The First Time

VINCE

It was November or December of 1997. I was making a living selling weed, acid, and mushrooms. I had a side-job I liked equally—stealing high-end bicycles from local sporting goods stores in St. Paul. By high-end I mean $2,000-3,000 each. All fitted with the latest in gas shocks, hydraulic brake systems, Diore XP derailleurs, and of course the cheapest plastic banana seat possible.

I was doing pretty well. One cold morning I walked up to the Schwinn bike shop with the intention of riding away with a $1,000 profit. Sadly for me, there was a lot of traffic in the store. Employees and customers everywhere. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. The bike I wanted wasn’t available so I decided to grab what I could. Bad move. I took it off the rack, wheeled it out the door, and off came the chain. I remember my legs spinning the pedals really, really fast. Then the employee came from behind. He gently stopped me and brought me back into the store. There was no point in running. He was bigger than me, and George the barber next door saw me and knew me.

So there I sat in the back of the store waiting for the police. One officer arrived and asked me a couple questions and that was it. I was arrested for Felony Theft of over $500 and taken to the St. Paul Police Dept. Today it remains the most disgusting place I have ever been.

No sheets, no pillow, just a blanket to protect me from years of detainees’ sweaty bodies. The stainless steel toilet no longer reflected light. The floors sticky with unknown substances. I know this: It was not from food.

[ANNE: The jail must not be that disgusting. Six years earlier, when he was 13, he and an 11-year-old best-friend David burst into the house, shaking with fear because they’d been caught in the act of cutting a hood ornament off a caddy and the owner had slammed David’s arm in the car door—hard. I conducted a search of Vince’s room and found a box brimming with hood ornaments in his closet. David’s mom and I took them to the St. Paul Police Dept, hoping they’d be “scared straight,” as they say. The cops locked them up in an empty cell for about 10 minutes. They seemed scared, alright, and David’s mom and I congratulated ourselves on our great tough love strategy and thought that would be the end of it.]

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