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And then

May 24, 2010
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I don’t watch Treme alone. I thought that would help. But after the last episode, the death of Antoine’s mentor, finally finding Daymo’s body in a sea of refrigerated tractor trailers, the closing of Janette’s restaurant, the police brutality and the stupidity of empty low-income housing, I realized that hasn’t been enough. I wanted to be sharing that bottle with LaDonna by the last moments.

The conflicts and storylines are compelling and well-done and often more subtle and complicated than most viewers, or commenters, realize and I never got caught up in much that-ain’t-right “critique.” But the created conflicts, minor and major damages and hurts, the bodies, the losses, the disappointments in self, the hard tasks of being responsible or open-eyed or in need, the indifference that came from cruelty or immaturity or burnout, reflect in a concentrated chunk what life was then. And it’s not like I’d forgotten. We haven’t overcome that time period so we’re not watching What Was as much as what’s underneath all of What Is. So all the fury, heartbreak, depression, nausea, migraines and need for several very strong drinks is not back, as if it had left, but louder than the white noise it had become. I am also long past caring what others think of or understand of our collective, diasporic suffering. It’s gotten us oh so far these past 5 years.

So what do I have to say this time? Not very much.

35 Comments
  1. May 24, 2010 9:47 am

    I think you said it all.

  2. virgotex permalink*
    May 24, 2010 9:50 am

    The conflicts and storylines are compelling and well-done and often more subtle and complicated than most viewers, or commenters, realize and I never got caught up in much that-ain’t-right “critique.” But the created conflicts, minor and major damages and hurts, the bodies, the losses, the disappointments in self, the hard tasks of being responsible or open-eyed or in need, the indifference that came from cruelty or immaturity or burnout, reflect in a concentrated chunk what life was then

    Since I can’t really address the “that ain’t right” details, the other part is where I plug in. And the finding Daymo scenes, and the aftermath, were devastating. So much of it with no dialogue either.

    Rogan did good with this episode script. Also, a lot of us agree that Khandi Alexander has been kicking ass but goddamn, she was somewhere else tonight. On a different level entirely, and also entirely consistent with the previous characterization of LaDonna. What an unforgettable character, someone that most would say is just an “ordinary” woman, but her post-K story is for me the most gripping.

  3. samjasper permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:53 am

    “We haven’t overcome that time period so we’re not watching What Was as much as what’s underneath all of What Is.”

    Yeah. Exactly.

  4. May 24, 2010 10:59 am

    Part of what is so gripping is LaDonna “ordinariness,” i.e. that there are hundreds, thousands of LaDonnas out here.

  5. liprap permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:03 am

    “So all the fury, heartbreak, depression, nausea, migraines and need for several very strong drinks is not back, as if it had left, but louder than the white noise it had become. I am also long past caring what others think of or understand of our collective, diasporic suffering. It’s gotten us oh so far these past 5 years.”

    Hell. To. The. Yes.

  6. virgotex permalink*
    May 24, 2010 11:04 am

    Part of what is so gripping is LaDonna “ordinariness,” i.e. that there are hundreds, thousands of LaDonnas out here.

    Exactly.

  7. May 24, 2010 11:16 am

    I don’t watch alone either. I watch with a couple of people who like me happen to come from the Midwest. And it just occurred to me as I read this post that maybe, just maybe, I slip into a Midwestern mindset when I sit down to watch this show. Maybe I pretend on some level that I’m still in the Midwest. Not having been born and raised here in New Orleans, I can get a little emotional distance pretending I’m watching from afar — that all this stuff is interesting but it happened to other people.

    I also always have stiff drink in hand when the show begins.

  8. May 24, 2010 11:34 am

    We don’t watch Treme alone either.

    Also at the same time we’re watching with New Orleans friends, two of whom had moved back by the end of October, sitting alone (neither married, one with an older child, who wasn’t with him) in the nights, no electricity, no water, no one else in the neighborhood — on right at the top of the 9th, so his house didn’t flood, though not much further away all the houses did). Both of these friends got HBO just for Treme.

    It would be hard to watch these alone, but even harder to watch with those who didn’t experience this personally.

  9. May 24, 2010 11:35 am

    Or, maybe not, it being harder to watch with those who didn’t experience all this?

    We certainly do discuss the show with other friends who do watch and love it, some of whom have never even visited NO — though they all love and know the music.

