Selling pigeons to Chinese restaurants in exchange for crack

I don’t travel on public transport all that often since my commute is the clichéd ten feet of the work-at-homeer. But in my early days of employment I remember catching the bus to work and back, thinking how cool it would be to carry a Zoom recorder and talk to people.

Well, someone actually did it. And it’s really good.

Where Are You Going? was a radio show from the BBC World Service that’s now been reborn as a podcast. In it, host Catherine Carr interviews people on their way somewhere. She asks one simple question: “Where are you going?” and then follows her curiosity.

In many ways, podcasting was always the right medium for this kind of storytelling. When stuck inside a 27 minute scheduling window, you end up either having to stretch what you’ve got, or cut something good. But as anyone who’s made a podcast for any length of time knows, there’s no such thing as too long, only too boring.

So, to that story I alluded to in the subject line. It wasn’t much of an allusion; the New Yorker Carr interviewed literally said he caught pigeons in the park where he slept, sold them to Chinese restaurants, and used the money to buy crack. That came from the BBC series, but the stories Carr pulls out from people are no less fascinating in podcast form.

As a case in point, the minute I’m bringing you is from 8:20 in my copy, and concerns the story of a gentleman who works on boats owned by the super rich, but whose life story is far from luxuriant. Earlier in the episode we hear about how this man saw two friends die in a horrific accident. This clip sums that up, and offers us some wisdom too.

The clip ends with the interviewee reminding us that “people don’t know what other people have been through”. I’m thinking about that as I remember the story of the man in the park selling pigeons to buy crack. That man once had a successful career, and savings that would see him through to retirement.

I’ll be thinking about that the next time I see someone in the street and rushing to judgement.

And on that lofty note, I’ll leave you. Take excellent care of yourself, keep listening, and I’ll do the same.

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