“East Liberty leads to community experience”


Throughout this magazine, you have probably noticed a theme of “community.” There’s a certain type of social attitude that jumps off of the page and after spending time in East Liberty myself, I have to admit “a community feeling” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I went to East Liberty by myself the first couple of times. My first trip was to survey the area and find the good stories: the people, the businesses and trends that would help to bring this community to life.

My second trip was to begin the reporting for my first story: a piece on Bats Barber Shop.

Although these excursions were solo trips, there was something about East Liberty that didn’t make me feel alone. Right away, I felt comfortable in this area. Right away, I was willing to immerse myself in the community. Right away, I knew East Liberty was someplace special.

I could detail every little thing about East Liberty that stuck out in my mind, but that would take pages upon pages of space that I don’t have and you wouldn’t read. Instead, I’m going to focus on my time in

Bat’s Barber Shop and how welcome the barbers and the customers made me feel right away.

You’re always told to immerse yourself as much as possible to get the best story as a journalist. Dean of Duquesne Law School Ken Gormley once detailed his experiences bear wrestling to me for a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone. He made it a point to be known that immersion is the best way to get the best story.

That said, I didn’t pick up the razor and begin to give someone a haircut to truly immerse myself in the culture of Bats Barber Shop, but I did plop myself in the waiting area for hours at a time to try to gather as much information as I could about the business.

The second I walk into the shop, I’m greeted by the barbers and the owner himself, Kevin “Bat” Andrews. Not even a minute into my reporting I feel comfortable and at ease with these people. The barbers are quick to include me in conversations, and even quicker to begin to joke around with me.

It’s not the hottest of days, but the sun is beating down on my back through the window as I sit in the waiting area. I shrug off my jacket, showing my mint green shirt, a hard color to forget apparently. I come in three days later to continue reporting wearing the same shirt and am called out on it. I reassure them that Sundays were laundry days and it had been washed in the interim.

They nod and chide me some more, and I accept it, laughing it off myself. While I have never had older brothers, I interned in for the Pittsburgh Penguins and learned about rooms of men becoming like siblings you didn’t realize you had. Even when being called out, it’s hard to not smile when you’re in on the joke.