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Unasked, Unanswered

June 21, 2010
by

A tale of two servants:

The famous personalist philosopher Martin Buber, whose name is associated with the I-Thou relation, underwent a profound conversion in his life. One day he was preoccupied with some religious duty he felt he had to perform after class. At the end of the class a student asked to speak with him. Buber was still preoccupied with whatever the religious duty was that he felt he had to perform.*

Many of us are angry at Toni, and not without reason.

Through the brief window we’ve been given in the Bernette household, we’ve seen Toni running around and helping those in need while taking for granted what she has at home. Just because she has a roof over her head and all immediate family members are accounted for doesn’t mean that all is well in her own house, but she can’t see what we see – and when she does catch some glimpses of the problem under her nose, she refuses to see it for what it is.

Perhaps it is because she sees so much pain already in the faces of the citizens she’s trying to help in the madness that is post-flood New Orleans. Commenters have talked of actress Melissa Leo correctly getting that look on Toni’s face of this entire world on her shoulders giving her some hell. It’s a rough place, constantly trying to defend the civil rights of other people. To those she serves in that world, she is a counselor in every sense of the word…but at home, she could unwind. Loosen up. Show her anger. Maybe she could even be coaxed into having some fun despite herself.

He later described the meeting with the student by saying that he answered all the questions the student asked but left unanswered the questions the student left unasked. What Buber meant was that he was not sufficiently present to read the real reason the student wanted to speak with him. Later he learned that the student committed suicide.*

There is a huge disconnect that Toni has never really bridged in all of her efforts to help the disadvantaged, and it’s a trap that we all fall into when we are faced with the problems we read about in other places versus what we have at home. Anyone who has a caring nature and the wherewithal to follow that nature wherever it goes stands before events and horrors that can make the mundane seem absolutely trivial. Tragedies a world away can blind you to the terrors of your own backyard.

In Toni’s case, the tragedies beyond her home are closer by, but the blindness is the same. The problems of one’s child, the struggles of a spouse…they are eclipsed by the unlawful shooting of unarmed citizens in need of help, by musicians harassed by the police, by people who want to bring the storm-tossed ones home, dead or alive, despite bureaucracies that would deny this right. And it doesn’t take much to prioritize those trials over what seem like trivial goings-on at home in comparison.

It is this imbalance, this tipping of the scales towards the priorities of others that got Toni indignant whenever she found Creigh asleep anywhere around the house outside of his own bed. How dare he upset her priorities? He’s not supposed to be weak like this – he doesn’t deal with what she sees every day. How can he know what real pain and loss is? Dear God, get off the porch, and don’t let Sophie see you like this. Don’t let the world see you like this.

Buber saw that the religious thing to do when the student asked to see him was to be present to the student. The Jewish philosopher came to see that the holy person is the person who is present to others.*

Thing is, Toni is all too present to others, learning quite belatedly how ethereal she has been to the one who should have been closest by. She still can’t think beyond her mentality in the trenches of Louisiana’s courts – never give up, there is always a way, never say die.

But people do give up. They can have a damn hard time seeing a way. Everyone, eventually, dies.

And Toni is left with one of the cruelest lessons of all – that life is so, so short and some things cannot be solved through attention to paperwork, timelines, and points of law. The thousand intricate cuts of a loved one’s inner pain defy any and all civil statutes. There is no logic, no rhyme or reason, only insurmountable anguish that finds its tortured peace, at long last, at the bottom of a mighty river.

_______________________

*From this article on aging and mystery. Sure, it’s in a Catholic journal, but Buber’s messages reached well beyond the Judaism in which they were based.

61 Comments
  1. June 21, 2010 9:31 am

    Assume the show is real: YOU HONESTLY THINK SOPHIE HAS NEVER SEEN HER DAD FUCKED UP? If so, you are not from here nor wo you understand N.O.,LA.

  2. liprap permalink
    June 21, 2010 9:33 am

    I’m not saying Sophie hasn’t seen it – she most likely has. I’m saying Toni’s too concerned with keeping up appearances.

  3. June 21, 2010 9:52 am

    He’s not supposed to be weak like this – he doesn’t deal with what she sees every day. How can he know what real pain and loss is?

    lived with a social worker for 15 years. Been exactly there.

  4. June 21, 2010 11:04 am

    Anyone who has a caring nature and the wherewithal to follow that nature wherever it goes stands before events and horrors that can make the mundane seem absolutely trivial. Tragedies a world away can blind you to the terrors of your own backyard.

