April is here! It's Easter Sunday and we just had a pretty good meal: pork chop, potato salad, two biscuits, beans, peas, and a brownie. Not too shabby.
I woke up at about 6.30am and waited on my shower. As the sun was rising, I could see the moon go from a yellowish orange colour, to white, as it rose a bit against a blue sky. It was really pretty! I love the view I have outside of my current window: the grass is green again, the trees are sprouting leaves, and there are wild flowers and dandelions all over the place. Really, really lovely. Of course it makes me a little homesick, and I miss the outside world. Just to be able to walk in the grass, or ride my bicycle early in the morning...That would be amazing, I'm sure.
I was listening to the morning political talk shows and it's the usual Trump BS, but what I'm not getting is this disbelief over the reboot of the comedy show "Roseanne" and its success this past week. All of the pundits are like, "Did Hollywood miss something? Will the success of the reboot make Hollywood pay attention to middle America now?" And Trump is boasting that it's because of him (of course) that the show was successful, and Hollywood ignores the working class...Okay, let's break this down: I grew up on the show "Roseanne" in the 1990s...I loved the show! My best friend, Chad, and I, watched ABC's "TGIF" line up religiously. I usually spent the night at his place on Fridays and Saturdays, and we were all about TGIF..."Family Matters", "Home Improvement", "Roseanne", "Full House"...We were there! So, part of the reboot success has been nostalgia. There's little doubt about that. The 18 million viewers who tuned in to watch it, probably wanted to relive a bit of the original magic. Those numbers will die...It's inevitable.
What I'm not getting is everyone talking about there being no representation of the middle or working class on television when there is! Programs like "The Middle", "The Carmichael Show", and others, exist so Trump cannot say that it's "because of him". I also have a problem with the many African-American sit-coms that highlight the black struggle and their working class roots, never being given the attention they so rightfully deserve. I find it both humorous and disgusting that a self defined billionaire is the champion of the working class...We truly live in a bizarre world!
I'm also kind of chuckling because how many of Trump's bigotted or racist base tuned in to "Roseanne" to see the "new" Roseanne family...Roseanne's kids, all grown up. One, having a mixed race child, another child being gender confused etc...Are we REALLY to believe they'll be tuning right back in next week??? Please...So, calm down media. Calm down Trump. Talk about the numbers NEXT week and tell me if Hollywood was really ignoring the middle part of America.
Here's to hoping that the month of April is blessed and full of love and courage and strength...Good things must happen! They WILL happen! April is going to be a good month, I'm sure of it...
Courage, strength, hope and love...!
April 2nd, 2018
Well, I thought for sure we'd be on lock-down, but they're running recreation, and everyone is surprised. Oh, you'll hear no complaints from me, but you've got to be mentally prepared for these things - especially when you expecting it to last longer than three weeks. At this point, I just want to get it over with.
So, I was channel surfing last night and I caught a re-broadcast of the new Roseanne series. The stuff the political programs were saying earlier that morning was still fresh in my mind, so I went into it with a bit of skepticism...Was it really going to be like the original Roseanne, or was this going to be a futile attempt at reliving the glory days of TGIF in the '90s? I was pleasantly surprised! It definitely felt like the original. It was good, yeah, some of the jokes were a bit corny, but overall I felt like it didn't skip a beat! There are a couple of things that should be cleared up though...both the mainstream media, and Trump/Trump's supporters, totally had the message of the first episode wrong. TOTALLY wrong! It was neither wholeheartedly an endorsement of Trump's policies, nor an indictment on West/East coast philosophies. It did a good job of reflecting what a well rounded family looks like with all of its various opinions/views on life. Yes, Roseanne's character said she voted for Trump because he promised jobs, while her sister, Jackie, constantly threw jabs at her for voting for him, but Roseanne's character was also fiercly independent and feminist as well...In one particular exchange between Jackie and Roseanne, after Roseanne's daughter, Becky, says she's going to be a surrogate for another mother, Roseanne is at first a bit shocked and unsure...Jackie says, "Her body, her right, Roseanne?"...There is a pause, and Roseanne says, "Yeah, her body, her right". I loved that!
Yesterday I described one of the grandchildren as being "gender confused" and I didn't feel comfortable using that description but it's what the media and places like AFR (American Family Radio - a right wing evangelical radio station) were using. Well, they totally had the character wrong! He was neither confused nor acting like a girl, in any way at all. Yes, he wore dresses, and painted his finger nails, but when Roseanne asked him what he identified as he definitively says, "I'm a boy!...I just want to wear things that stand out and pop!"
There were a lot of other moments that were good and I think the point of the first two shows was to get ALL of America to sit down and talk about things and not get into this divide like politicians and certain people try to say...When we look at ourselves and our families, we'll find that there's not one single family in this country that is one size fits all! Each family has a wide range of characters and beliefs, and when we can start listening to each other and trying to understand why a person believes in whatever way they do, we'll be better off for it.
Now, I still believe that the initial ratings explosion for the show was due to the nostalgia factor, and not because there was a thirst for "blue collar programming" - there has always been plenty of that on tv! I definitely give the first two episodes a thumbs up, and I'll keep listening to it.
I'm hoping to get a little legal news tonight when they pass out mail...I'm waiting to see if the courts approved the time extension on my appeal or not. With all that's been going on with my case and the attorney changes and drama with all of that, I don't see why the court wouldn't give my new attorneys a little bit more time, but you just never know. I have faith I'll get it. Still, the waiting...It makes my neurotic brain anxious! It'll be fine, though.
Courage. Faith. Hope and Strength...and a whole lotta love!
April 4th, 2018
It's been a really lovely spring day! I've got a little pep in my step because I received news last night that my appeal has been granted ONE LAST extension, until May 7th, 2018...I keep hoping and praying, and I feel like my prayers are being heard. I ask anyone who cares about me to please continue to throw those positive vibes out there and pray for me. I need it. It won't be taken for granted. The State put up a bit of a fight on this extension and I was relieved that the 5th circuit still allowed it. It's rare for a third extension...Thank you, G-d! :)
I had a funny memory flash into my mind when I was suggesting in a letter recently that someone should make personal sun tea jars - a common southern fixture during the summer time - and nothing, and I mean nothing is better than sun tea! It just tastes so different...Well, anyways, I was about 8 or 9 years old, and my dad took me out grocery shopping one time. I used to love pushing the cart, but my entire life I've always been quite the klutz and even now I have a weird problem with being unable to walk in a straight line - I tend to veer a lot. So, I've got the cart and I'm pushing it by this huge display of sun tea jars, and not correcting my path. WHAM! I run right into the display, and it all comes tumbling down. Glass jars are everywhere, and most of them broken! My dad begins to yell at me, and I'm still standing there in shock and awe at how I managed to do that. Fortunately, I didn't get into trouble for it! I think that later, my dad actually thought it was funny because he told the story for years...Good times...
Well, the day is moving pretty good here, and we've got some nice guards working today. Everyone on this side of the pod is in a pretty good mood.
Courage. Faith. Hope. Strength. And, love!
April 6th, 2018
Man...this has been a crazy day! I went to recreation shortly before noon, which I thought wasn't going to happen and I really didn't want to miss one of my favourite music programs Radioactive, as it is one of the only times during the week that I can listen to some really good indie rock. Houston has no other station that plays anything remotely close which is a shame really, because you would think that the 4th largest city in the nation would be setting standards when it comes to music. Houston is just sub par in all genres. But I digress, I missed my program and that sucked.
I wasn't expecting to stay out at recreation for more than two hours but it turned into a 4 1/2 hour rec period. At a certain point, when a person is out at rec., people get tired of talking to you, and you get tired of talking to people, and you just want to get back to your cell and do your thing. It's a weird paradox...On one hand, you HATE being stuck in your cell; you get stir crazy and restless, and just want to get out. On the other hand, when you're out in the day room for a long time, you just want to get back to your cell. You've got books to read, letters to write, your radio to listen to. There's an odd "comfort", I suppose. The only exception is when I'm outside. When it's a nice day I never want to come back in; I like to feel the wind, the sun on my face, watch the birds fly over or see the odd propellar plane from the small airport next to the prison.
Anyway, I didn't get my shower until after 9pm, and I didn't want to miss the Prison Show, but I ended up missing almost all of it. I came in at the tail end of the death row report and the women who do that segment sounded upset. I didn't catch it, but if I had to guess, it would be because of Texas and Arizona's request to the Justice Department to allow the time on the filing of a federal appeal to be changed from one year, to six months...They've tried this before and it mostly gets ignored, but with Sessions as the Attorney General of the Justice Department, he seems all too eager to approve...We'll see what happens!
Here's the problem with "swift" justice...Mistakes happen! You've already got mediocre attorneys filing mediocre appeals. You've got to have the time to review YEARS of the appeals process. Attorneys are over worked and represent MANY clients...too many mistakes can happen, and by speeding up the appeals process, innocent people or people who truly deserve to be spared, are going to slip into the cracks and be killed. It's just crazy to think about...I hate to go out on such a sour note, but, argh!!...It leaves me frustrated.
Courage. Faith. Strength. Hope...
April 7th, 2018
Some storms moved in and it's gotten quite cold. It looks quite dreary outside my window, and it kind of fits my mood. I'm a bit on the down side...This tends to happen when I over-think the death penalty. It just makes no sense to me that in the 21st Century, in the most advanced country, and progressive when it comes to human rights (though I could make an argument against that claim - a very strong argument)...that we not only execute people, but we are always trying to find new methods of killing, and speeding up the so-called Justice process to kill people more quickly...
This morning I woke up and thought, you know what? I'm really tired of talkers. I'm tired of people saying they're "against" the death penalty...It doesn't CHANGE anything to just talk about it. No one is protesting...No one is going to churches, talking to religious people, and telling them how the death penalty fundamentally goes against EVERYTHING Jesus taught...words aren't enough. It's NOT working!!! We need more action from people.
Courage. Strength. Hope. And faith...
April 12th, 2018
I really miss my view...I was moved on Monday night, from C-section on C-pod, to F-section. I had a great view of a field off in the distance. I could see cars pass by, the tree line, plenty of birds and beautiful sunsets. On one hand, I did want to move very badly, because the energy on that side of the pod was beginning to turn really negative and tense. I would have preferred to go to another pod, but I moved to the other side of the pod, and now all I can see is the back side of A-pod - the death watch section. The energy is a bit better where I am now, but still...I'd rather look out of my window.
Everyone keeps hoping on the lock-down happening, just to get it out of the way; but it doesn't seem to be on the cards until next week. I've got some things I really want to write, and having that few weeks of quiet and no interruptions is going to be great. That's the one positive in that situation.
Courage. Strength. Hope...And faith!
April 15th, 2018
Man, the weekend was f-f-f-freezing! We were strangely in the 40s, and because it had been nice and warm the previous week, they had the air conditioning turned on...Once it's on they just keep it on, so it has been like a refrigerator in this place.
I woke up at 5.25 am because I was told I was going outside and I wondered if it would be as cold outside and it was in here, but really, once the sun began to rise, it warmed up quickly. It takes the concrete a little while to warm back up after a bout of cold, so it's still chilly in the cell, but when it hits 80 and warms up by this afternoon, hopefully it'll be a bit better.
Everyone is wondering what's going on with the lock-down. I was all but certain it would start today and I suppose it could still begin sometime this week, or even today. I've got some writing projects I really want to get on with and not be distracted.
I was telling the guy I was outside with about my very first lock-down in prison...I was on a transfer until in Bonham, Texas for about two years, and while we had shake-downs, we never had an actual lock-down. Those types of units are not set up to keep inmates from moving around. They're large warehouse type "dorms" with bunk beds everywhere and so I guess they don't bother. After two years, I was shipped to Kenedy, Texas - The Connally Unit - which is identical to Polunsky in every way. The general population buildings are big square buildings, and you have three tiers of cells on each "tank".
I was first placed on "Four Building" where they house mostly new inmates that work in the fields. You had to do 90 days of "hard" labour before you could request a job change and get a better job like working in the kitchen, or something that was better than swinging a hoe all day long in the hot ass sun, or picking okra...Picking okra is the worst! The ants love it, and they've got these little fibers that itch...It's like sticking your hand in fiber glass!
So, one evening I borrowed my cell mate's radio, and watching out the window I see a bunch of guards running down this side walk to the dormitories. They looked really frantic. I also remember seeing a bunch of nurses head that way with medical bags and stretchers. I'd never seen anything like this in my life before, only on TV or in movies. I was clueless as to what was going on! Suddenly guards come onto the tank and begin to scream "Lock-down! Lockdown!" Get your asses in your cells...Now!!!" My cell mate comes in and I'm like, "Man, I don't know what is going on, but I just watched a shit ton of guards run out towards the dorms." We both watched as more and more people poured down the side walk. Soon, heading back up were the stretchers and one inmate - a Mexican dude - was covered in blood and holding his head. I'd never seen anything like that, either. Then, another stretcher and another...The last stretcher, a white sheet was pulled over a bloodied body...There was no mistaking him for dead. My stomach turned and I thought, "Jesus...this prison crap is for real." I was a bit scared, if I'm honest.
Well, it turned out a war broke out between two Mexican gangs and we ended up staying on lock-down the entire summer. It was madness! Every time they'd let us out of our cells, another fight or retaliation between the gangs would happen, and back on lock-down we'd go. Imagine eating nothing but sack lunches for almost three months, getting only three showers a week, and having to share a cell with someone the entire time, and not being able to get a break from them...Fortunately, while my cell mate was a bit mentally ill, he wasn't bat shit crazy, so we both enjoyed playing Scrabble, or just jamming out with the radio.
Around early 2000, Texas finally got a handle on the gangs and began to try new tactics to control them and prevent major fights or wars from breaking out. They relied heavily on their "snitch system" and if the gang intelligence caught the slightest hint that something was going to kick off, they'd swoop in and start locking up any suspected or confirmed gang members and put them on lock-down until the issue was squashed. Guys began to miss visits, commissary, and other privileges, and it was fairly successful. It just took the State a while to catch up. I don't think this unit has been on a security lock-down since the cell phone scandal in 2008. We were on lock-down for a total of about 2 months.
Just talked to a guard and he said we may be on lock-down on Wednesday...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
April 17th, 2018
I woke up at 5.25am for recreation, and headed on out a bit after six. Today was a dayroom day so I wanted to exercise, get back in and wait on my visit from my attorney. I received a "Jpay" message from him last night saying he was going to be up here to visit. I got really excited about that. Oh, you're probably wondering what a "Jpay" is? We're allowed to receive emails via a secure site called Jpay.com. They're printed up and delivered to us at night time. The only thing that sucks is the Texas system only allows us to receive messages, not to send any. Still, it speeds up the mail process considerably.
Anyways, so I exercise, get my shower and make some lunch. I didn't receive the visit until about 1.30pm, but it went really well and we had a good conversation. His compassion and sincerity in wanting to help me really stands out, and he's a fighter. I said, "I've got hope", and he said, "That's good. I'm fighting for you, and we're going to do our very best." The brief isn't due until May 7th so we'll see what goes on. Me and my girl have this mantra: Courage, strength and hope. I like to close these journals out with it. It does give me some strength and hope.
Oh, the walk outside to the visitation room was so wonderful. It had to be in the mid 80 degrees, and the blue sky went on for what seemed forever. The birds were pecking away at the grass and I just breathed that wonderful fresh air in and filled my lungs up with it.
We're probably going to be on lock-down...well, if the umpteenth rumor is to be believed. We shall see.
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith!
April 18th, 2018
I woke up this morning at about 5.25am, to see if they were going to set up recreation or not. Rumor had it that the lock-down was starting today, but we've been hearing the same old stuff for the past month. To add to the confusion this morning we received a normal breakfast. Usually one of the tell-tale signs of a lock-down is what is served at breakfast - we'll usually get a sack meal with some cold pancakes and a pack of syrup. So, I had a cup of coffee ready to drink should I have been set up for rec., but the guards didn't pass by my cell until 6am, and they didn't set up recreation. We're on lock-down...I just crawled right back under the covers and slept for another hour. This lock-down is a full unit lock-down and we'll be down for quite a while - probably until the first week of May, if not longer.
My mind is still focusing on my legal visit with my attorney yesterday, and I feel really good about what we discussed. I can't go into what his plans are, but I had voiced my frustration with always being seen as a member of "the Texas 7", and not being seen as an individual. Even all these years later, I can't get away from it and it sucks...I asked him, "How come in every filing, previous attorneys and the State of Texas always start their brief with "Randy Halprin...member of the Texas 7, a group (or gang) who escaped..." He told me he didn't like that either and would do everything in his will to try to get the courts to look at me as an INDIVIDUAL. To see ME and not the actions of the group, because even after the escape I tried to disassociate with all that they were doing. I hated it. It made me feel like crap, and whilst, yes, I felt indebted to Rivas, and yes, there were pressures...my internal moral compass...it screamed against all of it.
A guard asked me yesterday, "Hey Halprin? Would you do it again?" I didn't even hesitate to answer. "Hell no. Most stupid mistake of my life, and not only could it cost me my life, but I'd be free right now. My sentence of 30 years is almost over, and surely I'd have made parole..." He said, "Well I asked another of your co-defendants and he said "every freaking day"". Not me! I am NOT my co-defendant. I'm not perfect; I make mistakes from time to time, but there is nobody I would ever cause harm to. Period. I am NOT that person. I hate being made out to be that person.
Anyway, I feel confident that whatever is filed will be good. I just want a fighting chance.
Well I'm guessing we won't get our first sack lunch until later this afternoon. The first couple of days of a lock-down everything happens really late. But at least the mail at night time should get passed out much earlier than usual. It wasn't passed out until some time after midnight last night, which makes no sense.
I suppose I will get on with the rest of the day and start working on some of my writing projects...
As always, hold onto:
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
April 24th, 2018
Well, we're six days into the lock-down and we have another couple of weeks to go. I'm not exactly sure what the reason is behind it, but for the past couple of days things have been a bit more tense between the Officers and the inmates. Just a few seconds ago, my neighbour got into a cussing match with the Sergeant...It started with my neighbor asking if he could get an extra sheet to cover up with; they took our jackets and blankets in the shakedown on Friday, and it's been getting really cold at night, even if the days are in the 80s. But with the air conditioning on, it feels downright frigid all throughout the day because the building isn't warming up.
So, the sergeant made a smart assed comment to my neighbor, and my neighbor started cussing at him, and it went on for like five minutes right by my cell. Very uncomfortable! Earlier, I had a guard start threatening me with a disciplinary because I cracked a joke. Okay, granted, I was being sarcastic...but she was coming through screaming at everyone about throwing their trash out the sides of their doors 'cause she was tired of picking it up. I said, "Job security!" I thought it was funny, but apparently she didn't because the response I got was anything but laughs. Oh well...You can't get a laugh out of everyone. (shrug)
Yesterday was an absolute mess of a day as well...We were cell searched on Friday and that went really well; the guards didn't take anything from me, and when I returned to my cell, everything was nice and orderly, and not thrown everywhere like a tornado in a trailer park. Whoever searched my cell must have been a Star Wars fan, because they left all of my Star Wars stuff separated into a nice neat pile. That gave me a smile...After a long boring weekend, we woke up on Monday morning expecting our showers, but it didn't happen because the pod had to be shook down again...Maybe that's what has everyone still ticked off this morning? I don't know, but it was frustrating to say the least.
I was so tired that I slept all the way through until 8am this morning, and sunlight was pouring through my window. I woke up and made my ritualistic cup of coffee, and set upon the new day, only to have this madness break out around me. Negativity can spread like a bad virus...It only takes a couple of people to get it rolling and soon everyone is grumpy. You know, I just remembered I haven't read my daily Stoic yet. Let's see what it says..."You have been formed in three parts - body, breath and mind. Of these, the first two are yours insofar as they are only in your care. The third alone is truly yours." Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.3.
Ugh...actually, I just gave you yesterday's quote! Apparently, my mind is doing its own thing today (ha ha). Let's look at the correct one!...It's a long one that basically says find a way to turn contempt or even cynicism into a productive use. Not being negative, but instead as a way to understand the behavior. Hmmm. Have to think on that one for a bit.
Well, not much else is really happening at this point, and my mind is a bit foggy. So, I'll close this here.
Courage, strength, faith and hope...
April 26th, 2018
Yesterday was pretty non-eventful and I didn't have anything to really write about. Though, I can say that I was really impressed with the kindness of one of the guards working...We've got a mentally ill guy on our section, and on Tuesday we had to argue with the guards that were working, to get him some clothes and necessity items; he had just come back from the State Psychiatric Unit, and he had absolutely nothing, except the underwear he was standing up in! Well, we were all pretty disgusted with the attitude of the officers and their indifference to his situation. It was really cold on the section, and they had the AC cranked all the way up...So, logic tells me that if we're all cold, and the officers are complaining it's too cold, well, the mentally ill guy had to have been freezing. We finally got him what he needed and assumed he had gotten his bed sheets as well, but unfortunately he didn't get them! Yesterday, we learned that he'd gone the whole night without any sheets...It's disgusting...!
So, when we asked one of the officers to help him, we expected another battle, but she didn't even hesitate. She left the pod immediately and went to get the man some sheets. When she returned, I said, "You're a good person. Better than most of these people you work with."
Last night I received a Jpay saying I'd be getting a legal visit from one of the investigators that works in the office that is currently representing me, so I waited all day for that and finally made it out to the visitation building around 4pm. It was nice to converse for a little bit, and get out of the cell, but we both observed how they had the AC cranked up all the way out there. It was like a freezer! Still, being able to walk outside for a few minutes (between buildings) was refreshing...It felt great! The sky was crystal clear, the grass was green...Although I didn't see any birds pecking away at the grass like I did last time...
Everything else has been fairly typical for a lock-down. I am loving the super-quiet mornings. Getting up, praying/reading my daily stoic and thinking for a bit...then exercising, taking a bird bath out of my sink (we're only getting three showers a week during the lock-down) and setting upon the day.
Courage. Faith. Strength. And hope...
April 29th, 2018
It's been a long and boring weekend...Saturday in particular! I know that one of the guys I live with over here kept getting into it with one of the guards - a fight that the guard picked for no reason. I told he guy to just ignore him and felt like the guard was baiting him into making a threat so he could then send him to F-Pod. It's an age old trick used by certain officers and I told him a story of a cell mate I had when I was in general population...
When I was in general population, breakfast was always super early; an officer would come around on the tank and yell, "Fall out for breakfast!" The doors would open up and you'd have to scramble out of a dead sleep, grab your clothes, grab your shoes, brush your teeth - often guys would run out of their cells, tooth brush still in their mouth! Shortly after the doors would open, another guard would come behind and slam them shut. If you were still in your cell when the doors closed, you missed breakfast.
On this particular morning I had stayed in bed and my cell mate wandered out. He forgot to take his mail with him to drop in the mail box, his last chance to get something out before the mail room picked it up. When he returned from breakfast, I woke up to his voice calling my name from the day room (if I remember correctly, I was on the second tier, but it might've been the third tier - I'm a bit foggy on that part) and he said, "When the doors roll, throw my mail down to me!" I was like, "okay"...I grabbed it off our desk and then the doors were opened for the returning inmates.
I dropped the letters down to him, he caught them, and started walking towards the sally port where a female officer stood making sure that inmates were returning to their cells. An exchange between the two went on and the female officer kept telling him to return to his cell. He kept saying, "C'mon! Let me drop my mail off real quick." But she wouldn't relent. My celly then tried to move around her and get out the door, and in the process he brushed against her...She grabbed her walkie talkie and called for a sergeant.
The sergeant, a real smart ass tough guy, showed up and immediately began threatening my cell mate. I couldn't make out all of the exchange, but he was talking major trash about whooping my cell mate's ass and so on...He "escorted" my celly up the stairs and in front of the cell continued on..."You're a pussy. In fact, I think I'm going to find your mom and fuck her." My celly's face was beet red! He stopped, turned around and told the sergeant, "How about we catch the passive rec. yard and you'll see what kind of pussy I am." The passive rec. yard was a small secluded area where inmates could request to go to calm down or have a moment of solitude, but it was also used to arrange fights between inmates and inmates/officers.
My celly had taken the bait...The second he said that to the sergeant, the sergeant grabbed his walkie talkie and said, "I've got an offender who just threatened a ranking officer. I need an escort to take him to lock-up." I was so angry at the exchange, but kept my mouth shut because I didn't want to end up in lock-up as well. But it was total BS.
So, in retelling this story to the guy that is over here with me, I just said, don't take the bait. It's obvious he wants no fight with you, but the second you threaten him, he's going to send you to F-Pod. Swallow your pride and let it go.
I can understand how hard it is to do that...To be poked and prodded, and know that no matter how you react, you're going to lose. Acting out in violence does nothing to solve the problem, and it only justifies some of society's misconceptions about death row inmates being "animals". As for getting into it "tit for tat"...well, verbal spats often backfire as well, so you end up losing that way too. It's one thing to voice your opinion on a wrong doing (especially the mistreatment of another) and I could easily justify that within myself if I were to get sent to F-Pod. But just screaming, and cussing someone out without any clear reason or justification, is stupid and pointless...Even if the other person starts it.
Well, eventually everything calmed down, and I spent a good part of the afternoon staring out the back window of my cell. I'll be honest, I've got a crappy view. A-Pod, and its death watch section, is directly behind my cell. If I look to the left of me I can see a bit of open space, but mostly my view is a sliver of the sky, and a patch of grass, but because the unit is on lock-down the grass hasn't been mowed, and there's some waist high weeds and wild flowers popping up everywhere. As I was watching the weeds (that I could argue have a beauty within themselves) gently swaying in the spring breeze, I noticed a bee flying around, then another, and another...They were bouncing between the weeds and wild flowers, obviously in search of pollen. I was mesmerised. Now, a bee will send me running off like a wild man and screaming the high pitched scream of a three year old girl, but I couldn't help but imagine laying in that patch of grass and just letting them buzz around me. I wanted to feel that spring breeze and feel the tickle of the tall weeds as they brush against me. I desperately wanted to be in that patch of grass and let the world pass me by...
Today is Sunday, and I woke up at 6am to listen to a program on NPR called "On Being with Krista Tippett". It's a really good show and each program touches on various degrees of spirituality, science, life, and how it all affects us a human beings. Today's topic was about the concept of time and how time means something different to each of us, and how it moves at varying degrees of measurement for each of us. I thought it was a great show today.
Tomorrow will mark a week to go until my plea to the 5th Circuit for a COA (Certificate of Appealability) is due, and I enter the week with a bit of anxiety. I won't get another extension so this is it...this is our shot. After that, who knows?...So yeah, it's natural to feel anxious, scared even. And yet, I also enter the week with a ton of hope, and the feeling that everything is going to work out exactly how it should (the "how it should" is open to interpretation, but whatever the universe wants is what it will be...). I have more hope than ever before, and I don't feel the same level of anxiety that I did months ago. I think I can say that my life has been more hopeful, more positive in the past few months, and more things have happened to boost those feelings of hope and positivity than I have had in years...Being in love helps as well...Things feel right at present, and I want to believe that the universe does indeed, have my back.
Courage. Strength. Hope, and Faith...
April 30th, 2018
I cannot believe it's the last day of April...Unbelievable how quickly the month went by. I was telling my investigator last Thursday, that these days can be something of a time paradox. A single day can drip by like a coffee machine...Slow, and insanely boring. But then I look at the calendar, and a week or a month has passed. Well, here's to a ton of hope and positive vibes for my appeal that will soon be filed. G-d be with me...
The day started with showers early this morning. I had planned on getting some exercise in before I went but I got trapped into a conversation with my neighbor. I don't like to be rude or standoffish, so if someone wants to talk, and unless I'm extremely busy or listening to a program that I don't want to miss, I'll lend an ear. Even though my neighbor can be soooooo negative, and a bit of an emotional vampire, I realize and understand that he just wants to vent, and get things off his chest. But man, does it take its toll on my spirit at times.
I finished a final draft/rewrite of my memoir "Something So Pure"...I wanted to rewrite it for a long time! I initially wrote it for a writing contest the prison newspaper "The Echo", was running. I didn't win anything for the piece, but they did eventually publish it. David was particularly proud of it, but I felt it could have been better. I wanted to encapsulate the whole experience of the summer before I was adopted, along with the feeling of first being adopted. I have a ton of memories from that summer, and it could've been a longer piece, but again, I was aiming to capture a particular emotional experience, and how a five year old processes so many bad things in such a short amount of time. I hope I managed to do a better job of it. It was impossible for me to not burst into tears every time I arrive at the ending...if only because I wish I could've maintained that unconditional love, because obviously, at some point in my teens, it became conditional. It breaks my heart to write those words because it's NOT the case from my side of things. I love my parents as much as I loved them then, and it won't ever change. I don't know how it could.
