Monday, June 14, 2010

Gang Watching Treme

This piece cross posted at Back of Town
So, I decided a few nights ago, with only two episodes to go that I'd like to see the show with a lot of other people. I typically hunker down on the couch in my living room to watch Treme. Now and then a wayward HBO-less friend saunters to the front door to join us. It's wonderful. But I'd gotten an invite to a screening at the HiHo Lounge on St. Claude with the extra incentive of Mardi Gras Indians being there, and went.

My close friends all love the show. We're rabid about it. We talk about it, we conjecture, we email. These are people I know and love and we had all waited impatiently for Treme to air. It's a slightly insular group. I wanted to see how the general public and the Indians felt about it.

I got to the HiHo early and the place was pretty much empty but for the two buck Abitas slung across the bar by the pink and blonde haired bartender who also happens to be the very talented artist, Mardi Claw, whose work has been seen a time or two on the walls in various scenes of Treme. Two other women sat at the bar. The conversation was laced with Katrina stories and oil spill grief and anger. Time passed and a few more beers were slung.

A bit before 8PM two men come into the bar. They are Wild Man John of the Wild Tchoupitoulas and a young man whose name I didn't write down from the Creole Wild West. By now there were about 40 people in the bar. The crowd was almost exclusively young and white. The Indians explain that the Creole Wild West is the oldest gang around, they then proceed to explain a bit about their culture and attempt to get the bar crowd to learn the responses to various songs. Wild Man John leads a second line out to St. Claude and quickly returns. A few more songs and the Wild Man asks if we're ready to watch Treme. The crowd yells its assent and the volume is cranked up. A cheer goes up as they hear, "And now. . ." The clips from last week's episode flick by, the scene of the Indians in the dark, Wild Man John hollers "That's ME!"

Sonny and Annie on the river. Boos and hisses for Sonny, laughter as someone yells "Douchebag!" then silence. The crowd has grown to probably 75 people, it's not a huge place but it was packed, and they were all listening to the couple on screen. People standing everywhere as the seats were gone, with folded arms and faces tilted up toward the screen. Theme song comes up, beer orders are put in, most sing along with John Boutte.

As dire as some of the situations were, the jokes got huge laughs, Janette's duck fat quip, nothing in the perpetual care package, like Allstate, Mardi Gras fuck and closed legs, Davis Rogan saying he couldn't BE Irma, back gonna hurt for the next 40-50 years, the work ethic line was a particular hit. "You know nothing of my alchemy" may become a tshirt. Oh yeah, they were loving it.

The people in this place were totally invested in the show and the characters. These characters have become extended family to New Orleanians. You could hear breath being held all over the bar at certain moments: the blank blue screen that turns out to be in front of Creighton could have caused a riot had it lasted a second longer. Everyone thought the connection to HBO had been lost, it was a short term panicked moment until the camera pulled back to reveal Creighton. The sadness was palpable as Janette drops the tray and walks dejectedly out of frame. When Kermit hit the screen the entire place cheered, he was ours, our guy, up there. It was a moment of collective pride. A sense of "Kermit will show them how we do it!" "Them" being the folks out of town watching the show.

By the time Creighton asks for a cigarette on the Ferry followed by the "bullet in the chamber" line, no one was drinking, no one was talking. As the show ended people just stood still, waiting for more.

Some interesting observations were made. We were never shown LaDonna's notifying her mother of Daymo's death. We didn't have to watch their agony. Someone else noticed that the crypt that was in such bad shape said Batiste, begging the question was LaDonna a Batiste before she married Antoine. It is a huge family, could happen. Lots of people said they were kind of dreading the last episode, figuring it would be St. Joseph's Day and wondering if Albert was going to "step past the fight." There was also a lot of musing about what they were going to do until the second season started. Several people said they'd buy the DVD's and watch it all again.

Lawdy lawdy lawdy Miss Clawdy raffled off some of her paintings. I won one of a Day of the Dead Jean LaFitte, which totally cracked me up after Davis' turn as LaFitte last week. As I walked out with my painting, Wild Man John was getting ready to leave. His incredible suit laying in the back of an open pickup truck. I asked him if he was sure it wouldn't blow outta there on the way home. He said it would be okay. I then asked if he thought the Treme writers were getting it right. He said yes, mostly. He was overall pretty happy with Treme's treatment of the Indian gangs, said no one could get it ALL correct unless they were in it, and that he was happy that that part of New Orleans culture was being showcased. I told him that some people didn't think these men would really be sitting and sewing all the time. Both men told me that they did indeed sew all the time and were already working on next year's suits.

Now, where will I watch the final episode?

(More photos from last night can be found here.)

No comments: