I'VE BEEN SERVED

My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Archive for criminal justice

Day 238 – Part I

I thought I had died and gone to a less marginal prison.  The kind that has a gourmet bakery.

You know those evil muffins they sell at Starbucks that are packed to the hilt with cream cheese?  The ones with muffin tops the size of large UFOs?  Well, they served those for breakfast this morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I don’t know where they came from and I don’t care. I just hope they keep on getting ’em.  A moist, freshly baked pumpkin spice cake surrounded by a plump, cream cheese pillow.  Nom, nom, nom.

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Is it just me, or is it weird how there’s no holiday songs about prison?

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HOW TO EAT A BANANA IN PRISON

1. Avoid unnecessary eye contact.

2. Hold fruit below chest.

3. Peel quickly and without innuendo.

4. Break off an inch of peeled fruit with thumb and forefinger of opposing hand.

5. Insert piece and chew with mouth closed.

Repeat.

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WHY YOU HAVEN’T HEARD FROM ME IN SO LONG

 

I think I’ve become institutionalized…no, not in the ass-raping, tattoo-getting, gang-affiliating way…but in such a way as the things that once seemed so odd and foreign to me here no longer seem that strange.

The fleeting joke of “Hey Mom! Look at me! I’m in prison!” soon became the sharp reality of “Oh shit…I’m in PRISON.”  Not that my experience has gotten any worse since I arrived here last May…au contraire.  In fact, it’s gotten somewhat comfortable (not a good thing, necessarily), yet I’m feeling less like a tourist on some “extreme” vacation than I do an actor playing a bit part. And since becoming ingrained in the prison lifestyle, it’s difficult for me to assume a me vs. them (blogger vs. inmates) mentality…because, for better or for worse, it has become more of an us vs. them (inmates vs. prison) reality.

Which is why I am forcing myself to “come up for air” again and to view this experience as new and fresh…and to remind myself that it is definitely not normal to be here. So, expect much more frequent updates in the New Year. Unless the Mayans‘ prophesies ring true…

Oh yeah, and I owe you some answers to your thoughtful questions from a few months back. Coming soon…and part II of this update later this week.

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PRISON LINGO

Instead of “thank you,” say “good lookin’,” which is shorthand for “thanks for looking out for me” or “good looking out on my behalf.” (At first I was flattered by all the compliments.)

Example of proper usage:

“Hey brother, drop that stinger.  The cop is making his rounds and will be coming through here in a minute.”

“Good lookin’.”

*

ANOTHER REASON FOR MY SILENCE

I feel totally ridiculous for saying this, but…I’ve been busy.  I know, that may be hard to believe and I’ll be the first to admit that many of you are leading much harder lives making a living and feeding your families.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I’ve been KEEPING myself busy.  Big difference.

It’s very easy to imagine prison as a bunch of lazy degenerates lying around all day doing nothing — and while there certainly ARE elements of that behavior — prison is what you make of it.  If you have the motivation and the spirit, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t come out of here a better person than when you first came in.

So, how exactly have I been so busy? Here’s a peek at my schedule. Monday through Friday, I get up around 5:45 a.m. and go to breakfast.  At 6:30 a.m. I have a 30-minute Power Yoga class (more on that soon).  My job in the data processing unit of Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) begins at 7:30 a.m. and runs through 3:30 p.m.  After work, I go to Chow, and then I work out for another hour or two with my “crew.” By the time I get back to my Unit, it is usually around 7:30 p.m., at which time I take a shower, do laundry, check my e-mail, and call my wife.  Before bed, I write letters and catch up CNN.  I then read until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Repeat.

On the weekends, I read, exercise, work on my writing projects, catch up on magazines/newspapers in the Leisure Library, and watch the institution movie (if it appeals to me). I don’t watch much t.v., or at least not anything regular.  Wednesdays used to be my t.v. night when I would watch X-Factor and American Horror Story, but both shows have recently wrapped up.  Every now and again, on Saturday nights, I might catch “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS.

Oh yeah, and I’ve also got involved with Hobby Craft — ceramics, oil painting and calligraphy (more on all of that soon).

*

Overheard in the TV room:  “Is that ‘GH’ or ‘One Life to Live’?”

*

I grew a moustache-soul patch combo this past November.  My hispter bros from my hometown were diggin’ it…some  other guys told me to shave it immediately…and a few more said that i looked, um, “ethnic.”

Proof positive — I was at the prison pharmacy filling out a prescription form and a nurse asked if I could translate for another inmate.  She had assumed I was hispanic.  (I guess this is only funny if you know who I am.)

*

An inmate from my Unit was recently selected, at random, for a breathalyzer test.  He registered a false positive because he just ate a honeybun. It contains a high amount of yeast. Just tell that to the next officer that pulls you over.

*

My prison job isn’t that much different than most jobs in the real world.  We typically spend the morning discussing what we’re having for lunch.  Then we find ways to work hard at hardly working — paper shuffling, aimless walking, impromptu meetings, etc.  We return from lunch at the last possible minute.  We watch the clock as if our lives depend upon it.  We invent scenarios that would allow us to leave work early.  And many of these guys would rather sit in a stinky bathroom stall on an extended poop break than sit at their desk feigning productivity.

Oh, and the gossip…anything from which prison employees are having affairs with whom, to which inmate was caught giving another a BJ in the closet.  We have an enormous dry-erase board that details recent changes and updates on standards for performing our jobs.  At the very top of this board, in red, someone  wrote — “If this were GOSSIP, you would read it!”  The same could probably be said for all of the mass e-mails you get at YOUR job, with subject headings like “Corporate Communication.”  Does anybody ever really read those?  It’s so much easier to ask the Office Manager what’s what and then watch her get angry at you for not reading the relevant e-mail.

Although, unlike the cutthroat nature of many jobs in corporate America, very rarely would any inmate throw another inmate “under the bus.”  Because that would be snitching.  And in Prison 101 you learn that a snitch is the greatest severity offense next to being a chomo.  This rule is particularly amusing in my job here at the Federal Prison Industries, considering what it is we do exactly…ensuring that inventors’ patents adhere to the standards of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  Moreover, we have several layers of Quality Assurance whereby the more experienced inmates check and verify the work of the less experienced, before the patents can even leave our factory.

The QAs are held to a quota of writing a certain number of error sheets — that is, writing up inmates who incorrectly process a patent.  But, of course, a lot of guys refuse to write error sheets because they don’t want to “snitch.”  Can you imagine if the same logic applied in an automobile plant?  “Jimmy forgot to add the brake pads again.  Oh well, I wouldn’t want him to get fired….let’s just pass this one through.”

Oh yeah…and I bet YOUR computer monitor doesn’t just start randomly smoking like a chimney.  True story.

*

PRISON LINGO

“Jack my wreck”, i.e., fuck up my routine, mess with me, play around, make things difficult for me, etc.  Origin = carjack my automobile.

Example of proper usage:

“Man, that nigga coming over here to do pull-ups in in this shower stall when he KNOWS it’s my favorite joint.  Why he always tryin’ to jack my wreck??”

*

Prison Pet Peeve: Why do all of the inmates here insist on typing their e-mails in ALL CAPS…and then never to turn it off for the next guy??

*

Happy New Year.  It was nice not waking up with a hangover this year…although, I did wakeup in prison.

Day 145

OH-NO-HE-DIDN’T.  (Oh, yes he did.)

Earlier this week, our Counselor had posted a notice in his office window.  A small group had gathered around it, grumbling under their breath.  As I peered over someone’s shoulder to get a better view, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

To paraphrase:  “effective immediately, you will no longer be able to reserve a seat in the large, multi-purpose TV room.  All seating is first come, first serve.  If I find any newspapers, books, towels, water bottles, magazines, radios, headphones, etc. on a chair or on the tables, they will be confiscated.  If you leave the room, even for a moment, you must take your belongings with you.”

