Risen early. Rolled out of bed. Hit the ground like a stone. Tip-toeing on creaking wood came out on the balcony to take in precious dose of 5am air. Craving settled. Laid my butt on cold-hearted tiles, released breath. Strange, heavy aftertaste of coal, and morning hunger. One red as a starter. Refreshment of another day in its childish form. Humid ground with visible dry stripes where the sun already got to. Lazy, cloudy exhales. Ash flicked to the jar. Busy sounds construction workers create getting curfew-killing machinery ready. Hiss. Cold water dripping down my neck. Break for a short, inner, profound monologue. Woke. Pinstriped trousers on, so is black t-shirt. Composing a little survival kit. 60’s-styled backpack. In it, a book of choice, camera, charger, case with my glasses and sample of Chanel Bleu. Sleepy goodbye kiss. Walk out, close the door.
Sun hits my face like like sudden realization of mortality. Silent march to the bus station. Yes, it is sad. A guy in love with cars and things requiring constant travel with no car of his own. Well. At least I can start drinking after morning prayer’s done! My equipment is incomplete then. Storm of anticipation, what could I find? Unknown land, overflowing with promising possibilities or just plain kamikaze dunk. Couldn’t remember too much classic car shows from my past, this being the first to visit on purpose. So much excitement, and real perspective of failure going back and forth in my mind. Stop being bipolar, this is serious now. You could get out of the bus, find yourself in the middle of wilderness. Hyenas, will gather all around you, knowing everybody’s place in the food chain. Just waiting for your body to turn into carrion. Proud, muscular shadows of higher being creatures show up. The ones in charge. Will start with rapid breaking of your bones, so you can’t run anymore. Have a little extra fun. Mess in a way a cat does to wounded spiders. Tearing your limbs and flesh off, leaving a trail of blood an feces all the way down to the dining hole. Shop stop. 500 milliliters of white vermouth, tiny impression of a pizza, few entries more to my inventory and I’ll start to feel like a Broadway diva.
Intercity buses are rolling limbos you find yourself in when life goes suddenly downhill and looking for savings in darkest corners becomes the real issue. Rolling cans of hot, spoiled meat inside, pushed to its limit of compression. Shaking around at every gear change, turn, hole and stop. Sometimes it’s even impossible to sit straight, because your knees won’t fit. Final effect’s usually phantom pain after amputation, or regular one. Both lasting way past your planned vacation. So why would you pay for such torture? You get less room than city cars have anyway. At least that’s what I thought back in the day. Swerving like a psycho in between those, proud of my 5 cylinder Lancia bought for a handful of salty puffs. And that metaphor is NOT a code for any sexual move although it could be. Let me just hug the window, maybe rest a bit more before it all starts.
“JESUS CHRIST” – I yelled unexpectedly loud being shot up and forwards, bashed by a falling backpack. Forget sleep! We’re on our way down to Gulag. “God dammit!” – yells some guy from behind with gesture of helplessness from the captain. Yeah it’s not his fault, but justice is blind. Walking out they’ll all send him angry looks of contempt.
Deployment. He almost forgot to stop, that one ugly transcending different mind-states bastard of a driver. Human planet of a guy rolls out first, holding stained glass chandelier. Stretching my legs, back pain hits. Beautiful diversity of stimuli. Aching’s still better than torture, at least you know what hurts and can try to mend it.
In front of me, a highway, separated with sound-absorbing, plastic wall all the way to the underground passage. Modern hieroglyphs, some surprisingly well made. Tunnel. I got sad getting to the center of it, seeing this lone old lady. Fragile, little woman, hanging to her bag like she’s in possession of Holy Grail. Old, frilly dress, round wirery glasses. Looking through them, eyes of an abused puppy. Wonder if she saw my confused brows. Was laughing before, my brain. Now he seems to be just the right kind of clown, slipping some hard truths in between his jokes. Felt like a piece of shit. Not because of taking it all too personally. Just being there, knowing such place exists. You see the transparent, sound proof, 3.5 meter barrier stretching 3 kilometers both ways. No other way to cross the road or scream for help. Have to do underneath. Struggle with darkness, before seeing light at the end. Hoping, that arrival on the other side isn’t a figure of speech.
Last straight to conquer. Car cemetery. No repair shops here anymore, just old Audi logos painted on brick walls with old signboards saying ‘Goodyear’ and ‘Magneti Marelli’. Indicators of prosperity and well-being long gone before even thinking about the highway. Third of all houses on my way are abandoned or just plain neglected by people living there. Poor, forgotten souls are stuck there. Overgrowth of grass, branches hanging on roofs. Crumbling, concrete stairs. Sitting on them, empty bottles. Following me, dead eyes of everyday struggle and things they can’t forget. Rusted carcass of Lancia Dedra without any wheels on. Ford Probe looking well hidden by dust, dried leaves, waiting. Every winter coming here, halves the population, both people and cars. Hard to establish personal ownership, nature takes back what’s hers. Broken fence, pieces of glass everywhere and smell of burned plastic trim pieces. Old straight four, V6 engine blocks, old air filters covered in oil, cylinder heads lying around cracked in between used up piles of tires. Some tools left behind, as if everyone just fleed the place, thinking quickly what’s both most valuable and easy to carry.
