I can't believe that in a few days it's going to be the Thanksgiving holiday. It certainly doesn't feel like it! I'm ready for the good food though.
It's been an interesting few days – mostly good, but a bit of the strange as well. I'll start with the good...
On Thursday I had a legal call and that went really well! I can't speak about the details, but there are definitely very positive developments. After we talked the legal stuff, we caught up on life in general and I'm always pinching myself because I can't believe how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful group of people representig me. They are all such good human beings, and I have a deep appreciation and love for all of them. I've never left a legal visit or a call feeling down in the dumps...Even when I had an execution date and I was scared, I was always optimistic after a discussion with them.
Later that Thursday I was listening to one of the music programs on the Prison Radio Station, and the DJ said,
“Friday night on the alternative music program, we're going to do a Cure concert. Three straight hours. In anticipation of that I thought I'd warm y'all up with the singles album, 'Galore'."
Of course, it was great to hear that, and I was bouncing off the walls with excitement waiting for the Cure concert. Friday night couldn't arrive soon enough! I kept busy for the whole day, and when the concert came on it was amazing! After the concert was over the guy who does the alternative show on Fridays, came on and said,
“How about an encore?...I'm going to play Cure: Show, and Cure: Live in Paris.”
I was up until after 3am!! Any great song or band always energises me. It's like drinking a thousand cups of coffee back to back! Electricity courses through my body...I can't explain it. I think any great art does that for people if they're open to it.
I fell asleep shortly after that and woke back up at 7am...I was still full of energy. I thought they might do recreation but they didn't, so I kept busy for most of the day.
Sunday is when things turned a little strange. Shortly after showers a ton of guards poured into A-Pod and went straight to F-Section. They began to pull guys out of their cells and take them into the hallway. After that the Warden showed up and the guards began to tear up the cells. They spent several hours shaking the entire section down...I've been on death row for 17 ½ years and I've never seen that happen before – especially on a Sunday! It had the rest of us on pins for the rest of the day. That evening the Wizard of Oz came on so I listened to that, and was in bed before 10pm.
Today I woke up and was told I was scheduled for 6th round recreation, which means I'm probably not going to make it. A little while ago I had a conversation with a guy from F-section, and he said that none of them knew why they were shaken down, and the guards didn't even find any contraband. We talked about how the whole process of a shakedown can be humiliating and violating, and then he said something insightful...He said,
“You know, when I was free I didn't think twice about stealing or robbing someone. I never intended to kill anyone – that was never my intent – but I got a certain excitement from robbing. I can't explain it. But you know, years of going through this bullshit, of having my cell destroyed and my stuff taken or torn up by the guards...it forced me to think about all of those people I've robbed or when I broke into a house and tore up a bedroom to look for money or something I could pawn. I realised that sense of violation that I have when it happens to me is the exact same feeling, if not worse, that those people felt. I've never felt sorry...I'm just being honest. I never had any regret for the robberies. I definitely regret killing, for sure, but never for robbing someone. It was just part of the hustle. But now? I understand...I ain't going to lie. I broke down and cried last night and felt bad...Suddenly, I got it.”
He was becoming very emotional in the day room, and I said that empathising and understanding that your actions have hurt someone is part of self-discovery, and that he was now on a healing path...It was a very profound moment.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 17th, 2020
Sigh...another day trapped inside of my cell with nowhere to go and very little to do. It seemed that last week things were looking up. We had several straight days of recreation, and I was able to get out of my cell and start up my jogging routine and get back into the groove. We all felt that with an influx of brand new guards, they would start getting us back to a normal schedule. Then, a ton of old guards up and quit and we were back to being short-handed again. It seems to be a vicious cycle...Hire new guards, old guards quit...Nothing changes...Rinse and repeat. It's become so bad that even as I type this the night time guard is still here this morning, working overtime until they finish the showers. Hey, at least we're getting showers, right?
Well, last Friday was a bit strange because I had just come back from the shower early in the morning, and started to clean my cell and do some laundry, when a guard showed up to my door and said,
“Hey, you need to pack your stuff and get ready to move.”
I was dumbfounded. For one, they rarely ever move me these days, and for two, I've never been moved that early in the morning. I asked the guard where I was moving to and he told me A-Pod. I wasn't upset about it...To be honest, whilst I love my friends on B-Pod, I was ready to move off the pod. There was too much negative energy there from a few, and it was kind of messing up my own positivity because I felt like I was walking on eggshells around certain individuals. Not to mention the noise on that pod – it was pretty bad!
I wondered if I'd be moved during the day or later that evening, but around lunch I was shuffled over to A-Pod. The first thing I noticed is how quiet it is over here! Some guys yelled out their 'hellos' to me, but it was quiet apart from that. The cell was nice and clean and thank G-d there doesn't seem to be any cockroaches! I still cleaned and scrubbed before I settled in, but it didn't require the effort that other cells sometimes need.
My only complaint is that the reception for my radio isn't great, and my view sucks. All I can see is the medical building, and on the horizon, the tree line poking over the top of other buildings. For the past few days, even though there's been no rec, it's been peaceful. Everyone is positive and I'm around some good friends here, and haven't been able to speak with them since I got my execution date last year.
Today is our commissary day, and after over five weeks without, everyone is eagerly awaiting its arrival. I told my neighbour,
“I've been craving chips for so long that I'm just going to grab a bag and obliterate it...I'll be spitting out pieces of plastic. I don't care!” (ha ha)
Anyways...today is my brother, Wesley's, birthday; he's 40 years old. Whenever I think of him I see the same kid that would get on my nerves, but I loved him to pieces anyway – even when we'd fight. I was thinking of a memory to share...Because he got into trouble a lot, it was often my responsibility to look after him and be in charge. That came with its own set of headaches, and we'd squabble if he wouldn't listen to me. But I look back at those times and miss them, and I miss him.
I think when I look back at us, the things I feel most guilty about is not being there after leaving home in the summer of '95, and at times, when we would fight I'd say,
“Sometimes I wonder if you're even my real brother at all!!”
I never meant it and even thinking of those words now brings some tears to my eyes. But just like my little brothers, I wish I had been there for him. I think with some stability at home, and maybe having me to turn to when he needed me, maybe whatever mental illness that lay dormant inside of him wouldn't have been awakened, and consumed his life going forward.