Sometimes I surprise myself at how far I have come in the nearly six months that I have been here, how well integrated and accepted I have been by the other inmates, and how quickly my attitudes have changed regarding certain behaviors.  Shortly after my arrival on the compound, I took real offense to guys “owning” seats in the TV room.  But just weeks thereafter, I came around to the philosophy that there are so few things that an inmate can control while in prison…therefore, why not allow those with seniority the privilege to sit where they choose, and to even claim a spot?  I’ve even taken this one step further by leveraging this system to my own benefit and I often “hold” a seat for myself on nights when there is a movie that I’d like to watch.  In fact, there are even a few spots in the TV room that would loosely be considered as “mine” by me and the other inmates…but I still would never go so far as to kick a new guy out of my seat if I found him sitting there.  Nor would I “gently” inform him of the ownership of said chair, yet still allow him to sit there for the time being.  After all, I hate it when dudes play the “that’s-my-seat-but-you-can-sit-there-for-now” card…then why say anything to begin with??

What’s astonishing to me is that some guy (presumably someone fresh off of the bus) snitched on his fellow man and brought this behavior to the counselor’s attention.  That’s an unforgivable offense.  And whomever said something to the Counselor better hope that they remain anonymous.  I can guarantee that it was one of the chomos, who have been all but banned from that room anyway.

The memo was posted on Monday of this past week.  Guess what has changed since then?  Absolutely nothing.  Not even temporarily on the afternoon that it was posted.  It’s funny, too, because A) the Counselor NEVER goes into that TV room, so there’s no chance that he would have ever noticed this behavior on his own to begin with without someone bringing it to his attention, nor would he ever (moving forward) have the opportunity to enforce this rule and confiscate any items; B) there’s no way that an actual cop would do anything about this because they understand the system that inmates have in place, and C) this was clearly a “Unit” memo, and not a new prison policy, so there was really no way to properly enforce this because the rule doesn’t officially exist.

And besides…even if this new rule WAS enforced, what inmate would be brave enough to dip his toe in the water and actually sit in a seat that was previously owned by another inmate without revealing himself to be the snitch?

Perhaps the Counselor realized all of this himself — or maybe he felt that he did his “part” by addressing the inmate’s concern and posting the note — because the memo was taken down today, not even a full week after it was posted.

Carry on my wayward sons.

*

Institution Movie:  “The Grace Card

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Lunch:  Sloppy Joe

Dinner:  Breaded Chicken Patty Sandwich

Day 144

Prison logic can be kind of fuzzy at times.  Snitching is bad.  That’s OBVI.  But you would think that rule would be null and void if someone robs you blind.  Remember the shoe thievery that occurred in my Unit last week?  Well, I have a couple of updates.

For one, the inmates were more outraged at the victim for telling the cop about getting robbed than they were about someone having the nerve to walk into another man’s “house” and take his shit.  In prison, if you get beat up, robbed, or any other form of abuse, you’re supposed to shut up and take it like a man.  Telling a guard is the worst thing you can do — you’d be lucky to not have whatever was done to you the first time done to you again…times infinity.

Oh, and the guy who I thought was busted by being caught in the act on camera?  That wasn’t exactly the case.  Apparently, when the buzz started swarming among the Mexicans, the Whites (or more accurately, the rednecks) had a meeting in their TV room and the guy who took the sneakers fessed up that he stole them and he ended up “checking in” (lingo for turning himself in).  And while he likely would have wound up in the Hole for theft if the cops saw it was him on the tape, the real reason that he went to the Hole was for his own safety.  I think the cop’s exact words were, “We gotta git you outta here.”

The little thief would have been on the receiving end of a Mexican hat dance if he had stayed.

 

*

Currently Reading:  “Among the Thugs” by Bill Buford

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Institution Movie:  “Thor“…much better than I expected.

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Lunch:  Fried Fish Patty Sandwich

Dinner:  Beef Stir-Fry

Day 136

One of my self-imposed rules when eating out for breakfast has always been to order the biscuits & gravy whenever it is on the menu.  I don’t care if it’s a greasy-spoon diner or a chef driven, farm-to-table joint — if they have it, I’m getting it.  As a result, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I was intrigued upon learning that a “Country Breakfast” (biscuits & gravy, scrambled eggs, potatoes, grits, etc.) was one of the dinners served during the seasonal 5-week dinner menu rotation here.  Considering that the brunch served on Sundays is typically one of the better meals served during the week, I had high expectations.  After all, with biscuits & gravy, there are usually varying degrees of good to great, but it is a meal that is difficult to seriously screw up. Leave it to the Bureau of Prisons.

