By Lolis Eric Elie
Deadlines are usually on Mondays, which means that work doesn’t really start to get done until Sunday afternoon. Invariably when I find myself working on one of those do-or-die Sundays, a second line parade will pass in front of my house and tempt me to madness.
I curse New Orleans then.
Then sometimes on Sundays, I have guests visiting from out of town and I’ll try to convey something of the magic of this place and, as if on cue, a second line parade will pass in front of my house.
Sometimes, having missed the Monday deadline, I’ll be feeling inspired (read: pressured) and will chain myself to the computer on Tuesday night, determined to bury whatever beast of an assignment (or assigning editor) has ruined my life.
Then sometimes on Tuesday nights, I’ll remember that Kermit Ruffins plays his regular gig at Bullet’s Sports Bar or that the Rebirth Brass Band plays its regular gig at the Maple Leaf or that Davelle Crawford, or Meschiya Lake, or Shannon Powell is also playing that night. And I’m reminded of how on the 'Bright Moments' album, Rahsaan Roland Kirk told the crowd that they didn’t seem like “Saturday night people,” because real “Saturday night people” act like that’s the only night they get out.
Then I’m glad I don’t live in a “Saturday night people” kind of place.
Re-reading David Simon’s script for the first episode of this season, I found myself remembering all those Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. Terry Colson (David Morse) is confronted by his ex-wife with the implied question: Why do you bother to stay in New Orleans? “Dreamers. Dreamers and drunks,” she tells him, suggesting that those are the only people who live here. A dozen pages later, Colson encounters Fez Man, the fez-and-dishdasha-clad bicyclist with the guitar slung across his back. “Don’t ever change,” Colson tells the man, less as a point of advice than a statement of a certain kind of solidarity.
In the first year or two after the federal levee failures, when I was still writing a thrice-weekly column for The Times-Picayune, kind readers would sometimes thank me for staying in the city in the aftermath of that hell. I was a real New Orleanian, some of them would say, determined to stay in this place. (Or was it condemned?)
I’ve taken no vow of eternal residence here. A decent opportunity could easily whisk me away to Rio or Paris or Cape Town. But, much as Colson didn’t want to leave this place based on an ex-wife’s disapproval, I didn’t want to be forced out of my city by the failures of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its faulty levees.
Dreamers and drunks. For better and for worse, these are my people.