Anyways...I wanted to say,
“Happy Birthday, Wesley! I love you little brother.”
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 8th, 2020
It's a new day in America! There's a song by U2 on their 'War' album, called '40', and it's based on Psalm 40. I think of the line,
"I will sing a new song."
That's what's been going around in my mind.
It's been a long and stressful week starting with election day. I wanted to write a journal, but every time I sat down to do it, I found it hard to not spew a ton of verbal vomit, so I waited as patiently as I could. Believe me, for one who is anxious (even if often people say I always look calm and peaceful...my girlfriend always calls me a 'swan' because above water I look graceful, but below I'm kicking furiously) and neurotic by nature...it was difficult! Especially as results were taking days to come out, but moreso because I would listen to some of the officers who voted for Trump repeat baseless claims of election fraud, saying things like,
"They're stealing the election. Trump said they would do this."
It's easy for me to blurt out things like, 'idiot', and I'm guilty of it from time to time. But I think we're at a place where insults aren't really going to get the country anywhere, as a whole. I don't know what the solution is...I don't know why people believe in conspiracy theories...I don't know whether more progressive values or conservative values makes any of us less or better than the other when it obviously doesn't. So, it begs the question: How do we find middle ground?
I really believe, and it's my fervent hope that Biden is the person who can calm things down, bring us together, and begin to heal our country. We need that more than ever.
I told a friend back here (a die hard Trump fan...),
"Dude...I'm glad Trump is outta here, but I love you, and it's going to be alright."
And I mean that...
Yesterday was a good day. Just as news broke that Biden was declared the winner, the guards started to schedule recreation. Our three week lockdown was ending, and I wasn't expecting rec because we had already had our showers. Our section was set up for outside which was perfect. It was warm, but not hot. The sun was out and I enjoyed every minute of it. I kept getting teary-eyed as I thought about the election and Biden's win. The feeling I had can be summed up in one word: Relief! The emotions were very much the same emotions I had on the day I received my stay of execution. I was thinking...
"Thank G-d...now I can move forward."
Four years of Trump were devastating to our country. I don't think that is an opinion or point of view - it's fact! I think history will bear that out. Who knows what the next four years will bring? But I think if people stay engaged and participate in their democracy...if they are willing to find middle ground...willing to compromise on some things...We'll come out a little bit better than we were before.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 31st, 2020
Happy Hallowe'en!! It's a bright and beautiful Saturday – the last of the month. I woke up feeling full of positive energy, even if we've now been on our lockdown for almost two weeks. Eating this awful food has my stomach torn up from the inside out, and this is expected to go on for another week or longer. But as my Taffy always says: Onwards and upwards!
I'm loving this fall weather spell we've been having. It got really cold the other day, and they turned the heat on which made it feel nice and cozy. In the mornings I have to fight myself to get get out of bed, but it feels just perfect...just like fall should feel.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. The prison radio station had been out for a few days. The DJ, who goes by the name, 'Megamind', (an inmate in general population who has been assigned to handle programming etc.) came back on around noon and explained why the station had gone out. Apparently, the office where the radio station equipment is kept – thousands of dollars worth of equipment, donated by various Churches and volunteer services in the free world – is in an indoor gym in general population. Well, some guards were shaking this gym down for contraband, and decided to ransack the office and mess with the equipment as well. The DJ said he could tell it was done deliberately, and with malice, and asked us to pray for those who carried such hate in their hearts.
Anyways...everything was running smoothly by the afternoon, although my heart was crushed at 3pm when they did the afternoon 'Album Spotlight'. I was super excited when I heard the Cure's opening notes to the song. 'Plainsong' – the first track of the Disintegration album. It played for about a minute and then clicked off. The DJ then came back on and said,
“Oops! Wrong album! It's supposed to be Boston today...”
I was crushed!
Later that evening he began the audio movies and announced the beginning to the Hallowe'en Fright Fest. He played 'It: Chapter One' and 'It: Chapter Two'. At 3am (waaaay to early for me) he was going to play, 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose', and tonight it's going to be the original 'Child's Play' and 'The Nun'.
I'm taking the day off from politics news today...I'm already a nervous wreck anticipating Election Day. I'm surrounded by Trump supporters here, which is just mind boggling to me, especially since the dude is so fond of the Death Penalty.
I received a wonderful letter from my girlfriend last night, as well as some other great mail in general...It really has my hopes and spirits running high! It's going to be a good day, and I hope we're going into what will turn out to be a great month!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 29th, 2020
Thursday morning it's f-f-f-f-reezing! I mean, it really is cold! It took a lot of willpower to crawl out from under the blanket this morning, but here I am getting a jump on the day and hoping for the best.
Yesterday they did our shakedown again. They did F and E sections during the day time, and then around 7pm they pulled out my section (D) and took us to some holding cages in the hallway as they searched our cells. My cell was a mess when I returned...Nothing was missing or trampled on like the one we had a few weeks ago, but it took me a long time to straighten and clean my cell up. I was glad to be back in good order.
My neighbours are so funny! They keep me laughing. One is choc full of conspiracy theories, and thinks the guards are always messing with him...The other tells the wildest and most grandiose stories I've ever heard! I think he truly believes them...
So, last night as I was trying to get to sleep, they were talking. The guy to my right said,
“You know, in the last shakedown they took my book, but I see they returned it today.”
I jumped into the conversation (from bed, I should add, blanket pulled up to my chin and snug as a bug in a rug!) and said,
“Wait...that doesn't even make sense! Why would a guard take your book, keep it for three weeks, and then say,
“Well I'm searching his cell...maybe I should return that book I stole. He'll never notice it!”
I mean...dude...are you sure you just didn't find it after reorganising your things? Maybe misplaced it? It would make more sense for the guard to just read it, take it home, or throw it away...
“Oh no! You'd think that, but they do that kind of stuff to me all the time.”
Something that isn't funny at all is the food they're feed us. I've been locked up 25 years and I've never seen it this bad. I don't know how they're getting away with it either. If I had to guess what our calorie intake is on a daily basis, right now, it's barely 1100 calories...And it's all sugar/carbs. Bread upon bread, and that's it!
