Apr 24, 2010 by

Mitch Landrieu, circa 2003:

One of the arguments against putting so many of the state’s eggs into tourism is that it creates so many low-wage jobs. How does that fit into your long-term economic vision?

First of all, the principle that you shouldn’t put your eggs in one basket is a very good one for economic development and growth possibilities. That is why we talked a lot about expanding or diversifying Louisiana’s economy. This is the same conversation we had when all of our eggs were in the oil and gas basket. We always have to find ways to create new products for this state, whether it’s in tourism or finding other initiatives like bioscience. We have to try really hard to not only retain and re-grow other sections of our economy. All of these things fit together.

All of our eggs in one basket…hmmmm….

Mitch got what he wanted as lieutenant governor.  The state’s entertainment tax was repealed.  Despite the backasswardsness of pols such as our current governor, he worked outside of that and truly became “the point person for economic development”…but he really only grabbed a basket that wasn’t oil and gas and pushed that thing for beyond what it was worth.  Not that he had much choice…but still…

I blog about the show Treme a lot now.  I’m hooked.  It’s captured my imagination not just for what it shows but what it doesn’t show and/or the things that it’s changed around, omitted, or taken artistic license with and still done its best to stay true to a timeline, which is just as much a character in the story as all the people and the city itself.  But I remain ambivalent about one aspect of the pristine trailer caravans coming through town for an extended period of time, and that’s what it’s doing to us as a community.

Thus far, I’ve known three people who have  taken on roles as extras in David Simon’s latest, have seen passing references on Twitter from more people who mention that they’ve appeared in the show, have seen a blog post mentioning a call for extras, and have had an email forwarded to me from one of those three I know asking if I wanted to be a part of a scene involving packing up cars for evacuation (no black, white cars and none newer than 2005 will be used), quoting a pretty hourly penny for throwing a few clothes into your vehicle for film, and giving you the contact information.  I considered doing it until I realized it was on the same day as my son’s first baseball practice of the season.  Reportedly, it was hours of a hurry-up-and-wait situation of shooting and reshooting the same thing over and over, which is what I thought it was going to be and made me happy I hadn’t subjected a seven-year-old to that.

Then, I wondered at myself for considering being an extra.

The very nature of Treme, and the way the producers are going about it seems to be sucking us all into its vortex, erasing the lines between fact and fantasy even more than they already have been eroded in this place, and making me wonder if we’ll all be ending up like the character of Sonny in the show, boasting about heroism that may have been live but was most probably Memorex….or HBO.  This town is already full of storytellers, and it is amazing and frightening how much truth there is to the tales, especially after 8/29/05 – Simon is just taking it national and Mitch helped pave the way.

Mitch takes office soon in City Hall and has me wondering and speculating if we will be burdened even further with the red carpet he rolled out as lieutenant governor.  Will we still be content with the these scraps of appearances in someone else’s story for money?  How can we start making our own lives and stories beyond that, and how is the turned over Landrieu-run mayor’s office going to help?  How can we get our economy here kicking beyond the music, the clubs, the festivals, and the pristine white film production trucks?  How can we bring the displaced home?

Sure we’ve been selling ourselves in one way or another for centuries…but we have another opportunity to go beyond that and to quit being single-basket cases.


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