5.49 pm Towards Pierre Part, Assumption Parish, Louisiana

Just had a fourth of July party with some of Claire’s classmates. Now heading towards where she’s having her residency, in Pierre Part, a small hamlet in Cajun country. Swamps line the highway, and everything seems hyper-green in color.

8.15 pm Pierre Part

Pierre Part is a town of approximately 2000 people built in and around the Louisiana bayou. The local corner store sell all that one would need, including large cartons of Marlboro and Pall Mall cigarettes, copious amounts of alcohol, and shotgun shells. Signs advertising for the August gun show at the Patterson Civic Center are frequent, and Claire’s home (we affectionately call it the “shack”) lies in close proximity to the other major thoroughfares in town: Family Street and Mam and Pap (not Mom and Pop) Drive. Cajun French is spoken here. I find those that that we’ve met so far to be people of genuine character, with an warmth and hospitality devoid of guile and insincerity. We had dinner at a place called Vince’s BBQ. Vince, a 76 year old Korean War veteran, made a point to shake our hands and ask us everything about us. He gave us free ribs to partake in, which I politely declined. We went back to the “shack” to witness Claire’s new neighbors providing the Parish skyline with good old fashioned 4th of July fireworks.

10.20 pm Driving from Pierre Part to New Orleans on Highways10,70

We’re passing through very rural Louisiana. This state is partly oil country, and while originally I thought this was limited to off-shore platforms in the Gulf, we’re seeing no shortage of refineries dotting the landscape. Moving towards them in the enveloping darkness you can see an artificial dawn created by the lights reflected on the emitted smoke almost like a distant fire. The close you get to them you stumble upon something bizarre and magnificent: the refineries themselves. I first I thought we had reached the skyline of downtown New Orleans that we had reached prematurely. What it was was a giant microcity splattered with dotted lights, formed out of plethora of cylinders and pipes. I find it difficult to describe the scene clearly. A part of me wants to shudder at it; seeing the orange halo from afar plainly indicated a man-made economic monstrosity violating the bayou’s lushness. Yet the closer we got, the strangeness of the landscape gave the refinery an almost extra-terrestrial beauty. The director Werner Herzog once said:

“For me a true landscape is not just a representation of a desert or a forest. It shows an inner state of mind, literally inner landscapes…”

It’s this sentiment that stays with me … the bidirectionality of how the landscape and one’s mind approach one another. I can’t say what the moment did for me, or what my mind provided to augment its significance. I can say, however, that I wish I could experience it again, and see those lights appearing from nowhere like a mirage arising from the swamps.