Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I don't know why it came to mind, but I just remembered something that happened to me when I was a wee young boy, probably 10 or 11. My brothers and I used to get our hair cut at this real old time barber shop in Uptown Pittsburgh. It was like out of a 1950's movie, the barber sign and all. It was called "Harry's", that being the name of the barber who owned it. A family tradition of some sort, my grandfather got his hair cut there, so did my dad (what hair he still had). Naturally, my 2 brothers and I would go there once every couple months to get a trim. I don't remember ever seeing a woman at Harry's. It was like a VFW or Elks lodge: old time barber chairs, guys getting shaved with a straight razor, and always 3 or 4 old men in the back playing pinochle. After Harry finished, you had to grab a broom and sweep up your own hair and put it in the dustbin. I never really liked the haircuts I got there, but it didn't bother me until high school. Which brings me to my memory.
I was getting my hair cut before basketball practice, and I was running late. My mom was supposed to pick us up an hour after she dropped the 3 of us off. I sat in the barber chair as Harry trimmed my already short hair. My kid brother Greg, who could never sit still, was staring out the window, it being a bright, sunny day. His eyes grew wide and he called our attention to outside the shop. Harry put down the scissors and went to the big, dirt streaked window.
Outside, there was group of 3 guys, all worked up and yelling at a long-haired guy, that in hindsight kinda looked like Andrew W.K. Long, stringy hair and acid washed jeans, you'd think this guy had ate their children, the way the gang of 3 was screaming at him. We opened the door to hear what was going on. Even some of the old guys playing pinochle set down their cards and ambled to the door. What came next was unexpected. After yelling at each other for 5 minutes or so, Andrew W.K guy started walking away towards the barber shop. One of the gang of 3 wasn't having it. Handily, he picked up a brick and ran up behind the unsuspected long hair, smashed it over his head. Andrew W.K. instantly crumpled to the sidewalk.Blood streamed down his greasy hair. The barbershop went silent. The gang of 3 fled. Harry grabbed the rotary phone and called 911. We wanted to go outside and see if he was alive, but Harry told us to stay inside. He finished the last bit of my haircut, and my mom arrived right before the cops did. Harry told us to get out of there. I'd never make practice if we didn't leave before the cops arrived. They'd want a statement, he said.
On the ride to practice my brothers and I excitedly told my mom about what we had witnessed. A little horrified, I'm not sure she believed us. That night she let us stay up to watch the 11 o'clock news. There was nothing about the attack.
My older brother Kevin, always the cynic, swore the guy had to be dead. There was no way he could survive a brick to his head, he proclaimed. Greg and I were sure we'd seem him twitching though as we were getting in the car. There was nothing about it in the news. After a day or two we forgot about it and moved on to talking about baseball cards and action movies.
I stopped getting my hair cut at Harry's after I moved away to college. A freak of nature, Harry's was totally destroyed last summer by a tornado. His building was the only one touched by the tornado. A tornado in Pittsburgh. Yeah, me too.
I like to think the guy survived, the knock to the head giving him the idea to write such gems as "Party Hard" and "Party till ya Puke". Wikipedia doesn't mention Andrew W.K. ever living in Pittsburgh and I don't think their ages match up. Maybe he was his older bro.
I swear I haven't thought about it in 10 years at least, but for some reason I remembered it just now. I was going to write about a movie I saw last night, "Spanking the Monkey", but my memory got in the way. What's the point? Beats me.

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