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Introducing Guest Columnist Sam Jasper

April 16, 2010

Back Of Town is happy to introduce a special guest columnist Sam Jasper, raconteur-poetess and keeper of the New Orleans Slate and Katrina Refrigerator blogs. In her own words, “I write what I see in the way that I see it, which of course, is the only way I can see it. Sometimes I find humor, sometimes pathos, and sometimes what I see makes me just plain mad, in whatever way you’d like to define that word, and I say so.” We here at BOT have nothing but admiration for that madness, that crazy-wise love of life and New Orleans. Without further ado, Sam’s first column “Treme And My Fridges” cross-posted from New Orleans Slate.

As most of you know, I have a sister blog called Katrina Refrigerator which was begun on September 12, 2005. We were here long before the time frame of the new HBO series Treme begins.

I will also, just as a warning, let you know that in this house we are rabid David Simon fans, from his books to his past forays into television. A DVD of the Wire is staring at me from above this monitor with a post it note on which I wrote, “OMG! He killed OMAR!” Mr. Simon laughed and signed it, “Yes, I did! David Simon.” It is one of my great treasures. I’m telling you all that so you know that I expect nothing but excellence from Mr. Simon as that’s all I’m used to getting from him.

Onward!

I watched the debut of Treme last night, giggling with anticipation. I was not disappointed. Simon and his team absolutely got it right. There were little lines, tell tale lines, of dialogue that were unique to that time and place. Things like casually asking “Did you get water?” and not meaning did you buy a flat of bottles over at the Sam’s Club. “How’s your house?” followed immediately by “Don’t ASK about my fucking house” were dead on. “He went to Irene’s. They’re payin’ $10 bucks an hour.” Oh yeah. Ask the folks at Yo Mama’s one day how many cooks they went through in the first six months. Labor was hard to come by and if you wanted to open, after you jumped through the hoops, you needed people, but so did every other place trying to re-open. It was a bidding war for dishwashers. What an amazing statement that was to write. In any other context it would be considered an absurdity.

While everyone else picks apart the Magic Hubig’s pie, the Bracato’s reference, the fact that Jockamo’s wasn’t made yet (and as my friend and fellow writer mentioned, Restoration Ale WAS all the rage at that time with giant gorgeous blue neon fleur de lis in various shop windows), I will limit myself to the emotional rollercoaster this show took me on in its very first show.

Here in this living room, we alternately went from flashback tears to raucous laughter to shouts of YEAH THAT IS HOW IT WAS to dancing, even after having danced most of the day at French Quarter Fest! We were so proud of the people of this city, we were so proud to BE people of this city, we were so proud of Simon and his writing team. We said we wished we’d gone to Vaughn’s again before the show aired as it will now become a place of pilgrimage. Good for Vaughn’s though!

The one thing they couldn’t do was convey the smell, the all pervasive smell of the houses, the duct taped and subsequently decorated fridges (one corner of the Quarter alone once had a phalanx of fridges, about 20, just lined up next to each other like mute soldiers with trenchfoot), the weird black slimey spider-webby grunge that got into your hair, on your skin, the smell of that, the fear of it—what the HELL was in it?—rumors swirled about a refinery down river leaking petrochemicals in various forms, now dried, now in your hair. No one knew for sure. The changing smell of the mold as it turned blacker and blacker. They did do the mud in the houses justice though. One’s foot just kinda sunk in, but the summer sun had baked it til it cracked and looked like the Rio Grande river bed in July. But, the smells. . . .

The look of amazement, shock, horror and despair on Clarke Peters’ face as he saw his house for the first time was perfect. I have no doubt it had been my mask many times over those months, and I saw it on hundreds of others.

But it was Treme’s writers’ powerfully but quietly written moment of defiance in the face of that destruction that got me. I’m still teary.

Two weeks ago I took this photo and 200 more like it:

This photo was taken on a beautiful day, nearly five years after the storm, after the super Super Bowl, after, after. . .

Last night, on Treme I saw this.

A uniquely New Orleans moment. I dreamt about it after laying my head on my pillow, wanting to be no where else on earth, grateful that we are still here and that our love of this place and our defiance of devastation was and will always be, worth it.

8 Comments
  1. April 16, 2010 12:47 pm

    Great post. I know you mean to link to the Lambreaux picture. I have a screen shot of it and if I have “page” access here I’ll stick it up, or else on Toulouse Street.

  2. April 16, 2010 12:49 pm

    Here’s Lambreaux from a screen shot posted up at Toulouse Street:

    http://toulousestreet.wordpress.com/lambreaux/

  3. April 16, 2010 12:58 pm

    that photo set on the HBO site changes – I was looking for something last night and it wasn’t the same six photos then.

  4. ferngrrl permalink
    April 16, 2010 1:16 pm

    Great post. And yeah you right about wishing I’d gone to Vaughan’s one last time before the show aired! Oy! But I can’t agree about the pic of Clarke, though, because it is from the show and therefore not as authentic (so to speak) a moment as the one that you took yourself at Super Sunday. Still, I love Simon’s explanation about New Orleans presenting moments. So do lots of places, but NOLA is surely at the top of the moment-producing-places list.

  5. April 16, 2010 1:58 pm

    Thank you.
    It’s those “little details” that are actually what is holding me together.
    I was in Vaughn’s one night when the power went out. I’d like to see that detail dropped in more often. (but it was Not a problem for New Orleans a brass band:)
    My friend Zack lost about $6000 cash from those power outages after stocking, losing, then restocking the entire cold-goods section of his store. Finally he just gave up until the following Spring or so. Remember how some people had grown cautious about saying “Gee, we’ve gone all day without a power outage!” –’cause then BLINK it would happen!
    Smell is our oldest sense and the nerves go directly to the Old Brain to trigger Memory. That is why we smell, to Remember (of course where food is/was, danger and safety).
    Good for Vaughn’s and hey, I still go and enjoy the Preservation Hall.
    One person’s juke joint is another person’s church and either way I find sanctuary.
    I’m really enjoying this blog as y’all are helping me so to ‘dial it back’ so to speak.
    Thanks again.

  6. April 16, 2010 2:57 pm

    Too good!

  7. April 16, 2010 2:57 pm

    I keep coming back for your photo. It’s gorgeous.

  8. samjasper permalink
    April 17, 2010 9:11 am

    Wow. Thanks for the welcome, everyone! Yes, Mark, I’d appreciate your adding the Albert still for me. And to all of you who commented, I appreciate it. Virgotex, the rest of the photos I took can be found on Flickr under nolaslate.

    Now, lemme see if I can figure out this new fangled WordPress thingie!

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