Category Archives: child abuse

High Rolling

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Yawn.  I don’t care about sports but I’ll watch the game because it’s in Minneapolis and I want to see how Minnesota is portrayed in the media.

The game has temporarily escalated prices for everything, and people are scrambling to take advantage.  My landlord rented out the duplex above me to two Canadian brothers in town for the game.  I’m sure she’s getting a packet o’ money.  If they want to borrow a cup of sugar, it’s gonna cost ‘em $500.  Just kidding!  We Minnesotans are as nice as our neighbors to the north.

My mind has been casting back to Super Bowl 1992, which was the last time Minneapolis hosted.  I had ended a long-term abusive relationship with a rich man by getting a restraining order against him.  I lived in St. Paul and he lived in another state but he still managed to stalk and harass and beat me.  I fully acknowledge my participation in this; I got on planes and flew out to see him.  I allowed him to stay in my apartment and Vince was exposed to things he never should have been.

I can’t believe it was me.  It’s like it happened to another person.  I was a zombie.

The last time the police had taken photos of my bruises they had urged me to get an order for protection.

“We can’t touch him because he lives in [another state],” the cop said.  “If he was a loser, an order might escalate the situation but with rich guys who’ve got a lot to lose, it shuts them down good.”

And it did.  I knew the moment the order was delivered because the phone rang and after a long silence, click, then nothing but peace.  Release.  I started my life over.  To be on the safe side, literally, I bought my little first house and made sure the address was unlisted.

A few months later, on Super Bowl Sunday, I opened my front door and there he was on my door step.  Not in person, but in a front-page full-color edge-to-edge photo in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The image is emblazoned in my mind.  He was posing with one foot on the bumper of a limousine, raising a glass of champagne toward the camera as if to say, “Ha ha, Anne!  Look at the lifestyle you spurned!”

The article was nauseating.  He really had terrible taste.  Me—I may not have a lot of money—but I have good taste.  There are certain things you can’t buy: good taste, depth of character, a clean conscience, wisdom, kindness, pride, joy, and love.

People like him don’t have the bracing travel experiences I’ve had because they never stay in hostels, or take the bus, or meet normal locals.

I’ve told a few people this story lately because the Super Bowl is all anyone is talking about.  I began to wonder if I imagined the whole thing, but I didn’t.  The archive where I just had to pay to download the article didn’t include the photo and that’s probably a good thing.

Published: January 26, 1992
Section: NEWS
Page#: 01A

The weekend belongs to a wave of high rollers

By Randy Furst; Staff Writer

Meet Dr. Dale Helman, Monterey, Calif., self-described high roller.

The 32-year-old neurologist was tooling around the Twin Cities Saturday afternoon in a blue-and-gold chauffeur-driven 1962 Rolls that rents for $1,200 a day.

He’s here for the Super Bowl and because he needed someplace to spend some money.

He says he made the trip to the Super Bowl because he needed a $10,000 tax writeoff: “On Dec. 30, my tax accountant said I have 36 hours to get an entertainment deduction.” In a New Year’s Eve rush, Helman bought four tickets to the game over the phone from Ticket Exchange, a ticket broker in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I offered him the 40-yard line, but he said it wasn’t good enough,” said John Langbein, owner of Ticket Exchange. “I offered him the 50-yard line, three rows up, but he said that was too low. I offered him the 50-yard line, 30 rows up; he said that was too high. I finally got him the 50-yard line, 20 rows up.” The price: $1,550 a ticket.

Helman wanted only the best seats. He said he’ll write the trip off because he’s taking three neurologist friends to the game and plans to discuss neurology with them “in the limo. . . . Maybe at halftime we’ll talk about the neurology of football injuries.” He also went to Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center yesterday afternoon in his limo to interview a neurologist for a position on his staff.

“It is rare that I get a weekend off, but when I get a weekend off I play hard,” said Helman, who flew first class from San Francisco on Friday night. He and his buddies went to a Champps sports bar, where they met some Buffalo Bills cheerleaders.

