I used to live on 13th St between second and third avenue. This was during the boarding school years. In general the area was busy, but not the disgusting cesspool it is now. And on third avenue, on about ninth or tenth street, there was a barber shop school. And you could get a hair cut there for five dollars. And for the average young negro, just in need of a little fade, that was a great price point.
So this one day it was relatively crowded in the shop. It was usually fairly busy, some talk, but not like a scene from ‘barbershop’ or anything.
One guy stood out in the pool of waiting customers. He didn’t quite look homeless, but as close to it as you can get. And the biggest thing that brought the idea of homelessness to mind was his hair. He had a huge, densely matted tangled web of pseudo-dreadlocks, and it was long, and unwieldy, and definitely something you looked at and said, “ah, now I see where the challenge in being a barber lies. The gauntlet has been thrown. This I would not want to contend with. You know, being a barber is not all cherries and lemonade.”
So this guy is in the shop, and he’s kind of being disruptive. And the supervisor of the barber school was a stout, burly black guy, who looked like the bouncer/bodyguard/barber that he apparently was. After a while, the supervisor and other barbers determined that no matter how empty the place got Jungle Jones would not be receiving a haircut at their establishment.
Jungle Jones didn’t take kindly to the news, and he resisted. I personally felt ambivalent. The guy was definitely acting like a problem. And was generally nasty to be around. And it was clear he should be paying fifty dollars for a cut, not five. On the other hand, he was also clearly most in need of a barber. Perhaps, just perhaps, the man who most needed a barber in the history of mankind.
Anyways, the guy resists, and eventually, as it tends to happen with negroes (for some odd reason), things got physical. And the burly bodyguard ended up punching Jungle Jones hard, like straight-right-cross-across-the-face-knock-you-down-to-the-ground hard. It ended the dispute and resistance. Jungle Jones was taken out of the shop, and after coming around left yelling angry things at the barber.
Things settled down after a bit. And we got back into the rhythm of waiting for the next barber.
I finally got an opening about fifteen minutes later. The barber asks me what cut, I tell him. Ninety percent of my haircuts the barber has started on the sides, leaving me with a mushroom design for my head section in the initial stages of the cut.
So we were about three quarters of the way through the mushroom, when all of a sudden Jungle Jones is back outside the shop. Only this time he’s not looking so hobo-like. He’s just looking angry.
Jungle stands in the doorway and yells at burly barber. Burly barber tells him to get the fuck out of there. Jungle Jones says fuck that.
Then Jungle reaches down on his body and pulls out a gun. A shot’s fired, and some people rush Jungle to push him back and down or out. Others duck and scramble for cover.
I sat in the chair like a deer in headlights. A deer with a three-quarters mushroom-cut afro. This was my first time being so up close and personal with the gun violence I heard about so often. I’d heard gun-shots plenty. I’d seen a gun. But I’d never been in a situation where someone was quite possibly going to get shot.
At this point the scene is hobo jungle jones with nuclear disaster dred-afro, being held on to by a three or four guys, and then everyone else is on the ground and/or out of the way, except a young teen, still sitting patiently in the barber’s chair, clearly in the early stages of his cut. After the handful of seconds that passed I think most people would have managed to get down. But I remained in the barber’s chair. I think I was at the stage of the haircut where your body says, “well we can’t leave this chair until this stage is over, we’ll give the signal when movement is possible, but it will be around the time the rest of the mushroom disappears.”
So I didn’t move. I just kind of looked on. And lo and behold Jungle Jones breaks free from the group restraining him, and rushes to the door again. He yells and fires off another shot. I hear glass break, and I turn my head and look at the mirror on the other side of me. It’s a mirrored wall, and it has a gun shot hole in it. The glass is about two or three chairs away from me. But the hole is less than half the length of a barber’s clippers away from my head. When you looked in the mirror, you could see my mushroom, and the bullet hole right there next to it.
Almost like Jungle Jones was trying to get me.
So I noted the fact that I was almost shot in the head, and then waited for the barber to finish the haircut…