It's a lovely spring Easter day! I woke up to sunlight pouring through my window and it was a great way to start the morning. I jumped out of bed, and started my day...
I haven't been doing much writing lately for several reasons...One, the days leading to and after my co-defendant's pending execution (he received a stay, thank goodness) filled me with anxiety. It was more emotionally tolling that I expected. Then, I came down with the 'flu, which started with a splitting headache. The headache was gone the very next day, and I felt fine until it came back – full force – and then I was as sick as a dog for the next few days. It spread through B-Pod like wild fire, and the entire pod is either sick right now, or going through the last of it.
I'm feeling much better now though, and I plan on returning to my memoir tomorrow and finishing it all up this week. Then, we'll do a final edit and it will be complete! I do want to rework the structure of the prologue, and the first chapter, to fit with the epilogue I have in mind. Then, once this is all out of the way, I'll finish the radio play I've been writing with my girlfriend, and then start on my second memoir about better and happier times I had as a child.
In other news, the warden came through about a week ago and said that in early May he plans on allowing death row a 7 day recreation schedule...When I first came to death row on June 12th, 2003, we used to have a 7 day recreation schedule but only received one hour each day, and it was pretty effective. In 2005 I think they changed it, or some time around that year, but it went to a five day schedule with a rotating day off throughout the week. This, too, was an effective rec schedule. Then, three years ago an idiot Captain tinkered with the formula and it's been a mess ever since. I think the warden wants to get back to something that works.
I'll say this about our new warden...He can be a bit of an ass-hole, but he runs things with military efficiency, and expects the rules to be followed. But in recent months, I've also seen a fair side to him where he has taken some of our complaints to heart, and has tried to get things fixed if it's a serious issue. I think one of the biggest problems is that none of the ranking officers or administrators communicate very well with each other, and their leadership skills are lacking, so things do descent into massive screw ups and chaos.
Here's to hoping a seven day rec schedule will make things a little better...It's Passover now, and today seems easier at least. So, Happy Holidays to all.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
April 22nd, 2019
A very interesting day it has been...So, they've started this 'heat advisory' stuff where they shut down recreation for the outside at 1pm, until 6pm - never mind that it's only 78 degrees outside and we don't start seeing extreme heat until June!
So, what happens is this: you have three sections of 14 people - each section wanting to go outside - and there just isn't enough time in the day to get everyone out. And how do they try to remedy that probem? By addressing the officers' extreme laziness? No! Instead, they feel the answer is to start rec at 4.30am!! In theory, that should allow at least 4 rounds of recreation before they shut the outside down...Did that happen? Nope! The guards only did about 2 1/2 rounds of rec outside, and now you still have 30 plus inmates waiting to go outside in the evening.
Second shift has to have recreation finished by 10pm, which means that some people just aren't going to get theirs...It's a mess, and until the problem is rectified (which, let's face it, it hasn't been addressed properly in several years, and I don't think it ever will!) this tense and frustrating situation will continue the way it is.
Going into the day in such chaos, I had to just push on and put my head down and get to work. I wanted to finish up my memoir, and outside of a few chapter clean-ups and further editing, I can happily and proudly say, "IT'S FINISHED!!" I am mailing it off to my Webmaster this week, and hopefully it will be on my website in the next few weeks.
The final chapters were extremely difficult to write and relive, and it brought back a lot of pain and remorse, but all I can hope for is to be forgiven...I hope that people won't see things in black and white, and will instead see the huge swathe of grey that has been my life. I thank everyone who has encouraged me and tried to understand - it means more than you'll ever know.
Otherwise, it's been a lovely day. It started off a bit grey and looked like a pop up shower was going to happen, but soon the clouds burned off and the sun has been out and the sky is just beautiful! East Texas skies get some of those big puffy cotton ball-like clouds, and it's gorgeous.
I'm still waiting on recreation...I doubt I'll get it, but who knows?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 1st, 2019
I can't believe it's May already! We're in the fifth month of the year....Where's the time going? So, a bit of decent death row news, which is good...Someone else received a stay of execution yesterday, and they moved him to this pod in the afternoon. That takes the people on Death Watch down to two – probably the lowest number in a very long time! There are a lot of guys who have been either kicked out of the Supreme Court and waiting on dates, or like me, they are now just entering into the Supreme Court, but I think a lot of these Counties are losing their appetite for executions. The smaller Counties just can't afford them any more, and the larger Counties like Harris, Dallas, and Bexar, don't have the blood lust they once did. I think it's more the politicians and ultra right wing conservatives who are keeping it alive.
Well, we were expecting the recreation schedule to change today as the Warden had said it would, but it didn't happen...In the past few weeks (especially since they are now closing down the outside rec yards from noon until 6pm) many people are being screwed out of their recreations and showers – it happened to me twice last week! It really sucks, and I hate complaining about it...It's actually mainly why I've been avoiding writing journals of late – the place has been getting gradually worse! I'm not expecting a Disney World theme here, but for the collective sanity of the environment, and for a safe environment, recreation is crucial. People can get out of their cells, stretch their legs, exercise, and let off steam and frustration. But when you're sitting in your cell, everything builds up.
Another one of my issues is my current cell location. Whilst I'm close to one of my friends, I'm on a section full of immature idiots! One of them turns their radio speakers up all day and night, without any kind of respect or regard for the people around him. In a way, I feel sorry for him because the dude acts like a 13 year old...It's a clear case of arrested development, and people have tried to talk to him and reason with him about how disrespectful he is being towards the people around him, but he doesn't care. It seems like this whole section erupts into chaos around 9 in the morning.
I went outside early this morning and enjoyed the fresh air, but I'm needing some sunshine badly! I haven't been in direct sunlight in almost a year.
10.11am...Wonder of wonders...I actually received a shower! When I came in from recreation I asked the guards if they would put me straight into the shower as I keep everything right by the door so that they don't have to undo the handcuffs on me...My shower bag was taken in the last shake down, but I had someone make me a new one, and it hangs right there, ready to grab. They told me “No,” so I said, “So...I guess it'll be second shift, then?” I mean, that's what usually happens! But they're actually working today – amazing!
I'm going to try to focus and keep up with work...My girlfriend kind of got onto me, but I do have a reasonable excuse...Still, I will try to push through it.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 5th, 2019
Happy Cinco de Mayo day!
Well, the past few days have been interesting...I saw my attorney on Tuesday, and it was a good meeting, and definitely gave me some much need pep in my step! Some good things are happening – and coming – and whilst I remain cautious and grounded, I'm also extremely optimistic.
I did a little re-writing on my memoir, fine tuned the Prologue and first chapter, and once we do the final edit things will be good to go, so I'm excited about that. I'm really eager to get it out there and have to say that my girlfriend is doing a whizbang job of putting it all together for me. She's awesome! We just make a great creative team and I love that about our relationship. Even if we were just friends, we'd make a great creative team.
Next up is writing the final act of the radio play we've been working on, and then writing a new memoir about some of the happier times in my childhood – something that isn't as depressing as my first memoir! My working title for the new memoir will be, “When all I have to give is love” and that may change later, but it will be something like that anyway. I'm going to ask a friend back here to paint a cover for it. I've got an idea for how I want it to look.
The recreation problem is still bad, but recently, some guys I helped write grievances have been lucky enough to “win” and that gives me hope that things till turn around...We'll see.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith!
May 6th, 2019
This day has been no different than others...Chaos, and even more chaos! As I write this I'm still waiting to go outside and it's probably going to be second shift when I go out...I've been trying to get out to play ball with this other guy for the past two weeks, but because everything has been so crazy, we still haven't managed it. Oh well, life goes on...