He calls his visit “clean fun.”

He was headed last night to the Taste of the NFL, a $75-a-plate dinner.

High rollers in cabs Some high rollers don’t like to walk or find the temperatures a bit too bracing for a stroll. Many hail cabs for one- or two-block trips. Cabbies complain that many of the visiting bigshots are playing it cheap, too, with tips in the $1 to $2 range.

Rollers on the rocks

As many as 900 of the highest of high rollers ventured onto Curt Carlson’s frozen private lake yesterday for an exclusive party outside Carlson Companies headquarters. A 130-seat TGI Fridays was erected on the lake so partygoers could eat and drink. Outside, they rode snowmobiles, a hot-air balloon, horse-drawn sleighs and an eight-dog sled. Former Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill gave skating lessons, and polar explorer Will Steger narrated a slide show about his Antarctic expedition.

Some praised the advantages of the cold weather. “The germs are all gone,” declared Norah Farris of Dallas. But not everyone was dressed for the occasion. Nina Pellegrini of San Francisco tried her hand at ice sailing in a full-length white fox fur coat. The party was sponsored by Carlson Companies, CBS and Coca-Cola. The plutocracy was out in force: CBS President Howard Stringer, Curt Carlson, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, Northwest Airlines Cochairman Al Checchi, financier Irwin Jacobs and First Bank Chairman John Grundhofer.

Rollers come first, uh huh!

At the Winter Carnival ice slide near the State Capitol, there was nearly a revolt yesterday when Pepsi officials reserved time on the slide at 10 a.m. for Pepsi executives. Pepsi contributed $1 million for the ice castle. But by 10:30, more than 100 average citizens had lined up at the slide and weren’t being allowed to take their turns. Some angry people started shouting, “Coke! Coke!” After about 15 minutes of failing the good-taste test, Pepsi execs decided to let common folks ride, too.

A fitting feast

A 600-glass pyramid of cascading champagne opened the Taste of the NFL yesterday at the International Centre in Minneapolis. The program raised $100,000 for the poor, but the participants didn’t do too poorly, either. About 1,500 people dined on alligator, duck pastrami and assorted delicacies. Admission was $75. Organizers overcame several last-minute crises, including a case of the missing scallops, needed for 1,100 entrees prepared by a chef from Cafe Annie in Houston. It was miraculously delivered 10 minutes before the 6 p.m. opening.

Ice jam Traffic congestion became a nightmare in St. Paul yesterday thanks to the Winter Carnival Grande Day Parade. Shuttle bus service was backed up much of the day, requiring waits of up to 90 minutes. And bus service from the ice palace to downtown Rice Park was stopped for several hours during the parade. 

Your taxes at work

Super Bowl fans will be treated to some high-flying antics, including a possible coin toss in the weightlessness of space, by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Discovery, according to the Associated Press. The astronauts plan to make a brief television appearance during the pregame show.

CBS Sports commentators Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw will chat with the shuttle crew in a TV hookup arranged by NASA.

Oops!

On Jan. 15, 1982, shortly before the Dome opened, an article appeared on Page 1 of the sports section in the now-defunct Minneapolis Star. It began: “If you think the Jan. 24 Super Bowl in chilly Pontiac, Mich., means that Minneapolis might someday be host for the football ritual, don’t bet on it. According to officials of the National Football League, the city’s nearly completed Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is just too small to hold a Super Bowl crowd.” The author of the article was Randy Furst. Oh well.

Staff Writers Jean Hopfensperger, Joe Kimball, Dave Phelps and Ellen Foley contributed to this article.

Lady Day

Lynn, Richard, Possum, and I made our way into the Wyndham, got some drinks, then headed into the auditorium.

The show was Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.  The premise is that Billie Holliday, the American jazz icon, is performing at a run-down bar in Philadelphia right before she dies, age 44, in 1959.  It’s a two-hour monologue and song book, accompanied by a man who plays the piano, tries to stop her from shooting up, then procures heroin for her.

