I’ve been watching Treme: The Complete First Season, between the times when I’m just too exhausted to move, and listen to my heart rock my body. I lie there, unable to sleep from the pain, yet held by the weight of the body. Those times I can't get up, even trying. But when I did, I watched Treme.
Treme, a story following ten or more characters who come back three months after the storm, seeing only ruin, and just sigh. One tries to keep a restaurant going, one for cultural heritage, another for just living day to day, and a family whose brother/son was lost in the system. But the DVD set and series is larger than that.
Treme is for anyone who has been to New Orleans, or who loves jazz, modern jazz, rock, folk, Cajun and other music. It is for anyone who loves good story telling. Each episode, in the fore and background show the diversity of America as seen in New Orleans, from Indian Chief to Second Line walks to the cemetery and back. Culture, Pride, Music, History, Food: it is the story of New Orleans but of you also, and your life. At the end, one character tries to explain why to live in New Orleans by making a day marking the best of everything that is New Orleans. “Po-Boy isn’t a sandwich!” he says in outrage to the claim that NY has sandwiches also, “It is a way of life.”
For all those who have been beat down by nature, by the twists and forms of government, by addiction or the exhaustion of day to day living, this series is your song. In showing how five, eight, ten people of different social status, different backgrounds all ‘get by’ in the aftermath of disaster you will see your darkest hours reflected. But also, you will see the day after. You will see the celebration in the moments of letting go, and yourself want to walk the second line.
For music lovers, this series is as good as a box set of the best musicians in concert. Each episode has not one but up to a dozen real musicians, under the real name, performing. One character, playing a ‘bone’ (trombone) is a player of higher but not a top name grade, as we follow his getting his gigs hand to hand and word of mouth, how much live music is part of New Orleans.
This comes from David Simon and the creators of the Wire, who consult and show the reality of the city. They don’t ‘create’ a second line parade, but throw actors in the weekly second line parades and film it. ‘You can’t create New Orleans’ one of the producers says, ‘We just put the actors in and hope for the best’. The people and experiences which have been used to craft the characters are in the episodes as well. And the music includes buskers to those partially known to the well known…but only in New Orleans. It isn’t a documentary, but I spent time between episodes reading up. It isn’t a fantasy look at New Orleans either.
It reminded me of everything I loved about New Orleans, from the mighty Mo (Mississippi) and watching the fog roll in at night, to seeing the wheelchair dancing during the parades and second lines (the second lines are originally from social clubs like the Welsh Coal Miners had, to group together to pay for funerals, income if the main earner was killed and to have a place to be – when black ex-slaves were banned from insurance and other benefits). Everything that wasn’t Bourbon Street and T-shirt shops. It reminded me of the book stores where Tennessee Williams bought books, and the stores which sold antique sword stick canes. Maybe I will get to take the train to New Orleans, but I think it is likely not, and we know that. This at least helped me remember all the best times spent there.
The DVD series is rich in sound and motion, like N.O. At a time when series like Human Target have cut the live orchestra and replaced it with the inexpensive ‘needle drops’ to see so many musicians, cooks, all ‘play for the money’ makes me feel this series, like New Orleans is a rare gem which may be lost. Play on.
19 hours ago