In the mid 90s I witnessed a drive by shooting. Before I get into my Drive-by Shooting blog entry, I feel I need to add a prelude in order for you to gain an understanding of how I survived the near tragedy. I want to paint you a picture of how I developed my keen sense for danger on the mean streets of Chicago.
When I first graduated from college, I worked as an assistant for a man that owned several restaurants and nightclubs. There were about three or four girls that worked in the corporate office, each of us earning a nominal salary. I was lucky enough to live at home with my dad but the other girls lived in questionable neighborhoods or with numerous roommates. One of the girls, Eileen, lived in a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, mostly a Latino neighborhood riddled with gang activity. She was a short, unremarkable, Irish brunette who carried an extra 10 lbs and a mountain of problems. She grew up in one of those irresponsible, Irish families where children were a "gift from God," so they had as many kids as mom could squeeze out, leaving Eileen impoverished without much parental supervision or love. She moved to Chicago in hopes of a better life or at least escaping from her existing situation. Eileen was forced to rent a shit-hole apartment in a neighborhood that most people only live in because they were born there. Eileen did not have the luxury of parents to turn to for financial support, she was completely responsible for her own destiny and she was ill-equipped.
In Eileen's neighborhood, there was a certain pecking order and with that came a commodity that is valued in any Chicago neighborhood: street parking. In Chicago, street parking is an issue for those with cars who don't have garage parking. On snowy winter days, Chicago residents "save" their parking spaces with lawn chairs. In Eileen's neighborhood, this was not necessary because each space on the street was deeded by unwritten street laws. Everyone knew whose space was whose and if you parked in somebody else's space, it meant trouble.
Eileen came home late one night, or early one morning depending on how you look at it, around 4AM, and her parking space was taken by someone else. She drove around the block a few times and nothing was available except ONE space right outside her apartment. She knew the space belonged to a kid that lived on her street but it was 4AM and there was nowhere else to park. Eileen took the parking spot. Eileen went up to her tiny apartment and fell asleep only to be woken up less than hour later to the sounds of a LOUD fire engine. She jumped to her window, looked outside only to find that her car had been torched. Her car had been set on fire for taking someone else's parking space for one night.
Living in this neighborhood, Eileen also learned a lot about drive by shootings. She explained to me that if she was ever on the street and saw a van coming to a rolling stop without good reason, no stop sign or traffic light, she knew to start running for the door to get inside for cover. She said that neighbors were courteous to each other when it came to drive by shootings, most neighbors would welcome other non-targeted neighbors into their homes for shelter. Basically, if you saw a van coming to a rolling stop, you just start running towards a house and strangers would let you into their homes until the shooting stopped. Very "Boys In The 'Hood."