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Also in this issue

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VALUE <p>You can’t take it with you. Nope. Not to the sweet by and by. Not even to Houston.<br /> <br /> It’s barely 11 a.m. and the day is already weighing hot and heavy upon Michael White as he waves his hand toward a wall of gnarly bare studs and begins to list the things he could not take.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" id="||CPIMAGE:997630|" title="clarinet_1_1" height="200" alt="clarinet_1_1" hspace="0" src="/news/tulanian/images/clarinet_1_1_1.jpg" width="300" border="0" />“In this room here and in that room there were wall-to-wall books. A lot of rare, out-of-print books. Books signed by authors, many who are now dead. Thousands of things that can’t be replaced. Sheet music collections, transcriptions, vintage instruments. …”<br /> <br /> From somewhere down the street the rattle of an air compressor kicks in, followed by the hiss and spit of a nail gun.<br /> <br /> “I’m looking at this and it’s really strange,” says White, gesturing to where a closet once was. “I wasn’t thinking that I should bring all those photographs I had.”<br /> <br /> A clarinetist, White is among the city’s most prominent musicians. He also holds the Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Xavier University, received his doctorate from Tulane and is a scholar of traditional New Orleans jazz and a collector of its material legacy. Over the years, White gathered bits and pieces of the past, often conducting oral histories with the same elder players with whom he had taken the stage. It’s a curious intersection of academic and artistic interests and one that has led him to be a bandleader, teacher, lecturer and mentor.<br /> <br /> But right now, White moves about the gutted remains of his Gentilly home like an unsettled ghost, still caught in that long Katrina moment bounded by what was and what will be.<br /> <br /> It is almost two years ago to the day that White loaded up his car and evacuated to Houston, reluctantly leaving most of the stuff of his life’s work behind in boxes and on shelves to face whatever Hurricane Katrina would bring.<br /> <br /> White steps on a warped, buckled floorboard, making it creak. He keeps a wary eye on a couple of wasps that dart about the space that was his living room. In a few nights he’ll be playing another gig at Snug Harbor, the city’s premier jazz club. Last summer he took his quartet on a tour of Europe.<br /> <br /> He’s even reconstituted his larger band, Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Jazz Band, by finding players to fill the spots of those displaced by Katrina.<br /> <br /> Yeah, life goes on, but it’s not what it was. The eight feet of Lake Pontchartrain water that rose to claim his home and so much of his work also claimed a significant portion of the city’s connection to its musical past. To that extent White’s loss has been both personal and public. And to the same extent, so is his recovery.<br /> <br /> </p> <h3>PRICELESS MATERIAL</h3> <p>In New Orleans, the boundary between the personal and public has always been somewhat blurred, which is why you can learn the life story of the person next to you in a checkout line in the time it takes to ring up a basket of groceries.<br /> <br /> Even so, Bruce Raeburn, curator of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive in Special Collections at the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University, treads lightly when talking about losses from Hurricane Katrina.<br /> <br /> “The lesson I hope everyone has learned from Katrina is that the archival repositories tend to survive, the personal collections in homes do not,” says Raeburn. “And this is not something you can broadcast without some sensitivity because what is lost is lost.”<br /> <br /> What is lost is lost—it’s an understanding that is not only hard to accept, it’s also nearly impossible to project its impact. Who knows what archival gems were stored in shoeboxes, suitcases and dresser drawers around town? Instruments, diaries, notes, sheet music, date books—the odd assortment of things that survive the people to whom they once belonged.<br /> <br /> “What’s important about all this material is that researching popular culture is difficult,” says Raeburn. “Popular culture tends to be ephemeral, based on oral traditions, and doesn’t leave the equivalent of State Department dossiers for historians to thumb through.”<br /> <br /> Raeburn and the jazz archive are in the business of collecting and preserving the city and region’s musical heritage. Anyone trying to piece together an accurate understanding of the lives of early 20th-century jazz musicians is likely going to have to sift facts from any number of personal documents.