It's the last day of June, and what a topsy turvey roller coaster of a ride this past month has been...There's been a lot of good in it - a lot! But there's been an equal amount of gut-turning drops and spins. I feel like I'm in this weird tango with the Angel of Death, right now, and we're constantly changing lead...
I've written about vengeance -v- justice quite recently, but what's forefront in my mind right now is hate...In all it's many forms and fashions, hate is an act of violence in itself. Medical science has shown us what anger and hatred does to the human body and to our psyche, but what does it do to the person you direct it towards? It can have an equal or even greater effect on the person you turn that hatred onto, and if you hate someone you create a 'cause and effect.' Say a person has harmed you either through a criminal act or some other way, and you turn around and direct your anger and hatred towards them...You are not only creating a cycle of violence, but in turn you're causing a greater infliction of pain upon yourself. When 'justice' has a root of hatred, it leads to vengeance...It's all relative.
I think one of the reasons our American society is so violent - and we haven't been able to properly heal, especially post-civil war - is because we're rooted in hate. Our politicians and elected officials often use hatred as a tool of maniuplation, both left and right of the political spectrum. Hatred of another color, hatred of a particular religion, hatred of this or that...No wonder we've never been able to heal...No wonder we're in the state that we are.
In prison, the officers are trained to hate us. We're given a demeaning title - OFFENDER - and if an officer does act kindly towards us, they're derided by their co-workers as 'inmate lovers' or 'inmate friendly'. Of course, when that hatred is directed at an inmate, in turn it creates a toxic environment of equal hatred towards the officer, and things quickly spin out of control. Look at the effect that hatred has through our every day lives. It should have no power at all, and yet we give it almost ALL of the power.
So, what is more powerful than hate? Forgiveness! I'm not talking about let's-have-a-kumbya-moment-and-hug-it-out-hippy-dippy-thing, but instead, just forgiving someone when they've done something that has hurt you or wronged you in some kind of way. Forgiveness takes the power of hatred away; it shows the perpetrator that whatever the wrong, you are in control and you will not give them the power over you where you can be affected. It allows you to move on in your life. When I'm upset about something it's easy to stew and let it fester right here in this cell. But instead, I try to take a deep breath, forgive the person, and let the moment pass. I try to understand why they've done what they've done, and just like I would wish my own faults and flaws to be forgiven, I try to forgive them for theirs.
I'm hated on daily in numerous ways, here...Whether from the outside, or back here. I'm hated on for my past crimes and poor choices...I'm hated on for being Jewish...I'm hated on for this and that and it hurts at times. I can feel the flames of that hate, and it hurts even more when those I love are burned by the flames that are directed at me for the things I have done. I suppose I could lash back out at all of it, but instead, I try to understand it in such a way that I can improve myself and correct those flaws...I also forgive them in the hope that they can in turn forgive me. Forgiveness is not about erasing a wrong; forgiveness is saying, "I'm no longer going to give that wrong any power over me."
I forgive those who hate me. I forgive those who want to see me executed. In turn, I sincerely hope you can forgive me.
Here's to hoping that July will bring better things...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 25th, 2019
I woke up at 5.40am for recreation, and went outside to exercise. Then I did a little writing in the day room, and chatted with some guys. I didn't expext to be stuck there for 4 hours, but then, this place...The fact that I expect it to ever be any different either meets the very definition of insanity, or shows me to be an eternal optimist - I'll take the latter! (ha ha).
It's been kind of difficult to write for the past couple of weeks, although my girlfriend encourages me to do it regularly to help manage my anxiety and stress. Everything has been happening so fast and I can't wrap my head around it. On one hand I'm extremely hopeful that something positive will happen in my appeals, but on the other hand, I've moved out of the realm of 'justice' and straight into 'revenge'. I just can't wrap my head around it. I can't understand why a group of human beings want me dead so badly. Sure, we're a nation of laws and all of that, but what good is any of it when in my case there is a true violation of the very constitution that people took an oath to uphold? And you're willing to bend and break it to get revenge? And for what? I KILLED NO ONE! Because of my original offence - something I ask for forgiveness for every single day? Because I was young, naive, dumb, and escaped from prison when I was feeling hopeless and helpless? I accept responsibility for every bad choice, for every law I've broken, and for every person hurt by my actions...But I'm NOT a killer. All I can ask for is mercy...For true justice. I'm not in control.
