Merriam Webster's Dictionary defines a Nighthawk as: "a person who habitually is active late at night."

During my early years, I often found myself hyperactive as the sun began to set. I remember cleaning up my room; pondering about Life and Death; often times, spending hours in vain attempts to define myself.

The dark clouded skies... Being awake when all sleep. A brief sensation of loneliness.
I remember nothing else.

Traffic is light during the night, most are asleep and all is quiet. The wee hours of the night, you notice strangers stroll the empty streets outside, as you take another sip of latte in a tiny coffee-shop. The uncustomary, surprisingly soothing atmosphere of a commonly crowded place surrounds you. This is all you need to relax; you speak of dreams and hopes, loves and disappointments. Perhaps because you feel no one is really listening, perhaps some deep desire of self-expression suddenly awakens. You drop your defenses.

I have discovered, a truth universally known, that one can sustain oneself for an extended period of time, with nothing but sugar and caffeine. When sugarhigh, one can discount a sleepless night, savoring the astounding adrenalin rush the following day; collapsing, ultimately, as nightfall approaches. You feel as if you can do anything, survive everything. You are invincible.

Edward Hopper's Nighthawks springs to mind.

The first time I tried to fly I broke both of the bones in my right forearm. I tore my new jeans on a rusty piece of old farm equipment and if I wouldn’t have been wearing a helmet when I drove an ATV into that ditch I wouldn’t be here today. Since then I’ve been flung off the back of jet skis. I’ve been sailing on Lake Michigan. I’ve had earth shattering orgasms and I've had some damn good chemically induced experiences but all that falls to the wayside compared to the stunning glory of life as a Nighthawk. Being awake when the rest of the world sleeps is like standing on the outside looking in.

Critics evaluating Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting speak of isolation and loneliness but Hopper's subjects are denied the peace and tranquility that comes from traveling through a tunnel of darkness on the open road. The Nighthawk is by nature a solitary creature. Nighthawks emerge when the rest of the world is dreaming. They alone see behind the scenes of everyday life. They watch restaurant workers taking the trash out. A Nighthawk might be the only one who sees the kissing couple half-sitting half-lying on the park bench. They see the tired workers push the door of the bar open at the end of the day and the Nighthawks are the ones who see that same worker flushed with alcohol and the idea that some day his or her dreams may come true.

I never knew this brand of freedom existed until I was eighteen. My daddy bought me a 1965 Ford Mustang coupe after I graduated from high school and when the engine turned over I knew there was a type of music that would never be played on the radio no matter how sweet it was. Life as a Nighthawk is an incredible experience but it’s hard to explain to other people. They wonder what about riding a steel horse through the concrete jungle is so compelling. What they don’t understand and I can't explain is the magical liberating power that comes from listening to great music when you’re driving an even better car. It can’t be just any music either. Only certain music puts you in that Nighthawk frame of mind.

When there’s a Purple Haze in your brain, when you listen to Blue Oyster Cult singing about being a Blue Collar Man and that song slides into Janis Joplin singing about freedom; when the only meaningful measure of time is your fuel gauge and you leave the stereo on while you’re impatiently filling up you know you’re a true Nighthawk. Streets exist only for your driving pleasure. The oil crisis is a pipe dream and you wouldn't care if it was real because you have Golden Earring singing about Brenda Lee comin’ on strong.

Trees are strange shapes on the fringe of the highway. Street signs look different in the dark. The road doesn’t have me hypnotized because I’m alert and aware. My senses are heightened by the darkness. Stars traveling through the cosmos are keeping me company as song after song falls to the night. Benjamin Orr is singing to me now. I have to turn the volume up for this song. Energy streams out of my stereo. My tires are less than a month old. The slick of the road is no match for them. At this altitude the air is thin. I can still breathe but I can hardly see through the dense fog around me. I’m not an angel, I wasn’t born with wings but I know how to fly.

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