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If You Stay In New Orleans You’re Making A Choice

November 18, 2012

Delmond’s Decision:

It’s Open Thread on BoT!

The Women of Treme

November 13, 2012

I have been contemplating this piece for almost two weeks, and the comments in the last two weeks have been great fodder. I am so glad I waited to write it.

On the one hand, I see two women, both of whom I know in real life, stretching their claws and discussing: shoes. I agree with both of them but that didn’t lessen my giggles. Their comments were exactly the kind of thing women talk about over drinks as a prelude to the deeper conversation or as a mood lightener after that deeper conversation.

On the other hand, I watched this week’s episode with three men, all of whom I know well in real life, and one of them said: “My god, Annie jumping up and down on that bed in the robe. . . . .I replayed it like ten times!” The other two agreed. Seemed like exactly the kind of thing that they would have talked about whether a female was around or not. Again, my giggles were not lessened.

At some point I made a fleeting decision that from now on I’m going to do the off the shoulder a la aging flashdance fashion that Aunt Mimi goes in for as, trust me, my jumping up and down on a bed in a robe–with or without stilettos-stacked or otherwise-is a feat, that while certainly not an appealing image, is also something likely to land me in an ER. Although, no doubt, my ten-fold replay friend would probably post the video to Facebook or YouTube or worse, I’d wind up the centerfold, er, centerpiece of a Tosh.O segment. Guess I’ll stick to flashdance and my own bottle of booze that I can toss into my bag as I walk out in a huff.

While all of that is amusing and has kept me laughing for a couple days now, what I really want to talk about is more interesting that all that, at least to me.

Think of the female characters in this show, the ones we know well: Toni, Sofia, LaDonna, Desiree, Annie, Janette and yes, Aunt Mimi. If I was choosing friends from a menu, these women would make the cut, even young Sofia and Annie. Here’s what’s really amazing to me though: these women are largely written by men, and written well. In fact, that was what made me want to write this piece: Men writing women well.

I checked IMDB then dropped the encyclopedic Mr. Dave Walker a line to make sure I was right. Here’s what he said: “Mari was a staff writer for seasons two and three, and like others on the staff she got to write one episode each season, though they all contribute to everything, as I understand it. Jen Ralston, who does sound for the show, got to write a script in season three with Lolis.” He also mentioned the great female consultants the writers use whose contributions must be noted, but seriously, we’re looking at three episodes and two women over the course of writing this series.

Our own Mark Folse mentioned that he thought I was perhaps underestimating the input of the actresses themselves, and I do believe that these women, consummate professionals all, have no doubt offered suggestions. I am certain that the writers and directors have heard at least once, “A woman would NEVER. . .” or “Toni/LaDonna/Janette, etc. would probably not respond like that.” However being professionals, they probably more often than not interpret their lines according to their inner understanding of the character they are playing. Which leads us back to the writers.

And the story arcs.

Toni: Civil rights avenger, mother, wife, widow. Toni is stubborn, compartmentalized, inhibited in everything other than her work. Her work shows her to be willing to flirt, make nice, make threats, melt butter in her mouth as she cajoles information out of reluctant sources in her relentless quest for truth and justice. (Seriously, just put her in a cape!) We see her rage, her sorrow, and her helplessness in her inability to understand Creighton’s decision to jump off that Ferry and we see her panic in her dealings with Sofia afterward. We see her terrified and confused and struggling with a daughter who is, well, simply put a teenager who’s been through a lot. She’s protective and loving, trying hard to do what’s right, actually living my mom’s great advice: “Sometimes you have to love them enough to let them hate you.” This woman is like a well trained guard dog, who’ll love those babies on the living room floor but if something ain’t right, look out, she will track you down and bite.

LaDonna: Wife, mother, ex-wife, sister, daughter, bar owner, rape victim. La Donna is every bit as stubborn as Toni, as relentless in her adherence to what is right for her. (Perfect case in point is her decision to leave the in-laws, and too bad if no one liked it.) We’ve seen her knees give way over Daymo, we’ve seen her psyche give way after the rape, we’ve seen cracks in the tough veneer every time the phone rings, but she throws those shoulders back, puts her foot down and keeps putting the other one ahead of it. Step, step, step, go ahead try to stop me, step. She took those steps all the way through the devastating search for her brother, the protection of her mother, her refusal to become a bored Baton Rouge housewife, the post-rape ER exam, the steps off the couch and into the DA’s office with her glorious rage, back to the car when the first three houses Larry showed her just weren’t right, and this week over to the window. She might need a shot of whiskey now and then to step past the fear, but she always, always takes that step.

