". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Last Few Days

Wednesday: TR does the Louis Armstrong airport pick-up. At his house, his super Gumbo is waiting, and is even more super than he claimed it to be. TWTMNO is in the airport bookstore, though the woman working there said they'd just come in -- they'd been out. "Did you know it was sold out and the publishers didn't have any more until they re-printed?"

Thursday and Friday: Nothing like the thrill of entering a bookstore and seeing that your book is at the cashier and being bought by a customer. This happened not just once, but twice with The World That Made New Orleans. Everyone working in the bookstores recognizes Vaquero the moment he walks in. Book stores concerned that they are running out and can't get it -- "Did you know that TWTMNO was sold out from your publisher? It seems they re-printed, and we just got our copies, please sign."

Nightimes: Walking on the streets, hanging at Marky's, checking out the music venues, people running up, including Martha Ward, professor at New Orleans University, who wrote Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, telling you how much they love the book. Vaquero's happy. How not?????

Saturday: The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Award luncheon at Houmas Plantation (the Posse – J., TR & Vaquero – named it the Liberace Plantation, i.e. ersatz, a plantation theme park. The Tulane History Personage who did the Book Award introduced Vaquero by calling The World That Made New Orleans "The best history of New Orleans ever written." He had to say that, of course. This is an awards banquet. This is Southern hospitality.
The good part about the event (along with the food, which was spectacular from appetizers to dessert and all local, including the duck), is that most of these awards LEH awards go to people you're not likely to know -- particularly teachers and librarians. This meant that many women of color were present, with their posses, for their awards. They love the book, they love Vaquero. Back then, writing the book, we knew, if the sisters love the book, we win, if they don't like it, we lose. Gads, these women work! Oh do they work. And against such odds. Yes indeed, this is the best part of the entire LEH awards event. It's also much more integrated than most cultural events. Every book available was sold.
Night: On Frenchman, L., our musician-across-the-street neighbor from ybtf appears. He volunteers the information that when the tenant (or a tenant) after us found out about the murder in our house, she, being a lawyer, threatened to sue Landlord if he didn't let her out of the lease. Hahahaha! Especially as the murder is one of the book's themes. But we didn't know how it all ended until now. The trial, conviction and sentencing just took place last week, after all these years. And now this is the last tie-up, as Landlord still hasn't done anything to make invasion of that house any more difficult.

Super Sunday: Super Sunday isn't only about Mardi Gras Indians. It's also the greatest Second Line in the round of New Orleans's year. Second lines are most about the social aid and pleasure clubs, and the communities they grew out of generations ago, the communities they still serve, the communities they still help hold together, even through the Failure and the Struggle for Recovery. Many of the greatest figures of Jazz and other American popular music came out of the social aid and pleasure clubs -- many of whom also 'play Indian.' These clubs, with their sponsorship of Second Line parades (the brass bands) are the ground for keeping the music alive and evolving. They also accept white members these days, which is only a good thing.This is a queen of one of the social aid and pleasure clubs. Vaquero called out to one of her maids, "Does it hurt to be so beautiful?" (The clubs deliberately do what they can to signal a sense of luxury and wealth -- thus the champagne flutes, the big cigars, the ribbons.) She giggled and threw him a handkerchief with her name and the club's on it. The clubs have children's auxillaries too. The attentive care of the children on this very long Second Line parade excursion is one of the deep delights of Super Sunday.

Introductions -- Clarke Peters (Detective Lester Freeman in The Wire), and David Simon via Blake Leyh, his music director. Simon's read the book – Blake gave it to him. Monday, he begins shooting the pilot for Tremé at 7 AM.

Night: C. & L.'s + kids.

Monday: Arrive at the shoot about 8; see Clarke again; further introductions to members of cast and crew and production staff, including Wendell Pierce (da Bunk in The Wire – he's been studying the trumpet for his role in Tremé). The series is contemporary, featuring the lives of individual musicians, with their families, their community, their social aid and pleasure clubs, as Mardi Gras Indians -- Donald Harrison has a big role and is a consultant -- and as performing musicians. Agnieszka Holland, is directing the Tremé pilot (she directed many eps of The Wire and of Generation Kill). Everyone says they've read The World That Made New Orleans – it seems to have been required reading. Holland says TWTMNO was the most useful book of all they read about NO. Evidently the pilot is utilizing a great deal of what is the concluding chapter of The World That Made New Orleans. It's set two - three months post Katrina. Everyone will read The Year Before The Flood when it comes out in August -- but only if the pilot is picked up by HBO, one presumes. Another, among those met is one of New Olreans's four forensics medical people, a woman. She said, "I'm probably the only person you'll meet who wanted to move to New Orleans because of the murder stats."
Later: Going to hang out with PS, yay!
All The Time: Copy edits, copy edits, copy edits for TYBTF ....


Renegade Eye said...

That was really a great post. Good news.

K. said...

What a whirlwind! I'm out of breath just reading about it!

Foxessa said...

For the last two months Donald Harrison has been teaching Clarke Peters how to 'play Indian ya'awl.'

The production has also built a replica of The Blue Note -- the venerable jazz club here in NYC -- for his scenes here in NYC.

They are doing incredible things, re-creating what we saw and photographed in the months post-Katrina. It was so weird to see that endless line of flood-destroyed cars under Claiborne -- the removal of them was a huge step forward in Recovery. To just be driving along and unexpectedly run into this again was wrenching to heart, mind and stomach.

Most of all it was so weird. Who knew, when discovering The Wire, thinking it the greatest expression of the failure of our nation as it now is, that one day one would chat with Detective Lester Freeman? I am not a fan person who wants a personal connection with work I love and admire. So this is a gift.

Now it's for home where the deep freeze has returned. Dear amigo PS, is on sabbatical and has been planning to come to NYC to do some research, but he's refusing until it gets warmer. I could say they are spoiled re winter in the Dirty South, but I can't stand the idea of that cold again, either.

Love, C.