<br /> <br /> “You have to be ingenious in working up the material that will tell the story,” says Raeburn.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_left" id="||CPIMAGE:997631|" title="mwhite_1_1" height="260" alt="mwhite_1_1" hspace="0" src="/news/tulanian/images/mwhite_1_1_1.jpg" width="300" border="0" />The signature theme of a song may be sketched on a napkin. A daily diary can offer information on where a band was playing, how they were paid, whether or not they were allowed to stay in a boarding house, the kinds of details that shape what Raeburn calls a “quotidian perspective on what it was like to be a musician.”<br /> <br /> Larry Powell, Tulane professor of history, says there is no way to know how much priceless material was lost in private collections ruined by flooding that submerged 80 percent of the city after Katrina.<br /> <br /> Artifacts of archival value were in countless homes across the city, kept by the descendants of the people who invented and developed jazz.<br /> <br /> “It’s like the burning of a library,” says Powell.<br /> <br /> In the aftermath of Katrina, Powell joined a handful of intrepid New Orleanians who donned masks and boots to retrieve what they could from the flooded home of the well-loved jazzman Danny Barker and his wife, Blue Lu. The couple, now deceased, had amassed a large collection of material, including the personal belongings of Barker’s uncle, Paul Barbaran, a well-known New Orleans drummer who had played with jazz icons King Oliver and Louis Armstrong.<br /> <br /> The Barker family had given the Hogan Jazz Archive permission to salvage the collection, which had remained in the house after the Barkers passed way in the 1990s.<br /> <br /> “It was pretty grim,” recalls Powell. “It looked like somebody had taken the contents of the back room with all its music memorabilia and put it in a Cuisinart with lake water and flipped it on high. It was like working in a cave.”<br /> <br /> “We didn’t get everything, but what we got was significant material,” says Raeburn, who estimates that the team recovered about 40 boxes of photographs, scrapbooks, clippings and recordings, about half of which was sent away to be professionally restored.<br /> <br /> And while the recovered items in the Barker collection will one day be catalogued and made available to the public, those in White’s collection, as well as the substantial collections of New Orleans musicians Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Dave Bartholomew and Irma Thomas will not.<br /> <br /> In an essay for the Hogan Jazz Archive newsletter, Raeburn writes, “The rescue of Danny Barker’s papers represents a bit of good news in an otherwise very dismal tale.”<br /> <br /> </p> <h3>JUST GONE</h3> <p>The small shed behind his house has for White become something of a shrine to the memory of what he and the city have lost. He pauses briefly before entering.<br /> <br /> “Those are like bodies in there, believe me,” he says.<br /> <br /> Inside, the segments of several dozen clarinets lay warped and jumbled on a wide shelf, lit by the August light that pours through a window. The volunteers who gutted the house placed the “bodies” of the clarinets there nearly 18 months ago. Not counting the 10 clarinets that White took with him to Houston, these are all that remain of a collection of some 60 vintage instruments. Some were given to him.<br /> <br /> Some he found in local shops. Surprisingly, he found 15 pre-1930 instruments on eBay.<br /> <br /> “Ah, I haven’t seen that before,” says White as he gingerly reaches for the shelf. “That is the bell from the E-flat clarinet of Paul Barnes, who played with Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver. …”<br /> <br /> If you look through the window and out onto his backyard, you can see the London Avenue Canal levee rising just beyond his property line. White, who moved into the neighborhood nine years before Katrina, says that he would sometimes sit in his living room and wonder what it would look like if the levees ever failed. It didn’t help prepare him for what he saw when he returned home six weeks after the storm.<br /> <br /> “I felt like I was in some surreal adventure,” says White, recalling the first time he entered the dark and still waterlogged house. “It just felt like my whole life and being were in pieces all over the place. I couldn’t see anything recognizable.”<br /> <br /> The flooding had a way of turning homes into caves as muck and mold prevented sunlight from coming through windows. In the darkness, White heard a crunching beneath his steps and it took a moment before he realized he was walking on CD cases. His collection of 5,000 CDs were strewn across the floors of every room.<br /> <br /> “It was like there was in a spiritual sense a death, and I did not expect to find that,” says White. “It was part of me and part of this tradition and all these people—just gone.”