Buffa's Bar & Restaurant On the Border of the Quarter since 1939

Deconstructing Treme: What is New Orleans?

by Jeremy Ford

The Pfister Sister and local pianist discuss how the death of Steve Earle's character mimics life at the time.
Buffa’s Restaurant and Lounge hosted their weekly
Treme screening party and NoDef was there sharing the back room with an eager and tuned in crowd. Sunday night's episode entitled “What is New Orleans?” was a winding river that flowed with L’il Calio trumping Davis’ radio play hopes, moral advice offered ironically by Oliver Thomas, and dueling Frenchmen Street gigs between Antoine and Kermit Ruffins.
As the episode ripped and rushed through the city streets, an unforeseen dam forced the current to a shocking halt as Harley, played by Steve Earle was shot down, killing off one of the show’s most beloved characters.
Holley Bendtsen of the Pfister Sisters and local pianist Harry Mayronne provided the pre and post show musical entertainment as the crowd awaited the episode and then subsequently recovered from its climatic closing scene. We caught up with Holley and Harry after the viewing to get their insight into the 
Holley Well it was pretty shocking.  We didn’t expect to see Steve go down.  Steve is a heavy identifier for musicians.  He is one of us! 
Harry I was reacting at the event itself (as opposed to the character).  And not only that, but the location- that is my exact path, down that sidewalk, on that corner, right where it happened (referring to how often he walks past the location of the shooting.)
Holley I’ve walked it a million times.
Harry My thing watching the show was- I live in the Quarter and they’re always filming around me- that it is one of the better things to happen to the city that we have Hollywood here, but I have these real conflicting feelings.  You know it’s great, it’s selling New Orleans, but then I get to that (referring to shooting) and it is like, is that helping or is that hurting?  I’m thinking if I’m watching that show, and given people are going to buy what their told, does this make them feel like it could seduce them into wanting to come here and then a slap in the face of reality make them think it’s a dangerous place.  I had a very mixed reaction to it.
Holley I think we all do.
Harry But the thing is, is it depicts that time.  They mentioned Helen Hill and I went to that March on Crime (referring to the “March against violence on city hall,” a march against post-Katrina violence that took place in 2007 after Hill was killed) and it looked to me like there was a clip from that.  “Too little, too late” was the placards of that crime march if I remember.
Holley It shows the good, the bad, and the ugly.  From my memory of that year, I think they portray it less excruciating than it was.
Harry If they showed it as tough as it really was to live through that year, no one would watch it.
Holley It would be completely depressing.  People still in 2006-2007 were coming in from Houston, going to the flooded house and finding grandma’s body still in the house so I don’t think they show it as horrible as it was.
Harry You’re right about that.
Holley To me, I’m always amazed that everybody in the show has a place to stay, none of their relatives are from St. Bernard and their pets are there, and they’ve got places to wash there clothes.  Why do they look so good?  Why are they having no trouble getting groceries?  And where are they doing the damn laundry? (Finding humor in the show’s more sugar-coated portrayal of the time)
Harry When I came back for the first time after Katrina, it was the end of September and I saw like two people in the French Quarter, and there was this place near where I lived, and there was nobody in the city, but there was this little boy sitting on top of a car at Bourbon and Toulouse with a big sign that said “Huge Ass Beer” and I looked in this place and I think it was the Dick and Randy show.  It was two guys playing guitar, playing cover songs, and I just went in and had a beer and I just wept because it hit me.  I was in New Orleans and I was listening to live music, and it was my birthday, and it was such a bizarre time.  And about two years later, I got off from a gig and I had been paid in cash.  And I’m walking around the corner and look and Dick and Randy were playing, and I had this flashback.  I walked home and I went ‘I know what I have to do’, and I went back there, and I put the 100 dollar bill in the tip jar.  And I tried to explain to them why I was doing this, but it was loud in there and I don’t think they got it.  But just hearing somebody play live music was so amazingly powerful and emotional.
On Playing Live Music After the Storm
Holley Well you did it as like defiance.  We used to do this Wednesday night at Spotted Cat and we called it “Recovery with Alcohol,” because that’s what it was.  You’re so fucking tired of your seven day a week schedule.  None of these people are fixing their houses either (on the show).  What’s up with that?     (Laughter)
Harry I remember seeing the French Quarter and it was like looking at a loved one in a coma.
Death and Blogs
Holley There is a death pool going out on the blogs. Some people had picked Sophia to go as like the heroin OD from Lusher, but nobody picked Steve Earle.  Nobody thought about that at all.  (Referring back to the Lusher girl that overdosed) I know classmates of the boy that got the heroin for that girl.  At that time, there was so much of it that you could accidently off yourself. Those Ben Franklin kids had those accidental ODs on Mardi Gras at a hotel.  And then people were dying like flies, all the grandmas, grandpas, moms, and dads were going so fast you couldn’t keep up with it.