I think I’ve had this meal three times now since I’ve been here — the first of which set the gold standard.  The biscuits were hot, fresh, and recently dropped.  The gravy was peppery with a viscosity that was none to thick and none to light…and loaded to the hilt with big chunks of turkey sausage.

The second time that I’ve had this meal…there WERE no biscuits & gravy.  Only in prison, can they serve you a meal, without actually serving you the meal.  On that particular occasion, you got the eggs, potatoes, and bread, but not the main event.

Tonight, the gravy looked and smelled terrific…and the sidecars on the tray were heaped with all of the requisite accouterments…but they must have run out of flour because there were no biscuits, only whole wheat bread.  So, I tore up the bread into soft, crouton-sized chunks, stirred it all up, and dug in.  At first bite, I thought they had carved up roast beef into nice thin slices for the gravy meat…and then I realized that I was eating freakin’ bologna!! Bolognain gravy??  Yikes.  Surprisingly, it didn’t actually taste half bad, and it would have been more forgivable with some fresh biscuits, but just the concept of putting the lowest common denominator of deli meats into a savory gray is enough to swear off the meal entirely, and for the rest of eternity.

*

Lunch:  Baked Chicken, Salad with French Dressing, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Spinach

Dinner:  Biscuits & Gravy, Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes, Grits, Whole Wheat Bread

Day 128

I saw a young kid getting his first prison tattoo the other day, a Hispanic guy who couldn’t have been more than 18 or 19 years old.  His choice of branding?  “MISUNDERSTOOD” — in sweeping, elegant, script across the top of his chest.  Really?  I mean, is there really that much to understand?  Do the recesses of his psyche run that deep?  And what happens when he gets older and wiser and he is FINALLY understood?  Will he regret the indelible ink?  Will he reserve chest space on top of this tattoo for a “PREVIOUSLY”…or maybe a “FORMERLY”?

*There is an inordinately large number of inmates here (primarily black & Hispanic) who subscribe to the school of thought that it is not gay to be on the receiving end of a blowjob that is administered by another dude.  I am not a subscriber.

*I miss smoking.  I miss everything about it.  If it was still allowed in prison, I would smoke like a fiend, a chimney, a choo-choo, or any other cliched metaphor.  I’d even smoke the metaphor.  Save me the vitriolic responses — I realize and respect the health risks.  Fellow and former smokers will likely understand — yet something tells me that I wouldn’t be on the receiving end of such vehement admonitions if I admitted to missing drinking, or fast food hamburgers, or riding on a crotch rocket at high speeds without a helmet.

I miss the compact heft and the snug shrink-wrap on a fresh pack of smokes.  I miss the pull and release of the silver foil blanketing the tightly packed cigarettes.  I miss the strike of a wooden match and the subsequent scent of its snuffed essence.  And, most of all, I miss the euphoric buzz of the first smoke after a long nicotine-free respite.

While it would be impossible for me to say that I will never ever smoke again, I would nonetheless be pretty silly to pick it up again once I got out of here.  These past 4 months are most likely the longest that I’ve gone without a cigarette since I’ve taken it up in college, about 15 years ago.  By a heavy smoker’s standard, I probably wouldn’t compare…but I still smoked often enough to be considered as such — usually about a pack every two days.

I can, however, say with all honesty that I’ll never smoke again while in the Joint.  Aside from the obvious reasons of serious disciplinary sanctions if caught, the inmates have, for the most part, resigned themselves to smoking the re-rolled tobacco pulled from the spent butts of the prison guards’ smoke breaks, rescued directly from their outdoor ashtrays.   (The cigs are then lit with a “lighter” made from batteries, speaker wire, and a piece of tissue paper.)

