Saturday...And the last day of the month...March really flew by! I don't think it was a bad month, by any measure. Sure, there was a couple of stressful moments, but all in all, I'd say it was a good month. It closed out with the news that my attorneys asked for an extension from the 5th Circuit for my application for a Certificate of Appealability...it was due on April 6th, but because they've recently been appointed, they've had little time to review all of my records, and they want to be thorough. They've actually got quite a mess to clean up as my previous attorneys at the Federal Level did the bare minimum and it was as they say a "less than stellar" performance. I just hope that the Court grants it. Positive energy into the universe!
Yesterday was a good day...I went outside and was able to get some sun, and play 60 games of basketball, even if I did get my butt handed to me. When I first came to C-Pod I was boasting that I was the best on the pod...ha ha. Of course I lost a couple of times to a really god guy and I figured out that if I could stay out ahead of him with shots I would win, and after that I did. Than another really good ball player moved to the pod and he's just too fast and too good. I can hang with him on the shots, but he's got a level of speed I just don't have and I can't dig my feet in for a really good sprint because of a gun-shot wound to my left foot. My big toe and the next toe don't bend at all. So, he's got the speed that I don't, and he won yesterday 44-16...Ouch!
Today is a no recreation day and I'm just listening to the radio and trying to keep busy.
Courage, strength, hope, faith and love!
March 29th, 2018
As I'm writing this, the sky is clearing up and it is looking like it's going to be a beautiful spring day. We've got a pretty good crew of Officers working today - not the fastest in the world, but they're good spirited and treat us like human beings. I don't mind when things are slow, it's when you've got guards that don't want to work, and they treat us like animals, that gets me riled up and irritated.
Yesterday was one of those days...I was already upset over the execution of a guy I considered a friend, and I was upset at myself for even forgetting his execution date was on Tuesday. I was jamming to Sound Awake, and the 25th anniversary of a favourite Depeche Mode album, completely oblivious to THIS place...Then the show ended and the program "Execution Watch" came on, and my stomach dropped.
We called the guy "Rod", short for Rodriguez. He was a huge Star Wars/film buff, like me, and we spent a lot of time talking about movies and geeking out. It's rare to find someone you can talk to about film - the way the film is made, dialogue and directors...I enjoyed that bond we had. I never judged him for why he was here (as I try not to do with anyone back here - things are always very grey, and never a case of black/white or good/evil) nor had we ever talked about it. I just enjoyed him as the person I knew him to be.
Apparently, according to the so-called "legal experts" on the Execution Watch show, they said that at some point during his legal proceedings he was offered a plea deal, and he didn't take it. So the District Attorney felt affronted and went after him with a vengeance...I was thinking about that and, you know, Jurors should be able to hear information like that because if the DA is willing to offer a deal before going to trial, then maybe - just maybe - he's not the worst of the worst and maybe they'd spare a person's life with that kind of information? I don't know. It just highlights what a messed up system we have and how Justice is not applied equally or even fairly.
Going into yesterday...We had the trifecta of assholes working, and it was a mess of a day. To add to the mood, a huge storm rolled in and it got crazy! The thunder was as loud as I've ever heard it - literally shook the buillding. The lightening was like fireworks. Just crazy! It went on all the way until six this morning.
There really is a much better vibe on the pod today, though. I'm just excited that I'm going to get some REAL SUNSHINE today around noon. It's the first time I've been out 3rd round since I moved to C-Pod in December, last year. Seems ages ago...
Everyone here is fairly confident that next Monday we'll be on lock-down. I'm as ready for it as I'll ever be, although I'm not looking forward to being stuck in the cell for 3-31/2 weeks...but I'll manage.
Courage. Hope. Strength, Faith. And LOVE!
March 27th, 2018
I avoided a melt down today...I was already irritated over the mentally ill guy being gassed the other day, but I managed to get to sleep early enough last night and I felt pretty relaxed and ready to tackle a new day this morning, when I woke up at 5.30 am. I could hear the guard setting up outside recreation down stairs, and by my calculations, I figured I'd be headed outside around 3rd round, which would be perfect. Finally some sunshine, maybe a light sunburn, because I need some color so badly. I look like death walking...But more importantly, I'd be back inside of my cell in time to listen to a music program that will be celebrating the 25 year anniversary of Depeche Mode's "Songs of Faith and Devotion" album...something I haven't heard since the '90s, and was a favourite of mine in my teens.
About 20 minutes later the female officer was asking me if I was going to recreation and I said, "Yes." She started flipping through the paper work and said, "5th round." Huh? I jumped out of bed, "What do you mean 5th round? That's an impossibility!"
"Are you going or not?"
"I'm still trying to figure out how the math adds up. This pod never sees five rounds of recreation. On a bad day with the most incompetent of officers, we have 4 rounds!" I said, incredulously.
"You gonna go or not? 5th round!"
I couldn't miss the show and honestly, I just didn't want to give the recreation any power over me. If I waited, even out of stubborness, I'd only be cutting off my nose to spite my face. "Just put me in the shower early", I said.
