Just hung up with a someone WWOZ is negotiating with in Washington DC for rights to broadcast an event live. The person I talked to had just seen last night’s re-run teaser episode of Treme, was the first time she had ever watched the show, noticed we were in it and it didn’t hurt our negotiations one bit.
The 16th century French were fascinated by the interplay of appearance and reality, before that the Greeks, and before them, the ancient mystics along the banks of the Indus River. And now, I’m suddenly all too aware of the interplay.
The creators of Treme profess their love for WWOZ. And I have no doubt of it. Yet, saying that what they create is fiction, not fact, and therefore tell stories about WWOZ (and everybody else in New Orleans) that make us scratch our heads, since so-o-o many things happen around this town, and especially around ‘OZ that are every bit if not more unreal than the shit they make up.
I mean, as far as I know, nobody has actually killed a chicken in the ‘OZ studios. But, I have to admit, when we were broadcasting from the tree house in Armstrong Park, that easily could have happened.
But the stuff, that actually did happen, I mean — one of our past dj’s (no longer with us!) packing a gun when she did her show, someone else commandeering the station and locking himself into the control room at 2 am in the morning shouting invectives over the air to the station manager, another’ OZilian driving his pickup truck into the lagoon one very late and drunken membership eve. I could go on.
But that’s not my main point. Treme has been a great blessing for WWOZ. I mean, getting the station’s name seen and heard by those either already or becoming enamored of the New Orleans music culture is a huge thing for us. But up to a point. In the case of the chicken story, it certainly could have happened, and if it did or it didn’t, it totally fits who we are in this particular real world.
But, we, at ‘OZ, always worry, more so than the rest of this city’s highly obsessive partisans, “Will Simon and company get it right?”
And, even more than whether David Simon and his krewe of funkophiliacs get ‘OZ right, I find myself worrying, “Will WWOZ become so self-conscious of itself, that it simply quits being, and starts representing. Because, at the end of the day, Treme’s purpose is to represent our culture to those who are not us. And because of it, we can’t help but be more aware of ourselves as a point of interest to those who are not us. Our tourist-based economy already assures that we are constantly reminded of it. But now, Kermit-- a real musician—is also a character in a TV series. At least with Kermit, I have no fear that he will remain true to himself.
But one thing that I fret about from time to time is--how many others of us will start playing ourselves, instead of just being ourselves? When we start representing our culture and music, we start down the road that ends in Disneyland, or some variation of it, with a roped off area for the tourists to visit to see how “we live.” (Make that “lived,” because, by the time you reach that point, it ain’t nothing but a postcard.)
We don’t represent ourselves through our music here in New Orleans. We express our lives through it.
Can I get an amen?