Shortly before I got on the compound, real packs of cigarettes were fairly prevalent, having been smuggled in by an actual guard in our Unit.  Going for $100 a pack, the guard would score up to several thousand dollars a carton (with money being wired to him from the outside from the inmates’ friends & family) and would also look the other way while the inmates smoked in the bathroom.  Apparently, this all came to an abrupt halt one day as he was being lead off the compound in handcuffs.

*Lunch:  Cheeseburger, French Fries, Salad with Italian Dressing, and a bag of Famous Amos‘ Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

*Dinner:  Roast Beef, Roasted Potatoes, Gravy, and Cabbage.

Day 127

The biggest change for me, since getting here, has been with the company I keep.  While I mostly kept to myself when I first arrived on the compound, and enjoyed my anonymity, I quickly surmised that this wouldn’t last for long without raising a few eyebrows and maybe even leading some to conclude that I am either stuck up or have something to hide.  As I may have said before, the two worst identities one can assume in prison are that of a chomo or a snitch.  And since I am neither, it made the most sense to start making a few friends in order to dispel any doubt.

With the exception of a few white males I’d consider peers — straight, college-educated, and from a major metropolitan area — I’ve found myself associating primarily with the black guys.  For one thing, the vast majority also come from urban environs and, for another, they often have great senses of humor.  Plus, I’d rather be accepted by this group than considered a potential victim.  Considering the alternative — the rednecks and/or the chomos…the choice is pretty easy.  The Hispanics are also good peeps, but they mostly keep to themselves and a fair amount of them can’t even speak English.

As for the chomos, specifically, my tolerance for them has eroded to negative infinity.  Here’s the thing about chomos in Federal prison — they are often a different breed than those found in state prisons who have been convicted of actual physical contact or abuse with a minor.  Those convicted of a Federal crime may have only been charged with the electronic viewing or transmission of illicit images of underage subjects…which isn’t victimless, of course, but it is admittedly different.  However, there are also those here that are of the “To Catch a Predator” variety…those who had made contact, electronically, with someone underage AND had also made or attempted physical contact.  Because of the Internet and the ease of committing and prosecuting these crimes, this place is becoming rife with more creeps than they can shake a dick at.

Consequently, I’ve taken to eating exclusively on the “black side” of the Chow Hall.  On the “white side,” it often looks like a refugee camp for some of the less fortunate survivors of Chernobyl — or a typical Saturday night at the a VFW Hall in Appalachia.  While standing in line to get your chow, you first have to endure the snaggleteeth, ZZ Top beards, and Camaro cuts of my Southern brethren…and then you’re immediately bombarded with the visual feast of pederasts of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  They are mostly distinguishable by the unfortunate prison-issued eyewear that must be adorned by the less financially fortunate — big, bulky, brown plastic frames — dubbed by some as the “Chomo 2000” model.

Picture, if you will, a Denny’s where you are forced to sit in a section exclusively devoted to those on your Neighborhood Sex Offender Watch List.  By the time you’ve reached the end of the freakshow gauntlet, you’ve lost your appetite before you even got your tray.

*CurrentlyReading: “The Town” by Chuck Hogan (previously published as “Prince of Thieves“)

*Lunch:  “Heart Healthy” Tuna Salad, Beef Vegetable Soup, Potato Salad, Lettuce with Fat-Free French Dressing, and an Orange.

*Dinner:  Chicken Stir-Fry.

Day 126

Last Saturday night, my bunky Bless stayed up past his usual 11:00 p.m. bed time to watch Serena Williams do her thang at the U.S. Open.  Bless is a devout Christian who observes the Sabbath like it’s nobody’s business; consequently, he retires early on Saturday night so that he’s well rested for devoting himself to the Lord the next day.  When a fellow inmate inquired about his being up at that hour, he replied, “I asked GOD if it was okay to stay up and watch tennis.  I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t give me permission.”

Not only does GOD love tennis and the Williams sisters, but he is also apparently a big fan of cheesecake.  Earlier that evening, I was in bed reading a book when one of Bless’s homeboys stopped by to drop off a slice of homemade cheesecake (a popular prison treat made from vanilla pudding, mozzarella cheese, and powdered coffee creamer…Sounds disgusting, right?  You’d be surprised at how good this can be; oftentimes, the inmates even use Butterfingers or Snickers bars to make it extra fancy.)

