HBM094: The Fatigue of Violence

In the nearly 20 years that Susan Randall’s been working as a private investigator, she’s seen Vermont’s most disadvantaged people struggling to have life’s most basic amenities.  Sometimes her job is to interview people addicted to crack, to help determine whether they’re suitable parents. Sometimes her job is to examine blood spatter at gruesome crime scenes.  She recently helped defend a client who murdered a DCF worker in broad daylight.

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Content Note:

Descriptions of violent crimes

Susan has seen how humanity’s worst instincts become possible where cyclical poverty, incarceration, and drug addiction wreak havoc on communities.

There’s a necessary split screen in Susan’s mind.  One screen shows a home life: dropping her kids off at lacrosse, helping them with school projects.  And another screen shows a work life: prison visitation rooms, run-down trailer parks, the color-shifted skin of a corpse.

Producer Erica Heilman interviewed Susan over the course of three years.  Erica is a private investigator herself, and Susan was her mentor. The two talk about the mechanics of the legal system, poverty and how to survive a job that takes such an emotional toll.

Erica produces the podcast Rumble Strip. Some of the audio on this episode came from here and here.  Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton re-purposed this audio for Here Be Monsters.

Music:  The Black Spot

HBM076: Griff's Speech

As a baby, Griff Eldridge was quieter than most.  But he slept well.  He fed.  He played with his big brother Ira. And he smiled easily.  For a long time, his parents Luke and Davinia didn’t worry, because he was so happy and healthy.

When Griff became a toddler, Luke and Davinia started to compare his speech to the speech of  other children and to the standards laid out in the Personal Child Health Record, a book issued to new parents by the UK government.  

Griff was on track when he started to babble around 12 months old.  But, unlike other children, the babble never evolved to understandable sentences.

Luke and Davinia began to track Griff’s speech in a notebook and test his hearing. They took him to several doctors, none of whom agree on a single diagnosis.  They learned of “Verbal Dyspraxia” and “Phonological Disorder”.  He’d see a speech therapist.

Griff is nearly four years old, about to start primary school, and still he’s never spoken a fully coherent sentence.  They have 18 months to get him up to speed.  Recently, Davinia’s been teaching Griff the signing language Makaton (see below).

Makaton is a signing language meant to supplement spoken words.  

Nursery rhymes performed in Makaton.

In this episode, producer Luke Eldridge (Griff’s father) shares scenes from their home as his family works together to help Griff learn to talk.  Bethany Denton edited this episode, along with help from Jeff Emtman. Additional editing help from Nick White at KCRW.

Music:  The Black Spot   |||   Flowers

Hello NYC!  Jeff and Bethany are speaking at The Unplugged Soul at Columbia University’s Heyman Center on April 14th and 15th.  It’s free.  Register here.

HBM046: Crooked Skirts

Growing up in Queens, NY, Karen Smith had no reason to suspect anything was wrong with her. Even when it hurt to sit for too long, or when her clothes didn't fit right, everything seemed fine. That's because Karen's mother did everything she could to hide the fact that Karen had Spina Bifida.  The condition gave Karen severe scoliosis, a curve in her spine that made walking painful and made her skirts hang crooked.  Her mother removed any full-length mirrors from the house in attempts to keep Karen from becoming self-conscious. But as she grew older, her scoliosis became more severe.  And by the time she was in fifth grade, Karen had to be hospitalized in a children's ward, in and out of a corrective halo.  This was just the beginning of three long years of treatment.

Bedridden and limited in her mobility by body casts and back braces, Karen judged the passing of time by the sounds around her as her vision progressively worsened. She found solace in her AM radio, pulling in stations in from far away in the middle of the night.  She heard sounds of the courtyard below, filtering up through an open window.  She wondered if the other kids would be too old to play with her by the time she's healthy enough to join them. 

Music: Garrett Tiedemann of American Residue Records

This story was produced and scored by Garrett Tiedemann, creator of The White Whale podcast.  Garrett also works for Sister Story, a series that shares the daily lives of Catholic nuns.   Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman edited this piece. Nick White is our editor at KCRW.

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