Instead of letting it all get to me I decided to finish up the third act of a radio play I've been working on for a LONG time, about the Law of Parties...It's officially finished, and I'll get it out to my girl and she'll work her magic on it and polish it up! I'm pretty excited to see how it turns out.
It's a lovely day even if I never get to get out directly in the sun anymore – it's been well over a year since the direct sun has been on my skin, and I've kind of forgotten what it feels like. I'd probably burst into flames!
Well, onwards and upwards as they say!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
May 11th, 2019
"Vengeance...I can't wrap my head around it. I think a lot of people confuse justice with vengeance. Vengeance is repaying a bad act with a bad act, in turn – the whole 'eye for an eye' thing. Justice is doing the right thing, the noble thing. When people say, “We need to bring this person to justice,” what many of them mean is, “This person needs to pay for what they did.” That isn't justice...That's revenge – plain and simple!"
A lot of people also say, “We need swift justice,” but I'm not quite sure that reacting quickly or swiftly, in the heat of emotion, is always the rational way to serve justice. This is especially true when a life or lives are at stake. It's one thing to react quickly in self-defence, like one country striking another, or a person under physical attack striking back...That's noble...That's 'just'. But when an accused person is condemned for a crime, and their life is at stake, I think it serves justice to be cautious...To turn over every stone, and ensure that everything is done in the interest of true justice. Without this course of action, the State, investigators, and prosecutors, find ways to bend the truth against the accused, or repay an evil act with another evil act because they believe they're on the 'right side of justice.' That's not justice...That's revenge.
I've been thinking about this a lot over the past week or so. Whether it's our own government and how they often react rashly to things, but also of course, my own case...I don't consider myself a victim in any way, and I don't ever want to play the 'victim card'...I own every single mistake and bad thing I've ever done in my life, and I'm deeply sorry for things that have hurt people. But I also know that I'm not a killer. I know the facts, and no matter how much bending, twisting or denying of those facts goes on, my story has never, ever changed. And yet, the State continues on with their campaign of revenge, with many of us back here. I don't understand how any of that can serve true justice. I will never understand how revenge could be confused with justice...I just don't understand vengeance at all.
I've never been the vengeful type...I've never thought, “This person wronged me so I'm going to do everything in my power to get them back!” I've been on death row now for almost 16 years. I was sent here on 12th June, 2003, and during that time I've been poked, prodded and screwed over by guards, and sometimes inmates, more times than I can count. Never – not one single time – have I ever thought, “I'll show them, and I'll be justified in doing so!” Have I been angry at times? Sure! I've argued with them, but never have I acted out in any sort of violence – I don't even like to cuss people out.
One of the questions a jury has to decide upon when sentencing someone to death, is 'will they be a continuing threat to society?' And they're allowed to take into account that the environment of prison is 'society' as well...So, if I'm a continuing threat, where or how have I acted out? Where have I harmed someone? The State was wrong...The jury were wrong...16 years is a long, long time.
I had a legal visit the other day, and I was talking with my attorney and telling him something someone had shared with me years ago...There are 3 types of person in prison:
1) Those who become woven into the fabric of prison...They accept that they've been titled, and they will fight, cheat and steal, and sometimes even kill.
2) Those who will do whatever it takes to survive, and if that means they have to join a gang, they will do it. If they have to pay protection to others, they will do it. They are part of the fabric because they want to survive, but they also want to make it out alive.
3) Those who are on the periphery, who try to avoid trouble, who don't see themselves as 'criminals' or even as 'inmates' and typically when they get out they try to get back to a normal life. They might have screwed up, made mistakes in life, but they aren't 'bad' people.
I know who I am...I know my heart.
So...that's what has been on my mind lately...I've also been a bit anxious of late because some verybig stuff to do with my case is in the pipe line, and will be filed soon. It's going to make heads spin, and once again prove that I didn't get a fair shake in this whole mess...That justice – the real definition – wasn't served.
There's also something good happening for us back here...After a long and hard battle to get a recreation schedule that works, we are starting a new one this coming Monday! I'll explain it all in my next journal, but it will be one less thing to stress about for sure, and I have enough stress as it is!
Finally, in closing, I want to ask people to pray for my girlfriend's brother. He recently had a serious heart attack, and as of writing this, he's very ill, but recovering slowly. Her family have been very loving and accepting of me since the very beginning, and even as her brother was recovering in his hospital bed, he still asked her about me and how I was doing...It means more than they will ever know. I'm extremely fortunate to have their support, and I'm blessed to have her love, her friendship, and everything that comes with it. She's definitely my warrior queen!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 12th, 2019
Happy Mother's Day...regardless of whether or not you have me in your life, I do love you, mom...
The sun is finally coming out after a week of rain and storms. I love the grey, I really do...It always brings out some good writing in me, but I also crave the sunshine!
I mentioned yesterday that our recreation schedule is changing on Monday. Initially, we were supposed to get 7 days of recreation, but I knew it was going to create more problems. A few of us back here have been writing grievance forms and trying to get the warden to go back to our old recreation schedule. Under the old schedule, we had the same five days of rec, but one day for each section was an 'off' day, and it would rotate throughout the week. It also worked better when they weren't trying to cram three sections (42 people) outside, in a 15 hour period. It was impossible, and many people were losing recreation because of that.
So, we fought and fought, trying to point out the shortcomings in the more recent schedule, and on Wednesday, a new schedule was posted, and it's back to the old one! The section I currently live on is A-section, and our 'off' day is going to be Monday. Our outside days will be Wednesday and Saturday, and I'll finally be able to get some sun on my skin! I've not been in direct sunlight for over a year – no joking! I never get out in the sunlight – it's always either very early in the morning, or late at night, or sometimes not at all...This is going to change, and we're all looking forward to it. It will also be much less stressful for the officers, because on any given day they will have 14 fewer rounds of recreation to do.
I'm entering into a very important time in my case, and I need many, many prayers. I'm a little anxious and eager, but I know – I feel it in my gut – that this is what's going to turn everything around. I will live! I refuse to accept anything but a chance at life and redemption!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 13th, 2019
A bright and warm Monday...I woke up at about 6.30am, and got a jump start on the day! I wrote a letter to my girl, prayed, and then exercised. I thought the guards were going to do showers as our section wasn't going to recreation today, but they only did one round, and this particular crew will probably leave the rest for second shift. I guess even with a new and easier recreation schedule, some things just don't change...
Speaking of the new rec. schedule...They changed it again this morning. It's still similar to what we thought it was going to be, but they changed some of the days around so now I need to find out when A-section is going to rec. It seems like they made it a little more complicated than it needed to be! Cue my favourite saying: “It's not rocket science!”
Well, I'm entering into this next few weeks with a lot of hope, and I'm eager to see when the “big filing” will happen - it's due very soon, and I can't wait to be able to talk openly about it and to see all of the work my attorneys have put into it...I don't know all of the details as yet, and I cannot say too much right now, but it's BIG, and nobody will be able to say, “It wasn't a big deal!”
I'm praying...I'm always praying for mercy.
Well, it's later in the day now, and the new rec schedule seems to be working flawlessly! Just like we knew it would. This is going to ease up so much stress! I guess what I can't figure out is why it took several administrations to see it and listen to us...
Well, here's to hoping that good things are on the horizon!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 14th, 2019
It's been a fairly productive day...I finished up the first chapter of my new memoir and I'm sure it will be posted soon. It's set in the happier times in my life, but I found writing that first chapter a little more emotional than I first thought – especially remembering my first conversation with my adoptive grandfather. I really wish I had known him longer...He had a stroke when I was about 9, and then he passed when I was around 10 or 11. I do have some fond memories of my time with him though, and even in that brief amount of time, he made a big impression on me. Some of those memories will be worked into the memoir.
