As I write this it is a cool and rainy day. We've been having this weather on and off, and I'm wondering when spring is REALLY going to kick in. Yeah, yeah, I know...with spring comes rain, but with how depressing the winter weather has been, I'm just ready for some sunshine. It's something I've come to crave. To want and need so badly. It's kind of funny, actually; I used to LOVE the grey, the rain. It went hand in hand with my sad and depressing internal narrative...It inspired good, sad music and lyrics. I think that because I've been in solitary confinement for so long now (going on, what 13 years?) I get giddy when sunlight pours through my window. When I can go outside and let the sun bake my pastey white skin, the sun is my God...
I just wanted to say that if there happens to be people still reading along with my journals, that's cool. I'm here to encourage, to discuss - hell, I even accept criticism and attacks. I'll be your verbal punching hag! I'm just here. I'm whatever. With or without you I'm just going to ramble on in my own head. You're there, but you're not. I'm really glad for those that are, though! Thank you!!!
Things have been happening and the constant never ending roller coaster this place can be - well, that ride is still ridin'. I'll get into it all as I write more. And for the record, if it sounds like I'm kind of loopy, it's not that I've lost my mind (first you have to have one to lose ha ha) I'm just trying to get back into the groove of writing/typing and my thoughts are kind of rambling about. But stay tuned and lets see where this wild ride takes us...
March 25th, 2014
The sun is out! Seriously, it is an absolutely beautiful day and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm keeping myself positive because I'm expecting some good news on my Federal Appeals that were filed on 21st March...I know it is like climbing Mt. Everest, but I think I can allow myself a little optimism. I'm trying to stay grounded and not lose sight of the odds or the reality of it all, but I can at least say that I'm pleased because I have honestly been scared to death about it all. To the point I've been having execution dreams again and those are worse than any nightmare on the planet. At least for now, I can breathe a while and wait on the state's response.
Anyways, so my day started this morning at about 5:20am. I went outside to talk with someone and catch up, and to get some exercise. It was still kind of cold for this time of the year in Texas, but it was a beautiful sunrise and I was able to get a really good jog in. I came in to listen to a radio program, and once I finish this, I'm just going to kick back, read a little, maybe do some more exercises, and chill the rest of the evening. I don't really have a lot on my mind because for the past few months it's been kind of anxiety filled so I'm enjoying the blankness of it. Before I close ths particular entry I read a really good op-ed piece about the Director of prisons in Colorado, and he wrote about the experience of being in solitary confinement. It's something everyone should read. The title of the piece is called "My Night In Solitary Confinement" by Rick Raemisch. Look it up and think about it. This is what we deal with - minus t.v.'s etc. on a day to day basis in Texas.
March 30th, 2014
Have you ever had a week turn into the crappiest chain of events on the planet? Like you've stepped into a big pile of dragon crap, and then had your head roasted off by the very dragon whose crap you just stepped into? That was my day on Friday!
So, here's what happened...My lawyers informed me that my appeal was filed on the 20th or 21st, and he gave me the impression that it was pretty good. I was pretty psyched to say the least, but it turned out not to be the case...Anyway, some other previous good fortune had come my way by a guy named William Rayford, who is here on death row with me. He told me that the 5th circuit had remanded his appeal back to the Federal court on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim against his trial attorney - who just so happened to be MY trial attorney as well! Over the past decade we've discussed it a lot, and we both agree that he did not do his job effectively. In fact, one of the state's arguments against my claim was that because the trial attorney had previously tried William Rayford's case, he was more than qualified and effective in my trial. Never mind that William Rayford didn't even really have a capital case and was tried FOURTEEN DAYS AFTER HIS INDICTMENT which is just insane!!! How can you even prepare for trial in 14 days???
Basically, that is the state's argument. If the court rules in Rayford's favor I don't see how it can't be of direct benefit for me because the state's argument is moot at that point. I was feeling good. I was hopeful. There appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the long wait over the past year.
Friday the 28th came with little fanfare. It was actually a pretty nice day. I was able to get outside when the sun was out. I exercised, bathed in the sun so that I could make a futile attempt to give color to my corpse-like skin, and just enjoy the day. Came in, got straight into the shower and kicked back waiting on the mail. Mail came. There was a large brown envelope but very thin and I thought, "Surely this isn't the appeal that was filed?" I thought it had to be otherwise. Maybe some print outs from the internet. Something else. But when I opened it up my stomach dropped. I saw the cover sheet of the appeal to the Federal court and thought "No.. .this isn't right." I flipped through it and the entire thing was a total of 12 pages and basically a form that was filled out. It was rife with spelling errors, it had my co-defendants' names wrong. It was something I could've gotten out of the law library, filled out myself (and done a better job, if I'm honest) said a few prayers and hoped for the best. To put it all into perspective: My state appeal was HUNDREDS of pages long. HUNDREDS. That is not including exhibits, hearing testimony and countless amendments to the writ. I've had several guys tell me back here that even the crappiest, sleeziest attorneys who are appointed as counsel at the Federal level, do more work than what was done on my behalf. I was literally scared shitless, shaking when I read my so-called appeal. I thought, "Jesus! This guy is trying to get me killed." I'm sure that thrills the pro-death penalty people. It honestly screwed my head up the rest of the night. I'm neurotic enough as it is but my mind was just on emotional over load going 100 MPH.
Fortunately, right now, I'm aorund a few guys who've been through the appeals process and they could guide me in my next steps. We've kind of put together a game plan/strategy on what we need to do, but I have such a limited amount of time to get it done. I've practically been working non-stop since yesterday morning on this. I'm waiting on some other things to get down to me that will help as well. This one guy I'm talking to is exceptional in what he knows about law and it's been a real benefit to be so close to him. One of the things I defintely thank my lucky stars for about being moved around from cell to cell/pod to pod so much. Where I'm so freaking angry at myself is that I have such a basic understanding of appeal law....I had such good state writ attorneys that while I did keep up with everything they did and I know my own case in and out, I think it made me lazy and naive in my trust of the federal attorney. You want to believe that a person is going to do the right thing when there's an abundance of proof/records/testimony that I'm not a killer. You want to lock me up, throw away the key for life? Fine. Is it something I want? No. Is it something I would just accept? Yes. But I shouldn't be killed for something that I didn't do, didn't want to happen and wish didn't happen. I have so much guilt, pain and remorse over it all. Doubters can think otherwise but anyone who knows me, knows this is true. It was a horrible horrible thing. And yeah, I can be goofy and joke around and be a normal person in my daily dealings; I can make bad choices occassionally and do stupid stuff. But it doesn't change the absolute fact that that night and the whole escape isn't right there in my head and something I deal with every day. That's just the truth of it. It doesn't change, however, the fact that I'M NOT A KILLER.