<br /> <br /> White never intended to amass so much stuff. He didn’t even intend on being a traditional jazz musician. Things sometimes happen in life for reasons you don’t understand. One thing leads to the next. You start off being interested in the music and then begin playing it. You want to find out as much as you can about it, want to get to the heart of it, to understand what the pioneers of jazz understood. You want to know what they felt, what their world was like. You begin to collect parts of their world.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" id="||CPIMAGE:997633|" title="reaburn_1_1" height="203" alt="reaburn_1_1" hspace="0" src="/news/tulanian/images/reaburn_1_1_1.jpg" width="300" border="0" />Over time their world becomes your world, too. You begin to not only play the music but also start writing arrangements based on the knowledge you’ve gained. You become a bandleader and need to bring others up to speed. Suddenly you’re a jazz scholar and are invited to give lectures and write articles. People begin to bring you items that might be of interest. Younger musicians want to learn from you and the older ones want you to learn from them.<br /> <br /> White says he has had the good fortune to play with more than three dozen musicians who were born between 1890 and 1910. Many became friends and mentors, entrusting White not only with their memorabilia but also with their memories.<br /> <br /> “I came to realize how important the music was to them and how important the tradition is. It is something that existed before them and will exist after me. And you pass it on.” White continues to make time for young musicians, including for the last year sitting down with members of the internationally sought-after Hot 8 Brass Band, who are looking to work more traditional jazz into their repertoire. But he admits he has neither the materials nor the time he had in the past.<br /> <br /> And yet, “tragedy seems to inspire creation,” says White, who has found himself channeling the pain, anger and bewilderment into new compositions.<br /> <br /> “I feel it,” he says. “I definitely feel it.”<br /> <br /> One day White may make peace with Katrina and all she’s wreaked, but not just yet.<br /> <br /> Two years out and he’s still “scattered,” living in a FEMA trailer and taking regular trips to Houston to visit his mother, who became seriously ill during the evacuation and is now living there in a nursing home. Amidst caring for his mother and his aunt, their business affairs, dealing with FEMA, keeping up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans for the levee behind his house, booking tours and engagements, and holding together the tenuous network of musicians that comprise his bands, White has not had a lot of time for peacemaking.<br /> <br /> “Praying and playing music I always say are the two things that saved me,” says White. “It’s very difficult to survive a stressful situation, but when the situations compound. …”<br /> <br /> Immediately after Katrina, White began working jobs in Houston, playing regular brunches while booking engagements out of town. Returning to New Orleans was tough as many of the musicians who played for him had either moved out of town or taken up other kinds of work.<br /> <br /> Raeburn says it’s difficult to track the numbers but he estimates that more than 50 percent of the city’s musicians have not returned.<br /> <br /> Arriving in New Orleans in 1971 to pursue a doctorate in history at Tulane, Raeburn is also a musician—a drummer who feels the beat and bounce of the city at a gut level. It’s the personal connections he’s made over the years that have been as much a window into the local culture as his professional and research interests.<br /> <br /> And the need for human contact is at the heart of the city’s music, says Raeburn. “It’s all about making that connection between musician and audience. It’s an emotional attitude, and I think that’s what gives New Orleans music its power and also allows the chemistry to happen.”<br /> <br /> And, no doubt, the chemistry has been altered by the storm, says Raeburn. “Musicians here take what’s happening in their lives and they make music from that. They tell their stories on their instruments.”<br /> <br /> </p> <h3>“BURGUNDY STREET BLUES”</h3> <p>It’s Saturday night on Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny, and the folks from out-of- town, who comprise nearly the entire audience in the intimate setting of Snug Harbor, have been grinning ear-to-ear for the last hour as White has led his seven-piece band through a set of traditional jazz standards. With each player taking his customary turn at a solo on each piece, it’s been a dazzling display of not only virtuosity but also the eloquent interplay of structure and improvisation that is the music’s hallmark.