The dogs are yelping and the flowers are blooming again at Randy Adams' house.
We first met Randy by telephone, five days after Hurricane Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans. Randy put his family and its five dogs — he said he could never leave behind their dogs — into a two-car caravan that drove overnight to Memphis. There, they took shelter at a Red Roof Inn.
During that first conversation, we found Randy eloquent and open. He had humor, humility, and an eye for detail. We liked him, and began to check back with Randy every few weeks.
He told us how he looked for work — and red beans and rice — in Memphis, and longed to return to the city he loves. We also heard from listeners who worried about him, wanted to help him, and told us that they learned from his grace and fortitude. They didn't want us to let go of Randy's story.
Randy hooks up computer and telephone systems for a living. His wife, Rashel, is a respiratory therapist. They found work in Memphis, but six months ago, Randy told us that his marriage had become another casualty of the storm.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Randy told us that a tumor had been detected in his daughter's brain.
But maybe the worst of the storm has passed for Randy Adams. Tests showed his daughter's tumor is benign. And Randy and his wife are back together again, and back in New Orleans.
Randy Adams is rebuilding his two-bedroom home just off the corner of Towering Oaks and Dueling Oaks in Marrero, about 10 miles south of downtown New Orleans.
His house is more suburban ranch than French Quarter: a flat red-brick front, five yelping little sausage dogs inside, a round, above-ground pool in the back, and a front yard just large enough to hold the FEMA trailer in which Randy and his family spend some nights while their house is being rebuilt; most they spend at his father's house nearby, which was relatively undamaged.
Randy Adams has grasped that he's gotten a hell of a shake by Hurricane Katrina, but he hasn't been defeated by history. He has survived; he has taken care of his family. And this weekend, at his home with a FEMA trailer in the front yard, a small pool and a covered swing in the backyard, and his dogs leaping and yelping all around, Randy Adams is hosting the first crawfish boil since last year's hurricanes.
Enough people have moved back to his block in Marero to make it a real party.