Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day fifty five...Hair apparent.

Look at this guy.

I mean really go ahead and soak him in. Look at those eyes. You could just dive right in couldn't you.

Get up nice and close. He's very beta; he's not going to bite.

Here he is in all his splendor, the consummate eighties, ladies man; first day of school, 1985. He's a sophomore now, and he's earned some street cred.

Our man is wearing a casual, yet "Semi-formal ready", white linen Marithe Francois Girbaud, two-button, double breasted jacket. He is also enjoying the pure, carefree benefits of a soft, light cotton Alexander Julian, Nehru style shirt which is both breathable and deeply discounted. The uncluttered look of the Nehru takes an unexpected turn here featuring a most unusual button down collar. This welcome addition to a classic look is included to meet the critical, yet malleable standards and practices of a Jesuit High School dress code. Furthermore, it offers the added benefit of being "guitar-pin ready."

Are you wondering what he's thinking? It's normal, don't feel weird. I can tell you exactly what he's thinking.

He's thinking: "I'm finally a sophomore, and now I have the only rock band in school. We're called Atria. We've got the biggest gig of our careers coming up in a couple of months and I need to get out from in front of this 10 x 7 fake blue retractable screen. I've got to read over the lyrics to "Heaven" from Bryan Adams' most righteous 1984 release on A &M records, Reckless, so I'll be prepared for practice tonight."

But, most importantly, he's thinking:"God dammit, my hair looks a-mazing."


"...thank you Mr....Mr...Johnson. Mr. Johnson?...umm... we've got the shot. You can go back to class now...but please leave the mirror, we've got a lot of kids still to go. Yes, you can keep the comb...Next!"

Yes, I loved my hair. Fonzie instilled that tenet in my formative years of style-conscious behavior.

Love thy hair as you would love thy self. Something along those lines.

Because a person's hair speaks volumes. It exclaims, without prompting, how one approaches the art of living.

A person's hair is one of the only parts of their body which can be colored, cut, curled, shaped, straightened, and fluffed. And if you don't take care of the part of your body that's most easily maintained, what does that say about the rest of you.

I loved the monthly ritual of going to the barber's. My Grandfather joyfully took me; we'd make a day of it. We'd each get a cut, and then spend a couple of frivolous hours kite flying on the S.M.U. campus in North Dartmouth.

It's a routine I had enjoyed from as far back as I can remember. From the time I was so little I had to get helped up into the big barber chair; the rocket-ship chair; the big, green plastic covered ejector seat with the intricately curly wrought iron appointments. This simple machine had the remarkable power of hydraulic lift, rotation, tilt, and dismount without the aid of electricity (although I didn't rule out an under the floor team of monkeys. No, that was always a far off possibility).

The barber chair is a monumental achievement of American ingenuity and stylish practicality. An amusement park ride devoid of its expected noisy and colorfully defining surroundings. A fine piece of mechanical engineering designed for use with every human being on earth regardless of race, age, gender, or height.

In fact, it was even possible, from the monthly cushioned vantage point of a barber chair, to track one's height development; from the awkward stage where you need a booster, to the triumphant day that you can cast it aside for the highest hydraulic setting afforded, to that unforgettable day, after years of facetious attempts of making contact, when your feet finally, practically, and comfortably touch the cris-cross patterned foot rest which has been a far off island of maturity since you could remember. And you could definitely remember.

A barber had iron clad job security. Because everybody has hair. Right? I mean, Doug Torchia (that big fat bully) even told me one day that your hair kept growing even after you were dead.

What a racket.

I so loved going to the barber. It was definitely the beginning of my long standing romance with personal grooming. My favorite part was always the firm but gentle back and forth swipe of the little, wooden handled, long bristle brush on the back of my neck. It allowed the sensible and necessary removal of the lifeless errant strands of unwanted hair that seemed to cling together for safety like desperate victims of exile.

I loved the whole process of the haircut-the washing, the combing, the snip-snip-snipping with scissors much too sharp and much too pointy for me to legally possess, the fragrant "Fru-Fru juice" as Mr. Tache called it. At the end of every cut he would mist over my hair with it to make me smell as special as I looked. I loved the mysterious blue liquid in which all the instruments in his orchestra were stored. I never asked why he did what he did. It would have been rude.

I love all of these things involved in a simple five dollar haircut, but most of all, I loved the fine bristled brush; that final three or four whisks on the back of the neck; such a refined movement. So, stimulating, so gentle, and so tactile that I wished I could do it myself. And I could, of course, technically, but it wouldn't be the same. I would naturally be aware that it was I who was doing it. Indeed, it is the same compromising necessary action of scratching ones back. It never feels quite like it does from foreign fingers, even on a spot you could easily reach. I'd always close my eyes and just enjoy the few fleeting seconds. Sometimes I'd cautiously tell him that I thought that he hadn't gotten them all. He gladly did it again, smiling. Maybe he knew how good it felt. But then again, he was a barber, the best in town, and I'd expect he would have cut his own hair. That made the most sense.

