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  • It happened in front of our house. It was the middle of the day.

    I made a whole story about it: about Fernando, and the scrape of blue paint he left when his truck plowed into our wheel bed, crushing it and smashing the headlight. It's a story about how I found Fernando, and about my neighbors, Monique and Rudy. Really, it's a story about friendship, and I hope you listen to it.

    When I started writing this, I thought the suckerpunch of the story was Fernando hitting our car, and the rose was becoming friends with him because of it. But really, the most important part of this story is something Rudy said to me, which didn't make it into the story.

    I've known Rudy for years. I met him soon after moving to New Orleans. He lived on my block, and I like to know my neighbors. Rudy's from Mexico, but he's lived and worked in the states for years and years. His English is great.

    In the five years I lived on Saint Claude Avenue, dozens of Latino men lived on my block. Sure, a few played music too loud, and over the years, two or three got a little too rambunctious in their saucier moments. But for the most part, they're hard working guys, far from home, without their families. Things aren't easy for them. Take Rudy. He's fallen off a ladder on the job and been denied any kind of financial or medical compensation. He's been cheated out of thousands of dollars in wages from two sisters whose house he helped rebuild in Braodmoor. Once, all his tools were stolen.

    Like most of these guys, Rudy's been nothing but friendly, considerate, and helpful. I feel safe seeing him on the block, hanging out, talking, drinking beer, and lately, barbecuing.

    Here's the thing Rudy said which didn't make it into my story. He said: you know how we are. We work, we hang out, we party, but we never do anything disrespectful. All of this is true. And I realized the suckerpunch of my story is the big one: the flood, and the colossal failure of government, and the city built in a bowl with a sinking water table. It's the seven-year old story about the thing which broke everything apart.

    But the rose is Rudy, and Fernando. It's the men and women who came here afterward to put it all back together again.
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