Janette: Chef, homeowner, restaurant owner, restaurant worker, restaurant owner again, and great Mardi Gras reveler. (One of my still favorite scenes is her solo fairy dance on a dark sidewalk.) This woman has a passion for cooking, not like our great Aunt Sadie: we all have one, the one who cooks the holiday dinners or the best cakes, the food we can comfort ourselves with. Janette is an artist, always thinking about the next thing, the next dish, the next combination, twirling her hair. She’s resourceful, setting up a smoker after her restaurant goes bust, selling her house to Road Home because she was pragmatic enough to see that she couldn’t go after her dream and deal with the house/money issues too, moving to New York to see what she could learn. (One writer recently wrote bemoaning her New York trip as the writers slamming New Orleans food. I always felt it was something she wanted to do, for herself, to stretch and do a try out that was out of her comfort zone.) She has her physical needs met in a series of noncommittal one night stands using rather dubious judgment (or sometimes Davis) while her most committed relationship is with Jacques who clearly loves her but she’s too driven to notice or too frightened of it to reach for it. Now she’s stuck with Corporate Food schmuck and Al Roker, but we’re rooting for her to do what she wanna. Maybe take Jacques and run to a smaller place that is her very own.

Desiree: Teacher, partner to Antoine, mother, now becoming an activist in the great real estate theft of post-K New Orleans. Desiree is comfortable with and in her own skin. She’s patient but has boundaries and isn’t afraid to set them in no uncertain terms. She’s an active listener, letting Antoine go off on some tangent like a helium balloon, but the string is always tied around her wrist and she can reintroduce him to reality with three words and a look. While Desiree sometimes seems to be in the background, she doesn’t miss a thing. She’s smarter than Antoine usually gives her credit for until she says those three words and gives him the look, then he realizes what he’s got. She too is relentless as she fights to get her job back as a teacher, speaks the immortal “job job” line, takes photos of the guys demolishing the house. Not one to dwell on her disappointments (the NOT a ring box for Christmas), she glides through it all, hand firmly on the rudder of the boat watching for obstacles and you know that if you were in trouble and she was with you, you’d be okay.

Annie: Ex-girlfriend, musician, friend, girlfriend, musician, musician, musician. Okay, ladies, I hear the raspberries. Hear me out. Annie has gone from an utterly horrible relationship with Sonny (remember when we all thought he was gonna kill her?) to a cute and often sweet relationship with Davis who can be, well, a bit of a narcissist. Her friendship with Harley, coupled with her talent, has moved her up and up in the music world. While not overloaded with confidence and just a tad naïve about the new manager’s ulterior motives, she’s been steadily moving up the ranks from the street with Sonny, to the street with Harley, to trying hard to write songs, to her joy at playing on an actual stage, then getting guest shots with big league players, and now has her own band. We always knew she had more talent than Sonny and now she’s proved us right. Her timidity and lack of confidence held her back a little, but as with the other women, she kept trying, kept moving, kept chasing a dream, although unlike some of the other women her goal was never as clearly defined in her own head. She’s stubborn too. Clearly this isn’t what her parents had in mind for her but she’s standing her ground with them, and as Davis gets obsessed with his opera, she doggedly continues to move forward, learn a new track for a studio spot, packs her bags for the next gig. I think Annie’s a little conflicted. She truly loves New Orleans, she is still feeling the loss of Harley, and seems to miss her pre-almost a star life. Her missed catch of the bead throw on Mardi Gras after St. Anne on her way to the airport upset her. She felt she was missing something, and it wasn’t the beads. Soon she’s going to have to make a decision about what she truly wants and for Annie that will be hard because she’s so non-linear, floating from this serendipitous meeting to that lucky gig. (Remember how upset she was during the DC Mardi Gras party when she realized that the people there didn’t seem to care that there were legendary guys named Neville on that stage.) I am not bored by Annie. I am curious to see whether she makes her own choice or, as has been her wont, a choice is kind of made for her by outside forces.

