My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 85

I have a new living arrangement.  Not sure if I had shared this previously, but my 1st two bunkies in my three-man cubicle were a couple of amiable amigos that went by “Polo” and “Durango” (who, by the way, has 14 kids with 7 different women…and he’s married).  They had a weird father/son thing going, as they were both Hispanic, and Polo was in his early ’20s andDurango, I believe in hi mid-to-late ’40s.  While they certainly treated me well, the problem was two-fold:  1.) our cube was way up near the front on the Unit, right by the front door / phones / TV rooms / computers, which could get pretty loud;  and 2.) Durango was running both a “store” (like an inmate 7-11) and an electronic repair shop (you should see his soldering gun built out of 2 AA batteries and some speaker wire); oftentimes, there were no fewer than half a dozen inmates milling around our small cube.

Within all Units, there are two-man and three-man cubes.  Inside each cube, the prime spot (based on seniority) is always the bottom bunk.  In three-man cubes, there are two bottom bunks.  The only way to get a bottom bunk immediately upon entering prison is to have some sort of disability or to be morbidly obese.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am without either condition.

With Polo and Durango, I was up on the top bunk and essentially on display for the whole Unit to see when I was up there because the bed, itself, is higher than the cube wall…and since our cube was near the front of the Unit, everyone thought that they were a comedian and always had to make some sort of comment about what I was doing, reading, etc.

Despite the lack of privacy, my top bunk was ultimately a blessing in disguise.  About a month ago, I was reading Tom Wolfe‘s “A Man in Full” and in inmate that I had never spoken to before stopped by to chat because he could see what I was reading from down below and he wanted to ask me a question about the book.  During our conversation, he let me know that he was going to be leaving soon, thus prompting a vacancy in a prime top-bunk spot in a two-man cube with a window featuring an impressive eastern exposure and a view of lush, verdant, rolling hills.  The best amenity, aside from the considerable noise reduction since this cube was out of the way of the heavy foot traffic (we often joked that our area was “the Suburbs” and where I used to live was “the Ghetto), was the desk and stool.  Three-man cubes are without a desk (to make room for a third locker) which basically allows you only two positions in your cube — standing up or lying down, which makes it difficult to do any writing or general paperwork.

Normally, the wait list for a two-man could be several years — and that is just for the top  bunk.  The lower bunk is typically filled by whomever was on top after the dude on the bottom leaves the prison.

The guy that was leaving his two-man cube offered to ask his bunkmate if he had anyone in mind for moving in when he goes and, if not, I was hoping he could put in a good word for me (even though he barely knew me, but word gets around fast if you are disrespectful and/or unkempt).  Turns out, I was in luck.  Nobody was planning to move in and I was given permission to make the move myself.

My new bunky?  His prison name is “Bless” (as in “God Bless”) and he comes to us from New York, but is originally from Jamaica.  He has about 10 years left on a crack conviction and, by the way, is super religious (as if his name didn’t give that away).  Not the kind of religious whereby he crams it down your throat at every viable opportunity, but more of a solitary practice.  For example, he will rise early, read the bible for a bit, and then get on his way; he then goes to bed early as well, usually prior to 9:00 p.m.  On Sundays, he truly observes the Sabbath by resting all day, rarely leaving the cube and refusing to communicate with anyone in the Unit.  (Apparently, he also listens to some extremist religious program on his radio on Sundays and was preparing himself for some sort of “End of Days” earlier this year, the date of which has since come and gone without fanfare.)

Speaking of religion…I found out that you are only allowed to have 3 things on top of your locker — a photograph of a family member or loved one, an alarm clock, and a religious text.  The funny thing about the alarm clock is that it would most definitely be stolen if you left it up there…as for the religious text — who makes that determination?  And what if you are not religious?  Can you substitute it with anything?  Perhaps a book by Richard Dawkins?

Prior to making my move, his outgoing bunky gave me the lowdown on all of his little idiosyncrasies…one of which was the whole Sabbath ordeal.  He also runs a hustle by making a bunch of cheesecakes in our cube and selling them to other inmates.  I was also informed that he snores and sometimes, while awake, make some sort of guttural noise that exists in the ether somewhere between a belch and a growl.  (My neighbors have once threatened to throw raw meat over our wall.)  I’m fairly easygoing and even upon hearing all of these forewarnings, the benefits still seemed to weigh heavily in my favor.

Thankfully, there’s not a “but” or “guesswhathappensnext”…the only other ominous foreshadowing was his warning on my first day in the cube, that he tends to pass gas a lot and, according to his scientific assessments, “sometimes it smells and sometimes it does not.”  His gaseous propulsions have, however, fallen mostly in the latter category and considering that I could probably sleep through the landing of a 747 on top of our Unit, I would never have even known that he snores.

Thus far, Bless have been a tremendous bunky and I have been enjoying the relative peace and quiet down here.  And as unlikely as this may seem, I have seen some of the most beautiful sunrises in my entire life from behind my barred window.


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