I was initially set up for recreation, 4th round, but was bumped up to 3rd round, which I was happy about. I don't mind 4th round, but 3rd is definitely the sweet spot in the recreation schedule – the guards are on a break, everyone is taking naps or busy writing letters, and there's a kind of peacefulness around that time that I really like. This new schedule is working very well so far, and I can't overstate the amount of stress it has eased throughout the whole place.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 15th, 2019
It's been a relatively peaceful day. I was working on the second chapter of my next memoir, but I stalled a bit and hope to finish it tomorrow. I'm trying to figure out how I want to move through my childhood - which memories I like to look back on, and those which bring me the most joy, as well as highlighting the positive and loving moments between me and my family. I spent the last memoir talking about how everything fell apart, and how my parents reacted to everything, and whilst it was harsh and hurt a lot, I do have many happy memories with them, and had some great experiences growing up. I also want to talk about the kind of kid I was, and how I related to my environment and the world around me as a child coming from a background of abuse, and then being adopted...I'm figuring out the structure as I move along.
A funny thing happened earlier. I like to get on my bed and look out the window occasionally, watch people go down the side walks, watch birds, nature, or even just stare at the grass and wild flowers swaying in the wind. It's meditative for me, but for some, it makes them feel depressed and they never look out of their window. I do feel a sense of longing...but it has never depressed me.
So, I'm watching some birds peck around in the grass, watching some general population inmates and guards walk around outside, when a GIANT wasp flew up to the glass and bumped into it! For a second, I forgot the glass was there, and I let out a scream of holy terror before falling backwards and almost breaking my neck...NOT COOL! Ha ha...
So, the day of the big filing is coming nearer and nearer...I'm anxious and eager to have it all out there! [Note from Webmaster: A link to the latest filing can be found on the 'Welcome' page of the site].
Courage, strength, hope and faith.
May 16th, 2019
I woke up at breakfast time, which was later than usual - around 5.20am. A a really cool Nigerian guard gave me two egg trays which I was really thankful for, and it shows there are some who treat us as humans and don't let the power go to their heads. I was going to fall back to sleep, but then shift change happened and I noticed we had an extremely slow and lazy crew...I sighed, and figuring it was going to be a long day, I forced myself to remain positive.
I wasn't scheduled for recreation at first, but then they came back and told me around lunch time that I was going to E-section, 4th round. I'll probably be stuck out at rec until 2nd shift, but I have a friend over there so I can talk to him for a while - just getting out of the cell will be nice.
I'm sooooo ready for this filing to happen! I want to be able to talk about it openly, but my attorneys have said I can't speak about it until it's been filed...I have a gut feeling that this is what's going to turn things around for me. I'm not a person who reads 'signs' etc, and I don't believe in dreams, but I guess it was a strong coincidence that a very close friend back here told me the other day - out of the blue - that he had a dream that his mom told him, "Don't worry about Randy, he got off death row." I thought that was a nice thing to share and I'll take it!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 20th, 2019
I've been pretty jittery all day long...I suppose it has to do with waiting on word about the filing, and I'm hoping to hear about it tonight, in a letter - then I can finally talk about it! I've had to keep it all in for months...
The weekend was fairly quiet; I was scheduled to go outside on Saturday at 6pm, and I was stretched out and pumped up, ready to play basketball. We got outside and started our first game when the guards came right back out and said they had to shut it down due to lightening. We didn't see any lightening, but once the call goes out, that's that...I went straight to the shower and then spent some time listening to the radio.
Today, I woke up after 4am when I thought I missed breakfast - I did miss it because the guard never woke us up! I'm a fairly light sleeper and I'm programmed to wake up to certain sounds - gates slamming shut, the squeak of a chow cart's wheels...I knew they didn't wake me up! I tossed and turned until 1st shift came on, then I got out of bed, started a letter to my girl, and exercised. I thought that because A-section has an off day today, I'd get a shower early, but it's evening time now and we're - the entire section - still waiting for showers. The guards on first shift did almost no work! Pretty crazy...The whole point of the new recreation schedule was to alleviate the work load. I guess it still requires people to do their jobs properly and efficiently...Sigh...
I spent a good bit of time today looking out of my window. The wall was really warm so I know it's very hot outside. I love to look out, meditate, and day dream...All in all, it hasn't been a bad day, I just need to calm my nerves!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 27th, 2019
My memorial day weekend kicked off with a bang! Normally I'd be down in the dumps, depressed, and wishing I had a time machine so I could go back to the Friday evening I jumped into a taxi cab in 1995, and stop myself from putting this whole entire mess in motion...I will always believe that had I not left that day, had I not gone to Louisville, Kentucky, I would not be RIGHT HERE. That being said, I've been waiting for some big things to happen with my appeals, and I knew it was coming...I was told on the 17th that it would be filed, and it was, but I still hadn't seen the actual filing until a couple of days later...All I can say is, “Wow!” My Webmaster has posted a link to the filing on the front page of this website, so anyone can read it and come to their own conclusions. It's more obvious now than ever, that the cards were well and truly stacked against me in my own trial, and I never had a chance. Never mind having the law of parties...Never mind that I wasn't even a shooter...But to have a racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic judge presiding over my trial??
When I was adopted I hadn't really been exposed to bigotry. I can't remember any circumstances before I was adopted either. My parents raised me to love and appreciate all human beings...I had two Korean brothers who I loved and adored, and I can only recall (prior to going to school in Kentucky) one incident where I was picked on for being Jewish...There was this kid called Chance, in the 7th grade, and he constantly called me 'Jew Boy' and would say things like, “Heil Hitler” as he passed by me in the hallway. One day I'd had enough and we ended up fighting...When I was suspended, my dad was furious and went to the school to say it wasn't my fault, and the teachers were on my side as well.
When I went to school in Kentucky, however, I became much more aware of bigotry's ugly face...Teachers were telling me I would go to hell, and I was becoming more and more sensitive to the 'passion plays' that would spark anti-Jewish sentiment over Jesus' death, and the choice of Barabus over Jesus...Teachers and students who knew I was Jewish would ask, “Why did you kill Jesus?” I'd say in return, “I didn't kill anyone!” I was told the Star of David was a symbol used by Satanists, and so on and so on...To make things worse, I had no one to talk to about what was going on at that time because I worried my dad wouldn't believe me, thinking it was an attempt to try and get back home. I just had to deal with it.
In prison, even though I never faced physical harm, I did have to listen to anti-Jewish sentiment from White Supremacists and other groups, but the one place you should NEVER, EVER have to expect it or encounter it is in the justice system! Whilst I can never compare my experience of bigotry to any African-American's experience, you shouldn't have to deal with it in the court room, regardless of race or creed.
So, we'll see what happens, but hopefully what has happened to me will not only turn my case around, but it will also aid other defendants of color who were tried or sentenced by this particular judge...It will take a lot of time for all of this to hash out, but I have hope!
Over the weekend I've pretty much been vegging out. I cleaned my cell, listened to some radio programs, and just kicked back. On Saturday morning I was able to get out whilst the sun was shining, and I played some basketball. Unfortunately, I lost by 8 measly points, after a pretty strong winning streak!
Well, here's to hoping for good things to come, and a good week ahead...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 28th, 2019
Today turned out to be a real bummer. (Side note: I just laughed to myself because as a kid when I used to use the word 'bummer' my dad would tell me to 'Stop talking like a valley girl'...I don't even think I knew what that meant as a kid! I hadn't seen the Nicholas Cage movie until my teens). I was scheduled for recreation, third round A section, and thought, “this is great!” I wanted to be in my cell by the evening because I had plans to listen to “The Lion King” on my radio at 7pm. It had been over 20 plus years since I'd seen it, and growing up a huge Disney fan and having wonderful memories attached to that film, I didn't want to miss it.
Then things went KABOOM!
