Death, Sex & Money

Death, Sex & Money

United States

A podcast hosted by Anna Sale about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Email the show at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

Episodes

Alec Baldwin Talks Money, Family, Fame and Cocaine  

"I completely forgot that this is an episode of Death, Sex & Money. We're taping this for your show!"

That's how Alec Baldwin responded after I started our on-stage conversation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music by asking him about money, and how he thinks about accumulating it. It's a topic he addresses head-on in his new memoir, Nevertheless, explaining that the reason he wrote the book was because he got paid for it. While Alec told me he believes "a lot in providence, financially," he says he's often made clear career choices motivated by the paycheck. It's a tactic he says he learned early on, from older actor mentors. "Embrace the commercial," Alec says, "But then when you can, you run off and do these other things for your soul." 

That willingness to say yes has led Alec into a very public existencehosting Saturday Night Live a record-breaking 17 times, engaging in local politics and philanthropy, and maintaining an active social media presence. But being in the spotlight has also led to regular spats with the tabloid press, a cocaine habit in the 1980s, and his very visible custody battle in the 1990ssomething he also covers in his book. When asked what advice he would give to a friend going through a split now, Alec said, "Find a way that you can get into therapy and get into the collaborative divorce. The dignified divorce. You're gonna regret if you don't." 

Alec remarried in 2012 and has had three more children in a little over three years. He says he's embraced the chaos that has come with having little kids back in his life. "My role is to support her," he said of his wife, Hilaria. "I kind of accept that in order to make things easy. As my dad taught me, parenthood is a contest between two people where the dad always wins the bronze medal."

Pleased to Meet You, Nancy  

I first met Kathy Tu and Tobin Low two years ago, when they had an idea for a new podcast. The two friends wanted to make a show that would feature fun, honest and edgy stories and conversations about all things gay. And today, I'm so excited to finally introduce Nancy, their podcast, to all of you!

The story we're sharing with you is from one of their very first episodes. It's about Kathy and her mom, and coming out with the help of Google Translate. 

You can find out more about Nancy at nancypodcast.org. Subscribe today!

Why Rashema Melson Left Georgetown  

I met Rashema Melson in the middle of her sophomore year at Georgetown University. She'd made national headlines the year before when she graduated as valedictorian of her D.C. high school class after spending several years living in a homeless shelter. It was a feat that landed her a scholarship at Georgetown—and saddled her with a lot of pressure. "I can't fail, I mean what would I do?" Rashema said as we talked in her dorm's common room, weeks before finals. "Do I want to believe that I didn't work hard enough or there is something more that I could have done? I just—yeah, no, I can't fail." 

After our conversation, I kept tabs on Rashema through her video blog—which is how I found out that just months after we talked, she left Georgetown. She married a longtime boyfriend in the military, and transferred to a new school in Tennessee to be closer to his base—hundreds of miles away from her old life in Washington D.C. He was in the car with her when I called recently to find out how she was feeling about all of her big life changes. But our call quickly took an unexpected turn, and Rashema told me she's considering a return to Georgetown. "Why run away from what I'm destined to do just because people are showing me that they’re on my side?" she said. "When I had all these people in my corner, I didn't know how to receive that."

A Prison Guard In Transition  

Mandi Hauwert was 32 and a few years into her career as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison when she started to wear eyeliner to work. "Just a little bit," she tells me. "Just to have some sense of feeling when I went to work that I was being secretly feminine."

At the time, Mandi hadn't come out being transgender. She'd struggled with her secret for years—becoming depressed and suicidal as a teenager, joining the Navy to feel "a little more manly," and finally gathering the courage to open up to one of her female coworkers at the prison. "She was super accepting," Mandi told me. "And then it got me thinking, like, maybe—maybe—I could come out." But after another colleague started to ask questions about the makeup she was wearing, Mandi got called in to her supervisor's office. "I immediately told them that I was transgender," she says. "And their immediate response was that they don't allow cross-dressing."