Breakfast this morning was two pancakes and some kind of square piece of dough with sugar in it. Yesterday, lunch was a corn dog and PB&J sandwich. That was it! The diabetics here must have problems with their blood sugar levels, and the medical staff isn't expressing any concern to the administration or to the kitchen staff.
After the report from Kerry Blakinger last summer, we were promised the food would get better, and it's only gotten worse. I really don't like complaining about it, but what they're doing is inhumane and cruel, and it's going to end in long term health damage for all of us.
Anyways...I feel like I'm whining, but it's a serious issue. I mean, who puts vegetable oil in the peanut butter to spread it out?
All that being said, I'm in a relatively decent mood. It's a beautiful and bright day, and I'm dreading the elections next week...Come Tuesday the 3rd I'll be a nervous wreck, but I have to just believe that it will all turn out the way it should. I have to believe this country will come to its senses and course correct things...It's our only hope.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 27th, 2020
Insanity...That's the only way to explain this place and what's been going on for the past week. We're on our second lockdown within a month, and as I write this we're waiting to go through another shakedown. It's stressful, and really it's unnecessary because they have the technology to find what they're looking for in a matter of seconds.
Still, it bothers me more that we just can't ever seem to get to recreation with any kind of normalcy...I'm sick and tired of being trapped in the cell!!
Also, the food they've been giving us has been the worst ever...I shared an article some time ago about the sack meals they give, and as a result of that the article TDCJ had promised to improve the quality of the food. During the summer, for the COVID-19 lockdown/quarantine, there were some improvements in the form of real milk, fresh veggies, and fruit, and even some palatable pouch meals. But for the life of me, whoever is in charge now clearly doesn't care.
Here's what we've been having consistently:
Breakfast: two pancakes with a smear of peanut butter...The peanut butter has been cut with oil, and that's no joke! When they first gave it to us my stomach was in knots for a whole day – it was horrible. We get a biscuit with that and sometimes there might be a hard boiled egg.
Lunch: Cut peanut butter and jelly, and a corn dog, and maybe about 20 raisins. The corn dog might be substituted with something we collectively call 'cat food' – pureed bologna with added mustard or relish. They smear about two tablespoons of that on some bread.
Dinner: The same as lunch...The exact same thing...
There's little variation from day to day, week to week, and one day they gave us cornbread with meat crumbles mixed in. Another day they gave us a soggy chicken pattie, but this has been what they've been feeding us. It's by far the worst sack meals we have ever had, and if you write prisoners back here just ask them...This is no embellishment or exaggeration.
I don't like complaining about the food, I really don't. I try to remain mindful that people are starving all across the world. However, I guarantee if you gave one of these sacks to a homeless person, they would peer inside and look at you like,
“Are you playing with me?”
They would probably throw it away...It really is that bad.
Well, the Supreme Court is now a 6-3 majority for conservatives. How that will affect us on death row remains to be seen. It's scary, especially since (in the past week) two guys from this pod were just given execution dates. Now, the new Justice appointed (as a matter of her Catholic faith) is personally opposed to the Death Penalty...or so she has written about in legal journals over the years. But just as progressives have demanded she recuse herself because of personal beliefs on issues such as Roe V. Wade, I would assume many Catholics demand she recuse herself on capital punishment cases as well. Everything is up in the air and yet to be seen. We just have to wait and see...G-d be with us.
I can't believe it's almost November...Time is flying!
Not much else to report today – just waiting to get this shakedown over with.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 21st, 2020
Yesterday our section had recreation and I went outside first round. It was nice to get outside and get some fresh air. There's a guy down the run from me who has this 'sense of entitlement' and he threw a fit because he also had to go to rec first round. He got into an argument with the guard, saying he wanted to out second round, but the guard was having none of it.
The inmate told the guard,
“I don't do first round! I want to go second round!”
To which the female officer said,
“I don't care what you do or don't do. You'll either go out first round or not at all. Your choice.”
They bickered back and forth, and he cussed her out and said,
A lot of times the guards don't want to argue with him so they let him have his way...But it's annoying to the rest of us. The guy I was outside with said he had been living next to him for over a year now and was sick of him, and couldn't wait to be moved away from him.
One of these days the dude is going to piss off the wrong guard and it isn't going to be good for him. I don't like seeing my fellow inmates treated badly in any kind of way – none of us do – so it upsets me when I see dudes behave in a way that could get them into trouble. It's not that I don't get the frustrations of this place...I get as frustrated at the next person, but nobody needs any extra frustrations in this place.
After I came back in they shut everything down, so he wouldn't have been able to go to rec second round anyway. They said the big exterminator was coming, but he never did. They didn't even resume showers until that evening.
Speaking of evenings, mine was good last night. There's a program on the Prison Radio Station at 9pm – it's a new wave '80s/'90s alternative music show and they call it 'The Lizard Lounge' based on an actual club in Houston and in Dallas back in the day. That's the program that usually plays one or two Cure songs. So, I thought I'd send in a playlist of song suggestions I'd really like to hear, and see if the DJ would play them. Last night he played the entire list! I was super excited and listening to the songs for an hour, I was proud of myself for the vibe...All of the songs meshed really well and I thought I'd share the song list in this journal. He played them in this exact order:
Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies
What's On Your Mind? (Pure Energy) – Information Society
Flesh for Fantasy – Billy Idol
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? - Paula Cole
In a Big Country – Big Country
Rapture – Blondie
Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
Midnight City – M83
I Think I'm in Love – Beck
Letting the Cables Sleep – Bush
Beautiful Girl – INXS
Saved By Zero – The Fixx
Walls Come Tumbling Down – Erasure
Under the Milky Way – The Church
Ruined in a Day – New Order
Inbetween Days (Remix) – The Cure
It's a really good mix!
Today they have rec shut down again, saying the exterminator is going to come around...We'll see what happens.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 19th, 2020
A very boring Monday...They ran rec for E/B sections, but that's the only two sections they did on the pod. This rec schedule makes zero sense, and here's the thing: You'd think the guards would be done with everything by now and have all of the showers done, but they're not...More than likely they will leave work for second shift to do, so if the goal was to finish their work load early, they've failed horribly.