After the first round of recreation, the guards closed down A-section because the maintenance crew called the pod and said they had to fix something. That would push my recreation back to fourth round and I was a bit nervous...Often, fourth round stays in the day room no less than 5 hours due to shift change, and depending on the officers working second shift, they may or may not take an inmate back to their cell...I was going to chance it though 'cause I needed to exercise, and I had a plan to ask the officers (as soon as second shift came on) to please put me back in my cell so I could make it on time for the movie.
Lunch came and the guards shut down recreation to pass out the trays...The longer it took, the more it pushed the recreation schedule back, and by 1pm they still hadn't set up second round of rec. I knew then I'd never make the movie if I went to rec, so I was resigned to just skip it. It upset me a bit...Oh well...I'd take the loss of recreation to listen to the movie...
As luck would have it, though, recreation was cancelled altogether because 'pest control' was going to come on the pod and spray. We have a huge cockroach problem here, and this pod is particularly bad. They sprayed at around 2pm, then started up the showers. Then second shift came on at 5.30pm, and we had a decent crew, so they handled the the remaining showers and kept things running smoothly.
As I type this I'm listening to 'The Lion King' and geeze...I actually got a little emotional as a flood of memories came rushing back to me. I can't believe I'd forgotten so many of these songs! I mean, I still remember numbers like “Hakuna Matata,” “The Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” But others I'd just forgotten!
I'm waiting on mail now...My girlfriend is in Canada right now, visiting her brother who is seriously ill, and I'm hoping that she not only arrived safely, but that her brother is improving as well. The heart doctor has said he needs to become stronger before he can have some necessary surgery, so I'm hoping everything is okay with her right now. She works 7 days a week, and has to travel with her work every weekend, and now travelling back and forth to Canada as well...It sucks that we can't use a telephone in these difficult times.
No Jpays! This is happening more and more lately, and I know she would always let me know she was okay...Sigh...
Well, here's hoping everything is okay.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 29th, 2019
I didn't get much sleep last night. As I said in yesterday's journal, I am worried about my girlfriend and her brother. The Jpay email system is supposed to turn the mail around quickly – within 48 hours – but in Texas, however, they can't seem to hand them out in a timely manner. We also can't email back - we have to respond via snail mail, which can make things difficult in times like this. Our mailroom here is particularly slow with mail, and sometimes we can wait longer than necessary for our Jpays – several people on my section alone are constantly missing Jpays they know they should have received. I usually get mine fairly regularly, but at this stressful time, I don't know why they are so slow in passing them out.
Anyway, I woke at 5.30 for recreation, and went outside just before 6. I played some basketball, but I was just too tired to put my all into it. We managed to play 5 games to a hundred points each game, but despite coming close to winning, I couldn't pull it off. I ended up losing by 28 points!
We've been playing a different way lately because it's better exercise, and it actually improves your shot. So, for years, I always played first to 10 points, but with these games to 100, it's the first to make 100 goals. If my opponent makes 100 and I make 96, he gets 4 points. If in the next game I make 100 and he makes 90, it takes his points away and gives me 6 points. It really does make you work harder because not only are you trying to win the game, you're trying to keep your tally up without falling behind.
I thought we'd come back in and go straight to the shower, but we've got an extremely lazy crew of officers today...I had to rinse off in my sink because I was a sweaty mess, and then I washed my clothes.
For most of the day, besides worrying about my girlfriend, I've been thinking about all the memories that came flooding back when I listened to the Lion King last night. It was a family favourite when I was growing up – especially a favourite of my little brothers! I can remember throwing blankets and pillows on the floor in our games room, and 'camping out' as we watched it together. Sometimes they would come rushing into my bedroom demanding I put the DVD on and I didn't mind because the whole family were Disney fans, and I loved those movies too.
I used to use a nifty trick when I was babysitting my brothers on my parents' date nights. My dad would want the house cleaned before they came home, and so, to get my brothers to help out I'd say, “Whoever cleans up the most in the house will get to pick the movie we watch.” They'd run off in a mad dash picking up toys, as I would vacuum...In the end, I'd let them both pick a movie, It'd usually be Aladdin or the Lion King.
When I'd come back home on a school break, my brother Jimmy liked to sneak into my room...He'd want to watch a movie late at night and I'd say, “Okay, I'll put something on, but if mom or dad come into the room, you have to pretend to be asleep!” I'd put on a Disney movie and in seconds, Jimmy would be out like a light!
Well, here's to hoping I get some mail tonight!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 2nd, 2019
It's been an interesting weekend...The mailroom had either been sitting on my letters, or just not sending them to me, but I got a stack of letters from my girlfriend and thank goodness she's okay, and her brother's health is improving. I was so relieved!
On Saturday, recreation was cancelled because of 'staff shortages' and I had been hoping to get outside to play basketball. Instead, I caught up on things I needed to and then I listened to some music on my radio. One of my favorite radio programs is called “Sound Awake”. It's on 90.1 KPFT out of Houston, and it used to be broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon, for years, but more recently, the program switched to Saturday night at 10pm to midnight. The DJ can be frustrating in that he has a bad habit of talking over the music and talking for way too long, which eats up the time that could be used for playing music. But that said, this program is one of the only places I get to hear songs I would normally not hear on mainstream radio. I don't hide my dislike of the music on mainstream radio – every once in a while something will be good, but it's a rarity now. KPFT is all I have for the really good stuff.
So, last night, the DJ was doing his tradition of honoring the 25 year anniversary of the current graduating class, and it fell on 1994. I immediately perked up and became excited because the tail end of 1993 and all of 1994 is one of my favourite years for music. Sooooo many good albums and songs! I have some great memories from that year as well, and the DJ really knocked it out of the park! The Cure's cover of 'Purple Haze', Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, and it went on and on...Just wonderful! Two whole hours of bliss! I was so excited from the music high that I couldn't get to sleep.
I slept in until 7.30am this morning, and set about the day knocking out some mail, when a little after 9am the guards said they were running recreation. I had to put everything else on hold and get ready! We went outside and the sun came back out (it had been overcast at the start of the morning) and we ran 4 games to 100...I won by 50 points!
Well, the guy I was outside with was a bit upset that we weren't going to get showers, and requested to talk to a sergeant. I told him it was going to be a losing argument, but he wanted to talk to him anyway. When the sergeant came, it was a really young and hot-headed dude, and I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere...So, the sergeant didn't even try to listen - he cut the dude off and said, "You're not getting a shower." At that point the guy I was outside with said, "Okay, I'll write a grievance." I was watching the body language of the sergeant and it changed to hostility immediately! Then, the sergeant said, "Write your fucking grievance. Spell my name right!" And he began to spell it out for him...The inmate said, "I'm just letting you know, that's all."
"I don't give a fuck. I'll end your recreation right now. You think I give a fuck?"
I could see it was escalating, so I tried to intervene and calm things down because the guy I was outside with has a history of assaulting guards when he feels disrespected. I said, "Hey, sarge..." but he slammed the door on us and I didn't get to finish. I told the guy, "Look, calm down. Don't do anything. Don't make this worse. I'm a witness to this so we'll write a grievance and we'll write the internal affairs division and make sure he doesn't try to retaliate. At least it'll be on record. If you do something, we won't win. But we can win this because he wasn't acting as a professional.
He finally calmed down and we'll file the grievances tomorrow morning. After that incident, I laid down in the sun and just enjoyed the fresh air.
Because we aren't getting showers I had to bathe in my sink when we got back inside, and I still have to do laundry. After I catch up on things, I'll jam out to the radio some more...I still need to heat up my lunch!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 5th, 2019
It's been a grey and wet day, but I'm in fairly decent spirits. I woke up at 7 this morning and was all but certain they would cancel outside recreation because of the storms we've been having in this area, but they kept it open. I asked the guy I was going to go outside with if he was still going and he said he was, so we were out before 8 even though it was raining, but not too heavily.
