02 November 2006

I Used Up All My Luck In One Night

I've had my share of close calls in life. This one was different : it had nothing to do with my own actions.

We drove in heavy traffic to JVO's brother's apartment in SF then he drove us near the Halloween party area on Market St. and dropped us off. There was a strong police presence and they casually searched people. I think if a person "fit a suspicious profile", they would search more thoroughly, but JVO and I walked straight in.

We had a really great time for about 4 hours last night. We found a great spot to stand at the edge of Market St. at Castro, with our backs against a very solid and huge newspaper rack installed near the Metro entrance. This way, we could face the street and the costumed people without being bumped into by the people 6-wide on the sidewalk behind us. Jacqueline sat atop the rack for a better view over the crowd that filled the street. We were at the lower right corner of this photo, just out of the frame.

It was fun to try and guess what the costumed people were and snap their photos. I can't tell you how many guys I called Borat and was wrong - "no costume!" and people near us laughed. We were right on several : Hey, look, it's Columbo!! Right? "Yes." Click. Hey, Uncle Fester from the Addams Family! Click. About 9:40pm six SFPD on enduro motorcycles weaved through the crowed for no apparent purpose.

My cousin, Craige, owns several restaurant/bars in SF and two are on Market Street -- he called ahead and put us on the guest list and we checked into "JET" after we had enough of 2.5 hours of peoplewatching. One drink and several songs' worth of foggy & sweaty dancing (we were dressed for the cold outdoors, of course) we thanked the hostess and exited onto Market Street, checking it all out once more. Clusters of people gathered to snap photos of well-done costumes and we flitted around the street scene.

I don't know, walking maybe 25 minutes later, as Jacqueline was eating a corn dog, somebody in the crowd of a hundred thousand emptied their gun not far from us. I heard five shots from a smaller handgun and saw 2,000 people running in every direction at once. In a blur of microseconds, an intense burning sensation near my collarbone and next moment I'm repeating "I've been hit!" to Jacqueline, and we began to run in the only direction we could. I thought to myself, "Awww, shit! Is this really happening to us?" I was hit with a bullet below my right shoulder and we ran to the police who escorted us to an ambulance parked nearby.

The paramedics instructed me to remove my shirt (and then, all of my clothes, which I declined) and lie on the stretcher. I handed them my flashlight and they inspected me but found no hole --- only a stamp-sized piece of skin was missing. I had to take a picture of myself so I could see what it was. There was no hole through my shirt, but a partial hole. That "bullet" was reduced to only a strong sting amid a lot of panic as 200 thoughts raced through my mind. How we got so lucky, I will never know.That was the only scary moment of Halloween for us. I was hit by a bullet that ricocheted off something before it hit me in a place where my chin touches my shoulder, so I couldn't see how serious it was --- and I was assuming that adrenaline was blocking the wall of pain I would soon feel from a bullet in my body.

- - -

Separated by a few minutes, I had seen two groups of young men that looked like trouble to me on Market Street. A group of about 14 black youths stood with their navy and black hooded sweatshirts pulled over their heads near the center of the street where the cablecars would normally run --- and I told Jacqueline that they were a gang and there was soon going to be a fight. Another group of about 8 Samoans(?) had "that look" on their faces as they walked through the street of costumed partyers and peoplewatchers like us, in street clothes. We simply didn't get far enough away quickly enough.

After I was declared good to go, another ambulance wailed through the crowd toward the scene of the shooting. Naturally, we had only one thought : get away fast! Speedwalking, we called the phone number of a private limo driver we met last Saturday and snaked our way through the suspicious street youths and stalled traffic to meet 10 blocks away.

Safe in the limo-taxi, we began to relax.
After three years attending, I think we're retired from that event.


Blogger Oval said...

Dude! You've been shot!

5:18 PM  

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