Amidst all the frantic holiday activities, I found myself holding an hours-old baby on Christmas night. No, not my own, ya freaks! It was, in fact, the freshly-minted human spawn of my life-bro and Mr. Lovey Dovey himself, James Hayes, and his very brave wife Kara (who endured the entire labor with only a couple of Tylenol). It’s a hellish responsibility holding such a fragile being for even a moment, to say nothing of a lifetime.
The whole ordeal made me want to revisit one of my all-time favorite movies, Raising Arizona, for the umpteenth time. If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s an early Coen Brothers production, circa 1987, when Barry Sonnenfeld (who would go on to direct classics himself like Get Shorty and The Addams Family) was their cinematographer, and the Brothers’ prolific catalogue was still in its own infancy. The plot revolves around a young Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a newly married couple—H.I. and Edwina—living out their salad days in the Arizona desert, wanting only to share the beauty of the world with a child of their own. But H.I.’s past as a two-bit convenience store thief and Ed’s barren insides conspire to leave them childless. So they steal a baby, one of a sextet from an outlandish well-to-do family, and attempt to jumpstart their own American dream.
The film takes off as a modern day fairy tale, each character (including New Orleans’ own adopted son John Goodman) scrambling for the baby in an attempt to steal affection in a disaffected world. The score, haunting and soothing in equal measures, is part Beethoven’s 9th, part folk classic “Down in the Willow Garden.” It’s a true cinema tour-de-force, and as with any Coen Brothers film, has quotable lines galore. The one that rings out for me especially is when H.I., looking out at a foreboding sunrise after a long and sleepless night, mutters, “Sometimes it’s a hard world for little things.”
A simple truth, and yet one we grapple with every day. Every minute is fragile and vulnerable, but there’s something about a new year especially that makes it feel all the more so for me. Maybe it didn’t help that on the eve of this new year, I was staring down at a little red-faced munchkin, who peeked back up through eyes that had barely seen anything yet.
For little Charlie Mae, and the overall state of our shared human condition, I echo H.I.’s sentiment, and so do the subjects of this month’s issue. January’s theme—and really every issue’s theme and all things in this life—is about growing up against the odds. Aimée Argote talks about shedding her hard-partying tour life for something more sustainable; a Living Soundtrack survives near-death to return to New Orleans and regain their roots (a newborn in their midst as well); and the Orleans Parish Public Defenders office fights for its life and the lives of its clients. I’m sure the shine of 2016 will wear off soon enough, but hopefully there’s still enough time to daydream a little about a better year for all of us. Happy 2016.