I love summer rain...It's the best kind of rain! Clean, rejuvenating, and takes me back to being a kid. I had a memory pop up about my childhood friend, Chad, when we were growing up in Arlington, Texas. I was about 11 at the time and I'd often hang out over at his place over summer break. We'd watch re-runs of 'The Fall Guy' and other shows, and then head out to the local shopping mall. I remember it was raining heavily one day, and we were bored being couped up in his house, so we went outside to play in the rain. His yard quickly turned to mud, and we started stomping around in it. We stripped down to our boxers and began kicking the mud at each other, then we began grabbing it and flinging it at one another - it quickly turned into an all out mud fight! The down side is we tore up his yard, so when his parents came home they were pissed! We had to hose off, then we got chewed out...Over the next few days we had to reseed their lawn, and tidy everything up, but hey, it was worth it! (ha ha).
So, back to today...We started playing ball and running carefully in the rain. The dude I was outside with fell, and I said, "You okay?" And he said he was fine, so we went back at it. On the fourth game, I took a nasty slip! I felt both of my feet come up so I turned my body to the side, but as I came down I hit my knee first and skinned it...The guy asked me if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah." I shook it off and we got on with the game. Some blood was trickling down my leg, but I wasn't about to stop. He ended up winning in the end by 19 points...Oh well...Maybe next time!
When I came back in I washed up, did my laundry and cleaned up my scrape, putting some Neosporin on after it was cleaned up...I'm okay.
I really like our new recreation schedule, and it has eased a lot of stress. We're guaranteed to get our outside recreation, and that makes things much better. Yesterday, they shut recreation down because of a staff shortage (an increasing problem in Texas prisons...People just don't want to work in a prison no matter how much money they throw at them) so we'll probably get rec on Sunday to make up for it.
I'm still in shock and reflecting on the news that I had a judge who hated Jews...It's just a weird thing to have someone hate you for a religious view or how you were raised, or whatever...It's worse for people of colour though, and I try not to lose sight of that. No matter the problems I've had at boarding school for being Jewish, or the problems it brought whilst being in prison, it's small potatoes when compared to what people of colour have been through. I can't imagine being afraid to drive a car at night, or being hated just for wanting a better life for my family - that's something I've never had to experience and I guess it helps to put it all in perspective. No matter what your problems might be, someone always has it much worse.
I can only hope the court is fair and pays attention to this. I can say with certainty that if I did not have a fair trial simply for being Jewish, people of colour definintely didn't.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
June 9th, 2019
I'm writing this on a bright and beautiful Sunday morning. It's normally super quiet on Sundays, as it's typically a 'no recreation' day, but someone upstairs has a homemade speaker and has decided that everyone on the section should listen to what he's listening to! It does no good to talk to him...believe me, we've tried...His excuse every time is, "I'm doing my time." Yeah, but if your time affects our time...Sigh. Oh well!
I've had a rough couple of days...Thursday started off relatively normal; they had first round of recreation in the day rooms and things seemed to be operating normally, but 45 minutes later, the officers came back around shutting rec. down! This was after a 'no recreation' day on Wednesday due to personnel shortages...Then we were told we were on lock down. It was weird that lockdown was starting on a Thursday as they normally start at the beginning of a week. We were all asking, "Are y'all sure it's lock down, or is it just another staff shortage?" The officers said it was for sure a lock down...Well, just fantastic.
The same day we waited all day for lunch, which didn't arrive until after 3pm, and then right after that dinner arrived - literally minutes later! Now, on this last lock down we were given hot meals, but on this one, apparently we're not. Nothing we can do about that and fortunately I do have some food in my locker so I'll be fine...And I have enough to share with others too.
On Friday we had showers, and I spent the day cleaning my cell and weeding through things to give away or donate to the library. A friend down the run wanted to make tacos for everyone and just needed a bag of beans and rice, so I sent him those to contribute. I told him the tacos were so good that if we were free, I'd be investing in him to make a taco stand in the free world! They really were that good!!!
That evening I settled in to listen to the Prison Show - they have a 'death row news' section, where they mention things that were filed for guys here. I listened whilst waiting on mail, and didn't hear anything on my case, which was fine. I knew it was going to be a while before anything happens because it needs time for the recently filed stuff to hash out. Right after that I received my mail, and some Jpays (printed, one way, emails). Things have been wishy-washy with the mail service for some weeks now, but it seems like everything was back on track. Several Jpays arrived from my girlfriend, which was fantastic, but another one I received was just...bad. All I can do is hope and pray that this mess will all be resolved, and that truth and what is right, will prevail. I have confidence that it will...The truth is on my side no matter how dirty and how hard the State try to play. When I can, I will go into further details...Right now, I'm just praying, hoping, and holding onto hope and faith.
The weekend has pretty much been affected by that news, but I'm pushing through! In recent weeks I've taken to reading Tehillim - Psalms - for strength, guidance, and comfort. I tell myself that things WILL work out...I have faith in G-d and the truth, and I refuse to give up!
Here's to hoping that the coming week will bring about better things and better news...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 10th, 2019
sitting here at 11.28am with a slight grumbling in my tummy, waiting
on my sack lunch. I didn't bother eating breakfast because by the the
time I checked to see what it was (they passed them out at 2am, and I
just chucked it into my locker) I was underwhelmed by the two
pancakes and packet of syrup – not real syrup either, but the sugar
fee artificial kind that for some odd reason is what I imagine donkey
piss would taste like...I had no appetite. After being woken up at
2am, we we were again woken up at 3am when milk was being passed out,
and then again at 4am when they passed out little bowls of cereal.
Around 4am they started doing showers and I managed to get back to
sleep until it was my turn in the shower, at 8am.
morning I was thinking about faith...Have you ever prayed and asked
G-d to 'show' himself to you? I don't know, not exactly like, “Dude,
give me a sign!” Or even, “Prove yourself to me.” But just a
simple “show me you're there” kind of thing...Whilst being Jewish
has always been very important in my life, I've not been the most
religious person at times. Heck, for a while I was wondering if I was
beginning to become slightly agnostic! I don't think I could ever be
atheist because I firmly believe in something much greater than us,
and looking at the world and how beautiful it is – there just has
to be something behind it...
just want to know there IS something behind all of this and a reason
why...And I want to know there is a guiding hand, and that there is
truth and justice governing all of it. I'm no more special than
anyone else – in fact, I'd put myself a few rungs below a lot of
people. But that being said, I also know the person I am, and I know
my own heart...I've made plenty of mistakes in my life – more than
most people – and I have many flaws...But I do pray and ask that
G-d will see “me”, and grant me a smidgen of mercy.
latest shake down news is that they're doing E-Pod today. They did
F-Pod on Friday, and if they keep to the one-pod-a-day schedule, I'm
sure they'll be on this pod by Thursday. I figure we'll be finished
with everything on Saturday, so we might get some recreation time.
the real bummers of the past week has been that we lost a really good
local station from Livingston. When I first came to death row it was
a country music station, and then about five years later it
transformed into a classic rock station. Occasionally, they played
some really good '90s alternative music, and on Tuesdays they had an
'80s flashback theme to the day. I didn't listen to it all the time,
but it was there, and it was a bit of musical 'comfort food' from
time to time. They also did Texas news updates throughout the day.
