Obstacles, problems and that marvelous thing called LIFE


Enraptured by the adrenaline of the moment and the beauty of the landscape we stop the car and dance in the middle of the road with the moths that seem to dance with us, drugged by the lights of the car headlights.

I landed in the US with Emanuela, in Portland, Oregon on September 22nd. I had picked a nice place called Austin (not the one in Texas) as the first stop on our trip, a village of 200 inhabitants near the mountains of Toiyabe in Nevada, which I knew about through a novel by Don Winslow and that fascinated me for its beauty and its desolation.

We leave early in the morning because we have about 1000 km to chew. First mishap: our car is not equipped with GPS, but we decide not to care and to download the maps whenever we can find wifi. This makes each crossing a small problem although it keeps us more active and awake. We manage to get by and at sunset, we are only 160 km away, with Austin waiting for us at the end of the road with no more detours. As we set out, we stupidly do not think of stopping at a petrol station, convinced that we would find one later, only to find out soon after that we are in the middle of a desert: not a car in sight, there are no homes, there is nothing. I try to figure out what’s next and I discover that the control panel says 30 km of fuel autonomy, when in fact there are still 70 to get to destination. The sunset is beautiful and at the same time the moon is rising from behind the mountains while our playlist blasts "Common People" by Pulp. Enraptured by the adrenaline of the moment and the beauty of the landscape we stop the car and dance in the middle of the road with the moths that seem to dance with us, drugged by the lights of the car headlights. As the song fades out, we get back into the car with one question mark and two options: parking at the side of the road and sleep in the car until the morning when we’ll be able to call some help or get on with it?

We opt for the second, driving slowly with the intention of getting as close as possible to Austin. We spend an hour at very slow pace with sure that the car will stop at any moment and ready to throw ourselves off the road so as to avoid being a peril should any car drive by. Thanks probably to the car with a tank designed for lunatics and with no supernatural intervention at all, we reach the village’s gas station where we meet three (almost) male human specimens. Then we look for a hotel / motel: everything closed and dark, not a soul in sight. Nobody seems to live here. The only sign is a bar that looks like it came out of a film from hundred years ago. We enter to ask for information and eat something as we have not had anything since lunch but, as we open the door we see only a barefoot old man who looks as filthy as us who’s watching television with a tin in his hand. It seemed to be a private house and not a bar.

We find out he’s the owner (also the only customer) and he asks us if we want a drink because he hasn’t got anything else. We take a beer and he starts talking to us: he tells us that he is a serb emigrated and that he lived in Italy, he tells us of how he traveled the world and that the only way to fail is to not fight. He’s like a river flooding. At one point he fills three shots of a serbian liqueur, the size of a pint of beer, to the brim, recommending that we should drink it in one gulp. We just drink and as soon as we finish, we are propelled in the stratosphere (empty stomach, 9hours jetlag and 1000 km on our back). We take advantage of the arrival of another customer to leave before the next missile / shot. The nearest village is another 100 km, which, at this point, we do not feel like doing. We are going to sleep in the car when an elderly Chinese woman (fifth person and the only woman we’ve seen) asks us if we are looking for a room: word has spread. When I switch off the light, I think we had a thousand mishaps but it was a fabulous day. Organizing and planning would have taken away everything that made the day extraordinary. The phobias of the unexpected make life flat, aseptic, I think a non-life without problems with each day boringly the same as the other, is a missed opportunity. To live means to be able to risk and, as the Serbian says, the only possible way to fail is to not fight.

Marco Mandrino