Watching Treme in the Dark of the Year

The dark of January is a tough time for me, I’m coping by watching the HBO drama, ‘Treme’.

Like they say in New Orleans, it’s wicked depressing. It’s an adult soap opera with musicians and widespread devastation.

Excellent art holds a mirror to life. The plot counts the cost of male privilege. Women haul this ball and chain–husbands and boyfriends who more often than not sabotage their efforts to improve their lives. And male privilege distracts the men from organizing against race and class privilege that thwarts their progress in life. Selective enforcement of the law, when there is law at all, ensures that the playing field is really an obstacle course.

Social mobility is a form of wealth. Some characters get a day off from the misery, others never do. The more connected can visit the afflicted parts of the city and return to their peaceful homes, the others never get a break from noise, squalor and danger.

I’m in Season 2, some of my favorite characters are suffering terribly from the return of violent crime to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. La Donna, the fearless and fiercely independent bar owner is raped and badly beaten. I trained as a sexual assault nurse examiner, and the emergency room scene was accurate.

So far no bright side is suggested. That stands out, because the American narrative loves happy endings and triumph over adversity. The conventional approach would have been a last-minute rescue by a manly man. Or a revenge story, or La Donna suggesting that somehow this horrible assault had made her a better person. But sometimes loss is loss and we are diminished. Not in our worth as human beings, but in what we can make of our lives. Perfect thought for mid-winter blues.

And if Treme doesn’t sugar-coat the suffering of poverty, crime and prejudice, it is sweetened by the amazing music that weaves through the story. Musicians and creative people are the heart of the city– when I get my mojo back I’m going to get some Doctor John and Alan Toussaint.

I made a resolution to ditch my gym membership and rent a keyboard instead. I found a funky, hipster little shop full of guitars and instruments right on a backstreet of the next town over. Goodbye treadmill, hello music. Life is short. True dat, as we say in Rhode Island.

I’ll be late returning Treme to Acme Video, the only place I know where you can rent something really good. Long may it wave.

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