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Death, Sex & Money

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Death, Sex & Money is a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Host Anna Sale talks to celebrities you've heard of—and to regular people you haven't—about the Big Stuff: relationships, money, family, work and making it all count while we're here.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Nancy, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin and many others.
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Tom Baker is getting his PhD in criminology, and as part of his research he's spent hours watching and studying police shootings. "The goal is to identify...things that police are doing that could be changed in some fundamental way, or maybe just tweaked in a slight way, so that you reduce the number of officer-involved shootings and police related deaths," he told me. This research is personal for Tom. In 2009, while he was working as a police officer in Phoenix, he shot and killed a man while on an off-duty security shift. The killing was determined to be legally justified, but Tom has struggled with it more and more. "You live in a culture where taking a life is the worst thing you can do," Tom told me. "I was trying to do what I thought was the right thing....But then when I didn't feel guilty about it and I didn't feel bad about it, I think the initial thing was feeling, feeling wrong for feeling that way. So feeling guilty for not feeling guilty." Tom left the police force in 2014. But he remains connected to that community, while also forging new relationships within the academic world. "I feel like I'm sort of like straddling the fault line in our country right now," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to just fall into the chasm."  Police killings are not tracked federally, but are tracked by several organizations, including Mapping Police Violence, Fatal Encounters and The Washington Post. A recent study using data from Fatal Encounters examined the risk of being killed by police use of force by age, race-ethnicity and sex, and found that black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police. And while police killings nationally have remained somewhat steady since 2013, the number of deaths in cities have dipped, while the number of deaths in suburban and rural areas has risen. In 98% of cases since 2013, police faced no charges after killing someone. To read Tom Baker's article in The Guardian, click here. 
Last year, we met Sissy and Vickie Goodwin, a Wyoming couple who had been married for 50 years. Around the time they started their lives together, Vickie learned of a secret Sissy had been harboring since childhood: a preference for feminine clothing and cross-dressing in private. Vickie was accepting of it, until Sissy started wearing skirts, dresses and frills in public—something she says took her years to understand. "Sissy and I were kind of out here in the Wyoming wilderness figuring this out together," Vickie told me. "And I'm really glad we did."  A few months after we met the couple, Sissy started having problems with memory and fatigue. This winter, he was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer, and quickly entered hospice. He died on March 7—the same day the Wyoming State legislature recognized Sissy with a resolution, honoring his lifetime of achievements, including "bringing gender independence to the Equality State."  "I read it to him," Vickie told me. "I think it did touch his heart."  The resolution honoring Sissy from the Wyoming State Legislature. (Vickie Goodwin)  
This past summer, as protests were erupting across the U.S. in response to George Floyd's death, racism and police brutality, producer Afi Yellow-Duke and I started talking about the conversations she was having with her family. Her parents both immigrated to the U.S. from other countries—Nigeria and Haiti—and Afi said that the discussions her family was having, about belonging and race and identity, felt complicated. And really interesting.  Afi was curious about what's been going on in other immigrant families' conversations this year. So we asked those of you in immigrant families to tell us. In this episode, hosted by Afi, we hear about how some of you are talking with with your immigrant parents, siblings and extended family about the Black Lives Matter movement, systemic racism in the U.S., the upcoming election, and more. 
Growing up near Indianapolis in the '80s and '90s, Alice Wong wanted to leave. "I knew life was going to be so much better once I got into college," she said. Alice grew up in an immigrant household, and while she had a local Chinese-American community, she rarely saw people who looked like her in the mostly-white community of people with disabilities she was also a part of. In some ways, her new essay collection, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century, bridges that gap. The book is a series of essays by people with a wide range of backgrounds and disabilities.  Alice and I talked about how she learned to advocate for herself as a young adult, leaving Indiana behind, the complications of managing finances while on Medicaid, and how she's planning for her and her parents' futures.
Interviewing people is hard. Interviewing a parent...is harder. But that's exactly what writer Walter Thompson-Hernández does in the final episode of his new podcast California Love from LAist Studios, in which he talks to his mom, Ellie Hernández, about her decision to immigrate to the U.S. from Mexico as a young woman. It's a beautiful episode of a show that's part audio memoir, part love letter to Los Angeles. Subscribe to California Love from LAist Studios wherever you get your podcasts. Then tune in tomorrow, October 16th, at 7 pm ET as we end the festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.
