Apparently, last night, Scott Panetti, a documented paranoid schizophrenic and a guy who not long ago recieved a stay of execution for that very reason, had an episode and accused the guard of giving his mail to another inmate. Words were exchanged and the guard accused Panetti of threatening her. So, the next day, officers showed up to take him to F-Pod, where they house inmates for disciplinary reasons. He refused to come out of his cell, so, the use of force team was called into action. Now, protocol is for the Ranking Officer in charge to give orders to the inmate to submit to a strip search and restraints (handcuffs). By all accounts, at this point Panetti began to get naked and go through the strip search. After he put his boxer shorts on he placed his bible on the food slot before submitting to handcuffs. The use of force team considered this an act of aggression and began to hose him down with the chemical agents...I thought the justification was complete bullshit. A freakin' bible. Now, I'm no holy roller and everyone knows that part of Panetti's schizophrenia is rooted in biblical grandeur and delusions. I testified to this point years ago on behalf of his legal team. He just wanted to take his bible with him to F-Pod and there was no justification in gassing him. Period. To be quite honest, it pissed me off.
So, that was what went down today. But here's the thing...it is really an indictment on how they handle people with psychological disorders back here and in prison in general. It's a joke! The Psych Department is a joke. When they're having a major incident with a person with a mental disorder, they are supposed to have someone from the psych department come down and try to talk to the individual, see what the issue is and calm them down and find a non-aggressive solution to the problem. They NEVER do this. It is a recipe for disaster, especially when the officers that work here have no training whatsoever in dealing with the mentally ill. Most of them are young and cocky and think it is a game. Let's wire up the crazy person! I remember while waiting on my trial in Dallas County Jail back in 2003, there was this guy down the hall who would wrap himself up in toilet paper and mumble to himself all day. The guards thought it was cute and funny and so they would poke and prod him sending him into nonsensical frenzies. Then one day he pulled out his own eyeball. Really funny stuff, there, assholes...This is a pet peeve of mine. My brother suffers from schizophrenia, and I am a functional depressive...I've looked in the face of illness and fortunately, I was able to somehow ground myself and pull myself from the brink. I take these things personally and wish society, especially American society, would stop treating the issue like a big fucking joke and do something to address the problem, in the free world, and in prison.
January 29th, 2015
Geeze what a beautiful day! I came in from being outside and Jesus Harold it was awesome. 77 Degrees? In January? The guy I was outside with wanted to play basketball and I was, as they say, down to boogie, and we ended up playing 60 games...Unfortunately, I lost-34-26...I was on a roll, but couldn't finish the job. Really, aside from the horrible defeat, I just couldn't believe how picture perfect the weather was. It was a dream. I'm going to sleep good tonight!
January 30th, 2015
I was a bit surprised to see Ms. Cox today...She's a Salvation Army minister who has been seeing inmates for well over 30 plus years. One of the great things about her, besides her passion and compassion for prisoners, is that she is not the preachy type. She leads and lives by actions and if that brings you to the 'Lord' then great, but she's not going to judge you or condemn you. The world needs more people like her.
She typically pulls me out about once a month. Usually the first week. I had already seen her the beginning of January so to see her again was a surprise. At our previous visit she had mentioned that the Salvation Army was letting her go...She was fighting the decision, but today it looks like it was all but a done deal. I understand their (Salvation Army) decision because she's in her 90's...Yes, 90's!!! Though she looks and moves around with the energy of someone half her age, but they can't be responsible or liable should she get in an accident etc. while working in the capacity of the SA. I mean, it's the logical thing from a business sense. I don't think anyone she visits is comfortable with the idea of her traveling alone from Dallas to Livingston either so I understand, and honestly, now, every time I have accepted a visit from her I do feel some sense of responsibilty should anything happen to her. It would make me feel like crap. So...I get it. But this is her passion, her life's work and she truly feels she can't be replaced and probably she can't! Who on earth has a legacy like her? The dedication? I know the guards think she's probably mental and that the guys she's visited just see her because they want some food and a soda from visitation, but the truth is many of us have contributed to her cause and help by donating books/comics etc or even money from our own account to help pay for her trips. Every year I make a donation to the Salvation Army in form of toys/books for kids at Christmas. I don't disclose that to toot my own horn, but it's because of the love and kindness she's shown ME. I didn't even begin to visit her until me and my ex split...I was really depressed and up until that point I had turned down any attempt by any minister to visit/talk with me. But she caught wind of our separation and requested to see me...I can't put into terms what that visit did for me. How do you repay an act like that?
So, these are her last visits, I believe, and she will be sorely missed. While her visits will be missed, her energy and encouragement and the belief that all of us here have a redeeming quality to us, will most definetely live on in our hearts and souls. She will be missed.
February 2nd, 2015
When I woke up this morning I was a bit on the grumpy side. Mostly because I was a little irritated with how the guards asked if I wanted to go to rec. Now, I knew this morning was going to be on the cold side and I went to bed right after the super bowl last night just to make sure I'd be able to get up for first round. I don't have a problem with the cold, I really don't. I actually enjoy it so long as I can come back inside and warm my bones...so when the guard woke me up and asked "You going to rec?" I gave the pre programmed response of 'yes'. She then made this dramatic point of telling me how cold it was and was I sure. Again, I said yes. Then, she says "Well you might get stuck out there for a while." I, again, said I'm going to rec. and then she made another dramatic point of telling my HOW COLD IT WAS... Frustrated that she was trying to talk me out of going outside and making her job easier for by not having to take someone the whole FIVE FEET walk it would be, I said, "Look, I wouldn't care if it was minus 30 and I was greeted by freaking Yeti outside. I'M GOING TO REC !" Sheesh...
It was chilly outside but bearable. Not basketball playing weather but I did manage to jog for thirty minutes. But the best part of it? Seeing the sky turn various shades of blue as the sun rose. It was so nice! It really perked me up and made my day so much better.
So, while I was outside I was talking about freedom and what it means to guys back here and I thought to myself, would he pass the test? What's the test? Well, it is a psychological experiment I created after listening to a movie called, "The Box". The premise of the movie is that a guy shows up at a family door step and offers a million dollars if they push a button on a box. The money is instantly wired to their account, but the catch is someone in the world - anyone - will be killed. Pretty horrible, but an interesting thought exercise...what would you do? My '"test" is more of a thought exercise in seeing who back here is truly redeemed. So, the scenario is this, I tell the guy...
Two guards show up to your door. They tell you that the Major wants to speak to you and it would be worthwhile to go down there and see what he has to say. Curious, you tell them that you'll go. They pop your slot, place the hand cuffs on you and lead you down the hall way to the Major's Office. You enter the Major's Office and he tells the guards to remove the handcuffs from you....Now, this goes against protocol and you're really wondering what the hell is going on. The Major tells you to take a seat behind his desk. He begins to tap the keys on his keyboard and pulls up an image on the monitor. He swivels the monitor to face you and on it you see a section and the dayroom. He lets you stare at it for a second and then reaches into the desk drawer and oulls a small electronic box. On the box is a red button.
How are you?" The Major asks " Here's the deal...I'm willing to set you free today. Like let you go and send you out into the free world. No more Death Row. All you have to do is push the button on this box " He pauses and reads your face and continues... "The catch is that once you push the button two guards are going to appear on this screen, walk up to a cell door, open it and drag a random inmate to the dayroom. Then they'll shoot him in the head as you watch. You have five minutes to decide. If in that five minutes you don't push the button you'll be taken back to your cell. What do you think? I'll leave the room and let you decide."
I stop there and then ask the guy what he'd do. "I'd push the mother fuckin button'!" I ask him why, and here's the interesting thing about this part. I'm always amazed at the responses I get in return - their justification on what is essentially murder for their release. "Well", he says, "I would think the guy would want me to push that button. He'd want me free."
"Yeah, but he'd be dead."
"That´s what I mean. "
"But what if this was a test. To see if you really are capable of being let back into society?"
"Well, I mean, what's the difference. I fail the test, go back to my cell... nothing changes."
If I said out of the 20 plus people I've asked about this scenario how many wouldn't push the button? One. One person said that he couldn't push the button. Crazy. I would've thought by adding the part where you had to WATCH the person be killed it would add an element of culpability, that maybe because they had to see the result of their action it would maybe disuade them from pushing the button, but it had little effect.
I changed the situation up a litttle bit hoping to see some sort of humanity in an act of bitter desperation...How important is freedom when you involve family. The scenario is this: You get brought to a room. In the room is a curtain that is nailed all the way to the floor. You can hear muffles behind the curtain so obviously someone is bound and gagged, but at this point you have no idea what is going on. A voice comes on a speaker above your head and then a steel drawer slides towards you from a panel in the wall. The voice on the speaker says...
"In the drawer is a gun fully loaded. Take the gun. Behind the the curtain is someone from YOUR family. Shoot at the curtain until the clip is empty and you'll be released and free to go, whereever you want to. You have five minutes to decide. If you try to remove the curtain or touch it in any way, you yourself will be shot and killed."
What is your choice? I ask.
"Awww, man...A family member? I can't do it."
Almost everyone says the same thing in this scenario; although, there are some people with some seriously unresolved family issues that would have no problem with shooting through the curtain.
I haven't exactly figured out what it means though and maybe I should ask why it is easier to kill an inmate than a family member? Even in situations where the inmate is a close friend they show no regrets in pushing the button. It is usually "He'd want me to push it. Or he'd do the same thing to me..."
You'll probably read my decision with a certain doubt, but I couldn't push the button. I have enough guilt issues from various events in my life that being free, knowing it came at the cost of another life, I don't believe I would ever feel free and the ghost of that person would always come to haunt me. I couldn't deal with that on my conscience. Freedom isn't worth that. Now, I'd do gay porn or eat a huge steaming bowl of shit and smile while doing it, but not at the cost of another life...
But yeah, obviously I have way too much time on my hands!
February 9th, 2015
It's been difficult to find the words to write since this past Wednesday when they executed another one of my co-defendants. It's not that I held the dude in the highest regard. To be quite frank, he was an asshole in general, to guys on death row and the 'establishment'. There is very little love lost there with him for who he was as a person. Yet, still, it was an another execution of another human being. Closer to home, one of my co-defendents, and it is scary to think about the system picking us off one by one. Three executed...three to go. Another issue that upset me was listening to the news and various programs - especially the 'Execution Watch' program on KPFT out of Houston, TX. I admire Ray Hill as a man and for the decades long efforts he's made in prison reform. There are few people in this state or even the country who have put in the work and made the changes he's made in state prisons. For that, he can't be touched. And while the execution watch program has its purpose, typically it is filled with such conjecture! A panel of so called" Criminal Defense ttorneys" who seem to know very little about any real criminal defense or the people they're talking about on each execution. Deal with the cold hard facts, as horrible as they seem, but don't deal with conjecture. It's frustrating!
They talked about the escape and why they thought we did it...For the most part they were right in saying that the men with the most time had nothing left to lose, but even for myself, while I had a relatively 'short' sentence compared to my co-defendants, I had little hope for myself. I had no friends, no family, no letters. At that time I still had a ways to go until I was up for parole, and when I tried to enrol in college I was denied and told that I still had 'too much time'. For a 23 year old, ten more years until I was even eligible for parole seemed an eternity. Had my family supported me I could see me holding onto something, but what did I have? When presented with an alternative, as scary as it seemed, it offered the fantasy of starting over. Dumb, naive, yes...but again - think back to when you were in your early 20's, did you ever think about what you were going to be doing ten years down the road? No! You live in the present, and instant gratification is the name of the game. So many times I sit here and day dream, and wish I could go back in time and shake the living hell out of my 23 year old self. But...while I'm not the sum total of my mistakes, I do believe they've shaped who I am now. And as awful as those events were and the tragedies that followed, I can say I am a better person. Still flawed has hell, but better.
Another thing that I find a bit irritating is when people say 'You had such a good life...I didn't have that and I'm okay. Why did you throw it away like that?" Good life? How? Because my adopted family was middle class and I never lacked for anything materialistically? Okay, wonderful! I'm grateful for those things and the opportunities that I had - always will be. I've done more/seen more places by the age of 18 than most people have in a lifetime. But let's review the first five and a half years of my life...Drug addled biological parents. Pushed out a second story window, tooth knocked out at three, glass bottle smashed across my right wrist for which a visible scar still remains to this day. Nearly getting killed protecting my infant brother at three years old. Being abandoned in various places numerous times. These were the early 1980's people! The State didn't intervene until they absolutely had to back in those days...Finally placed in a foster home, beaten again, taken out of that foster home and reunited with my biological brother who WAS taken away by the State only to be told said foster home wanted to adopt Wesley, but NOT me. Thank GOD the social worker wouldn't allow us to be separated again. Being adopted was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I loved my parents from the very first day. I mean that with every inch of my being. But I was damaged goods. I had learning problems. I had social anxieties and avoidant personality disorder. I had the craziest, most imaginative imagination a kid could have. I was artistic. Instead of, and I truly don't blame my parents for this, focusing on my strengths and encouraging those things they instead focused on my weaknesses and so I spent time with shrinks who didn't give a fuck and tutors who bored the shit out of me. I'm just being honest. I wasn't a dumb kid. It irritated me to hell that I was treated like one. I don't doubt my parents' love for me. I truly believe the did the best they could and knew how to do, but I didn't need tough love and a rigid environment. I needed love and encouragement. And while I did interpret being sent to school in Kentucky for bad grades as a form of abandonement in itself, it was ultimately something I did need because it allowed me to be who I was. Instantly my grades shot up. I was on the honor roll. I was taking on leadership duties and getting awards. I started playing piano again and winning awards for that. I'm not ashamed to say I was freaking good at playing the piano. I could be me. I could be myself. And sure, ultimately, I ended up swimming too far from the shore, but when I was drowning and yelling for help, no one answered. I'm not writing all of this for a pity party. I just want people to know that what seemed like the good life on the surface was not as it was beneath. I battled a fucking leviathan. So here I am. Sitting in a 6'x 10' cell and typing me - my soul - on a matte colored sheet of paper... Isn't life wonderful?
It looks like Ms. Cox has found a way to keep coming and I'm really happy about that. When I had that one visit and seeing how distraught she was in thinking that could be the last of the visits for guys on death row with her, it really upset me because this place, these guys are her life! There are some people who get so attatched to a particular passion whether it be a great romance of many years or a job or hobby that when it ends, it isn't long until their spirit breaks and they die of a broken heart. I worried about that with her. Her energy and love comes from knowing that in her heart she believes that ministering to guys beck here is her G-d given duty and purpose in life. When she's out in the visitation area you should see her in action. A 90 plus year old woman moving around and about like a teenager. It's awesome. So, I'm happy that, for now, she's able to still make it down.
February 23rd, 2015
I want to share a quote from a recent Texas Monthly article that I read not too long ago. It was taken from an interview with a retiring Judge from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Cathy Cochran. Now, this particular statement is made in regards to her handling of the Anthony Graves appeal that she ruled on. Some of you might know that years later Anthony Graves was acquitted of his crimes.
"I felt terrible, because I didn't focus in. It was there, but I didn't see it. It just goes to show the frailty of human beings. Now, that is a good argument against the death penalty because human beings make mistakes. And I'm sure innocent people have been executed. That's the price you pay for being a human being in any kind of system. It's not going to be infallible. So do you not execute people at all because the system is not infallible? No!"
WHAAAAAAAAAT??? Okay, let me get this straight....It's okay if the state executes an innocent person because hey, people make mistakes and that's just one of the prices you pay for having people run the system...But Ms. Cochran, if that is the case, if people 'make mistakes' why then aren't you holding yourself to the same standard that you put on the very people who MADE MISTAKES to get in whatever situation they might be in? Where is the accountability? And tell me if I'm wrong, but say you're the executive of a business and you make a mistake that cost that business several million dollars in losses, aren't you going to be fired? So, if you make a mistake that cost someone their life, shouldn't YOU lose your job? Be held accountable? When the prosecutors or Judge make mistakes it's the old "Hey, we're only human!" excuse, but when it is someone like me, you throw the freakin' book at me!
When the reporter asked why the death penalty shouldn't be abolished if an innocent person is killed, she made some asinine argument that it would be a slippery slope, and people would want to change sentencing laws for other crimes and other nonsense. But she's missing one thing: Wouldn't it be better that an innocent person's life be spared, and serving a life sentence, over being...DEAD? You can't come back from the dead where as at least a person who is serving any sentence always has the hope that laws might change, or they'll be able to go through the appeals process. They're still alive: If you're in a position in which you admittedly say "I'm sure innocent people have been killed" don't you think a person of your magnitude has a moral obligation to not only speak out against the death penalty, but also use the power that you have to abolish it?
In other news there's a lot of controversy around the so-called suicide of a guy on death row named Antonio Williams. He recently returned to Harris County for some hearings on his appeals. I'm not sure of the issues his attorneys were raising but on the news his Lawyer said that his appeals looked really good and it didn't make any sense for him to hang himself. The jail found him hanged in his cell by his own shoe laces. When we learned of the news it threw up some immediate alarms with guys who knew him because he just didn't seem like a person who would do that. By all accounts he was really happy and excited to head back to county jail. Granted, a lot of people who kill themselves rarely exhibit any outward signs that they're about to kill themself. I mean, look at Robin Williams for example. Still, this guy did have enemies and he was in a gang. Plus, he was never the kind of person who would bite his tongue if he felt wronged by a guard. I remember being his neighbor about a year and a half ago and this guard, Ms. Parker (at the time she went by Griffin) jacked him for his shower. When Antonio asked to talk to a ranking officer she refused to call one down to the pod. He finally talked to the Sergeant and the Sergeant said okay, you'll get your shower back just calm down. The Sergeant told Ms. Parker to return his shower and after he left she came in front of his cell and snidely said, "I don't give a fuck what the Sergeant just told me! You ain't getting no shower". Antonio only said, "You're sure right." And began plotting his revenge.
I had no idea what he had planned but he was yelling at other guys on the sections saying he was about to go to Level 3 disciplinary and I was thinking geeze, he's going to try to stab her or something, but at dinner time when they came in front of our cells to pass out our trays he squirted her with liquified feces...it was disgusting. I watched as shit dripped off her face and my stomach churned. So, all that to say, it wouldn't be unlike him to have pissed off the wrong guard and they killed him. Some back here even said Ms. Parker might have had a hand in it, but I highly doubt that. Who knows what really happened? It's just crazy that it did. Another suicide of another death row inmate. Who cares, right? Who cares that conditions are bad enough that dudes would rather hang themselves than take chances on an appeal...
March 13th, 2015
I was sitting in the dark last night...I turned off my radio and just sat there quietly, thinking about all of the things I wrote about...I don't think I've ever really gone into as much detail as I did and there's one thing that bothered me, because there's a word that was used a lot during my trial and even some hearings that happened years later. "Minimize". Like, "Halprin is just trying to minimize his role in things..." that I'm blame shifting or not accepting responsibility for my actions. And I suppose things could be interpreted that way by some, but how can you minimize the truth? Honestly, I think out of all of my co-defendents I've been the most honest about everything that has happened, at least when it pertains to myself. I DO accept responsibility for my actions and choices throughout my life. I MUST be held responsibile for some, but murder is not one them. Again, it is difficult to wrap my head around the fact that even after all of the truths to come out of the night, from the facts and even co-defendents all saying, "Hey, Randy didn't kill anyone...", I still face the "ultimate" punishment.
At times I feel like there's hope; that somehow I'll get through all of this. That I will live to see another day. I think about all of the things I WANT to live for...Some selfish and material, like seeing the end of the comic The Walking Dead or Alex & Ada - ridiculous, I know! But really for the things I have TO live for. I do get angry at times...Angry at myself, angry at life. I'm not a person who openly expresses that anger and even when all seems calm and peaceful on the exterior, there can be storms on the interior. I tend to internalize things, put a cork on it and just deal with it in my own way. Hence, this journal acts like a pressure valve for me at times. But I do get angry. I get angry about injustices in this world. I get angry at the people who poke and prod my brother because of his mental illness. I get angry because I wasn't there in his life when he needed me most. I get angry at my own insecurities and faults and how, at times I feel I have so little control over my impulsiveness.
I get angry at my own stupidities and poor choices. I get angry that life isn't always fair and I have little control over some people's perception of who they think I am. With those same things that I get angry about, I am also grateful for so much more and I try to express my own gratefulness often. Some things in life we just can't control. I don't know what I feel about fate and God and all of that; whether things happen for reasons or not...Times I feel that they do and times I just wonder if it isn't all happenstance...I guess it is one of the great existential questions...When I was a kid I believed blindly. There was something about going to temple that was calming and peaceful. When my dad didn't feel like going to Shabbos services on Friday night I would sometimes beg and plead to go. I would pray and ask for G-d to show me the purpose of life - a big question for a kid, I know but I did. And times I would feel like some of those prayers were answered.
I can remember when I was 18, I was back at school in Kentucky and there was so much crap going on in my life...for a teen it felt like the end of the world for me. If it could go wrong, it did. So, I was back at school, fall semester - just allowed back in after a summer suspension because the school had felt that previous summer I was "Suicidal" and so I spent the summer and early fall living on my own in Lexington...The school's 'Year Book Pageant' was coming up and my girlfriend at the time was elected to be a part of it, so I threw myself into the process completely. I was excited if not nervous as hell! But also sad because I wouldn't be able to spend the celebrations with her because her parents were coming down as well and they cut me off due to events earlier that year. They didn't approve of me and so I would have to step to the side. I was at odds with my own parents and so the feeling of being excluded was only magnified. I spent the day practicing with my girlfriend and setting up the stage. There was a point when I left to go get ready and I stopped at these two big boulders that over looked the schools track and field. The sun was setting and dipping behind a hill and it was a beautiful sight. I lost it and started crying. I prayed and just prayed asking G-d to allow me this night and experience with my girlfriend. I wanted it so badly. I remember going back to the chapel where the pageant was being held and doing some last minute cleaning up and to say goodbye to my girlfriend before it started and then I would have to run across the campus to get dressed. I was vacuuming the floor and my girlfriend came out. Her parents were with her and so I gave her a hug and kiss real quick and was about to get out of Dodge. As I was leaving, her mother called out to me and she said she wanted to talk to me. I was nervous but went up to her and she said she forgave me and wanted to start over on a clean slate. I lost it! I was crying, and then she started crying and then my girlfriend started to cry...We hugged and I said "I'm sorry. I really am!" And then I had to leave to get dressed, but I ran out full of happiness and for a brief moment I thought maybe the downward spiral that my life had been taking was about to stop. Things would turn around...
