Tag Archives: Minneapolis

Pandemic, Protests, Panic Attacks

Three people I know have had panic attacks lately. They all thought they were having heart attacks.

I may be next.  No, not really.  But I do feel the stress.  A number of people have said, “Being locked down isn’t that different from my life before.” They live in comfortable homes, have access to limitless entertainment, and have the means to get whatever they need delivered to their door.  They haven’t been impacted financially.  They don’t live near the protests.

“It’s psychological,” a friend said yesterday as we were socializing on his deck.  “I’m playing pickle ball in a Covid-19 ‘pod’ of six guys. I’m an introvert anyway.  I’m retired, so staying home shouldn’t bother me.  I Skype with my mom, but I won’t be visiting her any time soon.”

His mother, in India.  Her short-term memory is gone, but her face lights up when she sees her son.  He was visiting every two months.  It’s a grueling trip with long flights and ground transport. I thought he would be relieved to have an excuse not to go, but no.  He’s a good son.

“In the UK, they talked about BAME people dying at much higher rates from Covid.” I said. BAME is black, Asian, and minority ethnic.  And by Asian they mean Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian.

My friends looked a bit thrown.  Should I not have said anything?  “They don’t know what the causes are.  It’s doctors dying, not just poor people.”

“So it might be genetic,” my friend said.

“Or something to do with darker skin blocking Vitamin D absorption, which supports immunity?  Or that Asian families tend to live in multigenerational housing in densely populated areas?”

“It’ll probably turn out to be a complex set of factors,” he said.

I am still doing contract work from home.  My duplex is comfortable and the weather has been great so I can get out and walk at a distance from a friend or ride my bike.

I am going to have my granddaughters and nephews once a week (separately).  I want them to have a wonderful summer.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t as long as we can be outside or in the car with windows rolled down.

I took the girls on an unintentional tour of Minneapolis due to a detour.  Every storefront is boarded up or charred.  On the plus side, there is a lot of great street art.  I explained what had happened in very simple terms.  The nine-year old said, “But that’s not right. That’s like what we learned in school last year, about Martin Luther King.”  I thought it went over the head of the four year old, but days later she said, out of nowhere, “Cops killed a guy.”

I’ve decided to move.  Again.

My neighborhood was dodgy before Covid and the unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd.  Many houses have been bought by investors and filled with registered sex offenders, including one kitty corner from me which must have 5-6 guys in it.  It must be very lucrative.

Then there’s the noise—in spring, the punks tear up and down the streets in their extremely loud hot rods.  You would think my neighbors who lived through the Vietnam War wouldn’t be fond of fireworks, but you would be wrong.  Several nights a week, the BOOOM, Booom, Boom goes on until one or two in the morning.  I’m not talking firecrackers; I’m talking industrial grade fireworks.

Then Covid came, and an area with lots of people in low-wage jobs became an area with lots of people with no jobs.  The uprisings began.  I’ve seen numerous cars without license plates, this one was abandoned at the end of my alley for days, even after I called it in to the police.

There was the incident of the cops with assault rifles surrounding my house.  Finally, two nights ago, I woke to the sound of a dozen gun shots.  Sirens and a high speed chase ensued, then a CRASH in front of my house, then the police shouting through megaphones, “Come out with your hands up!”

Seriously? This does not align with my brand.

I’ve got a lead on a condo-sitting gig near the Mississippi in St. Paul. Fingers crossed.

Surreal, Unreal, for Real

When I began blogging in 2014, it was because my son, Vince, had been sent to prison on a 50-month sentence for drug possession. He admitted he was a drug dealer and that the police had found drugs in his motel room. He also claimed they had moved his wallet from his pocket to near the drugs, so they could more easily seize his money.

I believed him, and the recent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent protests has me thinking how much worse it could have been if Vince had been black, or if his arrest had taken place in Minneapolis instead of Rochester.

But it’s more complicated.  Since 2000, 109 white people have died in “fatal encounters” with Minnesota police.  That’s twice the number of black victims.

I get it—numbers are one thing and percentages are another.  Fifty-six percent of the victims were white, whereas white people comprise 83% of Minnesota’s population. Twenty-seven percent of the victims were black, whereas blacks make up only 6% of Minnesotans.

Still, 109 dead people is a lot of humans.

And 68% of the killings occurred outside of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Here’s the data if you want to play around with it.

As the mother of a white son who had his share of run ins with the law, I don’t know how I could have worried any more than I did before he turned his life around. I cannot imagine how mothers of black and native sons, in particular, live with their worry on a daily basis.

