November 2015 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 "We tend to see a person in the moment, not as the journey they travelled to get here."  Kat Lehmann

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November 30th, 2015

The recreation problems continue to boggle the mind...I fully expected to wake up this morning and plan my day around rec, but once again it is all willy-nilly. As they are doing the schedule, it should be B/D/E  pods that go to rec. today, but did we? No...So, when I jammed up the Sergeant early this morning and asked him, he basically said that neither of the officers working that day is going by the same recreation schedule, and the Captain over death row refuses to put a "schedule" on paper, because it seems that he wants plausible deniability if he gets into any trouble over the way things currently are. The Sergeant said he was going to try to pressure the Captain into putting a schedule on paper, but I doubt he'll be successful in that...So goes life here, on the good ol' Polunsky Unit.

I went outside yesterday with a close friend and man, it was quite chilly. We jogged and did some leg exercises and then talked. A funny thing happened (well, it wouldn't have been all that funny if the worst had happened). So, above the rec. yards are two big lights - similar to the ones you would see on a street. Two HUGE grey doves (actually, they could've been pigeons because I know nothing about birds...haha) landed on the light above me. One flew off a second later and the other lingered. He was looking down at me, cooing and then began to turn around and I said "Oh no, don't back that ass up on me". But I was joking. I didn't think he was really aiming his booty in my direction when...POOP! He started dropping and I dived out of the way. My friend started laughing and I was like "That freaking bird just tried to shit on me! He totally did that intentionally...He looked at me, turned and started bombing me!" It was so funny!

Last night I listened to a news segment on the show 60 minutes, and it was about botched executions and how states have been obtaining execution drugs illegally. What was interesting is they interviewed a Federal Judge from the 9th district court (that would be on the west coast of the U.S.) and he was a believer in the death penalty...I actually feel he was just saying that for obvious political reasons, but what he said was interesting and it made sense...He basically said that regardless of whether or not lethal injections were the "most humane" way to kill a prisoner, he disagreed with the method because it was too clinical. He believed that if, as a country, we were going to have the death penalty, it shouldn't be clinical and it should be public. He suggested having the firing squad or even the guillotine. If people believe in the death penalty, they should watch what was happening. It shouldn't be so secret and behind the scenes.

I actually agree with that - if this country is going to have the death penalty, I do think executions should be public. I think people should be forced to watch the system they support. See if it sticks around long after that.


November 27th, 2015

It is the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm just sitting here thinking about things in my life...things I'm grateful for. Being able to reflect and ruminate is one of those things that separates us from the beasts of the planet. It is a blessing for sure, but can also be a painful reminder of how fragile a life can be.

We had a damn good meal yesterday...I was really surprised. I try not to complain too much about the food here, even if in reality it lacks certain standards - something to be desired - but I do try to be mindful of other places in this world where even one nasty tray to us is a banquet to another person...But really this meal we had yesterday was an embarrassment of riches...Okay, so we had the "cold tray" which was a paper plate full of pies and cake, cranberry sauce, and about ten black olives! Oh, how I love black olives! It also had three sweet pickles, some onions and celery (a very evil vegetable, if you ask me, but if you can make it taste "good" by making it taste like something else i.e. smearing peanut butter all over it, you are infact a perpetrator of pure and vile evilness, and you might as well call yourself "darth celery"). The main course, which in itself was fit for a king, had a thick slice of brisket, thick slice of turkey, stuffing, green beans, corn, cabbage, and two giant sized biscuits that looked like flying saucers...Definitely one of the best meals we've had over the past few years. Usually you get a few complaints from people, but I don't think I heard a single one yesterday.

I spent yesterday afternoon listening to football. Well, the only game I was invested in was the Cowboys, but they thoroughly had their asses handed to them...They played a bunch of Star Wars ads in the break and I kept listening to the games so I could keep hearing them. One in particular which was more "dark side of the force heavy", was awesome!  Just hearing the Imperial March theme and the two new villains (potential sith lords???) was really awesome and gave me goose bumps.

I think I'll spend the rest of the day reading a bit. Maybe jamming out.  

I still haven't made up my mind whether I want the digital radio or the one I have now...decisions, decisions...


November 24th, 2015

Sometimes I don't understand people. How they can pop up out of the blue and just start throwing accusations - very false accusations - and say the most hurtful things because they can, and they aren't going to say it to you to your face or talk to you like a normal person...They just verbally vomit their crap at you and then they run away. Meanwhile, you're left there with no way to handle it and emotionally distraught because you CAN'T pick up a phone, email or text message. And your neurosis gets the better of you and you just think about it over and over like "None of this shit is even true! Don't let it bother you". But. But. But...Does she really believe this? Because I was a good guy. I was sincere...I never had any ulterior motives. What the fuck is her problem? And then, you question the friendships around you because apparently someone I like used her, if it can be believed, and I've been lumped in with them because I spoke good about them, because I was clueless about any of this, because she never told me any of this...Aggghhh! I don't use people. I don't want anything but love and friendship from people. Support of course, for my case, but nothing else. I don't ask for money or money for a legal defense fund. I don't do any of that shit and yet I get accused of it??? WTF...It just hurts to be portrayed or accused of being someone I'm not. And yes, I'm being vague here. I just had to get it off my chest. Sorry if all of you are like "Huh???"

Anyways, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got ready to go outside. They're still doing this 3 days a week of recreation crap and my section was told it was going outside. At first, I was like outside again? We just went outside on Sunday! But I needed to get out of the cell and get some fresh air.  And boy was it fresh! The air was cold and crisp. We decided to play some basketball and move around, but at first I couldn't feel my hands. After a while things got easier and warmed up so I could play better, and ended up winning by one game.

I came back in, showered and then someone asked me about my hot pockets recipe and I thought, hey, maybe cooking will cheer me up so I ended up doing eight total and it kept my brain occupied. I can see why some people really get joy from cooking and I'm just learning! It can be very meditative. Plus, the good feeling you get in return when what you made makes others happy. It is a good feeling.

I suppose I will write more this weekend. I need to get this in the mail before everything stops due to the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states.


November 23rd, 2015

Good morning on this really freakin' cold start to the day. Nothing like waking up and it is barely 30 degrees F. Crazy! At least they finally had the heat turned on because over the weekend it was nothing nice...But really, it is a crisp and clear Monday morning. The sun is blazing in the sky...You can see the steam pouring off of the surrounding building's roof. It actually feels like we're entering into the holiday season.

Funny story: earlier when they were doing showers, I think it was about 5:50 a.m. (yeah, I get up pretty early) some guy down the run was singing Christmas music as the soft rock station goes totally holiday music all the way until the day after Christmas. Well, he's singing away and you can tell the dude is totally feeling the holiday cheer and I even turn the station on, myself. Then, "Santa Baby" comes on and this guy is just singing away and I'm laughing my ass off 'cause if you know the lyrics, it's a woman trying to seduce Santa Claus...When it was over I said "Hey man...I don't know if this is the right place to be asking Santa to 'come down your chimney'". He  said "Awww man, come on Randy!"

Well, the stupid recreation schedule has gone back to the absolutely retarded way they were doing it when everyone was getting screwed out of rec. Those of us who have filed grievances were answered with this: "Every effort is made to ensure that the Offender receives daily recreation...HOWEVER (emphasis mine) due to staff shortages, it may be necessary to use Officers in other areas resulting in a temporary shut down of rec.".

So, basically, are supposed to get rec. but we're going to milk this short staffed excuse out for as long as we can. Tough cookies. We've done what we could back here. Well, those of us who filed grievances. It is going to take people on the outside to contact the Ombudsman Office now. In other news, I'm having a real musical dilema. For years I've been hoping and praying that commissary would catch up with the 21st century and sell digital radios. Recently that hope was answered and my neighbor bought one. I wanted to hear what they sounded like and so I pushed my head phone cord into his cell and he plugged me in and the sound was amazing. I was blown away and the reception was really great as well, because it can lock on stations. It was like hearing songs brand new again and it just woke up a part of my brain that had been sleeping due to a mediocre sounding radio. I wanted  more...But there is the real Sophie's choice here: my current radio, while souding decent, but mediocre, it allows me to pick up certain stations that the digital radio just cannot pick up and it would mean that certain programs I really love - especially political shows, news and movies would have to be sacrified. I keep going back and forth because I feel like it keeps me "up to date" with things in the world. It allows me to feel a certain connection. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO CHOOSE!!! It is driving me nuts. First world problems, right? I love music more than anything, and eventually that will end up winning, I know it in my heart of hearts, but...time will tell. I'm fine right now, but that music itch is in my brain.