Of ourse they didn't and not long after that I continued to fuck up. I look back at that particular moment and wonder was that really "G-d" or just coincidence? I don't know. But shit, I don't know a lot about life almost 19 years later. Religions often talk about a "plan" for us as if we're just one sprocket in a larger mechanism that makes this universe go around. We're all connected in some way, each individual life having its own particular value, each life affecting another. I do see truth in this part, maybe not the whole plan thing in the context of religion or G-d, but definitely believing we're all connected. That each person affects another. Kind of like in the book The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I wonder, then, what is my value? If maybe, what is my plan? If I'm a sprocket does my clock keep turning oris it running out? I'm fairly confident the Bible is made up. There might be some small historical value to it, but people tell stories and we use stories to best explain the world the way we think it works. I once listened to a program and a scientist who studies language said "We are the stories that we tell." I can agree with that. Stories push us forward. I can't prove whether G-d exists or doesn't exist. All I can do is take the lessons I've learned from my life and my life's own story and try to push forward, a better human being.
I do wonder...I wonder about everything. I have a curious and inquisitive mind and it bugs me to the nth degree that I don't have anymore answers than I did a decade ago.
But back to sitting in the dark last night...thinking about everything. I prayed. What's to lose?
March 14th, 2015
Lock down is over! Woohoo. I was kind of surprised because it is a Saturday and they were setting up recreation early this morning. We had heard two rumors; that we were looking at another week because general population still hadn't been shook down, or that we would come off of it on monday morning. Both rumors were wrong. But the great thing? The torrential rains have stopped and the sun was out in full effect. I was set up for recreation inside for third round but I had noticed that no one was going outside. I think they put three people out total. The sun was calling my name and I was thinking, "I do need to get some things taken care of in the day room, but I also told myself I would take full advantage of outside this year and get some sun..."Outside won. I asked a guard if I could go out third round and she was like, "Sure!" Very nice of her.
I enjoyed every moment. It felt amazing. About 75 degrees and perfect. Loved it. I was going to jog because I haven't in a week, but honestly? just laid on the concrete like a seal on rocks and soaked up the sun. It is going to take a lot more than some spring sun to bring color to my skin, but hey, it's a start!
March 16th, 2015
Another beautiful day and it is only 9:05am as I write this. I'll be going outside, though, third round, so I'll be getting some great sun as well! I will run today. Actually, if I can talk my neighbor into playing some basketball I'd much rather do that, but definitely going to get back into the groove of exercise. I've had over a week off so it is time to do something. I still have no attorney so I've been writing various law firms/offices etc, and one of them were my old attorneys. I received a letter from them this morning and said they'd contact the courts and see if they couldn't get them to speed things up...I was like, "Hey! I'm looking for an attorney, yes. But I don't want to speed the process up! I'm in no rush so long as the Judge is in no rush!"
Geeze... We'll see what happens, though. I really want some positive things to happen.
March 30th, 2015
You know what is so awesome to see early in the morning? A sunrise; but not just an ordinary sunrise...one that actually accentuates the curvature of the earth...I was looking out my window, the sky a warm orange and violet color...it kind of looked like sherbet ice cream. Well, there are clouds in the distance and the way they floated across the sky and the horizon you could actually see a bowl shaped effect. So cool.
Anyways, lots on my mind today but it is all a bit disjointed and it is getting a bit warm in the cell so I'm distracted...Okay...first things first. I have a new attorney. I've been without one for a few months now, because my previous attorney left my case to accept a prosecution job in Tarrant County, Texas...Which brought to my mind this question: When I was trying to have him removed why did he fight me on it when he could have saved both us time by just removing himself? I mean, he had to have known that there was going to be a job offer if whoever was running for D.A. won? Or maybe he was just waiting to see what happened at elections time. In the end, the Courts ended up appointing someone to me. This appointment stirred up some alarm that I want to address, and this really applies to anyone that writes someone on death row, or is even going through any kind of appeals process... Good or bad attorney...the system is set up in a way that the odds are against anyone going through that process. It is just a simple fact. However, support can go a long way. I'll get to that in a bit. It is easy to be alarmist or reactionary. Especially if you care about someone. An inmate or particular person has such a limited amount of knowledge at their hands we don't always know what needs to be, or should be done...So, if an inmate hears that another guy on death row got some 'action' as we call it, on their case, it is easy to fool yourself into believing that that same 'issue' might apply to them. It is rarely the case, however. Guys then get upset when they tell their attorney "I want you to file this or that, or do this or that..." and when the attorney doesn't, they get all upset, but the fact of the matter is WE AREN'T AND WILL NEVER BE SMARTER THAN OUR OWN ATTORNEYS. We might think we know things, we might even get somegood advice from other inmates fighting their way through the process, but the simple truth is 99.9 percent of the time we don't know jack. All cases aren't the same and all appeal issues aren't applied the same. So, it is kind of unfair to say that an attorney is 'trash' with that kind of ignorance. There are always exceptions, but there are attorneys who do what they're required to do and are really good. How do you prevent a 'bad' attorney from getting away with not doing his job? By being proactive and involved. Show him that his client has LOTS of support and people who care about them. Let him know he's being watched and doing what he's supposed to be doing. Having the inmate be involved and active in his own case by both writing the attorney and judge often. Telling the client not to be abrasive or an asshole. Who wants to work for an asshole? Who wants to be in communication with an asshole? Uhhh. No one. See, some of the guys back here who say "Oh, I've got a bullshit attorney" are very abrasive and unsavory. I don't say that as a judgement, but just as an observation, so I tend to take what they say with a grain of salt. I tend to discard someone's statement about the quality of another person without actual proof. For example, there was this one dude back here who trashed talked his attorney every which way that he could and then the guy ends up getting some action...Grain of salt. Not to say that doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious, but definitely wait and see what the battle field looks like first. Another thing that kind of irritates me is when people say "Oh, he wasn't a good attorney because so and so was executed!" Really? Well, by that standard it means that EVERY death row attorney is shit because even the good ones, the really really REALLY good ones have seen their clients executed. Almost no one - NO ONE - gets relief or action on their appeals. If they did, there wouldn't be a purpose for having a death penalty. It is an anomoly when relief is granted. The system just isn't geared that way. You have a court appointed attorney who is limited in resources vs. an Attorney General who has an unlimited amount of resources. It's not a level playing field. But hey, you guys elect (or don't vote) the people/administrations that appoint these folks. In Texas the cold hard truth is that almost everyone dies. How do you change that? What do you do? If I see red flags with my attorney, I'll do the best that I can to stop the blood loss, I'll do whatever it takes. I just want to know he's going to give me a fighting chance. I've been waking up every single morning lately with this mantra: I want to live. My life has value. Give me a fighting chance. It is all I ask for. Let me prove all the naysayers wrong by showing my worth.
I read something interesting a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to do a long piece on it, but I think it would serve you, the reader, a better, if you looked it up yourself, and pass it on to every person you know either for or against the death penalty. I have no idea how the internet works, but you can find "Killing Kelly: An open letter to Georgia's Christian Citizens" at baptistnews.com
I've read few arguments greater than this one against the death penalty. You could literally apply it to anyone on death row. Christian or not.
Man, it's getting quite warm in here...The sun is out, the cell is heating up. I'll have to turn on my fan which means it is time to shut my trap and stop here...
May 4th, 2015
Of all of the days of the week here, Sundays are the most boring. Yesterday was particulary boring and I've been in such a mental funk over the past month...more in part due to concerns over my legal affairs than anything else, but it seems that everything I've done or tried to do was lackluster. Though, I have been taking my frustrations out on the basketball court and whooping some major ass! More on that in a minute...Even with all of the legal developments in the world of the death penalty good and bad, I just feel...blah. I hate having this air of uncertainty hang over my head. I hate being stuck in limbo and I hate having no control or direction in my life. Imagine being stuck in a conrete box and told, "Just sit there until we figure out what we're going to do with you. You have no say in the matter. Just sit. And wait. Maybe you'll die. Maybe you won't." I'm not a control freak, and I'm definitely not like all alpha male gorilla...I'm more of a thinker, but I don't like the fact that I have ZERO control over my life. I get to decide when I want to masturbate and that is about it. And sometimes that is more up to factors I have no control over, 'cause who wants to be walked up on when they're taking care of their li'l ol li'l ol...can we say...awwwwwkward!?!
Seriously...jokes aside...I can be a very neurotic person and one of my biggest flaws is worrying about things I have no control over. I worry even when I KNOW that there's nothing that can be done...which, admittedly sometimes leads to poor choices and impulsive behaviour because I want to know that I at least tried something to make a difference in the circumstances. The road to hell is paved with good intentions...So, being in this legal dilema is making me feel a bit bonkers. And depressed.
I did recieve a letter from my attorney today and it has made me feel a bit better. We'll see what develops and whether it goes in a positive direction or a bad one. I'm going to be cautiously optimistic and hope for the best. I did have something really awesome happen not too long ago. I heard directly from one of my younger brothers, who I've not heard from in 18 years. I was in brief contact with him through my ex-wife back in 2011 or so but we hadn't talked or communicated directly. So, imagine my surprise when I recieve a letter with his name on it. I was in tears...the fact that he said he has never stopped loving me, that he remembers so much and that I was a good brother. He mentioned things in the past seeming 'dream like' in that he questions the memories but I can assure him he remembers them correctly.
There was nothing I loved more in the world than coming back home from Kentucky on a school break and being tackled by my two little brothers. They would attatch themselves like sucker fish to each leg and I would walk all the way to the living room stiff legged until they climbed off. Jimmy would crawl into my bed late at night and I never kicked him out or told him he wasn't welcome. Even when he would wet he bed, I'd just tell him to jump in the shower and I would change the sheets. It was never that big of a deal for me. I never freaked out over it. I was just happy to have the time I did with them.
Jimmy and Kevin were adopted from Korea and it is hard for people to understand the love I have for both of them and the regret I have...the deep guilt I carry for missing most of their lives. "But they weren't your blood brothers" they'll say and I'm like, yeah so? I changed their diapers. Trucked baby formula and an embarassingly huge bright blue baby bag - AS A TEEN - around Disney World and other places filled with hot young chicks. I babysat them when my parents went out, we made cookies and lemonade together. I cooked eggs for them. I chased them all around the house when they interupted calls with girlfriends (Kevin used to jump on another phone somewhere in the house and yell 'Randy has polka dot under wear! Giggle and run off'. They never were not my brothers. There was something deeper, more spiritual than blood. I loved - still love them with all of me. It has never changed. How could it? So, when you recieve a letter from a brother who says he's never stopped loving you and calls you 'big brother' and has nothing but good memories of you...I feel like I did SOMETHING in my life right. I just hope this leads itself to a greater reconciliation with my family as a whole. I miss them all so much.
I envy guys back here who still have their families in their life. I get pissed off at guys I hear out at visit talking shit to their families, like, dude do you not realize what you have? They drove such and such miles to see your sorry ass and you still treat them like dirt? I would give up anything to have that...Guys ask each other back here, in the hypothetical, if we were to recieve an execution date and all of a sudden friends and family tried to jump back into our lives at the last minute, knowing we're about to die, would we let them? To that I say, HELL YES! Absolutely. I don't care about the lost years. I don't care about the abandonment. I see it like this: Here is an oppurtunity to make things right and have - even a momentary - moment at being reunited with my family. To let them know how much I loved them - even through all of my fuck ups. To let them know I was sorry. Of course I would tell them how hurt I felt by their abandonment, but I forgave them. I would love that oppurtunity. That is what is so awesome about the power and grace of forgiveness...it does take burdens off of your heart.
I've started the basketball season off pretty well. I'm rolling 6 and 1 right now. I went outside to play last Friday and put the smack down 35 games to 5. The week prior to that I tried my hand at one of the best players back here and he gave me a thorough butt whooping, so I'm not quite ready for prime time, but I'm getting there. I told the dude who beat me that the next time I was around him I wanted a rematch, so we'll see what happens. I wish I wasn't stuck in the cell today so I could try to get outside. It looks freakin' fantastic out there and I would like to enjoy the weather before we're in the 100's that is the sultry Texas heat.
May 11th, 2015
There is an absolutely ridiculous rule here in prison: we are not allowed to share. Yes, your billions of brain cells just interpreted that information correctly. The technical term for it is called "Traffic and Trading". The rule was designed to slow down and prevent guys from extorting one another or trying to move drugs or other contraband around in General Population, and the rule makes sense...By stopping guys from sharing and saying it is against the rules, you might be able to prevent extortion and contraband from getting moved around...but inmates are creative, and they just found other ways to do it. It never stopped or slowed anything down.
Now, with a rule such as that you would think that some common sense would be applied in the enforcement of that rule. Especially in a segregated enviroment like the one death row is. I mean, we have no physical contact with anyone so it isn't likely that some dude can tell another dude through the door of his cell "Hey, gimme all yo' commissary or I'm gonna butt rape you." Because, dude you can't get to my butt so na na na na na...Unless you have a rope for a penis and then well, you're one bad mofo. We are locked in our cells for 22-23 hours out of the day. The only things we can do is read, write, listen to the radio and eat. That is it. Now, maybe for some that is too much, but I'm sure if you ask the guards if they'd rather have inmates do that or harass them all day they'd prefer the former. It's just common sense. However...(you knew this was coming, didn't you?) there are some that have ZERO common sense. In their fanatic madness to punish a person back here or to follow every single arbitrary rule to the 't'. common sense gets shit out like a rabid rabbit running through a briar patch. There are some of us who are fortunate. We get books, magazines, commissary. And the majority of those people do share. It makes little sense to have books or comics, read it a couple of times and then throw it away...Being a lover of all things art and literature, that is just not going to happen with me. I'd rather take the risk of breaking THAT rule by giving it to others who I know will enjoy it as well.
Tuesday morning started off as any morning does. Guys going to first round of recreation and all that. But there was one officer who was on the war path and began to make guys' mornings very difficult. Barking out orders like a like a drill sergeant on crack. The best thing to do is just stay out of her way, go about your day as you normally would and don't let it get under your skin. I had no intention of getting involved with her at all.
I'm just sitting there listening to her rant and rave as I listen to the morning news, drinking a bottle of water when I hear a loud THUMP! Curious, I go to my door and look at the day room. On the outside of the bars I see a large white envelope and I wonder "Hmmm...Is that my comics?" When out of nowhere this demon hell spawn darts across the run way and snatches up the white bundle. I kind of laugh like, 'what's her deal?' and walk away from.the door. It doesn't really concern me at all...And then, it does.
"Dude! Randy! Chick just took all of your comics!"
"We were passing them to someone else and she ran over there and snatched them up!"
Now, I was upset at that point. Materially, it isn't the end of the world. Most everyone had seen them, and I had read them. They were just comics. It was the pettiness of it that upset me and when I talked to her - civilly I should add - her attitude just got under my skin. All of us spent the day trying to have them returned, at the very least, given back to me. The other two guards were sympathetic about what happened and even said if she wasn't working they would return them, but they couldn't cross her or go behind her back. Understandable. I just chalked them up as a loss. So, imagine my surprise when a 2nd shift officer returned them to me. Apparently, one of my good friends back here had haggled the night officers into returning them as they were just sitting on a trash can.
My point is, what harm did any of that cause? Why wouldn't you want people to share when it promotes not only good will amongst one another, but a civility to the environment we live in? All of that madness over essentially tree pulp.
May 13th, 2015
I'm sitting here at 8:34am on a grey Wednesday morning, trying to put together my thoughts after a night of tossing and turning. I can be a bit neurotic about things and when a certain event happens, I can dwell on it and over analyze it. I can let it bother me.
I haven't been in a cell in which I can SEE someone being taken away to their execution in a long time. I hadn't forgotten what that experience is like...it has always been inside of me, but to watch - to see a group of guards putting a scared and shackled person into the back of a white van...Knowing they are driving to a certain death. If it didn't bother me, I wouldn't be human.
I felt bad. Really bad. We don't become indifferent to executions back here, but in a way we do get desensitized to the overall experience. You know there is an execution, but after seeing so many people leaving and never coming back, it is easier to just push it into the back of your mind and leave it there. And so, that morning I went about my day as I usually do. I was scheduled to go outside and I was excited to play basket ball. I was going to play one of the - if not the best ball player on death row. Even if I couldn't beat him, I was psyched that the dude was going to give me a chance. And we battled it out. I mean, really went after it. I hung with him (to his amazement) and even though I had my ass handed to me a whopping 52 games to 3...the run and the pace was awesome. It was a battle royale. I came back into my cell high off of the adrenaline and endorphins.
Again, I knew there was an execution but hadn't given it much thought and so when someone yelled "Here comes the van! Look out the window..." Those good feelings came crashing down. I climbed on the back of the bunk bed and looked out the window. The van backed up to a gate where a bunch of guards and important people were standing and I watched as the guy climbed in...I wondered what he was thinking. Was he at peace? Was he frightened? Did he have family waiting on him?
I felt like the van was crossing some eternal threshold, as if the road lead to a portal into another life. There is a great Graphic Novel series called Locke & Key, by Joe Hill; the story centers around a series of doors and keys that open into a world of very strange things. One of the keys opens the 'deathdoor'. When you cross the door threshold your body falls over dead and your spirit is ejected. I kind of felt like the van was doing the same thing...Passing through an invisible gateway to another life. But my main thoughts for the rest of the day was focused on how the guy felt and what his last moments were.
It bothered me. It still bothers me and it is difficult right now to explain in words the various emotions I'm feeling myself. I could get into a whole slew of nonsense about what does lie beyond that death door; if there is anything or not. I could go on about what our purpose in life is and if there's any importance in being a conscious, sentient animal on this planet, and the why of self awareness...I don't know...but the most basic way I can think of explaining anything is this...it just all sucks.
June 3rd, 2015
Everyone knew it was coming at any time and today it happened...the 90 day lock-down for death row. A little refresher course: Towards the end of 2008 there was a hug cell phone scandal...An inmate by the name of Richard Tabler was able to get his hands on a cell phone and decided it would be an awesome idea to call a Texas State Senator and threaten him and his family. What purpose he thought this would serve is anyone's guess, but what it brought upon death row inmates was holy hell, and this place has been the worse for it ever since. From cameras being EVERYWHERE, to random shakedowns, a shakedown team, a death row designated mail room where mail is scrutinized closer than ever (and the main reason why it takes mail about seven days on average to get off of the unit) and lock downs every 90 days. What is the old adage? It only takes one person to srew it up for everyone else...But whatever, it is here and there's nothing anyone can say or do about it. Just prepare and hope for the best. I just hate the shake down part...having to fit ALL (exept electronics like a radio, hot pot, fan etc.) personal property into a bread crate that is about 3 and a half feet x 2 and a half feet or so...I've written about this before, but besides having almost no control over anything, I also don´t really own anything. Maybe in a quasi sense of ownership, but the truth is any guard at any time can break, throw away or confiscate any of our property. Wait, you say, they can't do that! People bought that for you, people used their own blood sweat and tears to work for that...to pay for that! And we're forever grateful, but the fact remains - anything can happen to it. It is a real fear for us back here. Well, maybe fear is a strong word but there is always a sense of dread that fills the air of any lock down. What will we lose?
To add to the air of uncertainty, we have a new warden and new wardens like to make their mark. To show their authority. Each warden has their own pet peeves and how they like shake downs to happen. So, will this warden keep things as they've been for about the last two years or change it up?...
To be continued....
June 5th, 2015
A couple of things have happened today. One, as I write this we're waiting for this section to have its shake down, but the way that it's looking, the guards won't make it over here until later this evening. We'll probably have to deal with second shift and who knows how that will go...another uncertainty to worry about. My brain is filled with enough uncertainty, so to have to worry about another thing...I really wish I had a head key (reference to the wonderful series Locke & Key, by Joe Hill) so that I could just take the unwanted thoughts away and be worry free! Looks like I'm also going to miss Jurassic Park tonight as well. B0000!
A funny thing happened this morning. So I'm fortunate to get some comics from time to time. They usually are brought to me by the mail room in the morning and I have to go through this senseless process of signing a recieval notice and then the mail room says, "These are being sent to Huntsville for review." Cause you know, comics are the equivalant to porn...Every now and then they'll review them on the unit and just give them to me instead of making me wait an additional 30 plus days to get them...So, when the mail room just handed them to me, I thought cool! I've got something to read that I don't have to wait for. I sat down like child recieving a birthday present and began to read...Well, about 30 or 40 minutes later, a different mail room lady shows up at my cell door and says, "Halprin...you recieved some stuff this morning that wasn't reviewed? We need that back." Now, I could've been a real asshole and put up a huge fuss, but I generally don't like getting on the bad side of the the mail room people...You learn several rules when you are in prison and one of those key rules is never piss of the property officer, commissary officer or mail room officer...they are crucial to a person's sanity. Screw that off and you're doing 'hard time' indeed.
I've had this happen before with the mail room and I know there are other guys back here who would say, "Fuck 'em! They gave it to you, don't be a dumb ass and turn it back over. "But again, it goes back to that rule of not pissing off the mail room. Mistakes happen and I'd rather not have potential problems later down the road. So, I just handed them back, and besides I had ample time to read them before giving them back. I'm confident that the people, who approve these things will give them back. I just wish they weren't so damn slow in the reviewing process...
