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Day to Day Living

May 28, 2010

“Any idiot can handle a crisis–it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

— Anton Chekhov

Most movies, most TV shows, most productions, are about The Moment. They’re about the death, the birth, the big game, the finish line, the culmination of a project, the first flight, the raising of the barn, the graduation, the triumph or tragedy that is the definition of an entire life. The music swells, the hero steps on stage, executes the perfect move, and we fade to black.

Treme, just like the Wire, just like that space show with the hot chick I like, just like most of the really good stuff I read, is about the day to day living. About not one moment but a hundred of them, crashing over you, a thousand tiny things: the contractor not showing up, the tools getting stolen, the paperwork lost, the hot water crapping out, playing in the airport, finding an old friend, the omelette getting burned.

It’s why this show snuck up on me, I think: it’s the sum total of what’s happening that makes up The Moment. And the sum total of someone’s character on the show isn’t how they act once, but how they act over and over and over again. It’s why Sonny sucks and LaDonna’s awesome: he keeps falling down and she keeps getting up. Not once, but a hundred times.

A lot of people are good at The Grand Gesture, in no small part because our entire pop culture is about that, about holding a boombox over your head in the early morning fog. They’re good at being the Hero. It’s being just the third guy from the left, in the day to day living, that will fuck them up every time.

A.

12 Comments
  1. doctorj2u permalink
    May 28, 2010 8:02 pm

    I really believe that is the only way for a show to capture the true New Orleans, because it is all about the living. What surprises me is that there are people from outside New Orleans that would slow down long enough to take the moment in. It is not in this country’s nature. Luckily, I am a native and therefore I have no problem with that. LOL!

  2. rickngentilly permalink
    May 28, 2010 10:24 pm

    you hit on one of the reasons i love this show.

    i allways watch it asap and than wait a day or two to watch it a second time.

    the second viewing comes at ya so good like that second hit on your pallete from a good wine or a really layered bite of food.

    after the season is over i’m looking forward to taking one of my vacation days to watch all ten as a meal.

    should be sublime.

  3. May 29, 2010 8:54 am

    So true. It’s the struggle of everyday life and trying to live between the ticks of the clock.

  4. May 29, 2010 10:33 am

    That echos in the characters themselves. As a function of the story woven by all of the accumulated moments, the characters unfold as multidimensional, less Good vs. Bad, more a combination thereof. The same Antoine who gives the beautiful instrument he was just given, almost rolls his eyes when promising his children he will visit, fully acknowledging he won’t.

  5. May 29, 2010 10:47 am

    “A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s the shit that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.” –Lester Freamon

  6. May 29, 2010 11:02 am

    This, not the big crisis, is the stuff of anxiety attacks and meds. That which makes a chest hurt right there when watching the show build up.

  7. May 29, 2010 12:06 pm

    The accumulated moments construct complex, nuanced characters.

    A lot of people are good at The Grand Gesture, in no small part because our entire pop culture is about that, about holding a boombox over your head in the early morning fog. They’re good at being the Hero. It’s being just the third guy from the left, in the day to day living, that will fuck them up every time.

    This makes me think of Antoine generously giving the instrument he was given, vested in a largely symbolic, almost honorary, gesture while wincing painfully at his children’s pleas for a visit from their absentee father.

  8. Anita permalink
    May 29, 2010 10:19 pm

    LaDonna said it when she decided, “No, I’m not doing this now. Wednesday, I’ll sign the papers, deal with the funeral home, do whatever I have to do but, right now, no.”

    I used to think people in New Orleans were happy-go-lucky, maybe even childish a bit in their love of Mardi Gras. But in life, there are so many times adults have to make a decision like LaDonna’s. “There’s bad news but I’m not spoiling the kid’s graduation,” or “There’s bad news but mama’s in the hospital and I’m not bringing that to her.” Even though the bad stuff hasn’t gone away, nothing is solved and it will all be there Wednesday, today it’s Mardi Gras and we’re calling time out simply to celebrate life.

    Sometimes I think that is the real secret of Mardi Gras. New Orleans is full of people who grow up knowing how to celebrate even when things are very bad and sometimes life itself is the only thing there is to celebrate. The harder our life is–and often life is very hard here–the more we need to celebrate it.

  9. Virgotex permalink
    May 30, 2010 6:03 am

    Well said, Anita.
    But also, I think LaDonna did this just for her mother. It might be her mother’s last MardiGras.

  10. Anita permalink
    May 30, 2010 2:32 pm

    Oh, yes, absolutely. She made that clear. I was thinking more about what she was demanding of herself in order to go through with it.

  11. wigatrisk permalink
    May 30, 2010 6:01 pm

    Ray! That popped into my head too when I just read athenae’s post. All of those shots of Lester working on his miniature furniture were significant.

  12. liprap permalink
    May 30, 2010 11:40 pm

    One of the merciful actions I was taught as a kid was, if you don’t think someone is going to be able to handle bad news – that it’ll be earth-shattering to the point of debilitation to tell someone they have an incurable disease, for instance – then, by all means, don’t tell them. LaDonna knows how much finding Daymo means to her mother – hell, it’s one of the main reasons why her mama’s staying put in New Orleans – but there’s no way in hell she’s going to tell her mama now, not with Mardi Gras close at hand…which is similar to something else I was taught: a simcha, or a happy occasion, nearly always trumps a sad one.

    It constantly amazes me how, when New Orleanians are at their best, they are some of the strongest people ever. The inner fortitude LaDonna must muster over and over again in the face of all she encounters is indicative of that quality. But she’s such a vulnerable character under it all that I just want to give her a huge hug and a new roof for Gigi’s.

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