And you know what? I'm glad I did that because I've been able to catch up on things and if I had waited on recreation - even when I KNOW it would've more likely been 4th round, I'd just be irritated and worried I was going to miss the music, so why give it that kind of control over my day? The Stoics say that you can give the power to something else, or hold onto the power, as the problem is usually manufactured anyway. It's best to just take away the problem's power over you, and stay in control. Once you do that, it's no longer a "problem" and you feel much better. Of course it's easier said than done, but maybe with practice, I'll get better at it.
It definitely doesn't seem like we're going to go on lock-down until next week, which is a good thing as well. Though, I really want to get outside and run some basketball before we can't leave our cells for a few weeks.
Courage, strength, hope, and love....
March 26th, 2018
In spite of a weekend where I suffered with some kind of weird stomach virus, and not getting any sleep at all, I'm in a pretty decent mood. It's been a nice day, guard-wise, and I had my recreation and shower fairly early. Now, I'm just listening to some Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and waiting on mail.
There was a guy a few cells down who (a couple of days ago) said "Isn't it strange that there hasn't been a gassing or use of force in a long time?" I thought it was a good thing because I can remember when it seemed to happen just about every day. Well, that dry spell was broken at about 3 am this morning...
The whole incident began when a guy who is mentally ill, right beneath me, began cursing and talking to himself. He's been known to do it before, but it never lasts for long. As the two guards, one older male and a very young female officer were feeding breakfast, he yelled out "Suck my dick!" to no one in particular. The female officer said, "Who said that?" and of course she didn't get an answer. My neighbour told her, "Oh he's just talking to himself...that wasn't directed at anyone." But apparently it really bothered her and she clearly felt like the guy was directing it at her. She made a point to go to his cell and start antagonising him. I heard a guy downstairs try to say to her, "Man, the guy is a psych patient. You might as well be talking to a wall." She wouldn't stop. She kept cussing at him and antagonising him. The next thing we hear is, "Ahh! He threw piss at me...It's in my mouth!"
A few minutes later a sergeant came to his door and again...piss right in the face. A few minutes after that a "Use of Force" team came to take him to F-Pod.
Now, here's where I get upset at the whole situation. If you could see this guy...he weighs, at most, 120lbs. Skin and bones. The team, some of the biggest guards on Death Row, weigh collectively, over 1200lbs. It's like a bicycle going up against a freight train. Not only did they gas him, but they went into his cell, beat him up and dragged him out. He looked like a limp noodle flopping around. It really made me mad. There is a certain protocol that they're supposed to follow, especially dealing with the mentally ill. None of it was adhered to...A psychiatric doctor is supposed to be on hand to first talk to the inmate, then a normal nurse is supposed to be on standby as well, in case the inmate is hurt during the use of force, but there wasn't a nurse to be seen. Once the gas is used they're also supposed to give the inmate a chance to come out without getting banged up, but they didn't even give him that chance. It was literally: gas, open cell door, knock him around, and drag him out.
I couldn't get back to sleep after that and then I want to recreation at 5.30 am. The rest of the day has been relatively peaceful. I feel good - much better than I did over the weekend. I am good to go.
Strength, courage, faith, and hope...
March 21st, 2018
Another beautiful spring day. I wasn't sure how the day would go today, because I didn't get much sleep last night due to mail not being passed out until after 11.30 pm...AGAIN! When I woke up, we had some real jerk guards and I thought it could go badly for the whole pod, but I was able to get outside and play some basketball...it was just perfect. I mean, I couldn't have asked for a better day for ball. And while I was tore off the bone with a horrible loss of 45 games to 15, I gave it my best and the run felt great.
The guards have pretty much everything done and only a few showers left for second shift, but that doesn't mean anything these days...we've got to sign for our Jpays now, and that just gives more work to the guards that they don't want to do. (Jpay is the TDCJ mail system that people on the outside can use to write to Texas prisoners. Some states have two way emails, but in Texas you can send emails, but we have to reply by snail mail. Maybe one of these days, Texas will get with the times and allow two way Jpays. But as of now...we're still in the stone age)
One thing that is getting me down right now is that the State is handing out execution dates like candy, again. I think three or four guys have gotten dates this week alone. A guy I know pretty well has his execution date next week. His case is really awful, but knowing him this many years...I just can't reconcile the person with the crime. I mean, we've had in depth political conversations (he's a liberal, like me), we both love sci-fi and all things Star Wars...similar tastes in music and books...It's just strange. But I also know that this world isn't black and white and when we begin to really dig at the root of why people do the things they do, there's always more to that person's life story.
Another guy who is scheduled for execution...I just don't get why they even bother. He's a complete invalid (is that politically correct? Cripple? I don't know!), and many years ago he was involved in a TDCJ transport van crash; the guard escorts died in the crash, but the inmate lived, albeit he was hurt very badly. Since then, he's been on a walker, then a wheel chair, and as well as all of his injuries, he has severe diabetes, AND Parkinsons...Now, some people are probably thinking, well...the State should just put him out of his misery, but my argument is WHAT danger is he? The dude can barely lift a cup of water to his mouth without flinging the liquid everywhere.