Mandi eventually got permission to come to work as a woman, and since July 2012, she's done just that. The health insurance she receives as a state employee also covered most of her gender reassignment surgery in 2015. Still, continuing to work as a guard hasn't been easy. Early on, inmates called her names. And while that's eased up over time, Mandi says her colleagues haven't gotten over her transition yet. "It's walking into a room full of officers and having everybody move their chairs over to one side, away from you," Mandi says. "I hate the negativity." 

Mandi's also gotten some pushback from the trans community, which she says views police officers and guards with a lot of suspicion. "To be fair, law enforcement has historically treated trans people very poorly," she says. But Mandi is holding firm to the idea that being a part of the system is what could eventually bring about change. "Who knows?" she laughs. "I could be the first transgender warden."

I Was Your Father, Until I Wasn't  

Tony* wasn't sure what to say when the woman he'd slept with told him she was pregnant. First, he says, there was a long pause. They weren't a couple, and he didn't want to say the wrong thing. "I told her that it was her choice and if she chose to keep it, then I would be a good dad," he remembers. "I was freaking out." 

At the time, Tony was in his mid-20s, working as a bartender and photographer in a college town out west. Tony started paying child support for his daughter near the end of the pregnancy, went to prenatal appointments, and took parenting classes along with the baby's mother. On the day his daughter was born, Tony cut the umbilical cord. 

And Tony was an active father. As soon as his daughter could take a bottle, he says he started sharing custody of her, sometimes watching her three or four days a week. "We were really just good buddies," he says. "It felt good to have purpose, and it felt amazing to love something so much, in a completely new way." 

Money became a source of tension, though, between Tony and the baby's mother. So did the fact that as his daughter got older, she started looking less like him or her mother. Tony decided to get a paternity test when his daughter was about a year old. "I couldn't play it dumb forever," Tony saysbut he also feared the results. "That's not something that you want to know, especially when you love something so much."

Tony quickly learned the truth: he had a zero percent probability of being the biological father. He called the mother to tell her, and soon after that, he met Victor*, the man who is his daughter's biological father. Over beers, they talked about Tony's shock, Victor's suspicions from the sidelines, and their plan for the little girl they both considered a daughter. More than two years later, they joined me to talk about the logistics and emotions of the transition that followed, which included packing up a pickup truck with nursery furniture to move it from Tony's place to Victor's. 

*Last names have been withheld for privacy reasons.

Live from the Internet: Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires & You  

We met Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires three years ago to hear about their love story. They met when Jason was still struggling with sobriety, and got married about a year before we first sat down. Since then, they've continued to create new music, moved into a new house together, and had their first child—Mercy. After our recent episode on breakups, we couldn't think of a better duo to take your questions about heartache, relationships, creativity and loss. 

A caller named Rebecca in Alaska wants to know how the two strike a balance between their creativity and their love for each other. "Happiness is the most important thing," Amanda says. "You've got to make yourself happy first, and be the truest self you can, before you can even try and be happy in a relationship." Russ calls in from Adairsville, Georgia to ask Jason and Amanda if they share their works in progress—especially if they write about each other. "If it's true and honest—no rules," Amanda says. "If the piece of art is good enough, no one can argue with it," Jason adds.

We also hear from Lori in Ukiah, California, who lost her husband to cancer. She wants to know about Jason's relationship to his faith these days. "For me, it's about not needing too many answers," he responds, adding he still relies on his faith in God for support. Muhammad from Boston shares his struggle to stay authentic as a Middle Eastern musician playing Americana music. "Americana is America," Amanda says. "Play your folk songs. It's going to kick ass."

