge of the Treme on Esplanade), I saw my future ex-wife in the background twice, this one actual waitress there that I have had a crush on for years. She’s a big girl with a big smile and she always calls me baby and rubs my hair and says I’m a hottie.
* The Hubig’s pie scene was fucking fantastic. If I hadn’t just finished off a whole bag of them that Alli brought me last week, I’d be dying with envy.
Probably a few more things I’ll remember when I watch it a second time.
The things that I think they didn’t get exactly right, and I don’t know how they would anyway:
* Too much green. The way I remember the city at that time, it was brown brown brown. So many trees and plants and grass were killed by the storm, it was two summers before the foliage really started to feel normal again.
* Believe it not, not enough debris and garbage in the streets. The debris piles lined the streets like snowdrifts in a northeastern blizzard after the snowplows come by.
* The inside of the flooded houses, again, were too clean. Both Albert Lambreaux’s house and his bar, it seems like he just walked up, turned the key, opened the door and walked in. Reality, a lot of times, went like this: you try the key, the lock won’t turn because it sat in that water and it’s corroded. So you work on it with some WD-40. If you’re unlucky you eventually need to destroy the doorknob to get it open. Once it’s unlocked, you push the door, and after a few inches it runs into shit…your couch, your bookcase, warped floorboards, swollen muddy carpet. We always had to muscle the door open just enough for a couple of people to be able to climb through and clear the debris away from the inside of the door so that it could be opened, and even once it was clear, there was no real path through the house. The water picked everything up and dropped it all over the place. Climbing through a fresh house was like caving. For some video of the Arabi Wrecking Krewe and some Rising Tide bloggers doing a house in Hollygrove a year after the storm, go see this excellent video by Scout Prime of First Draft. (Plus, I was cringing that he didn’t have a mask on with all that mold on the walls. I know people did it, but…..wewwwww, gives me the willies.)
* Davis Rogan’s house is not that tidy.
These are nits. God forbid Simon bring in some CGI to really muck up the place; I like that they tried to organically reproduce late 2005 conditions the best they knew how.
I don’t know how I’m gonna wait a week for the next episode.
I give it an A+.