Speaking about comics, they really are growing in popularity back here. I think that it comes down to the sheer entertainment value of them. No longer considered 'just for geeks'. The publisher, Image Comics, has been nailing it in terms of writing/story telling and art. They have titles in just about every genre you can think of. Walking Dead is by far the most popular series back here and it only continues to grow. I highly suggest any friends of guys back here to consider ordering comics or graphic novels for their friends if you're hunting for material to send them. I try to do my very best to share with others and believe me, the comics that I do have get around, but it is increasingly more difficult to keep up with demand and popularity of certain series. You can order Volumes (typically 4-6 issue collections of a particular series) or Graphic Novels via amazon.com, or even used titles via amazon.com market place. Single issue comics and subscriptions are really easy to order from a wonderful business - Midtown Comics.
I suggest ordering first, the Previews guide...it´s basically a HUGE monthly catalog that gives you a complete break down of all the titles/releases for a particular month. Midtown comics offers this for a little over three dollars each month. It will allow your friend to find titles he or she might be interested in.
Some of the most popular titles around right now are The Walking Dead, Thief of Theives, The Tithe, Locke & Key, Rat Queens, Any super hero comic (X-Men seemingly the most popular of that genre...I'm more of a BatMan dude...) Alex & Ada (which sadly ends this month), Copper Head, Star Wars and on and on...There's some really good stuff out there and I'm sure your pen friends would enjoy them. Okay, gotta get ready for the shakedown. I hope it goes well.
June 6th, 2015
Well, last night was relatively painless...Actually, it was hassle free. They put us all in the shower, let us wash and shave and by the time we were done, they were done. They didn't take anything from me at all. I was relieved and happy, as most guys were, although some guys in the day time didn't fair well as another demon hell spawn showed up to create havoc and chaos. A crazy world we live in. It was rumored that this particular, demon had been fired for an unauthorized use of force, but I guess those rumors were not true. Oh well. They didn't get us at night so again, I'm relieved.
It is one of those very peaceful days of quietness. Not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of the day, though. Probably read and listen to the radio.
June 7th, 2015
So, lately, with the uncertainty of appeals and all of the executions going on, I've been thinking about how arbitrary and capricious the death penalty really is. I've been focused a lot on my own mortality, and it's frightening...Feeling frightened is an understatement, but being pissed off is as well. Pissed off with myself - there's a bit of self hatred and loathing, because as I tell people all the time, I do have to accept a certain degree of responsibility for my actions and choices throughout my younger years.
Remorse, regret...I think people who say in they have 'no regrets' are full of shit...how can you go through life not regretting anything? They use the old adage of "well, it's shaped and guided who I've become now." True, but really no regrets? No relationship done differently? No, remorse towards anyone and anything you've done wrong? Is your mind a vacant jug of air and dust?
Examine your life...really sit down and examine it and surely you'll find something you wished you could've done differently - all of those things. Yes, I do forgive myself and I do love myself, but dammit if I wouldn't like to go back to the younger version of me and say "Take your head out of your ass!" I get angry at myself because the mistakes I've made were easily avoidable.
I wake up each morning and wonder how much longer I have on this planet. I can't be one of those people who doesn't fear death. I'm too tethered to this world and I'm too afraid of the unknown. I want to believe in something greater than us, but the random chaos in this universe makes me doubtful...never mind the mathematical perfection, and that whole theory of creationism...but like, I'm sitting here typing this out - a FREAKING PRISONER - and I get three meals a day, a place to sleep etc, and someone who has never done anyone any harm or wrong is starving to death half way across the world. Life makes no sense to me at times. G-d makes no sense to me at times...
Maybe my own fears and doubts are not rational, I'm aware of that...If we just die and turn to dust what does it matter, right? But...don't we all want to have had this mean something and have our lives be defined by a certain amount of purposefulness? Thinking about all of the recent executions, though, I can't help but zero in on Lester Bower...Almost 70 years old, an insane amount of execution dates, a legitimate innocence claim and he's dead now? Killed by the State of Texas? Really? What purpose did that serve the citizens of this state or country? How do you justify strapping a 70 year old man down and exploding his heart?
The only argument that the pro-death penalty movement has any more is based on emotion. An emotion of vengeance and fear. And like most emotions, when you strip them down to their basic function, they are really irrational when you think about them. Most fear based emotions are really irrational. How do we kill a person like Lester Bower? Fear and the manipulation of it. When you look at any death penalty case at the sentencing phase, one of the 'special issues' that have to be considered is whether or not a defendent is going to be a continuing threat to society or "Future threat of dangerousness". If this cannot be answered 'yes' then the life must be spared. Generally, this is decided by looking at the crime. Usually heinous in its manner and based on the prosecuters assertions that even in a general population prison environment, a life sentence would only allow for the oppurtunity that the defendent hurt another person.
What is the argument then, for Mr. Bower? Consider the facts: 30 plus years without any major disciplinary infraction. When, in those 30 years, was Lester ever looking for the oppurtunity to hurt someone? He was on the Ellis Unit, before the state shipped all of those inmates to Polunsky and a more controlled and segregated/isolated environment after an escape attempt happened there. He worked in the garment factory as a death row prisoner, using heavy machinery and tools. He was the officer clerk for the officers who supervised the garment factory, had a cell mate, access to myriad 'weapons', as did the 400 plus inmates. Where were the murders, death and mayhem that prosecuters promised a jury?
We live in a society of fear. America is built upon fear and the wholesale distrubution of it. Fermented by ignorance, hate, prejuidice, religious ignorance and bigotries...I'm amazed at how big, tough and badass we think we are. With this whole 'the sky is falling' irattionality of fear. I'm surprised more people aren't afraid of their own shadows. You can disguise our fear in the name of Justice, but it is still only fear.
The way that our death penalty is applied in this country defies any sense of logic. I used the words arbitrary and capricious because they are the best definition for it. There's no ryhme or reason, no fairness as to how it is applied. It makes me mad back here when I see people who truly deserve another chance be put to death, and then dudes who could be truly defined as a 'monster' get off of death row and get a second chance.
Don't misunderstand me, I'm 100% against the death penalty for any crime. I'm just using those circumstances as an example. I've read about serial killers who recieve life sentences because they work out a deal with the prosecuters to reveal where other bodies are, and a kid who runs into a gas station, robs and accidentaly kills a person be put down like a dog. I've seen so called Christian Governors talk about redemption and salvation, then turn around and mock death row prisoners who seek or have found that same salvation.
There's a Christian radio station called American Family Radio. Now, I'm a person who likes to hear all sides of an arguement or particular issue and while it is TORTURE to sit through just about any program on AFR, I do try to listen and take in what I can. I try not to generalize or condescend a person's view, or people for that matter, but one host named Brian Fisher on AFR is a real nutter. His vitriol and hatred towards homosexuals, muslims, President Obama...I can usually only stomach about 30 minutes of his voice before I want to run to the toilet and vomit...but he said something interesting the other day in regards to this Duggers family scandal and it goes to show the general hypocrisy in our society as a whole...I have never seen any t.v. episode of whatever program the Dugger family is on, but I have heard on various programs their outspokenness against gay marriage, and fundamentalist Christians hold them in high regard, apparently. Well, from what I understand one of their children, who is a grown adult now was at some point in his teens a sexual abuser...he apparently went through treatment and such and the matter was swept under the rug. Forgive me if I don't get all of this 100% right, I am getting somewhere with this...When this came to light recently, the Duggers were attacked and publicly shamed and Brian Fisher, a man who says the death penalty is a righteous punishment held up by God and the bible, came to the defense of the Duggers and the son in question who commited unspeakable acts against young women, citing forgiveness, salvation, and rehabilitation...But by Mr. Fisher's own definition of how the death penalty should be applied, and his own biblical standards, the Duggers son should've been dragged to the back yard and stoned to death. Why is this same standard not applied to the hundreds of men across the nation who are currently waiting to be executed? Surely, some of those men have asked for forgiveness, have asked for any kind of rehabilitation and salvation. Why is their desire for redemption not taken seriously, but a pseudo celebrity is held up as some sort of role model for forgiveness?
I'm just tired and worn out...I'm too damned stubborn to throw the towel in, but as a whole, I do wish this would end...all of the fear, the anguish, the mental torment and self doubt. Doubt about G-d, the universe, and everything...But most of all I just wish we'd stop using fear to kill each other. It has to end at some point...Right?
July 6th, 2015
I've been here for 12 years now and I've seen or been exposed to enough executions to drive a person insane. A friend of mine seems to think we all suffer from some form of PTSD back here, and I don't know if that is true or not. I mean, I feel fine at times, but then I've never been in another environment to see how I react to certain stimuli. Outside of the obvious effects of solitary confinement and my own personal disorders - if they really are disorders - I feel relatively normal. And when I come to know that each execution (or get word that another person has recieved an execution date) is just another day on death row, I'm always surprised at my own reaction when I watch two guards show up to the pod to take a person to death watch...Disbelief, grief and shock - even when it is expected to happen.
I was sitting in the dayroom after exercising, just collecting my thoughts and zoning out, when the guards came for Perry Williams. I've known him for years. I don't know what he did, I don't care what he did. All I know is him back here and he was a good dude. I've seen his family come for years to visit him, I've helped him when he needed it, and he's helped me when I've needed. We've played basketball together, listened to movies on our radio together (well he was in the cell next to me and we'd discuss it )...When they came to take him away I didn't know what to say other than the standard, "Keep your head up." But then it hit me as he exited the door and I just blurted out "I hate this fucking place. I do. I hate it. I hate that as human beings we still think this is the only way to solve something. It isn't about punishment or justice. That is just bullshit to make ourselves feel better. It is pure vengeance and there's no way around it. After thousands of years of social evolution, we still act like fucking cavemen"
July 7th, 2015
Something told me to get out of bed early this morning. The guards usually begin setting up the day's recreation schedule about 5:20am, and when the guard asked me if I was going and I said yes, she said it would be 4th round, which would have put me out waaaay late in the afternoon. I force myself to go but believe me when I say that 4th round is about the most boring horrible time to go. It borders on shift change...then dinner shows up, then you get stuck out and get a really late shower - if you don't end up getting screwed out of a shower. I laid in bed a little bit longer and then thought, wait! Someone is bound to VR at the last minute and maybe I can slide in the spot. I jumped up, slammed a cup of coffee and brushed my teeth. Well, someone didn't VR, but instead jacked the run and said he wanted to go to F-pod, the disciplinary pod. I think there's some concerted effort to put together a peaceful protest of sorts, because that is the second person in two days to willingly go down there. Regardless, that left the opening and I jumped all over it. I hollared at the guard and said "Hey, if it is open I'm ready right now!" It was cool, quiet, and I knew I'd be able to work out with little distraction for that two hour period. Screw waiting all day for recreation!
Well, it won't be long until death watch is filled up. They're issuing execution dates like goverment cheese. On KPFT news they were talking about Harris County (Houston Area) and its trend of not executiing anyone. Well, someone obviously didn't get the memo about the number of guys who are waiting on dates back here, and that they are from HARRIS COUNTY...!! Like six or seven dudes...Sure, the trend as a whole on death row is indeed fewer death sentences, but Texas is setting a pace to hit a high and it is Greg Abbott's first year as Governor. Go Texas!
I really can't wait until the Mexicans take over. I'm not saying that tongue in cheek either...The fewer crazed white/right wing Republicans we have in this state is the day Texas will be a better state in general.
July 12th, 2015
It has been so freaking hot... Yes, we have some air that is blowing from the vents in our cells but for the most part as soon as it reaches the open spaces it dissipates, and you end up a sweaty mess. Thank god for the inventions of fans! Texas heat has never been kind.
I wish I could say that I've been up to a, lot, but I haven't. I'm in one of those weird head spaces where I'm not miserable or depressed, but neither am I just all happy-go-lucky. Too many thoughts running around. A big part of it is just reliving a bunch of old memories that came popping up while I was listening to an all 90's music weekend on the radio. Songs I haven't heard in years, decades really. Crazy that one song, one bar of music can open your mind up like a tuna can and send you crashing back to the past. .
What I really wish I had is photos from my childhood...that would be the best thing ever. My brother, who is in treatment right now mentioned in a letter that he's going to ask my parents for them...The thing with that is, they've not talked to me in 18 years now and I hope they don't give him any resistance in handing them to him. But it would mean the world to me. I had some of my old year books for a while and certain circumstances caused me to lose them about 4 1/2 years ago. What was great about showing those to guys back here is, it would validate some of my stories. In prison, tales come in many forms and fashions, and a great deal of people's 'past lives' in the free world are concoctions...stories to impress those back here. Tales of the gangster life, or whatever...When I tell people that yeah, I grew up in a nice home, went to private school etc. you can see that "he's full of shit" look in their eyes...I'd whip out the year books, and people loved to see them.
Anyways, I'm in the process of trying to get stuff. We'll see.
I'll try to write more this week. I'm just going to get under the fan for now.
July 20th, 2015
It's been an interesting few days...As I write this, though, I'm tired as hell because I had very little sleep last night, and then woke up at 5:15am and couldn't get back to sleep...I ended up just saying "screw it" and went about starting my day. I'll be going to recreation here in a little bit, but I wanted to get a jump on the day and get to writing, even if my brain is firing with all of its neurons. Oh and it feels like an oven in the cell - I actually heard that guys who went to visit on Saturday were visiting their people without any air conditioning...that had to suck!
Last week they had an audit of some sort and it never fails to erupt this place into chaos. They (the administration) wait until the last minute and they send inmate clean up crews to scrub and mop, paint over things and generally make things look good on the surface. It is all an illusion, of course, but the inmates are the ones who get faulted for their incompetence. Instead of doing general maintenance and all of the other general upkeep all year round, they go into this panic.
They also start enforcing all of these stupid arbitrary rules like "no clothes line up from 6am to 6pm" or no property in your cell can remain out in the "open" when you aren't in your cell. Just stupid stuff, and if you don't follow these rules that they HAVEN'T been enforcing all year long well, you get a disciplinary case...as was the case when 10 guys got written up on my pod. I shouldn't be surprised but it does amaze me how they get away with it. This whole place is a house of sand and fog. I hate how retarded it sounds to whine or complain about the stupid things they do, but the place is just frustrating at times.
Speaking of frustration...I'm really fed up with the crazy people that reach out to guys back here - especially the women that go out of their way to have relationships with prisoners or guys on death row in the guise of being a supporter or activist. Don't get me wrong or misunderstand me, I don't doubt the sincerity of those who fall in love naturally and have healthy relationships; I don't think they are groupies or whatever. I believe in love and it "just happening", but let's face it, there are some bat shit crazy people involved in this world.
Somehow I got dragged into some BS drama between a couple all because I told someone else that the dude's chick wasn't being faithful, and actually thought it was kind of humorous that they were both being insincere with one another and lying/manipulating each other. I couldn't believe it entered into the realm of alternate realities...."Oh I love you. You're the only one, baby..." "Yeah, me too" and they're both lying to each other for...what? I don't get it, but whatever floats their boat. What I don't get is the games and charades...even more so when the dude who is locked up tries to control a woman who is in TOTAL control, from the inside of a prison cell!...I don't know.
I really can't get my thoughts together on this issue because I'm tired and frustrated and I really don't try or mean to judge anyone and I'm not questioning any real relationship...love happens. I've been in love back here. It can be real, but dammit if I'm not just sick and tired of the groupies and crazy chicks...I'm tired of the users and manipulators back here...I'm just tired of the craziness.
Also those who play the victim role on either side of the fence. There are real victims and then there are the "everyone is against me, I don't know why this is happening", blah freaking blah. I'm tired of it. Sooooooooooooo tired. I know that I'm getting a bit cynical in this place, but fuck it, I've been cramped up and tied down for fifteen years and you think you've seen it all and then new and wonderful surprises come your way.
July 24th, 2015
I am a bit on the depressed side...Yesterday I kind of hurt the feelings of one of my friends back here...It wasn't intentional, but he was quite pissed at me and I haven't been able to talk to him since so...I really hate when you're trying to get closure or some kind of resolution and for one reason or the other you can't immediately. The wait sucks...so here's what happened...
Yesterday I was going to go outside and had every intention of going outside, I mean it is hotter than the hells of Hades, but sunshine is sunshine and I wanted to go. I told my friend because he would intercept the guards before me to set it up. However, I was of the understanding that it would be 2nd or 3rd round of recreation so when I asked the guard if my friend had talked to them they said "Yes, but it will be 4th or 5th round..." I said "That late? Can't we possibly go any sooner because I really don't want to get stuck out until 2nd shift...?" She said that was the best she could do for us and so I turned it down and said I'd just prefer to go to the dayroom and get rec. out of the way. Look, it's not that I would've turned down rec. I would've gone. I don't ever give up recreation unless I just feel depressed. So, if that was all that was open I would've gone, but I hate hate hate being stuck out until second shift. Shift change is at 5.30pm and they're usually in the middle of feeding dinner, so the guards on the next shift do a security check, finish feeding, then count time. By the time they change out the recreations and take us back to our cells I'm tired, I'm hungry, I want to listen to the news and get mail, read, go to bed...The guard went back and told him I said that didn't work for me and he got really mad at me. I felt bad. Still do. I sent word explaining things and said I was sorry but I haven't received word back on anything so the not knowing is driving me nuts. I should've just sucked it up and gone outside instead of leaving him hanging.
I suppose it is a flaw...I can be the most accommodating person in the world, giving, generous...but I have a tendency to do things my way or no way at all. I don't bend easily and I think I need to work on that...I don't intentionally try to hurt peoples' feelings and I hate when I do.
Anyways, I've been up since 5.30am and it is one of those days...Not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of the day. Just trying to keep my thoughts positive.
August 2nd, 2015
It's been an interesting weekend to say the least...Yesterday was an ever loving nightmare as we had the spawn of satan working on our pod and wreaking holy havoc upon our mortal souls. I made the mistake of saying something sarcastic to this demon child and so while I was out at recreation she went into my cell and tore it the hell up! I just watched from the dayroom as things went flying out. True they were technically "contraband" items - little nick nack stuff like a fishing line, but unnecessary to say the least. Whatever. I felt like an extra on the Sharknado movies...She did a few other guys the same way. Live and let live. I bit my tongue.
So, I was thinking about a recent journal entry I wrote, and I hope I didn't offend anyone by my little rant about crazy chicks who write guys back here. I was more or less venting because a friend of mine had some unnecessary madness from someone I deemed batshit crazy, and I was upset about it. But it did get me to thinking about the various kinds of relationships that people have with prisoners. I think there are three categories: the "groupie" kind where both guy and girl capitalize on the immediate attention, or gravitate towards the more high profile cases of guys on death row...just like a rock star, the inmate feeds his ego and the female (or male, I'm sure there are male groupies too!) either wants to bang the inmate and feed off of the attention that hooking up with someone in prison gives them...
It fizzles out, the attention fades and they move on to the next inmate and so forth. Then, there's the supernova relationship...A person reaches out with the intentions of offering help or friendship, but you immediately click and things/love happen really fast. They're passionate and immediate...You get caught up in its gravity and then...like a collapsing star it turns into a black hole of emptiness, regret, and sadness when it ends (been there are time or two myself). And then there's the slow burn kind of love...the one that starts out purely platonic. A friendship begins and builds and then some years down the line you realize that you've loved each other all along. You've spent so much time writing each other, visits and such, that it is like you become each others' symbiote...
Everyone needs love one way or the other and I truly believe that a relationship with the right love and care can be meaningful back here, but I'm skeptical of the groupies...I am skeptical of the women who build their lives around death row or prison - those that seem to be pulled to this life. Let me be clear, though, there's a big difference between someone who gravitates to "this life" and those who see a big case on TV, or are touched by a particular person's story and want to help in some kind of way. It isn't the same at all. Even if you think, wow...it's a damn shame that guy is locked up because he's attractive...or whatever. I don't equate the two of them. Crazy chicks and groupies MAKE this their world, and for reasons known only to them, their relationships are all here, and not outside. Anyways, that is my little ramble on the subject, a head scratcher for sure, but these are my thoughts, not yours...Told you I can be a bit neurotic.
I'll be writing more soon, so please stay tuned!
August 11th, 2015
Where to begin? With the EXTREME heat we've been having it has been so hard to concentrate on anything else. They don't allow us multi outlets in our cells anymore (something they banned a few years back) so we can only plug in two items at a time. My fan and radio win out most of the time and typewriter be damned! But I really need to write so...here I am. The sacrifices I make in this place!
Speaking of heat, we've had triple digit temps for over a week now, and I've been locked up for almost or a little past (sooooo strange to write that) 18 years, and never in all those years have they closed the outside recreation yards because of the heat. But since last Friday they will not allow anyone outside from 11am 'til 6pm. A lot of guys have complained about it, but here's the thing - no one is really getting screwed out of rec. because by the time second shift gets here most of the recreation is finished inside so the guys have the option of staying inside to recreate or still go outside. I would be upset if we DIDN'T have this option, but we do. Who wants to be outside in what is essentially a concrete box covered with steel bars just so you can fry on the pavement for two hours? NOT ME! My skin is delicate enough. I don't tan easily and I fear that exposed to 100 plus degree weather would just cause me to burst into flames.
I can remember when I first went to prison; they placed me on a transfer unit in Tennessee Colony. Basically the point of a transfer unit is to give you temporary housing until a prison unit or facility is assigned for the individual prisoner. You go through what could be a month, or a year long, "classification" process. Tests, evaluations, crimes are all considered. Even religion.
I had been in county jail for over a year and a half by the time I received my sentence and left from Fort Worth to the Gurney Unit. I hadn't been exposed to any direct sunlight during that entire time and I was placed in this transfer facility at the height of summer. It was hot enough in the tin "dorms" we were placed in, but I was also being assigned to the "Hoe Squad" (not to be confused with the "ho squad" a pilot television show I just made up about a bunch of prostitutes who join the police force to get righteous revenge on the pimps that control them) Anyways...sorry. Haha.