    Yup. There were days I thought it could be any one of the Bernettes that “fell of the ferry,” Toni included.

  5. karen permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:18 am

    I don’t understand why anyone would judge Toni harshly.

  6. June 21, 2010 11:37 am

    I was skyping last night with a friend of mine who was almost lost to suicide several years ago, and I told her about Toni calling Creighton a “quitter” and before the words had even left my mouth I looked up and saw nothing but two big middle fingers on my screen.

    I’ve always felt like the “quitter” tag was an avoidance technique…judge and dismiss, as a way of moving on. I never felt that way about any of my close ones who checked out due to suicide, OD, or the like, and never understood anyone who could feel that way about a loved one who was gone.

    Withholding Creighton’s dying wishes was Toni’s last act of control…she could never get him to live up to what she expected of him, she didn’t know what he wanted or how to manage him, but in the end she gets to inflict the final punishment for his failings. And in the end, it’s once again her loss, because she doesn’t get the release that LaDonna finds at the second line. She swallows the pain, keeps it down inside where it can continue to do maximum internal damage for years to come.

    Poor Sophia.

  7. karen permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:40 am

    Then again deploying that logic he never gave to her what she needed.

  8. ferngrrl permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:52 am

    Love buber, no matter what!

    I am not angry at Toni, but I did get angry at some of her actions and reactions. I was disappointed that she shoved the wallet back without looking more deeply in the glove box, for example.

    So what if she’s concerned about appearances? That’s part of the world she lives in. Clearly it’s not the center of her universe. She’s tough, persistent, doesn’t quit–like LaDonna but using different tools.

    I can’t fault her for now wanting to tell the police that he husband’s been acting really depressed, weird, despondent, and angry. I certainly don’t fault her for now wanting her daughter and the general public to know Creighton jumped into the river to drown (goodnight Irene). And I really can’t fault her for maybe indulging in the safety of denial about Creighton’s mental state. I wish she’d done otherwise, but I’m not writing the story.

    Seems to me that she’s handling the post-Katrina life the best she can. Hanging on and moving forward in the ways she knows how. So she’s not emotional and “motherly” in conventional wife-ways–big deal. Maybe she’s showing more “male” behaviorial coping strategies (I hate that word) than some people like to see in white middle class wife-mothers. LaDonna kicks butt, takes no shit, focuses on her business, doesn’t spend much time with her kids & husband, but does take care of her mother. LaDonna refused to have an autopsy that would show how her brother died, said it would hurt her family too much. She’s very comfortable not opening that can of worms–is that a form of denial, too? Maybe we accept that more easily because the motive (preventing more hurt) is so easy to grasp.

    Lots of very strong women in this show, all with different coping abilities, instincts, and tools.

  9. ferngrrl permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:59 am

    Wait, did Toni say absolutely that she would not allow a second line for Creighton’s funeral? I thought she was just having an emotional outburst, still feeling raw and angry, and that’s when she accused him of “he quit.” I allow her to have anger, rage, regret, and all those things, especially in raw form so soon after learning about his death.

    They loved one another. I’m not going to analyze or crticize their relationship or possible behavior motives. Remember how they were in the beginnning, and how we saw them in the flashback.

    She’s just a different person from LaDonna. LaDonna, who grew up being very involved in second lines, music, etc. Different worlds, sometimes intersecting, though the same city. I wanted Toni to lighten her step during the second line, and was really sad that she didn’t. But lots of people don’t because they can’t.

  10. June 21, 2010 12:14 pm

    Cliff as always nails it, knocks it out of the park, what have you:

    “In the real world I think most of us are in the middle somewhere and swing back and forth depending on the day … Everyone I know is somewhere on the line between Creighton and Albert. You have to lean on the ones that are close to Albert and hug the ones that are closer to Creighton. As far as the folks who are all over the place like I am, they can always start a blog or something and exchange rants with random people. It seems to help out a lot.”

  11. June 21, 2010 1:36 pm

    Said it before: you all are much to hard on Toni.

    I’ve been there with someone who was determined to take herself out. Nothing anyone could do changed that determination. She was surrounded by people who loved her, though I felt most of them didn’t understand her at all, and didn’t see the real ‘her’ — and, like many people who were victimized she had learned to manipulate people very well, and show them only what she intuited they wanted to see. So while hardly anybody saw her or knew her in reality, all these people around her were individually convinced that she revealed herself only to them. She also got a nice kick out of fooling everybody. This is not to say she wasn’t in terrible pain, however, because she was. It was obvious to most of us.

