Introducing Guest Columnist Sam Jasper
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.
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.