I was telling my neighbor about music compression and the difference. He said he didn't even know the difference between mono and stereo and I tried to explain it and I said "Dude, having just heard that...there is no way my brain can ever accept the way my radio sounds".  I heard Mazzy Star's "Fade into you" and the steel guitar felt like it was in my eyeballs. Argh! Sigh...


November 11th, 2015

It  has been an interesting few days since my last entry...In the last one I  was going on a tangent about the new recreation schedule. Well, they have now returned to the original schedule when the one they were trying to implement turned into a complete disaster. By Monday morning I was so fed up I was ready to begin protesting. I was really on the verge of an explosion because I'm just so fed up over being screwed all of the time. This isn't about a bunch of whiny inmates who don't deserve certain privileges. This is about being treated as a human being and regardless of how you feel about what we "deserve" or don't deserve, at the very least you can treat us with some dignity. What is the old saying "If not we become like them..." well aparently a lot of citizens of this great country want to be "just like them"...At the very least, have some respect or pretend to have some respect for the process...Like the Police officers who stood outside Licho Escamilla's execution...Believe what you want to believe - for or against the death penalty...Fine. But at the very least show some respect for the process, for the families on both sides. What did Licho's family do to anyone?

Whoa...what a digression! Apparently I've been holding that one in for a few weeks now! Anyways, back to the recreation thing...So, on Monday morning they start scheduling our day of rec. with their so called "new plan". I was already frustrated because they didn't even start pulling out recreation until 7 in the morning. Typically they have the first round by six or so. The guards kept dragging their feet and by (mind you, they work a 12 hour shift!) five in the afternoon, they only did 3 rounds of rec. and no showers! Meaning that in a 12 hour day they did 6 hours of work. I knew I was going to get screwed out of rec. Second shift comes on and starts dragging their feet. I was set up for 5th round, but the guards told us they were going to do only 4th round and then shut everything down. I was livid! I was like, that is it. I've had enough of this bull shit and I'm protesting! As soon as I go to the shower I'm going to sit on the walk way. I was just fed up. Thank God I didn't  have to go to the extreme though, because it was so late another guy turned down recreation and I went outside in his place. That being said, I still didn't make it back inside until 11:20pm, and then out of the shower at midnight.

I wrote a grievance and I think I it's good...Here's what I said verbatim:

"Starting on Saturday 11/7/15 the Death Row/Ad-Seg schedule was changed. Offenders have gone from what was five days of recreation at two hours each "round" to three-possibly  four days of recreation for the same amount of time. The reason for this was, as the Ranking officers have explained is due to "staff shortages". However, the problem has never been about staff shortages, but instead Officers that cannot manage time and do the necessary work that is required to keep showers and recreation running smoothly. Instead, Officers leave offenders in the day rooms for 3-4 hours per round and take much longer breaks than their employer allows. Many offenders are left without recreation and sometimes even without a shower due to this mismanagement. The new recreation schedule allows for many more abuses as you are now running ALL sections for recreation which requires more rounds of rec. and therefore better management of time as you now have more work to do. As a level 1 offender I am  entitled to rec. This new schedule not only takes away that privilege, but also cannot guarantee that I will receive recreation on the days our pod is scheduled to run".

Then here it says on the form "Action to resolve your complaint" I wrote:

"Require pod officers to utilize better time management skills as well as return the recreation schedule so that it is ensured that offenders receive their full level one privileges of recreation as is required by State and Federal prison guidelines".

I had every intention of turning this grievance on Tuesday morning...But imagine my surprise when I woke up to the voice of an Officer asking me if I wanted to go to rec. I was like "Uh...hell yeah!" Apparently the administration quickly realized that this new plan was not working...It is nice when a little common sense is applied. Not to say this place still isn't all jacked up. But I'm cool...not nearly as stressed out.