The other person I know of has already had a previous stay for mental health issues, but apparently Texas still wants to try killing him. Another case of, the dude is crazy...come on!
I just really can't understand the need to waste valuable resources and money on trying to kill people. We don't have money for our education system but we've got the millions for each person on death row just to kill them? Does that really make sense to some people? Are you so hell bent on revenge that to kill a single person you'll sacrifice educating hundreds of children?
Courage. Strength. Hope. And faith.
March 20th, 2018
Well I didn't get to bed until close to 11.30 pm last night as I was waiting on the mail...Another night of lazy guards! I crashed out and slept all the way until 7am this morning, woke up feeling good and headed outside around 8am to play basketball. It was a wonderful and beautiful first day of spring. The air fresh, the sky blue...There was some ravens perched on the lights that hang over the top of the outside rec. yard, and they were cawing at us. I kept telling them, "sorry dudes...I have no snacks to give you!" I think they really did want something to eat, but now we have bird nets over the rec. yards to prevent them from roosting and shitting everywhere. The downside of that is the insect eco system explodes, and there are june bugs, ants, and may flies, everywhere!..
I won the ball games today with a shocking 20-10 victory. I was in the zone and running my but off and it felt good. The guy I've been playing has a deadly shot...he's good. But I figured out if I can outpace him, I can beat him, so if I do miss, I've got to get two shots off to his one...And I've pretty much been beating him ever since. Thank G-d for cardio workouts!
When I came back inside, I ate lunch (corn dogs, cabbage and carrots), did my laundry, and rinsed off, took a little nap, and now it's 2.40 pm as I write this. Really, I'm just killing time 'til my music show comes on at 4pm.
Courage. Hope. Faith. Strength...
March 19th, 2018
"Hope is like the sun; if you only believe in it when you can see it, you'll never make it through the night." Leia Organa, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
You know, sometimes it is so easy to wake up with the feeling of defeat hanging over your head. I think on Saturday 17th, I was feeling like that and I'm not sure what triggered that feeling, but I was just down. As I was listening to Saturday Night Live, my mind was half way in it, but I was also thinking about legal stuff, and I pulled out my legal papers from over the years and began to dig out documents I wanted to post on my website. The more I read and re-read, for the thousandth time over the years, the more I believed that the universe HAD to set this right and I had more and more hope. I decided to post a good majority of the documents on my site just to show people what I felt were the three strongest points in my case. They are posted under "Randy's Case", and I encourage you to read them if you haven't yet checked them out.
Well, it's been a beautiful spring-like day today. I woke up with a lot of energy and when I went to recreation I had a really good workout. When I got back to my cell I got a little bit irritated; I was listening to the news, and heard Trump's "Plan" to combat the opioid crisis...I've always found it interesting that since the "War On Drugs" in the 1980s, to the present, we've yet to really tackle the problem. So, Trump's solution is to not only go after immigrants, but also to try and introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers and dealers (but only the really bad guys) and did I also hear him say drug users? Jesus H. Christ...So, what would happen is they'd go into the poor communities and minorities and start arresting, charging, and executing them? When they had the crack crisis, they didn't go into rich white communities and start locking up the coke heads. No, they went into urban communities and started locking up young black people - wholesale - and essentially created the Prison Industrial Complex...Good one, Trump! Let's just repeat things that DON'T work.
How about going after the pharmaceutical companies and doctors that get people hooked on painkillers/opioids? Isn't that how the problem started in the first place? People didn't all of a sudden say, "Wow...Maybe I should start shooting up heroin! That sounds groovy!" No, they wanted something even stronger than oxycontin etc...
Obviously, we need to find a way to stop traffickers, but we can't begin a whole new "war on drugs" because it never worked in the first place. The problem is the US, not the outsiders! We need to figure out a way to deal with drug addiction, because locking people up and executing them is not the solution. We need safe injection sites, drug addiction clinics...And the courts need to start really looking at treatment, and not punishment, as the only option. Punishment hasn't worked in the last 40 years! What makes Trump think it's going to suddenly, and magically, work?
Courage, hope, faith, and strength...
March 17th, 2018
I feel like a spring chicken! I finally got some much needed sleep last night – about 8 ½ hours of it, and I feel like a new man. This past week has just been a mess. I really don't understand it. It was like the ranking officers said “We need to shake things up on C-Pod. They're getting everything done before 9 o'clock at night and that just isn't acceptable! Let's throw the laziest most incompetent officers we have down there and give those inmates a little bit of chaos...” Madness.
Thursday night I was so tired that I told myself, if I'm 1st round for recreation, I'm going to skip it and just sleep in. I don't like giving up my recreation because I get a bit antsy and stir crazy in the cell if I'm in it for longer than a day, but I need sleep! So, Friday morning rolls around and the Officer says “I need you to go to A-section ...1st round”. I said “Really? I can't go outside later or something?” She said “No...they are filled up already”. I wanted to say “no”, but I knew if I did, I'd regret it later on that day. So, I said, “Fine...Okay”. I kicked back my blanket and got out of bed...I felt like the walking dead though.
