Sorry about last night, but there was the damn Saints game. The pen of Pelecanos strikes again.
— Wet Bank Guy
How long, Lord, how long? It is 2008 in Treme time but I asked that question back in December 2006 on Wet Bank Guide:
…The question the biblical psalmist asks is one tied in my mind with the tradition in the black churches’ of identification with the people of ancient Israel, enslaved and downtrodden so long on their path to the promised land. In Psalm 13, it continues, “How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?…I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help…”
It was that identification with the Israelites that gave at least a passing, Sunday joy to the life of a people who had known great suffering. It counseled patience and faith. I imagine it is a message one could hear today in the small storefronts of Central City or a mega-church advertised by the billboards that line my daily drive down Claiborne Avenue.
It was not something I heard much in my Catholic upbringing, and I wonder how much those of us who do not have those messages ingrained in our hearts suffer the more for it now…I have to wonder if here in the New South, people still take counsel from Psalms, or are we become just another part of a society that taps its foot impatiently to wait for a hamburger or a cup of coffee at the fast food restaurant. Are we ready for this marathon? I recall from my trip down from North Dakota that as close as Jackson, Mississippi the big and little box national retailers gleam clean in the morning sun along a ribbon of interstate highway, calling to people living in small trailers in ruined neighborhoods. How much longer will they resist that call from other cities?
…How long, Lord, how long? “. . . Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors: and our enemies laugh among themselves . . .” the Psalmist laments in number 80. Unlike the children of Israel, release for the 200,000 is as close as the nearest tank of gas and entrance to the interstate. A conversation with a friend a few weeks back, a couple that came home early and rebuilt and who threw themselves into the endless parade of rebuilding meetings, turned to he talking wistfully of what life would be like in Memphis, and I wonder, how long?… As the blogger Ashley likes to remind us all, they rebuilt Hiroshima. For that matter, they also rebuilt post-war Europe, a fact I am reminded of when I think of the European foundation established to repay that largess, which is helping to rebuild the gymnasium at my son’s school… If we fail here as we are failing in Iraq, then it will be the milestone that marks the end of the American era of greatness and the beginning of a long and potentially painful slide down into the dustbin of history.
Either way, I’m staying. The end of empires is never a pretty sight, and I’ll feel more comfortable living someplace that the powers that be have already decided is not worth their trouble, far from the angry mobs or the marching of soldiers. Perhaps it is all for the best. The invisible hand that now rules the world, the same that shuttered the stores of Canal Street and replaced K&B with Rite-Aid and D.H. Holmes with Dillards, then sent the corporate headquarters retreating to Atlanta and Dallas: that hand of Mammon has not been kind to us.
If we want a city that resembles the one of memory and desire, perhaps it is best if we are left to ourselves to build it. Give me enough people like Shearer, like the New Orleans bloggers…and I believe we can do it: ourselves alone; Sinn Fein, as Ashley says. Going it alone… will be painful. Some will try and not make it, risk everything to return and rebuild or reopen, only to lose everything. If we must go it alone, this will certainly be a smaller city, and some will leave ruined and broken by the effort. Whether we are recalled as heroes or fools only history will tell, but I think know the measure of those who have chosen to come home and try. There is no finer place to be an American today than in their company.
this latest interview with Simon articulates best what Treme is after and probably can be appreciated more now that the series is drawing to the end.
Simon gets deep on the maturity of this brand of storytelling and the testament that Treme has become as it pertains to Living In America…..
While I regard “The Wire ” as the greatest visual novel out there because it exposed a lot of societal /economic ills of our country from the 10,000 foot level. Treme is much more mature and is focused on the communities in America and the end game of capitalism (or whatever term you’d like to use) on a much more personal level. At face value, Treme may not make a whole lot of sense….some confused chef and a delusional old carpenter playing dress up….but the stories actually are true of any American city where every item becomes commoditized, which impacts health care, education, culture, and law enforcement.
Treme has turned into a record of fact, much like newspapers used to serve their communities. They have documented many of treasures of the city of New Orleans for generations to come, so they won’t easily be forgotten.
The rebuilding of New Orleans wasn’t about saving some dilapidated Louisiana burg, but a testament to what living in America is all about (is it really all about the bottom line? What are we “uniting” for if it is not for each other?).
If you don’t value Treme as such, that’s cool….its all a matter of taste. I just found that when I sunk my teeth into Treme, it was worlds more satisfying than the crime/drama of The Wire (which in my mind, is really saying something).
From a logistical standpoint, I don’t know how Treme is possible. Not only do you have to recreate much of the destruction and get chronological colloquialisms correct, but you have to package all the significant events of that time period together for a larger subject/statement. THEN you are tying fictional characters to actual musicians and real-life people (!), ala Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”……NOW you’ve got to work with a who’s-who of New Orleans musicians and their touring schedules to feature them in each episode. This is one of the most under appreciated elements of Treme.
Batiste and Desiree’s focus on the next generation feels more and more the backbone of this series, and appropriately so.
After the shooting of Charisse, the scene in which Antoine dreams / wakes thinking something is happening to his and Desiree’s baby-Honoree, was heartbreaking. This is the context for raising their child in New Orleans, where, as in and other black communities, truly innocent children are routinely are killed for no reason at all. Even the innocent children are cynical about it all by now, as Charisse’s friend rattles off exactly what’s going to happen now — the commemorative and grief counseling at school, as if saying ‘healing’ means change. By now it has happened so much even the rituals are empty of meaning for these kids on the line.
And the Charisse memorial t-shirts.
I guess David Simon thinks he’s doing a nice thing by working musicians into the show but good God they suck at acting. That exchange between Annie and the clarinetist was cringe-inducing.
None of the musicians are going to win acting awards (OK, maybe Donald Harrison, Jr. in the bar scene where Delmond was proposing Harrison’s real work Indian Blues project to him; he was pretty smooth and the irony was wonderful). The music frequently plays an important role in telling the story: Delmond in New York with Terence Blanchard v. Delmond with the Soul Rebels mirroring the choice he has to make). And frankly, Jim True-Frost never won me over in the wire, either. It’s not just window dressing.
Bad writing doesn’t help. That was a really awkward way to name-drop that girl’s bands, punctuated by some pretty embarrassing comic relief. With any luck, Annie’s head will be the next to roll.
Where y’at? Hope everything’s okay!
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