Treme ... Round 2: I don't watch T.V. ... practically ever. It insults me with its boredom to my mind. Arrogant? Maybe. Am I to be faulted for developing my mind so as to be able to actually originate unique thoughts w/o having them poured into my head? I think - not. But ... this is about: Treme - that HBO series in which "nothing ever happens" in it. I will quote from an "Indian Chief" Lambreau (hopefully I spelled it correctly) in one episode: "Were you here?! Were you?!" - because, simply put - and, this comes from me: if you were NOT there when that city flooded; if you were NOT there when people whose insides had been emotionally torn out - returned; if you were NOT there to help but to sit at you DAMNED TV at home - high and dry and deride the misery of others as "their own fault for living in a bowl"; if you were NOT there to see a person's entire lifetime of memories destroyed by this catastrophic event; if you were NOT there to see the city - which in 1900 was the SINGLE-WEALTHIEST (historical fact) city - in AMERICA ... creep and crawl and stagger and sputter (Katrina "cough" was a very real condition) with a determination laced with enough depression to defeat any but the most determined ... if you were NOT there to see that; breath it; live it; experience it except from your sanitized comfort of arrogance - - - - then, you should watch and "listen" with an open heart - and if that is too much to ask for then the mind might suffice - to see that NOTHING DID HAPPEN. - - - for months. This magnificent city - the Jewel of the South - though in many ways well past her prime - still holds treasures evident in any such city . . . had had its residents - gutted. Gutted just like the countless homes and other buildings that would lose magnificent lathe plaster walls to be replaced with drywall that due to the massive materiel requirement posed a financial boon of those who ended up selling to be used the health hazardous "Chinese drywall" - imported from abroad - and, manufactured to sub-United States health standards ... it wasn't enough that things would never be the same - it had to be that even the building materials - for many - ended up becoming a health hazard. "nothing ever happens" . . . ? what ... would you like to have happen? hmmm? no, "dancing with the stars"; no "idolizing Americans"; no continuous scream of sirens and helicopters overhead (I live in Los Angeles); no ... what? What abject need to be continuously "thrilled" does one need to say: "nothing ever happens" . . . I am not fond of television - much less so HBO - not interested in some of the "cheek-slapping" trailer-rockin' "good times" ... know what that's all about (maybe not inside a trailer) but, don't need to watch it - that HBO produces (including in at least a scene here or there in Treme) - - - but, I WAS there. I was there in New Orleans and watched as - ever so slowly - the people and slower still - the city - crept back to the breath of life in that town. I was there to drive down block after block and mile after mile of city and see: nothing - nor anyone. A dead city. And, ... i was there one brisk early December morning in that first few months after Katrina and less than 2months after the city was drained - to be driving down yet another street someplace off of "The Esplanade" - a street whose name I should have seared in my mind for what would happen upon that street. As I was driving down yet one more deserted street with positively NO sign of any form of life ... I caught the image of two persons in my peripheral vision as I drove past a "Double-Shotgun" (you have to have lived and know New Orleans what a "double" is ... sorry - but, in short - its a style of architecture for a home) ... just sitting out on the porch. So incongruous and relatively out-of-place were they that I made a U-Turn and came back down that road - slowly - to see if everything was alright. With the window down on my truck I noticed (opposite side of the road from me) two late-middle-aged women (African-American/Creole/Black - take you pick for you heritage definition of choice ... you get the idea, though) ... impulsively - I smiled. (I'm male; "white"; over 6ft (they couldn't tell that - but, I'm big enough to fill the cab of a mid-size pick-up truck) was wearing sunglasses and a dark jacket) .... now, ... in other towns, one is not necessarily (well, not if they're "white") to driving in the "non-white" parts of town and arbitrarily greeting Black Ladies sitting on their porch (which they don't do anyway b/c in most cities NO ONE sits on their porches - but, this is the South and this IS New Orleans - and thus - very different) ... much less so while driving one's vehicle down the street. But, ... as I said already - this ... is New Orleans. Continuing in my nonchalant manner of smiling I called out to them across the road this greeting: "How you Ladies doing?!" ... to which they stopped rocking; leaned forward; smiled the most beautiful radiant smiles that I will never forget and called out to me: "We doin' fine ... how are YOU doin'?" My smile grew wider than it had even previously been and I responded: "Doin' just fine Ladies ... thank you very much!" ... I waved and continuing to smile - drove on down the road. "Nothing ever happens in Treme" ? . . . au contraire ... it's just that most people have forgotten what it is to live in a tight community where people can call out to others along the road: "How y'all doin'?" - - - yeah, to complete strangers - smile and hear: "We doin' alright ... how YOU doin' " . . . . THAT would be a major event in many cities I have been in ... and, I have been in a great many cities in America . . . certainly enough to know just how unique just saying "hello" to a stranger in a deserted town with a smile that spoke volumes for the value of being "neighborly" . . . might be. Maybe ... it isn't so much that "nothing ever happens" in Treme - but, that that which happens elsewhere has so very many of us programmed and conditioned to think that that is what life ... is about. It isn't. but then, . . . you weren't there - were you?