Well, I just assumed that Bless had made it himself, so I thanked the dude and made quick work of it.  While tasty, I was kind of taken aback by its runny texture — it tasted as if it had not been chilled, unusual since Bless normally takes a lot of pride in his craft.  As his “hustle,” Bless makes a variety of prison delicacies for his fellow inmates — nachos, pizzas, and, his specialty — cheesecakes.

Before bed that night, Bless asked for my thoughts on the cheesecake.  I acknowledged that it was good, albeit a little soft and warm.  He then fessed up and acknowledged that he did not make it but he wanted to see how I would rank it against his own.  I assured him that he makes the best cheesecake in all of prison and that it rivals some of the cheesecake that I’ve had on the street.  To which he replied, “And you know why I make the best cheesecake?  It is because GOD has wanted it so.  All glory to GOD.”

*

When French high-wire artist Philippe Petit crossed a tight-rope spanning the chasm between Manhattan’s Twin Towers, he answered the inevitable journalistic question of WHY with a mischievous, “There EES no why.”

I wish I could have used the same logic when the cop asked me why I was late to work recently — a very daring feat of my own. Would my answer have even made a difference?  Would it have changed the fact that I was late?  A simple “you’re late” and maybe even a “don’t let it happen again” would have sufficed.

At first, I wasn’t sure who he was talking to as I didn’t even realize I was late.  I stopped dead in my tracks, whipped my head over each shoulder, and then squinted at the clock and asked him something along the lines of what time we were supposed to be there.

“Are you trying to be funny?” he asked.  Funny?  If he thought that I was trying to be funny, he must have a pretty low standard for humor.

You see, in prison we have a system of “controlled movements” — meaning, you are not allowed to freely roam the compound, unless it is during a scheduled “ten-minute move,” which typically occurs around the top of each hour.

(An inmate recently wrote a catchy song called “Ten-Minute Move, Ten Minute GROOVE.”)

Essentially, you have ten minutes to get to (and/or from) wherever it is you need/supposed to be.

That particular morning, I never heard the “work call” so I eventually left for work on my own accord…and I thought I was actually a few minutes early.  Apparently, my clock was slow.

For some of these inmates that have particularly lengthy sentences, I’m guessing it will be weird for them when they get out and are able to freely move about their home/city without someone telling them where and when to go.

The worst part about these overhead announcements is that they sound much like an incomprehensible threat against your life, and shouted with the kind of urgency typically reserved for evacuating a burning theater.  Like how I’d imagine the adults in a Peanuts cartoon would sound if voiced by Jigsaw from the “Saw” franchise.

It took me more than a few days to understand what the hell they were saying…at times, I still can’t make it out but I have developed something like a Pavlovian response…after awhile, you just know what they are going to scream at you and at what time…so you just go ahead and do the thing that you are supposed to do at that specific time.  Stand-up Counts.  5-Minute Rec Move.  So-and-so to Visitation.  Your Unit to Chow Hall.

*

According to some of the inmates around here, the past tense of “shit” is “shitted.”  Someone recently shitted in our shower.  And in the rec room by the pool tables.  And then this degenerate meth head from Detroit named “Papi” shit his own pants.  I think we could narrow down the suspects for the former offenses…considered that he lives in my Unit…and he’s a big fan of shooting pool.

*

It was only fitting that my 30th day on the compound would coincide so neatly with my first experience with a prison town hall meeting.  “Town Hall” was the Warden’s choice of words, not mine, as it was made quite clear early on that there would be no Q&A or an open forum of any kind.

Prison often feels like I am working for a bleak and totally generic corporation.  Although, if this really was a true office environment, we would all have received a mass e-mail from our Office Manager updating us of the pertinent “news” (an e-mail which none of us would actually read) and we would all go about our daily business.  Instead, in my alternate reality, our entire Unit was marched, in single-file line, down to the area normally reserved for visitation…the only space large enough to accommodate our motley crew.