    No. She would not have counseling or any professional help. When she’d been victimized, that had been resorted to by those who should have known to do this far too late. Part of the taking out was her revenge for that.

    I will not reveal more about her because of sharing tmi. I am a fairly private person. Also the culture in which we were reared is very much about not falling apart in public, not throwing one’s fears and anxietiex about for all to see, above all, about retaining dignity. Retaining dignity is very important for people who are not allowed much by their ‘betters.’

    Other than the unendurable pain, suicides are not all alike, in character, in circumstances, in family or community.

  12. Michele permalink
    June 21, 2010 1:43 pm

    I don’t know if you guys caught this but you got a shoutout in this interview:

    http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/interview-treme-co-creator-david-simon-post-mortems-season-one

    I love this blog. I’m gonna miss you guys as much as I’m gonna miss the show.

  13. June 21, 2010 1:47 pm

    I’m gonna miss you guys as much as I’m gonna miss the show.

    Are we going somewhere? I think we can find a little to talk about between now and Season 2.

    And thanks for the link. Yeah, we caught it. We’re trying to keep our happy-wiggles confined to email.

  14. June 21, 2010 1:48 pm

    Michele, There will be no post-show open threads, obviously, but we will continue to blog here on various topics pertaining to Treme. Please don’t be a stranger.

  15. wineward permalink
    June 21, 2010 3:59 pm

    Hello, everyone. First post for me. My wife turned me on to this blog. We’ve been loving the show and look forward to reading all the posts.

    As far as Toni’s reaction to Creighton’s demise, I have to agree with Foxessa here; I think some people are being way too hard on Toni. I agree with liprap that Toni’s vocation might have blinded her to the struggle of her own husband. Still, when I watched the episode, I felt she was justified in her anger. It’s a normal human response to grief that will certainly be tempered over time. I would like to think Toni will releant on the second line.

  16. virgotex permalink*
    June 21, 2010 4:03 pm

    welcome, wineward. Please, don’t be a stranger.

    We’ll still be here even though the season is over.

  17. Dexter Johnson permalink
    June 21, 2010 4:43 pm

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T, for the Big Chief, 2010

  18. June 21, 2010 5:53 pm

    Toni threw herself into her work because she could, because there she could have an effect, make something better, right a wrong, have at least some semblance of control. She knew there was nothing she could do for Cray, knew he was lost inside himself, literally and figuratively. I can’t imagine how someone would go about reaching someone who will not be reached, but I do know that it’s damaging to try, and I’m pretty sure that anger is inevitable after suicide.

    I also think that Huisman’s Sonny is one of the most convincingly menacing characters I can remember in a long time, simply brilliant. Where did we leave Annie, walking off into the dark alone?

    Finally (for the moment), thanks, Leigh for the Buber quotes. Learning to be fully present for another may contain the secret of life, or at least a big chunk of itself. Perhaps that’s what Cray couldn’t do. He could play the parts, act out the “scenes” but, in the end, he wasn’t able to actually connect where it mattered.

  19. June 21, 2010 5:58 pm

    Uh-0h. We left Annie with Davis. I got dehydrated at our season opener yesterday and have barely functioned all day. Gonna watch again tonight. And for those who’re worrying about what to watch, the whole season is available On Demand. Apologies.

  20. June 21, 2010 7:00 pm

    I’ve always felt like the “quitter” tag was an avoidance technique…judge and dismiss, as a way of moving on. I never felt that way about any of my close ones who checked out due to suicide, OD, or the like, and never understood anyone who could feel that way about a loved one who was gone.

    I couldn’t agree more Ray.

  21. June 21, 2010 7:47 pm

    It’s a daring choice for TV, I think, to have a character like Creigh who doesn’t fit neatly into any archetypes, and who acted according to a logic (&brain chemistry) that we can’t fully understand. When he threw that camera equipment into the water, who knew he would himself follow, 9 episodes later?

  22. June 21, 2010 8:33 pm

    Suicide is someone’s personal responsibility. It’s not the fault of those around them who didn’t see the signs. People are allowed to immerse themselves in their work without thinking their spouse is going to jump off the ferry. Ask any professional / parent / homeowner Post Katrina how they have been and most would answer “busy.” If this character had a history of bi-polar behavior and was between meds or his meds were no longer working, I can see how his friends and family have some more responsibility. But to blame his abandoned wife is fucked up.

    Even married folks ultimately walk through this world alone. And we own our decisions.