One of the guys who is helping me figure out what to do right now asked me this on Friday night: "Do you want to live?" I said, "Yes " He said, "I'm serious. Do you want to live or die?" I said "I absolutely want to live." I think he was checking my heart and seeing if I was serious about doing what it will take to fight. I am a fighter. I'm a fast learner. I REFUSE to throw the towel in. I can't give up on this...and thank G-D that I have people who love and care for me in my life. I think I can handle this and while I just got smacked upside the head with a very huge set of dragon testicles (thank God I have a sense of humor as well or else I'd be freaking crazier than bath salt smoking cannibals) it's not over. I can hear that old dude in the Rocky movies screaming at me "I didn't hear no bell! Get up ya lazy bum!" Well, I'm up.
I'll keep everyone up to date as best as I can. Please be patient but most importantly - believers or not - pray for me. I really, seriously need it right now.
I've got to get back to work so I'm going to put this in an envelope and get it out. I really do appreciate all those who've shown an interest in my life and me as a person. Whether you've openly expressed it or sat behind the monitor and thought it. I thank you and I hope to be around a long time to come...
April 14th, 2014
As I'm writing this I'm eating a stale (but somehow still delicious) peanut butter and jelly sandwich and waiting on my cell to be searched because they are finally on C-POD doing the shake down. We've been on lock down now for 8 days and I'm hoping that it will soon be over. We were supposed to be searched last week and we even went through the whole process of packing our stuff up and waiting but then, and for whatever reason (read: LAZINESS) they said for us to stand down, and it would probably be sometime the following week. You know, I was thinking if these tea party conservatives really wanted to be in a tizzy about something and actually save the state of Texas money instead of cutting educational and infrastructure budgets, they could do a complete overhaul of the state's prison system. I'm serious. I'm not just saying it because I'm a prisoner. More money gets wasted - I'll go out on a limb and say that on this unit alone - thousands of dollars a DAY. Guards are essentially paid to sit around and eat ice cream, do a 'security' check every 30 minutes and maybe some recreation and showers and THAT IS IT! When I worked in maintenance on the Connally Unit that department overcharged the state on items that you could buy from Home Depot or Lowes (construction supply companies) for a fraction of the cost. But even worse, and it happens on this unit as well, is that instead of doing 'general maintenance' or preventitive care they'd rather just let something break down completely and replace a whole part or unit, costing hundreds of dollars more. About the only thing they save money on is labor and contracting fees. So...where are ya tea party???
Okay, okay, rant and rumble over....for now.
Huh.....looks like the day is going to be exceptionally long; we were just told that night shift will probably shake us down. STOP THE MADNESS!!!
April 15th, 2014
So, I closed yesterday waiting for our shake down as we were told to get ready. At about two o' clock in the afternoon they gave us these red crates, that size-wise compares to the wooden box they used to give us. I guess they switched to the crates as a way of letting us pack our own things and decide for ourselves what we want to keep or allow them to take. Of course that doesn't mean they WON'T take things just because they can (more on THAT bit in a second!)....Well, I don't know where they store these crates but I'm pretty sure it's right next to the horses in a barn. The crate they gave me smelled of horse dookie and I noticed the smell as soon as they slid the crate to my cell door. I honestly thought it was one of the guards and made a crass comment about how we can't get showers regulary and people choose not to shower (I thought it was funny anyway:)) So, I let the guards put the hand cuffs on me and then the door opened, they slid the crate in and my senses were assaulted....I said, "Jesus! Did they let a horse take a steaming crap in this crate?" I was immediately transported back to the days at school in Kentucky when I was given a school suspension for swinging out the window of the dorm in an attempt to play a practical joke. It all came to a crashing end when my friend's brother was dropped two stories to the ground. Ugh!...For the record I did not drop him...A guy we called 'Muffalo' did. But I digress....I was suspended to the farm so I knew this smell all too well. Something like that never really leaves you. It lies dormant in your nostrils so that the painful childhood memories of farm crap can haunt you for the rest of your life. Thanks 0.B.I!
Anyway, I asked the guards if I could swap crates and I was told, "Oh, don't worry about it. They're gonna shake you guys down here in a bit. You'll be okay." Grumble grumble grumble...I wiped the crate down the best I could and started packing my stuff. One hour passed. Two hours passed....Then it came to second shift and we were all told "Hey! We're gonna get you guys tomorrow!" WTF!?! Well, no one was happy to say the least because they pulled this stunt on us last week...Then, to add insult to injury a cold front came and boy did it ever get cold that night! Most of us had our clothes packed away in the crates! I tried to sleep last night but tossed and turned. Morning came and I woke up at about 5:30am. I slammed a cold cup of coffee and waited for the shakedown guards to arrive.
They finished e-section and then got to us at about eight in the morning. Stripped me, searched me and put me in a shower; waited in there for about an hour and then was returned to my cell. My initial reaction was "Jesus, it looks like a tornado went through my cell!" I mean, crap was everywhere. They dumped everything out of the crate and all over the floor. I wasn't sure what was there and what was missing until the property lady came with a pink form for me to sign and said, "We took your envelopes because you had no name and number on them..."I couldn't argue because she was right. It was my dumb ass fault for being too lazy to put my name and number on a thousand envelopes. Yeah, I have nothing but time in my cell but do you realize how freakin' tedious it is to have to write your name on a thousand things? Most guards don't even care! I mean, they belong to me. It's not like I can sneak off into another person's cell and steal their stuff! I cleaned my cell, washed the floor and walls to get rid of the smell of horse dung, and here I am.