10am, it’s time.
Tattooed gun-arms popping out of black ‘security’ vests. Bearded giants roaming around looking ready for war. Tinted glasses hide their laser-eyes aiming at everybody. Some provoke, seem to be there just to throw down at any smallest sign of possible street fight coming. Knuckle-duster and iron wire hidden somewhere in the pockets. Obviously, it is people of foreign look they’re after. Best spots at the very front past them, reserved for sales people paying for such Praetorian guard.
Disappointingly German cars in here. Line of black V8 W140 Benzes with occasional E24 M6 on the left. Everything shiny, polished, running and ready to go. You can buy a classic like pre-packed cheese and walk out of there with equally cheesy smile. Affordable, reliable. Classic car owners are often the same as everybody else, looking for something to conquer all of life’s challenges. It needs to be fast, good-looking, relatively cheap to repair, comfortable – there you go, another 53-year-old BMW E38 driver with ‘youngtimer’ t-shirt stretching on his beer belly. Selling these cars – blank face expression having human shells. Searching for signs of wealth on people to talk to, force somebody into purchase or therapeutic talk. And THEN purchase. Cheap checkered tucked in shirts, beige, slim-fit khakis. Expensive, flat, long shoes put on. Omega watch to indicate ‘money well spent’ approach to life. Fat, poorly shaven faces with red spots. Empty eyes, no compassion for anyone. Love for cars faded away in marriage-disrepair manner – only waiting to finally cash the check, get their share and forget everything moving on to the next one. 80’s corner. Lone Porsche 928. 190 Cosworth Benz with half-bucket rear seats. Limited edition, three-door, white Peugeot 306. Panoramic roof on it! Leather seats and automatic transmission. Promising just as the people around it. Confused about the quality of it and idea of such luxury in surprisingly low and small hatchback.
Money shot. Lancias. Delta, Kappa and Thema 8.32. Latter two owned by the same very man. Gray, barbered hair with well-trimmed beard. Tom Ford glasses, ashen chinos. Appearance being transition of colors from top to bottom. Lost in details. Gray coupe, Lancia’s last. V6 inside. Then, black Ferrari-powered sedan. It’s like finding missing album of London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frank Zappa. Avant-garde, the true kind, not some supposedly-sporty trim by Mercedes. Idea taken to its roots and then grown back up, too high for us to reach. Aspiration of artistic hearts, unaware yet of unstoppable fate getting closer and closer, to take everything away from them.
One of the moments getting to the core of Central European mindset is disappointingly – yes, again – connected to the very name of this region. Normally, III-generation black Chevy Caprice rolling or not, belongs in the category of beater cars waiting for fifty years until rising back from the ashes. Was born like this. GM was popping one out every day for three decades. In Poland, it’s a masterpiece of A grade. Engine sizes between 3.8 and 5.7 on regular American cars cause ddos-like crash on USA Embassy website. Everybody wants what they can’t have. And they won’t, oh believe me they won’t. Too much of a burden, importing parts from the States just to be stuck still without any knowledgeable mechanic. So the circle goes back to the beginning. Classic, bought with difficulty level as main priority. Numbers increase, it stops being prestigious enough and some guy shipping a freaking Caprice for 1500$ from Pennsylvania takes the cake.
And people like this, are stranded on desert islands. The Mighty DS. Everything Chevy isn’t. I want one for at least a day and gather more thoughts. It deserves the whole article on its own. First owner since import. Older gentleman. Proved to me, how open-minded petrolheads really are. Before I came, he was occupied with his grandson’s afro. Young fella looked the part, gotta say that. Original and unrestored car, perfect form. That’s quote from Jay Leno. Another one, about comfort of classic DS is still pending verification.
No point in shooting the place up with different makes like Lacerda did to Raoul Duke. Rare or popular, regular or damaged, doesn’t matter, if you’ve been there, you found Nirvana. The whole point was to bring people closer together, official start being turning the first ever Ford engine on display. Automotive Moses. Took lots of hits and is now the ultimate prophet we all bow down to greet. In the end, it’s hard to ignore how the history repeats itself. Tesla is going up taking very similar path. People get angry about changes, find a retreat. I wonder how many meets like this I’ll see before running anything petrol-powered becomes the burden too expensive to live on with.