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Cliff’s Notes on the Misery Tour Scene

April 27, 2010

Cliff’s Crib is one of my favorite NOLA blogs. His posts on Treme have been typically insightful and often linked to from BOT. He’s got another beaut up about the scene at the end of episode-3 wherein the Indians meet the misery tourists. I considered quoting it but I’ll let Cliff speak for himself: click away, y’all.

  1. tim permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:23 am

    I don’t really blame the folks in the bus, they were just rubberneckers. The sleazy NOLA “business people” who coordinated the tours – and we have so many of them – still remain nameless.

  2. April 27, 2010 11:00 am

    It’s the Disney safari way of experiencing the world, not just New Orleans, that irks me. Making money off a disaster tour and rubbernecking are both wrong. Driving someone around town for free to see the destruction and then these people get out of the car, walk around, politely ask to take non-flash pictures, are prepared to get chewed out and quietly leave is right. Furthermore, getting your ass off the bus and putting it into gutting, cleaning, rebuilding and donating is even more right.

  3. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 11:25 am

    Oh, man, if I still had my grad school bullshit shovel around, I could go on about the projection of reality on a screen, making life into entertainment, something to watch instead of something to do in the situationist sense, or start in on the Beaudrillardian procession of simulacrum represented by the flashbulbs behind the tinted glass. The struggle between image and reality is very strong in this series — the well-meaning Madison kids who came to help because of images they had seen on TV. Daymo ID’d through a photo. YouTube. IT goes on and on.

    Luckily I misplaced that shovel a while back.

  4. adrastosno permalink
    April 27, 2010 1:53 pm

    @maitri. I remember the day that Ashley, Oyster and you and I gave Tim Tagaris an up close and personal misery tour. Great day and we were respectful of the areas. Of course, Ashley insulted one another all day but it’s what we did.

  5. April 27, 2010 4:07 pm

    Ok, who took away your Ritalin? 😛

    Could this be David Simon’s moment of self-flagellation with the tourbus driver symbolizing hisself and the tourists as everyone watching Treme on HBO from the safety of their couches? Sure. Could be one of 5 million things that I am not going to read the show’s entrails to find.

    I just have a very strong aversion to assholes on safari in devastated areas whose farthest extent of aid and activism is to lock their doors or ride on a bus, roll down their windows just a crack so that they can get pictures but not get bitten by the local fauna and then leave never to return. If you’re going to come all the way to witness something, make it good.

  6. April 27, 2010 5:12 pm

    I spoke to a lot of people who wavered about taking a disaster tour. They didn’t want to exploit our misery, but they were curious. Most where staying in the French Quarter and didn’t have a car.

    I always urged them to take a tour. The rest of America (or maybe just America) needed and still needs to understand what happened in New Orleans. The scope of the disaster was something that could only be understood once you drove for an hour and saw nothing but utter devastation. One of these tours seemed liked the only way they would every understand that fact.

    Sure, maybe they should have volunteered and seen the rest of the city that way. But they weren’t going to. It wasn’t in their plans. At least the tour meant some of them left with a better understanding.

    I don’t think this issue is so black and white.

    Today a drive through the city no longer gives you the same sense of what happened here. The tours seem a lot less justifiable. At one point, eighty percent of the city as a crime scene. Now the physical evidence is not so immediately obvious.

  7. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 5:43 pm

    No, no, I agree with you. I’m not making fun, except maybe of my grad school fascinations.

    But wow — a cheap holiday in other people’s misery, indeed. And taking photos from behind windows — that’s like a train going into a tunnel, for god’s sake. I’m practically drooling here.

  8. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:48 pm

    OK- so I gotta be the ‘ugly tourist’ here (I don’t live in N.O. now- I did in the mid-90s, so I’m as much of a tourist as anyone). There have been times I’ve visited cities abroad where I didn’t have wheels of my own or someone to take me around and I had limited time, and I’d get on a bus to get kind of an overview, figuring I could go back if I wanted to explore further.

    While this situation was particularly egrerious- someone interrupting a memorial service- I have to side with the point of view (which Dave Walker has apparentally) that the more people that actually see the devestation, the better it is. Does that include rubberneckers who just want to see a car wreck? Absolutely. But I think branding everyone who steps on a bus one way as being in search of a cheap thrill is overreaching, and is actually a variation of Davis pre-judging his neighbors cause they look like yuppies.

  9. doctorj2u permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:49 pm

    I have to disagree with the majority here. I was all for the tours because what we needed was Americans writing their representatives in Washington, D.C. to get us real flood protection. It was pretty hard not to get motivated when one saw the devastation first hand. Remember the times. The government was dragging their feet in everyway they could. Wasn’t it about that time that Bush pulled his support from the Baker Plan.? I am pretty sure it was Jan or Feb when the COE decided to just add 3 feet on the old incorrect flood maps, so at the time of this episode (Dec) people still could not rebuild and know if they could get insurance. Anyway, I wanted as many Americans as possible to see the truth of what it meant to be an American – ZILCH! As I said before, survival of the city was paramount over all else.

  10. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 7:08 pm

    P.S.- did I go to see the concentration camp Dachau when I visited Germany? Yes. Would I go to Ford’s Theater if I was in D.C. or Dealey Plaza if I ever visited Dallas? Yes. Tragic things happened in these places but somehow seeing where it happened and the life-size scope of it makes it more real, and bearing witness seems appropriate.

  11. April 27, 2010 9:43 pm

    I wouldn’t be taking pictures of people inside jail cells or family members mourning an assassinated president, however. Drive-by flash photography of people actually dealing with some hard shit is pretty damned rude.

  12. rickngentilly permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:31 pm

    2 cent

  13. bayoucreole permalink
    April 28, 2010 6:49 am

    As a New Orleans native for 40+ years and having those tour buses pass my house frequently, I went back and forth on this issue for a long time. My conclusion is…Yes, they got on my last nerve; YES, it was inappropriate to get off of the bus; Yes, to a thousand things that seemed wrong with the tours but,
    THE DEVASTATION NEEDED TO BE SEEN. We could never explain to people the TOTAL DEVASTATION OF THE HARDEST HIT AREAS…the lower 9, Lakeview, Gentilly(where I am).
    A person needed to SEE the gray grass, go through an area and suddenly notice…there’s no sound but us…not one bird in the area. I will say that, the tours that passed my house were all respectful…no flashes, no one got off the bus, when they saw me they all waved…I remember one person blew me a kiss as if to say…God bless you, hang in there.
    I wonder what they went back and told all of the people they know. We needed people to bring our story back to their homes, their cities.

  14. doctorj2u permalink
    April 28, 2010 7:34 am

    I can tell you the only pictures I took of destruction were personal sites, homes I had lived in, homes of my parents, homes of my grandparents, my schools, my parks. In other words, my life. I could not bring myself to take pictures of other people’s misery. There was one exception, I took a picture of a fellow gutter in front of his childhood home during our lunch break gutting St. Gabriel and I felt terrible doing that. We also took a picture of each of us at the Gentilly Woods sign also. That being said, I needed to be an eye witness. I needed to know with my own eyes the true of how my city was doing.
    Let’s just hope all those pictures made an impact on others to come help or at least made people angry enough to call their political representatives to protect New Orleans.

  15. bayoucreole permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:06 am

    @ doctorj2u…Gentilly Woods/Pontchartrain Park…St. Gabriel’s Church…wow, you were in my backyard. That’s where I am…6 degrees of separation.

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