Tennessee Colony has some of the largest fields in the prison system and workers from surrounding prisons are also sent to pick okra, maize, green beans, etc. We would turn out for work at six in the morning, hop into the back of trailers and ride out to these massive fields with the blackest soil you've ever seen in your life. We would hop off the trailer, be handed an "aggie" or hoe and told to "pair up". The inmates would immediately fall in lines of two and walk towards the fields. I had never done such physical labor in my life. Our job was to till the soil by sheer human force. Boring, agonizing and back breaking work. Each "row" of tillers would have a lead man who would call out a cadence to set the pace we would work. Often the counts would turn into old slave songs "one, two, three, four step! One, two, three, four step! One day when I am free...I'll drink by the river on hands and knees..." And on and on it would go.
By mid day we would load back into the trailers and head back for lunch, turn back out for work and start all over again. The sun was beating down, and being an indigent inmate early on I didn't have the luxury of buying sunblock. You couldn't even get it for free from medical at this time in 1997. And so I just baked. Well, fried was more like it...I was miserable, and at the end of the day I laid in my bunk bed, damn near in tears for so many reasons, and in so much pain. My skin was red and blistering, and I was a mess.
The next day I flat out refused to return to work. No way was I going back out to that without some kind of protection. When I was served a disciplinary case later that day the sergeant serving the case said "Look boy, I see your predicament so all you need to do is go to medical, get a pass and tell them you need sunblock and a hat. They'll give you a pass and I won't send you to lock-up for refusing to work". I was fortunate he wasn't being such a hard ass towards me. When I went to medical they lotioned me up with aloe vera and gave me a bottle of sunblock along with a hat. It helped tremendously. And back to work I was...
In about 1998 or 99 the state made it policy that all offenders were to be given a hat, and sunblock, if they couldn't afford it, and also if the temperature was over a certain degree, we had to head back towards the prison. On the Connally Unit, the prison I'd been officially assigned to in South Texas, it meant only working half days. You had to do a mandatory 90 days in the fields at any assigned unit, but after that and unless you were just a complete screw up, you could request a job assignment elsewhere.
Texas is always a few steps behind in the way it treats its prisoners compared with the rest of the States. Like now, most prisons have zero air conditioning. Oh, the buildings with no ventilation like the Death Row building have very minor air conditioning, but as a whole it is hot as holy fuck. I know the prisoners in general population are suffering hard. I feel for them. I've been there and it isn't something you forget easily. Maybe that is the reason I see them shutting the recreation yards down outside as a good thing. I can empathize. On the plus side, there is a strong push to force Texas to add air conditioning to the units that have none. Never mind the health issues. There was a recent scandal where it was discovered that the state was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to air condition the hog pens on certain units but not the cell blocks. Texas y'all!!
August 12th, 2015
I'm trying to find a bit of motivation to write through this heat...Lunch is here so another interruption (or excuse!) to pause for a second. I'm back. It was some kind of weird sloppy joe mix. I think it was made with cat. Yummy!
So first I wanted to thank Sister Helen Prejean for taking a moment to write about my case and showing support. When I received word about it...well, I was shocked and I'm grateful for it. I really am. Reading her words, I got a bit choked up. I just wish she could speak out for more people. I'm just one of many.
I was thinking about what I wrote yesterday and telling a story from working in the fields and it brought back a flood of other memories. I really don't and haven't discussed with anyone I know about my time in general population. It's not that it was a traumatizing experience for me...I have the same attachment to those memories as I do the ones of being on death row, which is practically none. I can remember events, things, people...but those years, they are more of a big white void in my brain. I can recall things, but if I don't, those memories turn into a hum. I've spent so many years reflecting on my life growing up, years in Kentucky and the whys of the path I eventually went down, I never thought to analyze the years in prison other than the feelings that lead to my eventual escape. And yet, there are some good memories, scary memories, even funny memories of those five years of being in general population. I think that it is about time to start sharing them...
I can't remember exactly what month I went to prison. I think it was June or July. I was only 19 years old at the time. I went to jail September 5th of 1996 - that date I'll never forget. I was in Tarrant County Jail, in Ft Worth, Texas. Yesterday I think I said I was there for almost a year and a half, but thinking back it had to have been more like 9 or 10 months. When it was time to go to TDCJ I left Tarrant County Jail, and stayed at some kind of holding facility until the state could pick up prisoners. I was only there for a few weeks and then it was off to Tennessee Colony, and the Gurney Unit.
The bus pulled into a fenced in area and male officers in their uniforms surrounded the bus. Immediately when the bus doors opened they began to scream at the shackled men. "Line up! Shut the fuck up! I don't want to hear one goddamn word from anyone's mouth! When the shackles come off the clothes come off! I said shut the fuck up and move! Let's go!"
I remember chills coming over me and immediate panic. Scenes from the movie "Schindler's List" flashed in my head...frightened Jews being rounded up and forced into the train cars. I'd never been completely naked in front of a bunch of other men, even in our school's gym... when it was time to hit the showers we all stayed in our boxer shorts.
The shackles were removed and immediately another male guard was in my face. "Strip the fuck down and stand in line! Move it! Over there. What the fuck is wrong white boy?"
I began getting naked, shivering cold in 90 degree heat. I stood in the growing line of men, shaking as well. One prisoner found the whole event funny and began to crack jokes. Like jackals, two officers were on him, grabbing his arms and pulling him out of the line. They forced him to the ground where another guard placed handcuffs on him. "You want to make noise. You want to act like a damn fool and you'll go straight to lock up. Stand in line, nuts to ass, and SHUT.THE.FUCK.UP!" Jaws clenched tightly like steel traps on each of us.
We stood there for a few more minutes and then another officer barked more orders, "Here's how it is... One by one you'll move forward...Run your fingers through your hair, behind your ears, open your mouth and wiggle your tongue around. Lift your nut sack up. Turn around, spread your ass cheeks. Lift the bottom of your feet and wiggle your toes around. Step to the side and call out your boxer shorts size. Someone will throw you a pair. Put them on and stand in the next line."
We all did what we were told, and then we were marched forward, through another gate and into a building. Inside the building were barber shop chairs. We were told to sit in the chair, an inmate barber stepped in behind us and with a pair of hair clippers, began to buzz our hair off. After that we were handed a razor, told to throw the boxer shorts off and into a pile and told to get in the shower and shave. Back then the razors were horrible. Super dull and single bladed, it was like taking the lid off a tin can and scraping it against your face. We all shaved as fast as we could, stepped out of shower and were handed a new pair of boxer shorts, got in another line and then walked to a counter and asked what size clothing we were. I said, still used to "free world" clothing, "size 36" and the female guard behind the counter laughed. "No, we deal in Xs here..." "Oh, sorry. Uhm...XL". I was handed a pair of pants and shirt, told to get dressed and sit down on a series of benches. By this time the fear has subsided and I was more amused and curious of the whole thing. My survival mode had kicked in and now it was about gathering as much information, observing how everything operated, how the guards acted and what kind of behaviors they responded best to. Watching the inmates and finding the guys I'd most easiest get along with and have similar interests. I've been thrown in numerous different scenarios my whole life. At first I react with fear and uncertainty and then, it's like something clicks inside of me, I go on auto pilot and my brain just tells me "SURVIVE"! From the beatings of my biological parents, to foster homes, adoption and school in Kentucky, even being homeless for a brief while. I figure out a way to adapt and make it work. Now 19 and in prison, I had to make it work. This was just day one. Many more days to go...
So, that is where I'll stop for now. I was actually interrupted in my writing for recreation and now it is much later in the afternoon and I'm ready to wind down, listen to some NPR (national public radio) and the world news, read a bit and wait on mail. I had to wash in my sink when I got back to my cell because the guards jacked my shower...I'm sure that those who write guys back here on death row know about this, but it's a trade off instead of a case. The guard will take a person's shower for "traffic and trading" which was for me passing a freaking magazine to someone from another person and I got caught because they had some new guards working. It was that or get a discipline case...don't get me started on the absurdity of it all. I'm just ready for this day to be over. Get the mail and go to bed. I'll write more throughout the days and months, when I'm up to it, about my days in general population.
August 13th, 2015
I realized the date today and thought, man...in just a month I'll be 38 years old. Where on earth is the time going? I think about my childhood, and my parents were in their thirties when I was adopted, and I would think, wow...they're so old! And now, being close to my forties and I still feel youthful and much of what I grew up with and loved...well, I still love! I guess it is a gerational thing.
We finally had a little break from the heat, not much, but a break at least...Some storms rolled in Tuesday night. I was watching the one on Tuesday, out my window, and it was so awesome to watch the sky turn from a bright blue to a dark grey with flashes of lightning on the horizon. It actually reminded me of that scene in Independence Day, the movie when the spaceships were rolling across the sky under the cover of storms. Unfortunately this wasn't an alien invasion. One part of the sky looked heavenly, though. A patch of grayish white clouds, the sun hidden just behind it, and sun rays exploding radiantly outwards like some sort of cosmic burst. I could've stared at it for hours. As the storm picked up strength we temporarily lost power.
The next day it was muggy but clear for most of the day, and I was waiting to go outside, as it was our section's outside day. Since it has been so hot they've kept the outside recreation yards closed from 11am until 6pm, and I was set up for the 6pm recreation...at shift change another storm rolled in closing the rec. yards so I had to get my recreation inside. Some guys were screwed out of rec. completely because they do not run rec. past 10.30pm nor do they do showers after that time...one of those things that was bound to happen eventually.
There's a funny situation going on in Texas prisons and I'm starting to see the guards and the administration really don't quite know how to deal with it, but I'm finding it very humorous! So, the federal courts recently ruled for all state prisons that an inmate should be allowed to grow a religious beard if his religion requires it. I'm sure you could say any belief requires it, you wanted to. For Texas this has been a nightmare because for so many years an inmate had to be clean shaven at all times. I can remember being threatened with cases and screamed at by guards so many different times for not being clean shaven. In fact, when I first entered prison I was still attached to my free world sideburns and would grow them out past the earlobe and get in trouble so many different times. I was turning out for dinner one time and this sergeant was standing by the dorm door, he stops me and says "What the fuck is that on your face? Go back and shave them goddamn shit stains off right now!". For the state it has always been the excuse of "security" that they wouldn't allow an inmate to grow a beard or have facial hair...
The policy has changed, though and it is like trying to stop a train midcourse, all of a sudden. The guards and ranking officers so used to telling inmates to shave, and now you've got these guys, for "religious" purposes growing a beard. My neighbor is one of these guys and he was going to a visit yesterday and he has about a week's worth of growth. The guard taking him out was like...
"When was the last time you shaved?"
"Uhhh. I don't have to shave anymore"
"What do you mean you don't have to shave? You're to be clean shaven at all times! I don't have to let you out of this cell until you are clean shaven!"
The inmate kind of laughs, goes and digs some paper work and hands it to him and says "actually you kind of do, don't you?" Another guy was saying that he was in the hallway when the Major and Captain were "mean mugging" him for having an early beard. Pretty soon you're going to see guys everywhere with beards. I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to it. For the record, I have ZERO plans on growing a beard...I cannot stand hair on my face. It itches, it looks gnarly and I've got waaaaay too many grey hairs.
There was another execution yesterday - #10 - and thank God there isn't one today as was scheduled...The guy received a stay yesterday. It always boggles the mind when the courts wait until the very last minute to issue a stay of execution. It has to qualify as some sort of mental torture. To think that you're about to die in a day or hours and then, when I'm sure the courts could have issued a stay much earlier during that 90 day period before an execution, they say "Hey! It is your lucky day...you get to live a little bit longer and then go through the process all over again!" America!!!
So...back to when I first entered prison. I previously wrote about getting off the bus, getting screamed at, being scared and naked...After you go through all of that you get your picture taken for a state issued I.D. card that has, in big red letters "OFFENDER". From what I've heard the old I.D.'s used to have "INMATE" and then they changed. Many people hate it now because one, for what it implies - a sex offender. And two, for many guys who are released on parole this is their only form of personal identification upon release. Can you imagine the looks a person gets when presenting at a restaurant or business, or even to a police officer if asked? I can only imagine the humiliation.
After the picture you get your housing assignment and are taken to a large dormitory. At the Gurney Unit it is like a giant tin warehouse.There are metal dividers between every two bunk beds. There is zero privacy and I, being only 19 and full of raging hormones thought "how on earth am I supposed to whack off?" Well, one eventually finds creative ways to do it discretly!
Here's where things got really awkward and embarrassing...the televisions were mounted right about the showers and toilets so you were inevitably going to get an eye full of soaped up penis...it was just going to happen. Let me tell you, there's nothing like watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then having a literal "stake" coming into your peripheral. Real life vampire slaying!
It was hot so the dorms stunk to high heaven. Sweat, body odor, the bathrooms. Like a truck stop bathroom. I remember entering into the dorm and being hit by wave after wave of pure stink. I found my bunk area, which was shared by two black dudes and another white guy like myself. I was always told during my period in county jail "Stick with your own". That meant only white dudes hung out with white dudes, black with black and so forth. It was contrary to who I am because I was raised in a multi-cultural family. I mean, my two little brothers were Korean so I would think "What is my own?" I don't have an "own". I shook hands with the two black guys and the white guy and settled in. I'll be completely honest here, and I've never understood why some white guys have such a problem or say that prison is what drove them to racism...I never really had any problems with blacks or Mexicans. Hell, some of the worst, more disgusting people were white guys. Did I mainly hang out with white guys? Sure. It is just the way the environment is, but I never had a problem. Not even with being Jewish and all...I learned that prison is a lot of exagerated machismo and bluster. Guys over compensating for their own insecurities and shortcomings. I'm gonna be the biggest gorilla on the block. I've seen guys try to hog gay dudes thinking the gay guy was just going to roll over and take it, and then mister toughy have his ass handed to him on SPECTACULAR gold leafed plate. The truth is a prick comes in any shade, shape or color. Any problem I had in prison was from someone being a dick for the sake of being a dick, or tempers flaring. Not because I hated them for the color of their skin or whatever. I felt sorry for people who lived like that. I felt sorry for people who lived their life in fear of another race...
Well, I'll stop there for now. More to be told. So much more.
August 17th, 2015
An early morning and I'm sooo not feeling it. Had to put up with someone sending me an irate message calling me a dick sucker this and a dick sucker that all because of, well, it doesn't matter, but I was civil in my response back to him. I basically said what I should've said years ago..."Dude, you're real quick to cast blame and fault, judgement and hate towards others, but you never look at the really messed up shitty things you, yourself do. I've been your friend all these years - even with your HUGE flaws, but have never cast judgement towards you, hell I've even defended you at times, and this is what I get? I wish you all the best". I don't get it...We're all in the same boat, here. All facing the very same uncertainties and jealousy, envy and hate really have no place here. Because I wouldn't or couldn't condone something that the better of my conscience spoke to me about and said, damn...that is too far...maybe I should speak about it and I'm a dick sucker? So be it.
Sometimes I really feel that back here we can be our own worst enemies. For the most part there is a sense of community. Most try to look out for each other, but I have noticed this growing trend from being in years of isolation that people are becoming more insular, more selfish and angry, over the stupidest things in the world. More and more each day some are turning on one another...Fewer people going to recreation and socializing. Jealousies, envy, and paranoia fueled by the fire that is death row and Ad-Seg...If you write to people back here tell them to hold onto CIVILITY and their HUMANITY. It's the last vestige of hope we've got back here.
So, earlier, before the cursing and such, I was listening to The Edge out of Dallas...While it has been awesome to be able to listen to, it has become a bit corporatized which annoys me. It has lost a little of its sparkle, but the shine is still here. In my teens, really from about 1992 until late 1996 this was my station. Before finding alternative music I was pretty much into all things pop and R&B...Then, something clicked in me. A lot of people cite Nirvana, and while I like some of their songs and I clearly remember trashing around my room to "Smells Like Teen Spirit", it wasn't THE catalyst...I'd always liked the bit of new wave I'd hear here and there, even some of the modern rock in the late 80's but it wasn't until U2's "Achtung Baby" that made me say, whoa...what is going on here. The song "Mysterious Ways" was just an ear orgasm. So much going on from the wah-wah of the guitar to the dance beat of the rythm section...I had to, I needed to hear more! I bought the album with a music store gift certificate I'd gotten for my Bar-Mitzvah and it was goodbye Debbie Gibson and hello Bono...I went on a bit of an obsession with U2 after that and began to listen to The Edge just to hear more U2, I then was exposed to this whole world of music I'd never heard before. Bands like The Violent Femmes and early Nine Inch Nails...The Cure was always on my peripheral, but it wasn't until summer camp of 1992 and one of my camp mates, who turned me on to the wonders of their music, and U2, while being a love...was easily replaced with the whimsy of Robert Smith. No other band has held my heart the way that The Cure has for all of these years...
I grew up playing the piano, but around the age of 12 I lost the drive for it. Oh, I still played but I wanted to play what I wanted to play. I was tired of going to lessons and playing the same notes over and over of all the same things...It was all so boring. I didn't want to learn piano theory or how to read music, I wanted to just play by ear. Play the songs I would hear on the radio. So, to the disappointment of my parents, I told them I wanted to quit playing. I lost the passion for it. Structure is good for some things, but when it came to my creativity and my imagination...that kind of rigidness and structure just turned me off. I didn't touch the piano in our house until around 1993, when I was going to school in Kentucky. And why did I start again? Because I wanted to learn all of the songs I was hearing. It was The Cure song "Trust", a really beautiful piano ballad, that I really wanted to figure out, and I did it with ease...I went on to other songs, other groups. I then considered starting up piano lessons again at our school because they had a piano lab. I talked to my dad about it and shared an interest in getting my own keyboard. My dad told me on the phone "You take the class and on the next school break, when you're home, play me something and I'll take you out to buy a keyboard". And he kept his word on that. I remember popping a CD into the stereo and playing right along with it and he was stunned. We went out that evening and he bought me a keyboard.
Another little known fact about me...I played viola in elementary school and while I have always loved the sound of the viola, the instructor we had was mean and abusive, and I wanted no part of that, so it went no further.
I realized that I wanted to do something with music...play, be in a band, write it, sing it - anything! My problem with that was, I'm very shy. I'm an introvert and not a good performer. I'd be shaking to the bones when I would do a piano recital at school. A small group, no problem...a big group, problem. But I wanted to perform and knew it deep within...never more so than when one afternoon I was walking in the dormrooms and heard some guys jamming out, playing some songs from the Smashing Pumpkins...I knocked on their door and asked...
"Do you know the song Mayonnaise?" One of the guys began to play it and I started to sing it, right on cue. Man, the thrill and the chills I had getting into the music! It was like electricity running through me. My favorite lyrics is the part at the end where Billy Corgan just yells out "I just want to be me! When I can. I will. Try to understand that when I can, I will". I knew at that moment, when the feedback washed away into a magnetic hum over the amps, THIS is what I wanted to do. Had to do. There was no question.
Not long after that me and my friend, Dan, started our own little group. I get so mad at myself at times, because with a bit more drive, more focus, less getting caught up in my own melodrama...I think I could've been somewhere. I still day dream about it, and listening to The Edge these past two weeks just pushes me into the face of all those memories again.
Well, I still have a lot to get done before recreation, so I need to get to it. At least we're having a bit of a cool front...haha. If 94 F counts as one. Well, if it is, I'll take it! Amazing what a ten degree difference makes.
August 18th, 2015
It's the afternoon now as I'm typing this. I went out to recreation for a couple of hours and exercised, and then got into a conversation about movies and and how "classics" were defined etc...I'm a movie/cinema junkie. I wouldn't say it is equal to my love of music, but it isn't far behind. I mean, given the choice between a CD player or MP3 player and a DVD player, the music is just going to win every single time. That being said, I freakin' love movies. And so we started talking about some of the great 80's films and then I asked this one guy if he'd seen any of the new stills from the upcoming Star Wars movie, because in the latest Entertainment Weekly there were some more pictures. I told him I'd send the magazine to him if he wanted to check it out. I then geeked out for 45 minutes with this guy on all things Star Wars...I can't express how much those movies meant to me. They were my childhood. They were what inspired my fascination with the universe. I can recite whole pieces of dialogue from those movies. So, saying I'm super excited about the Force Awakens, the new movie...Understatement of the year! True, I may never see it in my life time (could the universe ever be so cruel???) but that doesn't mean I don't want to know every little detail, see every single picture, read every article, every book related to this movie! I geek out every time I see a new image or a magazine article. I don't get Vanity Fair, but when I learned that it would have pictures of the movie...I went on the hunt tracking down a copy from anyone back here who might have a subscription. Yes, I found it!
The conversation turned to the funny when my friend Jeff, probably one of the craziest/funniest guys I know back here, started asking questions like....
"So, is Darth Vader going to be in it?"
"No, Jeff, Darth Vader died in Return of the Jedi."
"Yeah, he died, but turned for the good after fighting Luke Skywalker."
"Are you kidding me? I thought he was running around with the Ewoks !"
"Well, what about that funny little green bastard, yogurt or what's his name? Is he gonna be in it ?"
"Seriously? Yoda? Jeff, he died too."
"What? How was he killed?"
"He wasn't killed, Jeff...dude died of natural causes - old age. He was hundreds of years old living in a freakin' swamp!"
"Oh man...I could've sworn they all lived!"
"Sorry man, I probably just messed up your whole childhood...your entire belief system has been shattered!"
Everyone was laughing so hard. I couldn't believe he was serious!
Well, after that we went back to talking about great movies growing up. Goonies, The Explorers, Stand by me, Top Gun,...On and on. Flight of the Navigator, which was probably a bad movie for me to have seen because it created this whole little obsession with aliens and wanting to be abducted. What is so great about these movies is decades later and they still hold up! I haven't seen a movie in 14 years now...14 YEARS! So I can't really say that about a lot of the movies now, but from the 80's into the mid-90's there were some strong movies. I don't know what would hold up these days. Not to say I haven't heard some really great movies, but seeing them could change the game, and my impression.
Not sure what else I'm going to be doing for the rest of the day. I really need to get some reading done...
