It's been a long time since I've written a journal...well over a few years now and I've been thinking about how to begin what feels like a completely new endeavor to me. Ironically having it all coincide with a new month, new birth year and even Rosh Hoshana. It's all entirely new and entirely old. The bigger question I've been asking myself is how do I distill those years into one entry?
It's obvious that I'm not the same person I was when I began my very first journal entries way back in 2005, but I don't even think I'm the same person I was since my last journal entry in 2008, because my circumstances really reshaped my thought process and the lens I viewed the world through. Certain elements remain the same: I believe in compassion, love and forgiveness...these are essential in my day to day life. But admittedly I've grown to be a bit more cynical and less naive of my sorroundings. It's not that I don't trust people - I will always give people the benefit of the doubt; I'm just a little more cautious of motive.
So, let's rewind to the fall of 2010. Actually, lets begin this story at the tale end of the summer, August, specifically, and a surprising ride to Dallas County Jail...I wasn't really expecting to return to Dallas for hearings, as my attorneys had told me they had no plans for me to go back. My wife at the time (notice the use of "at the time" - I'll expand on that later) was told the same and so we had scheduled visits for a Thursday. I was madly in love - truly - at a very happy place in my life at the time, and I lived for visits with her. For me, in that time there really would be no other (yeah, yeah, I've said that before, I know but that's the doomed Shakespearean in me, I guess). So, imagine my surprise when on a late Tuesday evening I was told by guards that I needed to pack my things up because I would be leaving for Dallas in the morning. My first thought was, "Crap...I really don't want to go back!" Understand, while waiting for my trial between 2001-2003 my co-defendants and I were treated like human waste; starved half to death (I went from weighing close to 200 pounds to 167 pounds) being harassed by guards and having our cells searched randomly three times a day. No recreation - I didn't get to see the sun for over two years. And any time that I left my cell I was in shackles from head to toe. I did not want to have to experience the same kind of treatment again.
My second thought was, "Shit! My wife is going to be here on Thursday! I have to get word to her!" Would I be allowed to make a phone call? I could only hope so. The following morning I was picked up by Deputies from Dallas County. They were very kind and respectful towards me. My only warning was - actually, the exchange went like this:
Deputy: "Randy, you still got rabbit in you?"
"No, sir. My running days are over."
"That's good to hear because don't think for one second I won't shoot you dead if you try to run."
"I'm cool. "
"Good. Then it's going to be an easy ride."
I was placed in the back of an unmarked police car and off we went. The drive to Dallas still remains one of my most memorable experiences since being on death row. I drank everything in - the sky with it's huge white/grey cumulus clouds, new and old cars alike that we passed by. The sounds, the smells of fried chicken or hamburgers when we drove past fast food restraunts. Seeing people walk on side walks, a guy shoot past our car on motor cycle and the smell of gasoline. If my window had been open I would've hung my head out like an excited dog. The best part of it all was arriving in downtown Dallas and taking in the sky scrapers, buses, taxi cabs and people walking hurriedly to their workplaces. I felt like I had been abducted by space aliens and deposited on a strange world that was strangely familiar with a past I once knew.
We pulled into the garage of the county jail and I fully expected my nightmare to begin. Round two of the bullshit I went through before but was surprised when I exited the car and the deputies began to remove my shackles. They walked me into intake where I was surrounded by a hodge podge of gangsters, crackheads, prostitutes and petty criminals. To be around so many people was a bit disorienting for me because I came from an enviroment where I practically had zero contact with anyone. The deputy handed my file over to a jailor and I was told to follow him to have my photo and finger prints taken. I'm pretty sure that my jail photo taken at that time had me looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
The jailor told me to sit and someone would come and take me through intake. On a whim I asked if I could get my phone call and he pointed to a bank of phones. I walked over there, dialed my wife's number and hoped she would answer.
The phone rang and rang. After a minute or so it clicked over to her voice mail which triggered the jails phone sytem autovoice "You are recieving a collect call from an inmate in the Dallas County Correctional Facility." I hung up the phone and thought, maybe I can try again when I get to my cell. My biggest concern was her driving to Polunsky Unit on Thursday morning and me not being there.
I sat back down and waited for someone to run me through intake when a familiar face - a Sergeant who was over my security during my first stay - passed me by, stopped and back tracked to where I was sitting and said, "Randy Halprin? What the hell are you doing here?" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Hey, Sgt. Porter." Surely the nightmare would begin...My stomach dropped!