Today I went outside to play some ball. It has been warm the last two days and I wanted to take advantage of it. The guy I went outside with is a pretty good basketball player and kept saying things like "I'm going to stomp your ass" and the usual smack talk. To be honest, I thought I was going to get my head kicked in because one, he is good and two, I haven't played in a while. He kept saying "Now, when I beat you up, I don't want to hear any excuses". I was like okay...We go out and I start beating the snot out of him. He immediately starts to make excuses! "My knee...I didn't get sleep". I said "I don't want to hear excuses. That is what you said, right? No excuses..." :-) haha. I ended up winning 21 games to 9. I felt pretty good. I came inside boasting to the guys on my section ,"There's a new sheriff in town!" If I don't get moved tonight, he called me out for a rematch tomorrow so we'll see what happens.

It is really humid I cannot wait until the next cold front.

Going to get this out...


November 9th, 2015

Something happened to me a couple of days ago (remember how I wrote about people having a sense of entitlement?) when I got into it with a dude...well, not badly, but I was upset and let him know...because I felt I was being used. Look, I think I'm a giving person and I don't care about credit or rewards. I do it because it's how I show my own compassion; it makes me feel good after being locked up for years without anything to my name, and having to learn how to hustle for toothpaste and soap. I always told myself if I was ever in a position to help guys that are in the same position I once was, I'd always do what I could. It's hard to go without. But please...don't mistake my kindness as some sort of weakness, because it doesn't give you the right to try to use me.

So, this guy had asked me if I had any snacks and lately I've been sticking to things like peanuts, oatmeal, etc...I gave him ten packs of peanuts. No questions asked. TWO DAYS pass and he sends me a note asking if I could get him some Ramen noodles on store day, which was the next day. I said, sure, no problem. After that, he then asks me for some more peanuts. At that point I felt taken advantage of. I hollered out at him  and said....

"Dude, are you an elephant? I just gave you ten packs of peanuts two days ago! I eat a pack a day. That is ten days worth! I'm going to get you a case of noodles, but gotta make this shit last. I'm not the salvation army".
"Don't worry about it then."
"Man...if I said I'm going to do it, I'll keep my word, but you can't eat everything at once. You're a grown ass man, not a kid. I shouldn't have to tell you that. I'm going to do something special for the whole  section when we go to store so I'll be limited on funds anyways!"

Well...wouldn't you know that it turned out that this dude had hit up about five other people for a bunch of food as well? There were guys more upset about it than I was, but just can't please everyone, I suppose.  As for the "surprise" I was going to do...A guy a few weeks ago gave me a recipe for "hot pockets"...It is very time consuming because you have to break down Ritz crackers and turn it into a dough, then work the dough and roll it and flatten it and then cut it into squares, let it harden and then make the inside fillings with meat, cheese, jalapenos...Fold the dough over and pinch the sides and then cook each one individually...It takes forever and I'm not the best cook in the world. In fact, until a couple of years ago I had little patience and prefered others to cook, but I'm learning now and stepping up my game, as they say. The first batch came out very questionable to say the least. It looked more like a wad of batter and meat than a hot pocket. But once I  figured out the dough, everything fell into place. I spent 12 hours cooking for 9 people. A couple of guys didn't want them which was okay with me as they were freakin' delicious. But man...I told myself I wouldn't ever take on something that massive again. I was exhausted by the end of the day. And my cell was a mess!

And finally...election days were last week on the 3rd of November. Houston had a particular important election for two reasons: one, a new Mayor and two, a chance to catch up with other major cities in the State, and the country, in passing an equal rights ordinance for 13 classes of people. You would think that it would've been a slam dunk...I mean, who doesn't want equal rights for ALL??? Apparently the people of Houston. Well, that isn't entirely fair to say about all the people of Houston. I'm sure the majority of people do want equal rights for all, but unfortunately the majority of people didn't vote. In fact, less than a quarter of the people of Houston voted and sadly, the majority of those people who did vote were religious right wing fanatics. The Equal Rights ordinance, or Proposition One, as it was defined had 13 equal rights qualifications: for the military, the disabled, the homeless and more...