Sofia: Daughter, young woman, carrier of trust issues that would cause an elephant to stumble. Sofia lived through the evacuation, the storm, the school changes, her father’s joy and her father’s despair, and eventually her father’s death. Her mother’s attempt to shield her from the truth was processed by her as lie and there was no quarter given to Toni by her daughter. Now because of her mother’s crusade for justice, she has to leave her home, her city, her friends, her school and all this just before graduation. The first guy she liked let her down and then she felt betrayed upon learning that L.P. had told her mother about the first guy’s age. At this point she trusts no one. She’s got the legal issues that are curtailing her choices, her mother’s work curtailing her choices, and face it, her age curtailing her choices. Sofia just feels completely out of control of her own life and resents it deeply. While some of that is normal during our teen years, this poor baby has had it all thrown at her, with a couple of bad choices on her part tossed in for good measure. But Sofia is also thoughtful, intelligent and curious, which gives us hope for her choices down the road as opposed to expecting the train to utterly derail as she moves forward.

Aunt Mimi: Aunt, financier, record producer mogul, party girl unwilling to give in to time’s passage and take up a rocker and knitting. She smokes, she drinks, she cusses a blue streak, she does whatever the hell she wants, she brags about her ability to break speed limits in college, she lusts, she laughs and boy does that broad live. Mimi is delighted by her successes and disappointments and clearly feels she’s had a great life and is planning on continuing it with a vengeance. We don’t worry about her. That girl can get through anything life throws at her, but we’d sure love to join her for a few drinks and hear the stories she could tell.

Every single one of these women are strong, multi-faceted, complex and intelligent. Each is willful in their own way. Each has weathered the loss of something that mattered to them: a husband, a daughter’s trust, a sense of security in one’s own business, a job as an educator that was viewed as a career, a house, multiple houses actually if you add them all up, a restaurant, a supportive friend and mentor, a boyfriend. . . . Each one of them has had their sense of security challenged by something. They have dimension in their strengths, in their blind spots, in their quests, in their faults. Not a single one of them could fall into the standard Madonna/whore paradigm so often seen when men write female characters.

These guys didn’t write their fantasy women (or maybe they did). There is no perfect full lipped blonde in pumps performing the duties of a CSI here. Uh uh. Not on this show. (I’ll give them a pass on the occasional stripper-like costumes and Lucia’s bouncing bed scene, cuz hey, we’ve all seen girls in those costumes on Mardi Gras day in freezing cold weather. It happens!) These men have delivered to us women, fully realized actual women, women with depth, and in the doing showed us their love of and respect for women in general. I am impressed as hell by that.

Look at other channels now and then. I do. Then I look at the women of Treme, I marvel at the uber-talent of the actors playing them, and I am endlessly impressed by the complexity and depth of those women who were written by men.

That kind of writing takes balls.

The Game Goes Past New Orleans

November 11, 2012

New Orleans, this is Houston. All your base are belong to us.

It’s free play time, kids, on the Open Thread.

“I know but I don’t know, y’know what I’m saying?”

November 5, 2012

I wasn’t up for it.

I’ve neglected keeping up with Treme, and seeing pictures of overturned trees, flooded neighborhoods and subway stations and death counts post-Sandy, I remember. 2005 was the shock. 2007 was the slow drag forward into what you had no idea.

Disaster, natural or human-made, is hard. Clean-up is hard. The wait for ice, food, rescue, return, also hard. But what I most wish my East Coast fellow citizens didn’t have to live through is the long-term recovery and aftermath that keeps echoing and lingering and comes back quickly with a single picture or remembering, as I did with my mother yesterday, that if she hadn’t been in Charity, she would’ve been among the dead, her house submerged, her a body to be found and counted on a tag spray-painted on the front of the ruined house.

To all that and more, add the insult of being told, after scraping and fighting and crying so hard to keep it, that our “culture” was too loud and how dare we walk in our own streets and honor our dead and fight off despair and be what drew the complainers to the neighborhood/city in the first damn place. Like Antoine said at the beginning of Ep.1, “Bullshit.”

Every lingering shot this season, I hold my breath waiting for the shoe to drop or wall to fall and they don’t. It felt like that then, too, like around every corner was a roadblock of debris, paperwork, lines and lies, Shaw, FEMA, Road Home. I lived through those years but can’t remember much about it except that feeling in my chest and after a couple episodes of Treme, I realize why—denial, turning away as a survival tactic and one that shouldn’t be dismissed because it got some folks through here and will on the East Coast.

Actually, it was denial + tequila.

What I learned from Isaac is you cannot stock too much alcohol pre-distaster/storm.

Semper Fi-Yi-Yi

November 4, 2012

“There’s a difference between sin and vice … New Orleans gets it and the rest of the world doesn’t.”
— Lt. Colson

It’s an Open Thread. Do watcha wanna.

