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Who I Am Without You

April 27, 2010

From liprap’s post:

You can go out into the world and get hung up so on what you don’t have that you don’t see what gifts you do have from the very start of your life. There is no place else like New Orleans, and it doesn’t necessarily deserve to be left behind just because its musicians aren’t as respected at home as they are abroad.

I need to know more about what happened to Delmond now. NEED TO. Because New Orleans was lost to him before the storm, and the storm just made it final. That’s coming clear to me now, in his bitterness and in his understanding, to an extent, of his father.

You leave a place, a beloved place, for one reason or another. The band breaks up and you don’t want to be the last one left. There’s a better job elsewhere. Family demands. You cut that cord, but the place pulls on you. You wake in the night and stumble down the wrong hallway. The smell of percolating coffee and for just a second  you’re in the wrong kitchen. The place is there, but you’re gone. You can deal with what’s lost, I think, in a few dozen ways, most commonly these:

Rationalize why you left as the place not being good enough for you. It sucked, the people sucked, they’re all just kidding themselves living like that, why don’t they grow up. They don’t appreciate musicians there. They didn’t appreciate me there. I couldn’t have the life I’m living now if I had stayed there. Fuck it and fuck them and I’m never going to think about it again, never going back to visit, gonna shove it in a box along with my childhood teddy bear and never talk about it to anyone except to say how glad, HOW GLAD DO YOU HEAR ME, that I got out of there.

It might be true. That’s not the point.

Recreate the place as perfection. The water never came out of the pipes rusty, the bills never went unpaid, you were never poor and desperate, the bus was never late, and most of all you never fought there. Everybody loved everybody and everything, and it was the first day of summer every day, and nothing you or I or anyone can do will ever measure up to that golden spot.

It might be true. That’s not the point.

In either scenario you’re not where you are. You’re where you used to be, either, because that place isn’t real. It’s heaven or it’s hell, and you are cast out, either way. You’re not seeing the gifts the place gave you, and you’re not seeing clear why you left the place that gave you those gifts. And you can run from that place all your life, idealizing or making excuses, but it’ll still be there, lurking in your heart like New Orleans lurks in the back of Delmond’s eyes as he plays along with the guys, as he tries so very very hard to stay angry and forget.

You know, I do believe I’m starting to like this show a lot.


  1. liprap permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:36 am

    I can’t help but feel that something happened to him, too. He’s haunted by either events or by the whole specter of the city and its people. Some voice within is constantly tugging at him to get…out…but there’s a whispering behind his demeanor. He’s stuck. The music is all around him, but it hasn’t really grabbed his heart – or he’s not letting it do that.

  2. April 27, 2010 10:36 am

    Interesting to compare Delmond’s feelings about where he came from to those of the lost son we have not yet met, LaDonna’s brother Daymo. I don’t think it was just wishful thinking when their mother said, “Wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, he’s thinking about this house and how to get back here.”

    Remember the look on Delmond’s face when his father is driving him to the airport. He looked like a kid about ready to cry.

  3. Scott Harney permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:39 am

    It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a bit of Cyril Neville in the Delmond character.

  4. liprap permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:57 am

    Getting out from under Albert’s position as a big chief and community leader might well be part of it. That’s some heavy shoes to be filling if you decide to follow in those footsteps. There’s Albert calling and calling Delmond, and getting no answer.

    There were apparently some real struggles between the late Tootie Montana, “chief of chiefs” of the Yellow Pocahontas, and his son Daryl concerning the designs of Daryl’s suits, among many other sources of conflict. It can’t be easy growing up as the son of someone that solid on the traditions and on right and wrong.

  5. April 27, 2010 11:03 am

    Nor can it be easy, I imagine, listening to all the people who admire your father and depend on him talk about somebody you only kind of know, because you’re not one of his band of traditionalists, you’re his kid, and that’s a whole different context.


  6. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 11:15 am

    I suspect that what happened to Delmond was nothing earth-shattering, just a typical rejection of parental values. I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown; but now, if i thought I could find a job there, I’d move my whole family. Sometimes, New Orleanian chauvinism can get oppressive too: I can see catching the music bug and devoting one’s self to it, but getting weary of the hey-check-out-our-sackcloth-and-ashes-outfits-this-is-the-best-place-EVAR attitude. I don’t get the impression that there was *an incident* that made him leave, but hey.