  10. brueso permalink
    May 24, 2010 1:18 pm

    The scenes of the seemingly endless trucks of dead were upsetting and haunting. Couldn’t help but think “They let this happen in America?”

  11. May 24, 2010 1:28 pm

    At some point, I wish there were a scene in which one of the characters had a truly horrific experience and woke to found it was a dream, and walked out to have a cigarette to clear their head and picked up yesterday’s newspaper; something to communicate the nowness of this “history”. Perhaps at the end of a season (this one’s in the can; maybe next), a confusing mash up of a plot line we thought resolved in some new and certainly worse way that was simply a reflecting of what everyone carries inside.

  12. May 24, 2010 1:42 pm

    What you wrote puts all the approximation of reality critique talk in perspective.

  13. virgotex permalink*
    May 24, 2010 1:52 pm

    It would be hard to watch these alone, but even harder to watch with those who didn’t experience this personally.

    There are many thousands of people who did experience this personally even though they may have never been in New Orleans, much less been there post-K.

    Those people are Americans. Of course, this is a New Orleans story, it happened to New Orleanians at a level of immediacy that non-New Orleanians can’t understand the same way. But there are other levels, and they too are intense. It happened in America, the failure was a failure of America, and I know it may not seem that way to those of you in NO, but for lots of us it WAS a personal experience. The same way 9/11 was a personal experience, the same way the oil catastrophe is a personal experience.

    It’s the experience of watching our civilization in decline. For me anyway, it was not/is not an abstract concept.

  14. May 24, 2010 1:58 pm

    The haunting thought for me in that scene is just how many more Daymos there were, and how many have no family to find them.

    The scene it itself may have been their only real elegy.

  15. zukeeper permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:20 pm

    I always have a stiff drink in hand when the show ends. Funny thing, I used to dislike Monday mornings, mostly because I have to hit the ground running so early, and there are always fires to put out. Now I wake up with my head teaming not so much with how to solve whatever client issue has cropped up over the weekend, but with thoughts about all the various threads in the show. I guess I just process better when I’m not fully awake.

    One thought – does it seem likely to everyone that the prodigal son will return to mask in his father’s place? There are so many possible scenarios around this particular character’s situation. I’ve been waiting for the resolution of whether the kid he beat up lives or dies. Either way, I keep expecting someone to come knocking. Maybe the kid lives and sees him on the television…

  16. May 24, 2010 2:22 pm

    Thank you, virgotex, you are spot-on re this being an American story as well as a NOLA story. I watch the program w/ my sweetie. I’ve been to NOLA, she has not. We came in through the Wire back door, I suppose. (& the Frank’s Place back door, too.)

    This episode was what I was expecting in terms of dread, death, & destruction of souls. It just seemed to be headed that way the past few episodes. My sweetie Knew that Daymo was dead, I thought he was still on the run. That was the one exception. She was right, though. Pretty heavy stuff yesterday, maybe it’s good they’re taking a week off, hunh?

    & we generally drink good red wine when we watch the program, …

  17. virgotex permalink*
    May 24, 2010 2:38 pm

    yeah, I think they are different circles of stories. Interlocking and radiating outward.

    In no way would I claim ownership of the narrative of those living there.

  18. May 24, 2010 4:29 pm

    It might look like I’m watching alone, but really I’m watching with y’all.

  19. KATHY FETTKETHER permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:37 pm

    I am also from the Midwest and still am. I have a brother that has lived in NOLA for about 40 yrs and I have visited NOLA about 30 times at least starting in the early 70’s. When they have evacuated they have often driven here to Des Moines because my house is their house anytime not just when they need one. His wife has lived there all her life and they are both social workers and NOLA is lucky to have them. The saddest news…I work in an office of about 80 midwesterners. Is anyone else watching the show to actually get an idea of the truth of what really happened to my family’s beloved city…so far not one! Believe me I know because I am asking all my coworkers just trying to find one more. MF’ers

  20. liprap permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:43 pm

    Only one solution to that problem, madame. Got the first few eps DVR’d, or do you know someone who’s recorded them already? Get hold of them and have a party. Everyone can then at least have some food and fun, and it increases the chances of folks in your office getting hooked. I gar-an-tee. Good luck.

  21. liprap permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:45 pm

    I second that. Really, if I didn’t have this blog to contribute to right now, I’d be going even crazier than I already am.

  22. rickngentilly permalink
    May 24, 2010 5:25 pm

    bart like it or not you got duel citizen ship.

    city hall speech , bought two homes in orleans parish , work in orleans parish, had a kid here.

    hope yall never leave.

    also hope we get some calm after the oil spill and hurricane season winds down.

