Well, as you know, I'm off traveling around the country. When I left Dallas, I headed south to Waco and Mexia where a lot of MattHHelm stories take place. It was fun to see the area that Texas Ranger Waite lived. Mexia is a town of about 15 or so churches, which makes a church for about every 400 citizens, none of which would actually hold that many people. Nonetheless, it was fun to travel that direction and feel the lay of the land.
My trailer has been laid up in Conroe, TX north of Houston for repairs, so I took the opportunity to head south to Corpus Christi (looking for summer) and then to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Since the trailer still isn't ready, I decided I loop over to New Orleans for the weekend. I've stuck to the Gulf Coast as close as I could and that included crossing the Sabine Pass into Louisiana. That route took me right through Johnson Bayou and Cameron.
You might wonder what relevance those locations have to any story. Well, if you were a fan of the Model Student Series, you know that in the latter half of "Triptych" I introduced a character named Whitney Acadia Lambert, a Cajun girl from Johnson Bayou. Yes, I got to visit the home town of one of my own characters! I interviewed Whitney (as part of the story) back last year and you can read about her at http://storiesonline.net/s/71265:140298#t71265r.
What I saw were communities of almost all new construction. The school in Johnson Bayou is still under construction and I took photos with the rubble from the previous school still in the parking lot. Hurricane Rita (a month after the famous Hurricane Katrina) really devastated Southeastern Louisiana. You don't see much in the way of rubble left now--it's mostly cleaned up--and it's obvious that the area doesn't have nearly the population it had thirteen years ago. But it is obviously a community of great pride. The new schools and the new library are beautiful buildings set up on ten-foot posts above the ground. They look across LA-82 toward the Gulf, half a mile away. The storm surge from Rita hit about twelve feet. All the houses and public buildings are built on stilts to keep them dry in the event of another surge.
It was interesting to me all along the South Coast that houses are built on stilts at least ten feet off the ground and up to as much as fifteen feet or more. I even saw several houses that were twelve feet up to an open deck and another ten feet to the house. That actually made a lot of sense to me. It all made sense except one little detail. Their cars (or trucks in most instances) were all down on the ground. I could just imagine that a storm surge would render a vehicle pretty useless. Salt water in everything, assuming the vehicle was there when the water washed out. Then I realized that I was on a hurricane evacuation route. Most, if not all, people would head out at the warning of an imminent hurricane. That means that the cars and trucks would be gone.
So, tonight I'm resting in Lafayette, LA and heading into New Orleans tomorrow. The place should have settled down pretty much by the time I get there. It's the weekend after Mardi Gras and the worldly pleasures should be given up for Lent. Maybe.