There’s a subtle but moving scene near the end of the wonderful Salt Dreams. New Orleans Race Team member Andy Overslaugh recalls his favorite childhood song, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’:
“My favorite line” he says, “was ‘why can’t I?’.” He shakes his head, smiling. “I took that as a challenge.”
And how. This 2008 documentary, directed by JT Nesbitt (a Race Team member and the movie’s protagonist), is a story of not just rising to challenges, but creating your own. Nesbit, Overslaugh and company, reeling not only from Hurricane Katrina but also from the murder of a friend, took a flooded out 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII and turned it into a race car. And not just any race car; a race car fit to compete at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The idea started like many ideas do: on a bar stool. We’ve all been there, sitting with a friend, saying “wouldn’t it be great if…” or “I’ve got the best idea ever!”. Such ideas are almost always lost to hangovers or a simple recurrence of sobriety. But Nesbitt ran with it. A friend in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans had told him there was a dead Lincoln, deep in mud, stuck in his driveway. He told Nesbitt that if he could get it out, it was his. He did, and soon the car was not just a hobby project, but a life goal. The car and its new purpose became wrought with symbolisms. The new racing stripe on the side was applied exactly where the water had stopped rising. There was questions of if the car could top the speed of Katrina’s deadly winds (140 mph).
We all know all of the “re-“s that have been applied to New Orleans since Katrina; re-vive, re-cover, re-build, re-juvenate. The list goes on and on. When I visited Nebitt’s Esplanade Avenue to get a close peak at the ‘Stinkin Linkin’ (the affectionately named star of the film), I said something about “rebirth”. JT reeled a bit and said he didn’t like that word. He said he preferred “re-invention”. And he’s right. The truth is that nothing is born twice. When disaster of any kind hits, you don’t get the comfort of climbing back into the womb only to come out fresh. You have to create something new, something better. Don’t just rise from the ashes, but use the ashes to write your manifesto. Salt Dreams reminds you that doing that is an option. That you can do more than get back what you lost. You can create something even more worth having. That when it comes to dreams, the only question worth asking is “why can’t I?”
We are proud to be presenting a free screening of Salt Dreams in our courtyard this Thursday, September 16th. JT Nesbitt will be here to introduce the film and discuss the experience and what has happened since. We hope you’ll join us.
Until next time folks,