Let us know what you think of our live-call in format! If you enjoyed it, tell us what you'd like our next call-in to be about and who should be our guests by emailing us at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

 

Jason & Amanda's Playlist

Leonard Cohen, (ANY Leonard Cohen song, Amanda says)

Ray LaMontagne, "Lesson Learned"

Willie Nelson, "You Are Always On My Mind"

Willie Nelson, "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground"

Willie Nelson, "Remember Me"

Willie Nelson, "On the Road Again"

Jason Isbell, "Flagship"

Amanda Shires, "You Are My Home"

 

Cristela Alonzo's Lower Classy Comedy  

Comedian Cristela Alonzo says she didn't grow up with much. Her mom raised four kids on her own in an abandoned diner with no running power or water in South Texas. Things are different for Cristela these days. "I have the kind of money where I can go into a Target and go on my own Pretty Woman shopping spree," she tells me.

Cristela became the first Latina to develop, write, produce and star in her own network TV show. The self-titled sitcom, Cristela, premiered in 2014, but only lasted one season due to disappointing ratings. Still, for Cristela, failure isn’t enough of a reason to stop. "The worst that can happen to me is I end up being as poor as I started, and I know what it's like to live life that poor," she explains.

Cristela spent a lot of time in front of the TV as a kid while her mom worked double shifts at restaurants to pay the bills. Cristela's mom moved the family into the abandoned diner when she discovered her husband was having an affair, leaving him behind in Mexico. "She was trying to survive and trying to get us to survive," she says of her mother. "She had no community. She had nothing, and you can tell how hard it was on her."

In high school, Cristela struggled between obligations to her family and her own professional aspirations. She enjoyed theater and acting, which eventually drew her towards Los Angeles. After a series of fits and starts, she ended up back in Texas when she found out her mom was gravely ill. "In my family, the parents pick the kid that will take care of them when they're older, and my mom picked me," she remembers. "It's kind of winning a really resentful lottery."

Even though her show was cancelled in 2015, Cristela's stories about family and money are still a big part of her comedy—especially in her latest comedy special, Lower Classy. "I like talking about where I came from to show people why I am the way I am now," she says. "The poverty I grew up with made me want to work really hard to not ever be that poor again."

Cristela Alonzo's customized shoes that translate to "badass." (Katie Bishop)

 

Cut Loose: Your Breakup Stories  

When Nan Bauer-Maglin was 60 years old, her husband left her for his 25-year-old student. "I thought about suicide. You know, there’s a great feeling of rejection especially if you’re older," she told me. "You just feel ugly and invisible and sad and quite gray." 

Nan wrote a book inspired by their breakup and called it Cut Loose. "First I was gonna call it 'Dumped.' But that’s so negative," she told me. "Cut Loose is also about freedom." 

Nan is one of hundreds of listeners who shared their breakup stories with us, after we asked for them last year. And she's not the only one who mentioned a potent mix of rejection, liberation, and confusion at the end of a relationship.

A listener named Drew remembers when his boyfriend went on a trip, left his dog at Drew's house, and never came back. Thomas*, who got married right out of college, is 25 and unsure of what his life will look like after his impending divorce. Mia sent in a voice memo about leaving her boyfriend behind, and struggling with the decision years later. Identical twins Matthew and Peter Slutsky realized they needed to break up after years of living parallel lives: attending the same college, working the same jobs, living with their families in the same neighborhood. Creating some distance was part of growing up, but that doesn't mean it wasn't hurtful. 

In your breakup stories, you also described how hard it can be to know when it's over. Steve* knows he's not happy right now, but isn't sure if the problem is him or his long-term boyfriend. "I love him and I don’t want to hurt him," he told me. "This just seems like kind of a way to wipe the slate clean and start over." 

Sometimes, though, breaking up can also feel like a long overdue exhale. Beth, a listener in Philadelphia, recalls the day when she was riding her bike on her commute and choked out the words, "I don't want to be married!" She was divorced within a year, and looking back now, wishes she hadn't waited so long to be honest about her feelings. 

Whether you're in the middle of a breakup or you've been through one in the past, check out our Breakup Survival Kit. It's a Google doc created by all of you that's filled with your best suggestions about what to read, watch, listen to and do after a split. 