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_left" id="||CPIMAGE:997637|" title="convocate_1_1" height="157" alt="convocate_1_1" hspace="0" src="/news/tulanian/images/convocate_1_1_1.jpg" width="300" border="0" />Halfway through the set, White announces that the band is about to stray from its normal repertoire.<br /> <br /> “We draw inspiration from many sources, but the last two years have been difficult,” says White, who holds his clarinet to his chest with both hands. He pauses and then tells the audience that New Orleans native John Scott, a nationally renowned sculptor and a colleague of White’s at Xavier, died in Houston that morning after suffering from a long illness. Scott, too, had evacuated to Houston. Prior to Katrina, Scott would sometimes show up at gigs.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know why, but he would always request ‘The Burgundy Street Blues,’ by George Lewis,” says White. “We’re going to do this in his memory.”<br /> <br /> It’s a slow and lovely piece. Backed by his rhythm section, White is the only soloist and he plays every note as if it were heralding the beginning or ending of time. If you close your eyes you can follow the music up and down, through light and dark, sadness and joy. To Houston and back again.<br /> <br /> And if White isn’t making peace with what has happened in the last two years, it sure sounds like he is. Maybe that’s how peace is made—a note or a riff at a time. Like the way you build a collection, in bits and pieces. Raeburn has written a paper for an upcoming edition of the <em>Journal of American History</em> that discusses a major hurricane that hit south Louisiana in 1915 and flooded all the parishes south of New Orleans. One of the effects of the storm was the displacement of many rural musicians to New Orleans at just the time when jazz was coalescing. They joined the players from Treme, Central City, the Seventh Ward and French Quarter in developing the quintessential sound of the city.<br /> <br /> “Jazz has always been about surprises,” Raeburn says. “You have to be open-minded in terms of following cultural dynamics.” Meaning good stuff can come from bad stuff.<br /> <br /> And so you tune into the signs—the sound of construction in Gentilly, or a jazz band in Treme, or a neighborhood fair in Broadmoor or Carrollton. Or when White emerges from the dreariness of his mucked-out house into the midday light and, smiling, tells you that he has bids on eBay for four vintage clarinets. And you find yourself smiling, too.<br /> <br /> Yep. That’s good stuff.<br /> <br /> <em>Nick Marinello is a senior editor in the Office of University Publications and features editor of</em> Tulanian.<br /> <br /> </p>
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VALUE <p>Competitors at architectural firms around the world were lurking, waiting, trying to get their feet in the door. Behr Champana-Gagneron looked deep within himself for a metaphor. The client, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wanted an iconic building unlike any other in the world. The design had to be innovative, something never seen before. It had to grab him emotionally. It had to tell a story. The building would be a symbol for the forward-looking Dubai—the Dubai that <em>The New York Times</em> says exudes “an ethos of tolerance,” where “social harmony is part of the marketing plan.”<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" src="/news/tulanian/images/behr_1_1_1.jpg" id="||CPIMAGE:997650|" alt="behr_1_1" title="behr_1_1" border="0" height="302" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="300" />The design team led by Champana, vice president and principal of the Atlanta-based TVS (Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates) International, had had dozens of design schemes rejected by the Dubai ruler.<br /> <br /> Champana was getting worried that his firm might lose the opportunity to design an architectural wonder in Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.<br /> <br /> Then the inspiration came to him: A candle to light the region.<br /> <br /> At an eleventh-hour TVS design team meeting, Champana approached a sheet of poster paper hanging on a wall and began to sketch buildings in the shape of flickering candles— candlelight moving in the wind.<br /> <br /> At first, Champana’s design team members laughed at the candle-flame building. When Champana’s top designer, Howard Chen, quit laughing, however, he began to see the possibilities in the idea. Within two days, Chen made a computerized model of buildings sculpted as candle flames.<br /> <br /> The client accepted the design, and the Dubai Towers are now under construction and will be completed by 2010.<br /> <br /> A massive undertaking, the Dubai Towers are a spiritual expression of an inspirational man—Behr Champana.