I've written before about how I wish I could reconcile with my family, and I won't ever give up on that wish. I envy guys back here whose parents never give up on them. I mean, just look at Thomas Whittaker! The dude had his mother and brother killed, his father lived, forgave him, and fought like hell to get him off of death row! That's purely unconditional love...
I'm often amazed by the love of parents, and the emotional turmoil they go through in supporting a guy in prison, or on death row. Even when the guys verbally and emotionally abuse them. I've sat, waiting to go back to my cell after a visit, and listened as a death row inmate verbally assaults a parent/girlfriend/wife...and I'm sitting there thinking, "Dude...I'd give anything in the world to have my parents sitting across from me!" I don't know...For now, I've got a lot of fond memories to hold on to, and I'm grateful for them.
In other lock-down news, apparently this lock-down could go on for much longer than expected. I tend to take what some of these officers say with a grain of salt, because many of them just love sowing the seeds of mis-information, and keeping the inmates guessing. The rumor right now is that the lock-down status has started over to "Day 1/Week 1" due to some severe incidences in general population...There was the riots on 8 building that happened last week - we know that much is true. But the latest story going around is about 7 building...An inmate knocked out a lieutenant, took his pepper spray can that was attached to his belt, and as other guards rushed in to help the lieutenant, the inmate began gassing the other officers. So, they're going to punish the entire unit and keep us on lock-down. Again, I'm dubious though, because another officer just came by and said they only had one more pod to shake-down, and then we'd start getting some more privileges.
Besides, the Day 1/Week 1 thing is typically only used in a security lock-down. It could very well be the case for 7 and 8 building, but not for normal population, or death row. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
I was listening to American Family Radio earlier, just to see what their take is on the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and the controversy surrounding Michelle Wolf, the comedian who hosted the event. They and other conservatives are all up in arms about the roast she gave to some of Trump's staff, during the event. I just have to roll my eyes at their self-righteousness at times; the hypocrisy is unbelievable! I'm not saying that personal attacks are okay - on either side of the aisle. I think you can make a joke about a policy etc, but to go after the way a person looks is pushing it a bit far, especially if the remark is out of context with the way a person behaves. That being said, you can't then cry "foul" when Trump or his staff does it; he has been known to attack women and men based on their appearance! And why is it okay for him to call people liars, when he and his staff lie on a regular basis, without blinking an eye? Sigh....!
Anyway, they ranted and raved about her, and liberals in general...blah blah blah, but the President of the AFR then said this, "How has Trump ever said anything about a woman's appearance or the treatment of a woman, except in that video that was 12 years ago (emphasis on 12 years ago) and that's all liberals ever use? They can't give any other examples, and I invite someone to show me another example!" So...there you go liberals...he's just said show him some other examples, and I invite people to send Tim Wildman the proof he has asked for, via the AFR's website, or their FB page...Good thing I don't have access to the internet or I would be on that like white on rice...
Well, regardless...there's no need for anyone to be mean towards another person. We need to focus that energy on real change and solutions.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
May 1st, 2018
Wow...a brand new month. It's a bit mind boggling. In another month, we'll be half way through this year. It's been much warmer today than in previous days, and a bit overcast outside. The good news is that some of the general population trustees are moving about and helping the guards with certain duties, and that means that things are moving along in the lock-down, and could signal just another week or so left. I think for sure it'll be over by the 14th.
So, earlier today, I listened to an interview with Michelle Wolf, the comedian that so much controversy has circled around, following her hosting of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I also listened to her full routine, and honestly, while 'blue', I didn't find it offensive at all nor did she attack Sarah Sanders' personal appearance. It's another case of people taking bits and pieces of something, and joining in with the mock outrage. A policitcal opinion radio host made an interesting point this morning...He said that back in medieval days, many kingdoms kept a court jester for the sole purpose of bringing the King and the Court back down to earth. Because they lived in a bubble, and were often out of touch with ordinary citizens, the job of the court jester was to come in and make pointed jokes about what the king was doing wrong, and to objectively criticize the court through comedy. Only the jester had immunity to do this. So, it's important to have satire and comedy in bringing the political class back down to earth. Comedy often speaks its truth to power, and the reason you laugh is because the joke itself triggers a part of your brain that says, "It's funny because it's true", whether it be satire or someone speaking of their own personal observations in life.
One of America's most beloved satirists, and one who is considered one of the greatest American writers of all time, is none other than Mark Twain. He often poked at the political class through his writings, and got the ire of many politicians (and arguably still does to this day, as evidenced by the banning of his books in certain public school districts in many states) throughout his years.
I find it interesting that Conservatives and the political right will often complain about two issues: The deterioration of free speech, and society becoming too politically correct...Yet, when on the receiving end of someone's pointed criticism or jokes, they want to shut it down immediately. You can't have it both ways. Liberals are often called "precious snow flakes" because of our stance on particular issues, but based on what I'm hearing lately, the far right is being snow flakey as well.
Another interesting thing that Michelle Wolf said about the correspondents' dinner (and something you didn't see on camera) is that when the journalist awards were being handed out, Sarah Sanders never stood for any of them. She never clapped her hands, and often had a look of utter contempt on her face. Michelle also believes that many journalists and politicians don't laugh at events like that because they don't want to appear biased or partisan, and are often afraid to laugh at a particular joke out of fear that a particular political party will use the laughter as proof of political bias in their journalism. So, the room can feel very uncomfortable.
I was really impressed with how intelligent she was and that she stuck to her guns and basically said, "get over it." It's funny how Trump called her filthy, when he himself is filthy on a regular basis. I actually heard a guy on American Family Radio say, "Trump is right...women shouldn't talk that way or behave in such a manner that is unbecoming of them." Well, how should they act?
It's a bit early for me to be wanting dinner, as it's just 1.31pm...but lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich, and peanut butter and jelly, and my stomach is growling. I have to tell myself, "get over it, Randy...imagine the perpetual state of hunger that some people face." First world problems!
Courage. Strength. Faith and Hope!
May 2nd, 2018
Today marks two weeks that we've been officially on lock-down, and I have to admit, it is flying by. It feels like it just started yesterday. We had our showers this morning, and we just had our sack lunch. An absolutely delicious brownish-green sausage (cold, of course...isn't it the best that way? Almost like jerky!) and peanut butter and jelly. Only the best!
I remembered earlier that my brother, Jimmy, and my mom, have their birthdays within the week, so happy birthday to them! It makes me smile that they're reaching another year.
The guys on my row, along with myself, have been making a fuss to the guards working today because the mentally ill guy here - his name is Rockwell - still does not have his personal property after returning from the psychiatric hospital. The last straw was when he went to the showers this morning barefooted. I hadn't been paying attention to him during the last couple of showers we've had since his return, but I had just gotten up this morning and wanted to see what officers were working, so I caught a glimpse of him with no shower shoes! The idea of walking on the run barefooted and then the shower...and that shower is soooo nasty! If even my arm rubs against the shower wall I get the heebie jeebies and have to rewash. I told my neighbor the guy was barefooted, so he jammed up the officer and very politely pointed out the fact that he still didn't have his stuff. We explained his mental condition but as seems to be typical around this place - and increasingly so - the officer was indifferent. It's so frustrating. My other neighbour said he gave him dial soap and a new toothbrush and toothpaste, and I said that if they give us a stamp and hygiene spend on commissary, I'd buy him a new set of shower shoes, a wash cloth, and whatever else he needs. I mean, I don't know if this guy makes store or not, but it's the least we can do. Hopefully, a decent ranking officer will come through and we can get them to do something. Our psychiatric care for imates in TDCJ is just complete garbage, and it really angers me.
Sigh...It's really been a so-so-ho-hum kind of day. Not much to think about or write about...
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith!
May 6th, 2018
Two and a half weeks on lock-down, thus far...This is when I start to reach my limit of being stuck in the cell - especially when the weather is as perfect as it is right now. Looking outside of my window at this point is pure torture, but I can't help but take a peek every now and then. I can't imagine a punishment worse than keeping a person completely away from nature. Sure, there's torture of the body...There's isolation and the lack of access to the free world, but then there is the torture of the soul...I can't step outside to breathe fresh air when I want to. I can't step outside to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, or hear the birds chirp, or the mating songs of the crickets. If you don't believe me, lock yourself up in a cell for a couple of weeks without ever stepping foot outside.
The weekend has been exceptionally long and boring; at least during the weekdays there's mail and showers to look forward to. I've been doing my best to keep busy though, and I listened to a bunch of programs on NPR, I read, and I did some writing too. I'm eager to see what was filed on my behalf, appeal-wise, and it's due at midnight...I'm feeling very positive about it though, and I'm not nearly as anxious or worried as I was at the beginning of the year...I'm being optimistically cautious, but hopeful!
Something I was writing about earlier in a letter, is how I caught a radio program that was one of those true crime shows - I tend to loathe those shows because even if the person is guilty as can be, they give people the wrong impression about how the justice system works...They often highlight revenge, or the belief that revenge is justice (which it isn't) and they tend to sensationalize things in order to make a good story. I don't think it's healthy for the justice system, to be honest. Nor for average citizens for that matter. Nonetheless, they are popular programs, and here to stay I guess. So, I'm listening along, and this detective says something interesting...She says, "The truth doesn't change." And I agree...!
I've been in this process for a long time. Some would say longer than I deserve, but the fact remains, my story has never changed. In my years of being on death row, I've met just about everyone here. I may not know people on a personal basis, but because I move from cell to cell so often, I essentially know everyone, and over the years I've heard countless tales of lives and crimes...Often, even when I say, "Yeah...I don't want to hear what you did or didn't do, and I definitely don't want details...I don't need those images in my head", people still want to talk. I don't know if it's a case of just trying to convince you they didn't do something or that they're not that kind of person, to which I always say, "I don't judge, man...". Sometimes they just want to clear their conscience. I've met guys who after over a decade tell the same story with nary a detail changed, and I've met guys who have told me they did it, and then years later say they didn't do it. I've talked to guys who have HUGE support groups out there (all rallying for their innocence) tell a different story each time they tell it, which makes me doubt their innocence. And I've also met guys who have zero support systems tell me they didn't do it, and they've never changed their story...Yet, they've accepted their fate.
Life is strange, and yes, people change over many years, but the one thing that doesn't change is the truth. All you have to do is listen. Pay attention. If a person has been telling the same story for a long ass time, odds are they're telling the truth. Look at everything. When they talk to the media (if they have) look at their statements, look at what they write in blogs or in journals...Look at all of it.
I can only hope that the courts look at all of it in my own case, because my story has never changed. Ever.
Courage. Strength. Hope...And Faith...
May 7th, 2018
Breathe, Randy...Breathe...Today is the big day! The appeal has certainly been filed now, and I'm left to fate, like a leaf drifting in the wind...Well, here's to hoping for the best. It is completely out of my control, and it changes nothing if I sit around and fret about it all...I surrender to the universe!
I was flipping through my Small Stones From The River meditative book this morning, and landed on this:
"If you want to find
you will find one
If you want to see
you will see it"
It makes me think of a couple of things...If you enter into any day with a negative attitude, and thinking the day is ruined and everything is bad...(isn't it weird how we often expect a bad day due to material things or physical appearances, like, "Man, I'm having bad hair day...This is going to suck!" Strange...) then you can't be surprised that "bad" will find you for the rest of the day. But if you go into the start of the day with a certain positivity and hope...well, good things do tend to happen. Yeah, it can be kind of annoying when you see a person skipping and whistling through the day as if they don't have a care in the world, but deep down inside you've got to appreciate that kind of careless optimism.
It also makes me think about when I first went to prison. When you're in County Jail you'll hear numerous stories about what to expect...Some were true horror stories ripped from the pages of a Clive Barker novel...You see the movies and hear personal accounts from guys who have spent their entire lives in and out of prison. I always thought that many of these stories were exaggerated, but still, that fear of the unknown...and a crazy imagination...I didn't know what to expect. But some of the best advice I ever received was from a laid back older guy who said, "Kid, if you go there looking for trouble, you'll find trouble. If you just do your time, stand up for yourself when it's called for, and be your own man, you'll get through it."
For the most part, he was right...Sure there were moments that were a bit scary, but for the most part, any troubles I had were created by my own self, and fighting with my own self. Impulsiveness, insecurities, not knowing who I was, lack of familial support and friends on the outside...and having that feeling of isolation, and it leading to hopelessness and despair. I look back now, almost 22 years of being locked up, and I think, "You'd be out now, Randy...It wasn't prison who was your biggest enemy, it was yourself."
That very first day of entering the system, was interesting...Something I can still remember with a great deal of clarity. I'd been at a sort of midway station for a few months, in Ft. Worth. It was called "Greenbay Jail". They sent me there from the main Tarrant County Jail, after I had received my sentence. It was a large warehouse turned into a dormitory-like housing facility. I remember thinking it resembled a zoo more than a dorm because it was literally a bunch of separate cages that held about 20 bunk beds, a shower/bath area, and a television mounted to a steel bar.
When it was time for me to transfer into TDCJ, they shackled me up to another inmate, and we stepped onto a large white bus. These busses are often referred to as "Blue Birds" because they all have a blue bird painted on the side of them. I've never really known why. Surely it represents something?
Anyway, it took a couple of hours to make the ride to Tennessee Colony, a large penal colony in the middle of nowhere. There are several prisons in that area, as well as employee housing, and farmland. The bus drove into another set of warehouse like dormitories called, "The Gurney Unit". We pulled into a sally port type area, and we climbed off the bus and had the shackles removed. Guards surrounded us and began to scream at us to get naked, stand in line "nuts to butts!", and to shut up. Images of the movie "Schindler's List" popped into my mind.
After all of that madness, we went into a group shower area, rinsed, and we were then herded like cattle to barber chairs, where a group of inmates shaved our heads. I think at that time I was keeping my hair fairly short and thought they'd let me keep it, but it all came off. We were issued state prison garb - a white shirt, white pants, and black work style boots.
We went through a sort of orientation which was really just more guards screaming rules at us. One order that sticks out the most was, "Whenever you walk down that bowling alley (sidewalk) you're to shut your fucking mouth and keep your hands behind your back at all times. We see you with your hands anywhere except behind your back and we will interpret it as a sign of aggression, and you'll be eating concrete!"
Next up was lunch, which was actually something I was looking forward to. It was a time when the meals used to be halfway decent! And before state budget cuts, when everything turned to noodles and stews. Guys in County Jail would talk about fried chicken and mashed potatoes, like pirates talked about spoils.
As we entered the chow hall, I could smell the fried chicken wafting through the warm stagnant air. It was incredibly hot inside the chow hall and I noticed there was no windows, no air conditioning, and everything moved at the speed of a busy beehive. I didn't care though...All I could think about was my growling stomach as I got close to the food line.
