Commentary: Treme


Treme sign-off in the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Offered up in response to an invitation from the editors, who wanted something to “bookend” the series, given that I had written a short primer when the drama premiered.  It’s never fair to declaim on what a story is or isn’t when folks are still absorbing it on their own terms and forming their own opinions, so I kept it to a couple elemental disclaimers and a thank-you to the cultural communities in New Orleans.  I should also mention that the offer of a first round on me is for New Orleanians only, as they have been gracious about the necessary trespass.  If you come up to me with concerns and critiques of the drama in Boston or Barcelona or Baltimore, the first one is definitely on you. *         *         * Four and a half years and 36 hours of television later, I still don’t know what “tu es pocky way” actually means. Or more accurately, I don’t know which to credit among the seven or eight definitions offered us by five or six different Mardi Gras...

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Film and Television Treme

Why I don’t tweet. Example #47

So I am on the way to a nice dinner with wife and child and Mr. Bourdain emails me.  Seems someone named Andy Cohen, who is also involved in this sprawling and relentless medium of television in some important way, has gotten into a back-and-forth with Mr. Bourdain on Twitter.  And out of the blue, though I am minding my own business — which is something for which I rarely get any credit  — Mr. Cohen, defending himself on a matter of interest to himself and Mr. Bourdain, goes out of his way to shit on the HBO production of Treme. I don’t know Mr. Cohen.  I understand he is with the Bravo Network and he was defending their show, “Top Chef,” from some negative publicity that resulted from that production having bartered for some of the BP-oil spill restoration funds as an incentive for filming in Louisiana.   And in contending with Mr. Bourdain’s suggestion that he mitigate that negative publicity by making a charitable donation of the money, Mr...

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My Books Treme

DeAndre McCullough (1977-2012)

To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart. At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn’t begin to explain who he was.  For the boys of Franklin Square — too many of them at any rate — slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable rite of passage.  And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old. He was funny.  He could step back from himself and mock his own stances — “hard work,” he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, “hard work being a black man in America.”  And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption.  His imitations of white-authority voices — social workers, police officers...

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Published Elsewhere Treme

Pickles and Cream

The following is reprinted with permission from Lucky Peach #4, published by McSweeney’s.  It is on sale now.  And, yes, payment for this essay will require co-publisher David Chang slaving over a hot stove.   *      *      * I want to embrace the best of the kitchen. But if DNA is destiny, and genetics holds any sway at all over the human palate, then I have much—probably too much—to overcome. The Simons come from peasant stock, and by that I don’t mean the countryside of Alsace or Tuscany or any other place where cuisine makes the days true and beautiful, where gardens and orchards and farms and village butchers conspire for a cuisine both purposeful and ingeniously simple. We are not the progeny of any agrarian ideal worthy of Impressionist paintings. No, my father’s people were kicked-to-the-ground-by-Cossacks peasants, wandering Pale of Settlement Yids who lived with one or two bags always packed and spent the early moments of the last century running ahead of whatever...

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End of Treme 3 filming

Back home in Baltimore after a long, involved shoot. How long, you ask?  How involved? Well, if you must know, the following figures were compiled by fellow producer Joe Incaprera.  They were delivered to the crew after the last shot of season three, outside a warehouse in Algiers amid champagne and cake. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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The Wire Treme

HBO’s TREME vs. THE WIRE Battle of the Bands at Tipitina’s

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—In a coals-to-Newcastle spirit of brave provocation, an East Coast musical contingent associated with the HBO drama The Wire is coming to town – and challenging two of New Orleans’ sturdiest and funkiest ensembles to a Wire-versus-Treme battle of the bands. A charity fundraiser for two key charities in the New Orleans music community, the May 11th event at Tipitina’s Uptown pits Galactic and the Stooges Brass Band against Baltimore’s funk-jazz pioneer Lafayette Gilchrist and Washington D.C. go-go icon Anwan Glover & The Backyard Band. “Who brings music to New Orleans?” said David Simon, producer of both HBO dramas.  “Who comes here and throws down against badass outfits like Galactic or the Stooges?” Originally from Baltimore-D.C. but familiar with the New Orleans music community, Simon insists that the evening could prove epic.  “I tried to warn them about New Orleans, I tried to hold ‘em back.  But Lafayette and Big G won’t be told.  They’re coming. ...

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Music People Treme

Levon Helm

I can’t even begin to get good words around how much this man’s voice and musicality meant to me,  and how much his work colored my sense of American music.   From West Helena, Arkansas to the world. We’re now filming the last episode of the third season of Treme.  In the original beat sheet for that episode, there is a story arc in which one of our characters performs with Helm and his band in Woodstock, at one of his legendary Midnight Rambles.  Helm himself had conversations with one of our producers about the possibility.  And having had the chance to attend one such Ramble in his barn there, I wanted it to happen badly.  Those homemade concerts were pretty damn magical, and I relished the thought of using the drama to cast a little more light on Helm and what he meant to roots rock’n’roll. A couple months ago, we got word that Helm had again stopped singing, and, too, we had exhausted a good chunk of our travel budget for the production.  We...

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