    Hey maybe I would feel like a jazz funeral if my colleague and friend had jumped off the ferry. But I certainly wouldn’t want to plan one if it was my spouse, because that’s what they wanted. The dead have a limited amount of say in how they are remembered. Folks want Toni to have a change of heart because they yearn for the healing process of a jazz funeral for her. But I can see how a spouse would think the whole event was contrived. Especially if it was specifically stated in the will as if it were the plan all along – like he was more married to this image of a failed New Orleans writer than to her.

  23. brueso permalink
    June 21, 2010 8:56 pm

    ‘let’s just take it for a little swim….’ Yeah- kind of chilling in retrospect!

  24. brueso permalink
    June 21, 2010 8:58 pm

    word

  25. brueso permalink
    June 21, 2010 9:05 pm

    again- we’re seeing a 5 minute scene, so to assume that someone’s outburst or angry comment would be where they stay (even in the course of 24 hours) isn’t accurate. We’re seeing snapshots of their lives even though it seems like their whole lives. And I think honoring that kind of reaction is pretty honest of the writers, vs. a sugar-coated change to allow people to feel ‘ah- isn’t that great- she’s already healing’. Y’all know those phases- ‘anger, denial, negotiation’, etc. I’d say from what we otherwise HAVE seen of Toni, that even were she to stick with this decision, what it is is proof of how deeply she was hurt by his abandoning ship- but who knows. People process these things differently, and no one’s in the position to say what the truly ‘evolved’ choice is.

  26. June 21, 2010 9:37 pm

    THIS. Your lover’s soul is not your own. It is his. He has a duty towards it, and you can’t save him if he doesn’t want to be saved.

    A.

  27. June 21, 2010 10:00 pm

    I don’t like devaluing Toni’s work because her husband killed himself.

    I think Toni dealt by working, but I think she also worked because she was doing something valuable. Over and over we saw this woman bailing people out, fixing their problems, helping them out of jams. She was persistent in the face of bureaucracy. She was heroic in a place that was pretty damn short on heroes. I don’t buy the reflexive argument that anything outside of family is automatically worthless, or worth less. She had an important job she was doing well.

    And when she got home, she had a husband who was theatrical, drunk, crabby, occasionally isolationist and a bit of a dilettante. He’d been trying to finish that fucking book for years before the storm so his inability to finish it wasn’t in and of itself a warning sign. He was given to wild enthusiasm and hyperbolic pronouncement and either complete unseriousness (dressing your kid up like a sperm, anyone?) or such portentiousness as to make Calvin Coolidge look like Bozo the Clown, so mood swings were there too. If she came home and he was hanging from the chandelier, we were told from the pilot onward, it was pretty much to be expected.

    And if her husband hadn’t offed himself, I don’t think anyone would be debating her actions. Moreover, I don’t think it’s an either-or proposition, that she can take care of everybody else, or she can take care of her husband and child. Not to sound like Davis, here, but seriously, I reject that notion with my entire soul. Love isn’t a bowl of sugar. There isn’t only so much and then the end of it. We don’t have to ration it out. Toni didn’t make any hard line choice here.

    She made a thousand little ones, every single day, and so did he, and for that matter so did Sofia. As do we all.

    I’ve always felt like the “quitter” tag was an avoidance technique…judge and dismiss, as a way of moving on. I never felt that way about any of my close ones who checked out due to suicide, OD, or the like, and never understood anyone who could feel that way about a loved one who was gone.

    But you do understand it. It’s a coping mechanism, because when someone you love is gone, and it’s just you, coping, they don’t give a fuck if you’re angry at them so you can be. It’s not like being mad at them when they’re alive and can argue they’re not selfish motherfuckers and blah blah blah. Is it awful and unfair? Sure. So is being left behind.

    A.

  28. June 21, 2010 10:23 pm

    “But I can see how a spouse would think the whole event was contrived. Especially if it was specifically stated in the will as if it were the plan all along – like he was more married to this image of a failed New Orleans writer than to her.”

    And remember, Toni is from New Orleans. She has her own culture, and a second line isn’t it. She’s clearly aware of that tradition, takes part in it, understands its power, but that’s not how she was raised to grieve. Booking a band for Creighton’s funeral wouldn’t be the natural thing to do, as it was for LaDonna when her brother died.

  29. June 22, 2010 8:27 am

    I can’t for the life of me understand anger at Toni in all of this – was she somehow expected to realize that Creighton was now in a far more dangerous place emotionally than he had apparently ever been before? Was she expected to do the heavy lifting in getting him to recognize that he was sick? Was her life’s work supposed to be put on hold to care for a man who, I think we’d all agree, made caring for him the height of difficulty? Now that he’s gone, is it her job to carry out his remarkably selfish final wishes/demands?