When producer Bianca Giaever found herself feeling especially lonely, she decided to look for a stranger who was feeling lonely, too. In the basement of a Brooklyn church, she met Sophia, a former professor-turned-crossing guard. As they developed a relationship, Bianca recorded conversations with Sophia at her home and in her crosswalk, about everything from faith to divorce to gratitude for what we've been given. She chronicles their friendship in a beautiful episode of her podcast Constellation Prize, called Crossing Guard, and we're sharing it with you today as part of our first-ever Audio We Love Festival.  Subscribe to Constellation Prize from The Believer Magazine wherever you get your podcasts. They've also offered a special 20% discount to our listeners. Just enter the code "DSM" at checkout. Then tune in on Friday, October 16th, as we end the festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.
Every week in the Death, Sex & Money newsletter, we share some of our recent favorite listens with you in our "Audio We Love" section. There are so many great podcasts to listen to...but so little time to discover them. So this week, we're taking our recommendations a step further, and sharing episodes of some of our favorite new shows with you, right here in the feed. First up is Goodbye To All This, a brand new show from the BBC World Service, written and hosted by Australian producer Sophie Townsend. It's a beautiful series about losing her husband to lung cancer, quickly and unexpectedly, and how she and her two young daughters grieved him. The show launched this week, and all twelve episodes are going to be released weekly wherever you get your podcasts.  Subscribe to Goodbye To All This from the BBC World Service wherever you get your podcasts. Then tune in on Friday, October 16th, as we end our festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.  
The United States is a country that’s rapidly aging. According to Census Bureau estimates, the number of people over 65 in the U.S. will nearly double over the next 40 years. They’re also working later, living alone more frequently, and facing financial hardship. And of course, there’s now the pandemic. 80% of COVID-related deaths in the United States have been among people over 65. I see these statistics a lot, but I don’t hear much about what it’s like to be over 60. I don’t think that as a culture, we talk enough about getting older, and when we do, we don’t often do it well. It's time to have better conversations about aging—and we're going to do it with the help of veteran public radio anchor Jo Ann Allen. Jo Ann is the host of the podcast Been There Done That, a show about and for the Baby Boom generation. As she tells me, even as she's learned to navigate uncertainty about financial stability and her fears of COVID-19, she wouldn't trade this period of life for anything. "I am 67 years old, and I am really into older people!" she says. "I love, without a doubt, up and down, over and under, in and out, being an older person and getting older." Over the next few weeks, Jo Ann is going to be stepping into the host chair and recording some interviews with older listeners in our audience about what it's like to be aging, and what questions are coming up for you—especially in this moment. I can't wait for you to meet her. Jo Ann and her dad, who lived to 103. (Courtesy photo)   Are you over 60? We want to hear from you! What's your life look like right now? How are you feeling your age differently this year compared to last year? You can send an email to us, at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. You can call us and leave a message, at (917) 740-6549. Or you can record a voice memo on your phone, and email it as an attachment to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. And if you're not over 60, you can still help us by spreading the word, and sending this episode to someone in your life who is. And make sure to check out Jo Ann's podcast, Been There Done That. We particularly like the episode "Betty," in which she talks to her older sister about surviving coronavirus.
As soon as it was announced in 2016 that BMX freestyle would become an Olympic event, Chelsea Wolfe knew she was going for a spot on the team. "Growing up as a woman in BMX, you don't really get that opportunity to see a future for yourself and doing it professionally," Chelsea told me when we talked this summer. "As soon as they said the Olympics are involved, it just changed the game for all of us."  Since then, Chelsea has been working hard to make the Olympic team—enduring big training injuries and a lot of paperwork along the way. As a trans woman, Chelsea had to have her testosterone levels checked and documented regularly before she could even start to compete in qualifying events. "I spent from 2016 to 2018 just purely training and then doing the behind the scenes work of getting all of my paperwork in order," she told me. "And then right as soon as things start to look great, just, boom! Coronavirus happens and everything is shut down."  Want to see Chelsea in action? Watch her competing at the BMX Freestyle Park World Cup in Japan last year. This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Make sure to check out the previous two episodes, about a high-risk NFL player's decision to participate in this year's season, and a Minor League Baseball player who's dealing with the fallout of a cancelled season and contract. 
Shelby Harris uses inhalers daily to treat his asthma, and worries about what getting COVID would do to his lungs. But when he was given the choice to opt out of the 2020-21 NFL season, the Broncos defensive lineman—now on his seventh season in the NFL—knew he wouldn't take that path. "That could be the end of your career," Shelby told me. "It's just going to be young players that come in and perform, and that's how you get your spot taken."  Shelby is now getting tested for COVID almost daily, and wears a tracker while at NFL facilities to monitor whether he's exposed to anyone who tests positive. But his season looks different in other ways than he thought it would too—including the amount of money he's making, and the way he's protesting racism and police violence during games. Shelby is currently wearing Elijah McClain's name on his helmet, and as the National Anthem played during the Broncos home opener this year, Shelby took a knee for the first time since 2017. "I'm doing this because I need to be able to look my kids in the eye when I get older and told them I fought for them," Shelby said. "I want to figure out something that's actually going to make a change."  This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Look out for the next episode in the series on Wednesday. 