And then, inevitably, the all too short haircut would end, and the long, hand-held mirror would be positioned behind my head for final inspection. Mr. Tache would hold the beveled crystal oval as he turned the chair one way, then the other. I'd smile and invariably catch my Grampa's eye in the mirror reflected within. The dark green bib would be removed, I'd stand up, give Gramps a hug, and sit in the big interconnected, green, Art Deco shiny vinyl waiting room chairs while he got a cut and a shave, bouncing my ever lengthening frame against the wide spring coils beneath me. I couldn't wait to get as old as my Gramp so I could start shaving. He had to be at least three times my age.

I never was a very patient child.

On Friday, November 10th, with their lead guitarist freshly crowned six-string champion of Bishop Connolly High, the four members of Atria entered the most important, and intense competition they would ever see.

The Fall River Police Athletic League Talent Show in Fall River, Mass.

This one show would prove to be Atria's defining moment. Yet, this one event would be the beginning of the end of the "Fall River Four." Increasing personal insecurities and parental concern would lead one member to leave his position in this legendary band. In his wake, not one, but two of Fall River's finest sons would enter the fray; into the whirlwind tornado of sex, drugs, spandex, and Portuguese rolls.

It was a rainy Friday night.

The band was ready. The house was packed. Councilman Bob Cote stood tall at the mic as he announced the group.

"You people here are in for a real treat...there's free cookies in the lobby. But seriously, I have a band ready to play for you people who I think are just a super bunch of kids. I heard they recently played at the Bank Street Armory and they really put on a super show. I expect to see big things in their future. And I'd like to ask anyone who hasn't bought a raffle ticket to please see Mrs. Mello before the end of their set because it's almost time to pick a lucky number. And without further ado...I'm happy to introduce...all the way from across town...Atria!

And we played.

We played two songs. We opened with Dire Straits biggest hit, "Money for Nothin'" from their 1985 Warner Bros. juggernaut, Brothers in Arms. Dean sang it and he did a super job as usual. The inescapable number was recreated on the P.A.L. stage via a band of brothers that were full of life and excitement and hope. We finished with the requisite "I want my MTV" chorus and stopped dead on a dime. The crowd went berserk.

One down.

Heaven, from Bryan Adams' most righteous 1984 release Reckless, on A&M records, was next up. This was my money shot. This was my show stopper. This was my bro.

The scratchy voiced Canadian had been on my list of top performers since I saw him with my Mom at an amusement park in Toronto in '83. A woman's voice came over the P.A. system and announced: "The tickets for the eight o'clock Bryan Adams show in the amphitheater are now half price." I grabbed her hand and dragged her to the ticket window. I knew she couldn't resist a bargain.

We finished and the crowd was in the palm of our hands shouting and cheering for us. We were a shoe-in. It was a lock. Iron clad.

Until the "T-N-T Sisters" took the stage.

It is said in Hollywood that you can be the best performer in the world, but if you go on before an animal act, or a bunch of kids you're done.

Tina and Toni Allard. They were cute. They were bubbly. They wore American flag outfits. They were actually pretty good. And their special brand of Pro-American jazz dancing was enough to take first place. They won the $100 prize we were counting on for our pizza party. They were awarded one of two trophies...

And we won the other. Second place, but still in the winner's circle.

This picture, which was taken moments after receiving the news of our upset, ran in the Fall River Herald News the next day, Saturday, November 16, 1985. Once again, someone looks like they just don't want to be there, and it's certainly not me. I had gotten my hair cut that day and was wearing it in a semi-nu wave fashion. I didn't get my hair cut because I was expecting to be in the newspaper. I just wanted to attend to the part of me that was easiest to maintain. Because a person's hair speaks volumes. It exclaims, without prompting, how one approaches the art of living. As for Dean, he handed me that trophy after the picture was taken and expressed his disappointment in coming in second. I took it from him and told him how much fun it was regardless of who won first place. He should have known better than to give that trophy away...

Because you just never know when there'll be a reason to take it down from the shelf and show it off.

Thanks again for reading.

And a special thanks to my Aunt, Lynda without whom this award would not have been possible. You truly are an inspiration. Thank you for always believing. You are loved.

And now, you people are in for a real treat...there's free cookies in the lobby! Seriously though, I have added a new song to Atria's tribute page. The song is "Heaven", from my main man Bryan Adams' most righteous 1984 release Reckless, on A&M recordss. It's a live version and I wish I could say it is from this historic night but it is not. It is from another legendary gig that Atria played in 1985 at St. Anthony of the Desert Church on Eastern Ave. in Fall River. I hope you enjoy it as much as it sounds like I did.

I'll be back with more stories from the heart tomorrow.




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