He told me to stay put and he was going to get my file. Once he did that he told me to follow him and what would've been an hour's long intake process was less than an hour. At a medical station I was asked a series of health questions by a very lovely older jamaican nurse. When she learned of me being on death row she stopped what she was doing and prayed for me. I didn't think anything of the series of questions she asked and when suicide was brought up and she asked, "Have you ever had suicidal thoughts." I answered honestly and said, "Yeah, I don't know, maybe 9 years ago?" I finished with her and a few minutes later Sgt. Porter was asked to go have a talk with the nurse. I was having my vitals checked when he came back over to me and said, "What did you tell her?" Confused I just said, " Huh?" Then he said...
"I need to take your shoe laces. She's got you tagged as suicidal."
"What!?! I'm not!"
"Look...I understand that but she's tagged you so we have to go by protocol. Just give me your shoe laces and I'll try to get this off you - but I can't promise. You'll have to get it removed by a psych doctor."
I was livid. Not only was there the fear of being harassed every day, now I had to contend with the possibility of being stark naked in a freezing ass cell because a sweet little Jamaican nurse was worried about my mental health. If anything, that would make me suicidal!
I followed Sgt. Porter as he got my cell assignment and I was soon back in familiar territory. I entered my cell - fully clothed - and he said he was going to try and get the suicide thing lifted. He left and my concerns drifted back to getting in touch with my wife. I asked every guard that passed my cell if I could use the phone. I kept getting brushed off and I guess about fifteen or twenty minutes passed when a group of guards dressed in black paramilitary uniforms showed up outside of my cell. Known as SRT's (Security Response Team) they were the goon squads of the jail. Sent in to deal with riots, fights and or the general harassment of prisoners ...they were the one's who delighted in my misery as I waited for my trial. They appeared to waste no time in a redux. Dallas County Jail Part Deux.
A sergeant stepped up the cell door. "Halprin? Check it out...We just got word that you're on suicide watch"
"I'm not suicidal!"
"Yeah, I know that. I talked with Porter. We don't want to waste our time fucking with you. We just need to go by protocol here. What I need you to do is strip naked and throw all of your personal items in the middle of the mattress, then place your hands on the wall. My guys are gonna come in and get your shit and then we're going to exit. Listen, don't act crazy and shit or it's just gonna get worse. Let me try to get a psych doctor down here. I ain't promising it's gonna be today. More than likely it'll be first thing in the morning. Just tough it out and we'll get it worked out. Okay?"
I let out a deep breath. "Can I at least make a phone call. My wife is going to my unit tomorrow. She doesn't even know I'm here!"
"I can't let you - protocol. Just tough it out."
They came in, took my things and exited quickly. At least they weren't assholes about the whole process. I went straight to the in cell shower just to keep myself warm. Later that evening, still fuming about it all, a guard came by my cell and asked, "You okay in there?" I thought does this question even deserve a response, but unable to supress my sarcasm, I said, "Oh yeah, I just love the feeling of my nuts on cold bare concrete." Zing! He laughed, and walked off.
I got whatever sleep I could and early the next morning an Indian doctor with a heavy accent was standing in front of my cell.
"Mr. Halprin? Good morning"
"Nomaste" I said.
His eyes widened and I muttered something like "Huge LOST fan."
He began to ask me a series of questions and I said, "Look...What sense does it make for me to be suicidal when I'm back in Dallas for hearings on an appeal that could save my life?"
He agreed with me and lifted the suicide watch immediately. My items and clothing were returned, and the first thing I asked for was a telephone. Now, in Dallas county jail the phones are on small platforms with wheels. They roll the phone up to your door, open the food slot and then plug the phone into an outlet. You dial the number you're calling and your jail I.D.# and then state your name. I called my wife and hoped upon hope that she wasn't on her way to Livingston. She answered the phone and I was relieved....
"Why didn't you call back last night?" She yelled.
"I tried calling you when I first got to the jail and then you're not going to believe this...I was on suicide watch!"
I told her the whole story and she was in fits of laughter.
"Something like that could only happen to you! You're an idiot...just feel lucky that when I checked my voice mail it recorded part of the Dallas County intro thingy. I called the prison and they told me you were in Dallas. I'm going to see you tonight if I can."
Most of my stay in Dallas County Jail was the complete opposite of my time waiting on my trial. I was treated with respect. I could leave my cell and go to recreation - a large gym that overlooked down town Dallas and would sometimes bring me to the point of tears as I watched the world go by. I didn't have to wear handcuffs everywhere. I wasn't free by any means but I was treated with dignity and I couldn't imagine the firestorm that would develop just because I would express my appreciation. I knew the phone calls were more than likely being monitored but there was nothing that I was doing that was either illegal or against the rules.