August 20th, 2015
I didn't write anything yesterday because I was kind of depressed. It hit me out of nowhere and I felt overwhelmed and undeserving. When I get depressed it is like a fog settles in over my mind. I'm easily irritated, and I get really lethargic. I just didn't feel like doing anything. I'm feeling a little bit better - I can function at least, but I didn't even go to recreation which is a rarity for me. I just don't feel like having any interaction other than with paper. It's dark and raining as well, and while I appreciate the break from the heat, some sunshine sure could go a long way right about now.
I was moved to a new cell last night. For those that don't understand why I'm always in a "new cell", I'm considered an escape risk because I escaped 15 years ago...Since then, they've moved me to a different pod/cell at about or around two weeks. I really don't mind because it really does break up the monotony and if I'm in a particular area I don't want to be for six months like everyone else, I know I only have to put up with it for two weeks. A lot of guys say "there's no way I could get moved every two weeks". I just make it work for me the best that I can. I'm sure you can find a silver lining in just about everything. Even bad things that happen. Well, I lost my good sunset view, but now I get to catch good sun rises (when it's not raining!) and I get to watch people come and go on the front side of the prison. Cool.
I'm really glad that people, for the most part are responding positively towards my writing. I know I'm not for everyone, and that is why I always suggest checking out other voices. This is the world through my eyes, and I was kind of...I guess hurt when I received a response to something I wrote about a person being "bat shit crazy", saying it was harsh...Here's the thing, while I will NEVER censor myself, I truly do not try to be mean or harsh towards anyone or anything. I'm not a mean spirited person, and I'm not a fan of people who are. When I write, I think of things that will illustrate or describe a situation, often times with humor. I am opinionated and passionate about certain topics, but I do keep in mind that many people are reading this and some might not respond well. But please never think I'm going out of my way to be mean or harsh...That really isn't who I am or what I'm about. I know that my writings are not for everybody and I understand that. I don't write from a place of ego or for self serving interest. I really don't. The writing process for me is more therapy than anything else. A way to work through the neurosis of my own mind. That being said, I enjoy having an audience and sounding board, and I appreciate any kind of feedback and constructive criticism. I'm open to questions and suggestions.
So, yesterday I heard something that made me even more depressed as I stared at the ceiling and listened to the noise around me...A guy on the section I was living on was having a conversation from C-Day room, with a guy that was in A-Day room, the "Death Watch" section. They keep that section isolated from everyone else for what reason, I don't know. The guy on C section asked how the death watch guy was and he said "Ah, man, you know how it is...everyone forgets about you when you're over here". Hearing that kind of stung me because it's true...Even I've been guilty of avoiding that section before. I laid there thinking about it and I think it comes down to this: the Death Watch section is an actual physical manifestation of the reality of our situation. It's 14 cells that NONE of us ever want to be placed in. It represents our worries and fears. It represents all of the uncertainties...All of the unknowns...And so, yes, we avoid it, at the cost of guys thinking no one gives a hoot about them anymore. It's shitty and selfish and ALL of us back here are guilty of it. I told myself that I was going to go out of my way to say hello to more men over there as I passed it by. It is the least any of us can do, I think.
Not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of the day...
August 24th, 2015
Never start a day with the thought process of "this is going to be a bad day" all because one little thing that happens early on, put you in a state of ire...
I wake up at 5:20am, drink my (well, more like slam - I can't stand the taste of plain coffee) morning cup of joe and brush my teeth. I'm sitting on my bunk waiting for the guard to come around when I hear the door open near 42 cell. I'm like, WHAT??? The female officer is setting up recreation backwards. I'm getting upset and thinking I could've slept in for another hour! This is going to be a bad day, I can already tell...throwing a little fit in my mind. She gets to my cell and says "you going to rec ?" Yeah. "Second round". Grrrrr. Mumble. Mumble.
They start pulling out the guys for first round recreation and one dude decides he doesn't feel like going and wants to sleep in and it sets off a chain reaction of other people set up who don't want to go out. Needless to say, I ended up going out first round of rec. Everything worked out. The day was much better. I think when we get into the pattern of allowing one bad thing to set us off on the course of negativity we kind of make the rest of the day bad. A sort of self fulfilled prophecy. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else. But I was telling myself while I was exercising that I'm going to make more of an effort to not let something that is truly minor in the greater scheme of things, derail me and dictate how my day is going to turn out. Once the negativity sets in you just start looking for excuses or reasons to be negative, and then you're just a psychic vampire for everyone else. Make the day work for you.
So...in other news, we're in the process of going through an administration change on Twelve Building (Death Row/Ad-Seg). We seem to go through these changes every few years and now we've got a new Captain and Major. Inevitably things are going to change. For the worst is yet to be determined, but the one thing I do know from many years of this stuff, is that every Major has his or her pet peeves and always makes some kind of change or tweak. From what I've heard this new Major is a clean freak and to that I say THANK GOD! Why? Because this building has been filthy for years. Mold in the showers, day rooms with dust and cobwebs everywhere. Filthy, bird shit covered outside recreation wards (the birds like to roost on the bars late at night/early morning before sunrise). I could go on and on. I'm sure that some of you who write guys back here have heard about the HUGE ant problem we're having on the building. In twelve years the administration has always taken a lackadaisical approach to how they maintain this building. If this new Major is a clean freak it'll be the first time in a long time this place really, finally gets clean. Hooray! And I hope by clean it doesn't mean just painting over everything, because that is what previous Majors have done...
I've never understood why this building has gone through so many administration changes...I know that some use it as a political stepping stone. Like, "I was the Major of Death Row! I didn't let those sunsabitches get away with anything!" Well, good for you fine sir...here's a Warden promotion! (actually the irony in that is, around 2008, when this place was at its most corrupt, the Major was actually promoted to Warden, after an inmate called a Senator and threatened him, using a cell phone, no less!) I think since I've been here we've had five or six Majors...Crazy.
To be continued...
August 25th, 2015
I'm sitting here waiting for recreation, and I'm set up later for the day. Earlier, the new Major was walking around and so far here's the deal and what his pet peeves are...Cleanliness, check. Cell compliance...apparently he wants all cells to be in "compliance". This is going to be a problem for some because guys have been living a particular way for years. Now, what this means is there are certain arbitrary rules for how a cell should be maintained. When I was in general population they were strictly enforced, and you could get a disciplinary case for being "out of compliance". Don't be surprised if you hear about guys getting disciplinary cases or going to level 2 for not adhering to these rules...
So, how should a cell be properly maintained? Well, the rules are fairly clear and there's not a lot of room for ambiguity. Your clothes line can only be out from 6 p.m 'til 6 a.m. Nothing on the walls except one picture and a calendar. Your bed must be made if you leave your cell. Nothing at all on the floors. You're allowed a radio on your desk but everything else must be stored away when you leave your cell. Your shelf is allowed one hygiene item each. And so forth...What I worry about is that these enforcements are going to give the real a-hole guards an excuse to terrorize certain people. It is still too early to say...
So, this day just got freaking better!!! I turned on KPFT for a music show called "Sound Awake". They play a lot of indie/modern rock etc...Well at 2 p.m. the D.J is playing "Head On The Door" by the Cure - the whole album! I'm so there! I'm finally going to get to hear my favorite song called "Push" after 18 something years! As a whole, though, it's a damn good album and still holds up today. Man, I wouldn't have even thought it was released 30 years ago. I was barely 8 years old! Other good songs worth checking out on that album are "Close to me", "The blood", "A night like this", "In between days"...Man, I'm getting jumpy/excited and I have to wait 40 more minutes. Torture. Torture, I tell you!
I had a feel good moment, a boost of self esteem today out at rec. I was exercising and I've been on this super health kick. Honestly, I don't think I've been so serious and just pushing myself since I used to play soccer as a teen. My weight has always fluctuated. I'll just be straight, I like junk food. Chips, cookies...it doesn't matter...I prefer chips over everything and can eat a giant bag in one sitting like I was afraid someone was going to snatch it away from me...I will fight to death for that bag of chips! It's my kryptonite. Over the years, here, with stress and depression I bounce up and down with my weight. Mind you, I do still treat myself to a bag of chips here and there, but as a whole I'm doing good. I feel like I'm getting where I need to be and my cardio work out is insane. So, while I do push-ups and such, I prefer an overall body-weight regiment.
There are guys back here who do 1000 push ups...They stick their chest out and walk around like a proud rooster. So I'm doing my exercices and this guy says...
"How many push-ups you doing?"
I said "Maybe 250...Today is lower body for me though. That is what I'm focusing on".
"I do 1500. What you're doing ain't about nothin'".
So this other guy says "Really? Dude, have you seen his cardio? He goes 25 minutes like a maniac".
"Yeah, but he ain't doin' shit on push-ups.
"Can you do Randy's cardio circuit?"
"Man, that's kindergarten shit".
Mind you, I'm feeling mighty awkward walking around the day room as these two dudes talk about me...
"Really" the other guy says. "Tell you what. I'll bet push-ups and pull ups that you can't last 25 minutes".
"Bet that! You down for that, Randy ?"
"Yeah, sure, why not. Go on ahead and stretch out" I said.
We stretched and I asked if he was ready. He said he was and off we went. What I do is two minutes fast pace jog, then for a minute I'll call out an exercise, jumping jacks, lunges, burpees, every other two minutes. No break, no rest to catch your wind...At about the 15 minute mark he was slowing down. At 20 he was about to quit but I was yelling "Come on! It ain't shit! Remember?" He crapped out at 22 minutes. Just hit the floor panting like some dude wandering the desert. "Well, I see where you're your results from". I told him "Dude, you can do push-ups all day long, but you've got to do more than that to get your wind up, your heart rate up, and to burn fat".
But it made me feel pretty good. Next week I'll take it to 30 minutes. I feel really good and people are seeing results so it is cool. So long as I can get five days in, I feel good. If I miss a day for being depressed or whatever I always try to make it up. Now I just gotta work on that chips addiction...
20 minutes 'til The Cure...Man, come on! A storm seems to be moving in. I think we're going to have an early fall this year.
Going to close here...
August 26th, 2015
Woke up this morning at 5:20 a.m. and went outside at 6 a.m. I was expecting that it was going to be humid because that is usually the way it is in this part of Texas after some storms: muggy and sticky...But when I stepped outside it was absolutely beautiful. Really nice and cool, a slight breeze...It felt good.
A memory popped up this morning...After leaving Gurney Unit in Tennessee Colony, I was shipped to Bonham Texas, not far from Dallas. It was another transfer unit called Choice Moore, only at this particular unit, while still being a transfer place, one could be there for two years and it was a bit settled in. I started off in the Hoe Squad and from there worked my way into inside yard crew, mowing lawns and doing general upkeep. They needed some guys to tear up the floors by hand - literally a chisel and a hammer. They wanted to put in some kind of grittier cement to keep inmates from slipping as the concrete at that time was super slick. That kind of concrete floor that almost looks polished. I volunteered as it seemed like something different to do, and a couple of guys I hung out with wanted to do it also. We had to wear eye goggles but they would get foggy with sweat and I had them hanging off my nose so I could see. As I was chipping away at the floor a piece of concrete ricocheted off the wall and hit me right in the eye. "Crap !" I said, jumping back. I rubbed my eye and it felt like something - maybe a shard - was stuck in there. I told the guard who watched over us and he sent me to medical. When I got to medical, the nurse called the doctor over and he put on those jewel goggles and looked at my eye. He said "This isn't good. Looks like there is a small fragment stuck in there. I'm going to send you to Galveston right now". In my mind, I was like hell yeah! Field trip! Who cares if I'm going to lose my eyeball! Mind you, I hadn't seen the outside world in quite a while and while I didn't want to be hog tied and shackled up in the back of a small van for a three hour ride, I was excited to get a glimpse of what was going on out there.
The doctor patched up my eye and told me to leave it alone and I sat waiting as they rounded up some guards to take me to the hospital in Galveston. My eye was real watery and I couldn't help but rub it and when I did I felt the shard come out. I looked at the tiny little fragment and told the nurse "Uh...I think it fell out". She yelled at me and said "Stop rubbing your eye! You wanna lose it?" When the doctor checked on me again I told him the same thing and he said "Let's just be on the safe side" which is rare for a TDC doctor to say! Usually they don't want to send you to the doctor or hospital unless your liver is about to fall out. Or you fall over dead, which would be pointless, but hey this is prison!
They shackled me up, and I climbed into the back of the van. This was around three in the afternoon. We drove right through rush hour and down town Houston and it was awesome. The cars, the signs...Everything! Got to Galveston, had the eye doctor look at me and he confirmed what I had believed, that it fell out. He gave me some eye drops because my eye was slightly scratched and they sent me back to Bonham. The drive back was in the dark. When we hit the long stretches of nothing, the sky would light up with stars. I took in as much as could. It was a really wonderful experience and I was a bit bummed that I wouldn't be able to see them again for God knows how long, because of the prison's light polution.
August 31st, 2015
Well, it is the last day of the month and I'm always amazed at how slow and boring things can seem here and then WHAM the month is over and you're left scratching your head wondering about where the past month went.
Today has been whizzing by at a quick pace. I got up and immediately started working on a second draft for my memoir. I have to rewrite a bunch of things because I'm not really liking the narrative flow and I don't like how I kind of did things chronologically. Someone back here told me that memoirs are best told when they're out of order and besides I just thought of a really unique way of flipping the beginning and the end...I start it off with uncertainty, a foreboding sense of peril and by the end, I'm at a period in my life when I had my whole life ahead of me and so much hope. My dad figures largely in the story as well, because inspite of my dad's rigidness and tough love policy, inspite of the fact my family has disowned me, I still hear his voice and he still plays a big part in my life. I hold no ill will towards my family at all, and can truly say that the love I have for them is unconditional. Sure, I might get angry or upset at the way they've handled all of this...my incarceration and my being on death row, but there's not an ounce of hatred towards them. I don't even blame them for things. Do I think they mishandled things? Got some things wrong with the way I needed to be raised? Sure, but show me a parent that gets it 100% correct. I have no children, but I'm smart enough to know there's a learning curve with child raising. But also to be forgiven in one's life, you have to be able to give forgiveness. And I completely forgive them. There's not a day that goes by that I don't hope to have some sort of reconciliation. To have them back in my life.
I think back to all the good times, and the closeness I did have with my dad...We were really close at times. When I was young I knew my dad had my back; I knew he was never going to hurt me, and not every child has that comfort and safety. I can remember when I was 13 or 14 and in Jr. High. This was before I left for Kentucky. There was a kid named Chance (just the name sounds douchey, right?) and when he found out I was Jewish he would taunt me and tease me. This was the first time in my life I'd ever been exposed to anti-semitism and I didn't understand it. I don't even remember coming home and telling my parents about it, I just dealt with it. I mean, being a nerdy kid in Elementary school I was used to being teased. The one advantage I had now, as opposed to when I was a kid, was that I was a pretty big teen. Close to 5'10"...about 170 pounds. Anyway, he just kept at it. I guess another advantage I had was the boxing and karate lessons I was having from Chief Bill Waybourne, the head of Police and my dad's close friend.
On one particular day, in between classes, Chance came near me and started saying things like "Heil Hitler!"...I'd had enough...I grabbed him, slung him to the ground, and started to punch the living crap out of him. He tried to stop me, grabbing my shirt and ripping it and that just pissed me off even more. Teachers ran out of class rooms and tugged me back, but I was still trying to lunge after him. Other students stood in the hallway with jaws dropped open. I must've looked possessed.
We were both placed in detention and sent home with notes of suspension for three days. When I got back home mom was in the sunroom and I was surprised she was back from work early. She noticed my torn shirt and said...
"I got into a fight"
"With who?" she said
"A kid named Chance...we got suspended for three days."
"Mom! It wasn't my fault! He kept teasing me and making fun of me for being Jewish!"
"How long has this been going on for?"
"Weeks" I said
"Why didn't you ever say anything?"
"Who wants to be a tattle tell? I don't want to be that kid!"
"Well...lets see what your dad says when he gets home. Until then, go to your room. No T.V."
"I didn't start it!"
Dad finally came home and mom talked to him. One of the things I really liked about my dad is when we had a talk it was usually just me and him. He'd come into my room and sit on the bed, or call me into his office, which was a converted bedroom in our house.
"Tell me what happened" He asked. I told him the very same thing as I told mom and he was incredulous. He couldn't believe that I was the one being punished when clearly he would've done the very same thing....
"We are both going to the school tomorrow and I'm talking to the principal" He said.
"Am I grounded ?"
The next day we went to the school and I remember sitting in the principal's office with my dad, and listening to him as he talked. He told them that under the circumstances he felt it ridiculous that I was being punished as well. The principal went on about zero tolerance for any kind of fights, even in case of self defense.
"Well, how do you guys deal with racism or antisemitism?" My dad asked.
"We have sent a letter to his family and when he returns we will tell him that it is unacceptable. What we can do is allow your son to complete his assignments so he doesn't get zeros for those days. Chance will not get the same privilege."
My dad seemed to accept that and said "Looks like the one thing you didn't escape is your school work."
I just remember things like that and they make me smile.
In other news, my second response to the state's arguments are due today. They were due on the 24th but my attorney was able to get a week's extension. I'll need prayers from those who care and I really appreciate it. I'll know by whatever is filed what kind of attorney I really have, and if he's got my best interests at heart...I can only hope he does. I need something good to happen. Please send good vibes my way!
September 1st, 2015
I woke up this morning a bit sad, missing my family. I guess writing or re-writing some of my life just floods me with memories. I really miss them. I started my day as I typically do and then I climbed on my bunk and watched the sunrise...There was a light fog rolling through as well and made everything look ethereal and other worldly. At the front of the prison, off in the distance, is an orange and white checkered water tower. The fog barely covered it, but it did make it look like something out of a fantasy movie. The sky above was filled with ribbons of light blue and violet...Clouds skirting across the horizon as if they were ghosts being chased by some unknown presence. Whenever I'm looking at the sunset or sunrise I'll stand there and meditate. Sometimes I'll achingly wish I was out there, free to move around of my own volition. Free to smell the air, feel the grass. It shoots sharp pains through my body just how much I miss that kind of freedom. This morning I stood there thinking of my own spirituality and how I really want to reconnect with it, with something higher. I started doubting and turning against it a few years ago, after going through the ringer emotionally. I started seeing how people use their "beliefs" of God or religion to justify their own biases and bigotries and it just irked me to pieces! I was sick of it...
I'm not really a person who believes in signs or things of that nature. Have I been guilty of seeing more into something than is really there? Sure. I think we all do it. But recently, I've been seeing SO much and it's hard for me to separate the rational from the irrational. I fear I'm falling victim to my own confirmation bias. But...I do want to believe. I want to believe there's more to this existence. That this life, whatever our experiences may be for better or worse, are for a reason greater than us. Recently a Rabbi reached out to me, and it came suddenly out of the blue and right before Rosh Hashanah, no less...He mentioned an interest in visiting me and I was ecstatic. To possibly point me in the right direction to answer my own questions of why...Why this life? Why are each of us given completely different experiences and struggles? Why do crappy people sometimes seem to be given everything and those who are truly good souls have it so rough? All sorts of questions. I'm open to the answers, though. I'm getting back to a place or wanting to go back to a place I haven't been in years.
September 16th, 2015
I'm sorry that I've not posted anything in a couple of weeks...I've just been so busy with other stuff and trying to get everything in order for the shakedown that we all knew was coming...Well, it did...I was scheduled for rec, and as I was walking around in the dayroom, the control picket officer called for the guards working the pod to come to the window, and I heard her say "Lock everything down; rack the dayrooms up...no showers". Now I wasn't sure if this would turn into a false alarm because on Saturday the 12th they shut everything down due to a shortage of workers/guards. So I asked the guard working the pod, "Is this a false alarm or the real deal?" He said it was the real deal and so I yelled out for everyone to hear: "LOCKDOWN! THIS ISN'T A HOAX...IT'S THE REAL DEAL!!!"
I did manage to have a good birthday on Sunday, though. I'm near some friends, fortunately, and so we made tacos and my neighbor made some kind of cream cake...Now, I'm sure you're raising an eyebrow on that one, but it tasted like the real deal. He used powdered milk, packets of cream cheese and made the crust out of crushed cookies. I was impressed! I guess it's the same principle as those no-bake cakes you can buy.
I had some pretty decent news appeals wise, and I have some renewed hope. At the very least, if things go as planned, I'm hoping it will slow the process down, give my attorney some breathing room (and me!) and it won't be as stressful as it has been the last year or so. I need prayers and lots of hope for sure...It's an uphill battle...Gotta keep the good vibes flowing. I'm happy with what was filed and we'll see how it all develops.
I have a lot of things to write about topic wise, and will do over the coming days...Right now, however, I'm just focused on getting this shakedown out of the way. If things move at the pace they're on, they'll be on this pod tomorrow. Fun!
To be continued...
September 21st, 2015
A week on lockdown...Not that I mind. I can't speak for general population or even Ad-Seg, but a lockdown on death row is when it is at it's most peaceful. Everyone sleeps in really late and the noise level never gets to that incessant drone that a typical non lockdown day can get to. In the past week I've kept pretty isolated. I haven't really felt like being very talkative or social. By nature I'm an introvert anyways so it suits me. Sometimes when I'm uber social I just feel fake and uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love the time spent with friends I can goof around with, but I'm more than comfortable being inward and inside of my own head.