 *Name changed for privacy reasons

The NFL Made Me Rich. Now I Watch It... Sometimes.  

When Domonique Foxworth and I first talked, the former NFL player was attending Harvard Business School and looking forward to a career as a high-powered executive. "I want to get to the point where I feel comfortable saying the things I’ve achieved financially are partially because of football, but even more because of what I’ve done afterwards," Domonique told me. 

That's saying a lot. Shortly before an injury permanently sidelined his career, Domonique signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens worth $28 million. It was the culmination of years of devotion to the sport—much of which was unpaid. As a college football player at the University of Maryland, Domonique remembers feeling pressure to prioritize the school's athletics over his own academics. "That will benefit the coach, the university, the president, the alumni, the students," he told me. "None of us had any control or leverage in order to protect ourselves."

Years later, when his own payday finally came—in a big way—Domonique says it didn't feel quite as good as he had hoped. "We get paid well because the talents that we have are so rare," he says. "But you’re still the labor." It was around that time that Domonique tore his ACL, and decided that he was ready to leave football behind. 

Since my first conversation with Domonique, a lot has changed in his life. He's graduated from business school, had a third child, and moved to Washington, D.C. And his career sights have shifted. After landing a job as a top sports executive, he realized he wasn't happy. "I kind of made the decision to try my best to quiet those egotistical urges in me that liked having the big title and liked having the big salary," he told me when we recently caught up by phone. "So I quit with no plan to do anything else." We talk about what he's doing now, and about how his years playing football continue to have an impact on the way he lives his life today. 

Read Domonique's reflections on the film Concussion, as well as some of his writing for ESPN's site The Undefeated.

Domonique Foxworth with his family. (Courtesy of Domonique Foxworth)
Mahershala Ali on Faith, Love and Success  

We met actor Mahershala Ali and his wife, the artist Amatus, last year in Brooklyn, a few months after he filmed his scenes for Barry Jenkins' film "Moonlight." Now, ten months later, Mahershala has earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Juan, a Miami drug dealer who takes the movie's main character, a young boy whose mother struggles with addiction, under his wing.

Just last month, Mahershala also announced some exciting personal news: He and Amatus are expecting their first child. 

Today, we're revisiting our conversation the the couple, which took place months before the buzz of awards season or news of their first baby. On stage in Brooklyn last March, we learned how Mahershala and Amatus first met when they were students at NYU, and how they reconnected years later after Amatus suffered a violent loss in her family. They also shared how their Muslim faith grounds them, and how it guides them through their careers today. 

Listen back to our entire live show with Mahershala and Amatus (as well as Rosie Perez, Hari Kondabolu, Lisa Fischer and more) from last March at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

And this... What a surprise. So much love.

A video posted by Amatus (@amatus23) on Dec 7, 2016 at 1:02pm PST

 

It looks like Amatus and Mahershala had a lot of fun at their baby shower last month!

I Had Babies To Pay For My Baby  

Sarah Short remembers being 19 years old, staring at the bill from the hospital where she gave birth to her daughter. It added up to about $10,000. "There's the anesthesia, the hospital stay, and the doctor—and I just laughed," she tells me. "I was like, 'I can't pay this.'"

Sarah had health insurance, but it didn't cover obstetrics. And she'd waited too long into her pregnancy to apply for Medicaid. She felt guilty about bringing so much debt into her new marriage—she married her boyfriend right before her baby was born—and when the bill went to collections, the dollar amount climbed even higher. 

"I would just get so overwhelmed and I would be like we're never going to be able to get out from under this," Sarah told me. "And it felt like it was all my fault." So, she started researching ways that she could make money to pay off her bill. She tried to sell her eggs, but says she wasn't what the clinic wanted in an egg donor. "But you're a great candidate for surrogacy," she remembers being told. Soon after Sarah filled out an application at a surrogacy agency, she met the parents she'd be working with—a lesbian couple who turned to surrogacy after years of trying to adopt.