I slammed a cup of coffee, brushed my teeth, straightened my cell up and was ready to go when suddenly I hear someone else being put in A-dayroom. I'm thinking, “am I hearing that right? Did I just hear someone go to A-dayroom?” The guards finish getting all of the inmates out to rec. and the female officer that set me up in the first place, passes my door. I say, “Hey! Didn't you tell me 1st round A-dayroom?” I'm not going to lie, I was really mad...I'm already grumpy from lack of sleep and I'm looking for an argument...something – anything to blow off steam! Her eyes get wide and she goes, “I messed up. I set up recreation and had two guys going to the same dayroom at the same time. I'm sorry.” She apologised profusely, something most guards DON'T do...it just took the fight out of me. I mean, how could I stay mad when she admitted she messed up?” I said, “Okay...when am I going to rec. now?” She told me 2nd round.
The damage was done, though. I was already up, caffeinated and agitated...I started a letter to my girl, and then decided to blow off steam by scrubbing my cell.
I went to rec, around 9 that morning but got stuck out there for almost 4 hours. I normally wouldn't care, but I just wanted to get back in for a nap so badly. The day was super humid as well, which didn't help my mood much. But I did have a really interesting conversation with a guy back here and he asked me for advice because he felt betrayed by someone in the free world, and didn't know what to do about it...Apparently he visits with someone who sees multiple guys back here...They don't seem to be a “groupie”...according to him. I don't know. I do make a distinction between someone who has it genuinely in their heart to help a guy back here, get them out of their cell for a bit, maybe buy them a meal, and to make them feel like a human being, as opposed to someone who is just in it for the thrill of it, or is psychologically damaged. I don't want to question a person's motives and put a cynical spin on it, but from this guy's viewpoint, the person he sees is just someone who genuinely cares. And he cares about them and appreciates what they do.
Anyway, he was upset...This person is a bit on the gossipy side and can sometimes get embroiled in drama. He told this person things in confidence and she, in turn, repeated it to another inmate and his private business was blasted all over the place because that inmate came back and told everyone around him. He didn't know if he should stop seeing this person or just forget about it. I told him that maybe he should write her a letter and explain that he felt it was a betrayal and it hurt his feelings. Don't scream, don't cuss...just explain how it made you feel, give them one more chance, and if they do it again then go your separate ways. But they need to understand that it wasn't a cool thing to do.
Now, I don't know about this person, but I know there are others who have stirred stuff amongst people/inmates back here before. I don't know why they do it...Maybe they enjoy the drama...Maybe they enjoy the attention it brings to them. I've long had a theory that some people crave attention so badly that they don't care whether it's good attention or bad attention...the focus is on them and they foolishly satisfy whatever kind of neglect they're experiencing in their lives. (Oh man...have I been caught up in that type of drama with exactly that type of people just recently!) It's fleeting though, and you're chasing ghosts; you'll never feel fully satisfied, and you'll continually try to feed an empty soul.
That being said, I feel strongly about this: if I write to an individual – whether they write to someone else, or see someone else or not...No matter what our relationship is, even if it's the most casual of friendships, I write in confidence. I don't write for you to spill it out to everyone. Unless I say it's okay to repeat what I write, don't repeat it! People shouldn't have to explain that to you. It should be understood. I'll never understand why people have the need to broadcast things, or even GO to places like Facebook! Whatever happened to real life (in person) friendships? It seems that these days, meaningless, superficial friendships on Facebook, mean just as much to some people as their real life friendships do...(Sigh...). Anyway, if wasting your day and your time gossiping about people (instead of getting on with your own life) means that much to you, knock yourself out! But I digress...What I'm saying here is that unless it's actually information that serves a purpose, how about just pressing your lips together? Nobody cares how many letters someone sent you. Nobody cares if you've got the hottest boyfriend on the planet, or whether or not he does more for you than someone else's penpal or friend...The anti-death penalty movement isn't a freaking competition! It's an important cause that should not be infected with drama and meaningless gossip. If you could just put an ounce of the energy you spend on gossiping and getting wrapped up in drama, towards really solving REAL WORLD PROBLEMS...man, this death penalty thing would've been over a long time ago! Just shut up and enjoy your friendships and the relationships that you've built with people. Embrace their humanity. Forgive their faults, and make a real difference in someone's life!
I just hope that I gave the guy some good advice and he'll be able to address it with the person he sees. He didn't sound like he wanted to end the friendship; he was just hurt a bit. I understand...I've been there numerous times with people...It's part of being locked up on death row, unfortunately.
Anyway, I got back to my cell and I knew I wasn't going to get a shower any time soon, so I tried to take a little nap and it was enough to get me through the evening. I ended up crashing and finally getting sleep. Because we don't have recreation on the weekends, I was able to catch up on much needed sleep and I feel ready enough to take on the world!