Mitch Horacek started the baseball pre-season in Florida, at minor league spring training for the Minnesota Twins. He'd just been signed by the team months before, after seven long years of playing on a low-paying contract for the Rockies. And he felt like it was going to be a big season. "I was probably slated for AAA baseball this year, which is the closest level to the big leagues," Mitch told me when we talked in August. "I do believe that if the season happened this year and I was pitching well right about now, and there was a spot open, it could have been my number that was called." But the minor league season didn't happen—it was cancelled this spring. Mitch wasn't invited to make his major league debut with the Twins, as he'd hoped. And rather than making the salary Mitch had negotiated with Twins—one that paid him much more than he'd been making for the past seven years—he ended up getting paid a weekly stipend that amounted to $400 a week before taxes. "It is something," he said. "But it's a long shot from what I was expecting."  This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Look out for the next episode in the series on Friday. 
Maria Hinojosa is best known as the host of the public radio program Latino USA, a role she's occupied for over 25 years. But getting to that point in her career required navigating newsrooms at CBS, NPR, CNN, and PBS at a time where she was often the first and the only Latina journalist there. As she writes in her new memoir, Once I Was You, that meant having to walk with confidence and believing in her work when, she says, her mostly white colleagues didn't. But, as Maria told me, the confidence she built while working in media didn't totally translate to other parts of her life. "You know, my marriage almost broke up because of my ego," she said. And as her career became more successful, she told me about the times she says she didn't prioritize her husband and her kids, about the crisis point that led her to reevaluate her role in her relationship and as a mother, and about how, these days, she is practicing listening and self-love.
Last week, we released an episode about the many challenges of childcare in America right now. We talked with a childcare provider in Pittsburgh, Lesely Crawford, whose centers are currently open. And, we heard from a parent, Cara Moody, who’s depending on Lesely's daycare centers so she can go back to work.  But we’ve also heard from a lot of you who haven’t had access to childcare in recent months. And who have had to make big changes in the way you’re taking care of your kids. One of the people who wrote in to us is named Bill Army. He's a Broadway actor who lives in Queens, New York, and has two daughters. We're sharing his voice memo with you today, about the adjustments his family has made, and about the ways he's kept his kids connected with the world outside of their apartment.  Find more photos of Bill and his family at our Instagram page. Looking for our Pandemic Tool Kit? Click here.
"Through and through I'm a lawyer and a judge," says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "But my life experiences do permit me to see things that others may not." Before the Justice became a lawyer and a judge, she was a young woman growing up in the Nuyorican community in the South Bronx—just a few years behind Death, Sex & Money guest host Sonia Manzano, who also grew up there. The two didn't meet until a few years ago, but their childhoods had some similarities: Money was tight, their parents' relationships were troubled, and both of their fathers struggled with alcoholism. But unlike Sonia Manzano's father, who lived well into his 80s, the Justice's father died when she was nine years old. "I’ve often wondered if the outcome of my life would have been the same if my father had remained alive," the Justice says. "I think the absence of that constant battle made a big difference in my self-perceptions." Sonia asks the Justice about facing and overcoming insecurities throughout her life—including on her first day as a Supreme Court Justice. "Anyone presented with a new challenge has to always have that moment of insecurity, of not knowing whether they can do it," the Justice says. "I live with that. I've lived with it my entire life....The first day that I was on the bench was for the now quite famed case, Citizens United. And my knees were knocking even then. But what got me over that moment...was to become totally engaged in what was happening before me, and the knocking finally stopped without my realizing it."  This episode is part of our 2016 Great Guest Takeover series, when several past guests took a turn in the host chair during Anna's maternity leave. Check out Sonia Manzano's 2015 interview with Anna on Death, Sex & Money here.  To listen to our 2016 Other Americans call-in special, click here. And to add to and browse our Pandemic Tool Kit, click here. 