    I think Delmond is facing an approach-avoid situation, like breaking up with a lover and then finding out that he/she is critically ill. Do you go back and try to be compassionate, maybe bringing up feelings that you thought were over and done with, or do you say “fuck it” and carry on? Does he have real roots in NOLA (in his heart of hearts, I mean), or has he done what almost all young people do at some point and rejected the ways of his father to walk his own path?

    Regarding Daymo: I kind of hope they don’t find him, not because I want to see those characters suffer, but because he seems to represent the great loss of meaning and spirit after the storm. He’s a symbol for their previous lives, something they all wish could come back, walk right through the door, but which in reality has vanished, leaving only memories.

    The New Daymo — still thinking of him as Slim Charles — is the post-K NOLA, filled with new people, rougher around the edges, the same but not the same, and hard to reconcile with memories. If I were plotting this, not only would Davis be squeezing out those douchebag echolocation farts previously mentioned, but the search for Daymo would reveal great malfeasance, prisoners left for dead, maybe unaccounted for bodies and a conspiracy to cover them up — but not Daymo, who would stay gone, an unanswered question and an irreparable loss.

  7. April 27, 2010 11:21 am

    agreed. It seems pretty obvious the script is setting something like this up.

  8. April 27, 2010 11:34 am

    The film “Tootie’s Last Suit” really should be required reading here. Purportedly a documentary about Tootie’s impending retirement as Chief of Chiefs, it inadvertently becomes the story of a son trying to live up to his father’s legacy without being overshadowed by it, and a father’s inability to show his feelings or communicate with his son.

  9. April 27, 2010 12:52 pm

    To be all non-poetical for the moment, and to be all career-profession-maturity practical?

    It’s really good to get away from home, at least for a while. It opens you to new ideas, broadens what you already have, and teaches you what you do not know. And it makes connections among the things you already know and what you haven’t yet encountered.

    That holds true about everywhere, not only New Orleans.

    Me? Delmond will come home to New Orleans, at least part-time. He will have a rapprochement with his father, his traditions and his city. Because, yanno, it’s like that with the people born and bred in New Orleans. That Delmond is a jazz cat only would make it more so.

    In case anyone fears I’m being snarky in that above paragraph? I’m absolutely sincere saying that about the people and New Orleans. No people in the U.S. are so strongly rooted in their place as New Orleanians.

  10. April 27, 2010 1:08 pm

    Agree with Greggy and Foxessa. Of the people here who grew up in New Orleans and graduated from high school here, raise your hand if you left town for a long while, couldn’t wait to leave town in fact.

    For me, I was dying to leave. For various reasons I desperately needed to put some distance between me and my family. I really wanted to live somewhere that wasn’t a punk rock backwater. I wanted to get away from New Orleans-style ignorance…hell, I just wanted to be somewhere where I could talk to a pretty girl and when she talked back she wouldn’t have a fucking Y’at accent.

    And when I finished college with two degrees in Computer Science, it didn’t even occur to me to give New Orleans a single look as far as career goes. Because New Orleans then and now is practically the third world as far as high tech goes. I did the Bay Area for a few years and then Austin for a lot more years.

    But the city still had a pull. I remember the first time I didn’t manage to come home for Mardi Gras, a couple of years after I got out of school, and I had a horrible ache in my heart. I remember trying to find crawfish in San Francisco and the results would have been comical if they weren’t so depressing. And every time I came home it got harder and harder to leave, but I couldn’t figure out how to live in New Orleans and still make a living. Katrina changed my life and finally gave me the push I needed to come home, even if the gods and demons of family court eventually dragged me back to Texas after a few years.

    Anyway, I completely identify with Delmond not wanting to stay, wanting to put some distance between home and what he’s trying to build as his new life. I think a lot of people who are from here and then left would identify as well.

  11. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 1:57 pm

    IO think it’s a telling, wry little comment about NOLA attitudes that Delmond has really done well for himself, making a good living in the very competitive New York music scene, playing jazz (even harder) and getting prestigious gigs at Lincoln Center f’god’s sake, and all of his New Orleans family and friends are like “They serve red beans up in dat Lincoln club? Aw, then fuck ’em! Pffft Lincoln center my ass.”