  23. May 24, 2010 5:55 pm

    “It’s the experience of watching our civilization in decline. ”

    The end of the American century. The end of much, much, much, and more than even we can know now, who are living through it.

    Just desserts?

    Not for those like so many whose generations in NOLA go back so far, who are not responsible in any way for the sins, crimes and errors of the American century.

  24. May 24, 2010 5:59 pm

    As for family in the midwest, their attitude is that “We are different from those welfare propped up criminals down there. We got flooded and got no help and took not a cent from the government, and rebuilt all by ourselves and did not loot.”

    What can you do?

    I tried every level of information and facts and sources and cites, and even with fema check in hand they deny they’re getting any government help.

    Which fema check btw, they got within weeks.

  25. May 24, 2010 6:17 pm

    GB, I should’ve mentioned earlier, this is a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes this morning when I read it in the email notification at work and stayed in the back of my mind all day.

  26. May 24, 2010 10:10 pm

    Rick, we have to add being in Geauxjira to Bart’s list.

  27. virgotex permalink*
    May 25, 2010 10:14 am

    Seconded.

  28. May 25, 2010 10:25 am

    I’m watching with y’all.

    Heh, my unspoken reason for creating this space.

    It’s utterly pathetic but telling that I can’t watch this show without D or a glass of wine. Tried viewing it once without a physical buttress, but found that a mental one is as crutch-like.

  29. May 25, 2010 11:58 am

    What astounded me about the trailers (secondly, after the sheer number had registered) was Khandi Alexander. Perhaps I’m reading into this, but it seemed to me, even with her own tremendous shock, she felt empathy for all those others, all those other family members going through their own personal hells in order to end up where she was, having gazed into a body bag. That moment is what opened it up–to say, it’s not just me, it’s bigger than me, and who knows when you might be standing right here yourself. It might not be a flood, it might be an earthquake or a blizzard or who knows what.

  30. virgotex permalink*
    May 25, 2010 12:05 pm

    absolutely – that moment when she doubles over – you almost think she’s going to vomit, but it’s like she gets gutpunched by how overwhelming it is.

  31. liprap permalink
    May 25, 2010 12:07 pm

    Faced with the enormity of such catastrophic loss, it can hit you like it did LaDonna. I think you’re right about that one, VenetianBlond.

    It’s the same feeling I got when I walked inside a ruined, flooded out house when I first moved back to New Orleans, then walked outside of it to get relief only to find none, as the whole neighborhood was like that. There was no consolation among those trailers, only death and no one to assert the humanity of the ones who died, to say, “Here was my uncle, aunt, sister, brother, mother, father, good friend, or co-worker.”

    And LaDonna’s going to keep that feeling bottled up inside her to spare her family during Carnival? Can’t decide if she can take that or if it’s going to tear her up inside and out – and neither can she.

  32. Scott Harney permalink
    May 27, 2010 10:43 am

    I don’t watch it on Sunday night anymore. The wife and I usually go out to dba/spotted cat sunday evenings and don’t get home and sit down to watch till around 10pm or so. And that means we don’t get to watch anything after Treme before we crash. This has turned out to be a bad idea as both of us end up having bad dreams and poor sleep which does not bode well for Monday morning and work. So instead we come home and watch “House Hunters” or some other garbage for a bit and watch Treme on DVR on Monday followed by “House Hunters” or some other garbage😉

    seriously. I had some crazy dreams the last time i watched right before going to bed.

  33. May 27, 2010 10:59 am

    No bad dreams here but a lingering sourness of mood I recognize from the early PFTD/Post-Floods Traumatic Syndrome [more precise than Post-Katrina Traumatic Syndrome/PKTD] and which is semi-debilitating any day of the week.

    Perhaps those of us here, who were here post-Floods, should make a point next season, or the rest of this season, to watch together, in a bar, on a Wednesday afternoon, never when it rains, never at night, never after a funeral, and vow to process it not through discussion but only through alcohol.

    So much death in the years after the Floods. How, or if, that will be conveyed I’m also waiting to see. But I do trust David Simon. He makes a fucking good series.

  34. May 27, 2010 11:01 am

    Couldn’t help but think “They let this happen in America?”

    Yep, sure did. Hence the traumatizing effects of the whole post-Floods period. That scene, plus others, really brings that unhealed hurt back to the surface.

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