<br /> <br /> “I'm an architect to be able to dream,” says Champana. “I’m an architect for creative purposes.”<br /> <br /> Champana swears that he couldn’t have been anything else in his life but an architect. Architecture is a means to self-expression and a way to share with humanity, he says.<br /> <br /> “The driving soul, the truth about architecture is that it is about creativity and mentoring people. This is what drives me,” says Champana.<br /> <br /> He has designed hotels, offices, retail malls, residential buildings and convention centers in the United States, Latin America (including his native Puerto Rico), Europe, Russia, Asia, China and the Middle East. He and his Dubai partners have led TVS in planning projects in Lebanon, Oman, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, India as well as the United Arab Emirates. Always on the go and dressed to the nines (often in stylish black leather), Champana shakes everyone’s hand and hugs his friends as soon as he enters a room.<br /> <br /> Gary Fowler, who graduated from Tulane in 1978 with a master of architecture degree, is a colleague of Champana’s and a principal at TVS. Fowler recalls that when Champana was newly hired straight from Tulane, he would exuberantly squeeze people on the scruff of their necks.<br /> <br /> “He’d pick up whatever we were working on, and say, ‘Gary, Gary, Gary. What do I need to do now?’ ”<br /> <br /> Champana is energetic and “an incredible, positive force. He’s everything we’d want a Tulanian to be. He represents the school awesomely,” says Fowler.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_left" src="/news/tulanian/images/dubai_1_1_1.jpg" id="||CPIMAGE:997653|" alt="dubai_1_1" title="dubai_1_1" border="0" height="413" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="300" />Fowler, who was the lead architect for the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, points out that TVS is accustomed to designing big buildings, but Champana’s international ambitions for the firm are almost beyond belief— and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.<br /> <br /> What’s being built in Dubai are “the pyramids of our era,” says Fowler. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity. And Behr made it happen. He dreamed it. He brought all of us along out of our comfortable little world. I couldn’t dream that big, but he could.”<br /> <br /> There's a saying they have at TVS: working on a project with Champana, you have to give the “Behr minimum.”<br /> <br /> The “Behr minimum” is about raising the bar above the standard effort. Not a minimum at all, it’s the maximum.<br /> <br /> “I don’t like to tell people what to do because if I do I cannot have their soul in the project,” says Champana. “I cannot get the best out of them.”<br /> <br /> His team of designers is incredible, he says. He’s their biggest fan but he will push them and challenge them to do more than they ever thought they could. He’ll listen to anyone who has an idea and can draw.<br /> <br /> “Behr taught us how to dream,” says Manny Dominguez, a TVS principal, who has worked with Champana for almost a decade.<br /> <br /> “I always wanted to be original,” says Champana, who as a child applied his early talent to drawing his own comic books. “I was always dreaming about the future and thinking about where technology would take you to.”<br /> <br /> Champana earned his master of architecture degree from Tulane in 1981. In architecture design studio, if another student had an idea similar to Champana’s, he would start over again with a new model. Even if the project assignment date were near, he’d work throughout the night to produce something different.<br /> <br /> Highly skilled at drawing, Champana won freehand drawing prizes in the School of Architecture where two of his entries tied for first place. He also won the Lawrence Traveling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to South America in his fourth year at Tulane.<br /> <br /> The first day in Phelps Hall after arriving alone on campus from Puerto Rico with a “big, fat suitcase,” Champana met his roommates— one from Texas and one from Florida. They bestowed on him something he never had as a kid—a nickname. Gilbert—a French name because his parents are from the French Antilles—is Champana’s real first name. Pronounced <em>jìl / bér</em>, the name was too difficult for the roommates to say. They said, let’s call you “Behr.” And they even spelled it for him. And it’s the name that Champana has gone by ever since.<br /> <br /> Dubai today is a center of architectural marvels. A $200 billion building boom has more than 200 skyscrapers under construction and an equal number expected to get under way in the next few years.