When in doubt, take the Jeep.

When in doubt, take the jeep.

I've been going on a sonic binge of David Gray lately. I'm finding that the more I listen to his album White Ladder, the more I'm impressed with what I'm hearing. What I'm hearing—how to describe? It's rare to encounter an album that that wears its soul as a badge. All albums, novels, songs, and poetry are about creativity and expression, but it is much rarer to come across a piece of work that proclaims, as deeply and as intrinsically as warp and weft, that this particular creation is the result of an artist putting the totality of their creativity into a piece of work.

It's a particular sound and smell, that totality, that is a hair's-breadth away from desperation. It's a completeness, a frustration, a lack of holding back, which shows in everything from words to instrumentation.

Such creations result from an admission that sounds so devastatingly simple, but can have long-reaching consequences: "The urges inside me that drive me to create, mean that I'm going to create, regardless of whether or not I'm ever paid for it."

When in doubt, take the jeep…

Thursday night. Bowling with friends. The usual: cheap beer, overly-loud music, laughter. Jeff went home early, and I stayed on to bowl a third game with friends. By the end of the evening I was laughing and giggling openly.

It was the beer; I know it was. Not much; just enough to loosen me up, make me smile a little more easily. Ever the observer, the writer, the onlooker, it's difficult for me to move past observing the here and now to enjoying and living in the here and now.

I did.

At the end of the night, I had two choices: get Geof, whom I knew better, to drive way out of his way to bring me home, or get Hal, Jeff's co-worker and more of a potential friend, to drive me home. Hal lives only five minutes from our house.

I asked Hal. He grinned, eyes flashing, and said, "You gotta ride in the Jeep."

Bowling games paid for, the herd trampled outside. We faced the Jeep, whose floorboard was nearly at my waist. No doors. I attempted to climb in—and couldn't manage it. Someone said, "If you can't get in, I'll take you home."

I looked around. Kat kneeled down to make a step for me. I shook my head no; if I was going to get to go home in this beast, it was going to be because I got in under my own power. But the looseness of a few beers made me over-estimate my ability.

Clambering in, I ground my right leg into the side of the Jeep. Hard. Painfully. I ignored it. But I'm in—there is a seat belt, but no door. My friends were staring up at me. They were laughing, perhaps disbelieving. Hal was in the driver's seat, left hand raking through his hair, right hand on the gearbox, asking me if I'm ready to go.

Engine roaring, we went. We screamed at each other over the sound of the un-muffled engine. Twice the power of stock, he yelled, trying to fill me in.

I stared at the freeway in fascination. There was no door; I resisted the urge to stick my foot outside to see what 75 mph winds felt like. We screamed conversation back and forth, he and I. I was fascinated, almost hypnotized, by the sight of the white road stripes passing by, no glass between them and me, almost so close that I could have touched them with my foot.

It hit me—we were speeding madly down the freeway. The actual speed didn't matter, because whatever we were going, it felt faster than any car I've ever been in. My hair snapped and tossed madly around my head; I splayed my fingers and drove them, a soft crown, into my hair, a vague attempt to stop the onslaught.

I couldn't stop it. I was screaming. I was laughing, the wind was in my eyes and sneaking down my shirt and tickling my upper arms, and I was shrieking like a schoolgirl. Hal was laughing at me, and telling me about the repairs he's done to the Jeep, and I wondered if he yells like this, yells with abandon, when he is driving this beast and no one is with him.

It was living, this driving. Over the screaming roar of the engine it sounded…different. No insularity of windshield—just two people, an engine, a roll bar. When we slowed down to make turns, I could hear the cricket chorus come closer.

When it was over, I wanted to rewind the song and play it again, to experience it once more: to scream because it didn't matter, and because nobody was there to see how silly I looked when I stopped observing life and got busy experiencing it.

To rake my hands through my hair and know my face is red with windburn and my hair is tangled almost beyond repair. To breathe in and out for a few minutes, to come down from shrieking and laughing and feeling a little bit crazy, and from forgetting to hold back anything at all.

This morning, it took me nearly ten minutes to detangle my hair. I have the beginnings of an enormous, ugly bruise on my right leg where I smashed it while trying to clamber into the Jeep. But I am laughing still, and when I listened to David Gray's lyrics exulting over life, and love, and being just a little on the side of crazy, I understood.

When in doubt, take the Jeep.