April 2007 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 "We tend to see a person in the moment, not as the journey they travelled to get here."  Kat Lehmann

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April 30th, 2007
(Warning: contains foul language)

It's the last day of the month and then May is here. April really flew by! I'm actually looking forward to May. Don't ask me why, it just feels like it's going to be good. Many of my friends' birthdays are in May, and you've got Mothers Day, Cinco De Mayo (which always means a good meal on that day). It's when we start getting a few slices of watermelon every now and then as well. And my friend David is coming this Thursday and Friday to visit. I'm excited about the month.

Man, my brain is just going crazy with ideas today. I've been writing pretty much non-stop since ten in the morning and it's 3:11pm right now...I've got so much more to write! Actually, I just got done writing a couple of articles for an anti dp movement. Now I'm doing my journal. I'm a mad man! I feel like a dam in my mind has been blasted open...I'm rambling...I promise I've only had one cup of coffee earlier this morning.

Right now it looks gorgeous outside. It was forecast to rain and I thought it might actually do so, because it was so overcast. It's pretty warm, too. I should turn on my fan. Rambling again.

So, today I was going to share another prison story. To be honest, I don‟t know if I've written this one in my journal or not. I've told it to a few of my friends, so maybe that's why it feels rehashed, but it's a pretty ugly, but powerful one to tell about the machinations of life in general population…I think I was about twenty years old. I'd only been on the Conally Unit for about three or four months and I was starting to get an idea of how everything really was in a real prison. A month of so earlier we had gotten off a summer long lockdown after a huge gang fight broke out in the dormitory and a couple of inmates had been killed by having their head bashed by cans of mackeral (they've since done away with all canned foods that were sold) that were placed in socks and used as weapons. I remember looking out the window of my cell and watching as a nurse walked alongside a gurney with what appeared to be a Hispanic guy, his head split open. After that incident the entire prison was placed on lock down.

My cell mate was a black guy they called “Psycho”. We actually got along fairly well and spent the time on lock down bonding and playing scrabble and “Battle Ship”. I didn't have a radio of my own, so he would let me listen to it late at night and when he took naps. I always thought that was really cool. Psycho had a few mental problems, though and I had to get used to them. It was the first time I'd ever been housed with a guy like him, but I learned to deal with it. One example of his mental health issue was that he would sprinkle cum all over the toilet seat, but then not clean it off. So if I had to use the bathroom and it was very urgent, I'd have to dance around and clean the seat of the toilet before messing myself. It got frustrating at times and I'd ask him to not do that, but what could you do? We're in prison and you can't tell another man what to do. He also used to cut words out of magazines and label things all over the cell with the various words. I drew the line at bringing spiders and other insects in from working in the fields though.

During this time that he was my cell mate, a guy had loaned a magazine to me. While I was in the dayroom watching T.V. he asked if he could get his magazine back. I said sure and went up stairs and asked Psycho to hand me the magazine. He grabbed it from under my bunk and slid it to me under the door. “preciate it, Celly.” I said and left to return it to the guy and resumed watching T.V. Not long after that, the guy that loaned me the magazine came up to me very upset. “What the fuck happened to my magazine? It's all cut up.” He said. “Dude, what are you talking about? I didn't do shit to it.” I said. “Man, I was flipping through it and it's cut up, here look at it.” He handed me the magazine and I flipped through it. I noticed that words had been cut out of various pages. My stomach dropped. “Dude, my celly did this. I'll go talk to him". I said. “No, I'll go to talk to him. He fucked up.” “Dude, it was my responsibility. I'll go ask him. Calm down.” I said.

I went back upstairs and asked my cellmate about the words being cut out. He immediately denied it. As I was talking to him, the upset guy came up behind me and started raising his voice, cussing Psycho out. From the point of the day room it looked like two white guys trying to check a black dude and a few black guys playing dominos didn't like this at all. One of them came up the stairs to ask what was going on and that two white boys wouldn't be checking a black guy. I explained to the black guy what happened and told him it was my problem. Then, I told the magazine owner that he needed to let me handle things before he started a freakin' riot. I was trying to be as calm and diplomatic about the situation as possible. This had every potential of turning into something huge and it didn't need to be like that. I was scared as hell and never had been in this situation. I wasn't street smart and if pushed too far I could easily become angry myself.

“Look, Psycho. You're the only person I know who cuts words out of magazines. Just admit it and replace the magazine. That'll be it. It's all I'm asking. This guy is very pissed right now. I'm responsible.
“I didn't do it.” He replied.
“Yeah, you did. Damn, why are you being so difficult?”
All of a sudden Psycho erupted. “Fuck you, bitch! White son of a bitch. Get the fuck away from me!” He yelled this so loud that everyone in the day room had looked up at me and a few guys whispered something amongst themselves. He had just disrespected me in front of a whole bunch of people which was not good. To be honest, I was shocked, turned around and went back downstairs. When I got back to the day room some white guys approached me.
“Say, Randy you gonna let that guy talk to you like that? What's up with that?”  
“Man, don't talk to me like that. He's my celly, he's just troubled. He's having an episode.”
“Dude he just disrespected you in front of everyone. You don't check him and someone is going to think you're a punk and then next thing you know dude's will be grabbing your ass.” Said another white guy. I felt cornered. It was already hard enough being Jewish, the last thing I needed was to worry about people trying to take my ass. I had no choice. I had to fight him.
“When they roll the doors, I'll go fight him.” I said sounding unsure to myself.
“Yeah, that's good Randy. Go earn your respect.” I notice the little group of white people watching me as I walked upstairs; the black guys watched me as if thinking I had pussy, as they say.

I went back upstairs and my cell mate was pacing back and forth nervously. “Say, Psycho, when they roll the doors, just stay in the cell. We have to fight.”
“Aww, Randy, man, I apologize. Okay. I cut up the magazine. I'll replace it. Tell him I'll give him my radio.”
“Dude, I don't want to fight you either, but I have no choice. You disrespected me in front of everyone. My hands are tied.”

The cell door opened and I went into the cell. I noticed a couple of guys came upstairs to my cell and stood outside it to make sure we fought. I put up my towel in the window so no one could see inside from the control center and then I said, “C‟mon, celly, let's get this over with.” He understood and so we began to swing at each other. I remember it lasting only a minute or so and I had a busted lip. I pulled the cell door down and the guys confirmed we fought. I apologized to my cell mate and he apologized to me and we both agreed to just let it go. I told him, “Do not give that guy your radio, it's not worth that. Give him a few snacks to replace the magazine so we can squash this crap. Okay?”

About an hour later, they opened the cell doors back up and I was able to go back into the dayroom. People, whites and blacks were shaking my hand for fighting. It was the oddest thing in the world. Just an hour earlier everyone was looking at me like they wanted to kill me, now guys were saying I had their respect. I remember thinking how pitiful it was that people had to fight to be respected, but I then realized that prison is a rude awakening. I did learn an important lesson in politics, though.

Wild, huh?

Dinner has just arrived, so I will close here. I'm actually going to knock out a few exercises, take a bird bath and then eat my yummy beans. I think I've written enough for the day. Oh, before I close I'd like to suggest some required reading. This will really open your eyes on some other aspects of the death penalty. The book is called Deadly Speculation: Misleading Texas Capital Juries With False Predictions Of Future Dangerousness. You can get this book at www.texasdefender.org.


April 29th, 2007

It's Sunday afternoon as I type this. It looks gorgeous out my window, with sunlight pouring into my cell. I woke up this morning at about 8:30 A.M. and started my day. I kept telling myself to exercise, but then the lazy part of my brain said, “nah, you've got all day to do it.” Finally I had to override Mr. Sloth and say, “Listen fat ass, you're going to exercise right now.” Turned out to be really good. Intense. Though, my back is a little tender right now.

Other than that, I've just been doing laundry and listening to the radio. Just thought I'd drop in and say, “Howdy” so.. Howdy.


April 27th, 2007

Got to go outside today. Man, did it feel nice. We played some basketball and I've really got to get good again. I lost 14 to 10. Ugh. I can't believe that I've gotten so bad. I mean, last year I was unbeatable. What happened? Either everyone got better or I just really suck. Sheesh. I think from here on out, I'm going to beg and plead the guards to get outside as much as possible. I really need to practice. I'm just going to start calling everyone I know out and challenging them. I'll trash talk everyone I know just to get them riled up so we can play...Yeah, that's what I'm going to do.

I can't believe the weekend is here already, and May is only a few days away. Craziness. So, today I heard on NPR that there's some Texas law maker trying to speed up the appeals process for anyone who's a so called “Cop Killer”. What upset me about the report is how he gave complete inaccurate statistics on the time it takes a current appeal for any inmate after about 1996. They had already stream lined the process under an anti-terrorism bill that was put into place so that they could execute Timothy McVeigh faster, after the Oklahoma City Bombings. Texas took full advantage of this law to kill it's own. If you look at the execution list from those who received the death penalty from about 1996, the appeals process has taken about 6 to 7 years tops. This guy claimed that the process takes about 12 plus years which just isn't true. Maybe on a national average, but not in Texas. Not only is this wrong, but it is only going to ensure that more innocent people will be  killed. I'm hoping the other congress people of Texas will realize that.  

You know, this is how blood thirsty the state of Texas is; most of the country has either abandoned the death penalty or slowed it down, while Texas is dug in and is trying to find quicker and better ways to kill people. It's sick. I mean, the Dallas Morning Newspaper has come out against the death penalty. There's a bit of a scandal going on in Harris County (Houston) in which a guy that was back here has received a new trial on grounds that none of his DNA matched the DNA of that found on the evidence...What happens when he's brought back to Harris County for the trial? The evidence that the prosecutors are sure will find him not guilty, is mysteriously gone missing and can't be found. How sickening is that? And so the Texas legislature still wants to find new ways to execute people?


April 26th, 2007

Tonight I've been thinking about a couple of things. I received a couple of emails that sent my heart and mind in two different directions. One email was from an old babysitter of me and my brother's and it brought back so many memories I had actually long forgotten. It was crazy. Even if I'm not sure if some of the memories were from the same babysitter or not. She did remind me of how she would let us stay up past our bed time watching movies and such until mom and dad got home. The way we could tell when they got home was the electric garage door. It would make this loud hum that would reverberate all through the house. That's when I'd take off running to my room and jump in bed. Shortly after I'd hear my dad and mom come in and ask how her night was. It's nice to know that people from a past that happened so long ago can actually remember you. You go through life thinking you are not even a blip on another's radar screen and turn out to be more than you thought.

The other email was a valid opinion against the death penalty, but I still feel they've got it all wrong. The only point I will concede with him on is when he said, “You can sit in prison, play ball...lay down - anything. The other person's life taken can do nothing and their families are left with nothing.” He's absolutely correct in this sentiment. I do deal with the guilt of that, and while I'm not a killer, I often think that our complaints about life back here are not valid, because there are victims of crimes who have nothing. There are people throughout this world with nothing, and here I am with many things. I never want to portray my life as me having a grand old time, because often it plain sucks. And that's not out of feeling sorry for myself, but because it's an existence. Nothing more, nothing less. We're kept alive and frozen in time until the day it's time to go. Also, my intentions in my writings and my fight against the death penalty is not to have people feel sorry for me or anyone else on Death Row; if I've done that, then I've failed completely in my intentions. My only point is to show that we are still human beings. So, that's what's on my mind tonight.

The day has been so-so. It would have been nice to go outside and get some sun. Instead, I just exercised in the day room and talked to a few guys on that section.

Time to get some shut eye.  


April 25th, 2007

Went to rec. Ate some cookies my neighbor shared with me and not much else.

Mind is blank.


April 24th, 2007

I'm settling down for the night. I am so tired. About two hours ago I was moved to another cell and cleaning it up. I was pretty sure I was going to get moved earlier, so I had already packed my things up. Then at about six in the evening it was time for me to go outside and get my recreation. At the same time I was told by another guard that I was getting moved. That worked out pretty good for me.

Outside we played a couple of quick games of ball and did some exercising. It looked like it was going to pour, but the wind felt so good. I could've stayed out there all night. When I got on the next pod and right outside my cell, some guy in a real hostile voice yelled from his door, “Hey, who are you, what's your name?” The tone of the voice put up my guard, so I went to a defensive tone myself and said, “Randy.” “Randy who?” The voice said back. Now, this guy had his light out in his cell, so I couldn't see who it was. I was thinking that it must be some new guy who thought he was billy bad ass. I said, “Just Randy. What are you the police?” Then, the voice changed and he started laughing, “Calm down Randy, it's me! I'm just yanking your chain. Don't get mad!” I admit, I was getting a little irritated by the tone of the voice, but it just turned out to be a dude I was cool with. The joke was on me.

Not much has happened today. Been thinking a lot, but not been able to get things down on paper. I don't know why, but I have all of these ideas for things to write, but every time I try I just go blank. It's been like this since last August…

Guess I'll close here and brush my teeth, wash my face and go to sleep.


April 23rd, 2007

It's 7:00pm Monday night, and they're still running recreation and doing showers, though I've already had mine earlier today. The sun is setting, but it's not too spectacular tonight, as it's very grey outside. It looks like it might rain. I'm sitting here typing waiting for my favorite T.V. show to come on, “Heroes”. I can't see what's going on in it, but the story line is so good I can pretty much guess what's happening, plus I've read several magazines that help fill in the visual blanks.

I went outside today. The guy I went out with didn't want to play basketball, but would exercise with me so that's pretty much what we did for the time. I talked him into jogging with me for a bit. I said, “C'mon, just fifteen minutes. You can handle that.” He argued, “I'm only good for five. If that.” He didn't bring his watch out, but I did so I kept track of the time. He kept saying “Let me know when we get to five minutes..” As the time wore on he was pretty much squealing, “I know my time is up! Please!” I kept saying, “Almost there, almost five minutes.” When he looked like he was going to pass out I told him he ran for eleven minutes. He collapsed on the concrete and just laid there. It was so funny.

I came back in and have been reading and thinking. I heard on the radio that some guy went on a shooting spree in some apartment complex in Houston. Then, as it seems to be the standard practice after killing a bunch of folks, he killed himself. Life these days just seems to get more insane each minute. I think America in general has some real anger issues and until we can find a way to get past this and find true inner peace, then we're going to keep on having these shootings and all of this violence.  

I remember reading some Sigmund Freud a while back and he was talking about how societies manifest things such as fear, and violence. He even went on so far as to say that religion was a manifested insanity of sorts, but I disagree with the latter idea. I do think our culture may indeed be manifesting this violence and anger, as it seems to be  spreading like a virus. Saddening and crazy.


April 17th - April 22nd, 2007 (in summary)

The past week was very boring and to be honest, depressing...

Tuesday I was moved to A-pod and it's not too bad up here. Last summer I got into it with this guy who's my current neighbor. He's a jerk, but I was shocked when he actually apologized for what happened last year. We don't talk too much, but it's nice to not have to avoid him all together.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all I pretty much did was read and go to rec. The weather has been really nice all week long and I got to go outside on Thursday. It was a pretty sunrise. Friday I relaxed and listened to a movie. Saturday was long and boring. My highlight was listening to a marathon of the T.V. show “Heroes” and then some music. I was going to stay up late and listen to this midnight movie, but passed out about a quarter of the way through. I woke up, cleaned up and have been listening to the radio and doing laundry.

Right now as I type this, dinner is being passed out and I've got my first batch of laundry hanging to dry. I've put my fan underneath it to speed up the process.

Guess I'll finish up here and kick back and wait on my dinner.


April 16th, 2007

I'm taking a break from doing laundry right now. I've got one set (a t-shirt and shorts) drying right now and another two shirts soaking in my sink. Since today our section doesn't recreate I figured I'd get caught up on everything. It's gorgeous outside, and if I knew what direction I was facing I'd say “out to the south or north...” Haha, but really in the distance is a green pasture where normally horses would be grazing, but I can‟t see any. There are a few hawks gliding around, probably scanning the fields for a small snack. It's pretty interesting to watch.