There was a point yesterday afternoon where I was suddenly just...sad. I don't know, it all kind of came crashing down on me and I said – kind of prayed - “G-d...I don't get this! Why not just put it on people's hearts to end the death penalty? YOU can end this. Just freaking end it! End it!” It came out of me pretty forcefully. I feel selfish when I pray to win MY appeals. I'm no more deserving of another chance at life than many others back here. I know this! I shouldn't have to make that prayer of “Save me...Have mercy on me...I don't deserve to be killed!” No...if this would end, all of us back here would be given a chance – and that's the way it SHOULD be.
I really don't know what I'm going to do over the weekend. Probably spend it reading. College Basketball's “March Madness” has taken over the radio and the only team I care to follow is Kentucky... “Go wild cats!!!” So...not much to listen to.
Courage, strength, hope, and love...
March 15th, 2018
I didn't get to sleep last night until well after midnight...I had been waiting on mail until after 10 pm, and when the guards didn't seem to be passing it out, I thought, "I can't hold on any longer...I'm too tired" and decided to crash. I ended up tossing and turning until the guards finally did pass mail out AFTER midnight...I wasn't a happy camper, but at least I'd be able to sleep in the following morning because they started on one row for recreation. WRONG! This guy called me out to play basketball, and so I got out of bed and headed outside, a little after 6 am, and I've been up ever since. And surprisingly, I've only had just one cup of coffee!
I did win the basketball games 13-7, and that made me feel good. That horrible loss I experienced last week was something I never wanted to go through again! It was a beautiful crisp morning, though. Just wonderful! I love seeing the sunrise and the sky lighten, and to hear those early bird chirps, and the air fresh and clean. It's just a wonderful feeling. I wish I could go on an early morning jog down a street or park...
I was just listening to this conservative Christian radio station, AFR, and Bryan Fischer...I've written about him before, but this guy! He gets my blood boiling, and I know it's going to happen everytime I listen to him. That being said, I do like to get varying opinions, and I don't think that anyone should be in an echo chamber and just listen to people who agree with everything you say. I think it's one of the main problems in our current political process: listening to someone who makes an idiotic comment can bolster your own views, and that's not a good thing, but pointing out the weaknesses in theirs, can only strengthen yours!
Well today, Mr Fisher was talking about torture vs. waterboarding; he believes that waterboarding isn't torture because it caused no physical harm. The feeling of drowning is not the same as drowning, it's merely psychological, and it gives the government more control over the person being tortured. When he said that I thought "Huh?...So, if a husband or boyfriend is verbally or emotionally abusing a woman, it's not really 'abuse'? It's merely a psychological tool to have CONTROL over the victim?" I wonder what he'd say to that argument, and if he'd come out against that kind of ABUSE happening to someone? My guess is he'd say it's a bad thing to verbally abuse a woman...Waterboarding IS torture - psychological torture!...Breaking the mind, making a person fear for their life is no different than physical abuse...I'd argue that it's actually worse, and that's why it is supposed to be unethical for a registered psychologist to participate in those kinds of practices. Anyways, it just got me going. I don't understand how anyone of any religion could justify torture of any kind, or the death penalty!
I've been talking a lot lately with my girl, about living in the present/moment, and I found it interesting that today, in my book of Stoic Quotes, the chapter is "The present is all we possess". Marcus Aurelius basically says that the past and the future are the same; you can't live in either of them, so you might as well just enjoy the moment because it very quickly becomes the past. I've really been trying to keep my attention and focus on that...I can PREPARE for the future, but there's no guarantee that anything I do will go my way. So, why then get worked up about it? Just love the present! In the chapter it quotes a famous cartoonist, Bill Keane, as saying "Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is the gift. That's why it's called the present".
Yes! Today really is the gift...
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith...
March 12th, 2018
It's a bit on the cool side today, but otherwise a picture perfect spring-like day. Lots of sunshine and birds outside of my window. I'm just finding it hard to register the fact that the month is moving so fast. I had a bit of anxiety set in when I was out at recreation early this morning; a guy waiting to get an early shower, said...
“I can't wait to go to A-Pod”.
A bit confused, I said, “Why? Is that where you want to go if they move you?”
“No,” he said. “I'm ready for that needle. My appeals are over”.
I mean, what do you say to that? It kind of hit me in my gut, but I said, “I can understand being tired of this place”
“Yeah...I'm ready to check out. Every day I'm tired.”
“I'm tired,” I replied. “But I'm no way ready to go. I'm going to fight.”
He just nodded his head and I went back to exercising. I started thinking about my appeals and...whenever I do that, I start feeling a bit anxious. I tell myself to not let that self doubt in and to keep being positive, but then my neurosis fights me and is like, “What makes YOU think that out of the hundreds (who probably felt they weren't going to be the one) executed, that you'll be spared?” That's when I tell myself to just shut up and stay positive. It isn't over 'till it's over...It's a crappy feeling to have to have that internal dialogue with yourself, though. I don't wish it on anyone.