Sarah ended up having twins for the couple, although this pregnancy and childbirth were very different from what Sarah went through giving birth to her own children. "When my son was born I looked at him…and it was a huge profound moment in my life that I remember," Sarah says. "When the twins were born they didn't look like me, and they weren't mine. I wanted them to get to their parents."

Even after giving birth, Sarah's work wasn't over. For several months, she pumped breast milk for the twins, which she also got paid for. Still, she's careful when she explains how much money she made from surrogacy: around $40,000. "I'm always reticent just to tell people just a flat number because it sounds so high and it sounds like I sold these babies for this amount of money," she says. "When in actuality I had a part-time job for two years."

That part-time job helped Sarah pay off her medical bills and make a down payment on a new house. She describes her life today as "a life that I could have never pictured for myself a few years ago." But when Sarah recently tried to become a surrogate again, she realized that the process might not go as smoothly the second time. "Why is this not working? This doesn't make sense," Sarah told me. "It felt like I'd been fired, because I'd had this thought of, I have this job, I'm gonna have this income, and then I didn't." 

Tracy Clayton Is Speaking Things Into Existence  

Right before the new year, Another Round podcast host and writer Tracy Clayton tweeted:

there are so many things i want for 2017 and i believe in speaking things into existence so im gonna use this thread to do that

— Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) December 28, 2016

What followed were 30 tweets about the things Tracy wants when it comes to family, relationships, work and finances. Some were funny ("I want some real fucking grown up furniture!") and others were serious ("I want to do the hard work of reconciling my past relationships so that I can prep myself for the partner and kids I'm scared to admit I want"). I watched her tweets coming down my feed in real time—and thought what she was doing was really brave. 

I wanted to talk with Tracy about what inspired her goal-setting outburst, and about the things she wants for her 2017. "I feel like I've been in transition for a really long time," she told me. "I don't feel like both of my feet are planted firmly on the ground." At 34, Tracy's been in New York for less than three years—and has had a hugely successful career rise during that time. But, she says, "I didn't feel like the rest of my life reflected that same sort of success or happiness." Tracy says she hopes that by announcing her goals to the world rather than keeping them to herself, she'll be held accountable. "I’m very used to letting myself down," she said. "I’m much more afraid of letting other people down." 

Tracy's already started knocking things off of her 2017 to-do list. She opened her first-ever savings account just a few days into the new year. She got drunk with her relatives for the first time over the holidays, "giving myself permission to be a grown-ass woman around my family." And, she's gearing herself up to take on some of the bigger challengeslike finding a partner. "I don’t do very well with actually tying up loose ends once those ends become loose," she told me about her past relationships. "And now I’m like, okay, Trace, if you never ever ever fix it and wade through this uncomfortable-ass box, then you know, sure, you’ll probably be fine, but what if you could be more than fine? What if you could be happy? Wouldn’t that be cool?" 

A Son and His Mom Laugh Through Darkness  

In 2014, after Bex Montz dropped out college, transitioned and got sober, he tried to kill himself. Before losing consciousness, he called 911. When he woke up, the first thing he saw was his mom, Katie Ryan, sitting in the corner of his hospital room. 

Bex told me his story earlier this year in our episode about near-death experiences. He's living with his mom in San Francisco, and soon after I moved to California, I asked Bex if I could catch up with him in person—and meet his mom. 

In our follow-up conversation, I learned about the depression that Bex has struggled with since he was a kid and, as his mom told me, that his extended family didn't know Bex was a suicide survivor until the podcast episode came out this spring. Bex said he couldn't believe it. "I've been mentally ill since I was like 13 years old," he said. "Jesus Christ, I hope there's a suicide attempt in there somewhere! Or else, I'm like, what have I been doing with the last couple of years, you know?"

This prompted Bex and his mom to burst into laughter.

