Franklin Chen's grain of sand

Infinity in the palm of my hand

Thoughts on the Construction of the New Frick Environmental Center


Almost exactly twelve years ago, in 2002, tragedy struck in Frick Park in Pittsburgh. I was on a long evening run in Frick Park when I unwittingly came across what had happened earlier in the day.

From my journal, August 4, 2002

“91 degrees, heat index 93. The Frick Park entrance was closed off for some reason with tape, so that I could not access the water fountain I had counted on using, so I ran up to Forbes instead and to Braddock to get a fountain at that end of the park.”

Later in the evening, I found out what had happened:

“Whoa!!! The Frick Environmental Center was burned down in the morning. No wonder it was all closed off when I tried to run to the water fountain.”

This was reported the next day in the Post-Gazette.


Yesterday, construction of the new Frick Environmental Center began, finally, after twelve years of uncertainty and controversy.

On my evening run tonight (very cool, in the 60s, this summer, unlike the summer of twelve years ago!), I checked out the construction site.

Road sign on Beechwood Blvd:

Road sign for Frick Environmental Center

Old burned building still there:

Old Frick Environmental Center

Some trail detour signs:

Trails detoured for Frick Environmental Center construction

The Growth of Loyalty After Seventeen Years


Tonight I finally got a haircut.

For two weeks I’d been looking for my barber Joe, of Harry’s Barber Shoppe in Squirrel Hill; I was due for my haircut. I’d called Joe’s phone number from work in the afternoon. I’d driven by on the way home (the shop is just a block away from home). I’d taken a walk on Saturday to see if he was open. No sign of him. I was worried. I began imagining the worst.

I’m not kidding when I tell people that I don’t know what I’d do without Joe to cut my hair. He’s been the only one to cut my hair in the past seventeen years, apart from that one time he broke his hand and was out of commission for a while.

My first thought when I wondered whether Joe was OK was, if he was gone, I would miss not only a great cut (after the first couple of times in 1997, he figured out how to do things just the way I like), but also some kind of relationship. Since Joe is a lot older than me, I know that one day I will have to find a new barber; I was just thinking that when that day comes, I don’t want just a haircut, but I want some kind of relationship. Joe doesn’t just cut my hair. He asks me how my life is going; he was there before I was married, and now he inquires about Abby, whom he’s met, that time when I was waiting so long for my turn that she walked over and brought me dinner. He knows the structure of my head and the properties of my hair more than I do. We take turns guessing who’s singing the songs on his favorite radio station; I’ve absorbed some of his oldies into my consciousness.


The whole haircut experience is about much more than my walking out with less hair. That’s why I was relieved to find him accidentally after an evening run in Frick Park that ended with my spotting in the distance the light in Joe’s shop and stopping by and seeing him there. It was already late in the evening, nearly 8:00 PM already, but he said he would take me (he was finishing up one guy in the chair), so I ran back home to change out of my running gear and get my wallet and return to the shop.

Joe said he was OK. He’s continued to have back trouble and reduced his work, but he’s still around. It does not even occur to me to get angry with him for causing me to look for him for two weeks. I’m simply grateful he’s OK and able to work and cheerful. He thanks me for being patient and returning to him again and again. That is all. The rest is philosophical banter about what is important in life, and chuckling to myself as I easily identify “drunky” Dean Martin on the radio singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” Such a dated song, I think, but it has a certain charm and who else could sing it in perfect character besides Dean Martin?


Are you loyal to someone who cuts your hair? What would you do (or have done) if that person is no longer present in your life?