I was thinking not long ago about how if a lot of the time and energy spent on trying to kill us back here, or just hate us in general, was applied to love and the act of love, it would probably accomplish the goal which they set out to reach. Instead of retribution or revenge, it could nurture people and prevent horrible crimes from happening in the first place. Saying “an eye for an eye” or “Thou shall not kill” isn't a deterrent. When has it ever been? I like to say that faith or prayers without action are useless...so why not really try to affect and change lives instead of just condemning them AFTER the fact? Don't talk about it in church services; get out into your communities and really try to change things. I think about my own life and how different it might've been if the president of my school had said, “Randy, what can we do to HELP you...?” Instead of, “Geeze, we think you might be suicidal and we're just not equipped to handle something like that, so we're going to send you off on your own....good luck!” Or even my parents, when I stole from them, left for Louisville, got arrested and sent straight to school and then kicked out for the whole suicidal BS...you would think a concerned parent wouldn't say, “Hey, Randy...you can go anywhere in the US except home or where your girlfriend is.” But instead, “Randy...what is going on with your life and how are we going to get you straightened out?”
No, but that's not how a lot of people do things. They just condemn and ignore the problem(s) at hand. Maybe it's just easier to ignore a problem than to actually fix it. Seems like that's what Americans do best! A little bit of love would go a long freakin' way! And that's just not some hippy dippy idea. MANY religions are based on that principle.
They're doing moves right now and it's only 3.39pm as I write this; it's a bit strange for them to be moving people in the day time. I wonder what that is all about? Usually 2nd shift gets the pod move sheet and then another team of guards comes around 8-10pm and does the moves...They could just have so many that they're splitting it up into two shifts. That makes sense. We'll see.
Courage, strength, love, and HOPE!
March 7th, 2018
Ugh!...What a mess of a day...I expected to go to recreation at 5.25am, but the female officer had no idea how to set up recreation. I was told 3rd round, and so I decided to crawl back into bed and sleep a bit because I didn't get to bed the day before until midnight. I woke back up at about 7.25am, had some coffee and made some oatmeal for breakfast...I hadn't even had my first mouthful when the guards showed back up to my cell and said, “Come on! You're going to rec now!” I was like, can I at least finish eating and brush my teeth? Sheesh!
I went to rec. and got stuck out there until noon, and at 3.14pm it doesn't look like I'll get a shower, again, until late tonight...Where do they find these people? Free money - I'm serious! They get pay cheques at the tax payers' expense for doing nothing. Glorified babysitters...Most of them, not all...You have some that come and bust their butts. Yesterday, during the day time, they were on it and finished almost everything by 2nd shift. It was 2nd shift who then did absolutely nothing. Anyways, I shouldn't let it get to me.
I was thinking about how I've got exactly a month until my appeal to the 5th Circuit is due. I'm being as positive and hopeful as I possibly can be. I believe in the people who are working on my behalf and know they're sincere and dedicated. G-d willing, everything will be fine. What I ask of the reader is to please send prayers and positive thoughts into the universe, or whatever your belief system is, and hope that good things happen. I'd be forever grateful. Unless I get an extension, my appeal is due on April 6th.
I wonder when we'll go on the spring lock-down..It was rumored to be this week, but it doesn't look like it's happening. A trustee came through just a little while ago and said it could be the 19th, saying something about letting anyone who observes Passover get their seder orders in for the holiday at the end of the month. I'm skeptical of the 19th only because this lock-down will be a long one and will go over Easter Sunday, and I just don't see them not allowing general population inmates to attend Easter services.
When I went to school in Kentucky, a Baptist boarding school in Oneida, they did a special Easter service; I am Jewish, but I did like going to it. They'd do it at sunrise on Easter morning, and at the beginning of spring...It was just so beautiful to see the sunrise over the mountains and fog. I couldn't really give a hoot about the religious aspect of it...it was just so pretty. They had a good Easter morning brunch as well. Anyway, whatever the prison decides to do, I'm cool. I'll be ready.
This guy in the day room right now is really irritating me...He's talking crap about all of these guys back here and picking on one of the mentally ill dudes on this section, and there's nothing I can't stand more than someone picking on the mentally ill. I don't like conflict and I don't like arguing with people, but it's taking all of my self control to keep from going to the door and telling him to knock it off...What points do you think you get by picking on someone who can't take care of themselves or have no control over their mental faculties? You think this makes you a man? Argh...
Alright...I couldn't not help. I just went to the door and told him, “Hey, give it a rest, dude.” He told me to stay in my cell and mind my own business. I told him he was making himself look weak by picking on/wiring someone up who can't defend himself. Another guy jumped in to back up what I said, so he gave up picking on the guy.
Well, well, well...I might make it to the shower after all! They're getting someone right now, so I should be next. Woohoo!
I suppose I'll close on this note...
Courage, strength, and love...And lots of HOPE!