This is how they talk about all they've gone through as a family, with brutal honesty and cutting humorwhether they're describing Bex's father's sudden death, Bex's ongoing depression, or his gender transition in his 20s. "These gender issues are, like, the smallest problems we've faced together," his mom Katie described. "They're miniscule, for me, compared to the mental health issues."

Those issues have made parenting Bex difficult, he freely admits, both when he was a kid and now that he's an adult. "I want to try to figure out all this shit by myself," he told me. "That's my ideal." 

"I've learned I can't keep him safe," Katie added. "I thought that sleeping on a mattress outside his door and taking the door off the door jam would keep him safe. It meant nothing. It meant that I was pissing him off because he didn't have a door to his bedroom and I was sleeping on the floor outside his bedroom because I couldn't trust him. And it didn't work."

"Ugh. I'm such an asshole," Bex responded. "I haven't made things easy on anybody. And, like, that's obviously not a choice. But it also doesn't feel good, you know."

Now, Bex is focusing on staying healthy and reapplying to college. He isn't sure whether he would ever want to be a parent, but right now, he said he's leaning against it. "There's this thing that you love desperately and you always want to be around, and progressively over the course of it's life, as it gets more interesting, you have to let it go."

"Like, that sounds awful. That sounds horrible!" Bex exclaimed. "Both of you guys are fucking idiots!"

After that, we all burst into laughter.   

My Awkward Money Talk With Sallie Krawcheck  

Before she was a Wall Street executive or the CEO of an investment company for women, Sallie Krawcheck was a little kid, listening to her parents fight about money. 

"You just knew, once a month, they were gonna have a big fight and somebody was gonna storm out of the house," she told me. "It was a really stressful and tense topic for us, because we didn't have any." 

That taught Sallie that she never wanted to be in that position. She says she started working in the third grade, filing papers at her dad's law office. By high school, Sallie was lending her parents money to fix the furnace when it gave out. "I wanted to make my own money. I did not want to have those fights with a spouse, or be put in a position where I would be financially vulnerable," she said. 

Sallie learned that lesson again after she began her career in finance, and she found out her first husband was having an affair. She had graduated from business school, but at the time of their divorce, she wasn't in charge of their finances. "I knew vaguely how much we had, but it was an eye-opener," she says. "When you're reeling from a break to a relationship, that's a really bad time to try and figure out how to manage your money." 

Sallie remarried, and while she and her husband raised their two kids, Sallie's career continued to advance. She became the CEO of Smith Barney, and then, a top executive at Citigroup. She was there when the financial crisis hit in 2008, and Sallie was fired amid corporate infighting about how to handle some of the bank's major losses. "We told the kids that we were okay. You know, that mom got fired, mom got re-orged out and that we were okay as a family," she says. "I think the conversations were that straightforward." 

This year, Sallie started Ellevest, a financial planning firm specifically focused on women. When I asked whether her Wall Street past ever makes it awkward to have money conversations with women who earn much less, it got a little heated. "I have made money in my life. Isn't it interesting I had to come back and tell you that I also lost a lot of money in my life, as if I'm apologizing for it. It's funny. You've made me feel quite defensive," she told me. 

"It is interesting how awkward it is to talk about it," Sallie added, "even though I talk about it in the abstract everyday." 

Let's Talk About Porn  

Porn. It’s something that people use in their most intimate, private moments. It’s a way to acknowledge desire—without any of the attachments of intimacy. For some of you, that's incredibly freeing. For others, it's caused some real problems.

This spring, we heard from a listener named James* who described himself as a recovering porn addict. He was struggling to stay away from porn while his wife was out of town. His story made us wonder about your own relationship with porn, so we asked you about it. More than 100 responses later, you told us how you first learned about porn, what drew you to it, and why some of you have had to turn away from it completely.