    Why, in other words, is she being held responsible to a level of behavior that her critics never demanded of Creighton, either in life or death?

  30. June 22, 2010 8:31 am

    “Why, in other words, is she being held responsible to a level of behavior that her critics never demanded of Creighton, either in life or death?”

    Because she’s a woman?

  31. virgotex permalink*
    June 22, 2010 9:12 am

    whatever else may be going on with her, Toni is (during the time in the last episode) a person whose spouse of what?, 15-20 years, died with no warning in the LAST FEW DAYS. Not weeks- we see her in the first few DAYS

    Second, she’s a person whose spouse committed suicide, not just died.

    The time frame here absolutely trumps everything else. She’s a person who’s going through her own personal hurricane. She’s in a state of extreme fucked-upness at a deep cognitive level.

    And maybe that’s the point. The Bernettes escaped the immediate personal danger to life and property losses of the storm. Until now.

    She’s also got a grieving adolescent child to deal with.

    She could threaten to assassinate the president right now and it shouldn’t be held against her or taken that seriously or given any more weight than what she decided to eat for lunch.

    Anyone who’s lost a spouse or child or immediate family member or had an extreme personal level trauma knows this. She’s not going to be right for a long time. Doesn’t mean she’s not responsible but no one not in her shoes is in a position to judge.

    No disrespect to anyone but parsing her words and actions post Creighton is, in light of those facts, kind of pointless, other than what it means within the confines of our story. Her words and actions are relevant primarily to the Daymo second line.

    She could be a totally different woman next season, even if it takes places only a few months later.

  32. liprap permalink
    June 22, 2010 9:14 am

    Thanks for the discussion, folks. It’s given me some more to think about as much as it’s given you….I hope.

    Some other stuff to think about:

    – New Orleanians do have a fondness for characters here, myself included. D’y’all think we might have given Creigh too much leeway for his behavior? Is there a difference between how folks from NOLA see him versus how others see him?

    – What is expected of women versus of men? What if Toni were the one to go over that Algiers ferry rail? Is it still more acceptable for men to lose their shit?

    For the record, suicide is a horrible act, and I don’t believe any one thing is the trigger to anybody’s decision to off themselves. But I am interested in the burden on the living and their role in trying to discern when things are going to go south (aw, shit, isn’t that the fucked-up term…) for someone in that terrible zone. When do we quit being our loved one’s keepers?

    Now I’m getting farklempt. Discuss.

  33. liprap permalink
    June 22, 2010 10:25 am

    Good reading on that state of grief one is in after a loved one dies: Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she describes what it was like being unable to get her husband’s shoes out of the house after his death, thinking – quite seriously – that if she didn’t get rid of his shoes, he’d come back. There’s a reason why we’ve developed rituals that are just as much for the living left behind as for the passing of the dead. Grief is an altered state.

  34. June 22, 2010 10:46 am

    For what it’s worth, I fault neither Creighton nor Toni. They both did what they had to do. Cray couldn’t go on, Toni has to go on.

    There is a very clear distinction between love and co-dependent sacrifice. And, as I’ve said before on this blog, I am there for you and you are there for me only to a certain point after which each of us goes it alone. This is the undeniable ultimate truth of life and death. Or as Varg so nicely summed it up, “Even married folks ultimately walk through this world alone. And we own our decisions.”

  35. June 22, 2010 2:30 pm

    I think it’s fair to say that Creighton was given far more leeway by those watching the show who had more personal ties to the city. My guess as to why this might be is those viewers who saw aspects of their own friends in Creighton’s character and his response to the storm.

    I think though it was odd to see those, even those who felt for Creighton, defend or ignore some of his behavior. I’d still contend his most outrageous act was dismissing Sophie’s concern about the children who had nowhere to go after their school was turned into a charter/private institution accessible to Sophie. It was a small, but telling, moment: he was a man of convictions in theory, but in practice, he was just as willing to do what was wrong if it meant some personal gain for himself. That’s not depression speaking; that’s selfishness writ large.

    It is a triumph of the show and its writers that so complicated a character could be generated, just as it was tremendous to not have Toni collapse after Creighton’s suicide, but to rebel against it.

  36. June 22, 2010 4:03 pm

    u gotta admit creig had a good last meal, thats for sure, hands down.

  37. June 22, 2010 4:04 pm

    I think I will get a shrimp po-boy tonight…..

