Treme ... A fan of The Wire (although I’ve yet to see the final season), I was a bit ambivalent about watching Treme because of the CNN interview I watched with creator/executive producer, David Simon. In the interview with Candy Crowley, when prodded about Treme’s political statement, Simon mentioned “one particular party” and went on to discuss how the Republican party’s appeal to small town American values is no longer necessarily valid; that 80% of America’s population now exists in urban environments. I thought, “Oh, boy, doesn’t anybody realize the current Administration, going on two years in power, belongs to the Democratic party (with a Congressional majority since 2006) and that the President is half African-American-half Caucasian (or, if you prefer, half black/half white)?
What Simon was arguing regarding small values and urban America may well be just and correct, but the idea that it is the Republican party alone that continues to ignore New Orleans (or any urban city in need) is just not accurate. Both major parties (including President Obama as an Illinois Senator supporting George Bush’s initial bailout of AIG) were more than willing to ignore the American worker (not just American workers in New Orleans) when they bailed out Wall Street without any regard for us, the suckers paying for the federal government’s gift to those who bankrupted us.
I saw Simon’s comments (in the above interview) about the Republican party as political sniping that does little more than point fingers; it certainly doesn’t address the problem. Both parties were and remain complicit in the demise of all big cities, including Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc. That Katrina turned into a man-made catastrophe spans several administrations (Republican and Democrat) going beyond the 1965 Betsy disaster in the Lower 9th Ward. The infrastructure of America is collapsing everywhere (including that bridge in Minnesota a few years back). Urban neglect comes in all forms, including political votes that were steered toward bailing out Wall Street at the expense of constituents struggling to survive in every American city.
The loss of a job and a home and often a family and one’s dignity due to the fraud perpetrated by Wall Street (CNN can call it gambling), was nationwide; felt in small town America every bit as much as every American city.
Here’s an idea: Instead of pointing fingers at one party, how about demanding that the $38 BILLION dollars the Obama administration “quietly” dismissed from corporations, banks, etc. that were gifted our money through TARP be redirected toward the levees in New Orleans? Think maybe New Orleans (or any other city in distress) could benefit from those dismissed tax dollars? I don’t know the math, but I’ll suggest that $38 BILLION might go a long way towards rebuilding dikes that had been ignored for decades. Or why not hire out engineers from the Netherlands, an entire country that exists below sea level? Surely $38 BILLION would help.
TK has no use for either party and doesn’t believe for a second one is better than the other in any substantial way deserving of our support (votes). If anything, TK believes that the one supposedly representing the underdog (the Democrats) are the bigger sellout party. Republicans make no bones about who they represent and while they have very valid points about the inefficiency of big government, the “small town values” rhetoric is nothing more than an appeal to an anachronistic time in American history; hard work and doing the right thing (assuming one has the opportunity to do so) no longer guarantee a better life. For millions of Americans, hard work and doing the right thing meant having the rug pulled out from under them by the federal government’s bailout of Wall Street. Last year it meant my wife and I paying an absurd amount of tax dollars above what was taking from our pay checks for working hard (7 days a week) so that Wall Street executives could reward themselves with multi-million dollar bonuses while Hooverville’s were replaced by Bush-Obamavilles in Sacramento California and other places. Tent cities in 2010 in the wealthiest nation in the world? Hard to imagine but there we were (and may still be, I honestly don’t know).
So, I was ambivalent about watching Treme because of the political sniping I believed Simon was engaged in (and not to defend the Republican Party, but not to let the Democratic Party off the hook). Then I heard some of the music from the show while channel surfing Saturday afternoon. I had been practicing drum rudiments on my practice pad in the living room between searching for something to watch. Then I heard the music and stopped surfing, saw it was Treme and said, “Oh, what the hell.”
As it so happens, when my first wife was pregnant with our first child (our daughter, Nicole), we had to cancel a planned cruise by doctor’s orders and visited New Orleans instead. We stayed at the Bienville House in the French Quarter and I got to pick up the drum sticks in their lounge one night because the drummer didn’t show. I was hesitant at first because several people from the audience had volunteered and performed badly, but I finally got up after being urged on by my wife at the time and I wound up playing until closing. It was one of the finest moments in my life (certainly one I'll never forget) and upon returning to New York I started playing again (albeit for a short period of time).
Speaking of drums and a little political digression ... Peter Erskine performing a drum solo the way drum solos are supposed to be played (short and sweet) ... Diane Krall’s husband, Elvis Costello, by the way, appears in Treme and one can only assume his wife will be there soon. The video below is from a concert of Krall’s with Robert Hurst, Anthony Wilson and the “wonderful Peter Erskine on the drums” ... one of the most treasured videos in Casa Stella, I assure you.
All of the politics above aside, I was very glad I finally did watch Treme. It is another wonderful series by Simon and HBO. Even more so than The Wire, which I thought was the second best HBO series (second only to Deadwood in my book). I recognized many of the cast from The Wire and then remembered at least one from Deadwood. The music is fantastic (including Louie Prima’s Buona Sera) and the characters are the kind you have to root for. The sense of culture and community it was the creator’s intent to showcase is handled masterfully; Simon is again at the top of his game. When one character mentioned how the New Orleans Sicilian Mafia of old was more protective of their assets (the city itself) than the government, a bittersweet smile crossed my ugly mug. No, not from an affinity with the Sicilian (or any) mob, but mostly because it is my firm belief that those Goldman Sachs executives, including those President Obama has surrounded himself with in his administration, should be indicted under federal RICO laws. As I stated in the opening to my second book, Jimmy Bench-Press, regarding the high profile corporate criminal at the time (Enron), perhaps it is time to go after the true organized criminals in America. Perhaps it is time to use RICO against companies like Goldman Sachs who appear to have used their standing on Wall Street to defraud an entire country. The fact they were rewarded for it suggests maybe RICO should be turned on the federal government as well, but that would be wishing on a star, wouldn’t it?
The bottom line is Treme is wonderful. See it, amici ... if not for the great acting, writing and directing, than for the music alone. It is truly wonderful music.
In the meantime, here's Diana Krall, Robert Hurst, Anthony Wilson and "the wonderful Peter Erskine on drums" again ...
And the DOC says (about the short story, Tommy Red, from the previous post) ...
Thanks for sharing that glimpse into the chilling underbelly of word processing. I could be wrong, but it seems like you are on the verge of creating a new genre in literature. We could call it “Work Drudgery Noir”. I was at the sneaker store yesterday and I could tell that my salesman, Bobby, had some dark tales to tell.
Trying on sneakers without socks?
“Not on my watch, lady.”
It’s a shame that Harrison Ford is semi-retired because I could see him in your word processing expose’, “Indiana Jones and the Courier Font”. It can’t miss! This could fill a niche that is begging for attention. What could be more satisfying after a long day at a boring job than to see the inner intrigue of a job that’s even more tedious than yours?
I can visualize the chubby, balding accountant leaving the theatre. He turns to his fat wife: “You know, Thelma, if I hadn’t been saddled with you and the kids, I could have been a word processor.”
Thelma glances at him with a look of utter disgust and spits out, “You didn’t have the balls, Harry.”
And we haven’t even touched your stint in the high-stakes world of window washing. Like the time they sprayed WD-40 on your favorite squeegee. Tell me that wouldn’t raise the bar on Drudge Noir.
I’m thinking trilogy here.