I've been mostly reading, working my way through the "His Dark Materials" trilogy and I'm just as amazed and astounded with the language of the book and the subject matter, as I was the very first time I read the book. Phillip Pullman uses the guise of "fantasy" to pull the reader into heavier subject matter such as religion, God, free will and science. If I could describe it in simple terms it is Pullman's answer to "The Chronicles of Narnia"...whereas C.S. Lewis used fantasy and analogy as a way to introduce readers to Christianity, Pullman wants his readers to question those very ideas. I mean, anyone who starts a novel with an excerpt from Paradise Lost is pulling you into something interesting. I think the more interesting concept about the book is the way it makes you think about free will, and consciousness...where does it come from? Is it divine in nature or is it something that any creature can attain? I mean, look at nature...We know for a fact that Homo Sapiens aren't the only species that has self awareness. My friend Robert spends a great deal of his day watching birds outside of his window, and strongly believes that they are at a level of higher consciousness than humans are. I mean, being smart humans doesn't necessarily equate to a higher state of awareness. Birds aren't constrained the way we are; they don't have the self made worries that human have. We spend a great deal of our time on this planet worrying about stupid things like how to pay the phone bill...Humans kill one another not from a state of nature or survival, but instead just because we can...That doesn't sound like a very evolved state of thinking. Birds are free to go wherever, whenever they want. Their only limitation is that of food...And so, normally a naturally fast reader, I'm really pouring over these books. Taking my time. Thinking, wondering...
I had an interesting memory pop up today...I was brushing my teeth and suddenly I was about five years old and in my childhood foster home. Now, I'd been in a couple of foster homes by this time, but I was a bit more settled in this one. I was reunited with my brother, Wesley and it was just a matter of time before the adoption social workers would find us a permanent family. Or so I hoped. My memory is a bit foggy about where exactly we were but I remember being in the Dallas area, away from the urban sprawl, out in the country somewhere. I remember lots of land, gravel roads and scorpions...a load of scorpions. They were small and an almost translucent yellowish color. They inhabitated spaces everywhere and you always had to be careful. I remember being told to always shakeout my shoes and never walk around barefooted. But who tells a kid not to run around the country barefooted? We were careless and carefree.
There's something special about being a child...little worries, curiousity of every little thing. In some ways a kid touches on the precipice of divinity and holiness; for a child, curiousity isn't the same as it is for an adult. A child's questions aren't filled with the cynicism and doubt an adult has. There is a wide eyed wonder and innocence shining brighter than the brightest sun in the universe. I can remember the level of imagination and creativity I had growing up, and sometimes I wonder to myself, where the hell did it go? I mean, I was the kid who truly believed that if I thought about it hard enough I could build, with some help of course, a working prototype of the Proton Pack used to battle ghosts in Ghost Busters! I would start my own business fighting ghosts. When I first watched the movie "The Explorer", I set out, with my best friend Chad, to build a workable spaceship...I wanted to create the little invisible force field bubble that would take us to the heavens. When I watched the movie "Monster Squad", Chad and I once again set out to fight the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster ourselves...My imagination was so wild and extravagant that I wonder if it wasn't in itself, its own defense mechanism against the real life monsters in the world.
But back to the foster home...Down the gravel road some distance, was a house with a girl about the same age as me. I don't know how we met, but I remember during that summer we were very close. I remember running through the woods and sitting in the yard drinking ice cold lemonade her mother made for us. In the evening, if I didn't have to go back home I'd sit in their living room watching Wheel of Fortune with her. A particular memory that makes me smile to this day and makes me think that, wow, Randy, you've always been the hopeless romantic type, full of huge romantic gestures, was when we went to some kind of country club. I don't know if it was on a golf course or what, I just remember the actual club house with a dining area and a swimming pool with a slide. Me and the little girl spent the day swimming (I was eager to show off my newly learned aquatic skills) and going down the slide. Sometime in the evening we went into the dining area and had dinner. In the distance there was a television airing an episode of Wheel of Fortune and I turned to the little girl and grabbed her hand. "One day I'm gonna buy you that dress!" Because back in the day, Vanna White was known for how beautiful and elegant her dresses were...
Sometimes, like this morning, I wonder who the little girl was and where she is now. I wonder if she remembers anything about me, or if she shares the same innocent memories that I have floating around my head. Life...
Well, who knows what the rest of the week shall bring. I'm going to do some other writing and get this entry into the mail.
September 22nd, 2015
I woke up to the most amazing sunrise this morning. My cell walls, which are surprinsingly white and graffiti free - a rarity for most cells, believe me...were bathed in a soft pink glow. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and stood up on my bed, looking out my window. Much of the sky in front of me was turning from a navy blue, shaking off the remaining blanket of night to a lighter blue. Out on the horizon a chemtrail streaked horizontally across the sky cutting it open like a can opener. But it was to the right of me that the sky was awash in a orangish-violet hue. The sun rising like burning bright, G-d announcing its presence to the world. Here I am in all of my glory. I give you the light you need. I give you the strength and energy. I am the sun...The ring around the sun glowed a bright pink. It was a sight to see...
Another day of lockdown and no one knows how long it will carry on. From what I've heard they're shaking down D-pod today and that will be the end of 12 building (the building that houses Ad-Seg and death row). They still have most of general population to search which could translate to another week or two more, but right now we're in the speculation and rumor zone as no one knows if this administration will go ahead and lift the lockdown for 12 building or keep us on it. In my opinion I believe we will stay down if only because they need to send some of the 12 building officers off of the building and into general population for extra hands to expediate the process. But you never know. At least we had a shower and were able to shave last night.
Man...my neighbor is getting on my nerves! I'm trying to be patient with him but he calls me every five minutes to ask a question or to do this or that. Really annoying! I'm sitting on my bed reading or writing and trying to focus my thoughts on it and then he'll call me. I go to the door, answer his question and then argh!!...he's doing it again! Sometimes I feel like he's doing it to annoy me...I keep telling him "Okay, gonna get back to this book" or whatever I'm doing at the moment. I really try to be accomodating and patient, but right now I really just want to be left alone to my own thoughts...
Besides reading the trilogy I'm reading, I went over my recently filed appeal response and I do have to say that it was really well written. The state, in my opinion has little to hang their hat on other than I was there, I escaped, my initial crime for which I have the utmost regret, remorse and self hatred for...worse thing ever and if anyone ever feels I don't then you couldn't be further from the truth. It's difficult to forgive myself, even when I know deep down inside of my own heart and soul - my own psyche - that I had little control over myself at that period in my life. I was a shell of a person.
The other thing is my tendency to lie during those years...I look back and wonder why and I think it comes down to the fact I truly didn't know who I was...I think from the period of 13 to probably 25 years old I was just lost and trying to figure out where I fit in this world. I never felt like I had an identity, if that makes sense. And then I had the problem of lying to get out of perceived messes I was in and inevitably would just lead to bigger messes...It wasn't until coming to death row that I looked inward, began to sift through the BS and FIND myself. At a certain point, even though I do care about what people think at times, I had to stop caring about what people thought of me. I realized that just being me and embracing the flaws I have, along with my problems and faults, felt like the right way to live. I want to strive to be better and fix the things I can. I'm tired of being all neurotic over the things I can't control...It's hard, because I'm insanely neurotic and feel like my world's ending when I lose control over something. I can say with absolute truth, that throughout my life, I've never intended to hurt someone emotionally or even physically. Sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions...Being impulsive and reactive has always been my biggest problem...But I look back and I've said it before: who among us is the same person they were when they were 18 or 23 or 30 or 35? I'm 38 and while I see certain similarities of my 18 and 23 year old self, I'm definitely NOT the same person. All you have to do is read my journals back to 2005 or so...
Yom Kippur is tomorrow and part of that is seeking forgiveness for those you've wronged and such. If I could go to each person I ever lied to or betrayed intentionally or unintentionally, I would, and if there's anyone out there who knew me, and I haven't been in touch with you, I'm deeply sorry. I have so many regrets and remorse in life. I don't understand how some people say they have no regrets...Really? So, admittedly you have made no self evolution, no progress in your own life? Because I feel that the only way to grow and be better is by having regrets and remorse...
September 23rd, 2015
Still on lockdown. Rumor is that it will be for another week or so. That's fine with me 'cause I'm enjoying the peace and quiet! I woke up this morning, said a prayer for Yom Kippur and asked forgiveness of those I've wronged and to go forward in this new year to be stronger and better...We had showers and so I went to wash and shave and have been writing most of the morning. I'm just about done with the His Dark Material books...should finish it up this afternoon. This is silly, but close to the end of the second book "The Subtle Knife", I was in tears over one line...A little information on the book without spoiling it though...In the second book a new character, a young teen named Will is introduced. Will is from our world (throughout the series there are multiple worlds and universes...a kind of hint at string theory and multiuniverses) while the main character, a young girl named Lyra is from another world that is similar to ours but there are minute differences, like our souls for example. Their souls are called daemons and take the shape of animals that reflect their self...or their "shadow self" (reference in psychology and philosophy). Our daemons, or souls are on the inside of us...Circumstances throw the two together when the fabric of the universe is ripped open and Lyra and Will meet in another world that is also similar to both of their worlds...Will was on a quest to find his father, whom he grew up without ever knowing, and when he finally does meet up with him, he is killed (the father that is) before they are able to realize that each is father and son...It was this line that got me: "What he couldn't say was that he longed for his father as a lost child yearns for home". Ugh...I know exactly that feeling and it made me only miss my own father even more.
So, with Yom Kippur today and the striving towards something greater within and beyond myself...I realize that once again I do need to make some adjustments in my life and self. I think it has been one of the reasons I've felt more content keeping to myself for the past week or so. Hopefully they'll lead me to something greater in understanding...I'm feeling very contemplative right now. I'm not particulary religious, that feeling of oneness and closeness with G-d that I had as a kid eludes me, but I ran across an interesting prayer by a Catholic saint - Saint Francis - and while not a Catholic and knowing very little about Catholicism as a whole, I still felt that there was a truth in this particular prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
September 25th, 2015
There's a song by U2 that I like to refer to a lot when the chips are down, and I feel sad, depressed and whatever...because I know the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I know the feeling of complete futility...The song is called "Stuck in a moment". I first heard this song after the escape when I was on the run; basically the song refers to being stuck in a storm...it's going to pass eventually. Life is like that; we go through cycles of good and bad, and I think it's how we perceive the storm that matters. If we wake up and one thing goes bad, and we immediately say "well, shit, it's going to be a bad day" isn't it usually the way it goes? You're kind of set in and expect a bad day. When you wake up and bad things happen and you say instead "Well, that sucked! But...I'm not going to let it ruin my day". Don't you usually end up having a decent day after all? Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of the doom and gloom mindset...more times than I want to admit, but I keep on trying to look at things differently.
Today is another day on lockdown and no end is in sight. It's all good though and boy are they cleaning this place up! They came through recently with a power washer and hosed everything down back here top to bottom. I don't think our runs and dayrooms have been cleaned like that in years. Sure, they'll come through and mop, half ass wipe things down and even buff the floor with a buffer and steel brush, but they don't really clean...like, ever! When they power washed the floors the other day the water was black...like BLACK and thick as mud. It was gross to see. Being a bit of a clean freak I cringed as the water was pushed into the drains. I mean, I drag books and snacks across that floor...Ugh!
I kind of like some of the things this new administration is doing. For example, it used to be if you were in a messed up cell, say the toilet broke, or your sink didn't work properly, you were just shit out of luck until they fixed it. It was damn near impossible to get it fixed or get moved. You would wait for days for maintenance to get to your cell. Well, this new Major is having things fixed, doing preventive maintenance and such as top priority, and if for whatever reason maintenance is tied up and can't get to your cell, well the Major has told his other officers to move the inmate to a working cell immediately...An example - a week or two ago a guy had some black mold growing from a crack in the wall. I guess the moisture and humidity got into the crack and bloomed from there. Under any previous administration and any other Major they would've said "What do you want us to do about it? Just wipe it off..." But no, this Major said "Yeah...that's not acceptable. Go ahead and pack your shit up and we'll get you into another cell". Just like that. Of course, there are inconveniences...like now when anyone is moved they take us to a cell and while we are waiting they search and x-ray our property, but hey, if you've got nothing to worry about it isn't a big deal. You might wait 15-20 minutes to get your stuff back. A small trade off to be treated semi-decently. I mean, this new Major, from what I can tell hasn't made any hard pushes to get the officers to mess with us like some did previously. And outside of having to keep your cell in compliance or order...so what? I'll do what I need to do just don't screw with me. It's all cool.
September 28th, 2015
I heard on Friday's news that apparently Texas has so many execution drugs in stock they can just give stuff away to other states, and Texas has come to the aid of Virginia who now has three batches by courtesy of this great state! Now, I'm no expert on federal drug laws, FDA or DEA but it does beg a few questions...Why are the feds turning a blind eye to this practice?
I heard an interesting tactic being employed as a tool in the fight to end mass incarceration, and I was thinking that it could be applied to the practice of the death penalty. I think it has on some level, and I don't see how it couldn't go hand in hand...So, this guy was talking about inmate labor and how big corporations profit from inmate labor. It is an incentive to keep prisons filled up, obviously...The guy speaking on the program said that they tried legislation, they tried speaking to the politicians and it doesn't seem to be working, so now they're going to target the businesses who support these things. He mentioned Whole Food Markets, which honestly, I was a bit surprised about, but apparently inmates in other states do pick their fruits and vegetables. So, he announced that they would protest and drive customers away from one of their biggest stores in Austin...hit them in their pocket. It is a brilliant tactic and I believe the more people who get involved, the greater the effect. Now how does it apply to the DP? Simple. People begin to call ALL pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. You ask a simple question: does your business support the application of the death penalty? If they can't give a clear cut answer, a straight NO, you boycott or protest. Protest, preferably. You just go from company to company. You call hospitals and doctors and say "This particular company refuses to give a straight forward answer on whether or not its drugs are used in the application of executions...Will you continue to support them?" DRIVE THE MONEY AWAY. I'm sure there are better and sharper minds out there who can expand on this thought, but I'm just putting it out there. It's the money people. It isn't about whether the death penalty is moral or not. Hell, I'd even try to talk to people who are so called "Tea Party" members. Ask them how is it a conservative principle to waste so much money? Show them the empirical evidence that it just flat out costs more money to kill someone than it does to keep them locked up.
We're still on lockdown. Two weeks now. This has been the longest one we've had in a while. Over the weekend there was some kind of water problem and they shut it off temporarily. For twelve building we had it on a few hours later, but I guess the rest of the prison was without. But today I think everything is back to normal because we had showers. They are also allowing us to make a small commissary purchase, not a full spend, but 25 dollars worth of stuff to hold us down until the lockdown is over. Better than nothing for sure.
I think that fall has arrived (I keep saying that only to get smacked upside the head the very next day with 90 plus degree temps...Freakin' Texas!) finally. Yesterday was a high of about 77 degrees F and today is just as cool. That being said, we've had some rain and it is very grey outside.
Just so everyone knows...It means the world to me that you read these journals. I'm not trying to be famous or popular...I could not care less about those things. But to have this outlet and a voice...that means more than you could ever know. Thank you!
October 1st, 2015
Life is strange...It rides on the ebb and flow of the ocean. It comes in with the tide, sometimes a soft swoosh onto the shore and sometimes the waters crest and come crashing in, sweeping you off of your feet. Each day is different.
I'm hoping Ms. Cox or even my new Rabbi will visit me soon just so I can get away from this environment. Clear my head. See the strangers that come and go at visit. Watch the kids play around in the visiting area...that always brings me a smile. You want to watch and stare in wonder, but then you don't want to stare too hard for fear of someone thinking you're some predator or something. But whenever I see kids running and goofing around, I just smile.
The Major and Captain came walking around today and someone asked when the lockdown is supposed to end; the Major said probably tomorrow so that will be nice, but geeze, every single day when we ask "when is it over?" EVERYONE says "probably tomorrow". We shall see. I thought of a fun moment, though that happened the day of my birthday when I saw the Captain...I can't tell this story funny enough because you have to hear his voice...Just imagine a person who talks through his nose. Very nasally...So, on September 13th, I was going to make birthday tacos for me and a couple of guys. A light celebration. I had my back to my cell door, pulling out food items to cook and I hear this nasally murmur "MEMERMEMEMUR MEMED ME DIBLIGGITYBLOOP". Like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets was talking to me. I turned around and said "Huh? and then he said again, this time from what I could decipher "You ain't eating what we're having on the trays?" I said "I don't even know what we're having".The Captain said "BLICKENBATTYS". "Huh?" I replied. "Chicken patties!" Now, I can be the sarcastic type and this seemed like the opportune time for a dose of Randy sarcasm and so I said "Oh, well let me just put all of this food right back into my locker!" But the dude thought I was serious and said "That's what I like to hear!" hahaha...What a crazy world I live in...
They've turned the water off for some reason. I don't know what the deal is but they've been having problems with the water since Sunday...I hope they figure out what the problem is. This unit is truly falling apart. I know this new administration is trying to fix everything and get it all back up to speck, but when it has been neglected for so many years, you can only do so much.
October 5th, 2015
So, the lockdown ended on Saturday, and it was nice to get out of my cell. I went out first round in the morning and caught up with a friend, and then came back to my cell and busied myself with a few things. I'll probably be sore tomorrow as I haven't done any exercise in a few weeks, but it is good to be able to get out of the cell. And fall is most definitely here! Yay! Waking up to a very cool cell has been nice. I bet it feels great outside and tomorrow is an outside day for the section I'm currently living on, so I can't wait.
I wish I had something of substance to write...I'm supposed to be working on my book and I took to writing a screen play called "Interstate 10", with a guy back here, and I haven't touched that... The screen play is supposed to be an ode to Quentin Tarantino...A good idea we both cooked up about a trucker, prostitutes, drug cartels and a brother getting his vengeance...Very over the top and quick dialogue. It was fun getting it started, so I'll try and get back into it soon.
Gonna go read now...
October 13th, 2015
People. People. People...I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here, but sometimes I get frustrated by the so called "anti death penalty" movement. The infghting, the bickering about who may have a better idea or strategy...I mean, we're all on the same side. Another thing I do not understand is the need to express who is more of a friend to this guy or that guy, who does more for who, and who is part of a couple with whoever back here...It's all very stupid, distracting, and just like high-school drama...I mean, geeze...C'mon people! The anti death penalty movement should be a serious organization...People should look at the movement and know we are about the serious stuff - NOT people who create drama over whatever guy they're down with back here! Grow the fuck up and focus on fighting the death penalty!! Please...!! I've been adamant about not being part of this immature drama in the past, and I'm keeping it that way...As far as I can tell, the vile virus that is "drama", hasn't really happened on my FB page...yet, but I would hope that people like that respect my wish to keep it off my page! Thank you!
I don't get to read every single comment, and sometimes I hear about things much later after they've been written. But I've heard the stories from other guys who have pages, and it can be a bit crazy sounding. I can't stress enough that anti death penalty FB pages, and other websites or whatever, are NOT places to declare your fucking "crushes" on guys back here...Nobody should be airing their private life on these pages...It's freakin' stupid! Everyone knows I'm very private about that stuff, and after my marriage ended and the controversy that surrounded it, I swore I would never again be "public" about that stuff...So no one will really know if I am or am not in a relationship. Now, don't get me wrong...If the RIGHT woman EVER comes along (and she would have to be pretty awsesome!) I wouldn't think twice about publicly saying I was "WITH" her. I wouldn't be secretive about that, but I don't use this page or my website to find girls or penpals...I use this page ONLY as a means of getting my thoughts out there...a form of expression, and to share my world with others. If they're interested in hearing about it, that's cool, otherwise, go somewhere else...Please! I have little self interest other than trying to LIVE, and to show people that my life is worth living, and of value. I'd like to keep the focus on the substance that is written - not drama and crushes and girlfriends or not girlfriends...Leave that stuff on your own pages. Thank you!
That being said and off of my chest, I'm feeling so much better...Life has kind of sucked for the past couple of weeks but I'm getting back into the groove of things and back to my normal self. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not having a mid-life crisis at times, though. I mean, crap, I'm 38 years old. I act like a 20 year old at times, and I'm in this weird state of conflict where part of my body and brain is like "Woohoo! lets have fun!" and then this old geezer comes out and says "You had your time youngster...settle the fuck down and grow up". It's weird. Like I've said before, I feel like I'm going through another metamorphosis and there are things I feel that are changing and things I definitely do want to change. Still figuring it all out...Still have that something "missing" in my life...
I went outside this morning really early. I was fortunate to get outside because recreation was shut down early due to staff shortages on death row...they can't keep workers here at all. But I think the problem is the way the administration and ranking officers actually treat the lower officers and some of the arbitrary rules they have in place that really only have a punitive effect and zero relevance towards security. I think the officers think "Why is this Sergeant making me put my own safety at risk by angering this inmate because he doesn't want to make his bed?" Or whatever stupid rule put into place. Take this morning for example: we now have to hand our shoes to the officer and step out of the cell BACKWARDS into the shoes, on the walkway, instead of just putting our shoes on and stepping out of the cell. What purpose does this procedure serve, other than making a bunch of people angry? I believe this is the root of the problem. As we become a more agressive society, and regardless of how you feel about crime and punishment...I think people find it increasingly more easy to treat another human being - regardless of what they may have done - like crap. And who would want to risk their own personal safety in doing so? I abhor any violence used and condemn it strongly, but typically an inmate doesn't attack a guard just because he feels like it...99% of the time it is because that inmate has been provoked. Rightly or wrongly, it isn't just because...
October 19th, 2015
This place is falling apart at the seams. It is Monday morning and I can't say for sure that I'll even make it out to recreation because I haven't been able to go since last Tuesday. For two days in a row there were power outages that shut everything down for the day. They said "security threats", and wouldn't allow anyone to go to recreation for the rest of the day. Then, they had shortages in staff and shut everything down over the weekend so we couldn't get recreation then either. I woke up this morning and it looks like it was going to be the same problem, and technically could still be...They ran the first round of recreation but I'm not set up until the fourth round, and that is late this afternoon...ANYTHING can happen. Very, very frustrating. More so because it is throwing my workout routine all out of whack...We had the three weeks lockdown and then all of this crap so I'm not able to do any jogging!