  38. June 22, 2010 4:07 pm

    Varg, you totally nail it.

  39. June 22, 2010 5:22 pm

    Just call somebody before you decide to go for a ferry ride. Life is beautiful…

  40. doctorj2u permalink
    June 22, 2010 6:41 pm

    Loved the video. Thank you for posting it Dexter. I have only ever seen the Indians in person dancing down the street. Was I the only one trying to see if the can the chief had in his hand was a Budweiser? LOL!

  41. doctorj2u permalink
    June 22, 2010 6:45 pm

    Frolic,
    You are so right about that not being part of Toni’s culture. Many people miss that point.

  42. June 22, 2010 7:57 pm

    Creighton was grandiose, melodramatic, narcissistic and maybe delusional. He was in love with a self-constructed false vision of himself that probably never really existed, a poser. The wounds one leaves behind by taking their own life are gaping and deep and painful beyond measure. Doing this knowingly to one’s child is inexcusable and cruel. When we choose to become parents we’re making a promise to those we bring into the world to at least try.

  43. adrastosno permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:42 am

    First of all, what Athenae and Varg said. As to Toni’s reactions, I
    don’t mean to go all Kubler-Ross on everyone’s ass but Toni is cycling
    those stages pretty darn fast. Of course, she’s upset but nobody can
    save someone who doesn’t want help.

  44. CalliopeJane permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:52 pm

    Have been lurking, but I’ve just got to jump in here regarding this Kubler-Ross stage stuff, which she did not base on actual scientific research and which is simply not a true reflection of the world or people’s grief. Not everyone feels all of those emotions, and there is no consistent common order or series of clear logical steps in which to feel various grief-related emotions. While some people may feel a comfort in believing their grief will follow some nice orderly process, these unsupported stage theories also often make people feel like they’re “doing it wrong” when their personal grief doesn’t conform. More info: http://www.grief.net/Articles/Myth%20of%20Stages.pdf

    And I definitely think Toni gets more negativity because she’s a woman and as such is expected to make the welfare of those at home her top priority. I have to ask: who’s been making Toni’s welfare *their* top priority? Why should she have to nurture everyone, while no one nurtures her? Where is that endless supply of energy and empathy supposed to come from when there’s no one to help her replenish it?

  45. June 23, 2010 3:26 pm

    I may be wrong but, do you think we would disect say, HAPPY DAYS, the same way we are doing this to treme(thats treme, not treme’: I grew up here so I know it wasn’t pronounced that way in the ’60&70’s). I love the show because it paints a pretty picture of the city and look forward to next season. I just hope it keeps up the same integrity and grit as the 1st year……but like I said: CREIG had a very good last meal, you can’t knock that fo sure!!!!!!!! Does anybody out there like ‘FLIGHT OF THE CONCORDS’? IF NOT, check it out…..very funny…..these blogs are addictive…….;)

  46. brueso permalink
    June 23, 2010 9:53 pm

    I see the value of knowing about the stages more being ‘these are some of the things that are likely to happen as you work through this’ vs. ‘this is the order they are in and when you’re done with one stage, you’ll move onto the next one and never go back to that earlier one.” Most people go back and forth, etc. over and over. But once Toni knew, her denial option disappeared. Contrast that with what LaDonna went through where she probably embraced denial alot of the time.

  47. callie permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:43 pm

    “Persons under the shock of genuine affliction are not only upset mentally but are all unbalanced physically. No matter how calm and controlled they seemingly may be, no one can under such circumstances be normal. Their disturbed circulation makes them cold, their distress makes them unstrung, sleepless.”

    Emily Post (of all people) quoted by Joan Didion in “The Year Of Magical Thinking” with a reference to the fact that even common guides to proper etiquette once advised a respectful and gentle handling of those who have suffered a loss.

    “All unbalanced physically.” pretty much sums it up for a lot of people I know. That unwelcome, brutal, reminder of how little actual control we have over our day-to-day environment has rendered a lot of people… off balance, in too many ways to enumerate.

  48. June 24, 2010 11:43 am

    >>”She knew there was nothing she could do for Cray, knew he was lost inside himself, literally and figuratively. I can’t imagine how someone would go about reaching someone who will not be reached, but I do know that it’s damaging to try…”

    Really? Then why do we bother with suicide prevention hotlintes or run PSAs listing symptoms to look for of depression?

    Again: I’m not angry with Toni’s reaction, just frustratated (really) at watching two people so sunk into their own private nightmares that they don’t see the other one slipping over the side.

