Some songs take us back to better memories, horrible past indiscretions, and even awful women we dated. One of the songs that has always stuck with me was a little tune called “Lake Shore Drive” by Chicago’s favorite one hit wonders, Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah.
I recall being just a little kid riding passenger in my Dad’s 1967 Chevy truck. It was red, with a chrome cowboy busting a horse. The beast was beat up with Bondo plastered around the top of the wheel-well. It was the tackiest and most white trash ride that one could possibly own. But who the Hell was going to say anything about that to Big Bill?
That is a rhetorical question.
“Lake Shore Drive” was released back in 1972, long before I was born. That didn’t stop me from loving every piano note, every mention of the legendary roadway in Chicago.
The opening piano transports me back to those memories of my father and his apartment at Eagle Creek Apartments in Westmont and his junk box truck. Then I think of my own adventures down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
I remember dating a little hippie girl who lived at the top of LSD. It ended brilliantly. A true mess of a first and last date.
During the day I drove northbound on Lake Shore Drive heading up to Hollywood where Karly lived. I was going to take her out on a proper date filled with romance and good booze. AHJ hit the airwaves on Oldies 104.3FM while I was looking out on Lake Michigan. All I could think about was her big blue eyes and cute smile. That old song hit my eardrums and much like the writers themselves, I was feeling fine.
I got to her apartment around 5:30 PM. It was a nice summer evening on the Northside. I knocked and she opened the door with a wide grin. She was dressed in hip hugger bellbottoms, and a tight faux football jersey with the random numbers of 47 on it.
We walked back downstairs going towards my beat-up old cop car I got from a Cicero police auction for a $100. It was maroon with two big gray primer splotches on the side doors because they were too lazy to take the decals off. She looked down the block, “It is a really nice day, lets just walk to the restaurant?”
I agreed to her wishes. She was telling me what things were down her block which included a frat house that we passed by. She proceeded to tell me all about how she goes there to party and knew a few of the guys that lived there. As we walked in front of the house we heard a male voice bellow, “Karly Karly!!!”
I looked over, “Who is that?”
She looked past me at the guy standing on the front lawn giving a coy smile, “That’s just Gary. He is a goof.”
I didn’t want to sound like a douche on our first date. I just gave a quick nod of my head and a simple, “Cool cool.”
We kept walking up the road towards the restaurant. It was a nice little Italian joint. In Chicago there are restaurants and then there are joints. Joints are the towny mom and pop eateries.
It was quiet and romantic. Our dinner went wonderfully. Her and I were like two little rocks in the galaxy, there was nothing that could shake our gravitational pull from one another. It was young summer lust in the city. And Aliotta Haynes and Jeramiah were the soundtrack, even in 2001.
Night fell on the city sky. The street light glow was bouncing off of the clouds casting a warm orange glow. The light pollution gave an artificial moon glow just for two lovers to enjoy as we walked to the pier at Kathy Osterman Beach.
We stopped into a little corner store and grabbed a quick six-pack of Old Style and shuttled off to the pier. The clerk was a slender, mop haired guy. We walked up to the counter together. The clerk was staring down at Karly and gave a weak “Hey Karly.”
Her eyebrows raised uncomfortably, “Hi Chris.”
She cut him off quickly grabbing my arm and dragging me towards the door, “We have to go Chris. It was really great seeing you.”
We got outside and I couldn’t let that go. I asked, “So, what was all that about? You looked really nervous about him.”
“Oh my God. Chris and I went out on a couple of dates a few months back. I didn’t know that he worked here.”
“That’s it? A couple of dates? That was a lot of tension for just a couple of dates.”
“It was really bad. I know I shouldn’t say anything like this on a first date, but he was quick and small.”
I chuckled like I didn’t know what she was talking about because I really wanted her to say it.
“He was tiny. A pinky finger is giving him credit and he started to, you know?”
“He never even got into the lobby. He threw his garbage all over the parking lot.”
We laughed as we got to the pier. You had to go to the end on the other side of the little lighthouse because you technically couldn’t drink on the beach there. That way the cops wouldn’t see you. There were people running around listening to music on the beach, but we wanted a little more privacy to have a drink. That didn’t exactly happen.
We got around the other side of the lighthouse and there were three people smoking some weed. There were two guys and a girl. They offered us the bowl and I offered them some beer. Only Tony grabbed one as he handed me the glass bowl.
We sat and talked and laughed smelling the water and wind. Karly snuggled into my body as we knocked out some brain cells with the impromptu party crew.
The other three started to leave giving us some much desired privacy. Karly looked at me, “I’m so glad you asked me out.”
I gave her a flirty smile, “Why is that?”