HAHAHAHA...okay, I'm laughing my ass off right now. Imagine this: Prison bars, clanging and doors slamming in the echoing distance...Tough looking guards, and scary looking inmates, and then...what is that I hear in the distance? What could possibly break through the image of a scene out of Silence Of The Lambs? Someone singing..."Let it go!" hahaha. My G-d I have tears in my eyes! Like, some dude has seriously gone all broadway in their cell listening to that song on the radio (which admittedly, is a good song. The opening music sounds a bit Tori Amos to me.....damn you Disney!) and I can see them in my mind's eye, arms out stretched and just letting it go. What a bizarre world I live in.
June 15th, 2014
Sometimes when you're staring down a big bad dragon all it really needs is its testicles messaged. Okay, I just laughed writing that! But it is true. I could use the same old worn out cliches like "grab the bull by its horns" or someother nonsense. Gotta be original!
I had a huge pair of dragon balls in my hand! For anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about I'll give a little refresher on past events. I had a HUGE legal scare. I mean, in hindsight maybe I over-reacted a little bit and maybe misjudged the situation but when you're in a fight for your life I'm not sure you really can over react. But basically I thought I was being screwed on my appeals. It turned out to be a big mis-communication between my lawyer and I, but it took my reaction to get it all worked out and now I feel my lawyer knows I'm a fighter and I refuse to just roll over and get dry humped. Now we are in constant communication and my Federal Appeal, which is due on the 18th of this month is better than it ever would've been, I really believe it. I've seen the final content as my lawyer was here on Friday and I was relieved and excited at the draft. There are never any guarantees in the appeals process, but I do know that I have a strong argument and I just can't see how a Judge, if he is truly unbiased and fair, can ignore the facts.
It is that strong...
June 16th, 2014
I'm sore, I'm tired. I woke up, set to my normal routine and was expecting to go to recreation in the day room. An outside slot came open and I jumped at the oppurtunity to get outside! My intention was to play basketball and do some exercise, but this guy that I went out with has been reading this NAVY SEALS exercise book and I guess he wants to try out for SEAL TEAM SIX while on death row. He's like, "I put together this work out. Wanna try it?" And because I must be a glutton for pain I said, "Sure." JESUS HAROLD CHRIST. I felt like I was going to puke. But I got through it. It was brutal. It actually was pretty badass. I was energized. I felt like HE-MAN minus the weird bowl hair cut and the tighty whities...(well, his underwear was red, I think with a belt...who wears a belt with underwear?
We rested and then began to play some ball when out of nowhere the sky darkened and a storm of epic proportions struck with the fury of Zeus. It was pretty cool. It rained and rained. I was certain the guards would come out and get us and I'm glad that they didn't. The storm passed and we went back to playing ball. I won 10-6. I am beyond tired.
Tomorrow I should get a phone call from my lawyer and so that'll be good. I think he plans on filing my appeal a day early and so we'll see what he has to say about that. Stay tuned. For now, I'm about to read a little and crash out. I know in the morning I will probably be sore as hell, and hate my life, but you can't put a price (or pain) on good health.
June 17th, 2014
Today is humid. Like miserable, can't breathe, hot and sticky humidity. Who on earth felt it was a good idea to settle on this area? Hmmmm...I think it is a great idea to build a town on a swamp! Alligators? Haven't seen one, but now that I think about it, I have wondered where Timmy and Suzy disappeared to. Actually, in reality, this area belonged to a tribe of Native Americans, dammit, I know the name but fear I'll get it wrong. There's a reserve and casino not far from the prison, I think. Anyways, humidity also brings out the giant vampire mosquitos that take a pint of blood everytime they land on you. I have this huge welp where one got my face last night. I did get my attorney phone call. The guards took me to the visitation room where the calls are made (for privacy, I guess? Normal phone calls to family are done in the sergeant's office) about an hour early and the lady who runs visitation was pissed that I was out there so early but I said, "Hey, I don't mind just sitting here. Got nothing better to do and besides a little break from the pods won't hurt". She put me in a booth and I waited. At one o'clock in the afternoon I called my lawyer and we talked about 10 minutes. He said he made a couple of last minute changes on the appeal and would send me a copy in overnight mail. It has been filed and now we play the waiting game on the state's response. At this point the train is in motion and now I'm in the hands of fate and time. Nervous? Hell yeah, but I've done all I could do. Now it is really up to how good my lawyers argument is and how fair the judge is. I don't like playing the victim role as I'm not a victim, and I really try not to act like one, but anyone who knows my case knows I got screwed and didn't get a fair trial. How can you try six guys all the same and expect it to be fair? You can't.
I got some comics that have been under review by the mail room for well over a month. I'm not really into super heroes outside of BATMAN, but it is frustrating to be treated like a kid and have every little thing reviewed and checked for sexually explicit comics. I'm not getting porn. It is a freaking comic book!!
June 18th, 2014
I'm soooo tired. This won't be a long entry I assure you. After this, I'm waiting on mail and going to sleep. I played 38 games of basketball today and was just exhausted at the end of, it. I realize that I'm no longer a spring chicken. So, what happened in these 38 games? I lost is what happened. But barely. At first I was getting my ass kicked. I mean, he came out swinging and before I knew it, the score was 10 games to 2. I said to myself, "WTF? Seriously dude?" I was getting very frustrated, which is out of character for me, and I threw a little fit and slammed the ball into the wall. I don't like poor sportsmanship and I don't like being a bad sport, but dammit I was sucking bad. I drank some water, poured some on my head and got my mind together. After that I fought back. We tied up 11-11, then it went back and forth. We were tied up at 18-18. I was feeling confident. We were going to play the first person to win 20 games so either of us only had two more to win. At game 19 it went into overtime - what I mean by that is if we both hit the tenth shot at the same time it goes until someone misses. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. FIFTEEN...At this point I'm running out of gas. We run to the corner for 16...he hits, I miss. Now he has it at 19-18. I could tie it up or...that was it. 91°F, it is hotter than hades. I just had no juice left in me. He won. I collapse in a heap of self pity and disgust. Oh well. I've beaten him before and I will beat him again. I gave him his props. It was a damn good run and that is what counted.
I'm going to try to get back outside on friday.
June 19th, 2014
It is an off day. That means the section that I currently live on has no recreation so I've just been cleaning my cell, getting rid of junk/clutter as it drives me nuts...I had a couple of books I've read and needed to give away to whoever wanted to read them and make room incase we go on lock down in the next few weeks, as it is approaching.