New Orleans - the low-down dirt. Where do I begin ... ? Let me start at the beginning - "a very good place to start". Daphne, Alabame - September 2005 ... yeah, that's where I first heard how badly a lifetime resident of New Orleans (now a manager at a top night-spot on Frenchman's Street in the Marigny) told me about New Orleans - from the eyes of a resident. She occasionally referred to me as "Baby" in her presentation of New Orleans particulars. I was to later learn - completely platonically - that "women in New Orleans call men "baby" all the time; and, men refer to women (affectionately and without any fresh or chauvinistic connotation) by "Darlin' " ... HUH?! ... thought I to myself ??? What's that all about? Of course, having grown up in the urban backwaters of Los Angeles within Surfin' USA distance of the gorgeous blue Pacific Ocean ... I knew that one simply did not address a stranger - ever - let alone with any of suggestion of decent affectation ... no, no, no - one must ignore strangers and never talk to them. Don't help them either; let them figure it out for themselves; never go the extra mile (after all - there are too many miles to travel in the "big city" as it is); and, most importantly - one is just too d*mn important to be - friendly. Attitude "Baby" - - - goes right up there with "nose-in-the-air" Atta-boy. Yep, . . . I knew "better". But, ... there was hope - for me. I, too, it seems still retained the capacity (I'm not younger than 38, lol) - to learn. Katrina had brought me to the Deep South (professionally) and New Orleans "under water" was my final destination. I walked into the city two weeks after it was drained . . . and, it was - dirty. Everywhere ... it would seem. I wanted to figure this place out and the last street I ever wanted to drive down (I'd seen all this hullabaloo of smut and booze all over in Hollywood and other deliciously "clean" places in the "big city" (sarcasms intended here, folks) - before) ... was Bourbon Street. So, ... as Fate would have it - Bourbon was the FIRST street I ended up turning on when trying to assess - by driving - the French Quarter. I will readily concede that there is enough smut - and arguably being served - booze to wilt the sensibilities of an innocent sheltered person. However, I haven't been any of those things in quite a few years. So, ... I contended with the useless (to me anyway) smut joints and interestingly enough (as it was late in the afternoon) positively NO sign of public inebriation with its attendant vulgarity or debauchery. None. Ok, ... Bourbon - big deal - next. . . . within the next two and a half years I would spend enough time in the French Quarter to have at least one highly respected - albeit eccentric - resident refer to me unhesitatingly as an "Honorary Quarterite" ... no small matter in a town like New Orleans where a lifetime resident's "accent" can "give away" what part of town they grew up in and what high school they attended. No joke. . . . . I would discover far more - - - - layers of the most fascinating history; saying "hello" or "how y'all doin'?" or simply "good morning" ... to - GOODNESS SAVE US ALL !!! - strangers ON THE STREET no less. yep, ... i was infected. But, I never contracted any physical illness ... ever. Instead, I got to - change - become more real; breath life instead of simply mechanically respirating (sp?) it. Oh yes, ... the "dirt"; the open urine and vomit (esp. on - supposedly - Bourbon); and, the utter filth of it all - condoms, and tigers, and bears - oh my !! Sorry, ... no bears; no tigers; and, to the disappoint of the need for some to seek the titillating - no condoms - either. Oh yes, and darn !! no "breasts-a-l'air" either (not that that ever appealed to me and nor did I understand that behavior - ever. Certainly no well-raised Southern girl would act that way ... insofar as "broads" are concerned ... one doesn't have to go to New Orleans to find them and their attendant vulgar men ... they can be found - anywhere. New Orleans - like that other great American city The City (as those in close proximity to it call it) - San Francisco - bears a similar remarkable characteristic, namely: a limited geographical position. This means - for those who have not