My friend, Clinton, came over to the day room in my section and has been stuck in there now for almost four hours. It's cool though because we've not really had much time to talk recently, but we had a great conversation about hope and how we both have very good chances for retrials. I hope it works out for him.
I found myself getting a bit anxious and restless today...It happens from time to time, and I think if I had more things to do to distract myself, and have a bit more structure than the chaos and uncertainty of the past year, I'd be able to cope with these feelings in a better way. What a weird year it's been for everyone!
So, last night was very interesting. A guard came to a guy's cell with a phone, and let him make a call. They put the phone up to his door on speaker-phone, and fortunately everyone on my section was quiet and respectful. He had a five minute call, and then they went to another cell, but that guy didn't get through. I guess instead of taking us out of our cells now, they'll just bring the phone to us and put it on speaker-phone.
I asked the guy later if it was his 90 day call, or a call like they'd been allowing us earlier this year, and he said he just put in a request so he wasn't sure. I went and ahead and filled out a request, and sent it in. I can but hope. I guess I'll know in the next week or so whether my request is approved or not.
And that's been my day...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 18th, 2020
I realised as I was about to begin this journal that our Presidential Elections will have been decided by the time this entry is posted...weird, and slightly scary. Well, big breath of air and... “Let's Go Joe!” G-d willing...
It's unusually loud for a Sunday morning. For some reason on this side of the pod, everything is amplified and it echoes around like a cavern. For someone like me who is very noise sensitive, and with supersonic hearing, it all gets mixed in my brain as a cacophony of sounds and can be really, really irritating.
It's been a fairly uneventful weekend. They've not done any recreation since Friday, and there's not been a really good explanation as to why. They keep saying that they're 'short staffed' but we've had 3 officers working the pod every single day, and they have extra officers to do things like pull guys out for legal phone calls and medical...So, it sounds like a big crop of crap.
Here's a plea and call to action for those who have loved ones on Death Row, or pen pals...Please get with organisations like TIFA or call TDCJ or even the warden of Polunsky and explain how important it is for us to get to recreation on a regular basis. The warden himself has said that he does not see visitation opening up any time soon. Make a request that we get a 5 minute phone call every other week, like they were doing a while back.
I don't like to sound like I'm complaining...I'm naturally introverted...I enjoy my own silence and treasure it as a gift, but I'm not anti-social and I do not like being couped up in a cell 24/7 or not having routine contact with my loved ones.
Anyways...I hope this next week will be nice and peaceful. I still cannot believe that we're just two weeks away from the holiday season! I'm looking forward to all of it and even though I'm Jewish, I enjoy the movies, the music, and the spirit of the season!
That's it for now. My brain is kind of all over the place today and I can't really focus on much.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 16th, 2020
It's a very nice and cool Friday, although I feel a bit anxious today. It's probably because we have a really mean spirited guard working. I really don't understand why she is even working this pod when so many people have written legitimate harassment complaints against her, and the majority of her own co-workers don't like her because she creates chaos every single time she works.
We're not having rec today...Not that I expected it for our section. Yesterday they ran rec for only two sections on the pod – C and D, and I currently live on D. I went outside and it was lovely...We were stuck outside for 4 ½ hours, which I didn't mind at all. It was warm, and the clean and fresh air was wonderful! I cherished every single minute of it...The way things are right now, it might be a long time before I get outside again.
We were expecting commissary yesterday and they usually arrive no later than 3pm with our orders, but I knew that when it got to second shift, they wouldn't be coming. Then, close to 7pm, they suddenly showed up! I've never seen that happen before. Apparently a couple of the employees who run commissary suddenly quit, so that department is now understaffed as well. It's abundantly clear that nobody wants to work in a prison anymore – even when work is hard to find right now. We get these new officers by the dozen each week. They come in, work for a couple of weeks, and then vanish.
I think it comes down to two key issues...If you have any kind of empathy or a smidgen of a heart, you don't want to see prisoners treated the way they are. Plus, the media and the justice system portrays the collective whole as 'violent thugs' and criminals, and yes there are some, but there are plenty of violent people who are not in prison...So...
And then there's the officers who see a completely different side of things. So many of them have told us over the years that we are not what they expected us to be...Go figure!
The other issue is just poor management. The people who make supervisor or 'rank' are often immature and don't know how to resolve problems or how to lead, or even how to treat their fellow co-workers. In fairness, they aren't given the necessary training, so how can we expect them to do their job to its full extent?
That's my take on things anyways...
I digress...It was weird seeing commissary coming so late.
Nothing more to report today; just an average kind of day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 14th, 2020
Today has been one of those 'bleh' kind of days. I knew we weren't going to have rec today, but I woke up early and decided to get a jump ahead on the day and get my workout done. I was fine yesterday, no soreness, but lately my hip flexer has been tender...This morning it felt like it was on fire! I'm thinking this has to do with my mattress as it's several years old and starting to fall apart. I've requested a new one but I'm always told,
“You're on a waiting list.”
There a policy here called, 'The Decency Policy', and it requires all inmates to have a mattress in their cell. I sometimes feel like kicking this thing out my door and having it thrown away, just so they HAVE to give me a new one.
Anyways...I backed off exercising and instead paced back and forth until it was my turn for the shower. When I got back I started a letter to my girlfriend, and began my day.
For most of the day I've been listening to the radio and reading off and on. These political advertisements in Texas are ridiculous – for both parties! Each party describes the other as nothing short of being a monster. They're utterly ridiculous, and the one I roll my eyes at the most is some sheriff talking about some District Attorney race and he says,
“If I say it you know it's true...So and so wants to abolish prisons and let gang members free from jail to roam your neighborhood. You won't be safe with him.”
Okay, firstly, that's just a big crock of dog doo doo...No single person has it in his power to 'abolish prisons' and who in their right mind would?? What sane person would think the chaos of that could be a good thing?? What he's trying to do is conflate prison REFORM and restorative justice with 'letting prisoners go.' So, no Mr Sheriff! If you say it, it isn't necessarily true. You're trying to scare voters and manipulate them which is actually very dangerous.