But this speaks to a larger problem at hand and the 2016 election coming up. I'm  of the belief that the U.S. is a progressive nation. The right has been very effective in demonizing the left and progressiveness as a whole by labeling them as socialists, communists, immoral, etc...By saying they're trying to take religious liberties away (just as a side note, I'll believe your religious liberties are at stake when you get out there and defend any other religion - specifically muslims in this country as well, but we both know you're not going to do that...and this is coming from a Jew!).

The general public has become,for the most part, apathetic to politics in general. We all know - the left and right - that the establishment is full of shit and yet we do nothing about it.  2016 is important.  Probably more important than any other election in the history of the U.S. for so many reasons. If progressives can't get someone in there that will continue to push this country forward we're in real risk of going back decades. Things that people have fought centuries for will be stripped away. That isn't hyperbole, just listen to what things the Republican nominees are saying. Jesus Harold Christ, listen to Ben Carson, the current leader of the pack for example. This is a dude who believes the Pyramids were used to store grain back in the day...I promise you, we lose this election and the death penalty is around for another decade...So, what do you do? If you're American you get people NOW to start registering to vote. You educate people NOW. You work as hard as you fucking can for the next year to ensure that what the people before you built through blood, sweat and tears doesn't get destroyed with one single election. This won't be the last time I tell you this. Alright...I've been on a tangent long enough and I'm stepping off of the proverbial soap box. Told you this entry was going to be chaotic! At least the sun is out now.  After several days of rain, it is picture perfect outside of my window...I think I might watch the birds for a while.


November 8th, 2015

This will probably seem like one of the most chaotic of journal entries I've ever written! I've got so much bouncing around in my brain and I don't know where to begin...The way I usually write is I'll get a thought about something, or even just a fragment of a thought on a particular subject/topic, and I'll write it down and try to develop that thought or process it later on...But with so much crap going on this past week, I've got little scraps of paper all over the place...Argh!!

Those of you who write to other prisoners on Death Row, or even Ad-Seg, may know what is going on here, but I still want to go into detail on HOW SCREWED UP this place is right now...I've been through many permutations over the years spent on Death Row. We all constantly say "Well, it can't really get any worse than it is right now..." only to be proven wrong. In fact, the day I had the Rabbi visit, I was waiting to go back to my cell. We sit in a small cage until two officers come to escort us back to our cells, and those of us who are finished with our visits sometimes will make idle chat with each other...I was talking to the guy in the booth next to me and said "You know, some guys are talking about going off, but really, what has this new administration done but be nit picky and enforce rules that have been in place since I was in general population...give it some time for these people to figure out what works and what doesn't, and things will go back to normal." What a dumbass I was for thinking that! Like the evil Empire in Star Wars, over the past few months they have systematically taken away many of the common privileges we have had for years. Their excuse has consistently been "We're doing this because we're short staffed, just be calm and as soon as we get new guards things will go back to normal." Really? We've been short staffed for years...And the truth of the matter is the problem isn't being short staffed, it is poor management. I'm not a business minded person, but my dad owned his own business and even if he thought I wasn't paying attention, I absorbed in great detail how he ran his business, so I know enough to be able say this with a little bit of authority. Besides, it is common sense that if you have a class ranking system that is based on who is popular and heavily rooted in nepotism (whole families work in the "system") instead of people who are actually qualified and are real leaders...Well, you're going to have a lot of problems that could otherwise be easily fixed.

I'll give you an example...There are more women that work on death row than men, during the day time. That is pretty shocking in itself, right? We're supposed to be the "worst of the worst"...However, many of these women complain about having to work the pods because inmates will flash them or talk bad to them, etc...And I'm sympathetic to that to a certain extent - I wouldn't want any of my female friends to be subjected to that, but also...You did choose to work in a MEN'S it up and deal with it, don't whine and complain about it and kiss ass to the ranking officers so you don't have to do your freaking job. But that is what happens. You see officers just standing around in the hall ways doing nothing, because the rank lets them. And for the male officers? Maybe the ranking officer is their fishing buddy or they go for drinks after work. They get out of doing their job as well. People who have had family working in TDCJ for generations get to pull that card to get out of work. Meanwhile, the ones who come to work to do their job and get a pay check are treated like shit and overworked.