It's only Tuesday, but it feels like much later in the week for some reason...We'll see what the rest of the week brings.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 18th, 2019
It's been a lovely day thus far! Most of the pod is hyper and in a good mood because it's commissary day. Ice cream makes the most bitter of hearts smile...If only for a short time! (ha ha).
As I write this I'm scheduled for recreation 4th round. It'll be nice to get out after being on lock down, and I really need to jog and stretch out.
Well, it's much later now and day fell apart! Second round was out at rec until 3.30pm, and I didn't get outside until 3.45pm. That said, something positve came of it...There's a guy here who's in a bad state of depression and on meds that knock him out for most of the day. When he wandered to the door I said "hello", just expecting him to turn and go back to bed. We ended up talking about all sorts of things and he seemed to come to life, and even laughed a little. I encouraged him to do some stretches and get the blood flowing, and I hope he will pick himself up some more.
Anyway, I got back inside and was pooped! I had to heat my dinner back up in my hot pot because it arrived whilst I was outside (a common practice among officers even if they're not supposed to do it).
Tomorrow is a State holiday, so we'll see what it brings...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 17th, 2019
The lock down is finally over with...Although, because I'm living on A-section, we don't have recreation today, so I'm technically still on lock down. Here's what I've never been able to figure out...Why, after a lock down, does it seem that the officers have forgotten how to do their jobs? They're literally running around like no one knows what they should be doing! Utter chaos...They also seem to have hired a bunch of new people as well as having two new officers in training, so that has added to the madness a bit. Oh well, onwards and upwards!
The day started off really grey after a big rain storm yesterday. The clouds are breaking up now, and there's some lovely sunshine bursting through. I've always found that to be a beautiful sight...Watching the grey clouds whisk away and patches of bright blue take over until soon, the only clouds that remain are little puffs of white. Then, birds start to reappear and things look lovely.
I've managed to not get myself worked up into an anxiety fit today, and I hope I can remain a bit more positive and hopeful. It can be s struggle...I can be neurotic by nature, and I definitely over-think things. I'm trying to just breathe...I'm praying...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 16th, 2019
I woke up with Father's Day on my mind, and I had been going through my memories trying to think of a good story to tell about my dad - there's a lot of them, in spite of the more difficult moments we had. So, I thought I'd share one of those moments where I think he understood what it was like to be a teenager...
I had come home from my first semester at boarding school in Kentucky, and my best friend, Chad, and I, spent the summer catching up. We'd spend time hanging out at the mall, going to our local amusement park, Six Flags, and going to the movies. We hadn't been having much luck with girls that summer, to our dismay, but things started to look up one Sunday evening when we were at the mall...An announcement came over the PA system that the mall was closing, and as we headed towards an exit we noticed two girls going down an escalator. They were both pretty cute - one was blonde, and the other a brunette. Chad said, "What about them? They look our age..." And I said, "There's not enough time, we've got to leave." Chad suddenly yelled, "Hey! Stop!" And to my surprise, they were waiting at the bottom of the escalator. We took off running, and hurried down to meet them...Chad introduced us quickly, got their names, and their phone numbers, then they left and we couldn't believe our luck.
The brunette's name was Jennifer, and she and I hit it off pretty well. Chad, however, had no luck with the blonde, and he was seething! About two weeks before I had to go back to Kentucky, Jennifer and I made plans to meet up at Six Flags...Her friend was going to come as well, so Chad agreed to come with me. I asked my dad if it was okay and if he could drive us to the amusement park, and he said, "What time do you have to be there?"
"We're going to meet up at 10am. We have to be there!"
"That's the same morning you have to mow the lawn for the O'Neils."
"I'm still going to do that! If you drop me off early, I'll have it knocked out and I'll call you to pick me up and I can get back home to shower and change, and then we can pick up Chad."
"Are you asking me, or are you telling me?" My dad asked.
"Uhhh..Asking?...Please?...Pretty please with sugar on top?"
"Alright," he smiled. "Your tuckus is going to have to be out of bed at 6. I'll drop you off and you can call me when you're finished."
I called up and told Chad the plan, and he said he'd be ready.
The next morning my dad and I loaded the lawn mower into his work truck, along with a can of gas, and drove about a mile away to the O'Neils. He helped me unload it and said, "Call me when you're finished. Don't do a half assed job!"