<br /> <br /> TVS International has completed the master plan for 70 million square feet (larger than downtown Atlanta) for “The Lagoons” on Dubai Creek, which flows from the Persian Gulf. Seven islands or “pearls” in the lagoons represent the seven emirates.<br /> <br /> Champana’s Dubai Towers comprise residential units, office space and hotels. They are connected at the base by a marina and mall and range from 54 to 82 stories high.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" src="/news/tulanian/images/behr_design_1_1_1.jpg" id="||CPIMAGE:997655|" alt="behr_design_1_1" title="behr_design_1_1" border="0" height="279" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="300" />It is a history-making project in terms of structure, construction material, mechanical systems and vision—and by the fact that most people never saw it as a building but the client and a handful of his closest colleagues, says Champana. He has spent 80 percent of his working time since 2004 in Dubai, where in one year he put in more than 2,000 overtime hours.<br /> <br /> But it’s also a project that Champana now has had to pull back from.<br /> <br /> In April, Champana got an alarming diagnosis. Doctors told him he was in stage four of lymphoma, the final stage of an aggressive blood cancer disease.<br /> <br /> True to his energetic, inspirational, spiritual self, though, Champana says having cancer for him is a positive thing. “It has helped me reconnect with my inner self in a way that I needed.”<br /> <br /> “He will tell you it’s not an illness,” says Dominguez. “He’ll tell you it’s a wonderful opportunity to reevaluate the strategy.”<br /> <br /> My illness is an incredible journey,” says Champana. He’s delved into meditation, reaching higher and higher states of consciousness. He’s tapped into a spiritual dimension in himself that had been dormant but that he’d experienced before at Catholic retreats when he was in high school.<br /> <br /> To cope with his illness, “I had to go within myself,” he says.<br /> <br /> On Oct. 13, his colleagues at TVS participated in a “Light the Night” walk to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Atlanta. More than 140 TVS people participated, wearing T-shirts with images of the candlelight Dubai Towers framed by a red balloon, the lymphoma society’s symbol.<br /> <br /> The shirts were emblazoned with an inspirational quote from Champana: “I have learned that life is not about me, and it’s not about you either. You cannot live a full life if you cannot share and give to others.”<br /> <br /> Champana prays and meditates between rigorous rounds of chemotherapy treatments. He says that he is enlightened by what he keeps learning from his illness.<br /> <br /> “What silence and breathing can do for you is unbelievable.”<br /> <br /> He recounts experiencing serene clarity in meditative states, and his vibes have reached worldwide. A friend in Mexico had a dream (he often seems to have that effect on people) that Champana was in trouble.<br /> <br /> When the friend contacted Champana he told her that he has had visions during the course of his illness that he will design orphanages in the future. He foresees this new career path as a way to give poor an<img id="||CPIMAGE:993266|" title="balloon_behr_1" alt="balloon_behr_1" src="/news/tulanian/images/balloon_behr_1_1.jpg" align="left" border="0" height="148" hspace="7" vspace="7" width="194" />d abandoned children a better way of life. He wants to fulfill this destiny in gratitude for his own happy childhood as the youngest of six children blessed with wonderful parents.<br /> <br /> Soon after their moving conversation, the friend encountered nuns running an orphanage in Mexico, and she put them in touch with Champana. The 70 children in the orphanage now pray for Champana and send him small gifts, which has amazed and humbled him.<br /> <br /> “This illness has made me realize that I needed to stop and to shift my gears to start giving,” he says. “Believe me, I’m ready for that.”<br /> <br /> Champana’s parallel destinies—as a spiritual man reaching intense heights of metaphysical awareness and as an architect dealing in concrete reality—await him.<br /> <br /> <em>Mary Ann Travis is editor of</em> Tulanian <em>and a senior editor in the Office of University Publications.</em><br /> <br /> </p>