The other management problem is even if they are short staffed during the day time, they send all of the new recruits to officers working on the night shift! You've got five guards working a pod (only three are required) at night when showers and recreation are finished, doing nothing for almost twelve hours. What freaking sense does this make? Uh, none?

So, here's what got my cage rattled...due to this so called shortage, the administration has now seen fit to cut our recreation days from five (three days inside, two days outside) to just THREE. Yes, just three days of rec. When I first got here we had seven days of rec...then a few years later it was five days and now...three? So, their plan is to do it like this: they are going to rotate pods every other day. Saturday was A,C,E pod for recreation and Sunday are B,D,F and so on and so forth...The problem with this is that they're not giving us anything to compensate for it...

They've also systematically taken away art supplies. They deny over half of received magazines, books and publications under this archaic "sexually explicit" rule defining sexually explicit as basically anything that causes arousal...So, like are you going to take my air away, cause I've been locked up for so long, at times a nice gust of air does the job...just saying...Humor people, humor...We don't have T.V.'s and Houston radio sucks so...Recreation is sanity for me. I use my two hours to jog, to talk to guys, to just walk around in circles like a zoo animal, but it is MY time. I'm not boxed in a small 6X10 cage staring at a fucking toilet all day long. I'm an internally strong person. I adapt and I will survive, what cost to my own psyche? What am I going to lose? I'm already easily agitated and getting shorter patience. I get so pent up with frustration and energy because I have zero free will to go to the shower when I want or walk freely without handcuffs being put on me or being shackled like some damned animal!

Time will tell how all of this works out people...


November 2nd, 2015

Every time I enter into a new month I just shake my head and cannot believe how fast time seems to go around here. Even through the mundane and redundant nature of this place...Time goes by much too fast. Maybe it's because I've been so distracted lately that time seems to be flying by at an even faster rate...But I think it's also because I've been pushed and pulled in so many directions recently, it's been difficult for me to focus on anything for a period of time. It's that feeling of emptiness I've had for years...I know I've talked about it before, but I just wish something would come along to fill it up...As well as that old familiar feeling of being "empty", I guess I just don't know what I expect or even want out of life right now other than I want to live.

That being said, some pretty good things have happened to me lately! I was finally able to meet a Rabbi from the Houston area and it was truly a breath of fresh air. The two hours in the "minister" visit went by much too fast, and going out there I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure if he'd be rigid or free spirited. I just didn't know. I was a bit nervous, but once we introduced ourselves we took off running. He was kind, full of energy and light and we had some interesting conversations in such a short amount of time. The one that sticks out  the most is how some people blame everyone else for their problems and don't take a certain level of responsability. I think that we're all guilty of it. When a person refuses to accept that maybe something might be because of something they did themselves...Another thing is how some people seem to have a false sense of entitlement. I recently experienced this with a guy back here, over comics no less! When I finish with my comic books, I share them with as many people as I possibly can. Sometimes it can be a bit stressful because I have to keep tabs on where everything is going and where it's at. Some guys can sit on things much too long while others are waiting, or some guys (and this is a very rare occasion) might even decide to keep them for themselves. I mean, it is dumb to do that because then you just cut yourself out of the loop, but whatever...Well, one day this dude gets a bit irritated about having to wait, but I tell him the comics are with some other dude, and give him the list so he can see where they're going next...A day later this due says...

"Man don't worry about it.  I  don't want to see your comics".  
I said "Huh? You're on the list, what are you tripping about?"
"Well, I thought I'd see them sooner".
"You can't wait another day? You're next on the list".
"Yeah, but I wanted to see them first cause I ain't got time to sit around and wait".
"Really? Are you going on vacation somewhere? You're stuck in your cell all day and you don't read or write...What are you doing that makes it so you can't wait ?"

I mean, really? A grown ass man throwing a hissy fit cause he wasn't first in line? To read a comic book of all things! Rule number one in life: don't EXPECT or feel you're entitled to anything in this life. I can be the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, but I'm not going to throw a fit if I didn't make it first in line to  see the new movie. It is life. There are more important things to worry  about...

At least the sun is out today. After several days of rain it is nice to look out the window and see a blue sky. It feels like a proper Texas autumn as well. It isn't cold or even feels just right.

I'm going to try to get back into the groove of writing. I need to reboot my brain. Stay tuned...


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