I know some people are like "Well, if I had my way you'd never leave the cell. You need to sit there and rot!" And that is fine that people feel that way but I'm still going to vent...For me, as much as I once hated working out - and a part of me still does - that feeling of "Ugh...I really don't want to do this...", is there almost every day, but once I get into it I'm like damn this feels good! I'm actually starting to enjoy it and I'm trying not to let all of these roadblocks make me slip back into lethargy. When I get to the dayroom and jog, this place disappears in my mind; I focus on my breathing, positive energy and thoughts, and lose myself for a bit. It really is a form of meditation for me.
Anyways...these problems with officer shortages and everything else...it was bound to happen. The chickens have come home to roost! If anyone thought the penal system (as it has been run for these past 30 plus years in Texas) was remotely sustainable, they wrong! They can't keep guards anymore, and that is mostly due to the arbitrary policies they have in place, and an apathetic administration who sees working class people as a warm body to fill a spot, and enforce rules that are going to put their own safety at risk. Working class doesn't mean dumb. These people who work here, for the most part, are beginning to realize that the state views them through the same eyes as they view us, the inmates...When you tell an officer to enforce a rule that prevents an inmate from sharing a book, and then the inmate becomes irate because you went all Hawaii Five-O on their ass...you can expect problems. When you tell an inmate to hand over his tennis shoes before going to recreation, then place them outside the door and order the inmate to step out BACKWARDS into the shoe, without tying it...you can anticipate that there just might be a problem with the wrong individual. Guards don't want to be subjected to that. Yes, there are those who take their job waaaaay too seriously; they come to work with their official Batman utility belt and flashlight...But most of them? They're trying to feed their families, and I totally respect that. It makes me feel bad that they're treated as less than an equal as well.
Tonight is a very important night! Not because of the football game, but because the official "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" movie trailer is premiered!!! Yeah, they have had a few before but none on the radio! Last night I heard the familiar theme music and jumped up, ready for excitement but it turned out to be an advertisement for the new Star Wars video game...Can't wait for tonight. Can you tell I'm easily excitable?
October 21st, 2015
It's a very warm and sticky day...It kind of makes things uncomfortable in here, but that's Texas for you...So, I'm sitting here trying to get in the mood to write. I don't know why, but it's been difficult of late; my mind has just been on the foggy side of things...maybe it's stress, maybe it's this place...Maybe it's the stress of this place. I can't seem to focus as clearly as I usually do.
Anyway, I'm waiting to go outside today, but it won't be until much later.
I've been reading this book that someone gave to me, and it has some wonderful photographs with stories attached to them. In one of them there was a picture of an elderly woman who writes poetry, and one of her poems was printed in the book as well...I thought I'd add it here because it really touched me:
Were I to dream,
Then dream I would
Of days gone by.
Your eyes would gleam
And so would mine,
But joys remembered are no longer mine.
I walk in a garden of memory,
Reliving the joys and the sorrows as well.
I walk with a cane down memory lane.
Perhaps there, joys remembered will remain.
Perhaps when my hair has turned to gray
And my face is etched with pain, I'll walk with a cane down memory lane.
Perhaps there, joys remembered will remain.
I really liked that.
So, what does the rest of the day hold for me? I'm still waiting for recreation and they've got me scheduled for really late. I'm going to go regardless, but man...the other night when I went out I was really worried that I wouldn't make it back in time for the "Star Wars Force Awakens" preview...So, at about 7:30pm I asked the guards if I could go back to my cell early. They were cool about it and let me come back straight back in. Whew...what I didn't know is that it didn't really matter because they didn't preview it until half time and I would've made it back to my cell anyways. But...that commercial gave me goose bumps! I seriously was so excited. The theme music, the sound effects, the dark ominous dialogue...I'm just wondering what the deal is with Luke Skywalker. They've showed images of all of the major characters in the movie from old and new, but no Luke! There's a reason for that and if it is because he's a freakin sith lord now...I am not going to be happy. But there's definitely a reason for being so secretive about him and his role in the new movie. I am such a dork. Haha...
November 2nd, 2015
Every time I enter into a new month I just shake my head and cannot believe how fast time seems to go around here. Even through the mundane and redundant nature of this place...Time goes by much too fast. Maybe it's because I've been so distracted lately that time seems to be flying by at an even faster rate...But I think it's also because I've been pushed and pulled in so many directions recently, it's been difficult for me to focus on anything for a period of time. It's that feeling of emptiness I've had for years...I know I've talked about it before, but I just wish something would come along to fill it up...As well as that old familiar feeling of being "empty", I guess I just don't know what I expect or even want out of life right now other than I want to live.
That being said, some pretty good things have happened to me lately! I was finally able to meet a Rabbi from the Houston area and it was truly a breath of fresh air. The two hours in the "minister" visit went by much too fast, and going out there I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure if he'd be rigid or free spirited. I just didn't know. I was a bit nervous, but once we introduced ourselves we took off running. He was kind, full of energy and light and we had some interesting conversations in such a short amount of time. The one that sticks out the most is how some people blame everyone else for their problems and don't take a certain level of responsability. I think that we're all guilty of it. When a person refuses to accept that maybe something might be because of something they did themselves...Another thing is how some people seem to have a false sense of entitlement. I recently experienced this with a guy back here, over comics no less! When I finish with my comic books, I share them with as many people as I possibly can. Sometimes it can be a bit stressful because I have to keep tabs on where everything is going and where it's at. Some guys can sit on things much too long while others are waiting, or some guys (and this is a very rare occasion) might even decide to keep them for themselves. I mean, it is dumb to do that because then you just cut yourself out of the loop, but whatever...Well, one day this dude gets a bit irritated about having to wait, but I tell him the comics are with some other dude, and give him the list so he can see where they're going next...A day later this due says...
"Man don't worry about it. I don't want to see your comics".
I said "Huh? You're on the list, what are you tripping about?"
"Well, I thought I'd see them sooner".
"You can't wait another day? You're next on the list".
"Yeah, but I wanted to see them first cause I ain't got time to sit around and wait".
"Really? Are you going on vacation somewhere? You're stuck in your cell all day and you don't read or write...What are you doing that makes it so you can't wait ?"
I mean, really? A grown ass man throwing a hissy fit cause he wasn't first in line? To read a comic book of all things! Rule number one in life: don't EXPECT or feel you're entitled to anything in this life. I can be the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, but I'm not going to throw a fit if I didn't make it first in line to see the new movie. It is life. There are more important things to worry about...
At least the sun is out today. After several days of rain it is nice to look out the window and see a blue sky. It feels like a proper Texas autumn as well. It isn't cold or even cool...it feels just right.
I'm going to try to get back into the groove of writing. I need to reboot my brain. Stay tuned...
November 8th, 2015
This will probably seem like one of the most chaotic of journal entries I've ever written! I've got so much bouncing around in my brain and I don't know where to begin...The way I usually write is I'll get a thought about something, or even just a fragment of a thought on a particular subject/topic, and I'll write it down and try to develop that thought or process it later on...But with so much crap going on this past week, I've got little scraps of paper all over the place...Argh!!
Those of you who write to other prisoners on Death Row, or even Ad-Seg, may know what is going on here, but I still want to go into detail on HOW SCREWED UP this place is right now...I've been through many permutations over the years spent on Death Row. We all constantly say "Well, it can't really get any worse than it is right now..." only to be proven wrong. In fact, the day I had the Rabbi visit, I was waiting to go back to my cell. We sit in a small cage until two officers come to escort us back to our cells, and those of us who are finished with our visits sometimes will make idle chat with each other...I was talking to the guy in the booth next to me and said "You know, some guys are talking about going off, but really, what has this new administration done but be nit picky and enforce rules that have been in place since I was in general population...give it some time for these people to figure out what works and what doesn't, and things will go back to normal." What a dumbass I was for thinking that! Like the evil Empire in Star Wars, over the past few months they have systematically taken away many of the common privileges we have had for years. Their excuse has consistently been "We're doing this because we're short staffed, just be calm and as soon as we get new guards things will go back to normal." Really? We've been short staffed for years...And the truth of the matter is the problem isn't being short staffed, it is poor management. I'm not a business minded person, but my dad owned his own business and even if he thought I wasn't paying attention, I absorbed in great detail how he ran his business, so I know enough to be able say this with a little bit of authority. Besides, it is common sense that if you have a class ranking system that is based on who is popular and heavily rooted in nepotism (whole families work in the "system") instead of people who are actually qualified and are real leaders...Well, you're going to have a lot of problems that could otherwise be easily fixed.
I'll give you an example...There are more women that work on death row than men, during the day time. That is pretty shocking in itself, right? We're supposed to be the "worst of the worst"...However, many of these women complain about having to work the pods because inmates will flash them or talk bad to them, etc...And I'm sympathetic to that to a certain extent - I wouldn't want any of my female friends to be subjected to that, but also...You did choose to work in a MEN'S prison...so...suck it up and deal with it, don't whine and complain about it and kiss ass to the ranking officers so you don't have to do your freaking job. But that is what happens. You see officers just standing around in the hall ways doing nothing, because the rank lets them. And for the male officers? Maybe the ranking officer is their fishing buddy or they go for drinks after work. They get out of doing their job as well. People who have had family working in TDCJ for generations get to pull that card to get out of work. Meanwhile, the ones who come to work to do their job and get a pay check are treated like shit and overworked.
The other management problem is even if they are short staffed during the day time, they send all of the new recruits to officers working on the night shift! You've got five guards working a pod (only three are required) at night when showers and recreation are finished, doing nothing for almost twelve hours. What freaking sense does this make? Uh, none?
So, here's what got my cage rattled...due to this so called shortage, the administration has now seen fit to cut our recreation days from five (three days inside, two days outside) to just THREE. Yes, just three days of rec. When I first got here we had seven days of rec...then a few years later it was five days and now...three? So, their plan is to do it like this: they are going to rotate pods every other day. Saturday was A,C,E pod for recreation and Sunday are B,D,F and so on and so forth...The problem with this is that they're not giving us anything to compensate for it...
They've also systematically taken away art supplies. They deny over half of received magazines, books and publications under this archaic "sexually explicit" rule defining sexually explicit as basically anything that causes arousal...So, like are you going to take my air away, cause I've been locked up for so long, at times a nice gust of air does the job...just saying...Humor people, humor...We don't have T.V.'s and Houston radio sucks so...Recreation is sanity for me. I use my two hours to jog, to talk to guys, to just walk around in circles like a zoo animal, but it is MY time. I'm not boxed in a small 6X10 cage staring at a fucking toilet all day long. I'm an internally strong person. I adapt and I will survive, but...at what cost to my own psyche? What am I going to lose? I'm already easily agitated and getting shorter patience. I get so pent up with frustration and energy because I have zero free will to go to the shower when I want or walk freely without handcuffs being put on me or being shackled like some damned animal!
Time will tell how all of this works out people...
November 9th, 2015
Something happened to me a couple of days ago (remember how I wrote about people having a sense of entitlement?) when I got into it with a dude...well, not badly, but I was upset and let him know...because I felt I was being used. Look, I think I'm a giving person and I don't care about credit or rewards. I do it because it's how I show my own compassion; it makes me feel good after being locked up for years without anything to my name, and having to learn how to hustle for toothpaste and soap. I always told myself if I was ever in a position to help guys that are in the same position I once was, I'd always do what I could. It's hard to go without. But please...don't mistake my kindness as some sort of weakness, because it doesn't give you the right to try to use me.
So, this guy had asked me if I had any snacks and lately I've been sticking to things like peanuts, oatmeal, etc...I gave him ten packs of peanuts. No questions asked. TWO DAYS pass and he sends me a note asking if I could get him some Ramen noodles on store day, which was the next day. I said, sure, no problem. After that, he then asks me for some more peanuts. At that point I felt taken advantage of. I hollered out at him and said....
"Dude, are you an elephant? I just gave you ten packs of peanuts two days ago! I eat a pack a day. That is ten days worth! I'm going to get you a case of noodles, but dude...you gotta make this shit last. I'm not the salvation army".
"Don't worry about it then."
"Man...if I said I'm going to do it, I'll keep my word, but you can't eat everything at once. You're a grown ass man, not a kid. I shouldn't have to tell you that. I'm going to do something special for the whole section when we go to store so I'll be limited on funds anyways!"
Well...wouldn't you know that it turned out that this dude had hit up about five other people for a bunch of food as well? There were guys more upset about it than I was, but man...you just can't please everyone, I suppose. As for the "surprise" I was going to do...A guy a few weeks ago gave me a recipe for "hot pockets"...It is very time consuming because you have to break down Ritz crackers and turn it into a dough, then work the dough and roll it and flatten it and then cut it into squares, let it harden and then make the inside fillings with meat, cheese, jalapenos...Fold the dough over and pinch the sides and then cook each one individually...It takes forever and I'm not the best cook in the world. In fact, until a couple of years ago I had little patience and prefered others to cook, but I'm learning now and stepping up my game, as they say. The first batch came out very questionable to say the least. It looked more like a wad of batter and meat than a hot pocket. But once I figured out the dough, everything fell into place. I spent 12 hours cooking for 9 people. A couple of guys didn't want them which was okay with me as they were freakin' delicious. But man...I told myself I wouldn't ever take on something that massive again. I was exhausted by the end of the day. And my cell was a mess!
And finally...election days were last week on the 3rd of November. Houston had a particular important election for two reasons: one, a new Mayor and two, a chance to catch up with other major cities in the State, and the country, in passing an equal rights ordinance for 13 classes of people. You would think that it would've been a slam dunk...I mean, who doesn't want equal rights for ALL??? Apparently the people of Houston. Well, that isn't entirely fair to say about all the people of Houston. I'm sure the majority of people do want equal rights for all, but unfortunately the majority of people didn't vote. In fact, less than a quarter of the people of Houston voted and sadly, the majority of those people who did vote were religious right wing fanatics. The Equal Rights ordinance, or Proposition One, as it was defined had 13 equal rights qualifications: for the military, the disabled, the homeless and more...
But this speaks to a larger problem at hand and the 2016 election coming up. I'm of the belief that the U.S. is a progressive nation. The right has been very effective in demonizing the left and progressiveness as a whole by labeling them as socialists, communists, immoral, etc...By saying they're trying to take religious liberties away (just as a side note, I'll believe your religious liberties are at stake when you get out there and defend any other religion - specifically muslims in this country as well, but we both know you're not going to do that...and this is coming from a Jew!).
The general public has become,for the most part, apathetic to politics in general. We all know - the left and right - that the establishment is full of shit and yet we do nothing about it. 2016 is important. Probably more important than any other election in the history of the U.S. for so many reasons. If progressives can't get someone in there that will continue to push this country forward we're in real risk of going back decades. Things that people have fought centuries for will be stripped away. That isn't hyperbole, just listen to what things the Republican nominees are saying. Jesus Harold Christ, listen to Ben Carson, the current leader of the pack for example. This is a dude who believes the Pyramids were used to store grain back in the day...I promise you, we lose this election and the death penalty is around for another decade...So, what do you do? If you're American you get people NOW to start registering to vote. You educate people NOW. You work as hard as you fucking can for the next year to ensure that what the people before you built through blood, sweat and tears doesn't get destroyed with one single election. This won't be the last time I tell you this. Alright...I've been on a tangent long enough and I'm stepping off of the proverbial soap box. Told you this entry was going to be chaotic! At least the sun is out now. After several days of rain, it is picture perfect outside of my window...I think I might watch the birds for a while.
November 11th, 2015
It has been an interesting few days since my last entry...In the last one I was going on a tangent about the new recreation schedule. Well, they have now returned to the original schedule when the one they were trying to implement turned into a complete disaster. By Monday morning I was so fed up I was ready to begin protesting. I was really on the verge of an explosion because I'm just so fed up over being screwed all of the time. This isn't about a bunch of whiny inmates who don't deserve certain privileges. This is about being treated as a human being and regardless of how you feel about what we "deserve" or don't deserve, at the very least you can treat us with some dignity. What is the old saying "If not we become like them..." well aparently a lot of citizens of this great country want to be "just like them"...At the very least, have some respect or pretend to have some respect for the process...Like the Police officers who stood outside Licho Escamilla's execution...Believe what you want to believe - for or against the death penalty...Fine. But at the very least show some respect for the process, for the families on both sides. What did Licho's family do to anyone?
Whoa...what a digression! Apparently I've been holding that one in for a few weeks now! Anyways, back to the recreation thing...So, on Monday morning they start scheduling our day of rec. with their so called "new plan". I was already frustrated because they didn't even start pulling out recreation until 7 in the morning. Typically they have the first round by six or so. The guards kept dragging their feet and by (mind you, they work a 12 hour shift!) five in the afternoon, they only did 3 rounds of rec. and no showers! Meaning that in a 12 hour day they did 6 hours of work. I knew I was going to get screwed out of rec. Second shift comes on and starts dragging their feet. I was set up for 5th round, but the guards told us they were going to do only 4th round and then shut everything down. I was livid! I was like, that is it. I've had enough of this bull shit and I'm protesting! As soon as I go to the shower I'm going to sit on the walk way. I was just fed up. Thank God I didn't have to go to the extreme though, because it was so late another guy turned down recreation and I went outside in his place. That being said, I still didn't make it back inside until 11:20pm, and then out of the shower at midnight.
I wrote a grievance and I think I it's good...Here's what I said verbatim:
"Starting on Saturday 11/7/15 the Death Row/Ad-Seg schedule was changed. Offenders have gone from what was five days of recreation at two hours each "round" to three-possibly four days of recreation for the same amount of time. The reason for this was, as the Ranking officers have explained is due to "staff shortages". However, the problem has never been about staff shortages, but instead Officers that cannot manage time and do the necessary work that is required to keep showers and recreation running smoothly. Instead, Officers leave offenders in the day rooms for 3-4 hours per round and take much longer breaks than their employer allows. Many offenders are left without recreation and sometimes even without a shower due to this mismanagement. The new recreation schedule allows for many more abuses as you are now running ALL sections for recreation which requires more rounds of rec. and therefore better management of time as you now have more work to do. As a level 1 offender I am entitled to rec. This new schedule not only takes away that privilege, but also cannot guarantee that I will receive recreation on the days our pod is scheduled to run".
Then here it says on the form "Action to resolve your complaint" I wrote:
"Require pod officers to utilize better time management skills as well as return the recreation schedule so that it is ensured that offenders receive their full level one privileges of recreation as is required by State and Federal prison guidelines".
I had every intention of turning this grievance on Tuesday morning...But imagine my surprise when I woke up to the voice of an Officer asking me if I wanted to go to rec. I was like "Uh...hell yeah!" Apparently the administration quickly realized that this new plan was not working...It is nice when a little common sense is applied. Not to say this place still isn't all jacked up. But I'm cool...not nearly as stressed out.
Today I went outside to play some ball. It has been warm the last two days and I wanted to take advantage of it. The guy I went outside with is a pretty good basketball player and kept saying things like "I'm going to stomp your ass" and the usual smack talk. To be honest, I thought I was going to get my head kicked in because one, he is good and two, I haven't played in a while. He kept saying "Now, when I beat you up, I don't want to hear any excuses". I was like okay...We go out and I start beating the snot out of him. He immediately starts to make excuses! "My back...my knee...I didn't get sleep". I said "I don't want to hear excuses. That is what you said, right? No excuses..." :-) haha. I ended up winning 21 games to 9. I felt pretty good. I came inside boasting to the guys on my section ,"There's a new sheriff in town!" If I don't get moved tonight, he called me out for a rematch tomorrow so we'll see what happens.
It is really humid today...man. I cannot wait until the next cold front.
Going to get this out...
November 23rd, 2015
Good morning on this really freakin' cold start to the day. Nothing like waking up and it is barely 30 degrees F. Crazy! At least they finally had the heat turned on because over the weekend it was nothing nice...But really, it is a crisp and clear Monday morning. The sun is blazing in the sky...You can see the steam pouring off of the surrounding building's roof. It actually feels like we're entering into the holiday season.
Funny story: earlier when they were doing showers, I think it was about 5:50 a.m. (yeah, I get up pretty early) some guy down the run was singing Christmas music as the soft rock station goes totally holiday music all the way until the day after Christmas. Well, he's singing away and you can tell the dude is totally feeling the holiday cheer and I even turn the station on, myself. Then, "Santa Baby" comes on and this guy is just singing away and I'm laughing my ass off 'cause if you know the lyrics, it's a woman trying to seduce Santa Claus...When it was over I said "Hey man...I don't know if this is the right place to be asking Santa to 'come down your chimney'". He said "Awww man, come on Randy!"
Well, the stupid recreation schedule has gone back to the absolutely retarded way they were doing it when everyone was getting screwed out of rec. Those of us who have filed grievances were answered with this: "Every effort is made to ensure that the Offender receives daily recreation...HOWEVER (emphasis mine) due to staff shortages, it may be necessary to use Officers in other areas resulting in a temporary shut down of rec.".
So, basically, yeah...you are supposed to get rec. but we're going to milk this short staffed excuse out for as long as we can. Tough cookies. We've done what we could back here. Well, those of us who filed grievances. It is going to take people on the outside to contact the Ombudsman Office now. In other news, I'm having a real musical dilema. For years I've been hoping and praying that commissary would catch up with the 21st century and sell digital radios. Recently that hope was answered and my neighbor bought one. I wanted to hear what they sounded like and so I pushed my head phone cord into his cell and he plugged me in and the sound was amazing. I was blown away and the reception was really great as well, because it can lock on stations. It was like hearing songs brand new again and it just woke up a part of my brain that had been sleeping due to a mediocre sounding radio. I wanted more...But there is the real Sophie's choice here: my current radio, while souding decent, but mediocre, it allows me to pick up certain stations that the digital radio just cannot pick up and it would mean that certain programs I really love - especially political shows, news and movies would have to be sacrified. I keep going back and forth because I feel like it keeps me "up to date" with things in the world. It allows me to feel a certain connection. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO CHOOSE!!! It is driving me nuts. First world problems, right? I love music more than anything, and eventually that will end up winning, I know it in my heart of hearts, but...time will tell. I'm fine right now, but that music itch is in my brain.
