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Treme and Danziger Bridge -- the Two Faces of New Orleans

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How enraptured is New Orleans with David Simon's portrait of the city in Treme, which just premiered last Sunday? This enraptured: news of the series' renewal for a second season was above the fold on the front page of yesterday's Times-Picayune. Dinner-table conversations all over town have focused on what you liked, and what you didn't like, about the premiere episode, the characters, the details. We all had our niggles--mine was, if this was three months after the flood, where were the abandoned refrigerators that lined every sidewalk?--but the city seemed to like the portrait of itself in Simon's fictional mirror. After the ghastly fiction of "K-Ville"--which made "gumbo party" a citywide joke--people here are relieved, and flattered, that someone cared enough to try to get us right.

Treme, friends say, seems to have come at the right moment. The city, nearly five years into a recovery many folks argued against or doubted would ever happen, has felt for much of this year as if it were almost levitating. The Saints' victory in the Super Bowl, coming on the same weekend as the primary election that marked the decisive end to the pathetic mayoralty of C. Ray Nagin, seemed to punctuate the sense of--and a friend last night remarked over her willingness to use this word--renaissance that is blowing through New Orleans like the spring breeze off the Mississippi.

Except...and there's always an exception in New Orleans...when Treme's renewal wasn't on the front page, a spike in gun-related violence was. Just as the city feels as if the bad old days are over comes a reminder that young men are still shooting each other, and, as policemen plead guilty in the Danziger Bridge case, a reminder that police are still shooting unarmed civilians and covering it up. The news has been full of controversy over incoming mayor Mitch Landrieu's selection process for the new police chief. However the process plays out, the new chief has a big job ahead: saving the renaissance.