I don’t go to a lot of live theatre.  It always feels to me like people are talking in a stilted way: “Look at me—I’m acting!”  I was leery about going to any American show in Britain.  On my first trip to England, my cohort of volunteers—who were from all over Europe and Asia—insisted on going to a west end musical involving a loud-mouthed Texan in a big hat.  There was also lots of waving and shooting of guns.  I squirmed through the whole thing.  The group members loved it and laughed all night about “typical Americans.”

Lady Day would be performed by Audra McDonald, with actual audience members on stage as though they were customers at the bar.  This was a bit strange, since McDonald and the musicians were dressed in period costumes, while the customers/audience members were dressed in contemporary clothes.

We were seated at a café table right below the stage.

I loved Billie Holliday as much as anyone; I had listened to her songs over and over, especially in my angst-ridden 30s, but would I be able to sit through two hours of angst?  And my chair was wobbly!

Then McDonald began her performance, and within moments all distractions melted away and I was riveted.  I knew Billie Holliday’s story—raped as a child, raised by a single mother, addicted to drugs and alcohol, did prison time, full of regret over not having children and a string of abusive relationships.

McDonald’s voice was well up to the task of Holliday’s songs; when the first strains of “Strange Fruit” began I teared up instantly.

Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

 

Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

 

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop

So the show was about Holliday’s life, but also about racism in America, and the lot of being a famous woman performer, and love, and addiction. Believe it or not she was also very funny.  I wanted to run up onto the stage and hug McDonald/Holliday, tell her everything was going to be alright and that I would take her home and take care of her.

I didn’t find myself feeling defensive about the theme of racism.  In fact, just the opposite.  Racism is a reality in America and always has been.  It’s something we’ve had to struggle with, collectively.  We’ll probably never see the end of it.  I’d like to think that as older generations die off, younger ones will be less racist, but the crowds in Charlottesville at the white supremacist rally last year were mainly young men.

So why would I feel proud of my country?  Because at least half of us are fighting this shit. At least half of us are fighting back–marching, writing essays, lobbying our elected officials in opposition to racism and other “isms.”

The performance ended; we looked at each other and I spoke first, “I feel like a wrung out rag!”

“That was intense,” said Richard.

“I’m exhausted!” said Lynn,

Added Possum, “I never knew!”

We went back to the hotel, ordered some wine, and talked for hours about racism in our respective countries.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill was made into a TV show; if you want to watch it it’s here.

Have a box of Kleenex handy.

Justice, Sweet and Sour

Summer is over, and so is my break from blogging.  In my last post, I listed all the things I was going to do with my extra time: sit outside in the morning with my coffee and listen to the birds, plan a fall trip, and figure out how to publish the first year of the blog as an e-book.  Oh—and write a novel.

I sat outside with my coffee once.  I am planning a fall trip to Italy, Malta, and Spain.  I didn’t write a novel, but Vince and I have started working with an editor on the e-book.

Mostly, I’ve tried to live in the moment.  Summer is so brief.  There were fun moments.  At a family weekend at a cabin, someone brought a Donald Trump piñata (Made in Mexico, appropriately).  I fostered a litter of seven kittens which drew visits from friends and family.  Vince and I went to the State Fair where, at the FabBrow booth, he insisted he wanted a uni-brow.  The makeup artists got back at him by making him look like a community theater actor.

pinatakittens

fabbrow

I spent a lot of time outdoors.  There were hikes and bike rides, and one day a friend and I spend hours making jewelry down at the river. Other times I packed a book and a beverage and biked to some quiet spot at a lake or the river.

The big local news this summer was of the killing of Philando Castille by a cop.  Castille was black.  The cop, Jeronimo Yanez, was Latino.  Castille was pulled over for a broken taillight.  He had a gun in his glove compartment, and believed that the proper procedure when interacting with a cop was to inform: “I’ve got a gun, and I’ve got a permit to carry it.”