She just gazed at me for a moment until she closed her eyes and pressed her lips against mine. It was the moment that everybody waits for during the date. The stars aligned and shimmered around in our tightly closed eye lids. The moment was like magic.
We were walking back and the people on the beach were all hanging out playing soccer and their radio began to play “Lake Shore Drive.” Karly hugged my arm tighter, “I love this song so much.”
“I like it too. My Father loved this song. He used to listen to it all the time. Funny thing, I actually heard this song on the radio coming to your place.”
We kissed again and took down the road towards her house.
As we turned the corner we could hear loud music permeating down the road filling the night air. We made it in front of the frat house where we saw Gary earlier in the evening. There was a huge party roaring. We heard yelling from the front yard again and it was Gary coming down the lawn towards us. “Karly! We got a rager goin’ on babyface.”
I glanced at him and looked down at her, “Babyface huh?”
She shrugged her shoulders a little at me. “Are you ready to end our night or would you like to hit the party?”
I thought for a second and Gary piped up and stuck his hand out to shake, “Hey man, where are my manners bro, I’m Gary. My lacrosse team calls me Boom Boom.”
I chuckled a bit and I gave him a firm shake, not enough to make him wince, but enough that he knew, “I’m Kidman. Good to meet you Bobro.”
“It is Boom Boom.”
“That is some seriously long hair man. Are you a musician or something?”
“Yeah, I am a singer. I also play a couple different instruments as well.”
“BRO! You are going to like this then. We have a live rock band going on in about fifteen bro.”
We started walking and Karly slowed us up, “Why are you being a dick to him?”
“I’m not, he is just a typical meathead lacrosse player. I mean, his nickname is Boom Boom. It doesn’t get any more cliché than that does it?”
“Yeah, but he is a real sweetheart.”
“I will be nice. I was just busting his applebag a bit.”
We headed up into the house. The air was filled with stale beer and marijuana smoke. The cheap perfume of the college girls mixed with testosterone was almost staggering. This was a frat house through and through.
We stepped inside and the band was just beginning to set up. They looked like a bunch of party boy mall metal guys waiting for the new shipment of designer wallet chains to arrive at Hot Topic.
The band’s singer approached the microphone stand, “We are Red Line!”
The band started playing a Nu Metal riff reminiscent of Godsmack. I looked over my shoulder at Karly who seemed to be getting chummy with Boom Boom. I stepped over to their conversation as they were laughing, “What are you guys talking about?”
Karly pressed her hand against Boom Boom’s chest and turned away to tell me, “We were talking about one of the parties. This guy came to the party and was all messed up on Special K and they through him out into the snow naked.”
“That is a little harsh isn’t it?”
Boom Boom kind of shook his head, “He was stuck in a k-hole in the bathroom. The lines were getting really long bro. We were knocking and knocking and nobody would answer. So, me and Dinger… that’s Dinger over behind the bar. Dinger and me busted down the door and he was already naked bro.”
I started to laugh a bit. I was still being cautious with him and Karly. I asked, “Then what happened?”
“Well, the damned guy wouldn’t wake up. We shook, smacked, punched, and we even threw cold brew on him. Nothing bro. So Dinger and me both grabbed an ankle and took him outside for God and everybody else to see.”
“Was he dead?”
“Nah bro! He finally woke up about an hour later. This is the best part bro! He woke up dick down in the snow and without a shameful bone —”
I interrupted, “Except for the horrific shrinkage of his bone I’m sure.”
“YEAH!!” He let out a huge howling laugh, “Yeah, he wasn’t showing much bro. That boy came in and let out a yelp, ‘Fuck that Ketamine, never ever again!’ He grabbed some guy’s beer, slammed it, kissed a girl and he just kept partying naked like he had clothes.”
“I wonder if he thought he was still clothed?”
“If he did, he never let on to it bro. He never even looked for his clothes. When he left in his car that night he was still naked.”
Boom Boom and I kept trading stories back and forth. Karly was by the windows where the band was playing. I kept looking over once in a while watching her dance around and banging her head with her long dark hair.
Boom Boom said, “You gotta meet Dinger bro! You guys will love each other.”
We went over to the bar and before I knew it the band had stopped playing and were packing up. The neon clock behind the bar said it was 3 AM and I still had a long drive back to the west burbs in Lombard.
I scanned the room and didn’t see Karly. I tapped Boom Boom, “Hey, did you see Karly?”
He turned his head around the room, “Maybe she is in the kitchen?”
I started walking towards the kitchen and she wasn’t in there. I looked outside in the backyard, the living room, the game room, and she was nowhere to be found. I met back up with Boom Boom, “I have to take a piss. Do you mind if I use the upstairs bathroom? The line is pretty long.”
“Yeah bro, I know you ain’t gonna mess with nothing.”
