Lincoln Park Pirates

Category: Daily Diary

Back when I used to hang out at the Old Town School of Folk Music, I learned a song called the Lincoln Park Pirates.

It is about tow truck drivers in Chicago.

I have a "patchy" history with Chicago Tow Truck drivers.

Some are very kind, like Boy Scouts with a cool rig and a surefire way to unlock car doors.

And others? Chicago...we have the pirates. The Tow Pirates. They lurk around neighborhoods and parking lots. They aren't called in by the cops...they get paid by the car and their aim is to rack up the dough. (I used to know one of these drivers...he clued me in to the whole deal.) The honesty problem with some companies is so bad that the Chicago Cops had to set up Operation "Toe Jam" (would I kid you about such a bad pun??!!) to catch dishonest drivers. But the residents have suspected things like this for decades.

With my insomnia keeping me up late one night last week, I was slumped on the couch and praying for sleep when I kept seeing the lights of a tow truck crawl past in front of the house. Circling the block over and over. He stopped outside.

Although loved ones WISH I was not so impetuous, I turn into "Advocacy Woman...Defender of Global Justice" in these moments, or some kind of uber Nancy Drew. That is not a good thing. It generally gets me into "situations."

So Advocacy Woman charges outside in her pajamas and socks to investigate. And there was a tow truck driver looking into cars with a flashlight.

"Can I help you?" I ask in an overly-cheerful voice.

"Um, yeah. I was asked to come here by a guy."

Silence from me.

"A guy who wants a tire...thing, you know?"

I speak up again, all helpful and friendly, "Which neighbor?"

The Pirate raises his head and scans the dark houses. "Um, that one." I'm sure he is thinking, "Finally! She's going to go back inside."

Instead, I skip up the neighbor's steps to the front door in my pajamas and ring the bell. An older gentleman in his bathrobe appears. "I just wanted to let you know that your tow truck is here."

"My whhaaat?" the neighbor asks. So I turn to the driver. "Is this the guy?"

"Mr. Green?" Asks the driver, moving forward. "Mr. Green? I'm looking for...(he mumbles a house number)." All of us are standing on the sidewalk now. Me, in my pajamas. The neighbor in his bathrobe. The pirate with his flashlight. We read the house numbers, silently moving our lips.

"There is no house number for that address," I point out, not surprised in the least.

We all contemplate this. "Darnedest thing," says the Pirate. "Isn't it?" I exclaim.

The driver gets into his truck and peels out, I walk back to my house in my socks, my neighbor closes his door. And the Pirate sails on, looking for another car to snag.

I hum as I walk back up my steps, "Yo ho, and a bottle of rum....a pirate's life..."

Don't mess in my 'hood, pirates. I'm on to you...and I'm just nutty enough these days to walk around in my pajamas putting a stop to your antics.

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You rock. I hope your neighbors appreciate your activism! I also hope you have nice thick socks. :)


The person who carried you for 9 months.

Mom, you of ALL PEOPLE should know my Advocacy Girl tendencies. I just don't tell you ALL of the stories. :/

Sorry. Forgot to put the standard "mom, don't read this" disclaimer in this one.

(psst, emily? Fortunately, I had my thick ski socks on that night. MUST.ALWAYS.SLEEP.IN.SOCKS. Because, you know, thousand leggers love my floors at night. I would be much obliged to anyone who knows where an adult can purchase a really comfy pair of footy pajamas. I need all of the protection I can muster.)

I did a quick search for adult footy pajamas and came up with NADA. Darnit, I was hoping to come back here with *the perfect link* for ya!

Anyway, good for you, Advocacy Woman! There should be a woman like you in every neighborhood!

Weigh hey! Tow them away! Sears sold adult footies about three years ago...maybe still. Celia

Ooh, look here: Though, they are the onesies that might make that nighttime trip to the bathroom tricky. A quick eBay search found 33 results for "adult footed pajamas," many of which are supposedly new with tags. Hunt some down for that next middle-of-the-night trip outside; with winter weather upon us, those socks won't do Advocacy Girl any good in snow and ice. :)

uh-oh. looks like you're in deep doo-doo.