    It’s like that Monty Python skit where the kid leaves home against the wishes of his playwright father to become a coal miner. “‘Tungsten carbide drills’? You and your bloody posh talk.”

  12. alli permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:00 pm

    Y’all saw Darryl in that last scene of Ep. 3, right?

  13. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:01 pm

    Forgot to add, regarding this: “I completely identify with Delmond not wanting to stay, wanting to put some distance between home and what he’s trying to build as his new life. I think a lot of people who are from here and then left would identify as well.”

    Not just here — that’s universal. They’ve hung it in a New Orleans frame, but anyone watching can relate to that. Didn’t Albert call him the Prodigal Son when he first stepped out of the cab?

    Some Tremé stories are particularly New Orleans, but that’s one of the arcs that will continue to pull in viewers who don’t know/care/understand about levees or cultural authenticity, etc.

  14. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:16 pm

    I’d lean more towards the practical in explaining Delmond’s move, though I’m sure ‘getting out from under a father who was a big figure’ is part of it. It sucks to have to leave where you love being because you can be more successful in your work somewhere else, and that happens the most for musicians – and actors, for that matter. You think alot of people actually want to live in L.A.? Heck, even Wendell Pierce also has a house (or condos or whatever) in L.A. and NYC besides N.O.. Why is that? Cause sometimes that’s where he’s gotta be to be able to get work that will both advance him and provide more for his family. It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to be in N.O. all the time if he could, and now thankfully Treme will allow him to do it moreso.

  15. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:25 pm

    True enough, but Delmond has made it clear that his father’s passion for the culture is not something he shares — “That was always your thing.” Whether he feels that way down deep, I don’t know yet.

  16. April 27, 2010 2:51 pm

    Do we actually know where where Delmond is currently living, is based?

    That Lincoln Center gig is a benefit gig for New Orleans. It isn’t HIS gig. He got called, because, presumably he’s a first call cat and because he’s got some name — that the Really Big Name Cat Who Put It Together knows, and BECAUSE Delmond is, to whatever degree now, intimately connected to New Orleans through his family, and the Big Name knows this.

    In his earlier career Donald Harrison lived in Brooklyn a long time — long enough to even mentor Biggy Smalls in the day in the concept and practice of melody, for example. Dr. John’s got a place in — the Bronx, Queens? I always forget. Ack.

  17. April 27, 2010 2:56 pm

    When I was growing up and in my earlier adult life I loathed gardening and everything and anything about it. My mother, like all her mothers before her, were passionate gardeners by choice and by necessity (gardening made it possible to eat a whole lot better, particularly when there was no money).

    Now that I’m older the more I love gardening myself.

    Go figger.

  18. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 3:03 pm

    I think that Wynton set up the Lincoln Center gig, but since we already saw Delmond playing at The Blue Note (and seemingly headlining there), in the jazz world, that’s a pretty high level club for him to playing at and indicates he’s doing well.

  19. greg p permalink
    April 27, 2010 3:08 pm

    Delmond currently lives in New York. The point I was making doesn’t rest on whether he got the Lincoln Center gig on his own, but on the fact that he views it, and his New York career (rightly) as worthy accomplishments, and everyone else could give a shit.

    Check out that pizza scene again, where Delmond tries to convince Trombone Shorty to move to NY: some other guy, who I can’t remember his goddamned name, says, hey, we’ve all been around the world, played every kind of gig — there’s no place like New Orleans — and Delmond just shakes his head at the provincial motherfuckers. He thinks, rightly or wrongly, that he’s making it big and had to leave NOLA to do that and can’t understand their lack of ambition — echoing Davis’s comment to Kermit in the first episode.

  20. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:36 pm

    It’s that way in the acting world, too. I know alot of actors here in Seattle who love living here, but I’d guess at best one or two are able to make a living from acting- they all have to have day jobs. (If by fluke someone is able to make a living from it in one year, doing it twice in a row would be as unlikely as getting hit by lightning twice). So you start to think about L.A. or NYC where a good role might pay the mortage for a year, plus lead to other things. That kind of move gets harder for people to do if they have kids, etc.

    I remember when Branford Marsalis was interviewed after doing the first Sting tour, and he was very blunt about what he thought of the music- said he hated it, “but if I do this tour, I’ll have enough money to get my own band on tour to Japan.”

  21. doctorj2u permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:37 pm

    I read in the paper that the character of Delmond is based on Donald Harrison Jr. I am pretty sure Delmond will see the light.