Well, apparently a big Houston Christian music station bought the
signal out because on Friday, it was gone and replaced! I keep going
to that spot out of habit, but what sucks even more is that I'm
running out of FM stations to listen to! It's either all pop,
country, Spanish, or Church music now...For a city with so much
diversity, they are very limited in their music offerings!
let's see what else the day brings...
little after 1pm now, and I just had a delicious peanut butter and
jelly sandwich, and a lovely bologna sandwich...Nothing tastes more
like road kill than a good ol' lukewarm piece of bologna!
spending some time looking out the window, watching the clouds pass
by and the birds picking at the grass. Someone threw out some bread
from somewhere because a bird – looked like a big crow – swooped
down, grabbed the big chunk of bread, and flew off! I guess one of
the trustees threw it out there.
another day in the life of...
Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning: Contains foul language**
June 12th, 2019
Yesterday began as any other day on lock down - boring, and with me trying to find something to do with my time. I'd been checking a local station that broadcasts Texas news networks and gives small updates on death row inmates appeals, and as I was listening to that I heard, "Jewish death row inmate, Randy Halprin..." My heart began to pound, and I thought, "Okay...so news of the appeal is officially out there now." I suppose we'll see what becomes of all of this. I remain humble, hopeful, and faithful.
I spent most of the day reflecting on the importance of today's date: June 12th, 2019...It marks 16 years of me being on death row. I'm currently living on the exact same section and pod - B-Pod/A Section - that I was in when I first arrived here, except I'm in 2 cell right now, and I was in 8 cell back then. I can still remember every bit of the day I was sentenced, as if were yesterday...
The Jury in my trial was sequestered overnight because they couldn't decide on my sentence. Very early that morning I was pacing the floor in my holding cell before finally being called into the court room, when word of a decision had been reached. I remember hearing the sentence being given, followed by the victim's impact statement, and then I was whisked out of the court room to sign a pile of papers whilst the Sheriff's deputies barked orders at me to change out of the clothes I was wearing, and put on an orange Dallas County jumper. I was shackled up, quickly ushered out of the holding cell area, and into a parking garage filled with Police officers and media. I remember beginning to feel numb, as everything was happening so quickly.
What would normally have been a 3 hour drive from Dallas to Huntsville was so fast it took less than two hours! The Dallas County Officers helped me out of the car and took the shackles off me before turning me over to TDCJ. I wasn't sure what to expect at that point - I half way expected the guards to shout hateful things at me, but when a sergeant took over as he took me through what they call "Diagnostics" he said, "As of now, everything that's happened before this moment doesn't exist. You treat me with respect, I'll treat you with respect. No one is going to retaliate, okay?"
"Yes sir," I said.
"You're not planning on killing yourself, are you?" He aasked.
"No...The State will do that for me," I said, sarcastically. I remember him saying I didn't have to take it 'there', but it was how I felt at that moment.
I was taken to a barber where my hair was clipped off and then on to where I had my picture taken for a State issued ID, and fingerprinted. When the process was over they loaded me into the back of a van that would take me to death row. I sat in silence for a few minutes when the back door opened and I was staring into the ruddy face of a heavy set TDCJ sergeant. "Where you going?" He asked, with disdain in his voice.
I ignored him.
"I said, where are you going?" He demanded.
"You know where I'm going," I replied.
"I want to hear you say it."
"That's a good fuckin' place for your ass!" He spat, and slammed the door.
Armed officers climbed into the van and we drove to Livingston, in silence. About 40 minutes later, we pulled into Polunsky and drove through a series of cages until we reached the sally port of 12 building.
My mind began to race...I fully expected to enter a world portrayed by the movies - homicidal manicas and psycopaths, screaming and spitting at me as I passed by their cells...Threats to the guards and threats hurled back at inmates...Banging, screaming, and all manner of horrible things being thrown from cells...I expected chaos, and my imagination was running wild.
I was taken to an office, had a few more pictures taken, and then given an orientation package. I was told I already had a mattress and necessities in my cell, and if I needed anything else I had to notify an officer to call a supervisor. I was then taken to B-Pod 8 cell.
When I entered the pod it was so quiet! This surprised me...No one was standing at their door yelling out...There was no banging or shouting, nothing being thrown. I entered my cell and had my handcuffs taken off, and a few minutes later, an officer came back and asked me if I wanted a shower. I said, "Sure," and off I went.
When I got back to my cell after my shower, nobody said anything to me for about half an hour. I sat in my cell, staring at the walls, trying to figure out what I would do with whatever remaining years I had on this earth. I was still a bit numb when my thoughts were interrupted by a banging on my wall...A voice called me to the door and a guy said, "Hey, we're sorry you're here, man."
"Yeah, me too..." I replied.
"Well, I'm going to send a fishing line to the front of your door. The guys up here put together some food, stamps, and writing supplies for you. Just pull it all in."
"No, that's cool. I don't need anything, thank you." Didn't they know I came from general population? Number one rule in prison: nothing comes for free!
"Seriously, dude, just pull it in," he said.
"I'm good. I know the game." I replied, again, skeptically.
Then, another voice began to speak.
"Hey, dude, just take it. There's no strings attached. We do this for all of the new guys on death row. All we ask is you to the same in return for the next guy that comes."
I reluctantly pulled the line into my cell and tied to it were ramen noodles, chips, candy bars, soap, deodrant, toothpaste, stamps, envelopes, and a writing tablet! I couldn't believe it...Where were the monsters?
I thanked everyone and promised that every new person or every person that needed something would get my help, if I could give it at that point. I've always been grateful for that moment.
Over the following days my impression of what I thought I was going to face was blown apart! Sure, I've had some not so good interactions with guys here, but over the 16 years I've been here, I've met so many good-hearted and well-intentioned people and I've discovered that in life, nothing is as black and white as we are lead to believe. There are circumstances in life that can shape or influence our decision making skills, and some of us have lesser or greater mental capacities...Some people are influenced by racial, socio-economic, or other psychological factors. What I'm trying to say is that there's a huge grey swathe of inbetween, that somehow, society has fooled itself into believing doesn't exist. It doesn't excuse our actions, and at no point in this process have I ever felt I shouldn't be held accountable for my own choices and mistakes, and I would gamble that most guys back here feel exactly as I do on that point. However, some of us truly aren't killers, and we are not the monsters the general public perceive us to be...My life here this past 16 years has shown me just that.
As of now, my fate is still up in the air, but I do hope I'm given the chance to make right my own mistakes...To live by action, not words, and to affect things around me in a positive and loving way.
Well, it has shaped up to be a really lovely day! Plenty of sunshine, and the back wall of my cell is quite warm. I'll watch outside of my window for a bit, and see how the rest of the day shapes up...I'll finish this here.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 13th, 2019
Well, I was all but certain that I'd wake up today to the sounds of red property crates being pushed into the section. I tossed and turned last night in anticipation, but when I got up this morning at 6.45, I learned that they the shake down on A-Pod, which means they'll definitely be giving the crates to us later tonight, and shaking us down tomorrow. I've heard through the rumor mill that it hasn't been too dredful this time around, but we'll see.
Later today, around 12.43pm, I left my cell for a visit with two Rabbis - it was something I really needed, and enjoyed. It was good for my spirit and I even gained some perspective on a few issues I'd been struggling with. In Jewish teachings, it is said that our soul leaves our body when we sleep - it's G-d's grace and mercy that he returns it to our body when we wake. We have to acknowledge our insignificance, but also be grateful that G-d decided we were worthy enough to let us live another day. In acknowledging that, we essentially 'surrender' and trust in him. The other thing was that the Rabbi suggested we take account of the things we did - our 'mitzvahs' (good deeds and charity) - and the bad things, and we say to ourselves that we need to do better the next day, or to change things. Then, we say the most important Jewish prayer, The Shema.
Well, it was lovely outside! Whenever I walk to the visitation building I take everything in...I smell the air, I look at the sky and the trees...I watch the birds go by. I only get a few minutes to do it, there and back, but I love it. I saw some huge black birds flying around and I don't know what species they are; they're not ravens, nor are they crows, but they're super intelligent. I've read about certain species of birds sharing food, but yesterday I witnessed one of those birds allowing two other birds to nibble off its food. They didn't fight, they each just took their turn and it was so cool to watch. I also saw a couple of birds just standing on the side walk and normally as soon as a human gets near them they jet off. Not these birds! They made US go around them - they didn't even budge! It made me smile.
