'Louie': A Love Letter to New York
I moved away from my hometown New York City last fall, and while I don’t regret the decision (TEXAS FOREVER), I still miss the city so very much (and I still plan on moving back eventually). Watching the season premiere of Louie last night made me miss it even more. “Back” began with a familiar scene to New Yorkers: the loud, disruptive noise of a garbage truck rumbling down a tiny street early in the morning, with the clanging refuse cans and rustling Hefty bags providing an unwelcome, eye-opening soundtrack. It’s a New Yorker’s rooster crow: it means it’s time to get up. I knew I was late for work if the garbage truck had already rolled through the streets (I was usually late for work).
I appreciate a show set in New York that actually films in in the city. It’s rarer than you might think, and while I love The Americans, I get distracted trying to figure out what Brooklyn locale they’re passing off as suburban DC, including my previous neighborhood. The fake MTA trains on The Mindy Project might be the funniest joke on the show.
Those gorgeous black-and-white cinematic promos FX used to promote this season featured the picture-perfect Brooklyn Bridge, with Louie, flowers in hand, diving right into the frigid East River. He comes to the surface with a single rose, and swims away. I choose to believe this means he loves the city so much, he wants to be all up in it. And beneath — his name is written in the sky above the Hudson, with a heart replacing the “o.”
In the premiere, there’s a rare moment of kindness. A back-addled Louie sits awkwardly on the curb, trying to catch a cab and failing completely, when an elderly woman comes to his rescue, hails a taxi, and helps him into the car. Nice things can happen. While exiting the subway once, my sandal dropped onto the subway tracks. As I stood on one leg, confused over what the hell (and some much stronger language I used at the time) I’d do next, a man quickly jumped into the track, grabbed the shoe, and climbed back to the platform, handing it to me. I’ll always be grateful to this nameless hero, and that he didn’t get hit by a train.
Speaking of the subway: there’s also the episode where everyone on the train, including Louie, is carefully avoiding an unknown bubbling puddle on an empty seat. The passengers watch it as it dangerously sloshes around, coming this close to spilling everywhere. Louie daydreams about saving the day by soaking up the mess with his jacket as everyone admires him.
In the same episode, Louie watches a man, who looks like he belongs to Carnegie Hall, play a dazzling number on his violin. Next to him, a homeless man sets up shop for a slow water bottle bath. Louie looks between the two scenes, and walks away. It’s gorgeous and it’s horrible: one second you’re aboveground on the Q train, admiring the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset; the next, you’re sitting next to period blood smeared on a seat. This happened to me. Twice.
Then there’s the wonderfully small moment while Louie is playing a cop in Matthew Broderick’s film. He goes for a walk trying to get into character and ducks into a bodega. He finds a cat and starts meowing back and forth with the bodega cat. This is something EVERYONE has done at at some point.
Finally, there’s the lovely “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2,” an ode to aimless nights out. Parker Posey’s Liz says, “You can just walk and walk and you never run out of space,” which is wonderfully true. Walking around is such an essential part of experiencing New York, not just because you don’t know what or who you’ll stumble into, but because it’s the best way to feel like you’re experiencing the city the way it was meant to be. Louie and Liz wander from bar to vintage store to Russ & Daughters (home to some delicious smoked fish and bagels, and yes, I’m drooling right now) to a random rooftop, where their backdrop is the elegant city. New York is huge and gross and horrible, but moments like these make you forget all the subway period blood, and appreciate how gorgeous the city can be. Louie shows the good and bad—that’s what makes it great.
Nadia Chaudhury misses New York bagels the most, and then huge Chinese eggrolls, and then her family and friends.
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