The Land of Dreamy Dreams

November 1, 2012

“I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft.”
— Jim Morrison

There was a lot of chatter in this week’s open thread about Nelson Hidalgo and a lot of time was spent this week on Sonny, another less than sympathetic character. It is easy to hate on Nelson at a superficial level, or shrug off Sonny’s seemingly predictable struggles but I love these two characters. Both are a type of the outsider swallowed by New Orleans, the story of every Tulane student turned bartender, of every Jazz Fest visitor who now makes an annual pilgrimage to the city at off times (I run into these couples a lot on Frenchmen, it seems) and I always ask: so when are you moving?

I often say New Orleans gets its hooks into you but it’s more subtle than that, something as fragile as a sea anemone and as attractive as a pitcher plant (and for some, just as fatal) which entraps. If I could put my finger on it I wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of words into and the old Wet Bank Guide but I remember that scene from Season Two after Nelson’s introduction, standing on a hotel balcony, his “big village” moment when you realize he has moved past the tour of bars and restaurants and into the city’s fatal attraction. Sonny is much the same. He seems to have arrived from Amsterdam with enough of the canon in his piano bag to set up up busking. Nelson came for the money but Sonny came for the heady, wet atmosphere. There was a line this season about “dreamers and drunks” from Colson’s meeting with his wife and there’s truth in that, although the drunks are just a subset of the dreamers, the ones who have given up on finding the secret and simply surrenders to the city’s more dangerous charms.

It’s clear from the discussion that Sonny and Nelson are not the most popular characters. No one (except maybe me) has faith in Sonny’s possibilities of redemption, much less Nelson’s but there is some subtle link between the early meetings between C.J. Ligori and Nelson with their discussion of Catholicism that hints at redemption, that leads me to wonder about the division of hustle and honesty when he puts Robinette on the papers for his new LLC, the one doing honest work with the NOAH money. He seems to be slipping back onto the bus to Easy Street but he is hovering at the edge, just as Sonny is tottering between the gutter and wedding bells at Mary Queen of Vietnam. There is a story in these characters by a couple of guys from up north (and yeah, Baltimore is up north from here) who were themselves lured by the magic of New Orleans music, who have perhaps themselves considered New Orleans’ allure and its effect on people, who have perhaps met more than a few fellow dreamers sitting in the Carousel or the gutter outside, lost in the dream.

Nelson and Sonny may seem like plot devices on legs but there is an old story acted out many times before on these streets without the benefits of catering and No Parking signs. That they represent, and that a couple of guys with no grandparents in the graveyard capture this particular facet of the story of New Orleans says something about the depth of Treme’s writing. You can go ahead and hate on Hildalgo or groan every time Sonny picks up a drink but this is one story line (and it is one, two-headed story line) I hope gets fully played out before the end of the series.

— Wet Bank Guy

Now There Just Aren’t Enough Lifeboats

October 28, 2012

There never were enough lifeboats. They just got rearranged like the deck chairs on the Titanic.

An Open Thread. Everybody dig in.

Careful of What?

October 22, 2012

In last week’s episode we were gifted with the appearance of James “Sugar Boy” Crawford on screen singing secular music. Davis McAlary was awed, as were we. Why? Oh so many reasons, not the least of which is that Mr. Crawford went home in September 2011, which means that that scene is probably the very last recorded note, visual or audio, that we’ll ever have of him. Every single time you hear Jockamo/Iko coming over your iPod speakers, on stage, on your car radio, it’s this man you can thank. (We’re not going to get into the whole Jockamo-Crawford-1953/Iko-Dixie Cups-1965 history here. I’ll post some links in the comments if you’re really interested in that, and it is interesting.) Those of us here in New Orleans, however, know the back story to why he only sang in church, or occasionally with his grandson Davell’s band, for the last 40+ years of his life.

Before I explain that though, I gotta say that all week, I felt a dread-that “waiting for the other shoe to drop” dread. L.P. Everett in Sofia’s car, both looking over their shoulders in the dark, and the overwhelming sense of a powerful darkness following them. No words. No chainsaws. No screaming girls falling down in the forest. No big chase scene. Just big, quiet, unspoken fear that was more frightening than any slasher film. It’s the kind of fear that ties your guts into a knot. This week that other shoe dropped. This was not something unknown in the City of New Orleans or the State of Louisiana, not something brand new that Katrina short sheeted so that the dropping shoe was finally recognized as a boot. That boot had been around for a long, long time, the bogeyman’s boot, but here the bogeyman wore a badge.