"Yes, sir!" I said, as I primed the lawn mower and started it up.
I quickly mowed the lawn and by 8am I was finished, so I rang the door bell of the O'Neils, and asked if I could use the phone. Mrs O'Neil paid me $20 for the job and said, "Take your shoes off before coming in."
I kicked them off and grabbed the phone...The line was busy at home! I called again and again, and was getting frustrated and impatient. I didn't have time for this! Finally, I got through and told my dad I was ready to be picked up.
"Well, something came up with work so I'm not going to be able to get there until after 9...You're just going to have to sit tight and wait."
"This is out of control, dad! I have to be at Six Flags!" I protested.
"Who do you think is paying for that trip? You'll be fine, just wait."
I hung up the phone and Mrs O'Neil asked if I would like a snack and someting to drink as I waited.
"No, thank you, ma'am." I politely declined. "I'm gonna walk home. I'm running late." I said, matter-of-factly.
She showed me to the door, I thanked her for the money, grabbed the can of gas and the lawn mower, and began to push it down the street. Then, deciding to get home faster, I took off running, dragging the lawn mower as I ran. It was a hot morning, and I was covered in grass, but I hoped no one would think that I had stolen a lawn mower because I was running with it!
About 15 minutes later I reached my street and pushed the lawn mower, out of breath, the rest of the way. When I got home, dad was busy working in the garage and looked at me surprised.
"I told you to wait." He said.
Pushing the lawn mower into the garage, I said, "No time! Gotta take a shower!" And I ran inside and up to the bathroom to get ready.
After I'd dressed, I went back out to the garage.
"Come on, dad, we don't have time to lollygag around," I said, borrowing one of his much-used phrases.
"Don't press your luck, son," he said, smiling.
We hopped in his Suburban and drove to pick up Chad, then he dropped us both at Six Flags.
"You owe me some yard work for this," dad said.
"Yes, sir!" I said, as we jumped out of the truck and made our way to the ticket booth...
The day was a lot of fun for me, but unfortunately, the blonde never showed up and Chad ended up ditching me and Jennifer because he didn't want to be a tag-along. At the end of the day, Jennifer and I kissed, and Chad's mom came to pick us up. We promised to stay in touch when I returned to Kentucky, and I told Jennifer I'd see her again for fall break.
When I got home, my mom and dad were in the living room watching the late night news.
"How was it?" Dad asked. "What she a hot babe?"
"It was fun, and yeah, she's hot." I said, slightly embarrassed.
"Glad you enjoyed it. So, bright and early I want you to pull the weeds around the plants."
"C'mon dad! I'm about to go back to school..."
"I'm teasing you. Tell you what, how about you have lunch with me tomorrow, and help me out with some work. Sound reasonable?"
"Only if we eat at Colter's BBQ." I said.
"You got to pick where we ate lunch last time. I say we do Minyard's?"
"That'll work!" I said, taking off to my room.
"Love you, son!"
"Love ya too, dad! Thanks for taking me to Six Flags."
I went to sleep with a smile on my face.
Happy Father's Day...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 15th, 2019
It's a bright and beautiful Saturday morning! I'm trying to keep busy and keep my mind occupied throughout the weekend. Yesterday, I almost had a nervous breakdown with the whirl wind that was the past couple of weeks...It all caught up with me at the end of the day, and after our shake down on Friday morning, I think the stress and lack of sleep just took over...I felt sick to the stomach, and had a splitting headache. But I do feel a bit better this morning, and that's the best I can hope for right now.
So, before I get into yesterday's shake down of B-Pod and everything else, I'm aware that with recent media articles about my appeals etc, I might have some new readers of my journal, so I wanted to take the time to thank you for reading, and hopefully you will keep your mind open about my life story and how I've grown over the years. I really appreciate it, and thank you!
Thursday night we received our red property crates to pack our things up for the shakedown. Everything I have fitted perfectly, and I settled in for the night - I wanted to be rested for the next day. Breakfast came at 3 in the morning, followed by showers at about 3.45. I made it to the shower shortly after 4, then came back to my cell, went straight back to bed, and slept until 7am. By 8am the officers poured into our section to begin the shake downs. One of the officers took my neighbour out of his cell and when putting the cuffs on him he accidentally slammed his hand in the food slot...I thought that was going to derail everything, but they quickly took him to medical, and whilst the officer was hapless and in a hurry, he did apologize to my neighbour profusely. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but he's going to lose his finger nail...I was slightly irritated when one of the female sergeants was smirking and trying to keep herself from laughing at the inmate's pain...This place!
