Saturday, January 06, 2007

We love you.

"Goodbye, so long... farewell for now
You're gonna leave a big hold 'round here
But it's up to us to fill it up again somehow,
Up to us to fill it up again somehow.

"You lived each day as if it was your last
May you have so many more more more
If we only will it, it will come to pass
If we only will it, it will come to pass..."

-- Al Tuck, in his tribute song to Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill, on the occasion of their leaving Halifax to move back to New Orleans, December 2000.

Subject: birthday hello from The Crescent City
To: "Becka Barker"



It just turned 2007 in New Orleans. The fireworks are
booming and crackling all around and it sounds like
Mogadishu outside. We had a fun night, eating out at
The Praline Connection (the only place in town where
the collard greens aren't cooked in pork fat), and
then stopping by three parties before Francis Pop
collapsed from exhaustion.

New Orleans is very interesting, still so decrepit and
sketchy. But we're enjoying the new neighborhood
we're in, with lots of coffeeshops and a nice park
where lots of cool little kids play. Francis Pop and
I now have a weekly ritual of dancing in front of The
Spotted Cat to either The Rites of Swing, Washboard
Chaz, or The Panorama Jazz Band. Francis is such a
precious and funny little guy. I enjoy every single
second of watching him grow.

Please e-mail us your phone number so we can try to
call you in the morning. Love to you and Jim!

Paulie and family.

I can't think of any way to write how I feel about Helen Hill any differently from what's already been said, but of course, I want to say something. Especially since we're so far away and we can't physically be with our friends. I guess there's some kind of comfort in seeing so many tributes to her being put out there, on the internet, so quickly - the world just really, really, really needs to know about her... to understand how she helped so many, and in so many different ways. It needs to be said that her motivation has always been love. I feel like everyone in the world needs to hear about this, and feel this, because the event of her death is a precise example of the kinds of problems in the world that she and Paul worked so hard to counter. They got it, better than anyone I think. Helen knew that the only way to break down the oppressive forces that keep people sad, that keep people poor, that keep people on the outside, that make people act in desperate and sometimes hateful ways, was to be unyieldingly generous and unfailingly inclusive - to feed the world with as much love as she could give it - to create positive changes in her communities. Of all the things she taught me, that's the biggest and most important. All demonstrated by the example of how she lived her life. No one was worthless of her attention and care.

I remember driving around with Helen and Paul, my first time visiting them in New Orleans. This was about 18 months after they'd left the home they made on Falkland Street in Halifax. They were looking to buy their first home in NOLA. Top considerations: must be in a neighbourhood that's highly socially integrated, must be generally safe, must be not-too-fancy, must have enough space for all their letters, art supplies, zines, books, films, music, and pets. As we toured several homes, we'd run into some of the more "down and out" folks they knew. We'd pull up to the curb, have a chat, and introduce me to each person in a completely socially-level way. If any of these folks were looking sick, or like they weren't quite lucid, Paul and Helen would fish out a bottle of water and scrounge around the car for some food to offer. It was never a big production to do that kind of thing, for them. They just wanted to make things better for people who didn't have it as good as they did.

They thought long and hard about moving back to NOLA, and I know it does no good to wish your loved ones into protective boxes. Let's get out and give. Let's do right by our neighbours. Maybe if everyone lived and loved as generously as Helen did and as Paul does, we'd all be much safer, in the end.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm so sorry, Becka... what a terrible loss... :(

5:09 AM GMT+9  
Blogger S. said...

Hi Becka,

I knew Paul and Helen in college, visited them in New Orleans when they first moved there in '92, eventually lost touch but always thought it was temporary. You wrote what I'm feeling. I am weeping with how impossible it is, how wrong. How could someone walk into their house with a gun? How can there be no rewind button?

5:23 AM GMT+9  
Blogger Cathy said...

I am so sorry. What a terrible loss.

5:27 AM GMT+9  
Blogger skinned said...

Love to you Becka from Shelley from the General Store.

4:16 PM GMT+9  
Blogger Raquel said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

12:06 PM GMT+9  

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