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My first drive-by shooting

I went to dinner at Farina, a Ligurian joint in the Mission district last night. Being only 10:30, the place was filled with diners, clinking wine glasses, and chefs’ lively Spanish and Italian banter.

Suddenly I heard the high-pitched pops of Chinese firecrackers right outside the restaurant’s front window—one, then two more, then yelling, then something in my gut screamed, “Get down!” and I hit the concrete floor about the same moment as everyone else around me. We heard more bullets popping and people running outside. I glanced up and saw women in dresses sprawled flat, men in suits, busboys, waiters, napkins, bits of food . . . anybody looking in from outside would’ve seen a desolate restaurant full of empty chairs. A woman next to us started having violent muscle cramps in her hamstring with her back arched—looked like a grand mal seizure. A few of us asked another woman who was face down if she was ok, but she just shook her head and refused to lift her face from the concrete—too scared. I crawled to my cellphone as the manager dashed for the restaurant phone. Gangbangers in black hoods were scattering in all directions outside, then police car lights, then a dozen cops darting past on foot—it was like being on the sideline of an insane foot race.

It’s hard to describe how surreal it is to suddenly receive a gut message to violate social norms and throw yourself to the ground without knowing for sure if your gut is correct or not, and at the risk of looking like a freak if it only turns out to be some crazy outside with crackers and a lighter. It’s not the same as your nervous system automatically throwing you out of harm’s way; with gunfire it takes a second to register if you haven’t heard it before—it sounds higher-pitched in person than it does in movies—and to overcome the sheer disbelief that this shit is happening right now. I still feel wobbly. My thoughts go out to anyone who has to face that regularly—in Iraq or on the street—developing that awkward reflex to dive. Oh my god, I’d have to wear a diaper. 

7 Responses to “My first drive-by shooting”

  1. Louis Mendoza Says:

    You’re not alone, pal:

    9/5/2008 – 2 shot in Mission – 25th & Bryant

    9/1/2008 – Man shot to death in Mission – San Carlos near 18th

    8/25/2008 – 18-year-old man shot dead in Mission – 23rd & Treat

    8/23/2008 – Man shot to death in Mission District – 26th & Folsom

    7/31/2008 – SF police probe double shooting in Mission District – 20th & Harrison

  2. scotch Says:

    that’s terrible, tracy–oh my god. i hope your neck comes back stronger than ever, then goes out and hunts those assholes down!

    i felt that nervvy stomach feeling too…but after hearing your story i feel lame for complaining at all. if i ever see your neck i’ll buy it a beer.

  3. Tracy Says:

    I live 2 blocks away from Farina and was driving home that night around 10:40 or so. I saw all the commotion and it made my stomach crawl. I am appalled at the crime I am seeing lately in my beloved Mission- where I have resided for 15 years.
    I was walking down Valencia near 16th last month around 1am (as I have done for YEARS) and was assaulted, robbed, stabbed in the neck and left for dead. They cut into my carotid artery. Luckily I was found by a brave woman who called 911 and I was taken to General where I received surgery to stitch my artery. I am going to be fine physically, but the emotional toll is the hardest part.
    Fucking crazy!

  4. scotch Says:

    you have a point — it sounded like i was blaming the neighborhood, which i didn’t intend. really. i love the mission. i should’ve stayed focused on the shock & weird gut response, which is still lingering and obviously coloring what’s coming out. traumatic shock? maybe i need that diaper after all.

    walnut creek?! now you’re just being cruel.

  5. cc Says:

    it’s not that you deserve to die for going to a place
    like farina, but describing the location as being rife
    with “Crips, Bloods, Norteños, the 18th St. Gang, and others”
    is just alarmist, and frustrating to those of us who actually
    live here instead of merely seeking our recreation here.

    hit the floor and wear your diaper or, better yet, PLEASE
    move to walnut creek and leave san francisco well alone.

  6. Ron Says:

    glad you’re ok. shit, man.

  7. Eric Lee Says:

    I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
    Very interesting posts and well written.
    I will put your site on my blogroll.

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