So, the past few weeks I've been listening to a really well produced documentary by BBC on the Apollo flight, and Lunar Program, in the '60s - it's called "13 Minutes To The Moon." If anyone can find a podcast and you're into the history of space travel, I highly recommend it. As a kid I was fascinated with space exploration, and it absolutely rivalled my passion for music! Anyway, the production of this documentary is amazing, and the story telling was excellently done - it even includes audio I'd never heard before. I promise you'll enjoy it!
In spite of recent stresses, I'm keeping hopeful and upbeat - thanks to my wonderful friends who love me, care for me, and fight for me every day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 15th, 2019
It's a bright and beautiful Saturday morning! I'm trying to keep busy and keep my mind occupied throughout the weekend. Yesterday, I almost had a nervous breakdown with the whirl wind that was the past couple of weeks...It all caught up with me at the end of the day, and after our shake down on Friday morning, I think the stress and lack of sleep just took over...I felt sick to the stomach, and had a splitting headache. But I do feel a bit better this morning, and that's the best I can hope for right now.
So, before I get into yesterday's shake down of B-Pod and everything else, I'm aware that with recent media articles about my appeals etc, I might have some new readers of my journal, so I wanted to take the time to thank you for reading, and hopefully you will keep your mind open about my life story and how I've grown over the years. I really appreciate it, and thank you!
Thursday night we received our red property crates to pack our things up for the shakedown. Everything I have fitted perfectly, and I settled in for the night - I wanted to be rested for the next day. Breakfast came at 3 in the morning, followed by showers at about 3.45. I made it to the shower shortly after 4, then came back to my cell, went straight back to bed, and slept until 7am. By 8am the officers poured into our section to begin the shake downs. One of the officers took my neighbour out of his cell and when putting the cuffs on him he accidentally slammed his hand in the food slot...I thought that was going to derail everything, but they quickly took him to medical, and whilst the officer was hapless and in a hurry, he did apologize to my neighbour profusely. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but he's going to lose his finger nail...I was slightly irritated when one of the female sergeants was smirking and trying to keep herself from laughing at the inmate's pain...This place!
I was next in line, so two officers strip searched me, placed handcuffs on me, and then led me to the metal detector chair. I went through that process and then I was taken to A-Pod and put out in the recreation yard. They brought my other neighbour out to the yard along with me and we talked and enjoyed the beautiful morning.
A little after nine in the morning, they came back to get us, strip searched us again, took us back through the metal detector, and to our cells. I braced myself for a mess, but this time around everything was neatly stacked and taken care of, unlike the last shake down where it looked like a tornado had hit. I didn't lose anything, and nothing was destroyed, so I was grateful for that.
I spent a couple of hours scrubbing my cell and re-organising things, and then settled in for the day. Of course, I was anxious about everything and as the day went on I allowed the stress and worry to get to me. We didn't get lunch until 3pm and up to that point my stomach had been really upset. I thought it might be hunger so I made a light snack, and that didn't settle me either. When lunch finally came, that still didn't settle my stomach, and by 5pm I felt like I was going to be sick...I didn't get sick but it was close! I tried to take a little nap, but I was on the verge of a panic attack and just tossed and turned. Then, after shift change, I started to calm down, and once mail arrived, I crawled into bed and slept like a baby!
I've read some more articles about my appeal and it's very unsettling...I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone! It's also weird to know that in spite of everything, the State still wants to kill me so badly that they're willing to bend, twist and obfuscate the truth in order to do so...It's all so surreal to me right now, and I'm having a difficult time understanding it. All I can do is have faith in G-d, in my dear friends, and in my excellent attorneys, that I may survive this mess.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 16th, 2019
I woke up with Father's Day on my mind, and I had been going through my memories trying to think of a good story to tell about my dad - there's a lot of them, in spite of the more difficult moments we had. So, I thought I'd share one of those moments where I think he understood what it was like to be a teenager...
I had come home from my first semester at boarding school in Kentucky, and my best friend, Chad, and I, spent the summer catching up. We'd spend time hanging out at the mall, going to our local amusement park, Six Flags, and going to the movies. We hadn't been having much luck with girls that summer, to our dismay, but things started to look up one Sunday evening when we were at the mall...An announcement came over the PA system that the mall was closing, and as we headed towards an exit we noticed two girls going down an escalator. They were both pretty cute - one was blonde, and the other a brunette. Chad said, "What about them? They look our age..." And I said, "There's not enough time, we've got to leave." Chad suddenly yelled, "Hey! Stop!" And to my surprise, they were waiting at the bottom of the escalator. We took off running, and hurried down to meet them...Chad introduced us quickly, got their names, and their phone numbers, then they left and we couldn't believe our luck.
The brunette's name was Jennifer, and she and I hit it off pretty well. Chad, however, had no luck with the blonde, and he was seething! About two weeks before I had to go back to Kentucky, Jennifer and I made plans to meet up at Six Flags...Her friend was going to come as well, so Chad agreed to come with me. I asked my dad if it was okay and if he could drive us to the amusement park, and he said, "What time do you have to be there?"
"We're going to meet up at 10am. We have to be there!"
"That's the same morning you have to mow the lawn for the O'Neils."
"I'm still going to do that! If you drop me off early, I'll have it knocked out and I'll call you to pick me up and I can get back home to shower and change, and then we can pick up Chad."
"Are you asking me, or are you telling me?" My dad asked.
"Uhhh..Asking?...Please?...Pretty please with sugar on top?"
"Alright," he smiled. "Your tuckus is going to have to be out of bed at 6. I'll drop you off and you can call me when you're finished."
I called up and told Chad the plan, and he said he'd be ready.
The next morning my dad and I loaded the lawn mower into his work truck, along with a can of gas, and drove about a mile away to the O'Neils. He helped me unload it and said, "Call me when you're finished. Don't do a half assed job!"
"Yes, sir!" I said, as I primed the lawn mower and started it up.
I quickly mowed the lawn and by 8am I was finished, so I rang the door bell of the O'Neils, and asked if I could use the phone. Mrs O'Neil paid me $20 for the job and said, "Take your shoes off before coming in."
I kicked them off and grabbed the phone...The line was busy at home! I called again and again, and was getting frustrated and impatient. I didn't have time for this! Finally, I got through and told my dad I was ready to be picked up.
"Well, something came up with work so I'm not going to be able to get there until after 9...You're just going to have to sit tight and wait."
"This is out of control, dad! I have to be at Six Flags!" I protested.
"Who do you think is paying for that trip? You'll be fine, just wait."
I hung up the phone and Mrs O'Neil asked if I would like a snack and someting to drink as I waited.
"No, thank you, ma'am." I politely declined. "I'm gonna walk home. I'm running late." I said, matter-of-factly.
She showed me to the door, I thanked her for the money, grabbed the can of gas and the lawn mower, and began to push it down the street. Then, deciding to get home faster, I took off running, dragging the lawn mower as I ran. It was a hot morning, and I was covered in grass, but I hoped no one would think that I had stolen a lawn mower because I was running with it!
About 15 minutes later I reached my street and pushed the lawn mower, out of breath, the rest of the way. When I got home, dad was busy working in the garage and looked at me surprised.
"I told you to wait." He said.
Pushing the lawn mower into the garage, I said, "No time! Gotta take a shower!" And I ran inside and up to the bathroom to get ready.
After I'd dressed, I went back out to the garage.
"Come on, dad, we don't have time to lollygag around," I said, borrowing one of his much-used phrases.