Rose* was in her 30s when she first stumbled across a porn video on Tumblr. She tried to put it away, but kept coming back to it. "I was going through heartbreak at that time, and really craving affection and love and desire," she tells me. "Seeing that acted out…I found it intriguing." Another listener, Antonio*, says porn helps him stay faithful to his boyfriend by letting him live out his fantasies on his smartphone. And Michael* says his porn collection is a stress reliever that he carefully tends to "like a rose garden."

We also heard from listeners like Daniel*, who've had to cut porn out of their lives entirely. Daniel went cold turkey three years ago when he realized porn had become a coping mechanism for his mental illness and was hurting his relationship with his girlfriend. "It's hard because it gives me a really intense pleasurable feeling," he says. "But it’s also usually followed by a lot of shame, too."

But for Jennifer*, experimenting with porn and talking about it openly can be helpful—even though it often makes the people she's dating uncomfortable. "I think it's important to just get it out of the way," she says. "You can have a better sex life when all the cards are out on the table."

*Names changed for privacy reasons.

Other Americans  

Since the election, Americans on both sides of the political divide have been feeling deeply alienated and profoundly misunderstood. So we've been asking our listeners one central question: What's the thing that you wish other Americans understood about you, that they don't? 

In this live call-in special, Anna speaks with listeners about their answers to this question. Among the Americans we hear from are Kelly, a black woman in Portland, Oregon, who feels frustrated by the "smugness" of the white liberals she's surrounded by and sometimes feels like she's not being seen in her community; David, a first-generation Jewish American who was inspired by a recent white nationalist speech to wear a kippah for the first time in his adult life; Katherine, a Republican who's tired of being labeled a racist and a bigot; and Jorge, who identifies as a progressive but wants other Americans to know that plenty of Latinos lean right politically. 

We also hear from Nora*, a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill who voted for Hillary Clinton and was shocked when Donald Trump won. "When I voted for Hillary...I did it completely against my own career interests," Nora says. "There are so many people [on Capitol Hill] like me....We are simultaneously terrified of the uncharted unknown but also really excited to...do what we envision for the country." 

This call-in special is part of The United States of Anxiety, WNYC's election series. Find out more about the series here

*Name changed for privacy reasons

What Money Can't Solve  

On November 2, 1983, Darrell Cannon was woken up by the Chicago police banging on his door. He knew the drill. As a longtime gang member, run-ins with the cops were common. He'd already served more than a decade behind bars for a murder conviction.

But that day, something unexpected happened: Darrell says the cops tortured him while they were questioning him. During the torture, Darrell confessed to a crime that landed him back behind bars for 24 years. 

This didn't just happen to Darrell. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, more than 100 people—most of them black men—say they were tortured too. The city of Chicago has officially acknowledged that this happened. Earlier this year, the city approved a $5.5 million reparations package to 57 of the people who suffered at the hands of the police. 

Planet Money reporter Noel King interviewed Darrell shortly after he picked up his reparations check earlier this year. She shared his story as part of a larger Planet Money episode called "Paying for the Crime." And today, in collaboration with Planet Money, we're sharing more of Darrell's story with you. It's a story about money—and the things that money can't solve.

"I hate 'em," Darrell says. "That ain’t never gonna change."

If You're Not ____, Then Never Mind  

Actor Amy Landecker got divorced in 2011. "It was the worst time of my whole life," Amy says. "People told me it was going to get better and I didn't believe them." Amy and her ex-husband share custody of their daughter, and Amy struggled with being away from her for days at a time. "I would watch Louie, there was this one episode in particular where, when his kids would leave he would eat doughnuts, get high and want to kill himself," Amy remembers. "I was just so comforted. Because I was like, 'That's how I feel.'" 

Amy's 47 now, and says the pain of her divorce has eased as time has passed. In the past few years, she's found breakout success in her role as Sarah, the oldest sister on the series Transparent. That's also how she met her boyfriend, actor Bradley Whitford. "My daughter was worried that I was gonna be alone and...she was like, let's just make a list of the qualities that we're looking for," Amy laughs. "So she takes out this piece of paper and she titles it, 'If You're Not This, Then Never Mind.'" Soon after that, Amy met Bradley—who met a lot of their requirements. "I wanted him to like cats and dogs," Amy says. "Bradley has both, which is very rare." 

