Talking Points


So what did Vince and I talk about during our visit?

I told him about my sister’s cancer, my mom’s frailty. We discussed whether drug dealing is a victimless crime or not. He detailed the timeline for being moved to another facility. He talked about chomos (child molesters)—is all the talk about them a way for him to not focus on himself? There was talk of Narcotics Anonymous vs. Alcoholics Anonymous. Vince feels that AA is useless to him since he’s a drug addict, not an alcoholic. I felt that AA was better than nothing, and that addiction is addiction. Vince asked me to try to get whatever money was sitting in his unemployment account on a Mega Bank (not its real name) card he no longer had. We wondered if he really has bipolar disorder, as he had been diagnosed by Hazelden during his third round of chemical dependency treatment. We agreed he probably doesn’t.

I updated him on news of the world, since he didn’t get any news until he had his radio. I told him about the protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and a viral video taken by a black man in St. Paul who was bullied by the police. “Maybe that explains why there’s so much tension lately,” he said.

It occurred to me to ask how prisoners with TVs get reception. I have to pay for cable because the government in its wisdom has decided to make it almost impossible for anyone to get broadcast TV, which has been free since television was invented. He thought they got cable, and that the prison was tapping into that illegally. I thought that sounded far-fetched but if you’re reading this, Comcast, go get ‘em.

I asked him what he thought the purpose of boot camp was, and he said, “punishment.” And yet he spoke animatedly about it and was clearly looking forward to it.

It wasn’t until I was driving to St. Cloud that I realized I hadn’t seen Vince for a year and a half. It had been spring, and I went to see him because he’d lost yet another job. This one , cooking at a place called the Bent Wrench, had lasted for a couple years.

One thing I will say for Vince is, he will take responsibility and doesn’t ask for anything from me when he’s down and out. “I fucked up, again,” was his explanation for losing the job. I drove to Lanesboro and rented a side-by-side tandem reclining bike. It was a beautiful spring day and I had brought a cooler with some Strong Bow cider. Vince and I biked along the paths to a rock quarry, then got out and hunted for agates and had a cider.

Then we peddled back to town and I offered to splurge and get us dinner at the best restaurant, the Riverside. When we walked in, the owner asked Vince how things were, Vince said he was between jobs, and the owner offered him a cooking job on the spot, starting the next day. The guy had clearly had his eye on Vince but didn’t want to poach him since it’s a very small world down there. The Riverside had been Vince’s dream place to work. We had a great meal and I thought, wasn’t it great when things just worked out like that?

I had just a few texts from him over the ensuing summer and fall. He was super busy, he said, but loved the job. It wouldn’t be good for me to come visit, because he was working so much that he couldn’t spend time with me. Now, in prison, he told me he had been working six days a week at the Riverside, but he’d also been dealing drugs all night, every night.

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