I was next in line, so two officers strip searched me, placed handcuffs on me, and then led me to the metal detector chair. I went through that process and then I was taken to A-Pod and put out in the recreation yard. They brought my other neighbour out to the yard along with me and we talked and enjoyed the beautiful morning.
A little after nine in the morning, they came back to get us, strip searched us again, took us back through the metal detector, and to our cells. I braced myself for a mess, but this time around everything was neatly stacked and taken care of, unlike the last shake down where it looked like a tornado had hit. I didn't lose anything, and nothing was destroyed, so I was grateful for that.
I spent a couple of hours scrubbing my cell and re-organising things, and then settled in for the day. Of course, I was anxious about everything and as the day went on I allowed the stress and worry to get to me. We didn't get lunch until 3pm and up to that point my stomach had been really upset. I thought it might be hunger so I made a light snack, and that didn't settle me either. When lunch finally came, that still didn't settle my stomach, and by 5pm I felt like I was going to be sick...I didn't get sick but it was close! I tried to take a little nap, but I was on the verge of a panic attack and just tossed and turned. Then, after shift change, I started to calm down, and once mail arrived, I crawled into bed and slept like a baby!
I've read some more articles about my appeal and it's very unsettling...I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone! It's also weird to know that in spite of everything, the State still wants to kill me so badly that they're willing to bend, twist and obfuscate the truth in order to do so...It's all so surreal to me right now, and I'm having a difficult time understanding it. All I can do is have faith in G-d, in my dear friends, and in my excellent attorneys, that I may survive this mess.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 13th, 2019
Well, I was all but certain that I'd wake up today to the sounds of red property crates being pushed into the section. I tossed and turned last night in anticipation, but when I got up this morning at 6.45, I learned that they the shake down on A-Pod, which means they'll definitely be giving the crates to us later tonight, and shaking us down tomorrow. I've heard through the rumor mill that it hasn't been too dredful this time around, but we'll see.
Later today, around 12.43pm, I left my cell for a visit with two Rabbis - it was something I really needed, and enjoyed. It was good for my spirit and I even gained some perspective on a few issues I'd been struggling with. In Jewish teachings, it is said that our soul leaves our body when we sleep - it's G-d's grace and mercy that he returns it to our body when we wake. We have to acknowledge our insignificance, but also be grateful that G-d decided we were worthy enough to let us live another day. In acknowledging that, we essentially 'surrender' and trust in him. The other thing was that the Rabbi suggested we take account of the things we did - our 'mitzvahs' (good deeds and charity) - and the bad things, and we say to ourselves that we need to do better the next day, or to change things. Then, we say the most important Jewish prayer, The Shema.
Well, it was lovely outside! Whenever I walk to the visitation building I take everything in...I smell the air, I look at the sky and the trees...I watch the birds go by. I only get a few minutes to do it, there and back, but I love it. I saw some huge black birds flying around and I don't know what species they are; they're not ravens, nor are they crows, but they're super intelligent. I've read about certain species of birds sharing food, but yesterday I witnessed one of those birds allowing two other birds to nibble off its food. They didn't fight, they each just took their turn and it was so cool to watch. I also saw a couple of birds just standing on the side walk and normally as soon as a human gets near them they jet off. Not these birds! They made US go around them - they didn't even budge! It made me smile.
So, the past few weeks I've been listening to a really well produced documentary by BBC on the Apollo flight, and Lunar Program, in the '60s - it's called "13 Minutes To The Moon." If anyone can find a podcast and you're into the history of space travel, I highly recommend it. As a kid I was fascinated with space exploration, and it absolutely rivalled my passion for music! Anyway, the production of this documentary is amazing, and the story telling was excellently done - it even includes audio I'd never heard before. I promise you'll enjoy it!
In spite of recent stresses, I'm keeping hopeful and upbeat - thanks to my wonderful friends who love me, care for me, and fight for me every day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning: Contains foul language**
June 12th, 2019
Yesterday began as any other day on lock down - boring, and with me trying to find something to do with my time. I'd been checking a local station that broadcasts Texas news networks and gives small updates on death row inmates appeals, and as I was listening to that I heard, "Jewish death row inmate, Randy Halprin..." My heart began to pound, and I thought, "Okay...so news of the appeal is officially out there now." I suppose we'll see what becomes of all of this. I remain humble, hopeful, and faithful.
