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Lupe Fiasco is driven to distraction

Lupe Fiasco performs Hollywood Palladium October 17. | KevWinter~Getty

Lupe Fiasco performs at the Hollywood Palladium on October 17. | Kevin Winter~Getty

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Updated: December 9, 2012 6:39AM

“In the event of my demise bury me way up in the stars, after one last ride in my little red car.”

No, that is not some obscure lyric pulled from an even more obscure song you think you may have heard somewhere in your lifetime; it’s the sum total of a recent excursion from Phoenix to Los Angeles in a modified race car from the 1960s.

Let me paint the scene. I’ll plop us somewhere in the middle. (I’m afraid, though, you won’t make it to California with us, nor will you ever leave Arizona. You, my dear reader, will have to find other means. No hitchhikers!)

In true tandem form — a la Le Mans — my wild shirtless comrade and fellow free spirit is taking his turn at the wooden wheel. I’m in the navigator’s seat. With woolen skullcaps pulled low down over the brows and spectacles nailed to the head, we rocket across the desert in the roofless hot red machine. The wind is heavy in our faces. It’ll choke you if you’re not careful. It’s as dark as it is loud. Banter is carried out at the levels of holler and shout. The needle in the dimly lit dial (nestled in the ancient wooden display panel) that indicates speed oscillates wildly, settles, then is schizophrenic again. I warm my hands with the heat of the air off the transmission as it blows upward from the bowels of the subterranean mechanisms through an opening near the handbrake. Headlights carve a shining path ahead of us into the future as the night sticks to our past like a molasses memory. Darkness is like a rabid wolf at our backs licking its chops, ready for the kill (and the feast) if the electrics even mildly hint at some impending catastrophe. It’s all speed and noise and heat and darkness barreling down the two-lane highway somewhere far from the beginning or the end. No radio. No navigation. No soft embrace of high technology.

We are in a meditative state with our senses fastened to the delicate unknowns of the circumstances at hand. I cock my head back against a non-existent headrest and with wide-open eyes stare into the electrified heavens. Once my eyes calm to a focus, awe sets in. But awe soon migrates into a small discomfort, which erodes into all-out fear. It’s almost too big, this small glimpse of the galaxy hanging overhead like some menacing ceiling. It quickly rushes toward the tip of the nose as if the lid of a celestial casket bringing all of the claustrophobia with it. What was initially beauty now becomes a dense disfigured mess of stars and planets and moons. It’s too many stars, too much sky out here in the middle of this accelerated desert. It forces you to think about your smallness, about how significantly insignificant you are in the grand scheme. It makes you think of religion and heaven and hell. It’s a smothering, smothering thing.

The thick air and the night fight us. The engine and the wheels and the hood and the small windshield and the headlights fight back. It’s a battle: men and machines versus nature and all its forces. Every gearshift and stab of the accelerator is a counter-attack in the name of cybernetic superiority. We fight ever so heroically out of the red corner, hungry for something profound to come upon us somewhere between 90 and 100 m.p.h. Maybe the car will disintegrate into feathers and gold dust, and we will be catapulted into the distant future like some space opera’s starship warp jump. Or maybe everything will jolt violently and the entire world will slow to a complete stop; then the entire cast will come out from stage left and bow graciously amidst thunderous applause and furious roses. Maybe we will transform into some type of animal deities that will never make it to L.A., but will rather be reassigned to haunting the desert roads, howling into the night and filling the air with smell of burning gas and oil and demanding some form of idolatrous tribute from motorists.

And now the climax: Pit stop. Driver switch. Top off the tank. Wipe off the animals. You, the reader, ditched and left abandoned in the restroom. We quickly get back on the long black snake with the white spine: Due west, with universe up above and fire out the ass. This is living at its finest, folks. Slowpokes to the right, please ... and thank you. Los Angeles here we come!

Lupe Fiasco donated his fee for writing this column to the Lupe Fiasco Foundation.

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