Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 26, 2007

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

Big Joe Turner
Big Joe Turner at The Grove, Glenview, IL -4/07

Have you met my dog?

But seriously, folks, the alligator snapping turtle above is over a hundred years old, and clearly the star of our blog today. I’ve named him Big Joe Turner because he was around to see the turn of the 19th century! (also given this name as a tribute to a great old blues shouter of the same name). He lives in a tank now at The Grove, a cool history museum and wildlife conservancy site run by the Glenview Park District. It has a historic one-room schoolhouse, an old mansion, and a seemingly authentic log cabin on site, in addition to the aforementioned nature museum, plus a fairly diverse ecosystem out on its ten or so acres of property.

For me, though, Big Joe’s the best thing they’ve got going. It’s fascinating to think about all the presidents, all the wars, all the dogs and racehorces and birds of the field that Joe has outlived, just by sitting still and luring a bit of food into his mouth with his trick tongue. Plus if you know me, you know that turtles are a sort of symbolically important animal to me. I’ve had a few box turtles as pets over the years, and that old Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare is a consistent reminder for me to stay in the race till the end, even when it looks like I’m outclassed. (I seem to remember a certain biblical writer using a similar metaphor, though without the animals…)

I stop in to see Joe every once in awhile, partly because he’s just down the street from the Lifesource Blood Service building where I go to give blood platelets. I’ve been giving blood semi-regularly ever since high school, because

a) it’s not very hard to do,
b) it really helps, and
c) its mildly intriguing to know there are bits of my genetic material out there running in other peoples’ veins (yeah, I’m weird, I know…) 

After a number of years, I switched over to platelets, mostly because they show me movies while I donate. It takes about two hours to get hooked up to an apheresis machine, have my blood pumped out, deconstructed, and then put back in without the clotting agents. And two hours is about right for a movie (though I’m the rare turtle who will sit for a three hour movie, or a multi-movie marathon, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy I saw with Spencer this winter at the Music Box Theater). Yesterday I watched The Bourne Supremacy, a very good flick which I’d seen before, but the donor next to me had put it on just minutes before I arrived, so I enjoyed seeing it again. Damon is da bomb… he’ll get an acting Oscar to go with his writing Oscar before he’s done. (Click above to read Matt’s mini-bio at IMDB, with lotsa weird cool info, like leftist historian Howard Zinn was his neighbor growing up…)

I know not everyone has that kind of time, to sit still like an old turtle –except hooked up to a machine– for two hours as an act of charity. But the half-hour it takes to donate whole blood should be manageable for most of us, and no machinery is involved. I don’t want to guilt anyone into donating, but one simple stat tells the whole story about why it’s important: only 3% of the Chicagoland area gives blood, while the blood itself is needed by some hospital patient about every three seconds. You get the point…

So get out there and get in the race. Donate blood. No rush. Just keep at it, and we’ll all win.


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