I spent most of the day reflecting on the importance of today's date: June 12th, 2019...It marks 16 years of me being on death row. I'm currently living on the exact same section and pod - B-Pod/A Section - that I was in when I first arrived here, except I'm in 2 cell right now, and I was in 8 cell back then. I can still remember every bit of the day I was sentenced, as if were yesterday...
The Jury in my trial was sequestered overnight because they couldn't decide on my sentence. Very early that morning I was pacing the floor in my holding cell before finally being called into the court room, when word of a decision had been reached. I remember hearing the sentence being given, followed by the victim's impact statement, and then I was whisked out of the court room to sign a pile of papers whilst the Sheriff's deputies barked orders at me to change out of the clothes I was wearing, and put on an orange Dallas County jumper. I was shackled up, quickly ushered out of the holding cell area, and into a parking garage filled with Police officers and media. I remember beginning to feel numb, as everything was happening so quickly.
What would normally have been a 3 hour drive from Dallas to Huntsville was so fast it took less than two hours! The Dallas County Officers helped me out of the car and took the shackles off me before turning me over to TDCJ. I wasn't sure what to expect at that point - I half way expected the guards to shout hateful things at me, but when a sergeant took over as he took me through what they call "Diagnostics" he said, "As of now, everything that's happened before this moment doesn't exist. You treat me with respect, I'll treat you with respect. No one is going to retaliate, okay?"
"Yes sir," I said.
"You're not planning on killing yourself, are you?" He aasked.
"No...The State will do that for me," I said, sarcastically. I remember him saying I didn't have to take it 'there', but it was how I felt at that moment.
I was taken to a barber where my hair was clipped off and then on to where I had my picture taken for a State issued ID, and fingerprinted. When the process was over they loaded me into the back of a van that would take me to death row. I sat in silence for a few minutes when the back door opened and I was staring into the ruddy face of a heavy set TDCJ sergeant. "Where you going?" He asked, with disdain in his voice.
I ignored him.
"I said, where are you going?" He demanded.
"You know where I'm going," I replied.
"I want to hear you say it."
"That's a good fuckin' place for your ass!" He spat, and slammed the door.
Armed officers climbed into the van and we drove to Livingston, in silence. About 40 minutes later, we pulled into Polunsky and drove through a series of cages until we reached the sally port of 12 building.
My mind began to race...I fully expected to enter a world portrayed by the movies - homicidal manicas and psycopaths, screaming and spitting at me as I passed by their cells...Threats to the guards and threats hurled back at inmates...Banging, screaming, and all manner of horrible things being thrown from cells...I expected chaos, and my imagination was running wild.
I was taken to an office, had a few more pictures taken, and then given an orientation package. I was told I already had a mattress and necessities in my cell, and if I needed anything else I had to notify an officer to call a supervisor. I was then taken to B-Pod 8 cell.
When I entered the pod it was so quiet! This surprised me...No one was standing at their door yelling out...There was no banging or shouting, nothing being thrown. I entered my cell and had my handcuffs taken off, and a few minutes later, an officer came back and asked me if I wanted a shower. I said, "Sure," and off I went.
When I got back to my cell after my shower, nobody said anything to me for about half an hour. I sat in my cell, staring at the walls, trying to figure out what I would do with whatever remaining years I had on this earth. I was still a bit numb when my thoughts were interrupted by a banging on my wall...A voice called me to the door and a guy said, "Hey, we're sorry you're here, man."
"Yeah, me too..." I replied.
"Well, I'm going to send a fishing line to the front of your door. The guys up here put together some food, stamps, and writing supplies for you. Just pull it all in."
"No, that's cool. I don't need anything, thank you." Didn't they know I came from general population? Number one rule in prison: nothing comes for free!
"Seriously, dude, just pull it in," he said.
"I'm good. I know the game." I replied, again, skeptically.
Then, another voice began to speak.
"Hey, dude, just take it. There's no strings attached. We do this for all of the new guys on death row. All we ask is you to the same in return for the next guy that comes."
I reluctantly pulled the line into my cell and tied to it were ramen noodles, chips, candy bars, soap, deodrant, toothpaste, stamps, envelopes, and a writing tablet! I couldn't believe it...Where were the monsters?