June 22nd 2014
Weekends really suck - especially Sundays. Some years ago we used to go to recreation every day of the week for one hour. I actually prefered that because we could get out of our cells every day of the week. Now we only get five days of recreation (two days mandatory outside) but the trade off was we get a two hour rec. period. So, yes, we do get a few more hours, but the days stuck in a cell...I don't care for it. Depending on what section you live on is what your days off are. Well, Sunday everyone is stuck in their cell which essentially gives the guards a free pay day because all they have to do is pass out lunch and maybe dinner.
Yesterday wasn't all that bad. I went outside and was able to get a rematch and win my ice cream back. I won 16-14. I started off in the lead but then fell behind with a six game losing streak. It was so hot and humid that after a water break I would come out swinging and push as hard as I could and try to wear the other guy down. I knew I ran the risk of tiring myself out as well but it paid off. Once we were tied up he asked if we wanted to call it a draw. I said, "Hell no." he said, "Okay, that is where you messed up. I gave you a chance to walk away but now I have to beat you." But just like in the last match I ran out of juice, he ran out this time. When I came back in I waited on a shower and listened to the radio.
June 29th, 2014
Wonderful...We're on lock down. This is the first time in the history of me being locked up that they start a lock down on a Sunday! Sunday? Sunday! On top of that - a holiday week as well! Who does that? Apparently this new warden does is who. Friday will be Independence Day and we usually get something decent to eat, some watermelon, chicken, corn on the cob, and now it is going to be freaking peanut butter and jelly and bologna? Great! What ass holes. For real.
June 30th, 2014
Woke up at about seven this morning. It was nice to sleep in 'cause I stayed up a little bit late because there were some good stations coming in out of Austin and Dallas. There was this really cool EDM station out of Dallas that was great to listen to for the thirty or so minutes it was clear. Houston radio sucks! I have no idea where they started the shakedowns. I guess this lock down will go on until sometime next week. It sucks. I think I'll spend the day reading.
July 29th, 2014
So, last friday I was listening to this show called "What Would you Do?" The premise of it is this: they hide cameras in various settings and then do different social experiments to guage how a particular person or people respond. They might have an actress go into a college bar and act like she's drunk, and then have another actor approach her and attempt to take advantage of her just to see if other patrons step in and prevent it. The episode I listened to on friday was particulary moving and honestly brought me to tears. I don't know why it touched me so much, but it did. It gave me hope and showed that there are just really good and genuine people in this world...The experiment was this: they had a guy who dressed up like a beat up and smelly homeless person. He stood outside a very nice deli (or that is what I assume it was - some sort of sandwhich shop) and a woman walked up to him, handed him $20 and told him to go inside and get something to eat. Another actor would act as the waitress and belittle the 'homeless' guy and see if other people would come to the defense of the homeless guy. Some patrons would act repulsed by the dirty man, but a few did come to his defense and insisted on him being served. The one that moved me so much was an older man who told the homeless guy to sit down with him and have some soup. The waiter then would come up and begin to chide him and the old man came to his defense. Then, after the homeless man left, the waiter continued to berate the guy and the old man just tore into him, telling him we all have our struggles and hard times. That he was no better than the homeless guy. There was so much (geeze, I'm getting choked up writing about it...) compassion in the old man's voice. I could hear in his own words the struggles and difficulties he's had in his own life and man, I was bawling like a baby. It really moved me and it really made me focus again on my own life and path...Yes, it's still there...that empty void in my life that I don't know how to fill...
My past, my journey...it has all lead to the present and I can't live in the past or even in the future. I can only live in the here and now. The good, the bad, the ugly... And I think that if more of us saw the world through the old man's eyes it would be a much better place. I think we'd be less likely to judge and condemn one another. Knowing there are kind people in this world; people who would invite a dirty, stinky homeless person to sit down and enjoy a bowl of soup with him kind of gives me hope...It makes me say to myself, "Dude, there are always going to be shitty people, but there are good people too. I have no control over how people judge or feel...I can only control myself and not feed into it.
Things have been relatively okay back here. It's been hotter than Hades but I think we're supposed to get a cool front soon. For the most part outside of the past week or so it hasn't been the typical blazing summer. We usually have a whole month or more of 100 plus degree weather.
August 25th, 2014
A bright and early good morning to you. It is 7:54 A.M. as I write this and I'm in the music groove...I'm picking up an indie station out of Austin and it has been nothing but one good song after another. Elvis Costello, Florence And The Machine, St. Vincent...Definitely a good way to start the day. It is such a rarity to hear REALLY good music. I'm held hostage to Houston alternative and to be quite frank one can only hear Bush's ''Glisterine" so many times. There used to be a great indie station that was around for about 2 years and then it became a Christian alternative rock station...I suppose in Houston Jesus is bigger than the Beatles. Who knew? Actually, well...never mind.
So, last week I was listening to KPFT News. KPFT is an affiliate of the Pacifica Foundation...they are rooted in peace and liberalism. I enjoy the station because not all, but a good chunk of it speaks to my liberal leaning views. I don't listen to it as much as I used to because it seems to have gotten a little too left for me, but there are some programs that I really love on there. It was Thursday the 21st and they had some woman on there speaking for an anti death penalty group and she kind of ticked me off...First, almost nothing she was saying about death row conditions were true...I am a person who believes that if you're trying to bring attention to something and making a change, it has to be rooted in facts...If someone tried to investigate your claims and they turn out to be bullshit it only hurts the chances of trying to improve anything. This lady was saying that we don't regulary have running water...huh? They haven't shut our water off in ages. Hell, only recently when a dayroom on c-pod had a busted toilet that was erupting like ol' falthful, and there were rumors that they were going to shut the water off to fix it, they didn't. We haven't had any lack of water in quite some time. Another thing she said was that they weren't letting us get our recreation which is not true. We have a choice of whether we want to go to rec. or not. I've not seen a guard jack a rec. in a long time. Some people just choose to not go. Now, they have taken showers before, but not to just take it...it is because they have a no "traffic and trading policy" meaning, that if I'm in the day room and I get caught by the guards trying to pass a book or some food to another inmate, I can get a disciplinary write up. It is a crap rule, but it is a rule. It is a serious enough infraction by their own definition that it could have you placed on F-pod...so, the guards make deals to cut their work load. Do you want a case or your shower? Most guys say "Take my shower" because we do have sinks and can bathe in our cells. It isn't as nice as a shower and I'm not saying it is fair or right even, but it does beat spending three months down on F-pod and having restricted privileges (commissary/visits). But only the real lazy guards do that crap. Most guards understand it is a necessity and keeps aggression down when we can share/have a sense of community back here.
