This does not please me.

Water lapping over the top of the Industrial Canal:

Hurricane Gustav

This is a block away from the Recovery School District office and not far from the school where I teach.

Hold, levees, hold. Please.

Gettin' the H out of D

We still have some prayers left on the line

Like 2,000,000 other people yesterday, we decided to drift away from our dear city on the northern Gulf Coast. But before we headed out, Kočko and I soaked up some home turf before our departure.

Kočko soaking up his joy

(Kočko is chillin' with me in our Memphis hotel, as I write this. Ana's watching The Hustler with Laundry. They're both crazy about Paul Newman.)

We were the last ones to leave on our block.

Procrastinators are always the last to go

It was strange to see our street completely devoid of cars.

Ghost town

I decided to take a slight different route this time than we did for Katrina. I figured the Causeway wouldn't be as crowded as taking I-10 to I-55, since we'd not have to fight with any of the dreaded Houston traffic. We took surface streets to the Causeway and headed across. We flowed across the lake at the speed limit.

Coursing our way across the causeway

Across the lake, orange cones and big signs routed us towards the contraflow of our choice. We chose I-12 east, to take us towards I-55 north.

Joining the contraflow

At first, we clipped along I-55 (which they call Contrastate 55 at times like this) at a nice pace.

Ana and Dave on Contrastate 55

But when we hit the Mississippi state line, all that changed.

Little red's riding hood

In all, it took us six hours to drive to Jackson. It normally takes just under three.

Snaking through south Mississippi

Ana took the wheel when I got tired. Unfortunately for her, her shift was mostly stop and go. Later, when I took the wheel, she got to catch up on the sleep she missed Saturday night getting the house ready to leave.

Ana riding the breeze

Ana catching the zees

I love my girlfriend's cuteness.

Footloose and fancy feet

Now we're camped out in Memphis, watching the reports from New Orleans. I'm disturbed by the reports on the Industrial Canal. A breach could flood the school where I teach, the central office of my school district and, if it was a bad enough breach, our house.

I'm wondering what the future holds for us and our dear city.

Wondering the horizon

Nine Years

Classic Ana, originally uploaded by fieldsofgarlic.

We just celebrated nine years of togetherness. I'm still totally in love with this amazing woman.

I took this picture because the light was nice. We were sitting in an IHOP in Jackson, Mississippi, waiting for our food.

We celebrated our anniversary in Jackson for several reasons, not the least of which was that Ana wanted to go to Saints Training Camp.

I look forward to other surprises over the next nine years.

Sawati Khrap!


It's still hard to believe we're in Thailand. We've been here since late on Monday, March 12. We had a two-hour flight to Chicago, a four hour layover, then a 12-hour flight to Tokyo, three-hour layover, then a 6-hour flight to Bangkok.

Stepping out of the airport into the midnight air felt immediately familiar. Sticky and hot, it felt just like Louisiana hurricane season.

My childhood friend Ted and his girlfriend Rachel picked us up at the airport and whisked us up to their place about an hour north of Bangkok. They live on campus of AIT--the Asian Institute of Technology--where Ted is a professor.

Our first day was sacrificed to the jetlag gods. After sleeping until 2pm, we got up, showered, hung out a little and headed out for a bite to eat. Ted and his friend Jitra ordered for me, repeatedly assuring the waitstaff that I truly wanted vegan food. Later that night, Jitra taught me how to order (and ask for vegan food). Her lessons have come in handy many times since. In case you're curious, it looks like this, phonetically:

a hahn jay khrap, my sai naam pla, my sai naam man hoi.

which means:

pure vegetarian food, please--no fish sauce, no oyster sauce

Dinner was super yummy! I had my first of many bowls of tom yum (a spicy mushroom soup), along with lots of stir-fried veggies.

After dinner we walked through a HUGE open-air market. Ted said it's one of the biggest in southeast Asia. It was amazing all the things they had. I took pictures, but unfortunately, it's not so easy to upload them from this Internet usage place, where the computers are old and running Windows 98.

I ate some durian, which is a strange fruit. The flesh of it is kind of stinky and very fatty. The outside is covered with intimidating spikes. Ted said that the natural seed dispersers for durians are tigers, who apparently love to eat them. I also ate some sugar-coated tamarinds and a few samples of raw herbs here and there. So excellent to be where fresh things are so easy to get.