The inmates on the other side of the line loaded the trays up...Two biscuits, a huge heap of potatoes, and a glop of white gravy that made them look like the rocky mountains after a fresh snowfall. We also got fresh green beans, and another insert of pinto beans. Then, to my delight, a huge piece of fried chicken was plopped right down on the main course section of the tray! Not even Colonel Sanders could've fried a better piece of chicken himself.
I sat on a table and immediately began to tear strips of chicken from the bone. After my third bite in, a large hand smacked the table, and barked, "Time's up. Move it on". I thought it was a joke of some sort. I looked at the guard with his cowboy hat and ruddy complexion, and went back to eating my meal. The other guys nervously looked up, and I guess, taking my cue, continued to eat. "I said let's go! Move it white boy!" He yelled. This time there was no mistaking the tone of his voice.
"I just sat down!" I protested, hoping to buy a little more time to eat.
"I don't care" He barked back. "You get yer ass off my table or I'll yank yer ass off myself!"
I stood up, still shoving food into my mouth as I headed towards the slop barrel and out of the chow hall. After that experience, I learned to eat really fast.
I rejoined the group of new prisoners and we were ushered to a pile of mattresses and ordered to grab one. Then, anyone who had any personal property that was checked out and approved, had it returned to them. I was handed a small paper sack that had my watch from the free world, and a couple of pictures from my wallet. That is all I had to my name at that point. Anyone who had brought money into jail, or received money during their stay in County Jail, was allowed to make a spend at the unit commissary. I watched as a few guys bought some food and snacks, sodas and ice cream. Good for them, I thought, wondering if I'd ever get a chance to make store. After all, my brother promised to help if I needed it.
As evening approached, we were given our housing assignments, and our work assignments. Almost all prisoners were immediately put into the "hoe squad", and had to do physical labour. I entered a large dorm area, found the bunk bed with my assigned number on it, introduced myself to the guy I bunked with, and settled into my new life...
There were some interesting orders from guards, we learned that day as well! Like, if you're walking down the bowling alley (the side walk) and talking, you were ordered to, "Get off all that damn head running!" If you were moving too slow, you were "Slow bucking", and if you were to throw a glance at a female officer, you were ordered to "stop eyeball fucking my officer", or the female guard herself would yell "You eyeball fucking me?" There was also a possessive used for everything...MY this, or MY that...it was very annoying. I swore to myself that I'd never refer to a guard as "Boss Man" as inmates tended to do, and the guards revelled in. Besides, it's slave connotation, and I never wanted to give anyone possession over me.
So, that was my first day, as I remember it...
Courage. Strength. Hope. And faith! I hope my prayers are heard and answered...
May 8th, 2018
Still no word on the appeal, but I'm sure that I'll get something about it tonight. I'm just eager/anxious to see the arguments that my attorney makes. I'm still as positive and hopeful about things, as I was yesterday. I like to think that I have good intuition and that I'm "force sensitive"...I'm no Jedi, but I do pick up on things intuitively, pretty well. The problem I have is that I tend to ignore what I pick up on...put it to the back of my mind...or as Obi-wan Kenobi would say, "I'm not mindful of them"...This time though, I'm feeling the positivity flow, and that pitt of dread that I've previously had is not there. I'm taking that as a good sign.
Well, it's another beautiful spring day! I think we're expected to hit 90 degrees here, as we did yesterday. They've got the AC cranked up, and the air coming out of the vent is downright frigid, so that's good. Just as the winter can make the concrete building feel like a refrigerator, the hot Texas sun can make it feel like an oven. I was listening to the news yesterday and apparently the State and the TDCJ is about to settle a law suit with inmates, on the matter of dealing with extreme heat on a particular Unit in Texas. They're going to convert that prison to air conditioning by 2020, but in the meantime, any inmates with health conditions or geriatric issues, will be shipped to units that contain buildings with air conditioning. The only issue I see with this is that most buildings that do have AC are Ad-Seg buildings like the one I live in now. We can't have open air ventillation, and the windows are not able to open like the ones that inmates have in general population, so they have to give us climate control. Those guys, assuming some are shipped here and put on B Pod, A and B sections, because they have 28 empty cells, are going to be treated like Ad-Seg prisoners, and live by a different set of standards. They'll not get the open air unrestricted outside rec. yards, and probably no television either. So, it could be TDCJ's way of saying, "Heh...you got your air conditioning, but chew on this for a while!" I'm only speculating of course. I do wonder how they'll manage other prison units under conditions of extreme heat...
I can't even begin to explain the level of heat that we had when I was in general population. There were times when it would get so hot that we'd pour water on the floor and just lay in the puddles. And if you were to go to the dayroom to watch televison or play games at one of the tables, you didn't have the luxury option of keeping cool...You had to be fully dressed in the day room, meaning wearing your pants and shirt. It was hell!
I think over the past few years they've started offering cold water every few hours, and you're allowed to wear shorts and a t-shirt to the dayroom now. They also sell a "cool down" towel...You soak it in water, then you drape it on your head and feel immediately relieved...The water holds really well in those things. I always have one of those during the hot summer months, and will take it outside and use it to cool down after playing basketball. They do work. Anyways, not much going on for the day. Just trying to keep busy...My positivity levels are up, and I remain full of optimism!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 9th, 2018
Well, we're officially 3 weeks on lock-down. The good news, however, is that it should be winding down in the next couple of days. Quite possibly tomorrow or Friday. They've been sending officers from 12 building (death row/AD-SEG) out to finish the shake-downs in General Population, and according to a guard I spoke to this morning, commissary is back up and running again. That's the biggest sign for sure...I didn't think we'd get showers today, but a guard did show up to help do them.
Well, last night I received copies of what was filed in the 5th Circuit on my behalf, and I have to say I was very impressed. It really put some pep in my step and boosted my optimism and hope. I want to keep the momentum going and stay positive. I really liked that my attorneys did a good job of making me an individual instead of part of the "group", and wording things in such a way that the Courts will judge me as an individual - my personality and actions - and not as part of the group as a whole - I really wasn't an active person in most of the groups' activities, and they never saw me as part of the group anyway. When the State argues, it is always within the confines of "The Texas 7" and not me, Randy Halprin...But my attorneys have made some very strong arguments for looking at me as an individual, and I just hope the court is truly fair and unbiased. Anyone out there willing to throw hope and some prayers my way, I'd greatly appreciate it. I just want a fighting chance...A chance to prove my worth to the world, and to show those who care about me, love me, and who are fighting for me, that I'm worthy of that second chance at life. That's all I'm asking for.
I was listening to Bryan Fischer on American Family Radio because...why not? I was mostly interested in hearing his take on Trump's decision to back out of the Iran deal...(Trump claimed he was a man of his word, and yet has made this country look like it cannot be trusted and doesn't keep its word. Good ol' Trump! Thanks, buddy!) It's important - even if it can be torturous - to get other opinions and not live in an idealogical bubble. Anyway, he was on some tangent about the death penalty and swift justice, and saying that those who kill and do bad things need to be executed, and quickly. He thinks they should have just one court hearing/appeal like in China, and bam! Take them out and get it done with...Fine...you can feel that way, but I couldn't help but think about where redemption comes into play here - a key tennant of many religions. Even Paul, AKA Saul, was a mass killer who raped and pillaged early Christians and others that were a threat or had a "false religion". Men, women, and children. From my understanding, he was quite ruthless. Then, one day, he was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus telling him there was a different path for him...He was redeemed. If his redemption, and the redemption of others throughout history, is heralded and held up as examples of forgiveness and God's love, then how on earth can you not believe that redemption isn't possible for criminals? Especially people on death row...How can you be a staunch supporter of the death penalty, when the FOUNDER of your church, your way of life, was a mass murderer who was forgiven, and received a second chance? It boggles the mind. I had to change the channel before I blew a fuse...
Here's something that's puzzling me as well: How does one get BBQ sauce on their foot? I just looked down at my foot, and noticed a big glob of sauce! I was like, "What in the...?" Story of my life! I think that should be the title of my memoir whenever I actually finish it: "BBQ Sauce On My Foot" (and other related tales).
Well, I'm keeping the positivity levels up, the hope flowing, and the optimism at an all time high...!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 13th, 2018
Happy Mother's Day...(more on that in a bit!). As I write this it's early Sunday morning, and I'm starting to feel like a bucking Bronco, loaded up in a pen at the rodeo, and waiting for that gate to swing open! The lock-down ended on Friday afternoon, but because death row does not get recreation on the weekends, we're still trapped in our cells until Monday morning. Anyway, everything should be back up and running tomorrow, and it'll be my section's outside day, so I'm really looking forward to getting some sunshine (a sun burn...although, there is the possibility that I could burst into flames like a vampire!) and playing some basketball, or even just having a nice jog.
The latest legal news I have is that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order to the State to respond by the 15th of May to a briefing issue, but I don't think that it has anything to do with what we filed overall. If there are any developments, I will keep everyone posted. I'm actually thinking right now (and this is something I've been discussing with my Webmaster (the person who runs my website) that we should just go ahead a put a sub-heading tab relating to my appeals, under "Randy's Case", so that people know the news on my appeals in real time. You know what? That's what we'll do! So, go take a look...
Well, it's Mother's Day, and I can't help but think about my own mom...Yesterday I was writing at my desk, and a female guard stopped and said, "Whatchya doin'?" I looked up and said, "Writing..." She asked me if I had written my mom for Mother's Day, and even though it was a harmless comment on her part, it felt like a punch in the gut. I said, "No...mom stopped talking to me a long time ago." I mean, what else could I say?
It's weird when you have these immense feelings of love and loyalty towards your parents. You still defend them, even when people say the way they went about things was wrong, and not what parents do...and I agree. But that love - and I've said this time and time again - it never goes away at my end. It can be hard...I think I was much closer with my dad in a lot of things, but there are still things that I shared with my mom that we both had a passion for, and loved to do together - specifically, books, movies, and comedy. My mom was really quiet but she had a fondness for great comedy, and my own love for it - my own sense of humor - was shaped by what she shared with me. From Saturday Night Live, and all of the great '80s movies that starred the original cast members, to Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Richard Prior movies, and sitcoms. I would sit with her in the living room and soak all of that great comedy up like a sponge. My own sense of comedy is seen through that lense. I even developed a love for some great British comedy as well, because the local PBS station would play a sitcom block on Saturday nights and we'd sit and watch them. My brother Wesley and I looooooved Mr Bean, growing up.
Mom was a voracious reader as well. Having my own love of books, I'd demand trips to the book stores whenever she went, and we'd come home with piles of books. In the '80s I wasn't reading serious novels, more like Dean Koontz, R.L. Stine, and his "Fear Street" books, and things like that. I tore through all of Judy Bloom's novels, the Romona Quimbley books, "Freckles", "Encyclopedia Brown" and other titles...In my early teens I started to read a lot of what my mom was reading.
I also loved that my mom understood a kid/teen's need to dress somewhat fashionably. Well, from the time I was 6 to about 11, I don't think I cared what was "fashionable" to be honest...But I guess when girls started to notice me, and I was growing out of my not combing my hair phase, I wanted to dress "cooler". My dad was a "clothes are clothes" person, and the cheaper they are, the better. If I went clothes shopping with my dad, I knew it was going to go badly, and quickly! So, I'd beg mom to take me shopping...As long as the price wasn't outrageous, she let me get about anything I wanted. Of course this would inevitably lead to an argument between my parents when I came home...Mom would just "buy it", but my dad wanted me to work for it - if was something nice. I remember these shorts that were really popular in about 1990-91, called "Skidz"...Mom bought me a couple of pairs. They weren't cheap, so when dad found out the cost, he demanded I work it off in yard chores - mowing the lawn, pulling weeds etc.
A particular memory that makes me smile all of the time is when I was about 11 or 12 and we were all sitting in the living room watching tv. Wesley and Jimmy were on the floor in front of the television; dad was on the love seat, and mom and I were on the sofa. A fly suddenly popped out of nowhere and began buzzing around us. It was quite annoying, so, my mom grabbed a magazine off the coffee table in front of us, and took a couple of swipes at it - but misses! The fly lands on the table and I'm teasing her because she keeps missing it, and then....WHACK! She hits it spot on...The fly's dead carcass pops off the table and lands on my leg, and I start screaming like a little girl!! It really freaked me out! Mom is laughing her ass off and eveyone else is just looking at me like I've lost my mind, because I'm screaming over a dead fly on my leg. In my defense, it was really gross. Let a fly with its blood and guts hanging out, land on your leg...just sayin'. Mom would tease me about that for several years after.
Well, mom...If you're reading this, Happy Mother's Day....I love you!
Sigh...I'm still holding onto hope and positivity. Good things are going to happen, and I'm keeping hold of that thought. I'm not perfect, and I make mistakes and have done stupid things in my life span, and sometimes currently...I try to use them as a learning experience and move on. I think acknowledging that and apologizing sincerely is a crucial component in that process, and that's what I try to do whenever I mess up.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 14th, 2018
Yay!!! Everything is back to normal today. I was so eager to go to recreation that I couldn't really fall back to sleep after breakfast (for those who don't already know, breakfast here starts at about 3am!) because I wanted to make sure that I was up bright and early for when the guards start scheduling recreation. I was out of bed by 5.30am, and when the guards came through asking about rec., I was told that I'd be going outside, 3rd round. Prime time sunshine!
Things started to slow down after lunch, and I was worried that by the time I got outside, the sun would shift to the other side of the building, and I'd miss a great deal of it, but fortunately, that wasn't the case. I made it outside sometime after 1pm, and as soon as I stepped outside, the heat slammed right into me...It was hot! I think when I made it outside it was close to 92F, and the sun was directly above me. It's hard to explain the feeling of stepping outside when you've been trapped in a cell for almost 4 weeks. When I went to my legal visits I was only outside for a couple of minutes - if even that - and it was still cool/spring-like at the time. Today, it was pure other-worldly. Taking in that great big breath of fresh air, then smelling the air - completely different to the foul circulated air of the inside of a prison. You don't even notice it until you step outside, spend two hours out and come back in. Then, it's like getting hit in the face by a garbage truck.
Well, I had far more sun than I should have had, and it really wasn't being too smart on my part, because now I'm red as a lobster, and I'm hurting a bit. I'll cover my head the next time I'm out in the sun like that.
I was talking to a friend earlier this morning, and he received news that his appeals were turned down by the 5th Circuit, and I tried to encourage him to keep positive and do all that he could to fight. He said he was seeing his girlfriend at visit the next day, and I said, "Man...ask her to be pro-active, and really aggressive in finding you some help." He seems to have some really good issues, but he's had very poor attorneys, so who knows? I told him (and myself) that it's not over until it's over...I've literally seen miracles happen in this place; guys who were seconds away from being strapped to a gurney, only to have everything completely stopped, and either reversed, or they are given a lesser sentence. To quote Han Solo and what has become a battle cry of sorts to myself, "Never tell me the odds!"
Anyway, it's been a good day, and I'm feeling positive and upbeat.
I want to close the day with an excerpt from my "Small Stones From the River" meditation book, by Kat Lehman...(I highly recommend it):
love the transient
love the imperfect
love the broken
(pretty much anything qualifies)
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 15th, 2018
I definitely had way too much sun yesterday! By evening, I was feeling miserable, and my head was tender to the touch. I tossed and turned, unable to really get comfortable in my sleep, and then I couldn't sleep in because I was first round at recreation. I went to the day room, exercised, and ended up joking around with a friend.
I don't know how the conversation turned to cheap cologne - oh yeah, that's right, I made a comment about one of the guards' perfume, and said it smelled like something from Avon. I said to my friend, "I can't believe that they're still in business. How can that continue to be a successful business model? Are people still going door to door when you've got Amazon.com for everything?" He said, "Old people love that shit, and they don't have time to try and figure out new fangled technologies." So yeah, we were being completely ageist, but hey, it was funny, and I needed the laughs!
So, I'm telling him that in my early teens, my dad would buy me really cheap cologne...The kind you can get at the cosmetics section in a drug store. Once, he actually bought me some Aqua Velva! I also remember this gift box that he gave me one Chanukah...It had an array of Mennen products, and every little bottle smelled atrocious! My friend asked, "Like, how bad was it? What did it smell like?" And I said, "Cat piss and shame." And we were dying laughing!!
Then, I said, "What was weird is it seemed like ALL of my Jewish friends' parents bought them the same stuff, and so we were forced to wear this stuff for Shabbos services."
I began imagining a commercial where this young Jewish kid is walking into temple...He's dressed up in a nice pair of slacks, and white dress shirt. As he's walking down the aisle to his seat, an older couple looks up and smiles at the kid's confidence, and the older Jewish guy leans into his wife and whispers, "Now that's class..." The kid stops, pivots on one foot towards the couple, and says, "No. It's Aqua Velva."
Oh man, we were laughing so hard!
I've spent most of the day cooking for a few people, and then writing and listening to "The Classic Club Hour." It was pretty good. I'm just ready for this day to be over with...I'm pooped.
Courage. Strength. ope and Faith!
May 16th, 2018
It's been a long and strange day...Well, actually, the first part of the day was fine: I went outside a little after 8am, played some basketball, exercised, watched some hawks flying above in the sky...Then, things started getting strange around noon...There was an execution scheduled that evening and things came to a halt, as is usually the case. There was a new officer being trained and they didn't fully understand what was going on. I overheard the conversation, and the more "experienced" guard said, "Oh, they're about to kill someone in a few hours, so they're loading him onto the van that's going to take him to the Walls." It was the way she said it that was just so cold and heartless...I could tell by the new guard's facial expression that he felt uncomfortable hearing what she said, and I thought, "geeze, at least the new guard appears to have a soul..."
Well, after all of that, the guards pulled out the next round of recreation, and then they just sat on some trash cans until almost 3pm! The same female officer who said someone was going to be killed, was walking by during a security check, and I said to the guy in the dayroom, "I suppose I'll not get a shower until second shift; I wonder if they'll manage to get to doing them as they're so busy right now." She didn't say anything, but kept walking.
Around 3.45pm they finally started showers, and she said, "I shouldn't even let you get a shower with your shit talking."
I said, "I wasn't shit talking."
"Yes you were."
"Uh...no, I wasn't. I made a comment and then asked a rhetorical question"
She scrunched her face up and said, "Don't use big words you don't know the meaning of."
I looked back, admittedly irritated, and should've just let it go, but I said, "A rhetorical question is me asking something I already know the answer to, but hey, I was wrong, because you're taking me to the shower now!"
She rolled her eyes and told the male officer to strip me out and take me to the shower...Just a strange day.
It does suck that the execution went ahead. I didn't know the guy on a personal level, but he was always really quiet, never started trouble with anyone, and helped anyone he could help. I was listening to the Execution Watch show, and they said that before and during his trial, the prosecution offered several plea bargains to remove the death penalty if he confessed guilt. He never accepted any of the deals, so he landed on death row. But here's a question he asked in an interview, and something I've wondered about a lot throughout the years, with regard to guys who have been offered plea deals...If the death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the "worst of the worst", obviously, the prosecutors don't think they are the worst of the worst if initially, they offer a sentence that is LESS than the death penalty? Am I wrong for having that kind of logic? I mean, if he was considered so dangerous from the outset, you'd have only gone for the death penalty, and not offered any kind of deal...Surely? Just another example of how crazy and arbitrary the US justice system is. Especially in Texas!
I hope his family are okay...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 23rd, 2018
I'm a little bit irritated right now...Well, it's kind of an irritated, yet amused feeling I have, if that makes sense. I went to recreation really early this morning, and played basketball, (I won 19-1) and then I did some push-ups etc. When I came in I was certain I'd get a shower, as usually, most officers working will at least do the first round of recreation before lunch. I waited and waited, and nothing was happening. When an officer passed by, I asked, "What's the deal on the showers?" To which she replied, "Oh, we're not feeling it today, and we're going to kick back." Kick back? Did she really say "kick back?" It's a prison...when people kick back, bad things tend to happen...But, hey, the ranking officer came on the pod, saw the officers "kicking back" and walked right off the pod without saying a word...So,what do I know? I guess we've been spoiled, because the last three daytime crews that were working, finished all recs and showers before second shift, and because they moved the Muslim inmates to A-pod for Ramadan, it isn't like there's a lot of death row guys on the pod as it is...A whole section and a half is empty! Anyway, it was a nice few days of having everything done efficiently, and not having to wait until very late for showers, mail or whatever.
Anyway, being the class clown I can be, I decided to write a sarcastic grievance; I rarely do this unless I can be both humorous AND make a point. I once wrote a grievance when we went two weeks without having any razors; this was before the shaving policy had changed to make exceptions for religious purposes. Since the very first day I entered prison, an inmate has always had to be clean shaven, or else they could receive a disciplinary case, so it really irks me when there's a razor shortage! Aside from the hypocrisy of it all, I don't like hair on my face, and I was beginning to look like a wild woodsman...So, I decided, "what the heck"...I'll write a grievance to see if we can't get some razors to shave with. I wrote about the shaving policy, and the point of having laws and rules, and without laws and rules, it can lead to the breakdown of society, and next thing you know, we're living like it's "The Walking Dead", and I really didn't want to live like that...Surprisingly, they processed the grievance! The response I got was that razors were ordered and on their way. Win!
In this latest grievance I basically wrote about what was going on, and then I wrote..."I find it highly offensive, in this time of conservative leadership in our state and country, that workers for the state of Texas would so carelessly and callously WASTE the state's expenditures and resources so that employees can treat a prison like their personal playground. Surely, our great Governor and President would disapprove." I thought it was funny...Sometimes I amuse myself more than others!
Courage. Strength. Faith. And Hope!
May 24th, 2018
This has been one strange day! It started early this morning when I thought I'd be able to sleep in...I rarely get to listen to Stephen Colbert, one of my two favourite late night tv hosts - I love his biting political satire and I love Conan O'Brien's absurdity comedy! I grew up on Conan and have always been a loyal fan. Anyway, the guys on two row had said they were all going to rec., so that meant I wouldn't be going first round. So, I stayed up and caught Colbert and slept really well...Still, an extra hour would be lovely.
I woke up at 5.25am when the first shift came in and began to set up recreation; the officer told me I was second round, and I said, "Cool"...I put the socks back over my eyes and dozed back off to sleep. At around 5.55am, the officer was knocking on my door telling me that one of the guys upstairs decided not to go to recreation, and he said I needed to get ready really fast. Having gone to a boarding school, as well as being locked up for over half of my life, I've got the art of the Chinese fire drill mastered! So, I slammed a cup of coffee, grabbed my exercise clothing, brushed my teeth, and set out for the dayroom. Well, something ended up going screwy on another pod, and they had to gas somebody...So the male officer had to leave the pod and help them out there. I ended up getting stuck in the dayroom, past noon, and normally I wouldn't care but I was now hungry - or hangry, rather, and also irritated...A nap wouldn't have hurt either. As well as all of that, it's been super loud today for some reason...Everyone seems wired up and going bonkers, and even though we had jerks working yesterday, at least it was super quiet.
Here's the weirdest part of the day though...When the sergeant was making his rounds, my neighbor asked him, "What's up with the officer working yesterday? Is his dad the warden or something, 'cause he gets away with crap on a regular basis, that other officers would be fired for". He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know..." But then, he stopped, turned back, and in a hushed tone tells my neighbor, "You know...you guys could take care of him better than we can. It's only 90 days." And then he walked off.
I asked my neighbor, "Dude, did I just hear that sergeant suggest that you assault his officer? WTF?" The 90 days the sergeant made mention of was a reference to the 90 days a person would do on a discipline should they do something wrong. Of course, my neighbour wasn't that dumb and wouldn't do something like that, but it was strange hearing a seargeant suggest one of us hurt someone.
A really strange day.
Things seemed to have settled down now. As I write this it's 4.39pm and eerilly quiet. Maybe everyone is worn out. I'm looking forward to memorial day weekend even if it comes with some sad memories attached to it. If we were to look back in time, I'd be setting in motion a decision that would alter the course of my entire life. In fact, this day 23 years ago, I rode to a bank on my brother's bike, to cash a forged cheque that I had stolen from my father. I then stopped off at a gas station and bought my brothers a pack of bubblegum that I had promised to get them earlier that week, then I came home, packed a suitcase, and was getting ready to leave that Friday and take a Greyhoud bus to Louisville, Kentucky. I think I avoided my parents as much as possible around that time. In fact, they had gone swimming that Thursday night and I remember skipping out on it and staying home. I needed to call my girlfriend and let her know I was on the way and ask her to call a friend to see if I could stay at his place. I remember a couple of days earlier I had my wisdom teeth removed and was still bleeding a bit and in pain; but I had a prescription of pain killers, so I was good to go.
I'll write more about it over the weekend.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 26th, 2018
Memorial day weekend is upon us, and whilst it's really quiet right now, and I'm listening to my radio to pass the days, I can't help but think about how different my life could have been. Okay, maybe I could be dead in a gutter somewhere, or a junkie...But I like to think that in an alternate universe I would've gone on to graduate from OBI, and become a successful musician or music teacher. Maybe I did...in that alternate universe.
In the past I've written about one of my favourite novels, "ONE", by Richard Bach (of Jonathan Livingston Seagull fame, and where the '80s new wave band, "Flock of Seagulls" took their name from...A little FYI, and good music trivia! You're welcome!) The story is about the many choices in life there are, and where each choice or path leads us, and the alternate paths that spin from that in the universe. I recommend reading it.
Anyway, I think back to the summer of 1995, and wonder had I just gone with my dad to the grocery store, accepted his apology, and not been so impulsive, how different my life would be now. Instead, I turned down his offer to ride with him to the store, and waited on the Taxi cab that would take me to a Greyhound bus station and onward to Louisville, Kentucky.
I will say that the bus ride was one of the strangest experiences in my life! In movies, you always see these run-down bus stations with homeless people and guys waving knives around. In fact, one of the more classic bus stationscenes was in the movie "Adventures in Babysitting" where Elizabeth Shue's character takes a group of kids she's babysitting to pick up her friend at the Greyhound bus station. She's on the phone talking to her friend, and a homeless guy starts beating the glass and saying, "Get out of my house!" No way did I think that stuff was real life, but when the Taxi cab dropped me off at the Arlington bus station, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.
The Arlington station was relatively small, and what I was used to from taking a bus from Lexington, Kentucky to London, Kentucky where teachers at OBI would pick students up. I thought that I would leave from Arlington and go straight to Louisville, but I had to change buses in Dallas. When I stepped off the bus to go to the next terminal, a group of police officers were tackling a guy who was screaming like a mad man.
I waited in a small terminal with people from all walks of life, and it felt like something out of Mos Eisley's cantina in Star Wars! Whilst waiting, I bought a bag of Doritos to munch on, which was a bad idea because they ended up opening my gums back up after the wisdom teeth removal earlier that week. It hurt really bad...I dug into my back pack and took out a painkiller, hopped on the bus, and dozed off. The next stop, in the middle of the night, was in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was really hungry, so I went to a hamburger stand and got a hamburger. Another bad mistake...It ended up giving me a fit of the runs on the bus, and I spent a good deal of the ride going back and forth to the tiny restroom.
A huge rain storm hit on the way, and we ended up detouring to Memphis, which I was really excited about because at the time, one of my favourite music films was U2's "Rattle and Hum", and I perked up to see if I could pick out any sites from the movie. The sun was rising, and the sky took on an eerie grey.
We pulled into the Memphis Terminal, and I made a call to my girlfriend and asked her if my friend's parents approved of me staying at their place. She said she was having trouble getting a hold of Travis, but should know something by the time I got into Louisville. Because of the stop in Memphis, it put me behind schedule, and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it there by Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning. I hung up and sat on a chair with my headphones in, and jammed out until they told us to board the bus. Again, the same strange group of people around me. Surprisingly, just a couple of hours later, and I was back on the bus! I sat towards the back, which was a mistake because I had to listen to a couple getting it on, moaning and groaning in the very back, the rest of the way to Louisville.
We pulled into the Greyhound bus station downtown, Saturday evening, and I thought it was strange that Louisville felt like a ghost town. Even the bus station was empty. I got off the bus, picked up my bags, and headed inside. I called my girlfriend to find out what was going on, and she told me that Travis wanted to talk to me.
I called Travis and was disappointed that his parents said "no", but he said he'd come and pick up my suit cases at my girlfriend's place, because her parents believed that I was staying with Travis, and until we could figure out a plan of action. Clearly, I hadn't thought this whole trip through as was typical of my impulsivity in those days! I took a Taxi cab to her place off of Bardstown Road, and she waited eagerly for me as the cab pulled up.
An hour later and Travis came and picked the bags up and said he'd "pick me up" later, helping us in our ruse. I had nowhere to go and I remember sleeping behind St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic Church on Bardstown Road, for the next two nights. Eventually, my girlfriend talked to a family that she babysat for, and they agreed to let me stay until I had to return to summer school.
On Memorial Day, I spent the day with my girlfriend and her family, and we BBQ'd, and had a really good time. But I also remember being the errand boy that day and being told to run up the street to the grocery store and get items they needed. That evening I went to the place where I was going to stay and my girlfriend introduced us. She said they were cool, but in saying they were "cool" she failed to mention they were also pot smokers, and it was the first time in my life that I had seen adults pull out a bag of weed and pass it around, and been invited to do the same. Theresa showed back up around eleven at night to check on me, and I was toasted! "Are you high?" she asked. I kind of laughed and shrugged my shoulders, and she scolded me playfully and said, "You could've waited for me!"
The summer fun hit a brick wall when, once again, being stupid and impulsive, I stole some batteries from a drug store. I really don't know why I did it, other than I remember earlier on, during the bus ride to downtown Louisville where my girlfriend worked at a frozen yogurt shop, that she was playing her Game Boy and the batteries died. While she was at work, I had decided to check out the mall in the down town area - The Galleria. I still had some money left, and I needed to buy a couple of things. I saw the batteries and looked around, and then stuck them in my pocket. I walked up to the checkout line and paid for the items I needed, when a police officer stepped behind me in line...I went about business as usual, got my receipt, and left. But being the dumbass I was and can be on a regular basis, I pulled the batteries out of my pocket - with the police officer following right behind me - and stuck them in the bag. He immediately called me over to him, told me to hand everything over including the things I paid for, and asked for my ID. Earlier that day, on my girlfriend's lunch break, I had given her my wallet for some reason...I can't remember why. Anyway, I'm standing there and telling the officer that I didn't have my ID. He asked me where I was from. "Texas," I said, which seemed to make matters worse. He told me had I had my wallet he'd just write me a citation, but now he had to arrest me. This was the first time I'd ever been arrested, and my stomach dropped.
He took me to some basement jail in the mall, and made some calls. He then asked me where I was staying and I told him to get a hold of my girlfriend's parents and they could help explain everything. Well, it made things worse because they were pissed at me! For stealing, for lying to them about staying with Travis, and for being in Louisville in the first place. I felt horrible - and not just because I got caught, but because I had now made things very hard on my girlfriend as well.
I was transferred to a juvenile center where I was booked and processed, and I talked to a case worker. She was really nice and basically said, "Look...We're going to call your parents because they're the only ones who can get you out of this mess. Be upfront with them, don't lie to them, and apologize for everything. We'll go from there." I gave her the number and they got in touch with my dad. They talked for a few minutes and the woman handed the phone to me. He gave me a good chewing out and said that they weren't going to charge me with anything, but I had to return to OBI the next day. In the meantime, my girlfriend's mom would come and get me out of the detention center, take me to the place I was staying, and would then make sure I got on the bus the next day. It was a mess.
I hung up the phone and waited for her mom to pick me up.
The next day I was on another Greyhound Bus and headed back to school.
Memorial Day holiday would lead to a long series of unfortunate events that continued to plague my life, and push me further down the spiral.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Below is a picture of Randy, as a teenager**
May 27th, 2018
This day has turned into a suck fest. I was actually enjoying my morning and day, but when second shift hit, things went topsy turvy.
So, during the first shift and second shift, they've got a list of two "random shakedowns" and typically they're really about nothing. An officer walks into your cell, makes sure you don't have anything you're not supposed to, and that everything works. However, last night was an exception because we've got two new sergeants, and one is a freakin' nazi, and so gung-ho about everything she does she wanted to supervise the officers do their random shakedown. I was on that list and I wasn't really worried about it 'cause I had nothing out of the ordinary - maybe a fishing line (how we pass things to each other) and that was it. I did have a coax cable that was broken and sitting in my locker but I didn't think anything about it. So, the officers go into my cell, take my fishing line, take a rolled up magazine that I use to stick my mail in the door, and the broken coax cable. I thought they'd just throw it away and call it a day, but she told the guards to write me a "contraband" case. Now, it's classified as a "minor case" and my "punishment" should be miniscule, like recreation restriction, or commissary restriction, but I was like, "Really?" Things that you could've just tossed in the garbage you decided to write me up for?" The officers who did the shakedown both agreed it was a frivilous case, but they said, "We're just following orders". Ridiculous!
Sigh...Oh well. At least I have a good meal to look forward to tomorrow.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 28th, 2018
Happy Memorial Day...I feel a bit better. I decided to skip recreation today, which in hindsight was probably dumb because I'm most likely going to be on rec. restriction for the next few days...But I really didn't want to miss some good programs on the radio.
Our lunch was fantastic! We had sausage, cheeseburger, potato salad, ranch style beans, a huge brownie, and green beans. It was really good.
Not much to report today. I'm surviving.
Courage. Strength. Hope. And Faith.
May 29th, 2018
I'm sitting here getting ready to listen to "Sound Awake" on the radio - a particular music show that usually plays some of my favourite music, especially when the DJ does the "Classic Club Hour" which is a mix of new wave and modern rock/industrial. At the end of each month he does a two hour special and I'm hoping he knocks it out of the park today. He can be a hit or a miss, but last week was exceptionally good. You can listen at kpft.org at 4pm-6pm, each Tuesday. It's really the only good music program I have right now since my favourite on kpft - "Radioactive" - has disappeared without explanation, only to be replaced by some godawful program. Houston...you confuse me!
So, today has been fairly relaxed and drama free. We had some good officers working...I should make a strong point here and say that whilst I often complain about some guards, I don't think they're all bad, or that anyone who wears a grey uniform is the "enemy". In fact, it's quite the contrary, and there are some really good officers. Sadly, they usually end up working on other pods, but over the weekend, one in particular had some extra spaghetti trays, and asked me and my neighbour if we wanted them. We were both, like, "Uh...yeah!" We were really grateful, and things like that show me that even in dark places, good deeds and acts of kindness can come from all walks of life.
On a slightly down note, I learned today that one of my co-defendants received an execution date last week. I've not had any contact with any of them, and I don't even know what they've been filing in their appeals or what kind of attorneys they have. But the humanity in me doesn't want anything bad to happen to them - or to anyone for that matter. I often wish that this whole thing would just end for everyone here. People really don't understand how screwed up this system really is, and how unfairly the death penalty is applied. And by "unfair" I don't mean, "oh, woe is me...I'm a victim, and this is sooo unfair!" No! What I mean is the overall way that the death penalty is applied. Just do your home work and study it...Look into it. I don't have to tell you and give the same speech over and over. Don't let me or anyone else tell you either...Just look into it and you'll see it blaring out at you.
I think the temperature today was 96F...because of the heat, they're starting to shut the outside recreation yards down from 1pm-6pm. They've been doing this the last couple of years because they don't want to run the risk of someone having a heat stroke, but I can remember a time when they didn't care...When we had to work in 100F temperatures, picking okra and other vegetables, or if we had pissed our "boss" off (the guard on a horse with a gun pretty much pointed at you the entire time) he'd have us swinging a garden hoe on hard dirt or dead grass for a few hours, to "teach us a lesson"...We prayed for a water break! I guess Texas is sort of getting with the times...
Not much else going on today.
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith.
May 30th, 2018
Hooooooweee! It is hot! As I'm typing this it's a little past three in the afternoon, and the airconditioning is fluctuating. It was out yesterday, late in the afternoon, and it's been off most the day today, but I'm holding out hope that they're working on it because the air is going from cool to hot/cool to hot...But, man! It's not even June yet, and we're already in the middle of a heat wave.
I went outside around 8 this morning, and it felt like a hot muggy swamp! I was drinking water, bottle after bottle, with the guy I was playing ball with, and we were both sweating like mad men. I did enjoy the ball games today though...We decided to change the game a bit...Normally we play the first to ten points; he's been beating me because he's super fast, and because of a foot injury I have, I can't run nearly as fast as him because I can't dig my toes into the ground and really push off. But my wind is much longer than his, and I can outpace him by far! So, today, we decided to play the first to 50 points each game. He'd jump out ahead, but begin to stall out around 25, and I'd just outpace him and take off ahead. I won every match like that. It was fun, and great exercise. I'd like to play like that more often.
I heard on the radio that the show, Roseanne, has been cancelled...What did I say? So...what does it mean for the star of a show, who makes racist comments, when the media has announced early on in the new season of the show, that the star was "representing middle America?" I'm not saying middle America is racist, nor all Trump supporters for that matter, but you cannot say that you're surprised when you normalize certain behaviors. Apparently, she blamed the drug "Ambien", for her outburst; subsequently, the CEO of the pharma company responded by saying, "One of the side effects of Ambien is not racism..." I thought that was pretty funny.
My neighbor and I got into a debate about PC culture today, and he feels it's unfair and that the country is too PC and proves we really don't have freedom of speech. Whilst I'll concede that on some things we are much too sensitive and overly PC (I make no exceptions for hate speech of any kind in that) people need to know that yes, you can say whatever you would like to say, but words - just like actions - carry consequences, so use your words wisely. ABC and the Disney Corporation are two of the most progressive media businesses out there, and there's no way they're going to tolerate one of their employees making comments on Twitter, or any other public media for that matter, in the way Roseanne did. It's true she's always been one to shoot her mouth off a bit too quickly, but a line has to be drawn sometimes...What's really sad is that it has cost a couple of people their jobs.
That's my take...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 2nd, 2018
Another day in Paradise, but I didn't know that Paradise was a freakin' INFERNO...It's hotter than blazes here, but at least they fixed the air conditioning. It's hot and cold at the same time! How is that? The back wall feels like a kiln, and the cell has cool air...Bizarre!
Well, I've been sentenced on my stupid disciplinary case, and you'll see that my Webmaster has uploaded a scanned copy of the paperwork for the case, below this post - please excuse the quality, it wasn't a good copy to begin with. I had opted out of attending the hearing, and just went ahead and pled guilty, because it didn't make much sense to try and argue my point that it was a stupid case...Sometimes the lieutenants that run the kangaroo court get angry if you make an argument and they feel like you're wasting their time. So, I just decided to waive my hearing, plead guilty, and get it over with...Leave my fate in their hands. The punishment? 15 days recreation restriction...For some string, a rolled-up magazine, and some broken coax cable! A bit on the extreme side, I think! That's an infraction that warrants a verbal reprimand, and no more. So, now I'm trapped in my cell for the next two weeks. I'll just make the best of it, and keep busy...It does no good to get angry over it; these cases are stupid and a waste of money...Just stupid!
When I was in general population, I can remember a couple of the cases I received. One I deserved because I refused to go to work due to some severe sunburn I had after working in the fields the day before; when I didn't go the guard told me, "If you would've gotten a waiver from medical, I'd have let you take the day off, but you just don't show up to work? Now I'm pissed..." I was 100% innocent in the other case though...It was what's called an "extra necessities" case, meaning they wrote me up for having extra bed sheets, but the sheets were my cell mate's. He even told the officer that wrote the case that they were his sheets and told me that when I went to court, to call him out and he'd tell the ranking officer that was holding court, that the sheets were his. So, I went to court, told the female sergeant my cell mate wanted to make a statement, and she called him out and he said, "Ma'am, those sheets were mine. The officer wrote the wrong case." She looked at him, looked at me, and was nodding her head like she was understanding what we were saying. Then she asked, "Well, is your cell mate forcing you to say this?", and my cell mate replied, "No ma'am." She said, "Mmmm. Hmmm.", again seeming like she was going to dismiss everything there and then. Then, she grabbed some papers and ruffled them around..."Well...I appreciate your candor and honesty, but the case is written in Offender Halprin's name, so I'm going to find him guilty." I couldn't believe it and exclaimed, "What? He just told you they were his!" But she wasn't having any of it and said, "But you got the case. Deal with it! I'm giving you 5 days recreation restriction."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it's called a kangaroo court!
Hey, remember when I said there are some really good officers here? Just the other day at breakfast, they had cinnamon rolls - a very rare treat...Their rarity is on a par with sightings of a sasquatch. So, I get up for breakfast and see this yummy cinnamon roll, get my tray, and devour it! Suddenly, the officer passing out the breakfast trays shows up again with another tray, and says, "You want another one?" I was like, "Uhhh...Hell yeah!"...That sucker was huge too!! Dripping with sugary glaze, and just mmm mmm good! I thanked him and just thought to myself that this place would be a whole lot better with more acts of kindness like that. And by "better", I just mean that I believe it would make it easier for both inmates and guards alike, if we could get along and not have everyone angry and miserable all of the time.
Courage. Strength. Hope, and Faith!
** Note from Webmaster - This is the paperwork relating to the case that Randy received...It hightlights the pettiness of some (not all!) state prison guards, and the absolute waste of state expenditure, and resources, at the taxpayers' expense! It's surprising in an ultra conservative state that is proud of its fiscal responsibility, that "responsibility" seems to get thrown out the window when it comes to the Criminal Justice System . **
** Apologies for the poor scanning quality - these grivances are printed on flimsy paper that just doesn't scan very well **
June 3rd, 2018
Weekends...They move at the pace of a banana slug, but then like some weird time vortex, they're over with. I've managed to keep busy, and I'm almost done with it. I'm wondering what they're going to do this week because I heard from an officer earlier today, that they finished installing new shower doors on B-Pod...The old ones were all rusty, and literally falling apart, so they're replacing them with stainless steel doors (why didn't they do that when they first built this place?) and apparently, the little slot we have to get handcuffed through is waist high, so no more squatting down in an uncomfortable position, while the guard fumbles with cuffs and keys.
Anyway, as they're putting these doors in on each section, they're moving everyone in the cells to another section. If they start on C-Pod next (the pod I'm currently on) it'll be A-section or F-section...I'm on F-section, so I could get bounced to another section or to another pod. Confused? I am! I guess we'll see. Once they're ready to install them on A-Pod, that will be the most difficult pod to shift people around because death watch has to remain on that section due to the cameras in the cells, and F-section houses all of the handicapped inmates so that they can access the special showers for that section...I guess we'll know next week.
Not much else to report on this lazy Sunday...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 4th, 2018
I woke up today fully expecting to be on cell restriction, but the guard setting up recreation, asked me if I wanted to go outside first round...I said sure, and jumped out of bed and headed outside to play some basketball. I told the guy I was outside with that I thought I was on cell restriction, and he said, "I thought so to, so before I asked him to grab you, I made sure to ask, and he said you weren't on the paperwork." Cool...Though, maybe I should've stayed in today because I got my butt handed to me in a 35-5 loss! Sometimes I wonder what happens to me; I can go from heaving a great win, coming inside full of pride, then the next day, I lose shamefully! Sigh...Oh well...
Last night a huge thunder and lightening storm hit and it was raining cats and dogs, so I wasn't sure what today would hold. But when we went outside it was grey, and very dry. The sun eventually came out after we got back in, and it looks lovely outside just now. The guards today are really on top of things as well - they're done with all of the recreation, and the showers!...There'll be nothing left for second shift to do, so another plus to the day. Perhaps we'll get mail early?
I heard some of the Supreme Court rulings for the end of the year, and before they go on summer break...One of them had to do with a cake making business refusing to make a gay couple a cake for their wedding. The business owner said that it violated his religious principles...I'm not going to make the argument for how stupid that sounds, because...it's stupid, and I refuse to believe in a God that would discriminate, but whatever...So, apparently, the state of Colorado (or any other state) could not force a business owner to do something that violated their religious beliefs. Now, from what I've heard on the news - AFR and NPR - they understand the ruling, but it was left kind of vague and ambiguous because it didn't really rule that the cake dude could actually refuse service...They just said that the State could not force him to offer a service that was against his religious beliefs. There's a gay show on KPFT on Monday nights at 8pm, and I guess I'll listen to that so I can understand the ruling better...I'm sure they'll talk about it.
The other big news of the day was the Texas Supreme Court ruling that the State had to inform the general public of the execution drug supplier up to 2014, because the State passed a law that protected the provider's identity, in 2015. The theory is that the supplier in 2014 could be the same supplier we have now, and I think that those in the activist community should absolutely hound the drug company that is named for 2014, and ask them if they still provide the drug to the State today...Hurt their business for being involved. Period. What I find interesting is they are using tax payers' money to fund these executions, so shouldn't the tax payer have a RIGHT to know how their money is being spent, and with whom? Isn't that the whole purpose of taxation without representation? Didn't we fight a war with the British for that reason? Boston Tea Party??
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 6th, 2018
Well, this day is going by fairly quickly! I've been in a fairly good mood, and feeling quite energetic throughout most of the day, though right after lunch I took a little siesta because I had run some games of ball early this morning. It's weird, I should be on recreation restriction, but I'm starting to wonder if the lieutenant that ran the case thought it was a crap disciplinary and decided to not log it into the computer? Oh well...you'll hear no complaints from me! An interesting thing about these bogus disciplinary cases is that there's a unit somewhere here in Texas, that is under investigation because the warden - Warden McMullens - who used to be the death row major a few years ago (and was a tyrant - totally out of control!) would threaten to kill guys, and those on level 3 were forced to stay naked in their cells and have a blanket placed over their door so they couldn't see out...Some real Guantanomo Bay crap! Anyway, he and a bunch of others just got into real trouble...It was all over the news, and apparently emails were leaked to the press that showed them conspiring against inmates, writing bogus cases, and setting them up for all sorts of things.
My neighbour is riled up because these guards decided to go on their breaks before finishing up collecting the trays, and switching recreation rounds. He wants to go to bed because he stays up all night...He's a good guy, just easy to piss off. Definite anger management problems...But I get it, you're being forced to stay awake because as soon as he goes to sleep, they're going to wake him back up to collect the lunch trays that have been sitting in our cells since 11am. I can't really stay up all night and sleep in the day; I'm surprised that some guys can keep that schedule.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 8th, 2018
Today was a weird day! I woke up at 5.30am with the intention of trying to make a deal with the guards to get a friend from another section into our day room, so I could spend a little time with him. He's expecting an execution date, and if he ends up going to death watch, I won't be able to catch up with him again unless he receives a stay...Making “deals” with officers is actually pretty commonplace, because giving up one of your privileges to go to another section, or outside with someone, (some guys barter showers as well) means it can translate to less work for the guards, and I have no problem with that. There are some guards, however, that aren't willing to trade for anything, and that's cool too. It just means more work for them.
So, I hear the gate to my section pop open and I go to the door to see who it is...The female officer comes up to my door and says, “You're on recreation restriction, but you get to go outside today. You gonna go?”
“Yes, but-” I try to say...
“No. No. No,” she cuts me off.
“Well, are you going to let me finish, because it might benefit you?”
“I'll give up my recreation if you-” Cut off again!
“Fine. I'll be going to recreation then.”
“First round. By yourself.”
“That's fine. Have a lovely day.”
I didn't really let it get to me. In fact, I was kind of looking forward to getting outside first thing in the morning. Alone, with nothing but the sounds of the morning coming awake...Absolute peace and quiet. That's a gift that's priceless, and rare.
So, I got ready for recreation, and the two guards required to escort an inmate every time they go somewhere, show up. As I'm being stripped and searched, before leaving my cell, the male officer says, “You only get an hour.”
“I'm not on level 2 or 3,” I say.
“Yeah, but you're on rec. restriction.”
“Okay...but I should still get two hours.”
“No, only one,” the male officer says.
“I'll have to check into it,” I reply.
Handcuffs are put on me, and my door is opened up and they take me outside.
Because I was only getting an hour, I didn't waste any time and started to work out straight away. I can't explain the feeling, but it really felt like I was out in the world, running in a park. The air was fresh and clean. Birds and crickets were chirping. The sky was coming alive with blues and purples and pinks. As I jogged, I zoned out and freed my mind.
The hour went by really fast, and I was back in my cell by 7am.
My neighbour spoiled my mood after that when he told me that when the male officer came back inside, he made a comment about me and inmates whining. I don't know why it made me so angry, but it really pissed me off. I was like, “I'm whining? I ask about recreation time that I have a RIGHT to get, and that makes me a whiner?” When every single day one of these officers complains and WHINES about the work they're getting PAID to do? So, I made it a mission to have a conversation with this guy. Not to be belligerent or cuss him out, but just to point out the fact that everything we do in this place, food, showers, recreation, necessities, laundry etc. is dependent on THEM. We can do NOTHING on our own. We can't even walk to the shower when we want to. We can't go to recreation when we went to. We're locked in this call for 22 hours a day, and because we have a death sentence, we're not allowed any independence. We can't work, we can't feed ourselves, we can't shower without THEM. So, yeah, I can understand when inmates do complain (as I've been guilty of, but geeze, I am sure that any individual on this planet would complain in this situation) when they want to get out of their cell for rec. or to get a shower after sweating and being dirty, and having to wait around all day for the guards to take us to the shower...It's especially difficult to swallow when there are murderers in general population, who, I should add, were also convicted of Capital crime, who can shower whenever they want to, or walk freely to the chow hall or to recreation. They get to live somewhat normal lives compared to guys back here.
Anyway, I finally had a chance to talk to the officer, but I might as well have been talking to a caterpillar...It didn't affect him, or register with him whatsoever.
Sigh...so this is my life...And don't think I don't know that I did this to myself by freakin' escaping...I'm all too aware of what a dumbass I was...
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith!
June 9th, 2018
This Saturday is soooooooo boring! Why am I even wasting typing ribbon, when I've nothing to say today? I guess I'll add a quote from “Small Stones From The River” by Kat Lehman...
only the challenges
by climing it
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith!
June 10th 2018
Sunday...I woke up about 5.25am to get a shower, and listen to “On Being” With Krista Tippet. It's a wonderful program about spirituality, and being human, and it comes on Houston NPR at 6am on Sunday mornings, and it was really good today. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes deeply moving intellectual and spiritual conversation. Her voice is one of the most compassionate and calming voices I've ever heard! And her guests are almost always enlightening.
Then I got myself riled up listening to the Sunday morning political talk shows...although, I'm seriously thinking about giving politics a break! It just isn't healthy to get so worked up about things...I find myself getting so angry at the things Trump is doing. I mean, really, picking a fight with Canada? And what is even crazier is the way he is alienating our true allies, so he can buddy up with all of these dictators, rogue nations, and general bad actors. Didn't Bush and Obama call these countries the “Axis of Evil?” I feel like I'm living in a real life version of the Star Wars Prequels...Everything that Trump is doing is sooooo similar to what Palpatine did in those movies. Start with trade wars...alienate true allies...split the republic...So, we've traded Darth Sidious for Darth Drumpf! Listening to this crap is not healthy for anyone. Nobody talks anymore!
The rest of the day I spent reading, but it has been an unusually long weekend. I'm ready for the new week.
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith.
June 11th, 2018
I woke up this morning and decided to grab the day by the horns. I'm on rec. restriction until Thursday, 14th, so I jumped out of bed and knocked out a workout before getting to the shower. I read today's Stoic quote which was about not letting anger dig you into a hole that you can't get yourself out of...Deal with it, and move on! And that is so true. It becomes a problem when you won't let it go...A poison.
When I looked at the date today, I realised that tomorrow I'll have been on death row for 15 years. Today, the jury went into deliberations a little after noon, and I was taken to a small holding cell. I waited and waited and waited. At around 5.30pm or so, my co-counsel came into the holding cell and told me they couldn't decide, but the longer it took, the better it looked. He left, and I waited, and waited some more. It was later that evening that the judge had decided to sequester the jury and hold them in a hotel overnight, and send me back to my cell until the next day of deliberations. Other jurors had taken minutes or an hour to sentence my co-defendants to death, and here I was, heading back to my cell with a decision still looming over my head. I honestly don't remember what I felt like that night...I think the guards taking me back to my cell were surprised that no decision had been made, but as far as I could tell, none of the officers in that particular escort group seemed upset about it. It's just so weird to think back on...I'll write about it some more tomorrow, to mark the 15 years...
Courage. Strength. Faith and hope!
June 12th, 2018
Fifteen years on death row, today...It's kind of weird, and it feels like a blur at times. I honestly didn't expect to make it this long, but here I am still at it.
I still have the same ID card that I received when I first came here. The picture on it was taken the day I returned to TDCJ. I just look...sad...A bit shell shocked. Okay, a lot shell shocked! The events of that day were happening so fast that I didn't really have any time to register everything.
After returning to the same holding cell I was in the night before, after the jury was sequestered, early that morning I sat and waited. I can't remember if my attorneys came and asked me how I was doing, but I paced the floor back and forth. There were other inmates in cells around me, and I guess they watched the news the day before because they kept taunting me and yelling things like, “They're gonna kill you!” I never understood why prisoners did stuff like that to one another...Eventually, the majority of them land in the same boat, and yet they taunt each other, or in prison parlance, “Hold their nuts over you”.
I guess it was close to eleven in the morning when my lawyers came in and told me that a verdict had been reached, and so I was placed in a stun belt, under my clothes, in case I were to react harshly to their decision, and they could zap the crap out of me! They did it to another guy who was sentenced to death just a week earlier, and some of the bailiffs had been joking about it...“He pissed and shit all over himself!”, and other lovely things they were saying...Well, regardless of what was to happen, I wasn't going to give them THAT chance.
I enter the court room and it's jam packed! A large section of it was given over to Police Officers...I remember seeing our family friend who was the Chief of Police in Dalworthington Gardens (and he's currently the Sheriff of Tarrant County as I write this) and we made eye contact for a brief second...I remember feeling a pang of sadness that he would make it into a “me Vs. them” issue...I've never hated police, or ever wished bad things on them, but this was an event that never should have happened, and I never imagined it happening either, so it hurt because I respected him so much.
The judge made everyone stand, and the jury was brought in to read their verdict. I had a couple of friends (and a girlfriend) behind me in the gallery, and as the sentence of death was read, they all started to cry which caused me to cry. But I was more or less crying for them, not for myself. After that, the mother of Officer Hawkins was allowed to give a victim impact statement, and I started to cry as she described her pain. I did hurt for her, and it was genuine. However, the way she characterized me, was very mistaken. I wasn't the person she believed me to be and that did hurt me. When that was over, things happened very fast. I was rushed out of the court room, ordered to sign a bunch of documents, stripped, placed in prison clothes, and rushed into the parking garage of the County Jail. There were police everywhere, some with guns trained on me. I was thrown in the back of a police car, and off to Huntsville.
I've written about my experience there before, but I remember everything feeling otherworldly...Almost like an out of body experience. I didn't know what to expect when I got to death row, but I imagined it being like something from “Silence Of The Lambs” - just a bunch of whacked out serial killers. I definitely wasn't one of THEM.
I couldn't have been more wrong! This place is far from a paradise, and there are some really awful people here, personality-wise. But over the years, I've also met some of the kindest, most giving people. I've met just about everyone on death row over the years, due to the fact that I've moved to so many different pods and cells. I've made some really close friends. I've met guys that really deserved a second chance at life, and I've met guys that have gotten those second chances, and squandered them. I've met all types of personalities, and seen so much humanity here...So much giving. I've seen the strongest of minds crack and splinter, and spiral into madness over the years, and I've seen guys considered to be the weakest of individuals not only survive, but flourish in this place. I've met horrible Shawshank Redemption style guards, and I've met some of the kindest and most humane guards. Chaplains and Ministers that don't give a flying crap about your conditions or salvation, and Chaplains and Ministers that shower you in what I would call “God's love”...Their presence shines with something other worldly. I've seen it all here in these fifteen years. I wouldn't call it a curse...I'd call it a blessing...It helped shape my own desire to be a better person (even if at times I falter) and to grow as a human being.
A Rabbi once told me that a vase that has cracked into pieces and been put back together again is stronger than a solid vase. Sometimes it takes an individual to break to become a stronger person than they were, and I definitely think I'm stronger. I would just really like that chance to prove my worth to the world.
I hope I can be blessed with another 15 years...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
Randy....Taken just a few hours after he was sentenced to death, on 12th June 2003...Aged just 25 years old.
June 13th, 2018
Man...it is HOT!! The AC went out some time during the night, and I woke up sweating. I always sleep with my fan on – I have done since I was a little kid. I had a ceiling fan, and would turn it on high before going to sleep. I couldn't sleep if my radio and fan weren't on...Dad would come in and turn both off when I had fallen asleep, and I'd wake up and turn them back on again. Anyway, I woke up sweating, and turned my fan up higher. I'm thinking that surely they'll have the AC sorted out by the morning, but it's the afternoon now, and it's blazing up in here...It's really hard to think with it being so hot. No rank has come through either, so we don't know what is being done about it.