Here in a short while I'll be headed to rec. I think the guard said 3rd round. So that'll be sometime around noon or after lunch. So, I'm going to wrap this up. I'm still tyring to get into the groove of writing regulary (a work in progress) and hopefully I can write a little something each day. We'll see. Until then...
August 26th, 2014
Got up this morning to go outside and play some basketball; I was up at 5.20am to ask the officer if he could put me outside with the guy in 69 cell because he's the only other person on the run that plays ball. We went outside and it was really nice; not too humid, and perfect conditions, so we ended up running 40 games, and I won 22-16. I came back inside and got started on my project "Crocnami"...You know, I honestly was half ass joking yesterday when I said I was going to write the baddest B-Movie ever but then I got to thinking about it and thought, well, I'll start typing it out...if the ideas are flowing I'll run with it and see where it goes. I'm fifteen pages in. I have the whole movie mapped out in my head and when I get to something I don't have any knowledge about (like oil rigs and earth quakes) and it makes no sense I say "It doesn't matter! It's a B-MOVIE! That's the beauty of it all. I can come up with the craziest scenario and have it make no sense...and get away with it. I figure if I write 5-10 pages a day I can have a first draft knocked out in no time. I don't really intend on writing a second draft...I'm just going to put it out there and see where it goes. If people like it enough then maybe I'll clean it up. Tighten it up a bit. At this point, it's a whole bunch of dialogue so I'm sure I could edit that. I find dialogue easier to write than anything else so it is what I rely on.
So, yesterday I was lectured by another inmate about something I wrote in my journals...It kind of ticked me off and I found it totally hypocritical, and amusing at the same time...I say amusing because I have literally ZERO interest in reading other people's blogs; maybe it's because I'm a bit snobbish when it comes to what I read, but I don't really care about gossip back here or even reading crap (I'm well aware that some would find my own writing crap). I'm not saying I'm any better...believe me, and judging what other people write doesn't interest me in the least. Plus, I get easily irritated when people embellish or straight up lie about things that have happend back here. I write from my own experiences; it's my world, through my eyes, and truth be told I do try to filter much of what I write. There are things that happen that I can't write about because it could get others in trouble, so I'm aware of that when I write. But I can honestly say that what I write is as accurate and truthful as I can make it...So, it is interesting to me, at least, that some people back here would get irritated by other inmates' blogs, or criticize or judge them. It is amusing that some dude back here even cares what I write about because I have little interest in what they write. Here, in the last couple of years there seems to be a lot of short term memory and a whole 'do as I say but not as I do' mentality. People are quick to point fingers, judge, etc. But whatever, I can't let it change or cause me to further censor myself. I have enough to concern myself with already.
Tomorrow is my section's off day so I'm trying to get as much possible done today so I can just kick back and relax, read, and listen to the radio...Maybe even work on CROCNAMI!
September 16th, 2014
As I'm writing this, I'm waiting to go outside. The past few days I've been ill, but I'll get through it. I always manage to do so. Actually, some sunshine might just be what the doctor ordered as I'm due to go outside and maybe play some basketball. If the guy that I'm scheduled to go outside with doesn't want to play I'll either practice my shot or just jog...not sure.
I'm up to about 32 miles a day now which is pretty freaking good considering in P.E. class I was that kid who was trailing behind everyone else when the couach would make us do laps. I'd get to that point where everyone else had passed me like two times and I'd say to myself " Awww screw it. I'm walking the rest in." Now I'm probably in better shape than I was back then....One one of the many ironies of prison.
I turned 37 on September 13th. I'm extremely grateful that I'm still on this planet and haven't had to utter my famous last words "So long and thanks for all of the fish" (an inside joke for nerds...). I honestly didn't think I'd make it this long and I do think it speaks volumes about the extreme luck and fortune I've had...For the longest time I was convinced that I was going to be dead by 32 and I've made it five years past. I don't know why 32 was the age I thought I was going to check out on...could be the palm reader that said "you'll be dead by 32" back in the summer of 1996 but I really don't believe in psychics 'cause that would be, uh, crazy...That is actually a true story. Some friends and I went to see a palm reader when we were tripping on LSD. I was told I had a short life line on my palm and I guess she was a former tree ring reader to have the skill set to determine that number. I had forgotten about that incident for years until I was awaiting my trial. It became a sort of self fulfilled prophecy to me.
So, there I was sitting in my cell at the newly minted age of 37 and I was hit with an overwhelming sadness that THIS is what has become of my life. I've spent the last half of my life locked up. I thought, what kind of 'life' is this? Why can't I wish it all away? Why can't I wake up and have it all be one bad dream - or even better be THE MATRIX. I just want to hit the reboot and start it all over. Do something right. Change one thing. It's scary to look back at your life and be able to pin the EXACT moment everything turned for the worst. To be able to say with certainty had I just gotten in that suburban with my dad and gone to Kroger's for groceries instead of waiting on the Taxi Cab To Hell...That I would've accepted my dad's gesture as an apology instead of being a stupid stubborn teenager...I can say with CERTAINTY I would not be sitting here typing this BS right now. This life I'm living would've never materialized. It was that moment in time that forever changed the trajectory of my life. Yes, I believe that things happen for reasons there are too many coincidences in life that happen to convince me otherwise. I'm not exactly sure as to how I feel about life the universe, and everything, but I know that there's too much evidence at least in MY life to suggest otherwise. I can rationalize that thought process. This current path is what has made me who I am. Now. I accept that. Doesn't mean it doesn't suck and I wish I could change certain things.
