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Hammer Dream

August 6, 2011


The sound of a hammer pounding on the roof of the house woke the man sleeping inside. He was curious about this sound, not having ordered any work, so he put on his hat to go outside to see. But the hat was not his hat. It was a crisp, white Panama hat that had been worn by a fabulously rich coffee exporter from Central America. He had started his career as a poor boy in Quezaltenango, selling coffee one cup at a time to the tourists who traveled by train on the way to the mountain villages. They would go there to photograph the peasants who were poor but happy. Unlike the tourists, the campesinos were content with their simple lives, raising a few crops, some chickens, and fishing in the stream that meandered down the mountainside. He ended up owning not only half of the coffee plantations in the country but the railroad company as well. However, after the collapse of the economy, he had lost his fortune and used the last of his money to make his way to New York City. Out of money, speaking little English, and with no prospects, he moved in with a distant cousin in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, who had a small construction business. He quickly mastered the art of roofing and worked alone at his craft, as he did on this day. But the sound of his hammer pounding on the roof of the house woke the man sleeping inside.