MICHELE NORRIS, host:
When commentator Andrei Codrescu travels around the Gulf Coast in his post-Katrina days, he keeps his eyes open for signs that are great sadness is lifting.
ANDREI CODRESCU: Driving north through Mississippi and northern Louisiana under huge empty sky, I get the feeling that this world is abandoned. A wooden church spires sticks out of a vast expense of flat land. Not one human dwelling can be seen from the road. But here and there, the king harvesters are old detractors so rust by the roadside like down daily insects.
The side of the road are littered with cotton that looks like snow. These cotton fields have been harvested and now they're waiting out the winter. Emptiness and winter are sad enough, but when you listen you can hear history mourning.
We pass a few wholly neglected small towns and busted windows and to dead downtowns by the railroad. I lean out the window and suck in the desolation with my digital camera. For kicks, we stop in Transylvania. It's Transylvania, Louisiana, a one-store town with a bat painted under lot of tower. At the Transylvania General Store, I buy a couple of coffee mugs that say, Transylvania, Louisiana, and an oval box that says the same thing.
I pass over the T-shirts, to the bats and the orange sky and the baseball caps. I don't tell the old man who rings me up that I'm from Transylvania, the real one - not that he'd care. During his time on earth within the Transylvania General Store, the Transylvania Post Office and possibly the Transylvania Baptist Church, he seems to have run out of curiosity. I might have too if not for the dealt (Unintelligible) and that church just as Transylvania.
There might be a thread connecting the real Transylvania to this forlorn village in the cotton fields. The men and I originated in middle European German lands of which might Transylvania was once part. This maybe a non-existent connection, just like the one, my old friend, Bill Derusi(ph) was looking for when he came from Amsterdam to find out if the road of Louisiana had been named for his family. He found, instead, that the settlement had been named by telegram from Amsterdam by a clerk for the Dutch company that owns the railroad.
The nearby environments of Lake Providence flash by. A few cypresses still growing into the water near the shore. Rutting pears stretch out into the still water. The cypresses look funereal to me. Their trunks come wide off the roots, then narrow before spilling down that weeping, gastric tresses. I can imagine this land's bursting into life in the spring and settling into a long glazy summer. But I think that the deep sadness lies at its core, made of forgetting history or just plain forgetting.
NORRIS: Andrei Codrescu teaches English at Louisiana State University.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.