    Then again, it’s not an uncommon story in postdiluvian NOLA. So many people didn’t make it together for a host of reasons.

  49. Mind permalink
    June 24, 2010 3:30 pm

    FOTC? Present.

  50. Mind permalink
    June 25, 2010 12:52 am

    I am from Northeast Ohio, far away from your beloved land. And I don’t know if this is the forum for this, but I am compelled to comment. So tonight I watched this final episode for the second time. And I am overcome with grief. I cry, and I am reminded of the Friday following Katrina when I sobbed, hearing the music on our local NPR station, lamenting the fate of New Orleans. My husband and I have visited New Orleans 6 or 7 times starting in 2000. We love the city – we are tourists, yes. Still, we love it.

    And throughout my crying fest tonight, my husband reminds me it is because of the moments we shared in NOLA, why we love it. And I cry even more. And that’s why this series is so special. Because New Orleans is like no other place in the world. The music captures me, the stories of hope and triumph in the face of disaster, and the cold harsh truth of hardship and endurance, and even giving up – it moves me. The quirky individuals we have encountered on our trips prove that this compelling narrative is so like life.

    And now, I watch a program on CNN that tells of a boat captain in Orange Beach, AL who commits suicide. I am overcome. I am scheduled to travel to Gulf Shores next week for a family reunion. I want to see the oil washing ashore for myself, yet I am repulsed by the thought. I understand the helplessness Creighton felt. Even if it was deemed selfish by some.

    I really don’t know what to think about the enormity of this man made catastrophe, and what the future holds. But I know that we will return next year to New Orleans. And we will have more moments to cherish. But it will never be the same. And I am humbled by the knowledge that I am only 10 years into this rich tradition. I am fortunate.

  51. June 25, 2010 8:01 am

    The last episode beautifully wrapped up the entire first season in a skillful stroke.

    Everytime I see a critical review of Treme complaining about the plot, I’m reminded of

    Waiter there are snails on her plate.
    You would think that in a fancy restaurant at these prices you could keep the snails off the food! There are so many snails there you can’t even see the food!
    Now take those away and bring us those melted cheese sandwich appetizers you talked me out of!

  52. June 25, 2010 8:01 am

    Mind,

    This forum was created keeping in mind primarily the emotional responses the show would bring about in its variety of viewers. Thank you for this piece of your heart.

    I moved from NOLA to NE Ohio a year ago. The tone of voice with which people write off Cleveland up here reminds of that with which they also write off New Orleans. Whitebread visions of problem-free America FTW.

  53. liprap permalink
    June 25, 2010 11:19 am

    I, too, thank you for sharing, Mind.

    One of the great overarching tragedies in all of the past and current disasters is how much these things leave us all to varying degrees of trying to put out both physical and psychological fires. Our daily lives have us doing that to a certain extent, but when our existence is compounded by the catastrophic, what the hell do we do? How do we cope? How do we keep from feeling alone in our sufferings? When does doing good cross over into trying to do something out of desperation just to make ourselves feel good? Which feelings are legit and which ones aren’t?

    I ask myself these questions now more than I ever have, and new ones crop up with each day. How in hell do we manage all of this? None of the solutions are one-size-fits-all. It would be nice…because then nobody would ever be written off.

  54. Kat permalink
    June 26, 2010 2:26 am

    “When we choose to become parents we’re making a promise to those we bring into the world to at least try.” – Even though I had to give my only child up, he is still the only reason I don’t do a “Creighton”. I figure, maybe one day he will come looking for me, and in that moment I will be his Mother and why let him down that one moment I have by giving up in the middle of the game?

  55. amy permalink
    June 26, 2010 4:00 am

    Wow lip thanks for the beautifully written post!

    That was me, i was Toni. i’ve only seen the second-to-last episode, and identified with Jeanette, when she said, ‘it’s not a life…’ but now, with this post, i confess that i had fallen for the same confusion. the spiraling pain, structural injustices all around me had made me consider my household’s traumas to be relatively minor since the kids are gifted/the house didn’t flood/still here etc. but my sons were hurting so bad… i worked as a paralegal in a nola criminal defense/civil rights firm. i heard stories every day that would make you bewildered all night long, plus the sheer volume of them. i took payments from a sweet, gentle, older woman spending her meager pension on an appeal of a child murder conviction for her only living son who all physical evidence and multiple witnesses say is innocent, if only the DA would listen to any of them. i was angry about corruption and lies with the charter schools and charity hospital. i contributed what i felt was my obligation by virtue of native responsibility. sometimes my head still spins from all of it. last fall i couldn’t breathe because my chest was so tight all day long. i was barely alive. i thought my family members were doing better than me because of appearances, but then i found out some have seriously flirted with suicide. i am still wondering when i will be able to grieve for Cayne and all my other losses. so i re-displaced us. locked the door and drove away like an evacuation with a bit more personal control and options. six months later, i realize that i haven’t had that chest tightness in months, little one is tan and big one has muscles. today, g. built a piston-driven dice-tosser out of legos to go with the board game he is inventing, and a. did yard work with good humor. AND he just finished a full-time semester of college with a 3.0 at 16 years old.