Lesely Crawford runs two daycare centers in Pittsburgh—both of which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. "It's like a hodgepodge of craziness," she told me, as she described their sleeping arrangements and what each age group of kids likes to do while they're there. "But it's so awesome when we have the whole space filled with everybody."   These days, though, Lesely's daycares are operating at less than half of the capacity that they normally do. Many families haven't returned, since the centers reopened to children of non-essential workers. There are additional costs, for things like thermometers and cleaning supplies. And in order to accommodate new families, Lesely needs to hire a few new employees—something that has proved difficult during the pandemic. "I don't know what we're gonna do," Lesely told me, when I asked about their financial situation. "I'm really giving it like six to eight months."  But for the essential and frontline workers who are sending their children to them, Lesely's daycares are providing a critical service. Cara Moody has sent her five-year-old son Colton there for the past two years, and depends on their evening and weekend hours while she works her shifts at a local restaurant. Especially now that her work hours are limited by the pandemic, she can't afford in-home care. "Even just having a babysitter come for a couple of hours is expensive and unreliable," she said. When I asked her what she would do if Lesely's daycare closed, she responded, "I have no idea."
The third conversation in our "Books We Love" live Zoom series is with writer and artist Akwaeke Emezi. In the last two years, they've published three books: their critically-acclaimed debut, Freshwater; a young adult novel, Pet; and their newest novel, The Death of Vivek Oji. Their latest book tells the story of Vivek, a young gender-nonconforming person growing up in Nigeria, and how his loved ones grieve him and what they learn about him after his death. Akwaeke joined me on Zoom from their home in New Orleans to talk about their own childhood in Nigeria, why they now identify as "based in liminal spaces," gardening as a form of self-care, and how the act of dissociation has become a powerful tool for them.   You can watch the video of this live conversation here, thanks to our friends at The Greene Space. For the first two conversations in this series, you can watch or listen to Michael Arceneaux here, and watch or listen to Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman here. And be sure to check out Akwaeke's home on Instagram.  To find out about the next conversation in our series, and to get more recommendations from the Death, Sex & Money team, subscribe to our newsletter.
The United States Postal Service has been in the news a lot in the past week, as national anxiety rises about the upcoming presidential election, mail-in ballots, and the Postmaster General's recent cost-cutting changes to the mail system.  Our listener Beth is a mail carrier in rural Maine who first wrote to us back in March about being an essential worker, and her fears of contracting and spreading COVID-19 on her route. "I don't know if this virus is on the mail," she said then. "The packages, the mailboxes. I touch everything."  When we checked in with Beth more recently, she told us some of those fears have lessened for her. But now, she's facing new pandemic-related challenges at work, including childcare issues, and delivering a lot more packages. "I definitely run from my truck to a house to drop off a package and I run back to my truck and it's go, go, go, go, go all day long," she said, adding that because she gets paid a set rate for her rural route, "I get paid for 43 hours [per week] no matter what." Listen to our episode about essential workers, including Beth, from earlier this spring.   
You have to give it to some elected representatives—they really will respond to the letters you send. Or at least, Alan Simpson did when my boyfriend (now husband) Arthur sent a plea for help. We were in love, but I was a reporter in New York and he studied wildlife in Wyoming. I didn’t think it could work. He did. And he thought that if a U.S. Senator intervened, our relationship could turn around. That’s how I wound up in the kitchen of Alan and Ann Simpson, getting advice on maturity, commitment, and of course, sex. This episode originally aired in 2014.  Correction: During the Clarence Thomas hearings, Anita Hill testified that Thomas described porn movie scenes to her. They did not watch pornography together as former Sen. Alan Simpson said in our interview.
Before the pandemic hit, actor Wendell Pierce was jetsetting around the world, filming scenes for the Amazon series Jack Ryan and starring in a London production of Death of a Salesman. But in March, as the realities of the pandemic set in, he decided to head back to his hometown of New Orleans, where his 95-year-old father still lives in Wendell's childhood home. "I'm going to look on the bright side and say, this is an opportunity to spend this time with my dad," Wendell told me. "I was raised to believe that family is the greatest connection to your past and most likely to be there for you in the future." Wendell worked hard to get his parents back into the home where they raised him and his brothers after it was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "My goal was to get them home before they died," he said. "They were in their seventies, eighties, and I said, I'm going to get you home." Wendell achieved that goal, and his mother was able to spend the last few years of her life living there before her death in 2012. Wendell told me he's been thinking about his mom a lot, as he's been pondering whether or not to have children. "We had conversations about this. She would always say, 'Oh, by the time you have kids, you're going to be too old!'" he told me. "I love my mother so much and I respect her opinion so much. And I trust her opinion so much that it's her voice that echoes in my head saying, 'Oh, you do not know that joy you're missing out on of having a child.'" Are you a new listener? Welcome! Check out our starter kit, which includes some of our favorite episodes of the show. It includes profiles of people like Bill Withers and Ellen Burstyn, stories about how race and class come up in our relationships, and some of our past series — like In New Orleans, which profiled five people who lived in the city during and after Hurricane Katrina. 
Rent Is Due Tomorrow

