My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 25

I made my first black market purchase today.  One can of full-sugar Pepsi.  Ice cold.  Cost me two $0.44 stamps.  Most “vendors” only accept dollar stamps for payment, but some will cut you a break.  I’ve been trying to avoid making transactions like this and would rather stockpile my own beverages, etc., but after a long day and 15 laps around the track…I was parched for something that H-two-O would just not quench.

I learned something interesting about the library today.  Apparently, 100% of the books are donated from fellow inmates.  While that concept is not entirely surprising, the resulting collection is.  I’ve always thought the stacks were very impressive considering the library’s size and the fact that it is within a correctional institution.  As expected, a fair amount of their books are popular, mainstream Thrillers and Westerns, yet there is a staggering amount of classics, credible best sellers, interesting non-fiction, philosophical tomes, and obscure poetry.  These peeps be well read.  In addition, there is also an inter-library loan program with a local library, of which I have not yet taken advantage, however, I will in the foreseeable future.

Guess what?  I witnessed a prison tattoo in the making today.  While I am not so naive to think that these things don’t exist in a place like this, it did seem somewhat unlikely based on the considerable lack of resources at the tattoo artist’s disposal.  But, as someone unwise once told me, if you want something bad enough in prison, “you will find a way.”

This scene unfolded as I was on my way back from the Chow Hall after dinner.  As I came up the steps to my Unit, some old dude from another Unit asked me if I knew so-and-so.  While not personally, I did recognize the name from mail call and I believed that I could match a face (especially so, because I remembered that this homey had a very fresh black eye).  The man outside asked if I could kindly find him and ask him to step outside.  I said “no problem” and then he muttered something else whereby I had to ask him to repeat himself.  He said, “Tell him to put a LEAN on it.”  (Translation: tell him to hurry the fuck up.)

This didn’t appear to be some kind of nefarious trap for said individual as the man making the request was all benevolent smiles and he appeared to be on his way to some sort of recreational activity.

I stepped inside, discreetly asked a few questions about the invitee’s whereabouts, and I ultimately wound up in a cube of a compadre from my own hometown, my goal to ask him for some further guidance.  And, lo and behold, right in front of me was a tall hillbilly sitting in a chair getting his sleeve done by a bonafied tattoo artiste.  I was stunned by the sophistication of it all.  If such things did, in fact, exist, I imagined a crude apparatus made by a MacGyver-type using a paper clip and a pack of Ramen noodles.  But, at a quick glance, I was starting straight down the barrel of what looked like an actual tattoo gun…albeit this one was quieter than a whisper.  (I guess I now understand why that you are only able to purchase two ink pens each week at the commissary — I suppose that they are doctored for use in tattooing?)

Not one to draw attention to myself, and to avoid any unnecessary paranoia from the rule-breaking riffraff, I politely excused myself and made my quick exit from whence I came.  I noticed on my way back to my own cube that the gentleman who had made the original request that had sent me to the underbelly of the underworld had vanished into thin air, likely taking with him the soul he came to claim.


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