I thanked everyone and promised that every new person or every person that needed something would get my help, if I could give it at that point. I've always been grateful for that moment.
Over the following days my impression of what I thought I was going to face was blown apart! Sure, I've had some not so good interactions with guys here, but over the 16 years I've been here, I've met so many good-hearted and well-intentioned people and I've discovered that in life, nothing is as black and white as we are lead to believe. There are circumstances in life that can shape or influence our decision making skills, and some of us have lesser or greater mental capacities...Some people are influenced by racial, socio-economic, or other psychological factors. What I'm trying to say is that there's a huge grey swathe of inbetween, that somehow, society has fooled itself into believing doesn't exist. It doesn't excuse our actions, and at no point in this process have I ever felt I shouldn't be held accountable for my own choices and mistakes, and I would gamble that most guys back here feel exactly as I do on that point. However, some of us truly aren't killers, and we are not the monsters the general public perceive us to be...My life here this past 16 years has shown me just that.
As of now, my fate is still up in the air, but I do hope I'm given the chance to make right my own mistakes...To live by action, not words, and to affect things around me in a positive and loving way.
Well, it has shaped up to be a really lovely day! Plenty of sunshine, and the back wall of my cell is quite warm. I'll watch outside of my window for a bit, and see how the rest of the day shapes up...I'll finish this here.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 10th, 2019
sitting here at 11.28am with a slight grumbling in my tummy, waiting
on my sack lunch. I didn't bother eating breakfast because by the the
time I checked to see what it was (they passed them out at 2am, and I
just chucked it into my locker) I was underwhelmed by the two
pancakes and packet of syrup – not real syrup either, but the sugar
fee artificial kind that for some odd reason is what I imagine donkey
piss would taste like...I had no appetite. After being woken up at
2am, we we were again woken up at 3am when milk was being passed out,
and then again at 4am when they passed out little bowls of cereal.
Around 4am they started doing showers and I managed to get back to
sleep until it was my turn in the shower, at 8am.
morning I was thinking about faith...Have you ever prayed and asked
G-d to 'show' himself to you? I don't know, not exactly like, “Dude,
give me a sign!” Or even, “Prove yourself to me.” But just a
simple “show me you're there” kind of thing...Whilst being Jewish
has always been very important in my life, I've not been the most
religious person at times. Heck, for a while I was wondering if I was
beginning to become slightly agnostic! I don't think I could ever be
atheist because I firmly believe in something much greater than us,
and looking at the world and how beautiful it is – there just has
to be something behind it...
just want to know there IS something behind all of this and a reason
why...And I want to know there is a guiding hand, and that there is
truth and justice governing all of it. I'm no more special than
anyone else – in fact, I'd put myself a few rungs below a lot of
people. But that being said, I also know the person I am, and I know
my own heart...I've made plenty of mistakes in my life – more than
most people – and I have many flaws...But I do pray and ask that
G-d will see “me”, and grant me a smidgen of mercy.
latest shake down news is that they're doing E-Pod today. They did
F-Pod on Friday, and if they keep to the one-pod-a-day schedule, I'm
sure they'll be on this pod by Thursday. I figure we'll be finished
with everything on Saturday, so we might get some recreation time.
the real bummers of the past week has been that we lost a really good
local station from Livingston. When I first came to death row it was
a country music station, and then about five years later it
transformed into a classic rock station. Occasionally, they played
some really good '90s alternative music, and on Tuesdays they had an
'80s flashback theme to the day. I didn't listen to it all the time,
but it was there, and it was a bit of musical 'comfort food' from
time to time. They also did Texas news updates throughout the day.
Well, apparently a big Houston Christian music station bought the
signal out because on Friday, it was gone and replaced! I keep going
to that spot out of habit, but what sucks even more is that I'm
running out of FM stations to listen to! It's either all pop,
country, Spanish, or Church music now...For a city with so much
diversity, they are very limited in their music offerings!
let's see what else the day brings...
little after 1pm now, and I just had a delicious peanut butter and
jelly sandwich, and a lovely bologna sandwich...Nothing tastes more
like road kill than a good ol' lukewarm piece of bologna!
spending some time looking out the window, watching the clouds pass
by and the birds picking at the grass. Someone threw out some bread
from somewhere because a bird – looked like a big crow – swooped
down, grabbed the big chunk of bread, and flew off! I guess one of
the trustees threw it out there.
another day in the life of...
Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 9th, 2019
I'm writing this on a bright and beautiful Sunday morning. It's normally super quiet on Sundays, as it's typically a 'no recreation' day, but someone upstairs has a homemade speaker and has decided that everyone on the section should listen to what he's listening to! It does no good to talk to him...believe me, we've tried...His excuse every time is, "I'm doing my time." Yeah, but if your time affects our time...Sigh. Oh well!
I've had a rough couple of days...Thursday started off relatively normal; they had first round of recreation in the day rooms and things seemed to be operating normally, but 45 minutes later, the officers came back around shutting rec. down! This was after a 'no recreation' day on Wednesday due to personnel shortages...Then we were told we were on lock down. It was weird that lockdown was starting on a Thursday as they normally start at the beginning of a week. We were all asking, "Are y'all sure it's lock down, or is it just another staff shortage?" The officers said it was for sure a lock down...Well, just fantastic.
The same day we waited all day for lunch, which didn't arrive until after 3pm, and then right after that dinner arrived - literally minutes later! Now, on this last lock down we were given hot meals, but on this one, apparently we're not. Nothing we can do about that and fortunately I do have some food in my locker so I'll be fine...And I have enough to share with others too.
On Friday we had showers, and I spent the day cleaning my cell and weeding through things to give away or donate to the library. A friend down the run wanted to make tacos for everyone and just needed a bag of beans and rice, so I sent him those to contribute. I told him the tacos were so good that if we were free, I'd be investing in him to make a taco stand in the free world! They really were that good!!!
That evening I settled in to listen to the Prison Show - they have a 'death row news' section, where they mention things that were filed for guys here. I listened whilst waiting on mail, and didn't hear anything on my case, which was fine. I knew it was going to be a while before anything happens because it needs time for the recently filed stuff to hash out. Right after that I received my mail, and some Jpays (printed, one way, emails). Things have been wishy-washy with the mail service for some weeks now, but it seems like everything was back on track. Several Jpays arrived from my girlfriend, which was fantastic, but another one I received was just...bad. All I can do is hope and pray that this mess will all be resolved, and that truth and what is right, will prevail. I have confidence that it will...The truth is on my side no matter how dirty and how hard the State try to play. When I can, I will go into further details...Right now, I'm just praying, hoping, and holding onto hope and faith.
The weekend has pretty much been affected by that news, but I'm pushing through! In recent weeks I've taken to reading Tehillim - Psalms - for strength, guidance, and comfort. I tell myself that things WILL work out...I have faith in G-d and the truth, and I refuse to give up!
Here's to hoping that the coming week will bring about better things and better news...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 5th, 2019
It's been a grey and wet day, but I'm in fairly decent spirits. I woke up at 7 this morning and was all but certain they would cancel outside recreation because of the storms we've been having in this area, but they kept it open. I asked the guy I was going to go outside with if he was still going and he said he was, so we were out before 8 even though it was raining, but not too heavily.
I love summer rain...It's the best kind of rain! Clean, rejuvenating, and takes me back to being a kid. I had a memory pop up about my childhood friend, Chad, when we were growing up in Arlington, Texas. I was about 11 at the time and I'd often hang out over at his place over summer break. We'd watch re-runs of 'The Fall Guy' and other shows, and then head out to the local shopping mall. I remember it was raining heavily one day, and we were bored being couped up in his house, so we went outside to play in the rain. His yard quickly turned to mud, and we started stomping around in it. We stripped down to our boxers and began kicking the mud at each other, then we began grabbing it and flinging it at one another - it quickly turned into an all out mud fight! The down side is we tore up his yard, so when his parents came home they were pissed! We had to hose off, then we got chewed out...Over the next few days we had to reseed their lawn, and tidy everything up, but hey, it was worth it! (ha ha).
So, back to today...We started playing ball and running carefully in the rain. The dude I was outside with fell, and I said, "You okay?" And he said he was fine, so we went back at it. On the fourth game, I took a nasty slip! I felt both of my feet come up so I turned my body to the side, but as I came down I hit my knee first and skinned it...The guy asked me if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah." I shook it off and we got on with the game. Some blood was trickling down my leg, but I wasn't about to stop. He ended up winning in the end by 19 points...Oh well...Maybe next time!
