Treme: s01 e07 – Smoke my Peace Pipe

Parallel lines. Stories taking place, rolling forward. They slide past each other. A couple impinge on each other, the centre of one playing a subsidiary role in someone else’s. David McAlary’s still pushing his candidature for City Council, selling CDs, thinking of another song, maybe even Mayor. Gets approached by a Judge offering a favour of Davis steps down, stops taking votes from their candidate. A handshake.

But then he discovers Janette’s restaurant is closed down. She’s bought herself a trailer, going to be a mobile grill-chef. Davis turns up, offering (genuine?) sympathy and friendship, mans the counter for her.

Toni Burnette’s a tangent to two stories, LaDonna’s and Creighton’s. Crei’s trying to write, to go back to the novel. Toni’s pleasure is nothing but an interruption to the flow, but another Rant – quieter, more sober, level-headed and oddly defeatist – is an easier interruption. I know Crei Burnette’s outcome. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could watch these scenes in ignorance, and only fear for what they might import, instead of knowing why John Goodman isn’t in any more seasons after this one.

LaDonna… well, no, we’ll come back to her. Let me just note here that I always suspected Khandi Alexander was being wasted in CSI: Miami and Treme confirms this because she is so bloody good in this, and in this week.

There are others whose stories unfold in isolation. Antoine plays down at the airport with the little band, to ordinary folks and visiting star musicians who jam, but his old mentor dies in a hospital bed and there’s also a funeral to play at.

Annie’s back with Sunny. There’s the chance of a three week Canadian tour playing fiddle with a Cajun band: he’s outwardly supportive but, well, you know. Annie flubs the audition, though it all sounded good to me, because she’s got troubles in her heart. Lucia Micarelli is my favourite thing about Treme, even when she’s not lost in her playing.

And Big Chief Albert Lambreaux’s latest stunt is to invade the fenced off projects, take up (permissive) residence in a home belonging to a tribe member’s mother, expect to get arrested. It’s to draw attention to how many people, especially black folk, are being prevented from returning to N’Awleans, especially before the Elections, when there is well-constructed, undamaged housing available to them.

It’s all Politics, talk of reducing Orleans in size, a smaller footprint, let the swamp reclaim black districts. It’s part of Creighton’s Rant, it’s in Davis’s possible political manifesto, it’s here in Big Chief Albert’s faux-naive questions to the Press. The Police let him alone as long as they can but the arrest has to come. On your knees, motherfucker, hands on your head. Albert will go, but with dignity, on his feet, with handcuffs before him. Won’t Bow Don’t Know How. But that’s too much of a defiance, and he is beaten to the ground, beaten by four cops, with batons and an arm across the throat. Uppity niggers don’t get to defy White cops. Who does he think he is? Rodney King?

But LaDonna Battiste-Wiliams, still searching for her brother Damo. A Judge, disgusted at a system that’s lied, prevaricated, obstructed, hidden for six months, orders production. But Damo’s not in the system. Not of live prisoners, anyway. Nor on the master list that includes both the released and the dead. LaDonna spots a name, though, cousin Jerome, no record, and at home.

So poor Damo is tracked, to a body-bag in a refrigerated truck, shunted around a system, dead of a cerebral haemorrhage, ‘falling from a top bunk’. And LaDonna, having discovered her brother’s been dead for five months, five months, dealing with shock, dealing with misery, dealing with anger, summoning up a fearsome coldness: no removal of the body, no funeral arrangements, not now, not during Carnival. She’ll hold on to it. Her mother, their family, they will have Carnival, right and proper. Then it can be done, be told. Until then, LaDonna will be the only one. She’ll hold it in.

Khandi Alexander deserves every plaudit for her performance in this episode. She is better than you can imagine anyone being. And when Carnival is over…

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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