The next day Ana and I headed to Bangkok. Our plan was to see some tourist sights, but instead we ended up walking for most of the day--way more than any of the locals we talked to said they ever would. But walking is the absolute best way to see and learn a city. We saw and smelled so much. Street vendors selling snacks and meals from rolling carts. Tuk-tuks, cabs and scooters galore. We even saw the bloody aftermath of an auto/bus/scooter accident.

In the end it was a good day. We got a feel for Bangkok and I liked it. Sure, it's a dirty, smoggy, hustly, bustly place, but it's so alive. Every little alley was like its own world. One alley we walked down (mistakenly trying for a shortcut) turned out to house many open-air shops where they were making enormous buddhas. The alleys and waterways are among my favorite parts of Bangkok and I could spend days more exploring them.

One of the great things about this trip has been reconnecting with Ted and getting to know his girlfriend, Rachel. They are really super people and we have a lot in common. Ted recently borrowed a guitar, and I've been showing him some things. He plays the harmonica, so we've been jamming when we can and it's a blast. Their little apartment is very cozy and we love staying with them.

On Thursday, we went to Ayuthaya with Ted, but more on that next time I post. Ana and I have been out in the sun and rain today and we're ready to turn in to get an early start tomorrow.

We miss our friends in New Orleans and so many other places. We are taking LOTS of pictures and will be happy to share them with whomever would like to see them when we get home. Thailand is super amazing and we feel super lucky to be here.

Much love to everyone! See you soon! Update you sooner...


Guess what?

Today's the 39th anniversary of my birth!

If my father were alive, he would no doubt point out that my age is now the product of two primes (When I turned 27, he congratulated me on achieving a prime power. He was a mathematician. I miss him.)

My mom left the cold prairies (9°F yesterday morning) to fly south for my birthday. She arrived just before we opened the doors on Spun!: Solar Rotisserie Throwdown 2007. One of my favorite days of the year is my birthday, when I spend the day in the kitchen cooking yummy food for my friends. It's always a joy to watch everyone enjoy the vittles of love. This year, I made barbequed tofu, mashed potatoes, musaman curry, bindi masala, a big plate of grilled veggies and a fresh green herbal salad. Ana made couscous and the most beautiful dish of the evening, the pineapple coconut rice.

photo of Ana's lovely pineapple coconut rice

Andy made a delicious sweet banana-nut pudding and Alaa made her fabulous tabouleh. Yum!!!

Here's me taking a picture of myself blowing the candles out on a vegan king cake.

photo of Dave vs. the vegan King Cake of his 39th birthday

It was great to see all the people who came. I love my friends and I can think of no better way to celebrate my life than to be surrounded by them.

If you came to the party, thank you! It was so good to see you! I can't wait for next year!

Second Line for Helen

Spread the word...

On February 24, 2007 (the Saturday after Mardi Gras), we're having a jazz-funeral style second line for Helen Hill. Meet at Helen and Paul's flooded home in Mid-City (3438 Cleveland St) for about 11:30am. The Panorama Jazz Band and the Jazz Vipers will lead us down Cleveland to Jeff Davis, then on to Orleans, down to Claiborne and then right to the Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge (1500 N. Claiborne). The procession forms at 12:30pm and rolls at 1:00pm sharp.

kittee is organizing a vegan cupcake brigade. We're hoping to have wagons full of bright, delicious cupcakes to hand out to people along the route. And, if we're lucky, some left over to eat at the repast. If you want to help make cupcakes, leave a comment on kittee's entry about the second line.

Helen loved pigs and chickens. Dressing up as either or something else entirely is encouraged.

When we get to the the Mother-in-Law Lounge, there will be a tea party, with more bands and an open mic. It promises to be a great celebration of Helen's life, as only New Orleans can provide. After all, we're the city that put fun in funeral.

So come one, come all to send Helen off in style. We miss you, Helen.

A Helen Hill Song

Like many people I know, I'm spending a lot of my time lately thinking about Helen Hill and her senseless death. There are so many aspects. First, there is Helen herself and the waves of loss that hit her husband and son the hardest, then her family and close friends, then her acquaintances, then those who only met her or whose children played with her son. The ripples go out farther and farther, their impact diminishing as they go, but being felt nevertheless. There will always be a painful emptiness where Helen once was.

Beyond Helen herself, there was the incredible impact she'd had and was continuing to have. Her good work for needy people was something many of us wish we would do, but don't. And her art, her films, her whimsical (and sometimes gently tricky) expressions were also worthy of aspiration. Luckily, we still have all this, her legacy and our memories; it's the part of her that didn't and won't ever die.