"Don't press your luck, son," he said, smiling.
We hopped in his Suburban and drove to pick up Chad, then he dropped us both at Six Flags.
"You owe me some yard work for this," dad said.
"Yes, sir!" I said, as we jumped out of the truck and made our way to the ticket booth...
The day was a lot of fun for me, but unfortunately, the blonde never showed up and Chad ended up ditching me and Jennifer because he didn't want to be a tag-along. At the end of the day, Jennifer and I kissed, and Chad's mom came to pick us up. We promised to stay in touch when I returned to Kentucky, and I told Jennifer I'd see her again for fall break.
When I got home, my mom and dad were in the living room watching the late night news.
"How was it?" Dad asked. "What she a hot babe?"
"It was fun, and yeah, she's hot." I said, slightly embarrassed.
"Glad you enjoyed it. So, bright and early I want you to pull the weeds around the plants."
"C'mon dad! I'm about to go back to school..."
"I'm teasing you. Tell you what, how about you have lunch with me tomorrow, and help me out with some work. Sound reasonable?"
"Only if we eat at Colter's BBQ." I said.
"You got to pick where we ate lunch last time. I say we do Minyard's?"
"That'll work!" I said, taking off to my room.
"Love you, son!"
"Love ya too, dad! Thanks for taking me to Six Flags."
I went to sleep with a smile on my face.
Happy Father's Day...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 17th, 2019
The lock down is finally over with...Although, because I'm living on A-section, we don't have recreation today, so I'm technically still on lock down. Here's what I've never been able to figure out...Why, after a lock down, does it seem that the officers have forgotten how to do their jobs? They're literally running around like no one knows what they should be doing! Utter chaos...They also seem to have hired a bunch of new people as well as having two new officers in training, so that has added to the madness a bit. Oh well, onwards and upwards!
The day started off really grey after a big rain storm yesterday. The clouds are breaking up now, and there's some lovely sunshine bursting through. I've always found that to be a beautiful sight...Watching the grey clouds whisk away and patches of bright blue take over until soon, the only clouds that remain are little puffs of white. Then, birds start to reappear and things look lovely.
I've managed to not get myself worked up into an anxiety fit today, and I hope I can remain a bit more positive and hopeful. It can be s struggle...I can be neurotic by nature, and I definitely over-think things. I'm trying to just breathe...I'm praying...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 18th, 2019
It's been a lovely day thus far! Most of the pod is hyper and in a good mood because it's commissary day. Ice cream makes the most bitter of hearts smile...If only for a short time! (ha ha).
As I write this I'm scheduled for recreation 4th round. It'll be nice to get out after being on lock down, and I really need to jog and stretch out.
Well, it's much later now and day fell apart! Second round was out at rec until 3.30pm, and I didn't get outside until 3.45pm. That said, something positve came of it...There's a guy here who's in a bad state of depression and on meds that knock him out for most of the day. When he wandered to the door I said "hello", just expecting him to turn and go back to bed. We ended up talking about all sorts of things and he seemed to come to life, and even laughed a little. I encouraged him to do some stretches and get the blood flowing, and I hope he will pick himself up some more.
Anyway, I got back inside and was pooped! I had to heat my dinner back up in my hot pot because it arrived whilst I was outside (a common practice among officers even if they're not supposed to do it).
Tomorrow is a State holiday, so we'll see what it brings...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 25th, 2019
I woke up at 5.40am for recreation, and went outside to exercise. Then I did a little writing in the day room, and chatted with some guys. I didn't expext to be stuck there for 4 hours, but then, this place...The fact that I expect it to ever be any different either meets the very definition of insanity, or shows me to be an eternal optimist - I'll take the latter! (ha ha).
It's been kind of difficult to write for the past couple of weeks, although my girlfriend encourages me to do it regularly to help manage my anxiety and stress. Everything has been happening so fast and I can't wrap my head around it. On one hand I'm extremely hopeful that something positive will happen in my appeals, but on the other hand, I've moved out of the realm of 'justice' and straight into 'revenge'. I just can't wrap my head around it. I can't understand why a group of human beings want me dead so badly. Sure, we're a nation of laws and all of that, but what good is any of it when in my case there is a true violation of the very constitution that people took an oath to uphold? And you're willing to bend and break it to get revenge? And for what? I KILLED NO ONE! Because of my original offence - something I ask for forgiveness for every single day? Because I was young, naive, dumb, and escaped from prison when I was feeling hopeless and helpless? I accept responsibility for every bad choice, for every law I've broken, and for every person hurt by my actions...But I'm NOT a killer. All I can ask for is mercy...For true justice. I'm not in control.
It's only Tuesday, but it feels like much later in the week for some reason...We'll see what the rest of the week brings.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 30th, 2019
It's the last day of June, and what a topsy turvey roller coaster of a ride this past month has been...There's been a lot of good in it - a lot! But there's been an equal amount of gut-turning drops and spins. I feel like I'm in this weird tango with the Angel of Death, right now, and we're constantly changing lead...
I've written about vengeance -v- justice quite recently, but what's forefront in my mind right now is hate...In all it's many forms and fashions, hate is an act of violence in itself. Medical science has shown us what anger and hatred does to the human body and to our psyche, but what does it do to the person you direct it towards? It can have an equal or even greater effect on the person you turn that hatred onto, and if you hate someone you create a 'cause and effect.' Say a person has harmed you either through a criminal act or some other way, and you turn around and direct your anger and hatred towards them...You are not only creating a cycle of violence, but in turn you're causing a greater infliction of pain upon yourself. When 'justice' has a root of hatred, it leads to vengeance...It's all relative.
I think one of the reasons our American society is so violent - and we haven't been able to properly heal, especially post-civil war - is because we're rooted in hate. Our politicians and elected officials often use hatred as a tool of maniuplation, both left and right of the political spectrum. Hatred of another color, hatred of a particular religion, hatred of this or that...No wonder we've never been able to heal...No wonder we're in the state that we are.
In prison, the officers are trained to hate us. We're given a demeaning title - OFFENDER - and if an officer does act kindly towards us, they're derided by their co-workers as 'inmate lovers' or 'inmate friendly'. Of course, when that hatred is directed at an inmate, in turn it creates a toxic environment of equal hatred towards the officer, and things quickly spin out of control. Look at the effect that hatred has through our every day lives. It should have no power at all, and yet we give it almost ALL of the power.
So, what is more powerful than hate? Forgiveness! I'm not talking about let's-have-a-kumbya-moment-and-hug-it-out-hippy-dippy-thing, but instead, just forgiving someone when they've done something that has hurt you or wronged you in some kind of way. Forgiveness takes the power of hatred away; it shows the perpetrator that whatever the wrong, you are in control and you will not give them the power over you where you can be affected. It allows you to move on in your life. When I'm upset about something it's easy to stew and let it fester right here in this cell. But instead, I try to take a deep breath, forgive the person, and let the moment pass. I try to understand why they've done what they've done, and just like I would wish my own faults and flaws to be forgiven, I try to forgive them for theirs.
I'm hated on daily in numerous ways, here...Whether from the outside, or back here. I'm hated on for my past crimes and poor choices...I'm hated on for being Jewish...I'm hated on for this and that and it hurts at times. I can feel the flames of that hate, and it hurts even more when those I love are burned by the flames that are directed at me for the things I have done. I suppose I could lash back out at all of it, but instead, I try to understand it in such a way that I can improve myself and correct those flaws...I also forgive them in the hope that they can in turn forgive me. Forgiveness is not about erasing a wrong; forgiveness is saying, "I'm no longer going to give that wrong any power over me."
I forgive those who hate me. I forgive those who want to see me executed. In turn, I sincerely hope you can forgive me.
Here's to hoping that July will bring better things...