(Credit: https://www.mother.ly/news/george-floyd-called-for-mothers-everywhere)

But I worry when the problem is reduced to only a racism problem. Racism is a big part of it, but it’s also a police problem. It’s a male problem (96% of the victims in MN were men and the vast majority of cops are male).  It’s a poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and cultural problem.

I’m not saying it’s so complex, so let’s not make drastic changes.  I’m saying, let’s make drastic changes on multiple fronts.

People followed along as Vince’s and my stories unfolded in the blog.  But what I got thanked for was transparently expressing my grief, rage, and shame.

I felt then, and I still do, that since race was not a factor in Vince’s arrest, people believed he deserved what he got, and maybe it was my fault.

I am reliving a lot of the same feelings these days, plus anxiety and ennui and a sense of unreality.

Today is the last of 14 days of quarantine after returning from the UK.  I have become “institutionalized,” a term normally used for prisoners and others who are released after many years locked up.  I went inside a grocery store last week; I had to buy food.  I shambled, blinking, through the store wearing my mask, startled when people got too close,  overwhelmed by something I have done a thousand times.

In my work I come across some surreal stuff.

There was the story about Merritt Corrigan, USAID’s new deputy White House liaison.  She wrote an article last year in The Conservative Woman, where she said, “It’s time for women to return to the home, where we rightfully belong and where real joy and fulfilment await.” Corrigan’s role at USAID includes working with the White House to place political appointees at the agency. Also of note: USAID’s newly-appointed religious freedom adviser has a history of making anti-Islam comments on social media.

I saw a $600,000 US Government grant opportunity for “Mapping Russian Disinformation and Propaganda in Sub Saharan Africa.”  The Administration knows Russia is doing this in the USA, right?  They are working to fight it here, right? Probably not, since Russian disinformation and propaganda helped elect Trump.

Maybe Russia was behind bogus social media stories that the KKK was marching through Minneapolis last week, or that only people from out Minnesota were looting.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear which Federal agency ordered the Predator surveillance drone that circled over Minneapolis during the protests.

Unreal!  But it is real!

Or is it?

So there you go, a fractured but honest account of my state of mind and emotions.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Welcome Home, Home on Fire

I want to go back to the UK now.

A week ago I was trying to enjoy my last day in Oxford without wasting by fretting about traveling during a global pandemic.

It’s hard to explain certain things to people back home, like how cramped and close together people live in a place like Oxford.  I had wanted to take this photo for some time—if you look through the picture window of the house across the street you can see through to my neighbor Wendy’s back garden. I wanted to get a shot early in the morning when—I hoped—she wouldn’t see me.

It seemed to matter at the time.

I took a walk.  How had I never noticed that enormous Monkey Puzzle Tree, now laden with what looked like seed pods?

Were these juniper berries?  If I filled my pockets with them could I make homemade gin? These were my pressing questions.

None of the things I had worried about happened.  The bus to Heathrow had five passengers, all widely spaced and wearing masks except for That One Asshole.  This was Heathrow.

Here’s the main shopping and dining atrium in T2.  Usually my biggest concern is whether the Cath Kidston store will be open (it was not).

Almost everyone was wearing a mask and everyone practiced social distancing.  The plane was about 25% full.  This was going to be fine!

Obligatory farewell photo.

I played with the newfangled window dimmer button. There’s no window shade anymore.  Is it the magic of nanoparticles, I wondered, having worked in a nanoparticle lab years ago.

I watched movies: Rocket Man, Witness for the Prosecution, Book Smart, and Jojo Rabbit.

Every time I removed my mask to sip some water my mask and ear bud cords got tangled up.

We were served food as usual but there were no alcoholic beverages or coffee on board.

Beautiful Chicago.

Re-entry to the US was uneventful.  Public Health Service officials collected my contact details, took my temp, and handed me this.

O’Hare seemed like Heathrow at first.

But here were the C gates, with flights headed for Mexico City, Indianapolis, Washington DC, and Minneapolis.  I spent four hours here.  It was impossible to social distance and only about half of the people wore masks.

My first views of Minnesota on a hot muggy evening.

I retrieved my bag and found my car, which my son had parked in an airport ramp the previous day.  The next morning I would get a grocery delivery which I had set up while still in Oxford.

Phew!  After almost five months in the UK, I was home, with no dramas!

As I was driving home, a man named George Floyd was being murdered in the street by Minneapolis police just a few miles away for the alleged crime of trying to pass a counterfeit bill.