And then there's the crime. My mother is terribly worried for my safety. She wonders why Ana and I can't live somewhere safer. If I really didn't care about my beloved New Orleans, I would probably pack up and go. But some things are worth fighting for. When I moved to this city in the early nineties, crime was brutally high then too. But things changed and the crime rate came down. I know it can happen again. I refuse to live in fear, but it still tugs at all of us who live here now.

Behind the crime, there's the sad fact that while many of us in society can and do weave a beautiful, if imperfect, fabric of trust and interdependence, there are some--a growing number, I fear--who are not a part of this. There are far too many reasons for this. In every neighborhood, children are disenfranchised every day, in many ways. Their hearts harden at a young age and before long they are isolated--not in our arms, as they each should be. I don't know how, but if we don't find a way to reach these children, it will be at both their peril and ours.

Today is Helen's memorial service in South Carolina. For the last few days, I have been working on a song about her. Here's a quick recording I made of it:

The words and chords are as follows:

Helen [Am]Hill was shot and [C]killed
In her [Am]own home last [F]night
On the [C]fourth day of a [G]new year
That [E7]still seemed so [Am]bright
Her [F]dreams were cut [C]short
When that [E7]nightmare creeped [Am]in
And [F]took sweet [C]Helen
From her [G]family and [C]friends

Helen [Am]Hill was shot and [C]killed
For no [Am]reason we [F]know
She [C]fought and she [G]pleaded
But he [E7]still laid her [Am]low
[F]Down went the [C]kindness
[E7]Down went the [Am]care
[C]Out went the [G]love
With her [F]last breath of [Am]air

I [Am]dreamed I [C]saw
[Am]Helen Hill last [F]night
She was [C]smiling and [G]shining
Like a [E7]heavenly [Am]light
Bright [F]words she was [C]sewing
Right [E7]into the [Am]sky
[F]Flickering in [C]starlight,
"[G]I didn't [C]die."

Helen [Am]Hill was shot and [C]killed
A dear [Am]mother and [F]wife
The [C]last thing she [G]ever did
Was to [E7]save her boy's [Am]life
So [F]what are we [C]made of
If we [E7]don't do our [Am]best
To [C]reach into the [G]darkness
And [F]save all the [Am]rest?

If you like it, please feel free to play it and share it.

Darker World

I got some awful, awful news today. Last night, Helen Hill was murdered in her home. Her husband, Paul Gailiunas, was shot, but will recover. Their son, Francis Pop, was physically unharmed, though I imagine he will carry the scar of this with him for the rest of his life.

The first Times-Picayune account reads:

In the sixth murder New Orleans murder in less than a day, a woman was killed and her husband shot in their home this morning at about 5:30 a.m., said New Orleans police, who found the bleeding husband kneeling at the door of the couple's home, holding their two-year-old son in his arms.

The toddler was not hurt; the husband, 35, underwent surgery at Elmwood/Charity Trauma Center, police said, where his son was also taken for examination. The woman, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene.


-- At 5:30 a.m. Thursday, police were called to the Rampart Street killing. Neighbors of the couple later identified them as Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas, a married couple who first came to the city more than a decade ago, and just moved back in August after a post-Katrina exile in South Carolina. The neighbors said Gailiunas was a doctor and Hill a freelance animator and filmmaker.

I met Paul and Helen a little over three years ago, at Honey's 80th birthday party. I have rarely seen two people so perfectly suited to each other. They always smiled and were so amazingly upbeat, all the time. Like everyone who knew them, I'm sure, I loved being around them.

I'd heard of Helen before I met her. She was an animator and would occasionally hold workshops to empower people in her art. I almost attended one, but then didn't for some reason.

Since they moved back to New Orleans, I've enjoyed seeing them at our monthly vegan potlucks. Here they are from our October get-together.

Paul, Francis and Helen at the October vegan potluck

Helen was, like Paul is, a very bright, warm light. Even with the sun still hanging in the sky today, it's a noticeably darker world without her in it.

I am deeply saddened by Helen's death and the violence done to their sweet family. Even sadder is the fact that this incident is not isolated. So many families are hurting in this city in exactly the same way. The violence here is deeply troubling to me. We simply must find a way to stop it.

Helen, I will miss you very much. Paul and Francis, you are both in my heart and thoughts.