Rent Is Due Tomorrow

2020-07-3101:302

Today is July 31st—which means that for many of us, rent is due tomorrow. But we know from watching recent data that a lot of people won't be able to pay by that deadline. According to a recent survey, nearly a third of Americans were late on their housing payments in July—or missed them altogether. And other research suggests that as many as 23 million renting families are at risk of losing their housing by October. That's 20% of all renters in the U.S.  So if you’re worrying about how and if you're going to be able to stay in your place, we want to hear from you. If you’re managing to make rent, but it’s tight, what tradeoffs are you making to be able to pay? And if you think you might need to leave your place because of money, where do you think you might go? Tell us what’s going on for you by the end of the weekend. Record a voice memo and send it to us by Sunday night, at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.
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Comments (57)

jackieblue361

One of my favorite stories that you've done Anna. 💙

Nov 17th
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BC

what a wonderful man

Nov 11th
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BC

Oh I love this episode

Oct 18th
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Lucy Sharf

Such a wonderful episode and person. I related to so much. Thank you.

Aug 30th
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f350

you are not poor, you live in north america, you are married to a doctor, you are not poor.

Jul 25th
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Juliana Meowth

she is a greedy, amoral predator with no conscience or empathy, she sounds like a psychopath

May 18th
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BC

This was very good for being so short. So much was packed into these 4 minutes.

May 10th
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BC

God, hearing that someone wrote a will for their child and their mom because they're an essential worker with chronic asthma is so hard. They're fully prepared to die and people are still going out every day with no regards to the safety of people around them. If we can stay at home, we should. Staying at home protects these workers.

Apr 3rd
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Peg Benson

this is the biggest load of horse sh*t. He excuses and justifies his behavior as "self-care"?

Mar 12th
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robert rich

Wow. Glad you called Ethan out on his behavior, Anna. I appreciate the guy's honesty about his actions and motivations - but above that, I didn't hear a true note of contrition or accountability during the whole interview. It actually sounded like he was trying to flirt with you. This was really cringeworthy - and that's coming from a guy.

Mar 5th
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Allison Bothley

Love this guy. Seems so devoted to true love.

Feb 23rd
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Les Knope

This is a good simple example of a white person confronting unconscious bias publicly. More of this, please.

Feb 6th
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BC

these two women at the end are really wonderful to listen to.

Jan 29th
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Mae Lee Arant

where the heck is the dad to support his daughter's college costs? ugh!

Jan 11th
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BC

this is a particularly interesting episode on women's choices and the services Planned Parenthood provides.

Jan 9th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

legos forever!!

Jan 5th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

the greatest victims are the children

Jan 2nd
Reply (1)

BC

This story is so full of pain.

Dec 5th
Reply (1)

L K

Only religion can make totally rational people think and talk like delusional psychopaths. She's not afraid of death because she hasn't faced it truly. To her its merely the next step to paradise. In other words, her ignorance is bliss.

Nov 29th
Reply

BC

I liked the part where Hasan talked about broken trust and talking to his wife afterward.

Nov 26th
Reply
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