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Karen Dalton-Beninato

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Strangled By a Haunted Social Scene: The Treme Season Finale

Posted: 06/21/2010 10:40 am

Halfway through the inaugural season of Treme, I worked up a handy system to review each episode alphabetically by character. Last week that system failed so badly I may have set the show in 1800's France. This is a distractible time. Two months into the oil leak, I've been thinking about an article here on HuffPost describing the post-Exxon Valdexz upheaval of "a community marked by loss of social capital -- loss of trust, family, friendships, networks and the sense of belonging within the community" along with a rise in domestic violence, self isolation, medicating and depression.

That post has had, "Strangled by a haunted social scene" from Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" stuck in my mind, even though he's currently dead to me after playing Rush Limbaugh's wedding. The song came to mind again after the ending of this season's Treme, without a system I can jump right to it -- Simon concluded the season by flashing back from Daymo's funeral to his last hours pre-evacuation, then followed that with flashbacks of Albert, Annie, Antoine, Creighton, Davis, Delmond, Janette, Ladonna, Sonny and Toni pre-Katrina. (Still rolling with the alphabetical thing.)

The flashbacks were followed by Daymo's second line and "This City Won't Wash Away" by Steve Earle. It was part closure, part emotional trigger written for the show at Simon's request and produced by T. Bone Burnett with Allen Toussaint's arrangements. If you're looking for a wildly detailed musical wrapup check out Dave Walker. And Back of Town is a stellar blog dedicated to the show.

Reactions to the unexpected Katrina flashback rolled across Twitter as friends remembered that time. I remembered. When I see Steve Earle playing Harley, I think of his drummer Will Rigby. Then of the brilliant Peter Holsapple who was in the dB's with Will and my husband Jeff. Peter lost everything to Katrina and moved north. Then I think of Peter's ex-wife Susan Cowsill from years of hearing their band the Continental Drifters at the Howlin Wolf. Susan describes the thin line between going and staying in her new Lighthouse CD. I think of her brother Barry Cowsill, found in the Mississippi River post Katrina. He stayed with us sometimes, when he was back in town to give it another try. That makes me remember musician Dinerral Shavers and filmmaker Helen Hill, both lost to senseless violence in the years after the levee failure.

Thankfully this episode brought back non-tragic memories as well. Like when we figured out how to turn the AC up enough to keep food cold on a FEMA room windowsill. How people from around the world gave when given the opportunity and we in turn gave it all away. How a musician flew over from Liverpool to walk from Chicago to New Orleans to show how much the city was still in everyone's hearts. When I asked how he found NOMRF he said, "You guys seemed friendly." A three month walk later, he was too modest to make much of a fuss about it so I told a bellman, "This is Joe Topping. He just walked here from Chicago." The man grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "You have the heart of a lion." Grandpa Elliott, the Voodoo Vixens, trumpeter Leroy Jones and the rest of us second lined him along the Mississippi River (PHOTOS). It was Joe's first time in New Orleans.

This was all in 2006, when the show is set. We've been coming and going from the Midwest post-Katrina, last year sharing a house with Dr. John who is himself a New Orleans music encyclopedia.

There are too many highs and lows over the last five years to go into in one post, or on one show. Treme is a spectacular series, particularly when it's repeating our litanies back to us. It deserves a longer recap than this, but right now I'm distractible.

Albert Stays: "If it was easy, everybody'd be Indian."

Annie Stays: "I need to be able to play when I want with who I want."

Antoine Stays: "Touissaint's a hard man, Baby."

Creighton Goes: "I love you. Cray."

Davis Stays: "A nap, that's another thing they probably don't have in sad-ass Gotham City."

Delmond Goes: "Yeah, it does get old."

Janette Goes: "It's not about you, Davis."

Ladonna Stays: "Sounds like everymotherf***er up in here is spinning."

Sonny Stays: "You think we should leave town. In whose car?

Toni Stays: "Whole goddman city down on its ass all of us still here, one day after the next -- can't dance for em when they quit."

Treme Stays: For Season Two.

Writer David Mills Goes: Rest in Peace.

My full post, with video of last week's Jackson Square musician protest against police reviving an old curfew ordinance and ticketing street musicians at NewOrleans.com.

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