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VALUE <p>In Afghanistan we count off the hours in Zulu time. Zulu time is Greenwich Mean Time—the time of day in London, England—a city thousands of miles, many time zones and a war away from Bagram Airfield. Zulu Time has nothing to do with the position of the sun in the Afghanistan sky. But I have grown accustomed to Zulu time; it adds one more dimension of the surreal to a place where the surreal is commonplace.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" src="/news/tulanian/images/zulu1_1_1_1.jpg" id="||CPIMAGE:997662|" alt="zulu1_1_1" title="zulu1_1_1" border="0" height="188" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="300" />I’m not sure exactly why we use Zulu time here. Maybe it is because Afghanistan’s local time cannot be converted to a whole number in any Western time zone. It always comes out on a half hour.<br /> <br /> Like everything else in Afghanistan, even the time is just a little bit off. My day starts at 0300 Z– 3 a.m. in London, 7:30 a.m. in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> I’ve stopped trying to convert Zulu to local or vice versa. It is too difficult and causes confusion. By 1900 Z, if the hospital is quiet, most of the doctors are seeking the refuge of their hooches.<br /> <br /> The patients, most of whom are Afghan, are oblivious to our Zulu world. We live in a different time zone than they do, and this seems oddly appropriate.<br /> <br /> In a land where automobiles vie with donkeys, camels, anemic horses and rickshaws for room on the road; where a small boy with club feet wears shoes on all extremities so he may undulate through the streets like a reptile; where yesterday a man strapped a bomb to himself, jumped on a bicycle and rode into a crowd of his fellow countrymen and two soldiers—it seems appropriate that here we live in another, separate time zone and in a world of which we cannot be a part.<br /> <br /> Both of the pilots are conscious and breathing on their own. One of the men does not look too bad at all. A few divots of flesh missing from his torso. A broken leg. Some other inconsequential wounds. Nothing life threatening.<br /> <br /> The other pilot will also live, but he is not so lucky. Where his right arm once was, near the shoulder, strands of shredded muscle and the white of bone are visible. The remaining tissue of his arm is hamburger. It has been re-dressed and is oozing, but there is no brisk bleeding.<br /> <br /> The thick crush of bodies around the stretcher has begun to ebb. I approach him, tell him he will be OK. He speaks to me. “Sir,” he asks, “have you ever known a doctor with one arm.”<br /> <br /> Surprised by the question, I cock my head questioningly.<br /> <br /> “I’ve been accepted to medical school. I’m supposed to start in July.”<br /> <br /> “Yes, I tell him,” without lying. “I did once know a doctor with one arm. He was one of the finest infectious disease doctors I have ever known. And he was in the Army.”<br /> <br /> “I wanted to be a surgeon,” he said.<br /> <br /> “You may not be a surgeon. But you can still become a doctor.”<br /> <br /> I left him, troubled. Too close to home. His career stolen from him before it began. Yes, he was still alive and he could have a good life but he had lost his dominant arm and the chance of a future that had seemed so close to him.<br /> <br /> At least he is alive. But how terrible must losses be that they are always held up to this standard?<br /> <br /> Someday soon I will return to a place where losses don’t have such a high standard to meet. Where it is OK to feel angry because someone scratches your Toyota, where it is permissible to feel sorry for yourself because your throat hurts. Where you are allowed to have a bad day.<br /> <br /> To walk through our wards and see the limbless altered bodies, any self-pity must be tempered by guilt. I take my hand from my pocket, gently clench and unclench it. A “bad day” seems such an oddly trite concept here.<br /> <br /> <img class="float_right" src="/news/tulanian/images/zulu2_1_1_1.jpg" id="||CPIMAGE:997663|" alt="zulu2_1_1" title="zulu2_1_1" border="0" height="160" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="300" /> Afghanistan has had a long bad day.<br /> <br /> It is difficult to understand this country. It is impossible for me to comprehend this world.<br /> <br /> We live in Zulu time here. Everything is a little bit off in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> <em>Col.Tom Frank (A&amp;S ’83, G ’85, M ’89) wrote this piece as a journal entry during the year he spent in Afghanistan running the country’s only full-service U.S. hospital. He was awarded a Bronze Star in recognition of “exceptionally meritorious service” and his “courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone under the most extreme of circumstances.”<br /> <br /> Frank also has served as a field surgeon in Korea with the 43rd MASH and spent six years at the U.S. Army Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.In fall 2005, Frank was sent to New Orleans to provide emergency medical care to victims of Hurricane Katrina.<br /> <br /> Frank is stationed in El Paso, Texas, where he is chief of the Department of Medicine at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. He lives with his wife, Susan Marie Smith, and his 10-year-old daughter, Samantha.<br /> </em><br /> </p>
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Zulu Time