I've only got one more day of recreation restriction, and then I can get back out of this cell. This has sucked, and for something so stupid as well! They brought new basketballs for the outside rec, yards just a little while ago, and I'm itching to get out there!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 14th, 2018
Still no AC...No idea what is going on. It's too hot! I'm expecting a visit from my attorneys today, so hopefully it will be nice and cold out there! We shall see...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 17th, 2018
It's been a long weekend, but a fairly productive one in which I've managed to keep myself busy, and it hasn't been nearly as boring as last weekend. Thursday I had a legal visit and I met another attorney who works in the same Capital Habeus Unit where my other attorney works, and it was really great to meet him and talk with him. I've got a lot more hope and confidence in these guys than in previous attorneys at the federal level, that's for sure! Plus, they just seem to be really good people...Personable, and caring. Over the years, I've met so many different people involved in this process, and I understand the need to keep it professional, and just get down to business; I've never understood why it has to be cold and clinical though. One of the things that means more than anything to us back here – if you are one of the attorneys who is hard-working, diligent, and focused on saving your client's life - is just knowing that you care about us. A simple visit or phone call goes a long way...Answering letters goes a long way too. I can understand why some guys become belligerent towards their attorneys, because sometimes it is about perception...They just want to know that the attorney cares, and I do genuinely get that feeling with these guys. And while there are no guarantees (when in life is there ever any guarantees?) and anything can happen, having hope goes a long way...One of my most favourite quotes of recent times is from Leia in “The Last Jedi”. She says, “Hope is like the sun; if you only believe in it when you can see it, you'll never make in through the night”.
On Friday, my recreation restriction was over, and I was able to get a full two hours of recreation. I came back in and had my shower shortly afterwards, and then settled in for being stuck in the cell for the weekend. I took to some writing and waited on the Prison Show coming on the radio. After that, I went to sleep.
On Saturday, we had a really good lunch! I guess for Father's Day weekend? It was pizza...Don't get any crazy ideas of a real slice! (ha ha). It was a flat square with some tomato sauce, a sprinkle of cheese, and a little meat. Still, it was different from what we would normally get, so I'll take it! We also got some cake, some fruit cocktail, and corn on the cob. Later on, some really good shows came on the radio, so I listened to those and went to bed a little after midnight.
Sunday has been much of the same, and because today is Father's Day, I thought I would reflect a little on my relationship with my dad...I try to stick to some of my favourite memories on these things each year. When I =talk about my dad, I know that some people have a negative opinion of him, based on the way he pretty much gave up on me. And yes, sometimes I do get really angry about that, but while I know my parents missed many things and messed up in raising me (all parents do...you can read all of the books you want, take all of the parenting classes in the world, but there is no one way to raise a kid 'cause we're all so different) I also firmly believe that they did the best they could. Do I wish things were different? Hell yes! Do I think that things could've been different in my life had they not given up? Yes!...But I also had a life that many children and teens don't get to experience. I wasn't spoiled. My brothers and I had to work for a lot of the things we wanted, and I'm grateful for that appreciation of work and work ethic that dad instilled in me. I'd give anything to be able to get out of this cell daily and work! Working for things instils a certain pride...Like, “I did that”... “I earned that”...In my situation, I am so grateful for the help of my friends and those close to me, but I wish more than anything that I could earn it myself.
I can remember a time in 1991 when there was a certain pair of Air Jordan's that I really wanted. They were over a hundred dollars, and I suppose my dad could've easily bought them for me and let me have them...But instead, he told me, “I'll get these shoes for you under the condition that you will work to earn them. You'll have a couple of weeks to work the money off, but if you don't, I'm returning them to the store.” He bought them, and he sat them on top of the dresser in his bedroom. Every so often I'd go in and take them out of the box, gaze at them adoringly, and couldn't wait to start wearing them! But...I wasn't doing all of the required yard work he wanted me to do. I didn't properly earn them, and two weeks later, he returned them to the store. Lesson learned.
Another time, after my mom had broke my stereo system when I wouldn't turn it down, there was a CD boom box I really wanted. I'd never had a CD player, but I was ready for one, and so I begged and begged. The deal was I would prime and paint the wrought fence around our swimming pool, and a few other chores. If I did, not only would I earn the boom box, but he'd let me pick out ten CDs to go with it! I busted my ass! (ha ha). He took me to Best Buy, a store not far from our house, and I got this bad ass Sony Boom Box, and because I was starting to get hooked on U2 at that time (after the mind-blowing “Actung Baby” album, my first “for real” jump into alternative music) I just had to get everything U2 had out!
So, these things I'm really grateful for...
But I think one of my more favourite memories, was the time spent preparing for my Bar Mitzvah, and the actual day of my Bar Mitzvah...I can remember Wednesday nights when I'd spend them at Temple Beth Shalom, and Hebrew School...He'd come and pick me up at about 7pm, and on the drive home we'd stop off EVERY Wednesday night at this place called “Big Foot's Subs and Sandwiches”. I think he used to do business with them, and so he could pick up his check and get a meal. I'd always – ALWAYS – order a meatball submarine sandwich, and a bag of chips – it was a tradition! We always did little things like that together. When I was taking piano lessons after class, we'd stop off at a gas station so he could fill the suburban truck up, and I'd get a bottle of apple juice. Sometimes we'd drop off Jimmy and Kevin at daycare, and we'd get some donuts and a juice together. Thinking about those things now...I write this with tears in my eyes...
When the time for my Bar Mitzvah arrived, there was a lot of fan fair. People were coming from all over the country – all from my dad's side of the family. I knew most of them, but some I didn't, and I remember earlier that day in school when I'd gotten so nervous thinking about Friday night services, and Shabbos services, I threw up! I went to the nurse's office at school, and she asked if I wanted to go home...I said, “No. I don't want anyone disappointed in me”. And so I trucked on...
That evening, before the Friday services, I remember the entire family eating at some fish restaurant near Six Flags Over Texas – the amusement park. Anyway, the services went well, and I lead everyone in singing the Hebrew prayers, and it was a lot of fun. Saturday was going to be a bit more nerve wrecking because I had to read directly from the Torah in Hebrew, by myself. Oh, and that Friday night I had my very first tongue kiss with a girl named Shoshana...I was on top of the world!
The next day arrived, and everything went fantastically well. No nerves...well, maybe when I was carrying the Torah around for everyone to touch and kiss, but I just kept telling myself over and over, “Don't drop it. Don't drop it.” I'm a world class klutz, so it was a very real possibility!
After I read my Torah piece, my dad was invited to come up on the bima (the stage) and give his blessing to me, bringing me into “manhood”, before the Ark of the Torah. He had both hands on my shoulders as I stood there crying, and I knew he was genuinely proud of me...And that's all I ever wanted from him...For him to be proud of me.
So, Happy Father's Day, dad! I know I really screwed up, and I know I brought a lot of shame on the family...I'm genuinely sorry for that, but I have done my best to become a better person. I've had to figure this out for myself over the past 23 years, and there has been a lot – A LOT – of stumbles along the way...But I do believe that if you knew me now, you'd be proud of me.
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith...
June 18th, 2018
I woke up this morning fully expecting to be outside first round. I currently live on a section where the majority of guys don't go to rec., but today is one of those strange days where everyone feels like going out. I'm not scheduled yet, but I'm hoping to get outside before second shift 'cause I really don't like going to rec at night time. I would still be glad to just get out of the cell, but it sucks when it happens...I like being able to wind down and ease into the evening.
So, one of my friends was over here first round, and it was good to chat music with him and see how he's doing. He said his attorneys told him to expect an execution date within the next three months. Those things never get any easy to hear; I guess after a certain point in time, when someone is executed, you can become numb to the whole process – something I believe has happened to all of us back here, but when it's really personal, when it's someone you've known and laughed with for years, talked about personal things, and just liked as a person...It's a gut punch! Imagine what it would feel like if one of your friends called you up and said they had terminal cancer or something...I told him to keep his head up and don't lose hope...It ain't over 'till it's over...Anything can happen, and I firmly believe in that. I've seen guys go to the death chamber, come back, and give the entire death sentence back. I don't think it's being overly optimistic or “Pollyannaish”...It's just knowing that the impossible can happen. Never give up hope!
Okay...Well, I need to knock out my exercise if I'm going to be waiting on recreation this whole day. I'll probably get to that in a bit. Right now, I'm just trying to gather some motivation. It's just one of those “blah” days...The sky is a bit grey, but fluctuates with flashes of sunshine, and it is cooler today, so you'd think that would motivate me...But again, it's just...blah! I'm sure I'll perk up in a bit.
Man...just missed my chance to go to rec. right now! Someone just turned down their rec. and I jammed up the officer, but she said someone beat me to it. Oh well, maybe next round. I'm hoping one of these guys on my section turns down their outside rec. on third round, so that I can slide in their space. They do it a lot on this section, so there's still hope! (ha ha). As long as they keep the rec. yards open, I have no problem going out in the rain...I'd actually love it! Going out in rain brings the kid out in me...I have a favourite memory from school in Kentucky...I was in the 8th grade, and we stayed in the same class room all day long. It could be quite boring, and even though my classmates and I got really close and loved to tease each other, it could get a bit stressful sometimes. I mean, outside of lunch break and a bit of church each day (or as I referred to it, “Nap Time!”) we were trapped.
We had one teacher who really didn't like to teach; he'd basically give us our assignment, we'd do the work, and then sit around until class was over. He didn't care what we did as long as our work was finished, and we didn't sleep. I can't remember who it was, but they asked if they could turn on the tv and put cartoons on...He said, “Nope...but you can watch PBS”. At that time, it was always “Reading Rainbow” on PBS, so at first we'd groan, but it became a bit of a ritual. We'd hurry up and finish our work, then turn the tv on. I still remember the freakin' theme song... “Butterflies in the sky, I can fly twice as high. Take a look, it's in a book...the reading rainbow! I can go anywhere!” (ha ha).
Well, one day they did some segment on a rainy day, and making the best of it...There was this kid jumping in rain puddles, and singing “Puddle Hopping!” We started doing that on rainy days...One of us would jump in a puddle and start dancing around singing “Puddle Hopping” and everyone would laugh. It stuck with me, and I still do it. I remember one time being outside with someone and it began to rain; the guy was complaining and I began to splash around singing “Puddle Hopping! Puddle Hopping!” He thought I'd lost my mind, and whilst I don't know what that says about me (a case of arrested development???) I refuse to give up that inner kid...We all should refuse to give up our inner child. I think this world would be a helluva better place!
Courage. Strength. Hope and faith!
June 20th, 2018
Yesterday afternoon turned out to be quite eventful...Whilst we had a decent lunch for “Emancipation Day”, also known as “June-teenth”, and it was a state holiday, everything else ran as normal, although I wasn't expecting to be told that I was moving to another cell in the evening. When I found out it would be 8 cell, on the same pod, I was not happy...You see, that cell has been broken for the past three years, and no maintenance crew has ever been able to fix it. In fact, each time they make an attempt to fix it, they end up breaking something else, and we've taken to calling that cell “The Beast”, because maintenance workers are chewed up and spat out every single time they try and fix it.
For whatever reason, though, each time a crew tries to fix it, it gets listed in the Major's Office as “Fixed”, and they try to move someone into that cell, only to have to move them right back out again! I wanted to avoid that problem, so I asked the guy in the dayroom, an older black dude we call “Old School”, to get the guard's attention and ask them to come and talk to me, so I could address this issue before things spun out of hand. Old School, whilst being a friendly and jovial guy, has the attention span of a fruit fly, and each time he'd go to yell for the Officer, he would be distracted by something else, and would not do what I needed him to do. It was turning into an epic fail and I was getting frustrated.
Finally, I was able to talk to the two Pod Officers, and I said, “Look...just last week they tried to move someone into that cell. The toilet was broken and they had to move him right out and into another cell. I'm not moving into a broken cell.” One of the officers replied, “Well, we were told it was fixed.” I said, “They say that every single time! Whoever is doing these moves is not black tagging these broken cells! Look, there's 20 empty cells on this pod...I will go into any other cell EXCEPT that one. Please...”.
The female officer, an older woman, and actually really nice, said, “Okay. Calm down. We'll go and check it and if it is broken, we'll see if we can put you in another cell.”
“Thank you”, I said.
About 30 minutes pass and they come back around, and she says, “Well, it really does look like they fixed it this time. We flushed the toilet, checked the sink and lights, and everything seems fine”. I took her at her word, and told her that as long as that was the case, I would move into the cell...So, I thought at that moment I was going to 8 cell, until another 20 minutes later, the guards came back to my cell and said, “Nope. Scratch that. Water is coming out and flooding onto the run. We'll contact someone and get you moved to another cell.” Meanwhile, I'm thinking, they just need to turn that cell into a broom closet, because no one can seem to fix it...
Now it's about 9.15pm when a move crew comes in to move me. I asked the guard, a young, 21-year-old, hot-headed-knuckle-head, “Where am I going?”, and he tells me I'm going to 8 cell...I take a deep breath and calmly say, “No, I am not. That cell is broken; you can talk to the Pod Officers and check.” His face turns beet red and he says, “There's nothing wrong with that cell. Are you refusing to move?”
“No...But I'm not going to that cell. I'm requesting to talk to a ranking officer to resolve this matter.”
Once I do this, by policy, they are supposed to inform a ranking officer that I want to talk to them and they're supposed to come and de-escalate a potential situation, should it spin out of control. Often, rank is refused, and this is primarily one of the number one reasons the guards have to do a “use of force”, because of the lack of communication between an inmate and the guards. A lot of the guards feel like because they are “the authority”, it's weak to “cave in” to an inmate's request, even though it's clear policy that they are supposed to do whatever it takes to de-escalate a problem.
Instead, he yells, “I checked the cell! You're going to effing move to that cell!” Again, I calmly said, “I'm requesting a sergeant or lieutenant to resolve this matter.”
He gets pissed and starts yelling, “I'm tired of all you effing cry babies!”, and he stomps off and slams the gate. This riled up my neighbour, and he starts cussing at the guard, and I had to tell him to chill out and not make matters worse. But I was just amazed that the guard called me a “cry baby”, and he was the one who stomped off like a petulant child.
Fortunately, about that same time, a Sergeant showed up on the pod to pass out the printed Jpay emails, and when he came to my cell, I told him about the situation (which he had no clue about! Again, highlighting the lack of communication problem in this place) and I said, “If you check it and say it's fine, I'll take your word and move to that cell, but I am not going to move into a broken cell.” He assures me he'd check and we'd go from there.
About an hour later the hot headed guard showed back up and said, “You're going to 78 cell.” I was thinking, “Wow...was it really that difficult to resolve?”
I got settled in and didn't get to sleep until after midnight. I woke up this morning at about 5.25am to get ready for recreation outside...I went out, but because I was exhausted, I got my butt kicked at basketball, so I came in and did my laundry, ate lunch, took a nap, and now I'm typing this.
I do like this cell, but I probably won't be in it very long because across 12 building they're installing new shower doors – pretty fancy ones too! When they install the two doors to each section, they're moving all of the inmates to another section. They've completed B-Pod and F-Pod, and one of the guards said they could be here next week. But for now, I'm cool.