At TiGeorges' Haitian restaurant in Echo Park, today is not a normal day. The country of which this lovely restaurant is a faraway representation is in turmoil. And there are three news camera trucks parked on Glendale Boulevard just out front. Earlier this morning, before I headed over to TiGeorges' Chicken to see the scene there myself, I had heard Georges talking with Larry Mantle on KPCC: He reported that he had been in touch with relatives on the island and that he was involved in aid efforts. He said medicines are badly needed in Haiti.
I got there at 11 a.m. Through the front window I could see Georges tending the logs in the open fire beneath nine or a dozen chickens. Cameras were running. It looked like three crews in the room. Other news workers intently attended their Blackberries. One patron ate a meal, her back to the newsfolks, the door and the fire.
The phone rang. Georges began in English then switched to fluent Spanish. (It was Univision.) For the next five minutes or so the phone rang continuously, all calls about Haiti, some in English, some in Spanish. When there was a break, Georges calmly went back to the fire, poking the logs, keeping it flaming. The phone rang again. "TiGeorges, TiGeorge, TiGeorge" he said repeatedly, waiting. "This sounds like an international call," he said to the newsfolks who watched him closely. "But they are not going to get through." After waiting another beat he hung up the phone. He went back to the fire.
More calls. A few minutes later, Georges, who is from Por-de-Paix, Haiti, noticed me looking at the photos and art on the wall - in a side room there is a photo of him with Bill Clinton in Haiti - and came to see what I needed. He remembered that I had written about his restaurant in Chicken Corner. If it was a strain to have his mind running on so many tracks — English, Spanish and French, no doubt; cooking; fielding the news media; trying to help friends, relatives, countrymen in the midst of a disaster — it didn't show in his manner, which was serious and worried but not panicked.
For anyone who is looking for ways to help, I overheard Georges telling someone on the phone that there will be a fundraiser/meeting at the restaurant tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. One of the reporters in the room confirmed that she had heard the same.
From Echo Park to Haiti, with love.