I proceeded up the stairs still wondering where Karly went. I opened the door and stepped in. It was a long one. I counted to a hundred and eleven seconds. Almost made a two-minute leak. I washed my hands and came out. As I stepped into the hallway I heard a noise from behind the first door on the right. The voice sounded like Karly. Then I heard a guy’s voice grunt.
I had two choices. Walk in and have a very embarrassing moment or walk in and the fireworks go boom. If I walked into the door to find her having sex with a frat boy I would at least know her character right at the beginning. Nobody wants to be with someone for a few years only to find out that she got meat smacked by everybody in a forty mile radius.
I opened the door quietly and slowly just to get enough of a peak. Still wasn’t able to see. There wasn’t enough light. I opened it just enough to let the hallway light get in. There was Karly naked on top of the guitar player from the band.
At first I was hurt. I had just had a wonderful night with this beautiful woman. I wined and dined her and then I got jealous over Boom Boom. Needless to say my gut was right, I just didn’t count on her being that much of a whore that she would just jump on the first guitar player she met.
I kicked the door open with a hard thump, making sure that I got their attention in the treacherous bed they were sharing. The guitarist whipped up almost knocking her off of him. “What the Hell is wrong with you man?”
“Why don’t you ask the ho who is still on top of you?”
His eyes sharpened when he realized the severity and weight of the situation that he was in. He started to speak, I cut him off, “Be very careful about the words you choose right now. You are naked, which probably gives me the high ground right now killer.”
Karly jumped up from her position and started gathering her clothes, “How dare you barge in here. Who do you think you are?”
“Are you kidding me right now? You are actually going to come at me like I did something wrong? Boom Boom and I had been looking around for you. I kind of thought you might have been sick or in trouble. I didn’t realize that the expensive meal and romance was just a warmup for you to jump on the first half-assed guitar player you could find.”
The guitar player looked at me and started to speak, “Hey I’m not —”
“I don’t care what you are man, just get out of here.”
He put his pants on and gathered the rest of his clothes and walked by me out the bedroom door. I started again, “You were literally still on a date with me. What is wrong with your pussy? Does it have an impulse control issue?!?”
“You know, you can go to Hell Kidman.”
“No, really! What is it? I know this is our first date, but you don’t go have sex with the nearest dick in the house. Is your Momma a whore too? Is that what it is? Is this a whore monkey see, whore monkey do situation?”
Before she ended the last syllable, I felt a thump to the back of my head and a choir of Christmas bells all playing an out of tune “We Three Kings.” My face went towards the floor, I managed to keep my consciousness to get my hands out in front of me. I lept to my feet in time to take a quick jab from a distorted figure. I back up enough to flip over the corner of the bed and got some distance between us. It was just long enough to get my senses back.
It was the still half naked guitarist. He stumbled over a shoe and it gave me an opportunity. I jumped at him with everything I had. I dropped an elbow in the back of his neck. When he hit the floor I gave him two hard kicks; one was to the ribs and one right to the side of his face which busted his mouth open. The blood was trickling onto the carpet.
I looked around and didn’t see Karly. I yelled at him as he attempted to get his wits and pride back. “You think she was worth that dude? Do you?”
Karly came back to the door, this time with Boom Boom Gary and another member. Boom Boom said, “Come on man. I’m sorry, but you gotta go brother.”
“What did she tell you?”
“Look, we don’t want anymore trouble, I just think both of you gotta go.”
“Dude, it is cool. For what it is worth, I’m sorry I beat up the hired musician. Fuck you Karly. Don’t you dare try to call me again.”
“Fuck you too.”
As I was walking towards the door I saw Boom Boom put his hand on Karly’s shoulder and said, “You too sweetie.”
“Me too what?”
I kept walking towards the stairs, “You are outta here too. This is the second time you started a fight between bros. You aren’t going to be allowed here anymore honey.”
As I started down the stairs I just smiled. The other band members were looking at me, but nobody wanted to start anything. Maybe they did. Whether it was because they were afraid of not getting paid or something else, I was thankful for it.
Every step down the block started hurting more. All the adrenaline started to leave my body and there were punches landed that I hadn’t realized until that moment.
I got into my car and looked in the rearview mirror. I could see the cut above my eye and I cranked the old cop car up to take on down the road. As I turned onto Lake Shore Drive I put on the radio. The disc jockey hit the airwaves as an Eagles song ended. “Now we got some hometown heroes for all of you, this is Aliotta Haynes and Jeramiah with their hit song Lake Shore Drive right here on Oldies 104.3 Chicago.”
I drove down that famous rode that night heading for the suburbs. My face warm with swelling, my knuckles battered, but somehow from the start of the piano hook all of that washed away with every note and passing of the street lights through my windshield.
“Tomorrow is another day.”