I spent every waking hour on the phone with my wife. It was as close to normalcy as things could get. I wanted to hear the sound of the world and so she would take her phone out to the lake, or a grocery store. We'd goof around, listen to music and yeah, I'm not ashamed of it, we even had phone sex. It wasn't like I was calling up a bunch of different chicks and doing it with them. It was my wife!
We'd been married for about a year at this time and she wanted to get me a ring. I was worried that if she did, when I returned to Polunsky, the ruthless property officer at the time would not allow me to keep it, and she would have wasted her money. My wife was on good terms with the warden. Professional. Nothing personal.....I suggested that if he gave us permission then there was little the property officer could say in trying to keep me from having it and so I asked her to call and get permission. He didn't give it and I never got the ring.
Unfortunately, I didn't know that our phone calls were being leaked by someone in the DA's office, to a writer for D-Magazine...a trash publication that focused on rich people, food and fashion. For whatever reason they decided to write an article about my wife and I, pretty much taking whole conversations out of context and bashing us both relentlessly. I guess my past prevents me the chance to be treated and act like a normal human being.
The last three days in Dallas County Jail were hell. I was jostled around the jail and placed on a psychiatric ward (that's a whole story in itself) I was not allowed to use the phone, and was once again searched three times a day. I was quickly taken out of the jail by a SWAT team (I shit you not) and dropped off in Huntsville, Texas - I didn't even get to enjoy the ride back, everything happened so fast. In Huntsville I was loaded up into a TDCJ prison van and deposited on the back gate of Death Row. Back to reality.
My life on death row pretty much remained the same; the shit storm that Dallas turned into had little effect on me on death row, but emotionally, it all took a heavy toll on my relationship. Things broke apart, and we were never the same. By the summer of 2011, my marriage fell completely apart and once again I was left holding a broken heart. I'm not happy about how it all ended but I think it opened my eyes to a lot of things and just how unbelievably cruel life can be. You can let it destroy you or let it give you more resolve. It's one of my favorite sayings but I do believe that life isn't a lesson in futility. It's not pointless.
Admittedly, I'm less patient with things I might have been...I'm also less tolerant of BS that comes my way. I've learned a lot about love and loyalty over the past couple of years, and I've realised more than ever that in some lives, pain is just going to always be a part of the narrative - my narrative...It's an integral part of my story and who I am. Even when I'm well intentioned and just want to have and share in some commom love and happiness, there is always going to be some outside force that tries to take it from me. I get it. I accept it. But I refuse to let it destroy me, or take from me the basic goodness that I know my heart carries.
The other thing I know is that storms come and go. Even the really bad ones. You pick up the pieces and move on. You learn from them and hopefully grow. You don't let negative bullshit dictate how you live your life...Being a little cynical now just means I'm a little more aware. It's not some old misanthropic cynicism...I'm just not as naive as I used to be.
Other things that have happened in my life over the past two years or so:
My State appeal was denied and I'm now in the Federal Courts. I have about a year or so to file my brief - I have a new attorney as well - and then there's the State's response. So I should be good for a couple years or so. I hope! I'm still an optimist - just a cautious one.
My brother, and this has been one of the hardest things for me, suffers from mental illness and is now in jail. I can only hope he gets the help he truly needs. I have developed a very bad addiction to comic books, especially The Walking Dead, and a very absurd one called "Chew ". About two years ago I finished my paralegal course, so I guess I'm a paralegal. Even though I'm not.
And so forth...
I'm not sure if I'll write a journal entry EVERY SINGLE DAY but I do plan on keeping up with it all regulary...This project was always good therapy for me and if I can maybe help someone else out in the process, then it serves a purpose.
So, here's to a new beginning...I hope you'll stay with me to see wherever the hell this rollercoaster ends.
September 10th, 2013
I'm still trying to get back into the groove of this journals thing again. A slow start but I'm getting there. As I write this on an early Tuesday morning we are currently on lock down. It began last Wednesday and to be honest this has been one I've kind of appreciated. It's beenquiet and peaceful and relatively hassle free. They were supposed to be done with the shakedowns last night but for whatever reason second shift didn't do the job that was left for them - two sections on c-pod - so the guards on 1st shift that came into work this morning were highly pissed. That generally translates to them taking it out on the inmates but they don't seem to be. It's oddly still very peaceful.