Another advertisement has a woman running for Senator – a Democrat – and one I actually support, but her ad is ridiculous. She talks about when serving in the military and in Afghanistan, and her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban. Another helicopter comes and rescues them and she straps herself to the landing skids of the helicopter and returns fire on the Taliban...Now, whilst I'm sure some of that story is true, all I can see is a Hollywood action movie in my head, with a soaring and pulsating score in the background. It just sounds so far fetched that this would be how you get people to vote for you. What does any of that have to do with policies??
Another ad from a Republican is where he talks about his grandma and the chocolate chip cookies she used to bake, and he'd sell, showing that he “knows how to take care of small businesses!”
Listen, if you're deciding how to vote for someone based on a 30 second political ad, then there's something wrong here. Do your research and please make an informed judgement based upon that research.
That's my rant for the day!
I'm on chapter 12 of Frankenstein now...The narrative changes from Victor to the monster, and I love that the monster gets to share his perspective on being rejected and not seen as human. It allows the reader to empathise with him. Even in real life when someone does something so completely unacceptable, it's easy to label the person with all manner of titles. Good people will always want to listen and get to the root of that person's problem...When we do that we get to know the root of the action, and that it's far more complicated than just black and white.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 13th, 2020
We actually had recreation today, and the lockdown is over with. Initially I was scheduled for 4th round rec which would've been late in the afternoon, but a guy who was scheduled for 2nd round asked me if I wouldn't mind swapping with him so he could go out later...That was fine with me.
To say that the day has been chaotic is the understatement of the year. The officers act like they forget how to operate when we go long periods without recreation...Things quickly turn into insanity!
While I was out at rec a guy upstairs from me noticed that the guards weren't putting anyone outside. He told me to ask the officers working if he could go outside, so I asked the woman doing the paperwork,
“Excuse me, ma'am...the guy in 50 cell wants to know if he can go outside, seeing as it's open and all.”
She looks at me, blinks as if I'm speaking a foreign language, and says,
“I ain't gonna do that because it'll mess up the system I'm working with.”
“Yeah, but the rec yard is open and it makes sense to utilise that rec yard, and you'll have less rec to do or to leave for 2nd shift, and it ensures that people actually have a chance to go to recreation.”
“So?” I continued.
“It may seem like I don't know what I'm doin' but I do. I just ain't figured it out yet. Be patient with me.”
“Clearly.” I said.
I looked at the guy in 50 call and said,
“She said 'no'.”
And that was that. They never did put anyone outside the entire day.
I spent 3 hours at rec, which was nice, but it wore me out. I worked out, chatted with some people, and then I was fortunate enough to go straight to the shower.
The rest of the day I was tired, and waited on mail.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 12th, 2020
I think I've slept harder than I've ever slept in a long time...I slept through breakfast and I didn't even wake up when the guards opened my door slot to drop some toilet paper in. I woke up at about 6am and decided to get up and start the day. I exercised and then waited for a shower that for some reason hasn't happened at the time of writing this. It's now been 3 days since we've been allowed a shower.
Early this morning the head warden of the unit gave us an update on things, and he stated that there's been an increase in positive COVID cases. He said that because of this it would now be even longer before he saw visits resuming, which was upsetting news.
What's really frustrating about this, at least for Death Row, is that we're not getting any recreation...We're not getting the two week phone calls...We're not getting any minister visits, legal visits or regular visits that so many guys depend upon for mental well being...We're not getting anything!...No kind of mental stimulation whatsoever...No fresh air regularly...I know it sounds like whining, but it needs to be said.
The warden also said that there's a Special Prosecutor now in place, and he will go after anyone involved in the use of or smuggling of illegal contraband, i.e. cell phones and drugs. He said they are prosecuting everyone involved 'to the full extent of the law.' So...there's that.
WOW...they just started showers at 3pm. The guards just said they've finished shaking down the building and we might be off lockdown tomorrow!
I'm now on chapter 10 of Frankenstein, and I'm just about done reading Moby Dick – I'll probably finish that later this evening.
That's my day in a nutshell!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 11th, 2020
October is well on its way and we are now two weeks on lockdown. I know that we're still on lockdown because we've not had showers either Saturday or today...and I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that you wouldn't want people going to the shower during a pandemic. I think trying to figure out TDCJ is an exercise in futility...
It's been a relatively peaceful weekend though. Last night's movie on the prison radio station was 'Pretty in Pink'. I heard someone down the run moan and say,
“A freakin' chick flick?”
I yelled out,
“Man, this is a classic! Don't judge it on its title – listen to it and then tell me what you think.”
The movie came out in 1986 and I don't remember watching it until I was in my teens. In fact, speaking of John Hughes movies, outside of maybe 'Uncle Buck', the first 'Home Alone' movie, and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', I hadn't seen any of Hughes' movies because I always viewed them as 'chick flicks'. My mom had them on DVD but I just never watched them. So, discovering them as a teen was something to behold. How could a movie speak so true to my feelings as a teenager?
Listening to it as a 43-year-old, I was in nostalgic heaven, and it was awesome to hear it again. When the movie was over, the same guy who judged it prematurely, said,
“That was really good! And the music...I didn't know all of those great '80s songs were in that movie!”
I laughed and said,
“I hope they continue with these '80s movies at night. There are so many good ones.”
Anyways, it was a nice moment and I hope we get to hear more.
I had realised this weekend that it was the 30 year anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah. I had turned 13 in September, and I should have had it on my birthday, but there was some kind of scheduling conflict so it was pushed back to October.
It was a crazy time as a 13 year old! In my elementary years I was a bit of a geek...Then, something happened and I was suddenly noticed by girls and became 'popular'. Over the summer of 1990, I had a growth spurt and was one of the biggest kids going into the 7th grade, and I was no longer picked on. There was an invisible power in that...and still, I had always felt like I didn't really belong. There was a lot of conflict within me in that feeling.
I did embrace the new life that 7th grade afforded me, although my grades suffered and I began to care less about school. However, for my Bar Mitzvah, I poured all of my heart into my studies when I needed to. I wanted to make my father proud, and I also knew that family would be coming in from all over the country to see me and I didn't want to disappoint anyone.