We went on lock-down at the beginning of September which was completely unexpected as it was 30 days early. Ever since the great cell phone scandal of '08 they've been putting us on lock down every 90 days to do a search for contraband and whatever...They typically only last about a week. General Population was scheduled for their annual lock-down so I suppose they decided to get death row as well. Even though our next 90 day period wasn't due until the first of October. It went by relatively painlessly. I didn't personally lose anything I wanted to keep in terms of property, so I have no complaints, really. Although, I will be upset if the rumors are true that they're going to put us back on lock-down in early October to keep things on a normal schedule. That will suck.
I've been reading a book called "The Brothers Karamazov", and I wanted to share a letter about Dostoevsky's life, and in particular a letter he published that was sent to his brother when he believed he was about to be executed. I was really moved by the letter itself. I could only wish to have an ouce of the strength, the spiritually he had. And so I wanted to copy it here and share it with you:
"Today, December 22, we were driven to Semyonovsky Parade Ground. There the death sentence was read to us all, we were given the cross to kiss, swords wore broken over our heads, and our final toilet was arranged in white shirts. Then three of us were set against the posts so as to carry out the execution. We were summoned in threes; consequently I was in the second group, and there was not more than a minute left to live. I remembered you, my brother, and all yours; at the last minute, you alone, were in my mind, and it was only then that I realized how much I love you, my dearest brother! I also succeeded in embracing Pleshcheyev and Durov, who were beside me, and bade farewell to them. Finally the retreat was sounded, those who had been tied to the posts were lead back, and they read to us that His Imperial Majesty granted us our lives. There upon followed the actual sentence...
Brother, I'm not depressed and haven't lost spirit. Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external [geeze, just typing this part out gets me all emotional...the strength in the words, the beautiful language used...] There will be people near to me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter - this is what life is, herein lies its task. I have come to recognize this. This idea has entered into my flesh and blood. Yes, it's true! That had which been created, lived by the highest life of art, which acknowledged and had come to know the highest demands of the spirit, that head has been cut from my shoulders.
[Here, I get that he is saying that he has let go of the material, the things that have kept him tied to earth...not that they don't matter, but in a greater spiritual existence his 'head' isn't what makes him what he is... this next part is particulary beautiful]
Memory remains, and the images I have created and still not molded in flesh. They will leave their harsh mark on me, it is true! But my heart is left me, and the same flesh and blood which likewise can love and suffer and desire and remember and this is, after, life. On voit le soleil! Well, good-bye, brother! Do not grieve for me...Never until now have such rich and healthy stores of spiritual life throbbed in me.
This letter, these words do give me a certain strength. I'm hoping one day that I can have that same spiritual freedom that he found. I can be a very neurotic individual. I hope one day I can let go...
September 17th, 2014
There's a storm a brewing on good old Polunsky Unit. Some real funny business. A few years ago they started restricting us on our use of razors due to something someone did. Never mind the fact more staff assaults happen in General Population - and they can buy personal razors - than they do on death row. In fact, I'd say less than one percent of staff are assaulted yearly. Inmates are a bit different. Anyways, so we can now only shave in the shower, three times a week, on Sundays/Wednesdays/Fridays. Now, anyone who hasn't shaved since Sunday is going to look like Grizzly Adams by Wednesday. I mean, I look like I haven't shaved in a week with just two days worth of growth, never mind four...Well, today the ranking officers went around various pods writing cases for NOT SHAVING...One guy was on the way out to visitation, hadn't even had the chance to shave yet because he was at recreation when they got him for his visit, and the captain sees him in the hall way. "Write him up!" she is reported to have screamed at him. Well, there was an exchange of words between the two and by the time the guy returned from his visit guards had already showed up to his cell, taken all of his property and put him on discipline, also called Level 2. No kangaroo court, no due process, just wham, bam, thank you ma'am.
Every now and then things get really laid back here. There's a nice rythm where the guards aren't messing with anyone and the inmates are relatively calm and complacent. Then, it is like someone gives an order to stir the bee hive and rile everyone up. It makes no sense to me. Why wouldn't you want a peaceful environment to work in? Why would try to shake things up when they're obviously working? This is one of those great mysteries of 18 years of incarceration. Someone told me an interesting theory back here of why this is suddenly happening and I'm not one to give into conspiracy theories but it does kind of make sense. In recent months there's been a lot of discussion about giving death row prisoners and people in administation segregation more priveleges because of the concern of solitary confinement, and what it does to an individual. So, this guy said, "You know, I think they're trying to get people to go off so that they can justify treating us like animals..." Hmmmm. It does make you wonder. Could there be officials so spiteful that they would intentionally create a hostile environment so that they can say "See! This is why they shouldn't have this or that!" I don't know, but it is an interesting thought.
Today has been one of those blah kind of days...I went outside earlier this morning, got my butt kicked at basketball, came in, did some writing, had my shower, and shaved! Now I'm winding the day down with this entry and than I'm going to listen to the news. I've been keeping up with Scotland's vote to break away from the UK, and I find it all very interesting. Plus, the ISIS stuff in Syria, and Iraq. I typically listen to the news from about 4-7 P.M. at the end of the day. I prefer world news over local news because geeze, if local news doesn't make you want to throw yourself off of a bridge, I don't know what will! It's all death, weather, more death, then sports! Yay! I like to get away from firery auto crashes and who won yesterday's ball game! I'm more interested in the politics of world news. Scary? You bet! But for me, a bit more cerebral.
December 9th, 2014
Do you ever wake up thinking "something within me has to change?" For the past couple of months that thought has been one of the first I have every morning. Why? Because over the past couple of years I've felt like I lost something. Something more than going through a loss of someone you really loved, or something more than a religion or a certain set of beliefs. Ugh! I know it has something to do with this freakin' empty feeling I have that I just can't fill...I have been analyzing it over and over, feeling a lot of emptiness inside. I've felt like the past years, while having some okay things happen, have been a sort of regression. I've felt like where I should be constantly moving forward I've instead been taking steps back. Not reverting to some old version of myself that got me into the mess I'm in, but I've become more cynical, a bit less trusting and more suspicious...in some ways I do feel it is justified, but in other ways it is so contrary to who I really am. I want my smile back and my happiness. I want the drive to push and fight like I had. I want to be kinder. I'm hopeful that one day, that void inside me will be filled...I just have to be patient and make certain it's the right thing, the right person. I WON'T jump in with the first thing that comes along - remember, all that glitters is not gold! I will look forward to that chapter happening in my life, when it happens...If it ever were to happen...
