A story about the vehicles of great explorers and their crucial role; on my experience and love with Sofia; and a video at the end of Sofia playing tricks on me.
One cannot talk of Cortazar or Dunlop, Osita or the Lobo – the two great lovers on the French freeway – without also speaking of Fafner.
Fafner – el Dragón – their 1970’s VW combi, painted candy-shell orange, with the bellows that puff out like a blowfish. Fafner, the persnickety third character in Autonauts of the Cosmoroute – that timeless little book which has inspired me to quit my job, travel to France and lay it all on the line for a movie, a writing career, and a chance at sane and foolish love.
Oh, Fafnerino. How important you were to Julio and Carol. How you provided them shelter and movement. How you provided the adventurers with the most important resource: their direction forward. Who was Columbus without his three heavenly beauties, their sails set high as they dawned onto the new world? Who was Cousteau without his steel ambassador of the sea; heavy pressure, and sanctity at the bottom of the world, was his leeway into seeing things no one else ever did. Who was Quixote without that poor donkey?
Yes. Every adventurer has his or her medium, its non-human vessel that ends up being more human as the story grows, given human emotions, and human loyalty, because, well, she’s your only friend out there when the high seas threaten to suck you in. She is your savior, so you love her. How can you not fall in love with your ship, when she is the only thing separating and injecting you, both the in and out at the same time, into the uncharted world into which you stumble? The need for experience and the need for contemplation, both are impossible without your steed.
Fafer is one of the most loveable of all vehicle wing-men in all of literary history, I would boldly state. Carol’s photos in their book almost always place him among the nature and man-made flotsam of highway life, and you can’t help but adore him in his element. In countless photos he rests in the shade, hungrily lapping up the cool air in the scorching Provence siesta. In another, little old Fafnerino is ominously set alongside the beasts of the autoroute – those stupidly huge 18-wheelers, who are more like Godzillas, bent on destruction, than cute, cuddly little dragons. He grumbles. He’s opinionated. In short, he’s fantastic.
It is one of the most touching scenes in Autonauts, when Cortazar, in the final pages, reflecting on his late wife, thanks his poet friend for showing him the way of the dragon. How could he have lived the way he did, and loved the way he did, without that organized chaos of bringing your typewriter, your wine, your lady alongside you, as you venture out to plant your flag into the great, and incredibly rich unknown?!
AND SO, AN ODE TO MY DRAGON, SOFIA
We’ve seen already how my Sofia – the white VW Up! that accompanied me to the ends of the cosmoroute – forced me to face a heroic challenge on my first day on the road. But what other beautiful things she did for me, what other fondness and care I grew for her, I have not begun to really understand, and the following words will only be Tic Tacs, barely flavorful and shortly lived, in the quest to describe her to you.
The first thing you should know is she was hardly a car. She was more a submarine than anything, as I said before. I had rigged up her insides like a fully functional ship. Taping camera holders on the dashboard. Reserving cup holders and ashtrays for the most crucial of navigational instruments: packing tape, Swiss Army Knife, mini tri pod, flashlight, lighter, cigarettes.
I had ripped out the panel of her glove compartment, and converted it into my bookshelf. There rested Hopscotch, Autonauts, Simenon, Moleskine, pens and maps. I didn’t feel at all like I was in a car. I was in my office!
How she provided numerous occasions of good humour, in a situation that was often somber, often full of wanting and desire for that woman over there, somewhere, for that ghost. How, when I’d be artistic, and decided to film my entry and exit into the rest stops on the A6, for example. she’d not comply, sassily pulling her self to a full stop – engine dead – or flipping over my camera, just as the crucial perfect shot was about to be had! Oh, clever beast! Always reminded me to not take this stuff so seriously.
Night comes and she really does become a little submarine. The black sea above me with only the dithering lights of the moon refracted about. Me on the ocean floor. The flashlight my only sight. Me, now on the passenger side, my office, with the books, with the iPad typewriter, with the whiskey at the end of a day’s work. And Sofia, my shelter, my shell, my savior in these lonely cold planets under the endless, black ocean that is the A6 autoroute at midnight.
Ah, co-explorer. Thank you! You are missed already. You brought me spindling through those tiny streets of Avignon, that ancient city in the middle of the green and French Provence. You brought me rushing through hundreds of kilometres of mindfulness, of meditation, of planning and of growth. You gave me all that. You waited handsomely as I went on explorations, and never once did you wander off or suffer a breech. Who could rob you? Who could dare enter your sacred confines? No one. You were too menacing – like a tiny, toothy dog, versus the mail man. You stood up valiantly on those mean streets of Marseille, where I anxiously left you alone for a whole night, a part of town the hotel clerk ironically understated as “difficult.”
Oh! Co-expeditionary. If only we could meet again and find other new worlds. But that is not our path. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you to Fafner, your great grandfather, for giving us the inspiration and good luck to find each other. And thank you to Julio, to Carol, to their poet friend, for all those years ago, for reminding me that no great adventure starts or begins, without the means to go find, to trudge forward and then reflect. The Grand Provider of the In and Out of Life, oh vessel, Sofia. Thank you!
Your friend always,
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ps: see her work her devilish tricks here or by clicking the image below.