I got up early this morning (well, early for a Saturday) to take a streetcar named St. Charles down to Audubon Park for the NO/AIDS Walk. I was scheduled to work in the Carevan, our mobile testing unit--and had to wonder, why has it taken me this many years to figure out that clearly the Carevan is the place to work other than the Prevention table? The Carevan is air conditioned.
It is sad how many years it has taken me to figure this out.
I also took the streetcar home, taking pictures of the beautiful homes on the way home--I don't know why I didn't do so on the way there, other than it was early and I'd only had two cups of coffee so my mind wasn't exactly thinking very clearly--but on both trips, plus the walk through Audubon Park (on the way there, I made a wrong turn at the first lagoon and wound up having to walk all the way around the park--I'd forgotten there was a golf course in the middle of Audubon Park--but didn't make that mistake on the way back to the streetcar stop) I felt connected to New Orleans again in a way that I haven't in a while; as 'touristy' and 'cliched' as the St. Charles streetcar line may be, there's nothing like taking a leisurely ride on it to make you feel connected to the city again. St. Charles Avenue, and all the houses on it, are so beautiful, and scenic--and all the hidden beauty in Audubon Park, along with the beautiful and massive live oaks everywhere...well, it's been a while, you know? I love New Orleans so much, but I get so wrapped up in my day-to-day life and existence that I forget sometimes how much I love it here and how grateful I am that I get to live here.
There was, for example, a wedding party having their pictures taken in the park among the live oaks that I stumbled on as I walked back to St. Charles. I didn't photobomb them--though I thought about it--but they were done and walked back to the Avenue by the time I reached them. There was a portable snowball stand set up on the Avenue, and I took a couple of pictures of the bridal party getting snowballs. It was such a uniquely New Orleans moment.
And riding the streetcar, wandering through the park--despite the heat and the heavy air, I couldn't help but think about the next Scotty book, and how I need to make it more about New Orleans, how I can add layers and more depth to it as a book, about how to connect the characters in the case itself to the city and make it more New Orleans somehow. I feel like that's been missing somehow in my work lately, at least in the last few books: that sense of New Orleans that was always there before. I think I managed to get some of that into Garden District Gothic, but I am never sure. I know that the Chanse books were starting to feel like the setting was generic; they could have been in any city, they just happened to be set in New Orleans. That was, I think, why the series was starting to feel stale to me, and partly why I decided to end it.
I'm worn out now, exhausted from the heat and the humidity and the heavy thoughts. I am going to repair to my easy chair for a lovely relaxing day of college football (GEAUX TIGERS!) and reading Leslie Budewitz' Assault and Pepper, in preparation for spending the day tomorrow in the spice mines.