experienced either city - that there just isn't that much place to go ... unlike the (seemingly) unlimited expanse of land to develop on in other locations where the confined of Nature were not so troubling to a growing metropolis - more than 100 years ago. Because of the geographically limited confines - these two cities bring out the best - and, by the same condition of human concentration - magnify the worst ... in people. People who don't fly about (sometimes almost literally as evidenced by their lack of courtesy on the road) in their cars and possess the ability to actually walk down a street - even more than one (streets !!) - have "evolved" a peculiar social mechanism: politeness. They have learned that it might actually be of human benefit to greet one's fellow pedestrian - if for no other reason than simply acknowledging that person. And, no - this writer is not so terribly naive to presume that everyone on the street is a "safe" person - nevertheless, those who actually walk streets get a better sense of who's who than those who never greet - anyone - because they never walk more than 1/2 a block - ever - on the open street. I had a rude awakening to my "conditioned" condition when having left New Orleans to return to Los Angeles on personal business I had the abject audacity to say "hello" to a gentleman(?) that I happened to pass by as I approached the very upscale (no joke here, it is a very nice facility) storage unit I rent. He cast me a glance as though I had said to him that I wanted to have an inappropriate union of a carnal nature (forcibly) with him. No joke. I felt like I had bastardized him - or worse. Right. I felt self-conscious for being ... friendly. I'm not gay - not remotely so as my gay friends will (sadly? lol !) attest - and, if I was - he wouldn't be my "type" anyway. There was no motive but simply good-nature hospitality. BUT !!!!! THAT !!!! is UNacceptable ... in a CLEAN city like Los Angeles (and, folks - this is one of the "cleanest" suburban areas of otherwise all-too-often filthy - Los Angeles) ... you see, there is NO water in Los Angeles. It NEVER - EVER - EVER - (are you getting the emphasis?) - rains ... in Los Angeles from early May - - - till (hopefully they get it this early) mid-October. Ever! It rains in New Orleans - probably every week - all year round. Even if the city didn't process the streets - which they do with regularity during esp the Mardi Gras "season" - Mother Nature can unleash a torrential rainfall at any time - Summer like Winter - that would be the envy of the legendary immaculate sidewalks of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. No joke - I've seen it - often. But, ... oh yes, ... this is supposed to be about dirty and disgusting New Orleans ... I guess I cannot speak to it very much. I only lived - literally - IN the city for about 2 years time and - in the French Quarter for a cumulative period of almost 7months ... so, I don't think I know it well enough - yet - to address the dirt - because, frankly, I didn't see enough of such to warrant the hyperbole stated in the article for which someone must have had a complete day - or two - in the "dirty" French Quarter. I must have missed that ... maybe it was while listening to the birds return ... after Katrina - MONTHS after Katrina - the city had been void of the song of birds. Even for a relatively completely non-resident ... the sound of singing songbirds that first Spring after Katrina - was enough to move one to tears. The city had been so terribly ... dead. Dirt? ... one has to wonder if those who focus on the splinter they find in the eye of one city is only because the splinter can be seen in a small area of human concentration as compared - potentially - to the forest of excrement scattered and hidden by miles of urban geographical blight in other more "clean" towns. Fin. (that's a French word for those uninitiated to cosmopolitan flair - but, in the "dirty" New Orleans, one will always find far more than a handful of residents who hold to the ancient Creole, Cajun, or simply French - cultural roots - deep enough to know that that word means: "the end".) . . . P.S. note on "Treme" to follow.
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