For the past two decades, Amy has also been sober—a decision she made at 24, after years of hard partying and some sexual close calls. Plus, drinking was getting in the way of her career. "The final drink of my life was before an audition," Amy remembers. "I was absolutely terrible and I was like, 'I'm not going to be able to do what I want to do for a living if I continue down this path.'" 

 

Before being cast on Transparent, Amy worked as a voiceover actor—and voice double. Don't know what that is? Watch this video from New York magazine. Get ready to be amazed. 

I Was More Angry At God  

Two years ago, Jane Chung was living in New York, working at a startup and having the time of her life. The business she co-founded, called Klooff—a sort of "Instagram for pets"—was growing by leaps and bounds. "Everything seemed to align," Jane says. "And I would call my dad every day and I will tell him all the news." Jane, who was 30 at the time, hoped that after her startup got big, she could sell it and help her dad leave behind the dollar store business he owned in California. 

And then, on October 31, 2014, Jane got a phone call from her mother. "Her voice was really weird," Jane remembers. "There was like the feeling that you just kind of know that something awful happened." Jane's father had been shot and killed in a robbery.

That phone call rerouted the course of Jane's life—leading her to pack up her things in New York, sell her business and completely start over in California. Jane moved in with her mom, and struggled to accept that the God she had trusted to take care of her family had let something so terrible happen. "Most people were angry at the murderer," Jane says. "I think I was more angry at God."

In the past two years, Jane's been adjusting to her new life on the West Coast, and figuring out where to draw boundaries between herself and her mother. And she's trying to see God in a new way—and accept that she won't always be able to predict what's coming next. "You collect things in life, you gather pieces, you don't know what you're gonna do with those pieces but somehow it maps to something in your future," Jane says. "It can become a bigger piece of work. I think that's what God does."

Jane made a video that was played in court at her father's killer's sentencing. Watch it below.

  

Ellen Burstyn & Gloria Steinem  

Before the women's movement came around in the 1960s, Gloria Steinem thought her options for the future were limited. "I was being a freelance writer and not having any money to save, and assuming that I would be a bag lady," she tells guest host Ellen Burstyn. "I was supposed to get married and have a man to support me. But that seemed to be a kind of hard bargain."

Gloria was raised by a father who traveled across the country selling jewelry and antiques, and a writer mother who suffered from severe depression. They separated when Gloria was 10 years old, and Gloria soon became her mother's primary caregiver. The journalist and feminist icon says the circumstances she grew up in gave her the confidence to step into the world on her own—like when she traveled to India as a young woman, leaving her then-fiancé behind in the States. "I realized in later life that...I felt not so safe at home because I was a small person looking after a big one," Gloria says. "So I felt the world outside the home was safer."

Gloria broke off that early engagement—but married entrepreneur David Bale when she was 66. "By that time the women's movement had worked for 30 years to equalize the marriage laws," Gloria says. "So no longer would I lose my name and my credit rating and my legal domicile and all my civil rights, as I would have had I got married when I was supposed to. So I thought, 'Well, you know, why not? I mean I'm not going to lose.'" David died three years after they got married, after being diagnosed with brain lymphoma. Gloria says taking care of him at the end of his life forced her to live fully in the present. "He let me do over what I couldn't really do for my mother," she added. "It gave me a chance to do that over."

Gloria is 82 now. And she says she isn't yet very comfortable with the idea of death. "I'm torn because I love it here...I'm very attached," she admits. "I'm still trying to hang in there 'til I'm 100. Because just to meet my deadlines I have to do that."

Feb. 1975 cover of Ms. Magazine featuring Ellen Burstyn, Eleanor Perry and Shirley MacLaine. (Courtesy of Ellen Burstyn.)
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