When I came back in I washed up, did my laundry and cleaned up my scrape, putting some Neosporin on after it was cleaned up...I'm okay.
I really like our new recreation schedule, and it has eased a lot of stress. We're guaranteed to get our outside recreation, and that makes things much better. Yesterday, they shut recreation down because of a staff shortage (an increasing problem in Texas prisons...People just don't want to work in a prison no matter how much money they throw at them) so we'll probably get rec on Sunday to make up for it.
I'm still in shock and reflecting on the news that I had a judge who hated Jews...It's just a weird thing to have someone hate you for a religious view or how you were raised, or whatever...It's worse for people of colour though, and I try not to lose sight of that. No matter the problems I've had at boarding school for being Jewish, or the problems it brought whilst being in prison, it's small potatoes when compared to what people of colour have been through. I can't imagine being afraid to drive a car at night, or being hated just for wanting a better life for my family - that's something I've never had to experience and I guess it helps to put it all in perspective. No matter what your problems might be, someone always has it much worse.
I can only hope the court is fair and pays attention to this. I can say with certainty that if I did not have a fair trial simply for being Jewish, people of colour definintely didn't.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
June 2nd, 2019
It's been an interesting weekend...The mailroom had either been sitting on my letters, or just not sending them to me, but I got a stack of letters from my girlfriend and thank goodness she's okay, and her brother's health is improving. I was so relieved!
On Saturday, recreation was cancelled because of 'staff shortages' and I had been hoping to get outside to play basketball. Instead, I caught up on things I needed to and then I listened to some music on my radio. One of my favorite radio programs is called “Sound Awake”. It's on 90.1 KPFT out of Houston, and it used to be broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon, for years, but more recently, the program switched to Saturday night at 10pm to midnight. The DJ can be frustrating in that he has a bad habit of talking over the music and talking for way too long, which eats up the time that could be used for playing music. But that said, this program is one of the only places I get to hear songs I would normally not hear on mainstream radio. I don't hide my dislike of the music on mainstream radio – every once in a while something will be good, but it's a rarity now. KPFT is all I have for the really good stuff.
So, last night, the DJ was doing his tradition of honoring the 25 year anniversary of the current graduating class, and it fell on 1994. I immediately perked up and became excited because the tail end of 1993 and all of 1994 is one of my favourite years for music. Sooooo many good albums and songs! I have some great memories from that year as well, and the DJ really knocked it out of the park! The Cure's cover of 'Purple Haze', Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, and it went on and on...Just wonderful! Two whole hours of bliss! I was so excited from the music high that I couldn't get to sleep.
I slept in until 7.30am this morning, and set about the day knocking out some mail, when a little after 9am the guards said they were running recreation. I had to put everything else on hold and get ready! We went outside and the sun came back out (it had been overcast at the start of the morning) and we ran 4 games to 100...I won by 50 points!
Well, the guy I was outside with was a bit upset that we weren't going to get showers, and requested to talk to a sergeant. I told him it was going to be a losing argument, but he wanted to talk to him anyway. When the sergeant came, it was a really young and hot-headed dude, and I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere...So, the sergeant didn't even try to listen - he cut the dude off and said, "You're not getting a shower." At that point the guy I was outside with said, "Okay, I'll write a grievance." I was watching the body language of the sergeant and it changed to hostility immediately! Then, the sergeant said, "Write your fucking grievance. Spell my name right!" And he began to spell it out for him...The inmate said, "I'm just letting you know, that's all."
"I don't give a fuck. I'll end your recreation right now. You think I give a fuck?"
I could see it was escalating, so I tried to intervene and calm things down because the guy I was outside with has a history of assaulting guards when he feels disrespected. I said, "Hey, sarge..." but he slammed the door on us and I didn't get to finish. I told the guy, "Look, calm down. Don't do anything. Don't make this worse. I'm a witness to this so we'll write a grievance and we'll write the internal affairs division and make sure he doesn't try to retaliate. At least it'll be on record. If you do something, we won't win. But we can win this because he wasn't acting as a professional.
He finally calmed down and we'll file the grievances tomorrow morning. After that incident, I laid down in the sun and just enjoyed the fresh air.
Because we aren't getting showers I had to bathe in my sink when we got back inside, and I still have to do laundry. After I catch up on things, I'll jam out to the radio some more...I still need to heat up my lunch!