Three Things podcast, episode 43: healthy injection, Sophie, Jack (Frost) of Diamonds
Happy end o’ the week, friends. I try to scrabble the meaning of three things that made me happy or grateful each week.
Here's this week's Three Things podcast:
1. A healthy injection
There were 96 commercials during the broadcast of World Series Game 4 between Atlanta and the Astros. 95 of them were in the same basic category—attempts to get my attention and then my money to consume beer, fast food (especially the Burger King Crispy Chicken Parmesan), winter tires, power tools or the Rav-4. There were commercials to get me to consume Hollywood movies. Ads to bring big pieces of exercise equipment into my house. And a surprising number of commercials to convince me to bet against the house—gambling site ads are in high rotation. One of the 96 was not like the others. It was a story. With a beginning, middle and end. With a reminder that I’m not just a consumer. This was the Heritage Minute, the story of Banting and Best, and, I learned, Macleod and Collip, and the story of Leonard Thompson, the 13-year-old boy who was selected to receive the first human trial of insulin. Never knew his name.
It was a different way to spend 60 seconds. A kind of public service announcement beachhead on the consumerism mainland strewn with pickle pizzas and populated by the sports book brotherhood. Where exactly am I when I’m watching TV? The game was from Atlanta, but I wasn’t there. The broadcast was piped in from Toronto, but I wasn’t there. And I wasn’t entirely in my basement in Edmonton. I was in a liminal space, a kind of hallway, where one door after another opened with a buy-this pitch. Then one door opened on the story of a boy whose life was saved because researchers 100 years ago wouldn’t give up until the insulin was pure. I noticed I could also somehow be in a lab at the University of Toronto in 1921. Sure, my emotions were manipulated by the melodrama, and by the narrator’s voice and the music, but what a valuable reminder of who I need to save more of my attention for. It was good to get a story during the baseball game from home.
Sophie had a big birthday last week. Sophie last appeared in Three Things a few months ago on the day we walked together on the High Level Bridge and talked. She likened cucumbers to crocodiles. That works for me—forever. Through the summer, Sophie trucks through our Coffee Outside group, her walker like a piece of construction site scaffolding come to life. She’s typically on her way to her son’s place, where she tends the vegetable garden. When the garden is done, we don’t see her as much. So, it was nice to spot her last week as she waited for a traffic light downtown. We traded stories about what grew well this year and what not so much. She absolved me of any responsibility for our garden’s beets that didn’t amount to a hill of beans this year. She told me it was her birthday soon and how she didn’t feel her age.
"60 or 55 or 12" was what she felt like, she said.
Older folks often say those kinds of things. They still feel young inside. It’s the wrinkled reflection in the mirror that’s the mystery, and so on. The story isn’t just that, sadly, unfairly, outrageously, a young person remains trapped in an aging body. That’s true. It’s undeniable. I don’t pretend it’s easy to grow old, but I hear Sophie and I think I see it’s also true that a person may always have some real access somehow to the 12 year old. The light changed, we waved goodbye, and Sophie started off again on the green, leaving me to track down my pre-teen self.
Happy birthday, Sophie.
The Oleskiw Meadow in southwest Edmonton isn’t the most obvious place to find Bob Dylan, but there I was and there he was. It’s not that surprising, I suppose. I’m there a lot. I pedal through the meadow once a week or so, bound by the usual laws of time and space that don’t apply to the poet, who goes wherever and whenever he wants, one hand waving free. I was biking along the trees on a worn trail off the main asphalt path. Less traffic. And more diamonds. It was -5 degrees Celsius, my nose was leaking, the sun lit beads of frost that flashed from the blades of yellow grass as I cruised by. Like tinsel everywhere I looked. I did not go searching for the line. It just slotted into place.
And what did you see my darling young one?
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.
It was a bit startling. I didn’t quite know what to do. So, I did what I sometimes do when I sense I’m not the only person there. I sang a few bars out loud.
Have a good end of the week, y’all. I hope the art keeps finding us all.
🎧 Listen to Three Things, episode 43, and you’ll hear the real Sophie [5:41]:
Here’s Historica Canada’s new Heritage Minute on the discovery of insulin.