How To Get Muscles For A 14 Year Old Boy Woodview Detention Center [1961/Grandpa’s House]

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Woodview Detention Center [1961/Grandpa’s House]

part I

Scene: A cell at the Woodview Detention Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, summer of 1961. A cabin, cell, or room, however one chooses to call it, is furnished with an iron bed, and I, the occupant; I am 14 years old and I have to be here for the first 24 hours in the institution before I go to a bigger cell with (maybe) other children (or as they call us, delinquents). The cell is clean, maybe too clean, and there isn’t much in it. The floor shines, tile as a material, as well as the walls, in the style of brick. It’s late in the evening, the breeze lingers, bringing a chill, a hint of fog perhaps from the nearby Mississippi River.

I’m standing silent in the cell, slightly drunk, a little disoriented, hazy with a t-shirt on, worn jeans, my hair must be messy, I really can’t see clearly, even though there is a small window in the door with a screen through it; I can see what other cells are thinking, and I seem to be happy with the way I look, the way I look. I’m in good shape, my muscles are from weightlifting, running track and gymnastics. No tattoos; I generally consider myself a cool kid.

–My brother, Mike, went to Redwing, a few steps away from me, in a prison field, likened to ‘Boys Town’ I guess (he’s two years older than me).

In a few days, I’m going to court for underage drinking – the judge, he’s the key here, my mother will be with me, that’s right, the judge will want to give me mercy (my first offense), but I’ll say ‘No!’ to this offer of kindness (perhaps I took it for pity at the moment); this will be the only time i see my mother cry in my life (i know she ((maybe)) has cried before but i’ve never seen her do that).

“Why?” asks the judge “are you torturing your mother like this, and cutting me for pride?”

I told the judge to send me to prison, to Redwing, as well as my brother, who is currently there. The judge, struggling to understand me, said, “The police found you sitting drunk on a beer can in the playgrounds off Cayuga Street, which is called Indian Hill, and all you had to say was, ‘You’re an old drunk. bought a beer.”

I’m not sure if it was a question or a statement, but I didn’t say a word, I felt bad that my mother was crying and the judge was right, my pride got in the way, so I left him no choice but to lock up me. And here I am standing in this cell and looking right and left down and up the corridor.

Part II

Dept. Chick or Dennis, as they called me [ds]. Nobody seems to get much fresh air in their cell, and it’s worse in the summer. I paced the floor, knowing there was no way out. I counted the bricks in the cell on each side of the walls, 245, then I stopped counting and listened to the sounds from the corridor. People are snoring, talking, staff doors opening and closing, flashlights checking everyone, even me; all night. I heard Pat Bunce’s new song, “Moody River,” it fit this time and place, as if it had been written and sung just for me. They must have been playing it in the office down the hall.

Morning. “Do you want breakfast?” said a voice standing outside my door; I stood up, “Yes!” I said and the door opened and he placed the attempt on the steel gray table across from my bed and left.

I was surprised that morning came so quickly. I thought: is there a manager in this place? Then I saw people being taken to the back outdoor area, fenced off of course, for sport. I looked a bit envious, and yet I had another 18 hours in this cell before I could join the others.

Around this time in my captivity, I asked myself ‘why’ and left it at that. I didn’t know it then, but I would spend two weeks here, almost a death sentence for me. And at the end of two weeks, my attitude would change. I learned from this experience that if you change nothing, there will be people willing to spend a lot of time trying to change you. But that would, of course, require a readjustment of mindset and/or way of thinking.

Egg Shell

I felt like I was in an eggshell, with two windows, and witnessed the world go by. I knew I was in the detention area after a week, and the judge would come out to see me. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to stay here for two weeks, but I was wrong, the referee wanted to make a point, and he did.

The interesting thing I discovered was that I begged to be allowed another day, to sweep the entire building, the facility, the floors, just to get out of my eggshell. And as several Sundays came, I went to church, to get out of the cell, and on Saturdays, for the same reasons, I went to the craft shop. When I was locked in, I felt like I had to throw up, I was gasping for air. I said to myself, calm down, be cool, like everyone else, and I did, I had to go into a big fish tank, a cell down the hall with four teenagers in it, like me; I thought it was a great reward.

Written on 5/18/2006, in Café Angello, Lima, Peru

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