i once had a dream like this

[4 March, 2017]

12 hours later on the road, yes, we were on the road again. on that slippery foggy drive back, with windows rolled down and my right arm drenched, i looked at joão driving, adriano asleep on rick’s sore arm, sasha looking out into the dim dusk of the end of the day and the ending of the trip, and wondered how i could ever write this down, or put this into a photograph. this, from the cynicism of orientation week, looking emptily at the people around me that were to be my schoolmates to this car and this moment, swept by the euphoria of the road and fondness for the company. it was just last morning that we had driven another rented car out of the garage, leaving the garage operator shaking his head about our 200km limit.

out of the urban highways of Florence and onward north to the mountain passes and little towns surrounding Lake Garda, the drive became impossibly, impossibly beautiful – the clouds had parted and the day was turning out sunny, the mountains rose so, so high, dwarfing us in our little car and little ambitions. in the distance – the alps. no matter how many times i’ve seen the alps, they never lose their pristine grandeur, suspended as they are in their own time – snow capped and eternally evocative of winter.

we turned the car around on an empty mountain road and pulled into a pizzeria, having lunch in a different world from where we had breakfast. the people who came into the pizzeria looked at us as much as we had looked at them, outfitted in what can only be described as “mountain fashion”, with red headbands that amused sasha greatly. we climbed up to Arco castle – ruins at the edge of a cliff overlooking the whole village. we dozed on the stretch of grass as if suspended in the sky.

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we continued the drive to Rive del Garda, where in the confusion between Google maps and the actual terrain, brought our car right in the middle of the piazza’s no-car zone, where we became an object of curiosity to the people of this pastel coloured town. joão and sasha ran off into the first reptilian house they found, while i remained outdoors with rick and the largest lake in Italy.

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before the day turned dark we went back to the car, driving south to pick up adriano from Desenzano. in the sleepy foggy state of the dusky drive, slow music playing softly, and the world outside turning as pastel as the town we’d just left, i looked at joão driving onward into the infiniteness of the road – we were talking about films and art and tarkovsky – suddenly a realisation hit me with a fullness that made me want to scream: hey, joão, this is my favorite place. this, right now, i would cross the world again, i would leave everything behind again, i would start from scratch again, if it meant i could be here. i’ve said i love road trips too many times for it to mean anything anymore. and sitting shotgun right then with only one other person awake, i became made entirely of the explosiveness of a fondness brought on by the fatigue of travel and a long day – i gave up words and the urge to reach out for my camera and looked on.

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that night we made dinner in a second-floor rented apartment in an unheard-of town called Lazise – got drunk on cheap wine and cheaper beer and great food and exhaustion, and passed out. the next morning everything went to shit – the kitchen was hidden under a pool of butter, half-eaten pudding, empty bottles and burnt pasta. it was late, the apartment keys were missing, the car keys were missing, the boombox was missing. each one of us had lost something. joão was out by the lake looking for the boombox, i was on the streets for the car keys – in the end we found everything but the boombox, and left for rainy Verona.

rick had yet to lose anything, which was why his umbrella got blown off the top of the amphitheatre. adriano overcompensated for having lost the apartment keys by bringing them to verona. all of us looked at him and the keys with dumbstruck silence. why did- i guess it doesn’t matter, alright, alright, back to Lazise we went to return them.

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Lazise was as we had never seen it – leaving it in the frazzled rush of the morning, we had missed the cloudy charm of the lake, stretching far out, disappearing into the fog before the horizon claimed it. the street market, meant for no more than one group of people like us at a time, that provided our German sandwiches and adriano with his estathé. joão in a poncho, biting into a sandwich – i was barely warm in my scarf, biting into rick’s sandwich – we sat there overlooking the vastness of the Lake, and then, we were back on the road.

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a tuscan road trip

joão rented a car, and the whole of tuscany with it. empty country roads yielded to our little fiat car of four: my housemate, adriano the estathé-loving stranger and yuwen who took care of all of us. for miles we drove and for miles we saw no one but the expanse of the hills of countryside tuscany, rolling away as more rolled towards us.

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two cities, an abandoned abbey, and a few stops later, cold, rain-drenched and hungry, we wind up in the kitchen of a little tuscan vacation home just outside of san gimignano, complete with a checkered tablecloth and brick walls, where adriano and yuwen filled the place with tomatoes and mozarella, butter pasta with bacon and fried potatoes – non ci sono parole.

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[tgv train to paris]

stranger, the new father type, with his wife and little bébé across me, asks: visitez paris?

oui, pour visiter mes amis. 

it’s been some hours, maybe two days, since i’ve flown out of new york, out of its sticky weekday mid-afternoon traffic mess, out of its rain and heavier skies, landed alone in stuttgart. my friends are in paris – only one of the two of them knows to expect me. all tickets to paris are sold out; buses, second-class trains, hitchiking services – i lugged my suitcase in the cold, wifi-less, German-less, across some streets and some buildings and some friendly strangers; stayed in a run-down motel with one lightbulb hanging over the receptionist, and this morning wake up at 5am to make this train ride, and now i’m finally going, i’m going to paris!

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[nymphenburg palace – munich]
the surprise is over, new year’s is over, the streets of paris are empty; the only sign of life being the occasional homeless person and the occasional pool of vomit from last night’s celebration – my friends walk me in the quiet chilly morning to the shuttle bus to the airport and i say goodbye again, and three hours later, in a different country, i say hello to another friend.

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[alpsee lake – fussen]
breathtaking is a word. surreal is just another. i have once tasted the wonder of an enchanted land surrounded by snowy mountains and the neuschwanstein castle, and now i touch it. i am touching it, the snow, the cold, the wonder, it’s all real here in the storybook dusk by the alpsee lake. for the length of the cold sun traversing slowly behind the mountains, time and the entire world stretches out with the expanse of the lake – only the half moon remains with us in the silence.
 
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