March 6th, 2018
I wish you could see how beautiful it is today...It's the perfect pre-spring/spring day! The sun is out high, it's in the 70's right now...the sky so clear and blue...After several days of just feeling miserable and grey, well, not necessarily the grey – I can deal with that - but the Texas humidity? Ugh!
I woke up this morning at 5.25 am. I was a bit tired because after yesterday's mess of a day...I didn't get a shower until well after 8 pm and we didn't get mail 'till after 11 pm. I was dreading the morning, but I don't like missing recreation either, so I got up and started the day. I expected to play some ball, but the guy I went out with wasn't feeling it, so I jogged and did some leg exercises instead. That crisp morning air really livened me up though, and I'm not tired in the least - I feel great.
I'm listening to this radio program right now and they're talking about sweat shops and how Americans in principle condemn them, but our shopping activities suggest that we really love them in all actuality. It reminds me of this news expose I listened to years ago where they had set up a monitor outside of places like Wall-mart and showed shoppers the horrible conditions and life stories of actual sweat shop workers. These customers would make statements like “Oh that is horrible! Oh...how awful!” Some would have tears in their eyes and get choked up but when asked, “Would you be willing to pay more for clothing or other items to end the horror of these sweat shops?”...Almost everyone said they couldn't give up their great prices...What does that say about materialism? What does that say about American culture? I don't know...
Seneca, one of the great Stoics, is quoted in his Moral Letters, 42.6 as saying, “So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we own this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren't useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren't worth that much. But we don't discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.”
At what cost is our materialism? At what cost to others and THEIR well being? People should think about that. And don't just consider people, but the toll it is taking on our environment from pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, and our planet as a whole. Anyways, I was just sitting here, listening to this program and it's making me think...
I was thinking about changing how I end each journal entry, and as it's a favorite saying between me and my girl, I hope it will offer the same inspiration as it does for me...It's become a sort of mantra – a point of meditation...Something to focus my positive energy on.
So, I'd like to close today with:
Courage, strength, and love...
March 5th, 2018
This humidity has me feeling a bit grumpy and restless....I've been waiting on a shower all day long, and we've got some super lazy guards working. They're supposed to have the 4th round of recreation out before 2nd shift and it's inching up to five in the afternoon right now. Shift change is in about 20 minutes...I don't see that happening! They've not started to pass out dinner, so they've done almost nothing. Oh, well, I'm wrong, they each took over an hour long break when they're only supposed to get thirty minutes each...
You're thinking “Waaaah! You're such a whiner!” and maybe so, but my frustration comes from two places: the inability to feed myself or take a shower when I want to, and the lack of any real leadership and oversight by the ranking officers, also known as “Supervisors”. They're supervising diddly squat! Second shift is coming on and they'll drag their feet in everything they do because they know at 10.30 pm, everything shuts down. If they've not finished showers or rec., who cares? They'll blame first shift for not doing their job, and round and round it goes. Now that the weather is warming up, more inmates are starting to go to recreation which means more rounds of rec. During the winter this pod was getting about 3 rounds of rec., maybe 4 some days, but by summer time there'll be 5 or 6 rounds of rec., which means that inevitably, some inmates will get screwed out of their recreation. It's happened to me many times. Anyways, I'm trying not to get in a bad mood. Think positively! Ha ha!
It's been grey and muggy all day long, but it seems like some sunshine is finally breaking through. When I just looked out of my window, a lot of the clouds appear to be breaking up and the top half of the sky is blue. There's still a border of thick dark grey clouds on the horizon. If it stays this way, it could lead to a really nice sunset...I'll be watching closely.
I want to share something a bit more positive from my “Small Stones from the River” book...
Take your love into the sunshine
take it into the rain and snow
love likes to get out and stretch a bit
so teach your love to dance
your love already knows the rhythm
with a little coaxing
your love will learn to sing
do not worry
if love wants to go for a walk
no need to follow it
love knows the way home
let your love take a nap
it's not a sprint, after all
do not think your love is lazy
your love just knows
how far it has to go
I think it's about just letting love do it's thing and not forcing yourself to love someone but even if it feels like you don't have love...it will find its way to you. I especially liked the part about love not being a sprint. I think that's getting at what I'm practising now in just enjoying every moment of the journey. Love knows where to go and it'll find it's way to whatever destination there is...it knows. Just kick back and enjoy it.
I'm smiling now, because on my desk is a really cute card from my girl that has a marshmallow hugging a cup of hot cocoa...it's a bit of an inside joke between me and her, but it really put me in a better mood. I sometimes let this place/environment get under my skin and there's really nothing I can do about it...Then a silly and cute card takes my head right away from here and lifts my spirits...
I guess I'll wait on dinner and catch the news for a bit.