Mr. Crawford’s appearance was a warning, again unspoken, except by his grandson who gave a short explanation to Davis, when asked why his grandfather no longer sang secular music. He said, “Police beat all that out of him. Now he’s singing for the Lord.” He followed that up with, “That’s New Orleans.” You see, Mr. Crawford and his band were in a nice car, going to a gig in Northern Louisiana in 1963 when they were stopped. According to a great interview in Offbeat Magazine in 2002, one of the state police officers didn’t much care for Mr. Crawford’s attitude and set about pistol whipping him to such a devastating degree that it took him two years to recuperate. According to that interview, he attempted a comeback, but by 1969 he made his choice to sing only in church, only for the Lord. We sure can’t blame him as he most assuredly wasn’t the only person to find himself on the wrong side of a conversation with a police officer in the 40 intervening years.

As we watched that episode and felt the fear becoming more and more palpable, the appearance of Sugar Boy Crawford singing was akin to keeping an eye on the canary in the coal mine. This week we saw what we were being warned about.

Grayson’s face as Toni tries to reason with him about family being off limits, is stony and openly hostile. The police wielding pepper spray and tazers in the midst of the housing protestors are wreaking havoc with relish. The uniformed cop who knocked on the door to inform Toni that her windshield had been smashed was almost mockingly and defiantly nonchalant. Super-imposed over those events is the image of Henry Glover’s skull flickering on a laptop screen, still with us from the week before.

So now the bogeyman has been shown to be a many headed creature, and Toni’s mild reassurances to L.J. about attorneys or journalists having relative safety compared to “people who live round the way” have been shattered along with her windshield.

For our City this was a frightening time. Crime was up. Housing stock was down and soon to be down even further. Monied interests were heading in with the New York-ification ideas that are behind the Jazz Center and Janette’s restaurant and the knocking down of the “Big 4” (which is a whole topic in itself.) Reeling from the storm, the staggering challenges of rebuilding and disappointment that followed, we watched as the bodies fell in the streets wondering sometimes if we’d be the next one whose photo would be surrounded by votives and grief on the street corner we fell on. We were vocal but ultimately helpless as LSU decimated Mid-City with guys like Hidalgo charming people out of their homes. We saw the wrecking balls and sorrow of the NOAH catastrophe. We formed committees and neighborhood groups and called our City Council person and wrote letters to the editor (we still had a paper then) and the Mayor. We were sad, angry, disillusioned, disgusted, disheartened, but we held each other up as we joined with our friends, downing our Prozac with whiskey and a beer back. We played our music loud, danced til we collapsed and wished we could sit astride Old Hickory’s bronze horse in the Square spouting the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V to rally our flagging spirits. In short, we did whatever it took to keep it together to fight the good fight again tomorrow.

But the bogeyman lurked and the fear made itself at home in our bones as we heard multiple stories of regular folks calling the police to report a crime only to wind up handcuffed in the backseat of the cruiser themselves. We watched the news reports of indictments on the Danziger Bridge cops and knew they weren’t the only ones out there who might wish us harm on any given night. We saw a badge not as a sign of protection and security in this trying time, but as a warning to abandon hope all ye who enter here. In a time when a sense of community was so necessary, and folks were still trying to stand strong, it was an us vs. them time instead, and the number of “thems” grew by the day. We despised the way the recovery was handled by the “thems”, but we were frightened by those sworn to protect and serve.

I had been told long ago that there was no black and no white, only blue, on the police force. This is not entirely unique to New Orleans. During that time we knew it, we knew the bogeyman when we saw him (or her), so while we sobbed over the murder rate we felt no sense of safety or hope because the police had been shown to be murderers and thugs themselves. Certainly not all of them were bad cops, but the bad cops didn’t have a special insignia designating them as such so all were given a wide berth.

Had L.J. come to any of us at that time and asked his question, “Careful of what?” we would have asked him to take another look at young Mr. Glover’s skull and to listen for the sound of the other boot dropping as he looked into the powerful darkness behind him.

These have been tough episodes to watch, but that tells me that the writers can pack a lot of PTSD into a 2 minute exchange, and that’s great drama. Although, frankly, I would have preferred a bit less drama in our real lives at that time. This season is at the half way mark, so we won’t be faint hearted, but will go once more into the breach, my friends. Still wish I could shout that drunkenly from Old Hickory’s horse.

By the way, the Offbeat interview from 2002 is wonderful and can be found here: .