The big topic for this gathering was the announcement that, due to popular demand, they would soon be adding the Country Music Station to our outstanding lineup of half a dozen satellite TV channels.  We were also made very aware that it costs thousands of dollars to even add one channel to the lineup, so they have to be very selective in what they choose.

(An inmate behind me whispered, “They should get Comcast…it’s only $19.95 a month.”)

Keep in mind that there is a strong Hispanic population on the compound.  Also keep in mind that with as few channels that we get, two of those are Telemundo and Univision.  And two out of the four TV rooms “belong” to the Hispanics.

I’m just saying this to stress the absurdity of what comes next.  Not only the outlandish request of the Mexicans…but the ultimate response from the prison.

A young Hispanic guy stands up and tears into a 5-minute rant on “why-the-country-music-channel-and-why-not-a-spanish-video station”??  And, furthermore, “Once you open it up for ONE group, you have to open it up for ALL!!”

(Also keep in mind that none of the previous announcements regarding various educational programs raised even a single peep out of this bunch.)

In what was one of the most intense “OH NO YOU DIDN’T!” moments I have experienced yet in prison, the ever endearing Assistant Warden responds, “Come on, now guys…what country do you think this is??  This is AMERICA.”

These be the kind of events that spur riots.  As sad as that may be.

*

I celebrated my first birthday behind bars.  It was my 36th.  My neighbors made me a banana pudding parfait and had a card signed for me by a few dudes in the Unit.  Celebrating my own birthday has never been a big deal for me and I imagine that there will be other more momentous occasions spent behind bars that will make me a little blue.

I still managed to follow a tradition of mine — reading my “if you were born on this day” horoscope from my big city hometown newspaper.  Unfortunately, there is about a 10-day delay from when that newspaper is published and when it actually arrives on the compound, so I didn’t get to read this until nearly August.  So much for news, huh?

Make of this what you will:

“Actor/Director Forest Whitaker (1961) shares your birthday today.  You have an unusual ability to influence others, and this can help you enormously.  You’re also very resourceful about using whatever is at home.  You believe in being useful to society.  Indeed many of you are generous!  You feel a strong responsibility to family.  Your year ahead might be one of the most powerful years of your life — so dream big!”  (Georgia Nichols)

Translation:  You are a con man.  You can make cheesecakes out of non-traditional food items.  You are currently paying your debt to society.  Etc., etc.  As for this being “one of the most powerful years” of my life?  “Dream big”?  Hm…well, there is a prison marathon being held this fall.  No foolin’.

*

To mark my 90th day on the compound, the most notorious cop at the prison coincidentally recognized this milestone by complimenting me on my good behavior.  I wish I could share with you exactly why he is notorious, but I would be breaking someone’s word and confidence.  And even though I COULD describe his behavior under the guise of fiction…his infamy would in the world of the Bureau of Prisons would likely reveal his identity.  Let’s just say that he is a former military veteran and police officer and his tactics are rather unorthodox.  Remember the Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket?  That’s him, with a marginally better sense of humor.

Anyway, I was on my way back from the library on a Sunday morning when he called me over to pat me down and look through my stuff.  I could tell that he was not so much concerned as he was nosy.  He then said to me, “I just wanted to commend you for blending in so well since you got here and not having me get on you about anything.”

This was an enormous compliment coming from someone who normally gets in the face of every new arrival…early and often.

In response, I thanked him and acknowledged that he “entertains me.”  To that, he flashed a shit-eating grin and sent me on my way.

*

After reviewing some of my earlier posts, I realized that there is an enormous gap between when I was released from the Hole and when I got settled in on the compound.  To make a long story short, I walked to my compound that afternoon in May and informed an officer standing outside of my Unit that I had recently self-surrendered.  To wit, he replied, “Sucks to be you.”

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Currently Reading: “Cather in theRye” by J.D. Salinger

 

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Breakfast: Farina, Chocolate Cake, Green Apple, and 2 Cartons of 2% Milk

Lunch: Chili Mac (w/ White Rice), Corn Nibblets, Corn Bread, and a Green Apple

Dinner: TurkeyPot Pie with Green Beans