March 4th, 2018
It's been one of those weekends that seem to go on and on...As I write this, it's Sunday afternoon, very humid, and just, 'blah'...There's some strong rumors going around - spread by some of the trustees who clean death row (death row prisoners aren't allowed jobs, or to clean anything other than our own cells) and a few Officers, that a “unit spring lock-down” will start on Monday or sometime this week. If not this week, definitely next. The timing is about right because a unit lock-down will take about 3-3 ½ weeks to complete all shake-downs, and that would bring everyone back up before Easter weekend when General Population inmates can attend church services (death row inmates do NOT receive religious services and it's rare to see a chaplain unless one is facing execution). If the lock-down does happen, I guess I better get prepared for the long haul...Ugh!
Friday night I was listening to “The Prison Show” and they had the head of the TDCJ on the phone as a guest. In the studio as a guest host, they had Anthony Graves – an exonerated man from Death Row. I knew him in passing when I first came here, but never really had any in depth conversation with him. I may have passed some food or magazines for him, but that's about it. Anyways, when the conversation came up about the use of Solitary Confinement and Ad-Seg (administrative segregation) I was hoping that Graves would've really pushed him about solitary confinement and Death Row...He had a unique perspective, as he's lived it and could've really pounded the issue and pressed for change. He didn't. Instead the hosts and Graves kind of soft balled the questions and gave him way too much wiggle room. Like when the guy said, “Well, we're not calling it solitary confinement or Ad-Seg anymore; we'll be changing the name to “Restrictive Housing”. Come on, that's the same freakin' thing...You can shine up a turd, but it's still a turd!
Asked by the hosts of the show if there were programs for people to get out of “Restrictive Housing”, he mainly addressed the issue for gang members, which is great...But how, if I were to receive a life sentence, would I get out of solitary confinement? Will I be able to take a program or show that I'm not a danger and have zero desire to escape or whatever? Issues like that were never addressed. I just really wish Anthony Graves had pressed on the death row thing, though. We're in a cell 22 hours a day; we have no access to religious programs, no telephone access...nothing! I've got guys around me literally losing their minds from these conditions. Guys, who just ten years ago were totally cognisant, now completely batty. And the Mental Health Department is a joke! Do you know what their 90 day evaluation is? It's a guy with a clipboard, walking up to your door and saying “Halprin, just doing my 90 day walk through...” marking you off a list and going to the next cell. How is that an evaluation? One guy asked one of the Psych people “How can you tell if a person has lost it by just looking at them?” The reply was “I've been doing this a long time”. Really? That's what they're teaching in medical school these days? I can just see a professor...”Okay class...now, we could waste all of our time studying science and the great Psychologists of the past, or I could just save you the trouble, 'cause you'll learn in time how to spot the crazy ones....”. Unbelieveable!
I really need to clean my cell up, it's a mess right now. I've been spending the morning cooking for my neighbors and I still have things in the hotpot. While that's cooking, I'm catching up on writing, sitting here thinking, geeze, this cell looks like a tornado hit it! I've got stuff everywhere!
I've got this really great book my girl sent to me...It has meditations and micropoems, and I flip through it daily to find a bit of peace when my anxiety gets the better of me...It's called “Small Stones From The River” by Kat Lehmann, and I highly recommend it. I'll share one with you, here. They aren't titled...
does not require liking
is more peaceful
you do not need to like
an inclusive love
March 1st, 2018
I cannot wrap my head around the fact that today is the first day of a new month...Almost spring! Actually, I think today marked the first real day of spring in Texas. It is my section's outside day and I was scheduled to go out first round; I had a rematch on the basket ball court, but a storm moved in and outside rec. was cancelled; then, around 8.30am the rec. yards opened back up. It was still grey outside, and a bit chilly, but I was happy that the humidity was gone because yesterday was horrible and just plain miserable! Anyways, we started playing ball and I lost the first three games in a row...I almost let the guy get in my head, but I knew that I could beat him! He doesn't have a better shot, he's just quicker, so I kept telling myself to push as hard as I could and I started to rack up the wins - the final was 25-5 my way. Then cloud cover broke up and the sun popped out; I could hear birds chirping and it began to really warm up. I thought, finally...spring! I love the fall and winter; there's something incredibly beautiful and a bit haunting about the grey skies, the crisp cold air...bare trees...I love it! But it has been an unusually harsh winter for this part of Texas, and a little bit of sunshine never hurts.
After the game I was talking with the guy I beat, and we talked about this place, the stresses and whatever. I made a comment about a lot of the hypocrisy we see in some people who write guys back here, especially when they get mad at you. They overlook their own faults and make you out to be a demon. He was telling me that he was struggling with an issue...He writes to someone in a marriage, on the outside, but the chick was getting freaky with him in letters and he tries to live a “Christian” lifestyle. I told him “See! It is stuff like that – hypocrisy! And watch...you reject that from her and she's going to go off on you and throw crap in your face about how she supports you and blah blah blah...and you're thinking, 'damn...you're a married woman'”. He started to laugh. This place boggles my mind. I'm really tired of trying to figure it out.
Not much else to do for the day...I'll probably read for a bit, wait on a shower, and hopefully get in bed around 10.30 pm. I'm starting to live like an old man...Being 40 sucks...ha ha!