    fighting to right that place almost cost us our lives. we have so much of our identities tied up in being cajun and new orleanian. my sons say they will go home as soon as they can. i thought i had to help the City get better in order to make it a reasonable and livable place for my children in the future. one day i looked around and realized the schools were not going to improve in time for my kids to benefit from my efforts. knowing what i know now, i wish i had left earlier, for their sakes. they deserve a life not in crisis. the thing that finally moved me out of my PTSD-paralysis was that God just spoke directly to me and told me to get my children to a better environment by whatever means necessary. straight up, He told me that my children are His precious angels and i better get them out. so i drove away with the boys, boyfriend, dogs, and grandmother’s lamp. now i feel like that was the angels that carried us out, ahead of the oil spill. angels carried our car through the last leg of our katrina evacuation and kept us safe. and the reason i feel that this recent intervention was great timing on the angels’ part is because had i still been down there, i would be giving my entire being to my beloved bayou lafourche and my dirty baby pelicans and really it’s my two wonderful sons that need me most right now. that is who i am supposed to present with today. i can always have my heart in the back of treme, but i realize i can’t heal the city or make it function properly. i can’t stop the state and local governments from making terrible decisions every day that hurt instead of help us. i can’t save the coast and give my sons a few years of a healthy childhood. time is passing, i can only choose one… toni burnette could have been me, that’s all i’m saying. thank you God, for sending your angels.

  56. June 28, 2010 1:25 pm

    Athenae, couldn’t have said it half as well myself. Love every word. I remember Toni checking in on Creighton time after time, looking after him, inquiring about his writing with loving looks, not judgement. This was a pre-Katrina problem; the loss of his writing legs.

    Reality (or TV reality!) check: Think back and you’ll see it was Creighton who was self-absorped, not Toni. His YouTube rants, etc. — all great stuff, but what about Toni? When did you ever see Creighton inquiring into her work with more than a quick question? To me, she seemed to be a blip on his radar. He didn’t even remember where she was spending the night that time she had driven up to Carville for work. He was totally self-absorped.

    I’m going to maybe open a can of worms here and voice my observation as a lifetime NOLA native (until Katrina)…that my native brethren are *too much* about kith and kin for their own good (provinical), and not enough about the community and others — except for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, etc. — partying. I personally never found that New Orleanians put a high value on people and activities operating for the good of the commons…the whole. With the exception of food, music and various forms of art — all of which are so important. It’s just not in the culture. But equally important is the hard and frustrating work of addressing injustice, corruption, civic disengagement, deplorable education, and eradicating poverty.

    I would argue that people who do make these things their life’s work are even more valuable because they are so rare, and because work is often selfless and thankless. They are often written off as naive and incomplete, but I think they often just have a larger view of humanity. Your comment about “worth less” was right on.

    I admire LaDonna’s character sometimes (and sometimes I don’t) She is definitely interesting, but I don’t find her heroic. Contrast LaDonna’s support of and loyalty to her own husband compared to Toni. No comparison.

  57. June 28, 2010 1:30 pm

    wow. i can relate. thanks for sharing this.

  58. June 28, 2010 1:54 pm

    funerals are for the living, primarily the family. how do you know what sophia wants? maybe she is angry too and doesn’t feel like a second line. by your logic Cray’s friends and community deserve priority over Toni. don’t agree. Toni should do what she feels like doing. based on her character thus far, I predict she will soften quickly and honor his wishes, just because that’s the kind of woman she is.

    Now, would Cray do that?

  59. June 28, 2010 1:55 pm

    *many* people mad at Toni? On the Treme Facebook group, I haven’t seen *one* person express anger at her. Maybe they’re there, but it’s definitely not the predominant reaction.

  60. June 29, 2010 9:30 am

    I’m calling you guys “Versatile Blogger.” Here’s where you can see the award on my site. http://www.watchingtreme.com/2010/06/major-award.html

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