Protests erupted the next day.  The killer cops were fired but not arrested.  The protests turned violent Wednesday night and escalated each night.

Those who wear badges that say, “To Protect and Serve” (the police) abandoned the people of the Twin Cities and let looters run wild.  So far 255 businesses have been looted and/or burned.  Post offices.  Restaurants.  Pharmacies.  Gas stations.  Barber shops. Liquor stores.  Libraries, for god’s sake!

Institutions like the Town Talk Diner.

Nonprofit organizations like an Indian dance company, a Native American youth center, and an arts-funding foundation.  The grocery that delivered my food four days ago is now closed indefinitely. We are living under a curfew.  The national guard has now been called in, and Trump is even being consulted about sending federal troops.

The Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors did nothing but make polished, kumbaya speeches.

The cop who knelt on Floyd’s neck was charged with murder on Friday, but the ones who stood by and did nothing must be charged as well.

There have been rumors that the looters are all extremists—anarchists and/or white supremacists. There have been some people from other states among those arrested, but as of what we know now, most are Minnesotans.

I am in shock.  I have to find a way to get involved and keep moving.

Meanwhile, Minnesota passed the milestone of 1,000 Covid-19 deaths.

Bogairdy House

That evening we went for dinner to a friend’s house.  I had met Andy; in fact he and his ex wife and their three sons had visited Minnesota years earlier—to shop at the Mall of America.  They stayed at a hotel near the mall and had done nothing but shop.

It had been a bad trip, with several of them getting sick. Once they were all well, I picked up Andy and his wife and one son in my Mini and drove them around the Twin Cities.

“Oh my!” exclaimed the wife as we drove along Summit Avenue. Her Scottish accent made it difficult for me to understand her. “I had no idea there were houses like this here!”  Andy is English so at one point I tactfully rephrased a question and asked it of him to get a clear answer.

These are typical houses in Bloomington, the burb where the Mall of America is located:

These are typical house on Summit Avenue, which runs six miles from the Mississippi River to downtown St. Paul.

I’m just sayin’.  There’s more to America than the Mall of America.  Mall of Gomorrah, as my mother calls it.  At the Cathedral, I swung around and drove back along Grand Avenue, which is lined with non-chain stores an restaurants.  I took them to the Walker Art Center sculpture garden and drove around the chain of lakes—Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles—in Minneapolis.

Andy had been through seven-years of divorce hell and had come out the other side.  He was now with June, a lovely Scottish lady, and she had just moved in with him.  The house was called Bogairdy, and it’s a traditional but completely updated farm house.  Bogairdy was 15 minutes from Dunrovin.  The driveway seemed like it was half a mile long, and it was extremely narrow, rutted, and dark—I half expected a lion to run across our path, it felt so remote and of another place.

“We’re still trying to decide where to put all of our things,” Andy seemed to apologize.  The place was spotless and neat as a pin.  Whatever that means.

“It can’t be easy, combining two households when you’re in your 50s,” I replied.

“June brought all her plants,” Andy gestured to the front garden, which looked like an outdoor conservatory. I loved it.

“We’re trying to sell the place, but it could be a while,” June said.  “It’s a special property.”  If you’re in the market for a 5,158 square foot (479 square meters) farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands, here you go.  It is beautiful.

We had olives and wine in front of the fire in the sitting room, then sat down to a feast.  There must have been five courses, including a woodcock pie.

“Woodcock isn’t for everyone,” Andy said apologetically just as I began to chew.  “It’s a bit gamey.”  UGH.  That was an understatement.  It tasted a like liver to me, and that’s not good.  I forced it down, smiled wanly, and quickly asked him to pass the wine.

I don’t recall what we discussed over dinner but it was lively.  None of us talked about work, as would be standard in the US.  And it’s not like we don’t have interesting jobs.  Andy is an explosives expert and works in the oil industry.  June does something in banking but what, exactly, never came up.

After we had done our best to demolish the cheese plate, which is the standard dinner-ender in the UK as opposed to dessert in the US, June and Andy cleared the dishes.

“Quick, come here!” we heard June calling in a hushed voice from the entryway.

Lynn and Richard and I hurried over and looked to where she was pointing.  There was a young red fox prancing around the potted plants.  The moon was shedding a shimmery light on the scene.  “He comes every night,” June said.  “We think he’s hunting moths drawn by the porch light.”  We stood entranced for 15 minutes, watching him.  Then the fox ran off, the spell was broken, and we said our good-byes and went home. It had been a very long but good day.

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.