  22. brueso permalink
    April 27, 2010 7:02 pm

    Or he could become like Wendell (or musically- Branford. Does Branford still live in N.O.?) . He’ll make alot of NYC money, keep a place there, and keep a place in N.O.

  23. doctorj2u permalink
    April 27, 2010 7:43 pm

    Or Terrence Blanchard and come back home and bring a whole new Jazz school to the city. LOL!

  24. ferngrrl permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:44 am

    I agree with greg p and brueso especially much.

    Like I said the other day: Louis Armstrong left (granted, that had lots to do with segregation).

    I left, and many people that I knew were aching to leave a backwards, provincial place that couldn’t protect its coast or its environment and couldn’t figure out a way to educate people. The reasons are myriad. My sister has been gone since the early 90s (is in Japan); brother, too (in Vancouver, WA).

    There is no right or wrong. People continue to leave; people continue to vilify those people for leaving. We ain’t made from cookie cutters; for some, it’s the best thing to do. Safety is one good criteria for deciding. The periods of anxiety (and the financial preparation that goes with) of each hurricane season, doing the evacuation, the cost of it ($ and otherwise). The older I get, the harder it is. It’s not fun, it’s not an adventure, and it is expensive.

    Had it not been for the storm, I would not have come back. I still am 50-50 about whether it was a smart idea, practically (and that is *very* important, since “practically” includes income, savings, retirement, stress levels, how many jobs you have to work, and whether or not you are living in a place that shares your core values.)

    So, the food and the music and the lush vegetation usually carry me through the terrible days. But I really did love Seattle!

    It’s not always about family, either.

  25. ferngrrl permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:46 am


  26. ferngrrl permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:50 am

    I agree, mostly. For me, being gone 20 years included some visits back and some nostalgia, but I did not miss the crime, the anger, the attitudes, and so on. The negative things had become more than the positive things. Some days, they still are. But, yeah, how to earn a living here? The storm, plus a good job, brought me back. Guess I thought I could help somehow, I dunno. Is paying property tax helping? 😉

  27. ferngrrl permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:52 am

    Yep. And that “being rooted” cuts many ways, for better and for worse.

  28. ferngrrl permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:55 am

    Yep, he did. Albert must be one heck of a dad to have. And remember when he first met up with Albert, and Albert made him go pay the water bill? 🙂

    I’m afraid that a) they will find Daymo and he’ll be a dealer or somethin’, b) they will not find Daymo, and c) they will find Daymo’s body.

  29. April 28, 2010 1:40 pm

    It’s not NYC money that mostly provides a decent living for a jazz player. It’s Europe and Japan, all the festivals, all the clubs and so on. The jazz scene in NYC isn’t that big. Really. Particularly for Latin jazz. It is more convenient professionally to be located in NYC, due to the enormous international tourism and scouts for gigs and festivals in other countries. You go to the Blue Note and the largest number of paying audience is Asians and Europeans from Germany and Scandanavia. For one thing it’s really expensive to hear music in a place like the Blue Note or Lincoln Center. Jazz here is a classical music mostly, which like opera and ballet, exists within a small protected bubble by and large, supported by some public funds and the patronage of the wealthy.

  30. rickngentilly permalink
    April 30, 2010 12:00 am

    eventually becoming a saint who led people thru the desert.

    an enigma touchable by all.

    filling needs and wants.

    like father red will be one day long after we are gone.

    i like that plot line.

    or am i reading to much into it?

  31. greg p permalink
    April 30, 2010 1:42 am

    Maybe just a tad.

  32. jeffrey permalink
    May 1, 2010 11:58 am

    I know I’m like five days late to this but at least I didn’t leave BP in charge while I was gone. The thing that just hit me is at some point I expect Delmond to have a come-to-Jesus moment where he decides he needs to get REALLY involved in rebuilding New Orleans. Gets named to all sorts of boards that might at first glance seem over the head of a horn-player. Makes a lot of friends in politics, ends up opening a kind of faux-New York “classy” club in a hotel on Bourbon Street. That sort of thing.

  33. racymind permalink
    May 1, 2010 3:52 pm

    You didn’t say ” Simon sez.”

  34. May 1, 2010 11:21 pm

    You forgot the tribal tattoos, man.

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