I suppose Yanez didn’t hear anything after Castille said “I’ve got a gun.” Blam!  Shot point blank five times and left to bleed to death.  Castille’s girlfriend live streamed his last moments on Facebook.  I have not watched that video, but hundreds of thousands of people have.

I live within walking distance of the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul, where the inevitable protests took place. Traffic was blocked off by the police for a month and I was kept awake a couple nights by helicopter noise.  The protestors blocked off the nearby interstate and either police were patrolling with helicopters or it was news media copters, but they were loud.  Not that I’m comparing my minor inconvenience to the Castille’s family’s loss.

govs-mansion

This week marked one year since Vince was released from prison.  He is doing so well.  He just started a new job in catering, and he’s excited.  In a month he will go off intensive supervised release, which means he’ll be able to stay out past 10:30 or go to Wisconsin to visit cousins.  Best of all, he won’t have ISR agents showing up day and night asking him for urine samples.

Another event prompted me to write this post.

In 1989, an 11-year-old boy named Jacob Wetterling was abducted by a stranger at gun point in a small town in Minnesota. He was never found.

Vince was the same age as Jacob.  Vince became a Bar Mitzvah, got his first job, moved out, turned 20, had a serious girlfriend, had serious drug and alcohol problems, went to jail, got clean, relapsed, turned 30, moved to Lanesboro, went to prison, got out, and has two years of sobriety.  In a few months he’ll be 38.

This week, a man confessed to abducting, sexually assaulting, and executing Jacob Wetterling by shooting him in the head, then burying him—and returning a year later to move the remains.  Lying handcuffed in the last moments of his life, Jacob asked the man, “What did I do wrong?”

Vince was sentenced to over four years in prison for drug possession.  Because the statute of limitations has expired, Jacob’s killer will get 20 years on a child porn charge.  He’ll be a cho-mo—the most loathed prisoner among prisoners.  According to Vince, they are also considered a “protected class,” by officials, perhaps to prevent prison vigilantes from meting out real justice.

From AA to LA

This is the eighth and final post in a series that begins here.

Vince went to live with my mother, and I attended outpatient chemical dependency treatment.  If you are in the “helping professions”—social work, psychotherapy—or if you even just have common sense and empathy, you won’t be surprised to learn that I wasn’t an alcoholic.

The expectation had been that I would go through pregnancy, birth, and adoption without any support, then go on as though nothing had happened.  People seemed surprised that I was sad and angry.  They were uncomfortable when I talked about it.

“You signed the papers; it’s over—why keep bringing it up?  Just don’t think about it.”

Alcohol is a time-honored stress reliever in such dissonant situations.

Sobriety—and a break from being a full-time mother and student—helped clear my head and face my emotions.  I spent the month working the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and reading piles of self help books, and doing all the other things people do to get back on track.

After a month Vince came home.  What–you were expecting some big drama?  Sorry.  In Minnesota we don’t like drama.  In fact we are all about avoidance of discomfort, or as I call it, “reality.”

I didn’t drink for a couple years.  I went to AA, where the members often listened to my story skeptically and said, “I don’t think you’re an alcoholic.”  I should have been referred to Alanon, which is for family members and friends of alcoholics.  People impacted by alcoholic behavior act just as crazy as their alcoholics, but there’s no rehab for them.  In fact I can recall my mother complaining that my dad got to go to “that country club”—Hazelden, a rehab center nestled on a lake with a pool, wooded walking trails, and tennis courts—while she stayed home with the four kids, the house, and the bills.

I got a job, moved out of the hi-rise, and started paying back my student loans.  Vince began school and, while his grades were never great, he was popular with teachers and students.   I made sure he brushed his teeth and washed behind his ears.  I took him to baseball practice, religious school, and family functions.  We watched Dr. Who together and went on little road trips to Lake Superior to hunt agates.  You know, normal life.

Every spring I would find myself feeling blue and wonder what was wrong with me.  Then it would hit me: Ah ha!  Isaac’s birthday is coming up.  On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I would tear up when they read the story of the sacrifice of Isaac.  Every couple of years I would send a letter to be placed in his file, knowing it would probably never be read.  When my mother talked about how many grandchildren she had, didn’t count Isaac.  Intellectually, I knew this was the whole point—that it remain forever a secret—but to me he was always out there, somewhere.