I was telling my neighbor about music compression and the difference. He said he didn't even know the difference between mono and stereo and I tried to explain it and I said "Dude, having just heard that...there is no way my brain can ever accept the way my radio sounds". I heard Mazzy Star's "Fade into you" and the steel guitar felt like it was in my eyeballs. Argh! Sigh...
November 24th, 2015
Sometimes I don't understand people. How they can pop up out of the blue and just start throwing accusations - very false accusations - and say the most hurtful things because they can, and they aren't going to say it to you to your face or talk to you like a normal person...They just verbally vomit their crap at you and then they run away. Meanwhile, you're left there with no way to handle it and emotionally distraught because you CAN'T pick up a phone, email or text message. And your neurosis gets the better of you and you just think about it over and over like "None of this shit is even true! Don't let it bother you". But. But. But...Does she really believe this? Because I was a good guy. I was sincere...I never had any ulterior motives. What the fuck is her problem? And then, you question the friendships around you because apparently someone I like used her, if it can be believed, and I've been lumped in with them because I spoke good about them, because I was clueless about any of this, because she never told me any of this...Aggghhh! I don't use people. I don't want anything but love and friendship from people. Support of course, for my case, but nothing else. I don't ask for money or money for a legal defense fund. I don't do any of that shit and yet I get accused of it??? WTF...It just hurts to be portrayed or accused of being someone I'm not. And yes, I'm being vague here. I just had to get it off my chest. Sorry if all of you are like "Huh???"
Anyways, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got ready to go outside. They're still doing this 3 days a week of recreation crap and my section was told it was going outside. At first, I was like outside again? We just went outside on Sunday! But I needed to get out of the cell and get some fresh air. And boy was it fresh! The air was cold and crisp. We decided to play some basketball and move around, but at first I couldn't feel my hands. After a while things got easier and warmed up so I could play better, and ended up winning by one game.
I came back in, showered and then someone asked me about my hot pockets recipe and I thought, hey, maybe cooking will cheer me up so I ended up doing eight total and it kept my brain occupied. I can see why some people really get joy from cooking and I'm just learning! It can be very meditative. Plus, the good feeling you get in return when what you made makes others happy. It is a good feeling.
I suppose I will write more this weekend. I need to get this in the mail before everything stops due to the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states.
November 27th, 2015
It is the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm just sitting here thinking about things in my life...things I'm grateful for. Being able to reflect and ruminate is one of those things that separates us from the beasts of the planet. It is a blessing for sure, but can also be a painful reminder of how fragile a life can be.
We had a damn good meal yesterday...I was really surprised. I try not to complain too much about the food here, even if in reality it lacks certain standards - something to be desired - but I do try to be mindful of other places in this world where even one nasty tray to us is a banquet to another person...But really this meal we had yesterday was an embarrassment of riches...Okay, so we had the "cold tray" which was a paper plate full of pies and cake, cranberry sauce, and about ten black olives! Oh, how I love black olives! It also had three sweet pickles, some onions and celery (a very evil vegetable, if you ask me, but if you can make it taste "good" by making it taste like something else i.e. smearing peanut butter all over it, you are infact a perpetrator of pure and vile evilness, and you might as well call yourself "darth celery"). The main course, which in itself was fit for a king, had a thick slice of brisket, thick slice of turkey, stuffing, green beans, corn, cabbage, and two giant sized biscuits that looked like flying saucers...Definitely one of the best meals we've had over the past few years. Usually you get a few complaints from people, but I don't think I heard a single one yesterday.
I spent yesterday afternoon listening to football. Well, the only game I was invested in was the Cowboys, but they thoroughly had their asses handed to them...They played a bunch of Star Wars ads in the break and I kept listening to the games so I could keep hearing them. One in particular which was more "dark side of the force heavy", was awesome! Just hearing the Imperial March theme and the two new villains (potential sith lords???) was really awesome and gave me goose bumps.
I think I'll spend the rest of the day reading a bit. Maybe jamming out.
I still haven't made up my mind whether I want the digital radio or the one I have now...decisions, decisions...
November 30th, 2015
The recreation problems continue to boggle the mind...I fully expected to wake up this morning and plan my day around rec, but once again it is all willy-nilly. As they are doing the schedule, it should be B/D/E pods that go to rec. today, but did we? No...So, when I jammed up the Sergeant early this morning and asked him, he basically said that neither of the officers working that day is going by the same recreation schedule, and the Captain over death row refuses to put a "schedule" on paper, because it seems that he wants plausible deniability if he gets into any trouble over the way things currently are. The Sergeant said he was going to try to pressure the Captain into putting a schedule on paper, but I doubt he'll be successful in that...So goes life here, on the good ol' Polunsky Unit.
I went outside yesterday with a close friend and man, it was quite chilly. We jogged and did some leg exercises and then talked. A funny thing happened (well, it wouldn't have been all that funny if the worst had happened). So, above the rec. yards are two big lights - similar to the ones you would see on a street. Two HUGE grey doves (actually, they could've been pigeons because I know nothing about birds...haha) landed on the light above me. One flew off a second later and the other lingered. He was looking down at me, cooing and then began to turn around and I said "Oh no, don't back that ass up on me". But I was joking. I didn't think he was really aiming his booty in my direction when...POOP! He started dropping and I dived out of the way. My friend started laughing and I was like "That freaking bird just tried to shit on me! He totally did that intentionally...He looked at me, turned and started bombing me!" It was so funny!
Last night I listened to a news segment on the show 60 minutes, and it was about botched executions and how states have been obtaining execution drugs illegally. What was interesting is they interviewed a Federal Judge from the 9th district court (that would be on the west coast of the U.S.) and he was a believer in the death penalty...I actually feel he was just saying that for obvious political reasons, but what he said was interesting and it made sense...He basically said that regardless of whether or not lethal injections were the "most humane" way to kill a prisoner, he disagreed with the method because it was too clinical. He believed that if, as a country, we were going to have the death penalty, it shouldn't be clinical and it should be public. He suggested having the firing squad or even the guillotine. If people believe in the death penalty, they should watch what was happening. It shouldn't be so secret and behind the scenes.
I actually agree with that - if this country is going to have the death penalty, I do think executions should be public. I think people should be forced to watch the system they support. See if it sticks around long after that.
December 8th, 2015
Tuesday morning and I'm sitting in my cell trying to figure out what I want to write about...It has been so difficult to write anything of substance lately. My brain feels cloudy, and I guess it could be a minor depression, I don't know...Well, yeah, a little bit and I do know why...It's one of those things I can't really do anything about or even solve the "issue", I know it will pass...eventually. I'm just too neurotic to let it move away on its own. I have that problem. Holding onto thoughts way past their shelf life. Some people can process it and be done with it, but my brain doesn't work like that.
I'm not a person who really holds grudges. I don't have "enemies" and I try not to hate anyone. When I get angry about something someone has done I try to look at the subject matter from their perspective. I tend to psychoanalyze the person, consider their background, their life decisions and figure out why they do the things they do. Just as I do with myself when I do something dumb. I mean, I can count a million times I've said to myself "Geeze, Randy why did you just do that?" But, it becomes increasingly more difficult to not hold a grudge when a person pokes and prods, makes baseless accusations and in general puts your heart and soul through the ringer over a period of years. You try to ignore it, because in time they will vanish again. You forget and get in this peaceful lull and then BAM! They pop right back up and throw more craziness at you. I'm tired of getting pulled into crazyland. Stop forcing me on the damn train with you! I once cared for this person, no matter how badly things fell apart. No matter how greatly it hurt. I refused to think bad things of them. But then as the truth of who they really were was revealed and the stupid accusations and the toying with my heart like a freaking cat plays with a ball of yarn...And then...they go and attack my brother who is dealing with his own problems and mental health issues, and a brother who is on death row - you attack him and hurt him...Enough is enough!
GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE! I'm done. You no longer exist to me. Bye-Bye. Please...don't make me hate you. Anyways, I had to get that off of my chest. On a lighter note, hey, this is my journal, my thoughts and my way of dealing with a deluge of crap...So, if you've been keeping up with this journal you know I'm totally stoked about the new Star Wars movie. And in light of that I thought I would share a very embarassing Star Wars story that happened when I was about 6 years old and the very first Halloween that I can remember. So came Halloween. Can you guess who I wanted to be? None other than Luke Mother lovin' Skywalker...In the 80's they had these cheap plastic costumes; you could buy them straight off the rack and they contained a really awful mask with an elastic band and usually some kind of plastic clothing. My dad goes out and buys the costume. I get the package, tear it open and something about the mask doesn't quite look right. It was so cheaply painted that yes, it could be Luke or...it could be princess Leia...the costume itself was the mask and this plastic camouflage poncho was to recreate the battle gear that they wore on the moon of Endor. My dad was adamant that it was Luke. I still wasn't sure...My kindergarten class was having a Halloween party and we could wear our costumes if we wanted and so, going on the assurances of my dad I wore the costume. I show up, mask on, totally feeling the Force and one of the kids says...
"Why are you dressed up like Princess Leia?"
"I'm not! I'm Luke Skywalker!" Other kids chime in and said...
"You're dressed like a girl! You are princess Leia!" I was embarrassed and wanted to hide. Sigh...I can look back at it with a certain humor.
The recreation schedule is still out of whack...I'm kind of tired of getting all worked up about it. I went outside yesterday morning and even though it was cold, still managed to play some basketball winning 16-4. We don't have recreation today but tomorrow we will be (if I don't get moved tonight) back outside. The one thing that I kind of like about this new schedule is that we do get to go to recreation on Sundays again. For years that day was "off" for the whole building but now we can get out of our cells. I've been taking full advantage of it just to get out and jog. A lot of guys don't bother going because it is a football day and they don't want to miss the game. I don't want to be stuck in a cell.
All else is so-so. I'm trying to find a groove and things to write about. It isn't that I have writers block...my brain is just a bit foggy. I've gotta shake the fog off. I'm stepping off of the choo-choo train into crazyland.
December 9th, 2015
I woke up this morning with a creative burst and a lot of energy...I actually have a theory on that and it is kind of gross, but what the heck, right? In the interest of full disclosure and all...haha...If you don't like poop stories then feel free to skip these next paragraphs!
So, it has been known by doctors for a while now that there is a connection between the stomach and the brain. Doctors and scientists have yet to mine all of the secrets of this, but they do know that certain bacterias and what you eat can affect mood, sleep, energy, etc...You hear about how health fanatics and Hollywood stars swear by juice cleanses and the like...Well, I'm here to tell you that shit is true!
Ever since Thanksgiving and all of the hot pockets I've made, I've been feeling sluggish and bloated. I've been blaming it on a number of things, but I've had zero energy to do much of anything. Today I dragged myself to recreation and forced myself to work out even though I really didn't want to. I thought that maybe an endorphin rush is what I needed. Well, after that I felt just as sluggish. A hard sweaty work out made me feel no better...I got to thinking and wondering why I was feeling so heavy. Then, I thought of a solution...There's a certain lactose syrup that medical gives to guys with regularity problems and it comes in a big brown bottle. The syrup itself is an amber color and very thick. Its tastes so sickly sweet that it will make you gag. It ain't nothing nice. I've had it before and me and a friend had taken to calling it "Lacto Blast" because of what it does to you...Imagine (or not!) your anus as a fire hydrant...it is that vicious! I knew this is what I needed. Well, not a fire hydrant ass but a good cleanse.
I called out in the day room "Does anyone have any lactulose?" - its professional name - and a guy said he did and so he fished my water bottle to his cell and poured me off about half a bottle's worth. I took it back to my cell and waited until the afternoon just to be safe. You do not want to get a surprise visit when you've taken this stuff because you can't stop it once it does its magic. About a year ago I had a near catastrophe on a Saturday evening when one of my closest friends decided to surprise me with a Saturday night visit. Before the guard had told me, I was seconds before drinking this stuff. I would've had no choice but to refuse the visit because it would've lead to a disaster of unnatural proportions!
At about four yesterday afternoon I drank it down and waited...It takes about an hour to kick in and boy when it did...Blast off! I had no idea that the human body could hold that much...well, shit. But you know what? In the interest of science I felt amazing afterwards and this evening I literally jumped and hit the ground running.
Okay...safe to read again! Remember how I talked about some of the changes the new administration is making like keeping our cell in "compliance" etc...? Well, today is another new arbitrary rule...Ever since I've been here we've had no real means of throwing out our trash; no trash bags, no trash cans, etc...At one time they had stationed a large barrel on each section but the clean up crew, while hauling away the trash, never cleaned the barrel which lead to a huge ant infestation. The barrels were discontinued. Usually, what we do is throw out the garbage when the clean up crew shows up. There's a large enough gap at the side of the door to push out any necessary trash. The clean up crew picks it up and problem solved. It has been like this for YEARS! Not anymore. This morning an officer came around saying that if we threw our trash out the side of the door we would get a disciplinary case. When another guy asked the guard "How are we supposed to throw away our trash?" the guard had no answer for this. It is very hard not to get frustrated or even angry at some of the stupid shit they do. Like for example another new "policy" they've started to do: when we leave the cell we are always strip searched - this has been the case since the beginning of my time here. Typically, they hand your clothes back to you and you get dressed if you're going to a visit or wherever. if you're going to rec they hand you back your underwear and your shoes and you walk to recreation like that. Well, now the officers don't hand your shoes back to you. They place them outside of the door on the filthy walk way and you step out backwards, I should add, and "slip" into your shoes. You can't use your hands because you're handcuffed which inevitably leads to a balance control problem and like a toddler with poor motor skills you just kind of wobble around trying to get your shoes on while an officer holds your arm and looks at you stupidly. Fun!
I've heard some rumblings from a few guys back here who used to go to F-pod (the discipline pod) for all manners of assaults and use of forces...Over the years they've chilled out a bit, but they are getting to that point where they're starting to rip and roar again. They're fed up and while I don't condone violence in any shape, form, or fashion, I can totally understand their frustration. As it stands right now with the way the new administration is implementing these new policies in the name of "security", and guys are fed up. The guards don't want to work here because now their safety is at risk and are quitting EN MASSE, we aren't guaranteed recreation or even showers on a regular basis. It's freaking retarded.
I've been locked up half of my natural life and I've been through so many different changes and transitions in TDCJ. You would think a person gets used to the way they run this place, but you don't! I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I think that if I was running a business or prison I would try to put into place people who knew what worked and didn't work in terms of keeping a smooth running operation. And if I was an administrator in Huntsville or even a committee member for criminal justice in Austin, and noticed that I couldn't keep people working or holding a position for very long, the logical thing to do would be to review the system as a whole, and the policies that are implemented. Livingston, Texas has almost no industry, no businesses. The people who live in Livingston have very few job options, working at Polunsky being one of them. And even in this piss poor county, when people would rather shovel horse shit and work at McDonalds than in a prison, you should realize that maybe - just maybe - you have a problem with the institution as a whole. But what do I know?
December 14th, 2015
Yesterday was a tough day for me...It marked 15 years since I literally threw my life away by escaping from prison. Two dates in December are always very difficult for me: the 13th and the 24th. When I think back and wonder what the hell I was thinking, who I was and why I felt so desperate...It is just so hard.
Anyway, I went to rec and just moped about as everyone else listened to football. I wanted to get out of my cell because I felt closed in and it was bound to be quiet due to the fact that everyone was listening to football. I go out and I'm minding my own business when someone from a cell asks if I don't mind passing some food for him to another guy. I said "Sure, no problem" and went to help him out, did the "civic duty" and then went about my business, walking around in circles. Well, I guess the officer in the control room watched me and informed the floor officers and they came over to the bars at the dayroom and told me I had to go back to my cell early. I said "Why?" "Because you were passing stuff". I was angry and said "Why am I being singled out?" But I went back to my cell. It was something so stupid. I really don't get it. I mean, I could've gotten a disciplinary for something like that. I didn't, thank G-d, but geeze...
This morning I woke up feeling a bit better but was dreading the long day ahead of me due to the way that they are running recreation (rumor has it that in January things might go back to the normal routine) because it would've been so late in the afternoon when I got to go out. Fortunately, the outside rec yards were empty and it is a beautiful day. The sun is out, and it wasn't cold at all. It felt lovely. I jogged and did my work out and enjoyed the fresh air.
I ran across this poem the other day. I really liked it because it depicts exactly how I feel. I don't know the name of it but it is by Elizabeth Spires....
If my heart were scoured,
If my soul were remade
into a new and shining garment,
Then would I have to die ?
Lord, if perfection is death,
Let me stay here
A little while longer
Spotted and stained.
December 21st, 2015
As I write this it is a warm and muggy Monday morning and I'm fighting off a head cold. I've been fortunate to have just a cold, because there are some guys back here that have a full blown flu virus. It started on Saturday and now I just have a leaky faucet of a nose...
There are rumors going around that in January the administration is going to try "group recreation", but we've been hearing these rumors for years. Just like T.V. rumors, they come and go.
The thing about recreation is that this building is not set up for it. It is an "Administrative Segregation" building, meaning that it is designed to isolate inmates. The day rooms aren't really capable of holding anymore than a couple of prisoners at a time. I can't imagine them trying to squeeze more than that in there. Plus, I just don't think the big wigs in Huntsville would go for it, either. I don't want to burst the bubble of the guys who really hope and want it but I've been doing this for way too long and I really don't think it will happen.
Oh well, one can hope I suppose...
December 28th, 2015
Okay...Let's try to get back into the groove of things. I've been so out of whack of late, I told myself yesterday that I had to pull myself out of this funk, and do something productive. I'm going to try, but dammit if I haven't been so frustrated with so many things, so many issues. A big part of it is that I'm sick and tired of this place. It has pushed me far beyond my patience and we are constantly being screwed over. Take my exchange with an officer this morning because ONCE AGAIN we were screwed out of recreation (we didn't get it yesterday because they're "short staffed"). But.....A refresher course first...
Our "new schedule" goes something like this: A/C/E pods go on an alternate day of B/D/F pods. So, that means that today, or this week rather, we should've gone (I'm currently on A pod) Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I was so emotionally exhausted over the weekend from the holidays, reflection, and general grief, that yesterday I told myself, "Okay, here's the program, dude...you're going to bed early and Monday morning you're going to reboot. It is a new week, new day going into a new year. No more pussyfooting around". I went to bed at 9pm. My goal was to wake up at 5.30am when they are setting up the rec. schedule, do some yoga, meditate/pray, and begin anew. I ended up sleeping in until 6am and heard someone in the shower. My neighbour was awake and so I asked him why they weren't doing recreation. He didn't know. I wasn't going to let it get in the way of trying to start "anew", so I began my little yoga routine and after that, my workout. A few minutes later an officer came back and I asked what the deal was on recreation. I was told "We fucked up". I was not happy....
"What do you mean you fucked up?" Today is A pod's day of recreation. It shouldn't be difficult to correct".
But he came back with "Yeah, but we already started doing half of the pods on showers".
I wasn't going to leave it at that..."So...stop doing showers and do recreation".
"Well, rank told us to keep doing what we are doing".
"So, we're not getting rec? I said. And his response was
"What is probably? I don't get probably. You mean no. Why is it so hard to just say no?"
Blink. Blink. Blink. I continued, "You know, I find it interesting that when we - the inmates - fuck up, we're held accountable. If I do something I shouldn't have done I don't get away with a 'that's my bad, dude'. I get sent to discipline. But when you mess up, there's no accountability whatsoever. I just think it is a very interesting dichotomy we've got going on around here".
The officer walked off and I went back to my workout, refusing to let it bring me down. But it is frustrating.
I know there are people out there who don't care about whether or not we get rec. or any privileges for that matter. There are people who think we should just sit in an empty cell until we all die. I wouldn't agree that it is a valid opinion, but hey, whatever inhumane soul you have, I'm not going to knock you for it. But the truth of the matter is that things like recreation keep people passive to a large extent. It keeps people from losing their minds. I would think it makes much more sense safety-wise to have certain privileges than to create a hostile environment where guys go ape shit against the staff, or they've got to deal with a bunch of mentally ill people. But what do I know. I'm not going to let it dictate the rest of my day. I have to push it out of my mind. Vent here and be done with it. I really am trying to get back into a feeling of positivity and focus. I'm tired of feeling like this. It is like being smothered by a thick wool blanket.
Our Christmas meal was good, brisket and chicken. I wouldn't say it was as much food as Thanksgiving Day but it wasn't paltry by any definition. I'm not Christian but I was grateful for the food. I ended up going to recreation late that evening and talking with a few guys and I gave away all of my comics to a guy who loves them, but has no support. I thought it would be a nice thing to do and we're getting close to a lockdown so they had to go somewhere. It was kind of funny seeing the guards look when, after they put handcuffs on me, I grab this HUGE bundled up bag of comics. They were cool about it. I said "Look, it's Christmas Day and this guy has nothing to read. Let me take them to him". No problem whatsoever. I was happy about that.
The weather has been absolutely crazy. Yesterday morning the temperature was close to 80 degrees. It had been like that for days, just warm and sticky. Then, a huge storm hit us (along with half of Texas it seemed. Close to my hometown they were hit with tornadoes) and it was suddenly cold again. I don't even think it is 45 F right now. Rumors have death row going on lockdown soon so I'm trying to prepare for that. They've posted a document saying they are going to be very strict with how much personal property we can keep. The way that they typically do a lockdown is give us a red bread crate. All of our personal property has to fit within the red crate.
Well, except things like our electronics and legal work. Now, for the past few years if things spill over the edge of the red crate they would give us a pass on it, but they're saying those days are over. I should be fine, but you never know. I'm steadily whittling things down. I am by no means a pack rat. I cannot stand clutter and due the fact that I get moved around every couple of weeks, necessity dictates that I keep things light.
That being said, it is kind of amazing how a person can accumulate crap in a short period of time. One last thing, as part of getting out of my funk, I'm going to refocus on some of my writing for my memoirs. I've recently put together a re-write of my memoir "Tumultuous", so head over to the memoir tab on the site, and see what you think...I think it gives some good insight into so many of my bad choices in life, and things that went insanely wrong for me.