N: Coney Island?
M: Lou Reed!
N: Luna Park?
M: Let’s go!
From Brooklyn’s wonder wheel started our trip; from the wonder’s desire starts every trip. Imagine a car, two girls, three weeks, four maps, five t-shirts, six hours of jet lag…and well… the nine thousand kilometres we drove! “Dream big!” I usually say; my American dream was neither about success nor money; it was the good old road trip that I wanted.
N: Which route to follow?
M: The one of the beatniks. Which else?
N: You mean the 66?
M: No, the route to anywhere!
Curiosity makes you travel; swinging from here to there, discovering yourself somewhere, nourishing your soul everywhere. In New York we met each other, to San Francisco we flew together, and from east we drove west: California, Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur, L.A., Sequoia National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Texas, New Orleans, Mississippi, Memphis, Nashville, Smoky Mountains and back to New York.
On last summer trip’s suitcase of memories I stuck a label, on which I wrote the word “bigness”. Big is the number of places and faces to remember; big are cities, skyscrapers, roads, distances, cars and meals in the US. Big is the General Sherman, a tourist attraction in Sierra Nevada and the biggest tree on earth.
N. prefers nature, I am an urban animal, but we both love talking with the locals. Danny, a poet, told us about his San Francisco in the 60s, while I was taking pictures of graffiti in Mission. Bill, a schoolteacher and pub owner, lives in California Hot Springs; he prepared the best margarita I ever drunk. Fay Belle, a cook, made us laugh; she was running after a lizard in the kitchen, while I was gorging on her pancakes. Diana and Tim, parents, live in a van in Utah, and wish their sons to find a job. Achak, a jewellery maker, belongs to the Navajo tribe; part of the money he earns goes back to the reservation. Scott, a pottery maker, remembered the travels of his youth, while I was wondering why he then settled in New Mexico. Alejandra, a teenager, can’t wait to grow up so that she can travel. Andrew, a student, drove us around New Orleans, explaining that many houses are still empty after Katrina. Joe, a homeless, told us about his Vietnam, before inviting us to a nice jazz bar in town. Moses, a philosopher, left Puertorico many years ago, lives in Harlem and loves jam sessions. The fact that I am particularly fascinated by human landscapes does not mean that the natural ones did not leave me breathless, apart from one place, the desert in Nevada that instead made me want to scream of excitement all the way.
Music filled the second part of the trip: country in Texas, blues in Tennessee, but we both felt in love with the vibe of “The Big Easy”. We did not need a long time to understand the reason why New Orleans is called like this. Hot and humid, the ventilators can never stop spinning, and the only thing you want to do is walking to Frenchman street. There you’ll find good jazz, nice people, and enchanting vibes…guaranteed. Do you remember the song by Steve Miller Band? Yes, that one, the one easy to whistle: I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a miiidniiight tooookeeer, lalallala lalla la, wooo wooooo! It became the hit of the trip; we did not bring many CDs, and preferred listening to the local radios, and believe me, we don’t know how many times they played that song!
Towards the end of the travel the hurricane Irene arrived. Instead of changing the route, we rather safely waited on the Smoky Mountains, on the border of North Carolina, until the sky became clear. When the dark and fast moving clouds disappeared, and the strong winds lost their power, we kept on driving. There were only hundreds miles left to New York. There it started and ended.