Xmas in Debrisville
Last night’s episode “At the Foot of Canal Street” was, like the first, as much about character as the momentum of the plot: a slow, kaleidoscopic realignment of the characters in revealing ways — Lulu’s son showing up for practice, and Lambreaux’s dinner with them, the divergence of Annie and Sonny (and Janette leaving Davis alone at the bar with his political delusions), the entire constellation of Antoine and his sons and LaDonna and her husband, the contrast of Creighton’s ranting personality with the man in front of the tree.
It’s Christmas in Debrisville and if Creighton’s screed seems out of place with the holiday spirit of him decorating a tree, it was a Christmas when trees were artificial if you didn’t flood and but otherwise absent if you were home. Outside viewers may have missed the significance of the moment but when he held up the ornament his daughter had made in first grade every heart in New Orleans stopped for a moment. For every one like Creighton’s safe on his Uptown tree there were a thousand drowned and lost.
There was just enough Dickens in this episode to remind us of the season: the Bernettes’ tree, the window decals as Annie busked outside the Apple Barrel (Liz! You’re a TV Star!), the Christian charity of LaDonna’s husband fixing Antoine’s teeth (after dithering over her helping with her brother); even the scene in which the prisoner tells the story of LaDonna’s brother seemed a genuine recantation when confronted by LaDonna’s mother.
There was also just enough despair to remind everyone that after almost five months, simple things like lighting the burners on the stove of Janette’s restaurant was a crap shoot, that the streets could swallow your car in an inattentive moment (I’m surprised he didn’t get a nail flat instead, but that wouldn’t have advanced Davis’ new political career), the unwanted holiday present of a headline asking why rebuild New Orleans, Batiste has a tooth but as a toss away line by Toni Bernette tells us she spent a day unsuccessfully looking for his instrument (which means that cops took it and Annie and Sonny could not rescue it).
At this point we are still in the power of the ghost of Debrisville Christmas present, but there were clear signals of where the ghost of the future may take us: into a more complex Antoine (who I earlier complained seemed a bit flat and cartoonish), into a separation of Annie and Sonny that everyone watching hopes does not involve a Ginzu knife, toward hope for LaDonna and her mother and a new life for Albert.
The last was the most touching: the boy who seemed so unpromising showing up for practice, a hope for the future even as Albert buries his wildman and loses that man’s son to a distant city, together with Lulu’s dinner invitation were a poignant reminder that Christmas is a holiday of promise and hope, the joy of the newborn without much thought for the bloody crucifixion waiting at the end; a reminder that we are all if not precisely a city of saints, then at least like the early Christians a people washed in the gospel of New Orleans, willing to look past the trials and tribulations of this world toward what is — for us — a secular version of redemption for New Orleans and ourselves, the promise of a new Jerusalem of parades and po-boys, of a bright coming home like that promised by John Boutte’s song At the Foot of Canal Street.
— Mark “wet bank guy” Folse