I had a girlfriend from my synagogue at the time – Shoshana – so it was an exciting time for me. When it got to the Friday (before I would read from the Torah) I was a bundle of nerves. My beloved Aunt Carol who was battling cancer, was coming to the ceremony...all of my dad's side of the family were coming as well. The plan was, after school, to go out and have a nice dinner. Then I would lead Friday night's services for Shabbat. I went to school, and because of my nerves, I ended up feeling queasy and I threw up all over the place. Still, I pushed through it and when the nurse asked if I wanted her to call my parents and have me go home, I said,
I was not going to have the day ruined.
After school, I took the bus home and dad was waiting for me. He was making last minute plans for the Saturday night party that was going to be held at our house, and then he said we were going to drive up to D/FW airport to pick up Aunt Carol. He told me to get dressed up nicely for the evening, then Mom came home from work and we headed out.
I remember seeing the entire family later that evening and we went to a sea food place and then drove to the Synagogue. I saw my friends all sitting together, including my girlfriend. I lead the services and afterwards everyone shook hands with me, and I received a ton of hugs and kisses on the cheek. Then, my girlfriend took me outside to the playground. She said something like,
“Well, I'll give you your birthday present...”
She leaned in to kiss me and our mouths opened, and it was my first kiss with tongues! What was funny about that moment was when we were younger, attending Hebrew school, Shoshana was also a bit of an outsider/geek, as I was, and she blossomed into a really pretty girl when she turned 13. She used to tell us these crazy stories, and once she told me a story about a swing accident in which she bit her tongue off and had to have it stitched back on...During our kiss, I remember thinking,
“I hope her tongue doesn't fall off!”
Sheesh! When she pulled away, she kissed my neck and got some lipstick on my dress shirt, so when I returned to my family my brother, Wesley, saw the lipstick and his eyes went big...
“I'm telling!” He said.
“Telling what?” I asked.
“You've been kissing a girl!”
He ran off and told my mom and I remember her just laughing it off.
On the Saturday we drove to the synagogue and I would be leading morning services. Everyone arrived and it was much the same, only this time I would carry the Torah around the congregation and then read from it. I was nervous and afraid I would drop it somehow because I've always been a world class klutz, and there's not a day that goes by when I'm not tripping over something or knocking something over. Thank G-d nothing happened on that day!
I read from the Torah, and then I stood in front of the Ark of the Torah where my dad put his hands on my shoulders and blessed me. I remember standing there feeling so proud and full of emotion as tears streamed down my face. My dad hugged and kissed me, and then after that I read a speech about 'becoming a man' that I'd written. I had added a few self-deprecating jokes to it that went over well, and the congregation laughed. I was so proud of that speech.
Years later, I read an interview with Sheriff Bill Waybourn, and despite the fact that it was littered with half truths and bare faced lies, the one true thing he did say was that he remembered that speech on the day of my Bar Mitzvah, and he thought,
“Wow, the kid can write...He's going somewhere in life.”
The service ended and I knew everyone would meet up again later that evening for the party at our house. We drove back home and I changed my clothes and we had some time to kill. My mom took Wesley and I a few blocks away to a harvest festival. We walked up there and I remember entering a raffle to win a foot scooter. Back then, I had an uncanny ability to win raffles and contests. Now, I didn't think I'd win the scooter because the bowl was filled with hundreds of tickets, but I took a chance and bought Wesley and myself a few tickets.
We walked around for a bit, played some games, and when it was time for the raffle I took my ticket stub out of my pocket and waited as the smaller prizes were handed out. Wesley won a fish tank! He was excited, and I said,
“You're carrying that thing home.”
When the time came for the scooter prize to be drawn, I thought it was going to be a bust for me. We spent our good luck on a freakin' fish bowl! But as the numbers were called out, each one matched mine and I won! I couldn't believe it. We went and collected our prizes and I remember feeling like the luckiest kid on the planet. A year later, that scooter nearly killed me...
When we got home my parents couldn't believe our luck either. My Aunt Carol and other relatives congratulated us. I watched as the caterers for the party were laying out food and bottles of wine. If I'm honest, the party looked like something more for adults than for me, but I was so happy at that time, I didn't care.
My friends showed up and we hung out and goofed around in the back yard. Wesley disappeared for a bit and suddenly showed up full of fear...He had a history of creating mischief and this night would be no different.
“I think I broke the neighbors' window!” He cried.
“You did what?” I asked, in disbelief.
“I was playing with some rocks in our driveway and threw one...I heard a crash. Don't tell on me!”
I took a deep breath, and fearful of bringing the party to an end, I decided it would be best to not tell my parents. The neighbors were at the party too, but I knew the daughter...She was a couple of years older than me and was babysitting her baby brother. I figured I could work something out with her.
I grabbed Wesley by the shirt and dragged him next door. We could hear a baby crying, and when I saw the broken window I muttered,
“Shit...” and rang the doorbell.
The girl opened it and said,
“Uh...my brother accidentally broke y'all's window, and I was-”
Suddenly she lunged at Wesley! I pushed him behind me and said,
“Hey! Calm down...Please! We just wanted to apologise and work something out. I'll give you some of my Bar-Mitzvah money if you say you accidentally broke the window. No one needs to get into any trouble.”
“Oh no...No way! Your brother is going to pay for this!”
She ran around me and straight to our house to find her parents. It was too late. Her parents talked to my parents and abruptly left. I think it was agreed that Wesley would do chores for the neighbours to pay for the window.
Thankfully, the party continued on, and it was a night I would never forget.
One more thing that stood out at my Bar-Mitzvah...My Aunt Carol, in her weakest state from chemotheraphy, had hand-stitched a Tallit bag for me...A bag for my prayer shawl. It was maroon, and had a gold stitched menorah on it with my initials on the bottom. It meant more to me than any other gift I received that day and the fact she used what little energy she had to do this for me...I cherished that bag, even more so when the following February, she passed away.
That was my Bar-Mitzvah...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 7th, 2020
Another day on lock-down. You know, I had a thought earlier this morning as I was exercising...There's no doubt that the collective of death row is restless, a bit stir crazy, and tired of being kept confined to cells almost 24/7 since last March. I mean, recreation is almost non-existent! There's been no visits, and they've ended the routine phone calls they were allowing going back to one call every 90 days...and even through all of that, we, as a collective, have carried ourselves with dignity. We haven't lashed out...There hasn't been any assaults or incidents outside of a mentally ill guy who'd had a difficult day.