This Is Their Golden Opportunity

October 21, 2012

Tear the roof off the mother, tear the roof off the mother sucker, tear the roof of the sucker…

Open Thread Crazies and Germs.

Waiting on The Road Home

October 16, 2012

I can’t go on like this.
That’s what you think.

I thought it was my house. A left-side double with a carport on the right attached to the next door neighbor’s single-level ranch. My stomach knotted convulsively. The panic bands tightened around my chest. A wave of Permanent Traumatic Stress Disorder, the tension of being transported into a scene I didn’t quite remember, being among the hundreds turned away every night from the Gentilly production of Waiting for Godot in 2007 but I knew the play, knew the text, knew the essential and painful rightness of it like a necessary amputation. I had only been there in spirit but had gone home the last night and after dispirited drinks at the Circle Bar I wrote in the small hours of the morning my reaction to a play I had just not seen.

That could be my house.

I didn’t see the double next door in the first sequence, only the characters, the tree, the house behind them. I saw the carport in the second sequence and that confirmed my suspicion if only for a a moment.

I think that’s my f—ing house.

I went off to Google Maps and did a virtual drive through my old neighborhood, looking for a double with a carport next door, to see if there were any others. Sam Jasper texted me back that Dave Walker had placed the scene on Warrington Drive, two blocks over and then I remember that’s where it was. Still, I had lived in that place, in one of those houses, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I rewound HBO GO and watched the scene over and over until the gnawing thing, the one that sends me down Paris Avenue past the new Holy Cross School that stands where the church my father built once stood, the one that pauses at the City Park exit to gaze at the now almost invisible watermarks on the Pontchartrain Expressway columns like an infernal river gauge, until that thing was quieted. I saw the double next door. I came out of myself and went back to the scene.


The lines chosen were perfect for Toni Burnette, the final lines in which the characters summarize their plight. “Perhaps it were better if we parted.” The cathartic shot of Toni fingering her ring-less left finger. Her tears.

I can’t go on like this.
That’s what you think.
If we parted? That might be better for us.
We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Godot comes.

Her exchange with her seat neighbor:

“Motherfucker ain’t comin’.”
“Excuse me?”
“The man. He ain’t comin’.”

Godot in 2007 was a cathartic moment, and not just for Toni Burnette.

I wanted one of the signs advertising the 2007 performance of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans with the play’s simple stage directions so badly, but they had been placed by someone with a ladder and by the time I returned with a borrowed one strapped to the roof of my car, they were all gone. The existential nakedness of it, the sense of abandonment by God and man, the insistence of Vladimir and Estragon, of life resonated so deeply with anyone in New Orleans in 2007 even vaguely familiar with the text.

How then to explain all the others milling about on Robert E. Lee Boulevard in their hundreds, denied admission. Beckett is difficult, Einstein’s physics to Broadway’s Dick And Jane Sing and Dance. How many of the people milling about with us knew the text? How to explain the presence of the man sitting next to Toni, who clearly is hearing the words for the first time? ” Motherfucker ain’t comin’.” “Excuse me?” “The man. He ain’t comin’.”

Waiting. Everyone in New Orleans was waiting: for Road Home, for family in Dallas, for the contractor to come back, for cranes in the sky, for pigs with wings to shit hundred dollar bills over the bus stop where they waited if their bus was back and running. “The man. He ain’t comin.”

There were critical moments in the story of postdiluvian New Orleans the writers of Treme could not possibly avoid–that first second line under the Claiborne overpass, Carnival 2006, Dinerral and Helen and the march that followed–and others every viewer of Treme who knows the history devoutly wishes for but will never appear in an abbreviated fourth season: the Superbowl, the oil spill. The Classical Theater of Harlem’s production of Waiting for Godot, one weekend in the Ninth Ward, one weekend in Lakefront Gentilly, was almost certainly on a longer B-list of possibilities. Was it Wendell Pierce, who played Vladimir, who proposed it? One of the local writers who perhaps attended or at least knew of it and knew the text well enough to say: this must go in? Was it something they read on a blog? (Fat chance, but it’s nice to think so.) It doesn’t matter. It had to be in the story. It was a few minutes out of an hour that unlocked an opportunity to get deep inside the minds of the people of New Orleans in 2007 by way of Beckett. If even one viewer sees or reads the play because of it, their understanding of the situation of 2007 will be profoundly expanded.

Thank you Wendell or Tom or Lolis or David or Eric or whomever we have to thank for making sure this didn’t end up a stroked-out idea on a writing room white board, or a reel of film discarded into storage.