When Vince was 10, I got entangled with an abusive guy and we ended up losing our home.  Three times in one year, we had to move and Vince had to change schools.  I chose this time to tell him about Isaac.  I thought it comfort him to know he had a brother out there somewhere, assuming he was alive.  Clearly I am not a psychotherapist, or I would have known this would backfire.  Vince was devastated—it was a loss on top of losses.

He met his brother, eventually, and some day one or both of us will write about that.

Did these events have a permanent effect on Vince?  They deeply affected me, so why not him, since he was so much younger?  If they did affect him, it’s his job now to delve into them and resolve whatever leftover effects may be holding him back, which is what he seems to be doing in AA.

Thanks for reading this series.  Several people have commented offline that it’s been emotional to read.  I’m ready for a happier subject for the next post: my plans for a road trip to New Orleans!

Labeled

This is the seventh in a series of posts that starts here.

If you have read all these posts, thank you. They’ve been hard to write but at the same time it’s liberating to tell the story that’s mostly been kept secret for decades.

What I have described in this series of posts is a closed adoption. Once parental rights are terminated, the birth parent has no rights, period. Ironically, there was a massive change in adoption laws a year or two after Isaac was born which made open adoption the norm. This is where the birth mother can choose to maintain some level of contact with the child—everything from photos once a year to monthly visits—worked out in cooperation with the adoptive parents. But that didn’t help me, since my case was closed just before the laws changed.

As my emotions thawed after terminating my parental rights, my predominant feeling was rage. True, no one had forced me to place Isaac for adoption, but I hadn’t felt I had any other option. All the forces of society had been arrayed against me keeping him.

I thought about Charlie Brown, the doctor who had offered to find me a baby buyer; about Judy, the Catholic Charities social worker who had made light of my concerns; the perverts who had hit on me—a pregnant girl at the bus stop with a baby in a stroller; the mugger who assaulted me; Ronald Reagan, who ensured I would start my career with student loan debt; Dr. G., who invited a dozen strangers to observe me go through one of the most excruciating moments of my life; and the judge, who had asked me pityingly if I understood what I was doing.

I wasn’t angry with The Creep; he would soon go on to father three more children. Vince and I have joked that they could form their own support group, “Adult Children of The Creep.” The guy had dug himself into such a deep hole that I figured the rest of his life would be his punishment.

A few weeks after I signed the final papers, it occurred to me that I should have a photo of Isaac. I told myself this was for Vince—when I told him some day. I called Judy and there was a long pause after I said my name, as though she had already forgotten who I was.

“Why didn’t you ask for a photo before the papers were signed?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I stammered, feeling stupid and ashamed. I hated her but I knew I was at her mercy. “I would really, really appreciate it if you would ask the parents.”

She told me I would have to put my request in writing, which I did. Six weeks later she called to say that the parents had denied my request.

“Since you didn’t request a photo before you signed the papers, they’re under no legal obligation to give you one now. They’re concerned you might see the baby in a shopping mall or something … they wouldn’t want any scenes. It’s for the best.

“They want you to know that they love him very much and they gave him a beautiful name. Of course, I can’t tell you what it is.”

Wow, she was really enjoying herself. I added Isaac’s adoptive parents to my hate list.

I had lost control with Vince, screamed at him, and shoved him to the floor. I called the county and asked to speak with a child protection worker. She asked a bunch of questions then pronounced, “Based on your family history and your recent drinking behavior, I think it’s clear that you’re an alcoholic.”  She recommended I place Vince in foster care so I could go to rehab.  “You can say no, but there may be repercussions,” she said ominously.

I didn’t think I was an alcoholic but I placed Vince in foster care and got ready to go to treatment.  The next day my mother demanded that I sign Vince over to her, so I did. This time it was only temporary, right?