I ask these questions a lot: Where is the evidence that the majority of us are 'future threats of dangerousness'? Where is the evidence that we are maniacal mad people? I mean, there is really no carrot they can dangle over our heads to keep us in 'good behaviour', and yet we remain decent.
I had a funny idea...I starting thinking about songs that, at least in title, would make a special edition 'Trump Mix Tape'...Now, lyrically, the songs don't all pertain to Trump, but thinking of the titles made me think of the clown he is. Here they are:
'Liar' – Rollins Band
'Criminal' – Fiona Apple
'Loser' – Beck
'Policy of Truth' – Depeche Mode
'Cult of Personality' – Living Colour
'Been Caught Stealing – Jane's Addiction
'Taxman' – The Beatles
'Highway to Hell' – ACDC
'My Name is Mud' – Primus
Anyways, thinking of these songs made me laugh!
I've not been doing much today; just listening to NatGeo, and I'll probably torture myself and listen to the VP debates tonight.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 5th, 2020
Monday morning...I'm writing this, unsure of how the day will go.
I've been to the shower and I'm waiting for 'The View' to come on...I
enjoy that program especially in this political climate. I enjoy
Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers – all smart, all
funny, and all 3 can really pack a punch when it comes to making a point
I woke up a bit early this morning; I'm trying to get myself back
into a normal routine because I find I'm a bit more productive if I
get an early start on things. With the pandemic, the lack of
recreation, and now the lockdown, I've been staying up late, sleeping
in until almost 8am, and I find it's difficult to get a hold on the
day like that. I'm naturally a morning person and I do my best
thinking in the morning.
So, I went to the shower, came back, and put some laundry in my sink.
I'll rinse that out in a little bit and then figure out what to do
next. At 1pm on the prison radio station they're starting a new show
called the 'Singles Palooza' where we can send in requests for a
song. If they have it, they'll play it. I've sent in a few over the
last couple of weeks, so I hope to hear at least one. Then, at 3pm,
the album of the day will be Billie Eilish. I've heard this
particular album before and it's fantastic! I love, love, love Billie
We're still on lockdown and expected to be on it until some time next
week. Thinking about it...we really don't get recreation at all now
and all the days seem the same, so it really doesn't matter.
Something has to change though, and I wish there was a way to have
some kind of stimulation in other ways...You hear the wishes for TVs,
but I mean...it seems like the most reasonable option. I will always
want to get out of my cell, and get fresh air, and walk around. But a
good chunk of guys would be equally as content to watch TV. And hey,
there's a way to limit TV time...they can control our lights with a
switch, so they could have the TVs plugged into the same control and
flip the switch if people are acting up. If you don't want people
staying up all night long, flip the switch. Never mind that it's the
ultimate control tool for behavior! People will always act up, so
it's easy for them to take the TV out of their cell for a period of
With channels like National Geographic, access to the news and other
channels, think of the education and mental stimulation that could be
gained from that...We'll see what happens, but something needs to
Hopefully this day will shape up well and I will update this later
on. Right now I'm going to listen to The View and pace my cell for a
bit. Then, I'll begin reading, 'Moby Dick'. I've been reading the
classics with my girlfriend whose knowledge of English Literature is
really impressive! We have a whole list to get through this
I just heard a funny conversation. The lieutenant just walked through
and a guy down the run asked him,
“When we gonna get off of this lockdown?”
To which the lieutenant responded,
“When y'all stop getting cell phones!”
The inmate didn't miss a beat!
“Well, shit! Y'all are the one's bringing them in, so when is that
going to stop?”
The lieutenant didn't have anything to say after that...I thought it
was funny, but very true.
You know, it had me thinking about this multi-million dollar security
system they've invested in that is about as worthless as a kayak with
a hole in it. They just 'upgraded' the cameras earlier this year,
replaced every single one that was installed in 2009 and they've
accomplished nothing. I guess cameras are only as good as the people
watching them, huh?
I've been spending some time looking out my window. I can watch the
front of the prison from the parking lot all the way into the prison
and there's a shocking number of people – guards, nurses,
administrative personnel...NONE of whom are wearing masks! Some of
them cluster together on the pavement, definitely not socially
distancing! It freaks me out and makes me feel like it's inevitable
that we'll have another outbreak. Shouldn't it be TDCJ policy that
the second you exit your vehicle, you mask should be ON?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 4th, 2020
It's been a long and
boring weekend, but you know what? I'm just happy to be here a year
after my stay of execution, and I'm so grateful to be alive. Some
would say that being kept in a cell all day long and not having any
recreation, and not having any control over day to day affairs, isn't
much of a life, and there was a time that I would have agreed with
that. There was a time when I was younger that I would have much
preferred to die than to experience life in this way. Not that I was
suicidal at that time – I really wasn't...I wasn't in any hurry to
die, but neither did I want a life sentence.
Being completely honest
with myself, I still get bouts of anxiety thinking about a life spent
in prison - spent in an Ad Seg type environment because of something
that happened 20 years ago. But I also know that I can live...I
can affect lives and hopefully help others and help to change things
for the better. It might sound 'happy-clappy' but those are the kinds
of thoughts that keep me going and keep me wanting to live. I want to
live beyond myself, if that makes sense. Maybe the world could be a
little bit better (no matter what kind of life we're living) if we
lived beyond ourselves.
can remember last year when I received my stay, like it were
yesterday...It still seems dream like, in a way. Early that morning I
was having a conversation with a good friend, Abel Ochoa (who, sadly, has since been executed) and another guy. I knew I'd be having a legal
call later in the day – not a call I was looking forward to because
the point of it was to discuss plans for my last days. I was full of
anxiety, but still holding onto a sliver of hope. The conversation
turned into a conversation about hope and believing that things
aren't over until they're over, and the dude (who, ironically,
received a stay a couple of weeks ago...) said,
need to accept the reality of things. The odds are against you and
just accept it.”
quoted some scripture, and they went back and forth and the guy kept
know what I did. I accept responsibility and I'm ready to go. Y'all
are living in a fantasy world.”
can accept reality, but I can still have hope.”
time came for recreation and I went out, moped about a bit and made
small talk with some guys. Whilst I was out there, a guy we call,
'Big White' was in C-Section and he told me,
your head up. It ain't over until it's over. I was two days away from
being executed, and I've had a stay now for several years.”