Ha! I love that song! I still have a copy of it that my dad gave me years ago. One of my friends moved to Lincoln Park and I made sure she got to listen to it.

I didn't know the pirates were still active, though ... although since Daley is still dozing, I suppose they are. ;)

Oh, Yes. Lincoln Towing on North Clark St. They got me once out of a parking lot on Western & Lawrence...I was afraid I would never see my '75 Mustang again. But I got it after paying an exhorbitant towing fee....POPS"30"

Oh my. Stepping on a thousand-legger in bare feet would be even more upsetting than stepping in cat barf in bare feet. You are wise to plan ahead with thick socks.

Lincoln Park Towing was known for towing legally parked cars, usually off private lots or towing cars parked on the street next to private lots which they had a contract with , not sure if they're still up to that. But unless the tow service is contracted by the city (or a private citizen requests a tow for his own vehicle) they cannot tow vehicles from a parking space on the publicway. What you may have come across is a Repo, they are not required to notify the police and this usually results in citizens calling in auto thefts.
Some of the repo guys carry goofy badges which say repo officer or something else like that. The badge is worthless and doesn't represent any real office.
I would be careful and not approach them, just get enough info on what you see and call 911.
Doesn't help your family, neighbors or self to get injured by a repo lunkhead, worse yet an auto thief

You hung out at OTSFM? Do you play? I'm a member even though I haven't been there in four years. Since my sister-in-law no longer lives in the city I don't get to go there (or to any of the Chicago salvage places for that matter.) I still hope to actually meet Steve Rosen in person some day, we share the same banjo builder.


Hi Mike! I used to play a long, long time ago. I tried to learn because I was a singer for a long time too, and carrying a guitar was easier than toting a piano around. :)

Steve Rosen began to teach at OTSFM a few years after I began to take lessons there. (This was back when the school was only on Armitage. Now the main school building is up on Lincoln in the Ravenswood neighborhood.) I remember him being introduced during the group jam sessions (he's a memorable looking guy :) Years later, I went back to help them in their library for a little while on Lincoln.

What a nice group of folks!

Small world! I've only been to the new place twice, not long after it opened for a Dan Levinson banjo workshop, and during the first roots festival in the park near the new store. (One of my very favorite bands, the Asylum Street Spankers, was playing) One of my old elementary school classmates and his then wife used to play frequently at the OTS when they had their radio program broadcast there, Nathan Bell and Susan Shore. Steve Rosen plays with a band, The Volo Bogtrotters, whose bass player, Tony Scarimbello (sp?) called a barn dance my band played last spring.


last year for christmas I got some blue footed jammies with feet from my daughter, she found them at Walmart they were only 14.99. Only problem I have with them is they keep my feet too warm so I dont wear them as much, as I thought I would. You might try looking there.

Speaking of The Old Town School of Folk Music, they are having a tribute to Steve Goodman (who wrote Lincoln Park Pirates) next week, Nov 26th.


When did you used to hang out at the Old Town School? I took guitar classes there from summer of '94 to summer of '96 and loved it. I still miss that place!

(And... note to POPS from someone who was there: you woulda been better off without that '75 Mustang!)


I could have been there at the same time! I went back on and off over the years. I did a jazz ensemble class there in '95-96 perhaps (?) to learn how to sketch up charts. (I was pretty bad at sketching charts. Thank goodness I never had to depend on it.)

AK and I even took waltzing lessons there for our wedding in 2000. That was really fun (he's a good dancer :)

p.s. I also have been a victim of Clark Street Towing. Most frustrating experience is having to go in to cash only...and stand in this tiny booth that has bars all up and down the walls. And then be treated like a criminal by the cashier ("Okay, I parked my car and the meter ran out. I'm paying you in cash. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!") Which explains the bars up and down the walls.


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