December 1, 2007

Tom Frank
tulanian@tulane.edu

In Afghanistan we count off the hours in Zulu time. Zulu time is Greenwich Mean Time—the time of day in London, England—a city thousands of miles, many time zones and a war away from Bagram Airfield. Zulu Time has nothing to do with the position of the sun in the Afghanistan sky. But I have grown accustomed to Zulu time; it adds one more dimension of the surreal to a place where the surreal is commonplace.

zulu1_1_1I’m not sure exactly why we use Zulu time here. Maybe it is because Afghanistan’s local time cannot be converted to a whole number in any Western time zone. It always comes out on a half hour.

Like everything else in Afghanistan, even the time is just a little bit off. My day starts at 0300 Z– 3 a.m. in London, 7:30 a.m. in Afghanistan.

I’ve stopped trying to convert Zulu to local or vice versa. It is too difficult and causes confusion. By 1900 Z, if the hospital is quiet, most of the doctors are seeking the refuge of their hooches.

The patients, most of whom are Afghan, are oblivious to our Zulu world. We live in a different time zone than they do, and this seems oddly appropriate.

In a land where automobiles vie with donkeys, camels, anemic horses and rickshaws for room on the road; where a small boy with club feet wears shoes on all extremities so he may undulate through the streets like a reptile; where yesterday a man strapped a bomb to himself, jumped on a bicycle and rode into a crowd of his fellow countrymen and two soldiers—it seems appropriate that here we live in another, separate time zone and in a world of which we cannot be a part.

Both of the pilots are conscious and breathing on their own. One of the men does not look too bad at all. A few divots of flesh missing from his torso. A broken leg. Some other inconsequential wounds. Nothing life threatening.

The other pilot will also live, but he is not so lucky. Where his right arm once was, near the shoulder, strands of shredded muscle and the white of bone are visible. The remaining tissue of his arm is hamburger. It has been re-dressed and is oozing, but there is no brisk bleeding.

The thick crush of bodies around the stretcher has begun to ebb. I approach him, tell him he will be OK. He speaks to me. “Sir,” he asks, “have you ever known a doctor with one arm.”

Surprised by the question, I cock my head questioningly.

“I’ve been accepted to medical school. I’m supposed to start in July.”

“Yes, I tell him,” without lying. “I did once know a doctor with one arm. He was one of the finest infectious disease doctors I have ever known. And he was in the Army.”

“I wanted to be a surgeon,” he said.

“You may not be a surgeon. But you can still become a doctor.”

I left him, troubled. Too close to home. His career stolen from him before it began. Yes, he was still alive and he could have a good life but he had lost his dominant arm and the chance of a future that had seemed so close to him.

At least he is alive. But how terrible must losses be that they are always held up to this standard?

Someday soon I will return to a place where losses don’t have such a high standard to meet. Where it is OK to feel angry because someone scratches your Toyota, where it is permissible to feel sorry for yourself because your throat hurts. Where you are allowed to have a bad day.

To walk through our wards and see the limbless altered bodies, any self-pity must be tempered by guilt. I take my hand from my pocket, gently clench and unclench it. A “bad day” seems such an oddly trite concept here.

zulu2_1_1 Afghanistan has had a long bad day.

It is difficult to understand this country. It is impossible for me to comprehend this world.

We live in Zulu time here. Everything is a little bit off in Afghanistan.

Col.Tom Frank (A&S ’83, G ’85, M ’89) wrote this piece as a journal entry during the year he spent in Afghanistan running the country’s only full-service U.S. hospital. He was awarded a Bronze Star in recognition of “exceptionally meritorious service” and his “courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone under the most extreme of circumstances.”

Frank also has served as a field surgeon in Korea with the 43rd MASH and spent six years at the U.S. Army Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.In fall 2005, Frank was sent to New Orleans to provide emergency medical care to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Frank is stationed in El Paso, Texas, where he is chief of the Department of Medicine at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. He lives with his wife, Susan Marie Smith, and his 10-year-old daughter, Samantha.

Tulanian
Fall 2007

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu