To a select few people: I'm sorry. One day, you might find it in your heart to forgive me, as I've forgiven you. I just want to move on and be happy in my journey, and leave this mess behind me...
What a day! It's been hot and humid and just blah. As I type this, it's 5.28pm and they just had shift change. I went to recreation around noon and came back in after 3pm...Something odd happened out at rec: I was sitting at a table, lost in thought, when a booming voice (not the voice of G-d!) started yelling at me...
“Hey! Hey, day room guy!” I looked at the cells on one row to see who was calling at me and said, “Yeah? What's up?”
“Are you throwing snakes at me?” the voice said...
“Huh?” I asked
“Are you throwing snakes in my cell?” the voice demanded...
“No...I don't have any snakes to throw and I'd never throw snakes at anyone, anyways. I'm afraid of snakes”.
“Oh...” the voice answered. There was a slight pause and then, “You say you would never throw them at me?”
“No”, I said, “I don't even know who you are...”
Another voice jumped in from upstairs, a guy they call “Moe” and he cracked, “Hey, Randy, ever seen “Snakes On A Plane”?”
Turns out the guy was mentally ill...Weird exchange though. I've been accused of a lot of things, but never throwing snakes at someone!
There's this strange thing the mail room is doing with the Jpay service – the printed version of a prisoner email service...They're making us sign for them like certified mail because so many have gone missing, but it's the mailroom's fault, not the guards'! I don't think that this signing for Jpays is really going to solve anything, it only creates more work for the guards. But who knows, maybe it will work?
Just waiting on a shower now...I'm just so emotionally exhausted and stressed right now...Hopefully the negativity will burn itself out soon!
February 27th, 2018
Here's a funny exchange that I heard between a male guard and a female guard, as they were taking me out to recreation...
Female guard: “Have you seen the new “Black Panther” movie?
Male guard: “Yes. It was very good! Hollywood did a good job”.
Female guard: “Oh, it was so cool! One of the best movies I've seen in a very long time. Wakanda looks like one of the most beautiful places on earth! I would love to go there some day”.
Now there's an awkward pause, and I'm biting my lip to keep from busting out laughing because I know the “Black Panther” comic fairly well. The male guard looks at me and I shrug like, hey, I'm just an inmate! Then the dude says...
“Ummm...Wakanda is not a real place. It is make believe. But, if you want, you can travel there in your mind!”
That made me smile.
I got my butt handed to me today in basketball; I lost 23-7...It wasn't that I hadn't been shooting well – I was only ever 1-2 points behind him in most games, and we did have two overtime games. He just had more energy and I was feeling sluggish. I couldn't match his pace and speed.
The sunset tonight was kind of a dud...It was just a big yellow haze.
February 26th, 2018
After a very long and stressful weekend, I'm trying to pull myself back together...I feel like I was dragged by a pick up truck for a few hundred miles, then kicked and punched and dragged a bit more...Geeze, negative people can really drain you! I've been receiving some pretty nasty and emotionally hurtful mail, in response to a decision I made at the beginning of the new year. I knew it would hurt someone on an emotional level, but I had to be honest about my feelings, nonetheless. Even here on death row, we can only live our lives for ourselves, not for others, and just like what happens in free world relationships, you can find yourself in a situation where you can't reciprocate feelings that someone else may harbour for you...All you can do is continue to be honest and transparent with the other person.
So, I know over the past few years I've been adamant about being private if I ever got into a relationship, and saying that “No one would ever know!”...However, in light of recent events it has sort of forced my hand – if only to show that I'm not some kind of philandering S.O.B., because I'm not! I'm neither a player, nor a user, and in the years since my divorce I've been content and settled in the friendships – true friendships – I am lucky to have. Not those fly-by-night pen pal type of “friendships” that pop in and out of my life, nor those conditional types of friendships where things can go screwy when you want to make your own choices...do your own thing...But those true friendships I've built on gradually, over the years...Friendships where people support you, and don't judge you for the decisions and choices you make, and are happy for you when you find happiness for yourself. I've been lucky to find and hold onto those true and good friendships, and long may they continue!
For anyone keeping up with my journals and following my life, you will know how often I have expressed a deep emptiness...That feeling that I was missing something. I'd crack jokes about “I know it's not Jesus!” or whatever, but it bothered me for a long time, and I couldn't figure it out. I knew I'd been lacking in the spiritual department for quite some time, and even though I have always been a proud Jewish person, I am not “religious”. In fact, over the years, I'd become a bit standoffish with domestic principles...I've questioned faith and G-d and all that, but I've never not been a “believer”. I just don't believe in the same way that a lot of other people might think I should.
Anyway, I really wasn't sure what it was...There was stress over appeals, the environment I live in, the natural cycles of depression, but again...I wasn't sure that those things were at the root of me feeling the way I did. Then, last summer, I began exchanging letters with someone. At first, they were casual as a typical “pen pal” (I really hate the term “pen pal”, but in this example, I'll use it). As a starting point, we began with discussions about music, because that really is the topic I have the most passion for, and I'm most comfortable with. There was a real interest in reconnecting with music on her part, so I began suggesting songs (mostly The Cure ha ha) and building song lists for her. Then we talked about books, movies, politics, life in general...Letters went from a couple of pages to many pages, from a letter for letter exchange, to many a week...By December, I found myself getting anxious and eager for her letters.
As well as all that, you know what else I noticed? That empty feeling I'd been carrying around for years had vanished! Each one of her letters made me feel like I'd just tore up the buffet line at the Golden Coral!! Feelings were expressed by Christmas-time, but nothing was certain. Mail had slowed down to a trickle because of the holidays, which sucked! But I began to think about a conversation we had about life being a journey, but all too often, people get caught up in worrying about the destination...worrying about the future, which is something we have absolutely ZERO control over. I thought about that and quoted Yoda to her, from "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back"...When Luke, in his training, gets a glimpse of his friends in pain through the Force, and worries what might happen to them, Yoda tells him “Hmmm...Hard to see, the future it is always in motion”. So, why worry about the destination? Just enjoy the ride!...Nothing really matters but the present and being in the present.
Anyway, mail got even crazier in January when everything in Livingston came to a halt after a couple of days of freezing temperatures and ice. We both waited anxiously for mail...At this point, deeper feelings had been expressed on both sides, but because my mail wasn't getting to her, she was worried she had crossed a line and scared me off...And I also waited on her mail, responding to my letters. It was a mess! But when all of that sorted itself out, and after thinking long and hard about everything, discussing things thoroughly in our letters and weighing up the options (particularly making sure that she understood my situation and what could happen...) we decided to go for it! We began our journey!
So, here I am now, and I'm happy to say that I'm 100% in it and both dedicated and committed to HER, and I'm the HAPPIEST I've been in a very long time - YEARS - and on a VERY deep and emotionally fulfilling level. Of course it hasn't gone over well with some people, and that makes me sad...That being said, I can't do anything about how someone else feels about my right to make my own choices, and at times like this, you really do get a true picture of some of the people in your life...Things don't always work out the way we wish they would, but we must try to act reasonably and peacefully, even when someone else's choices hurt us. Life has no guarantees, even on this journey, but I'm embracing the present and living in the moment. If my happiness is what matters to some friends, then they should be happy for me, and I'm lucky to be able to say that my true friends are both happy and supportive of "us", as are her friends! With so much love and support and goodness behind us, I know we'll be just fine...
Anyway, that's all I will say on this topic because I want to keep things private between her and I.
Geeze, it's gotten sooooo loud here! How can one person make so much noise? Oh, dinner is here...I'll close this up and maybe write tomorrow.
February 23rd, 2018
I had planned on writing something yesterday, but was sidetracked when the guards told me at 5.30 pm that I was moving to another cell on the same pod that I've been on since right before Christmas...I don't know what it is about this pod, but I seem to get stuck on it for a long time every time I'm moved here...at least I have a really good view. I need to hang up an FM antenna on my window though, because the coax system we use for our radios is really poor over here...I'll do that in a bit. I'm just happy to have a good view of the outside after staring at the back side of another building for the past two months! The energy of the people around me is much more positive as well, and I'm not being facetious when I say that it's probably because I'm right in the middle of two Christian dudes. They're both pretty dedicated, and kind, and I'm down with that!
I was really shocked when the Governor granted a life sentence to Bart Whittaker. I'm happy for him, and especially for his father who fought so hard to save his life - the life of the very guy who tried to kill him. However, I stand by my entry from a couple of days ago that others wouldn't be as fortunate, but man...The real moral of this story is the power of forgiveness. I've not seen or talked to my family in 20 plus years, and there are many guys back here that have family disown/abandon them for lesser offences. I guess that is what can make this place so sad, if you let it. I've always had the utmost respect for the families that travel such long distances for visits with their son each week, or whenever they can. I can't imagine the emotional strain it puts on their hearts, but geeze, that is the definition of unconditional love! I would do anything to have the love of my family. I wouldn't even care if they fought for me or not. I just want to be able to sit across from my mom and dad and say, “I'm sorry and I love you.”
I was out at visitation yesterday meeting my new attorney, and after we talked about business and what was going to be done and what is to be expected, the conversation turned to the personal side of things...This really took me by surprise because often, it's ALL business! Attorneys can be cold and impersonal; I get it...they've got a job to do and I suppose it's a bit unprofessional to get “close” to your client. But in a death row prisoner's case, each and every one of us just wants to know and take comfort in feeling that they believe in the value of our life, and that they can see us as people, and not the “monsters” a lot of society makes us out to be...So, we began to talk about family and I told him, “No matter how my parents responded/reacted...no matter what they might have missed or gotten wrong in the raising of my brother and I, I still love them. I hold no animosity or hatred towards them. I will always love them.” It would be nice to have that love reciprocated, and even though they've missed the last 20 something years of my life, and I've been locked up longer than the amount of time they spent raising me, I still have a connection to them. I still have a love deep inside of me for them. I have always forgiven them, and I wish they'd just forgive me.
It was good to get out of my cell yesterday and meet the people who are working on my behalf; they gave me a bit of extra hope and I believe in them. Got to keep pouring that hopeful and positive energy into the universe!
I guess I'll stop here, get my antenna up, and kick back for the rest of the day.
February 21st, 2018
It's a very wet and stormy day. I was scheduled for recreation outside and then it was cancelled, then the cancellation was lifted, then back on...Finally, the officer said, “Do you just want to go to the day room?” I said “Sure”. After getting into a heated debate with someone over yesterday's journal topic, and how he couldn't understand the point I was trying to make about the unfairness in how clemency is decided, and the justice system as a whole...I headed to recreation slightly brooding...Actually, I was really quite upset! I intended exercising but instead just walked around in circles for two hours.
For the most part the day has just been kind of blah...Maybe it's the weather...Maybe I'm just ready to move off C-Pod. It seems every time I come to this pod in my move cycle, I end up getting stuck here. I really dislike this pod and the negative energy that surrounds it. Oh well, deal with it, right?
Here's an example of our Government's absolute stupidity...The brave teenagers that survived the school shooting in Florida were on their way to talk to the Florida state legislators about gun control. Before the kids arrived, the house voted AGAINST a resolution that would've opened up a debate for gun control, and instead voted for a bill that addresses the health risk that pornography is having on Florida citizens...WTF? Is there, like, a mass number of people dying from masturbation? Did I miss something? I didn't notice prisoners dropping like flies all around me from this problem! And there's enough masturbation energy to power entire cities in prisons! Could help the energy crisis!
Don't really have much to say today...
February 20th, 2018
At the time of writing this, I'm in the middle of having a new website set up, so I'm not sure when this will be posted...A set of unfortunate events have transpired, and all I can say is I'm hurt and disappointed that those involved in posting my writings (up to now) have decided to act in a very hurtful and immature way towards me. I expected better. That being said, I will always be grateful for the help I've had. I would also like to say thank you to the true friends who literally dropped everything in order to get me up and running again with a new website...I am eternally grateful for all your help in getting me back on my feet!
After much soul searching over the last few weeks, I'd like to pose this question to people involved in a prisoner's life, or with a person on death row: What was your ultimate intention? If things don't go your way, or you don't have the control you want or expect over that individual's life (some of us have desires and minds of our own, and we're not all birds with broken wings, or automatons) then why did you actually get involved in their life? If all that the prisoner offered to you was transparency, openness, and honesty (something you always said you appreciated and respected) then why react in such a vile way that is both vengeful and hurtful? Did you really want to be a friend and encourage the prisoner, support them, and help save their life? Or did you expect more, or something in return?
In the many years I've been on death row, I've seen the most ardent of so-called “Anti Death Penalty Activists” go completely batty – almost to the point of wanting to plunge the needle into the condemned person themselves, and all because something THEY want or expect doesn't go their way, or they can't have what they demand from that inmate. Makes me wonder are they in it for the right reasons...? If you say you're anti-death penalty, doesn't that mean you're anti-vengeance? So, why react to situations outside of your control, with...vengeance??? Life happens, life is messy, and imperfect – it's freakin' complicated! We can't always guess what will happen or where our hearts will lead us, but it doesn't mean that you've got to scorch the earth when things don't go your way. We've got to behave better than that as a species. Shouldn't we (as part of the anti-death penalty movement) promote understanding, love, and the ability to react peacefully to something, no matter how much the situation might hurt us? Shouldn't we be the example to others, and not behave in a way that is contrary to what the anti-death penalty movement is about? It's okay to feel hurt – my life is filled with being hurt...I suffer, and then I move on. I don't try to make others suffer with me...And as I always say, vengeance is NEVER the answer!
So, what is on my mind today? Where to even begin? I've had this really conflicting thought working its way around my noggin. It came from hearing the news about the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole voting in favour of granting clemency to Bart Whittaker and commuting his death sentence to life without parole.
Now, don't misunderstand me here...I'm thrilled, if not surprised that they did, but I had to pause and really think about this and what it represents in terms of EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW, particularly after my neighbour said to his neighbour, “I guess I gotta be rich and white to have my ass saved.”
It was no secret that Whittaker came from a family of wealth and influence, and whilst he was sentenced to death by a jury of his so-called “peers”, I wonder why so many poor/poor minorities never were granted clemency themselves – even after some of their victims' family members have come out and said, “Don't kill this man in my name!” What distinction was made in their cases that made them more eligible for death? These are hard and tough questions you must ask yourself.
Granted, there's no guarantee that Governor Greg Abbott will uphold the Board's decision – I think this is his first time since being Governor of Texas that he's been faced with such a choice. I will be shocked if he decides in favor of clemency, especially in an election year. But if he does decide to grant clemency, we really need to think about WHY he decided to do so. What makes Whittaker an exception? Numerous victims' families have begged the state to not kill in their name! Is he less dangerous than anyone else back here? Not if you take a Jury's word for it...They've got to answer “yes” to a specific threat of future dangerousness to give a death sentence, and every single one of us sitting on death row had that stamped in big bright red letters on our foreheads! No “yes”, no death penalty.
Is it then an issue of personal culpability? I don't think his case is a typical “Law of Parties” case, but maybe some would differ. Personally, I feel there is a HUGE difference between a person robbing a store with his buddy, and not intending to harm a single soul, only to then have the buddy kill someone unexpectedly, because the INTENT was not there, as opposed to handing some cash to a couple of people and telling them “Go wipe those fellas out. There's more cash for you when you get the job done.” I'd say there was a shit ton of intent and equal culpability between them and the killer.
All that being said, I do have an issue with the sentencing, when it isn't equal, and this is one of the strongest arguments against the death penalty in my opinion. How is justice equal under the eyes of the law when one Jury can sentence the actual shooter/killer to a life sentence, but a different Jury sentence the non-shooter/killer to death? I'm surprised that a lot of people don't see a problem with that, shrug their shoulders and say, “Hey, it ain't a perfect system, but it's the one we've got.”
Again, you have to ask yourself why – why did the Parole Board rule in his favor? Why are they not ruling the same for many others? This question demands an answer. When my neighbor made that statement it really messed my head up. I mean, up until that point I hadn't really considered the influence issue, I just thought, “man...so many guys back here deserve to have their sentence commuted – they way the Board have voted is so arbitrary!” I believe it's been over a decade since the Board's last “yes” vote, and Governor Perry went against it anyway. It just begs the question “why even have a review board if the Governor can just rule against it?
Anyways, food for thought...
Since my last entry (was it New Year's Day?) I've had so many things happen with my life. It's been really topsy turvy, but mostly good topsy turvy. There have been minor stresses, but I'm handling them...for the most part! I've got to get this having no control over things “thing” under control, but otherwise, I'm rolling with the punches. A lot of my focus has been on hope...My girl recently said to me, “Hope is the conduit for miracles” and I've been meditating on those words. Honestly, I think my spirituality in recent months has strengthened. I've been praying more and not just for my life to be saved; there is that – yes – but I've also been praying for calmness, acceptance of things outside of my control...For courage, strength, and hope. To enjoy the journey and not get so hung up on the destination with all facets of my life. And whilst I have my moments of anxiety, I've found myself much more at peace and more encouraging to others around me. Honestly, I think in the past year, my heart had hardened a little bit....not gotten angry or mean, but just more, I don't know...a bit more cynical, and that isn't who I am. I don't want to question everything around me, and everyone's motives, or why they behave in the ways that they do. I want to understand, not question. From that, I've gotten softer and kinder. It also helps a bit when you can focus more on love, and the people and things around you to have love for...
I don't know, as I try to get more into this journaling thing, and be more productive, I'm sure there'll be times when I vent and get on my soap box...My sarcasm, snark and wit will be out in full force! But for now? I'm good.
I will close up for today with some of the prayers I say every day - I hope you will pray with me/for me as well:
I ask for mercy.
I ask for forgiveness of my flaws and shortcomings.
I ask for protection over my friends and family.
I ask that my attorneys are granted wisdom and the knowledge to put together a successful appeal.
I ask that the Court's hearts are softened, that they can show compassion and fairness, but ultimately that they see that I didn't have a fair trial, and that I was NOT a shooter.
I pray for an end to the madness that is the death penalty.
Will you throw these thoughts out to the universe/G-d for me?