So, as I write this we're currently on lock down. I had a sneaky suspicion that at some point in December they would do this to death row. Most guys thought that if they didn't lock us down on the first of December then it probably wouldn't happen until January because they've already met their requirement of four shakedowns a year. This one right now makes five. But I've learned not to be surprised when these things happen. I mean, no one would've ever guessed that we would be on a lock down over July 4th, but that happened so what is another one during the Christmas holiday season? Apparently Mr. Scrooge runs this place.
I did want to rant a little bit...I find it interesting that people in the media like to manufacture fake drama and scandals. I recently learned of some VICE magazine article that was going on about Charles Manson getting married, as if there weren't more pressing issues in the world to cover like say, BILLIONS OF PEOPLE STARVING TO DEATH RIGHT NOW or something. I'm just saying! I guess from my understanding of the article it then went into murderabilia stuff, which I sincerely find appaling. Apparently I was mentioned in this article because someone is trying to sell a letter of mine. I have to be honest and say that I was sincerely pissed off at this. One, I think it is disgusting for people to either profit from a crime or exploit guys back here who are clueless, and put a certain amount of trust in those who write them. All I can say is shame on you/them...We're vulnerable in the sense that most of the guys who get penpals only want a connection with the outside world...they want friends and a feeling of family. I can't speak for everyone back here, but I know for myself that having friends, being accepted and loved,helps me to feel normal and not like some kind of societal pariah. I suppose the irony is that we're deemed monsters and yet there are people free who are monsters themselves...but back to the media...they play a hand in this as well, exploiting inmates and free people, alike for a readership who suck from the teat of pseudo drama and scandal...Who really cares if Charles Manson got married? How about instead of trying to figure out ways to keep convicts from getting married or whatever fake scandal there is, you instead figure out ways of keeping people out of prison or off of death row? You know, like real world solutions. Fuck, instead of paying 60 dollars for a letter from some inmate, you could give that money to a worthwhile cause and help something instead of some sick ass dude exploiting both the victims and convicted. THAT is the real scandal.
Whew...got that out of my system! haha. I'm actually having a difficult time in forming any good thoughts to write now because my neighbor, while an alright dude, is driving me nuts from blasting his radio at SEVEN IN THE MORNING. I can't think. Hell, how can he think with what sounds like thunder rattling in a tin can?
Not sure when they're going to get to C-pod, the pod that I'm currently on for the shakedown. They have six pods to the building, and C-pod is in the middle. I'm guessing it'll be closer to Friday if they just started today...which will give us a bit of time to get everything in order. We're only allowed a limited amount of property, so it can be a bit stressful trying to guess what you're going to be able to keep and what the guards want to throw away.
Well, fantastic! Now they're turning off the water. Something about a burst pipe. A guy just asked the guard why he didn't give us a heads up so we could fill up our Gcups, or use the toilet, and he said, "It slipped my mind." I sure do appreciate your apathy Mr. Guard!
December 11th, 2014
Still on lock down and they haven't gotten to this pod to do the shake down of our cells yet. I'm thinking it may be tomorrow. I'll be ready to just get it over and done with. There's always a slight anxiety that builds up until they've gotten your search out of the way. Not that I have any contraband, but just the act of them tearing through your 'home' and essentially your private goods. It makes you feel a bit exposed and naked. Then, there's just the fact that anything you own doesn't really belong to you. There's not any single item in my cell that truly belongs to me. It could be taken and thrown away at any moment. It is one of the cold harsh realities of being in prison.
There have been some interesting conversations that have been going on in the news and in politics, about what constitutes as torture...there are many who believe that solitary confinement or "AD-SEG" (also known as Administrative Segregation — doesn't that sound like some kind of dystopian, Hunger Games District 12 type term???) is the equivelent of torture. There are many studies and articles about it and it has been an issue on UN Councils and Congressional Meetings in the U.S., but it seems to just peter out after a while. It has kind of come back again with the release of de-classified documents that describe in detail the CIA's torture program. I just read an interview with John Stewart about a movie he did called "Roseweter" based on the journalist Maziar Bahari who was detained and tortured in Iran. The interviewer states to John Stewart, "Solitary confinement is torture." Stewart replies, "I don't think there's any question of that. We have this whole discussion of "Well as long as they aren't being water boarded then it's not turture". But removing stimulation from someone will drive them insane."
I guess what is more surprising for me is that people act shocked that the CIA had indeed been torturing people, I mean, we do it to our own citizens! Sure, it's not water boarding, but if you think for a second that prisoners don't get beaten, starved, suffer sleep deprivation, are humiliated etc...You're quite ignorant. Furthermore, I would argue that it is reductive to justify any of it by saying "Well, they're criminals they deserve it." It is childish to try to make a moral equivalent of it. I can be cruel to you because you were cruel to me...Circular logic. But what the hell do I know?
In other news, I'm feeling kind of bad about something that happened a couple of months ago and admittedly it was my screw up...A guy back here asked if I'd take care of something and I dropped the ball, and now he's pretty upset with me...but I'm trying to make him understand that while I did mess up, the situation spun out of control. I had no control over the actual circumstances! I consider him a friend and would in no way ever try to intentionally screw him over. But now there are other dudes trying to manufacture drama and put crap in his mind, and it isn't helping much. Why is there the need to fuel drama? I'm starting to think there are people who love to sit on the sidelines and create chaos. As long as it's happening to someone else then it's fine with them. They think it's funny as fuck...
That is what is happening in my part of the world. Full report coming after we are sell searched, which I hope will be tonight or tomorrow!
December 13th, 2014
Well, we've just had our 'shake down' of the cells and it went by without any problems, and the anxiety of waiting is over...Woo hoo!! Actually, I think they were in a huge rush to get things done by the end of the weekend, and have us off of lock-down by Monday. It seemed like they made more of a mess than actually go through everything. The way that they do it now is they give us a big red bread crate. Our property has to fit within the crate, and any excess property is then confiscated. I'm usually within compliance because I get moved every two weeks and I intentionally keep it light. Any books, comics, and magazines that I read I either donate or give to someone who wants to read them. There's little I hold onto in that category. Anyway, so they dump the crate over on the floor and start going through the items. By the time you go back to your cell it looks like a bomb has gone off. Then, it's get back to your cell, pick everything up, and clean. Good times.