Last night I listened to an awesome documentary called “America At A Cross Roads” on PBS. It's going to be six parts, and it started off talking about where the roots of Al Qae-da started. It also got into Islamic fundamentalism. Very fascinating stuff. What made it more interesting is that when the U.S. defeated the Taliban after 9/11 (which most of the Muslim world and had condemned) we had actually had the upper hand in “The war on terror.” When the U.S. invaded Iraq it was seen as a power grab and most of the world shunned the invasion. It fueled Muslim Extremism and we played into the hands of people such as Bin Laden. Tonight's second part will focus on Iraq. Some theorize that Al Qaeda's strategy now is to slowly bleed the U.S. out by stretching our fighting forces beyond capacities, because we'll chase them around anywhere, “like cowboys”, Bin Laden said. Eventually we will have no money to fight, nor the soldiers or Americans hearts. (Which is what is happening). Crazy stuff.

It's really loud right now. I just have one more day on this pod - hopefully! I'll be glad to move. It's now 7:26pm, and at 5pm I heard the news about the 32 students killed by a shooter at Virginia Tech. University. Just horrible. What is it inside of us that causes a snap deep within? What is it that creates a fissure so deep and jagged that separates us from our true selves? As I listened to the news reports, tears streamed down my face. What is happening to our humanity, not only as a country, but as a world? Is this our fate? To separate spiritually and regress into animals? I've been there, I know what it feels like to fall apart and lash out at everyone around me. But I also faced myself and knew this wasn't who I was - an animal…Something in our society and culture needs to change. I'm all for gun control. I despise guns, but it has to be deeper than that. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We have to ask questions and not be afraid of the answers…

Just random thoughts bouncing around my head right now. The sun is setting; a mixture of white and grey clouds washed against a sky of orange, violet, and blue. Perfect in its beauty but underneath, God's imperfect servants waiting for sleep.


April 15th, 2007

Yesterday was mostly a rainy day. I went to recreation and walked around and then came back in and ate some mixed nuts. I passed the day reading and then listened to a concert of the band “Garbage” on PBS. When I woke up this morning it was very chilly, but sunshine was pouring through my window. I've been cleaning out some junk, 'cause rumor has it we're going to be on lock down any day now. I should be exercising, but I keep putting it off. I'll do it later on. I mean, I've got all day, right? Really, I'm going to exercise...I mean it!

Tonight I want to listen to this documentary on PBS that‟s supposed to be really good called “America At A Cross Road” It starts off with the 9/11 incident and goes into our perception of the world and how the world perceives Americans. I'm actually looking forward to it. I love a good documentary.

Guess I'll stop here. Not much else happening around these parts.


April 13th, 2007

My attorney showed up today and things seem to be about the same. We have so much stuff that will help me out just growing and growing. I don't want to be too optimistic, because this is Texas and trust me anything can happen, but I feel good. I want to trust the system and that things will work out, but really only time will tell. I'm really tired and so I think I will take a nap.


April 11th, 2007

It's loud right now. It's been loud since I first stepped on E-pod. I was going to go to recreation, but I think I'm just going to pass for now. I'm going to ask the guard for a shower as soon as I see him. I can't believe how loud it is...I have my headphones on right now, turned all the way up and can still hear the madness…


April 10th, 2007

Today has been cursed. I got up at six all hyped up and ready to go. I got almost a full eight hours of sleep which is rare for me. I turn on the radio, and I get ready for going outside. The weather report was still the same. What happens as soon as I step outside? It rains. The 30% chance of rain fell on us. We were stuck outside in cold rain for two hours. When I came back in I dried off and waited for my shower. I got my shower before lunch, but when lunch comes what do I do? Knock the tray off my desk, after tripping on my headphone cord and spill it all over me and my cell. Beans, cream corn and spinach everywhere. Lovely. On top of that, they tell me I'm getting moved to the ad-seg pod. I didn't care at first, thinking it would be as calm as it was four months ago. Wrong. It's a complete mad house here. In fact, as I write this at 12:34am some dude is screaming, “Fuck you fuckers!” over and over. Why, I do not know, but I feel like I've entered an insane asylum, or the twilight zone, or something else just as crazy. Oh well. I guess I'll stuff some toilet paper in my ears and try to get to sleep. Try..


April 9th, 2007

Monday. Didn't do much all day long, I was waiting for a new comedy show to come on NBC so that I could listen to it and see if it was any good. Turned out to be great. But what I really wanted to listen to was a documentary on PBS about Jim Jones, the cult leader back in the '70s. That was very scary stuff. This guy recorded everything he did up to the very last minute in which he killed (murder/ suicide..) most of his followers. It was horrible to listen to all of these people screaming and crying after some had drank the kool aid. But his calm and patient voice is what freaked me out the most. All of these people are dying around him and he's calm, serene like. Frightening. I hope I don't get any nightmares...

I'm winding it down for the night. I have to get up early and go play some ball. The weather report predicted warm and sunny. I can't wait. I'll miss most of the sunshine though, as I'm going out at six. Ugh!


April 8th, 2007

The weather here is insane right now...Last night I went to sleep and it was cold. In the middle of the night I had to get up and put my jacket on because it was about 30 degrees, and we had cold air coming out the air vents. Imagine sleeping in a meat locker. That's what it felt like. Just Friday it was in the '70s...Sheesh.

You know, a lot of the global warming nay sayers are retards for real...I heard this program this morning and one of these yahoos says, “Well, if it's so called global warming, why then is the country having record lows?” Because, you moron, when the atmosphere changes it sets off different reactions in the weather system. You're never going to have the same conditions all over the globe. One part might be freezing, another part unseasonably hot, another part with torrential rains, hurricanes, tornados..Various weather fronts clash..That's why it's like it is. Pick up a science book for crying out loud!

Anyways, it's still cold and a very boring day.


April 3rd, 2007

I went outside and played some ball with my neighbor. I think in a previous entry I mentioned how he's one of the best players on Death Row…We played for an hour and I was slaughtered. Out of 20 games I won 2. Two games! Oh well. It did feel so good to run in that cool morning air. The sun came out after we played and we got about an extra hour outside. The sun felt so nice towards the end of my recreation time. I made up my mind; as long as the guards approve it, I'm going to try to get outside more often. I figure since not as many people have been going to rec., it shouldn't be too difficult.  

I've been wanting to write about a growing trend amongst Death Row prisoners who are about to be executed. More and more are refusing to walk to their deaths. Some have actually put up fights (which I don't condone, but do respect actually) some just make them carry them. People have mixed feelings about these methods, as they don't see the whole picture...They say, “Why do that? Why not go out peacefully or respectfully?” I've known true Christians who ultimately accepted their fate but still have refused to walk to their own deaths. One, it shows that you simply accept your murder and two, by carrying you to the gurney - it makes guards that might have just watched you die - actual hands on accomplices. The psychological possibilities long term have to be astounding. Maybe this view is extreme to some, but I see it as if you don't challenge their own morals and values then you are telling them it's okay to kill you. Imagine being a guard and having to carry a man to his death….I doubt it'd be a light hearted dinner topic, unless you were just sick hearted in the first place. So, I think it's great that more and more of us aren't walking to our deaths…I know I won't be.

3:31pm...Just got back from the shower. Man it felt good! I need to wash my exercise clothing. Then get ready to move - I have a hunch I'll be moving tonight. After I get all of that finished I'll finish reading this excellent book I started yesterday. I've only got 40 pages left. It's a coming of age story called "The Highest Tide". I found it at the bottom of my book bag. I could've sworn I had read it a while back, but didn't.

Anyways, I guess I'll close here.  Oh yeah: Happy Passover!


April 2nd, 2007

It's 6:33am...I'm about to go to recreation, but before I do I wanted to write about this dream I had before I woke up. It was very bizarre. I'm working in a large field; there were stars like diamonds in the sky and I watch myself appear maybe 200 yards away. A bright UFO like thing circling around. Then another UFO popped up and it headed straight for me watching everything. I panicked, but it suddenly flew off and disappeared. Suddenly fireworks began to explode everywhere. I mean, fourth of July style! Bright and vivid. I thought, “Why on earth are fireworks going off in the middle of the night?” A split second later (or what felt like a split second anyways). I was back at home talking to my mom and I asked what was around to eat. She told me to look in the fridge so I do. Inside is a whole bunch of T.V. dinners, frozen burritos etc. I dig around and I pull out a clear plastic baggy, but in the shape of Garfield The Cat…That's all I can remember. Strange dream. Gotta go to recreation. I shall return..

Just got back. I did a light workout and jogged for a bit, but because I didn't get up for breakfast, now I'm pretty hungry. Yummy beans! I had an idea for a story pop up while I was out at recreation based on my school years in Kentucky. It sprang from telling this guy about how we had to attend chapel services everyday during school. The sermons were boring and it would take all the will in the world to keep from falling asleep. Sometimes I'd jerk awake from the back of my head hitting the backboard of the pew, or I'd fall into whoever I was sitting next to. Sometimes I'd daydream or if I was lucky enough to sit next to a girlfriend, she'd have my attention.

Going into school breaks were just as bad. Very anticlimactic…Like, regular public school kids would watch the clock with anticipation, waiting for the school bell to ring. The end of the semester…We had a sermon that bored us to pieces. When it ended and the closing prayer was uttered you were just relieved it was over with.

Out of that, I came up with this paragraph as an opener from a story idea I had: It's fictional, but based on reality...

"Most school years end with a bell; mine ended with a sermon. I sat still trying everything I could to keep from falling asleep. I was paranoid that the president of the school had his eyes zeroed in on me as he sat in his chair next to the pastor's pulpit. I looked around the chapel to see a sea of students simplified by pure boredom as the chaplain rambled on about salvation and summer. Suddenly I imagined Jesus, the Christ, in a two piece bathing suit, long brown hair and cheeks sun kissed by the sun, swinging in an old truck tire high above a sparkling swimming hole. I began to chuckle to myself. “What‟s so funny?” A kid next to me whispered. “Nothing...Just laughing at my own irreverence.” I replied".

That's what I came up with while out on rec. I wonder if I can turn it into something? Hmmm. It's now 1:51pm, and I just came back from a nice shower, popped a butterscotch candy in my mouth and I'm about to pick up a book and read until I'm either told to pack up and move, or mail comes…


April 1st, 2007

April Fools Day. I think we all feel like fools on Death Row so no practical jokes are played. I went to bed last night at about 2am, and woke back up to exercise at 8:30am. I was very careful not to hurt my back. If I'm here on this pod on Tuesday, my neighbor promised he'd go outside with me to play some basketball. I don't want to get too excited as he stood me up last time. I don't know why people haven't been exercising as much or wanting to play ball. It's this damn isolated environment. It's breaking people down and that's scary.  

Yesterday at recreation I kept smelling the stench of urine and feces. It was awful. I asked a guy where the putrid smell was coming from and he told me the cell. There are several things that immediately upset me about it (I suppose the natural reaction would be to say "what a nasty son of a bitch" or "old dirty ass bastard", and cuss the guy out for living that way. But it goes beyond living dirty) . From other accounts I've heard about this guy, he was clean and social, and a year or two ago he “flipped” and hasn't been the same since. I see it as a psychological manifestation and deserves proper treatment. Instead, the guards don't do anything to help nor does the psychiatric department. (What a farce!) Instead, they let him live like this. That is truly disgusting. I asked a guard passing by "Why don't y'all get him in the shower and have someone scrub his cell?‟ His reply was, “Well, if he wants to live that way let him. I ain't buying that crazy shit. He ain't crazy.” All of a sudden TDCJ guards have PhD's in psychiatry around this place...So, I see a growing trend of people withdrawing and not going to recreation, not showering, not exercising, and I suspect it will continue to worsen in this segregated environment. Heck, some days I feel like crap and don't want to do anything either.

It's now 8pm, and I just finished listening to that show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”. What a powerful show! I can't see what the house looks like, I can't see the tears of joy on the family's face, but still the emotional punch the show throws…I get all teary eyed! Programs like this allow me and others to feel human. When society labels us monsters - how many monsters do you know that cry listening to or watching extreme makeover?  In an environment and system designed to take away our humanity, it still shows up in the oddest places. It still dwells in our hearts. We may have done bad things, but that seed of goodness still exists. It just takes the right conditions to help it grow. I'm reminded of the movie (okay I'm going to show my dorkiness…) “Return Of The Jedi” when Luke Skywalker tries to talk Darth Vader into leaving the dark side, Darth Vader replies, “It is too late for me.” Luke says something like, “No, it‟s not too late for you. I still see goodness in you” Despite the fact that Darth Vader had chopped off Luke's hand...My point is that some of us want a chance to show and prove the goodness within us. It is there, it is alive, and to me that makes the Death Penalty senseless and useless.


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