told him I appreciated what he said.
listened to the Texas news at noon just to see if the CCA had made a
ruling on my appeal, and when nothing was reported, I let out a sigh
G-d don't let this drag out until the very end. I'd rather know now
so I can mentally prepare myself if the worst is to happen.”
after that they took Rodney Reed out to a legal call and I joked with
him about not hogging the phone because I was expecting a legal call
myself. Then, around 1pm, I went out there to visitation for my call,
and waited...I could see a couple of guys having regular visits with
their friends, and there was a guy directly in front of me visiting
with someone, and I waved at him and he gave me the 'what's going on
with your case?' signal...I threw my hands up and shrugged like 'I
have no clue'...
had my call and my attorney asked me how I was doing. I said,
doing my best to have hope and hold on...”
was a pause...Then he said,
got a stay!” The CCA just sent you back to the trial court!”
the background I could hear the other attorneys in the office
clapping and cheering. I was in complete disbelief...I said something
joked for a second and then the phone line went dead! My mind was
racing and I yelled to the officer, and then another guy asked me,
got a stay!” I blurted out...
For real! I just got a stay, but the phone line to my attorneys just
officer came back and said,
making a bunch of noise to tell me you got a stay?”
I got a stay, but the line to my attorneys went dead...I need to call
grabbed the phone and tried to get a call out. Meanwhile, the guy in
front of me was looking at me like,
quickly wrote on a piece of paper,
GRANTED MY STAY!”
still have that piece of paper I wrote that on...)
guy blurted out to the other visitors,
GOT A STAY!”
could hear some people shouting,
the office managed to get my attorneys back on the line and then it
went dead again...
was another of my attorneys visiting with someone a few booths away
and he ran down to my booth, grabbed the phone, and said,
man...Oh man...Thank God! We all worked so hard on it! I can't wait
to call them at the office.”
was filled with so many different emotions...relief, gratitude,
happiness...I thought about my Taffy and my friends, my Rabbis...I
was trying to process so much all at once. I didn't want to leave the
guys behind on Death Watch – I wish with all my heart we were all
walking away from there that day. There is a kind of 'survivors
guilt'...But I was beyond grateful for all of the hard work of so
many people were who were truly behind me.
wasn't sure when I left visitation if I'd be going back to my cell on
Death Watch, but as soon as I entered the death row building a woman
him to C-Pod!”
asked about my property and she said it would be with me shortly.
Everything felt surreal...like a dream. When I got to C-Pod some guys
saw me come in and were like,
made talk with some guys until my property arrived and I left it in
the middle of my cell until the sun began to set. I didn't know what
to do...I was still processing everything.
I was on Death Watch I had made a prayer,
G-d, let me see one more sunset before I die.”
didn't think I'd ever get the chance because where I was on Death
Watch, I couldn't see the sunset. But, the cell I was on in C-Pod was
in the perfect position to watch a beautiful sunset on that very
special day. As I watched the sun go down, I had tears in my eyes...I
was just so glad to be alive.
year later and we're still working our way through the appeals. I do
know there's still a long fight ahead, and when I think about things
I still get scared and have fits of anxiety. But as my attorneys have
said numerous times,
“The facts are
the facts, and the facts are SOLID.”
I'm so grateful to have lawyers who are so dedicated to doing their
job. I have to believe, hope, and pray that the right thing will
In the meantime, all I can do is live and continually work to be a
better person than I was the day before...to learn as human being,
and to love and be grateful for the love I receive and the life that
I have. Life is what we choose to make it whatever situation we are
in; and to quote 'Red' in 'Shawshank Redemption',
living, or get busy dying.”
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 1st, 2020
I can't believe it's
already October! It's almost like I've been in some weird kind of
dream these past six or seven months. I mean, just about a year ago I
was given the news that I received a stay of execution and trying to
figure out how to reboot my life and 'live' again.
Speaking of my stay and
legal affairs, I just received news yesterday (from one of my
attorneys) that the State side of things has been handed off to
Tarrant County, so whilst I'm fighting things in Dallas County, the
DA Office of Tarrant County will be arguing for the State. I just
have to say what my attorneys always tell me:
“It doesn't matter
who fights us, the facts are the facts, and the facts are SOLID.”
So. as I was settling
down for the evening last night, I was told that I was being moved to
another cell on B-Pod. I was moved to B-48 cell, and it was kind of
strange to pack all my belongings and move after being where I was for so long, but I did it and was in
the new cell by 8.15pm. It took me until 10.30pm or so to scrub the
cell and feel like I can settle down...The cell had a smell of pee to
it, like whoever lived here before me kept missing the toilet. My
neighbor told me the poor guy stayed drunk for most of the time, so
that made sense. Anyways...I scrubbed and scrubbed, crashed, and then
this morning I went over everything again and now it feels clean and
This morning Regional
One came in to shake down E and F sections. I don't know if they're
finished yet, but this pod should be done by tonight, and hopefully
we can all have a breather from the stress.
Earlier a guard came by
and told us that we had to take our clothes lines down as per orders
from the new warden over death row. He said we can only have them up
from 6pm to 6am, and it seems like every time someone new takes over,
the first thing they do is bark orders about our clothes lines and
then Huntsville has to tell the new warden,
“No...it's fine. They
don't leave their cells so they can keep their clothes lines up.”
Who knows what other
rules he'll try to implement...
Tonight's movie on the
prison radio station is 'Captain Marvel' – I'll definitely be
listening to that. It's a surprisingly good movie! I listened to 'It:
Chapter 2' last night, and it was my second time hearing it...It
seemed better the second time.
In the first movie,
Pennywise, the clown, is more playful and disarming...evil, yes, but
also like a cat playing with a mouse. In the second movie he is far
more menacing and out for revenge. That kind of threw me off on the
first listen, but now I get it. After 27 years of waiting on the kids
that beat him the first time around, he really wants to make them
suffer as adults. I need one more listen though.
I'm looking forward to the
weekend...Good music and movies to listen to, and I'm going to begin
reading 'Frankenstein' with my girlfriend. We've decided to start
reading some of the classics together at the same time. It's been a
long time since I read Frankenstein, so I'm looking forward to it.