Before reading this entry, you should scroll down and read "Prelude to a Drive By Shooting".
Years after I met Eileen, and learned of Drive-by shooting etiquette, I left my full time job in advertising to concentrate on my Masters degree. I was working part time as hostess in a West Loop restaurant as I finished my last semester of Grad School. On Saturday nights, I would get off work around 11 p.m. and head out to meet friends or the guy I was seeing at the time.
It was 1999, I was dating a guy that lived in Wicker Park so we would often hang out in his neighborhood. Like most Saturday nights, I got off work and jumped in a cab to meet Mr. Motorcycle Dude in Wicker Park.
Those of you who lived in Wicker Park in 1999, know that it had pretty much turned over by the late 90s, yet it was still spotty in certain areas. Those of you who are not from Chicago should know that Wicker Park is now a trendy, yuppie neighborhood with over 100 years of history. In the 1800s, Wicker Park had a vibrant community, it was home to many families that would become vital to Chicago’s growth and prosperity. The list of well known people from the WP area include: the Pritzkers, Uihleins, Crowns, Carl Laemmle (Universal Studios), and Nelson Algren.
Wicker Park changed over time, as families moved into the suburbs in the 50s, Wicker Park became a depressed neighborhood with relative gang activity. Artists started to move into the area in the late 70s & 80s. As the suburban sprawl kept moving people outward, the beautiful old homes from the 1800s that the previous wealthy families left behind, began to attract younger, professional couples; urban pioneers. The rent in Wicker Park was dirt cheap in the 80s until about 1994-5. Due to WP's proximity to the downtown area, yuppies followed the artists in the 90s. Today Wicker Park is loaded with upscale shopping, sports bars, $1 million+ homes, Range Rovers, $750 baby strollers of divorcees in waiting.
BACK TO 1999 and my Drive By Shooting story. So, I am in the cab, I'm on Augusta, just wes of the Kennedy, heading west to Damen. The car in front of us is a Toyota Corolla and in front of the Corolla is an older model, white van.
We are driving in the middle of the block and I realize there is a stall in traffic. I look up over the seat and out the front window to notice that there is no traffic in front of the van, the van is stalling the Corolla & my cab for no reason. There isn't a traffic light, no cars in front of the van yet he is rolling down the street nearly coming to a stop.
Next I notice a young man hop out the side door of the van. The young man is wearing a backwards, upside down visor and he is hunched over, creeping towards the house with something in his hand.
I IMMEDIATELY get down on the floor of the cab and start to scream "THROW IT IN REVERSE! THROW IT IN REVERSE!!!!" This is completely instinctual as I recall the story that Eileen told me years earlier. I am also very unsure of my reaction, am I over reacting? I could not be certain but in any case, I kept yelling. Suddenly, I hear CRACK, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK. Four dull cracks. I am still on the floor of the cab but I raise my head and look over the seat to see the young man with the visor heading back to the van. This puts me at ease that it was in fact a drive by shooting and I was not some paranoid, suburban girl on the floor of a cab screaming like an idiot for no reason.
The Corolla in front of us has its reverse lights on but cannot move due to my dense cab driver who is stopped in the street confused. He asks me in his heavy accent, "what is happening?" I start screaming "YOU IDIOT, THROW IT IN REVERSE! ITS IS A DRIVE BY SHOOTING" His reply, "Well, it is over now, we can go, we don't need to turn around." I explain to the cabbie that the house that was just shot up will potentially retaliate by coming out shooting at the van and that is probably best that he turn the fucking car around!
Needless to say, I lived. I headed to the bar on Damen and met my date & his friends and had a pretty fun story to tell. Finally one of them asks me, "did you call the police?" My answer, "my god, no. I forgot." All the excitement of the drive by shooting made me forget that perhaps someone died a few short minutes earlier.