So...today is the 14th anniversary of the escape. I don't think I've ever gone into full detail about it all and I have been going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write about it. I've given little accounts here and there, but it isn't something I generally discuss with anyone. Not with friends, not with anyone back here. Sometimes guys back here on death row will try to fish information or they have heard different stories from George Rivas, and it doesn't surprise me that he would boast about it! Other times, I'll give a shrug or a nod of the head and either deflect the conversation or tell people, "I don't really talk about it." I will say this, though: when asked if it was worth it, or would I do it again if given the chance, I emphatically say NO. That person, that head space I was in doesn't even exist anymore. I'm not sure when that changed...I'm not sure when I felt the helplessness and hopelessness end. I've been sad, I've felt like the world was against me, but I don't think like that anymore, and for a very long time I haven't felt as helpless as I did back in December 2000. I just truly felt like I had nothing to lose. No friends, no family...nothing. I just wanted to start over - as naive as that sounds. I wanted to disappear, create a new life, and start from scratch. If I had thought at any time a person would be hurt or killed I would've never gone with those guys and that is just the straight up truth! Believe this or not, but the escape and being on the run afterwards was designed so that no one would get hurt. I'm sure eyes rolled just reading that, but I know that to be true. I can't say what went wrong, but I can say with all honesty, I participated in NO violence towards anyone. I didn't hurt anyone during the escape, I didn't hurt or kill anyone after the escape. I know where I stand with God on that. I'm not saying I'm not responsible for my choices and actions before and after the escape; I absolutely am, and I absolutely accept whatever punishment should come from those choices. But a killer I am not.
Friday I recieved a letter from my Attorney. e's just accepted a job with the Tarrant ounty DA's Office so he's withdrawing from my case and I'll be appointed a new attorney, but I wanted to share something he wrote in the letter. [Update 1st April, 2018: My Webmaster has uploaded a scanned copy of my old attorney's letter, and you can see it under the tab "Randy's Case", sub-heading "Miscellaneous Documents"]. I was touched by his words, but they also kept me grounded in the reality of what I face.
I just paused for a second and was thinking about when the helplessness and hopelessness faded...I thought about some of the people in my life, like some good friends who have been around for a while, and who I know will always be there, come what may. Even those times when I thought I'd found love - romantic, true love - and it's failed, it's still taught me things and shaped who I am. There are a handful of people in my life whose friendship I cherish, and who I know will stick around, and I'm grateful for that.
December 16th, 2014
Lock down ended yesterday and I was able to get outside. It was lovely to breathe in some fresh air, jog and exercise. The guy that I was outside with was a bit on the strange side, and spent a good chunk of the four hours we were out, just talking to himself...It felt like spring with a nice breeze and sunshine splashing across the concrete, so once I finished working out I found a nice sunny spot and let the sunlight bathe me. I zoned out and let my thoughts drift. It geve me a sense of euphoria, and I came back inside feeling brighter in myself. Sigh...Anyone who knows me knows I have long had this nagging empty feeling, like something quite specific is missing in my life...Maybe one day it will leave me.
Tonight begins the first night of Chanukah, and while I'm not really religious or even 'believe' like I once did, the traditions still mean a whole lot to me. I like to spend that first night kind of reflecting and remembering past Chanukahs as a kid. The first night's gift was always going to be a slinky without fail. Never changed, and I'm not really sure how my mom and dad started that tradition. It would be a square box and my brother and I never had to guess what It was. Each night the gifts would get a bit better. The eighth night would be the really cool gift. Some of the best ones that I can clearly remember were the Millinium Falcon from Star Wars...That thing was huge and ran off like four D batteries to make sound effects. I think the best gift ever was the stereo system I recieved when I was about 11 or 12; it had a double deck cassette player and record player with a high speed dubber and equalizer. Until I got my CD player stereo when I was 14 that bad puppy recorded many sappy love songs and mix tapes. Dad would pull out the menorah which I believed belonged to my grandmother and would place it on a plate and then would pull out a box of colorful candles, we would say a prayer in Hebrew and then light another candle for each night. They are memories I will never forget...
December 25th, 2014
Well, it's Christmas Day, and we just had our meal, and I have to say that it wasn't bad at all. Of course there were the typical complaints from people but I always tell them jokingly "Wow...first world problems, huh? Man! Life is tough!" We had chicken breast, a slice of brisket, a huge roll, carrots, cabbage, onions...two pieces of pie and an apple and orange. Not too shabby at all.
I was going to write a little something on Christmas Eve but couldn't really find the emotional energy to do so. Christmas Eve is always so difficult for me because my life irreversibly changed. I reflect every year, saying to myself "how in the hell did you get yourself into this mess?" But please don't interpret that as self pity. It's not. It's just that there's so much remorse and regret...Regardless of the fact that I didn't kill anyone, I was just so fucking naive to believe that escaping was the answer, and just because I didn't want to see anyone hurt, that didn't mean it couldn't happen by others. So many lives changed. So many lives lost. A family without a husband and father, a son...Be cynical about it all you want, but from the depths of my heart and soul I'm sorry this happened. I wish I could go back in time to my 23 year old self and say "Look, dude...no matter how helpless and hopeless you feel right now it will pass and things will get better. It's not worth everything that will happen. It's not worth it."
And so I spent the evening in the dark reflecting...I do fully intend to write about everything in the memoir I'm currently writing. Just as a I feel there's not an accurate account of the escape, I feel that there's not an accurate account of Christmas Eve, 2000. The truth should be out there...
I woke up this morning and went straight to work to keep myself from falling into a depression. I've just been working on some writing and cleaning etc. I think I'll catch a few holiday movies this afternoon and tonight, listen to a commercial free cut of Bridesmaids...so funny! I love that movie. People think of the title and say oh...chick flick, but really not even close. I laugh my butt off every time.
Tomorrow, everything will return to normal and we'll prepare for the new year...I'm keeping hopeful about my appeals...So, coming from a semi-agnostic Jewish guy...Merry Christmas!