In the time that's passed since my last entry there's been some interesting developments in my life. One, a very private one that I'll not go into out of respect to the other party, even though they have shown me anything but respect...ahem! But whatever...life goes on and I'm not going to let it hash my mellow, man. I've also given a lot of thought to my previous entry and me talking about becoming a bit cynical. I worry that's going to be misinterpreted as something it's not because I just can't really think of another definition for how I feel. Cynical implies one is sometimes being a curmudgeon, which I'm not. I've lost a degree of trust in certain things but my overall world view is much the same. I very much belive in the basic ordinary goodness and good intentions of people. I think what irritates me the most in my life right now is not having control of the narration of who I am, and my life. A version of me is perpetuated by the media and those who typically hate prisoners, on general principal that happened when I was 18, and 23 years old, respectively!!! Who on G-d's green earth thinks they're remotely close to the person they were at that age? Think of all of the bad choices/mistakes etc. that you made at those years? Shit, the brain isn't even fully developed until you're almost 30. Not that I blame my brain, I take full responsibility for my bad choices. That lack of control over who I am is just frustrating though. If you're going to hate me for who I am, then hate me for who I am NOW. Why is it that we are quick to forgive celebrities for all of the fucked up shit they do, calling it a comeback or road to recovery/redemption but when an ordinary individual does something they are truly remorseful for, they are treated like a freaking pariah?
As I get closer to 36, I just think back to how different I am as person. I'm still a goofy dumb son-of-a-bitch, but I'm less impulsive, more aware and mindful of the people and world around me, and I'm also much more mature...Unless you base my level of maturity on my current love and obsession of a special cyberbionic rooster named "Poyo", who kicks major ass and whose wrong side, you really don't want to be on. Google the comic book "Chew" and "Poyo" and you'll get it. So, yeah, my birthday is on Friday and I'll be honest: I really didn't think I'd be around this long. In fact, I was convinced for a long time that I was going to be dead around 32. But I'm still here. Curse or blessing? ou decide! I'm really theankful, though.
I'll be writing much more. Stay tuned...
September 17th, 2013
I'm sitting here, waiting to go to recreation and lunch with so much on my heart and mind and absolutely no way to express what I'm feeling right now. I kind of feel foolish for even feeling this way at all but I would pretty much give up everything I have to recieve what I want - even a single day of what I want....I think I would give up my life to have just something to fill the emptiness inside...
Life goes on, though.....Right?
So, since my last entry I haven't really been doing much. We've recently come back up off of lock down, and thankfully it was over before my birthday...My b-day was totally uneventful, but it would've sucked major turds to be on lock down for my birthday. We went on lock down on the 4th and we were back up on the 11th. It went by pretty fast, and when they searched my cell it was fairly hassle free, unlike the last time when I lost a bunch of crap just because they could take it and got a kick out of it. I had been saving a bunch of comic books for a friend back here...Well, when I was returned to my cell they were all gone. Confiscated and disappeared. I tried talking to ranking officers to no avail. Anyway...that's life. I was kind of surprised that they did everything so fast this time around, but there is a small rumor going around saying we're going to be on lock down in the next few weeks...again!
Well, I'm heading out to recreation now.
September 18th, 2013
Sadly, today is another execution...I hope that it doesn't go through; you just can't hold out hope because the whole process has been very unstable of late with recent decisions coming out of the Supreme Court in regards to defendents not having proper legal representation, and how that decision alone is going to save a lot of lives - and already has. Also, recent developments concerning Texas running out of the drug used for lethal injections...finally, after decades, drug companies are refusing to allow their product to be used to kill humans. These offer promise and hope...but still you want to stay grounded and don't fool yourself because this IS still Texas and if they had their way they would just take us to the back and put us down with a shotgun like ol' Yeller.
I did know the guy who is set to be executed today - Robert Garza. He could be a no nonsense dude and a little edgy, but beyond his hard exterior was a pretty good guy. He had a really dedicated and loving mom who would fight her ass for him as well, and attended many rallies with my ex. My ex really loved her. Thought she was a great woman. It's always nice to see when family gets behind their sons.
So, earlier today, because I like to torture myself by listening to other people's blatant stupidity, I was channel surfing and stopped on AFR - "American Family Radio" where they have these extreme evangelical Christian dudes run their mouth and spit out mostly hate talk about everything, and this dude, Brian Fisher, is going on about muslims and he says "You know, the government should stop allowing muslims from coming to the U.S. and make it illegal for any mosques to be built...sure, you might have a bunch of 'good' or moderate muslims who do believe in peace, but you just never know who might become radicalized. There is always wolves amongst the sheep who want to hurt us." Now, that's pretty freaking dumb and I have heard him go on and on about gun control and it's against the constitution blah blah blah...so I thought to myself, now there's an idea! I'll go along with his idea to ban muslims IF they make it illegal to own a gun...sure, you have the majority of gun owners who mean good, don't want to harm anyone etc. BUT!!! How can you tell WHICH gun owner isn't going to walk into a school or mall or NAVY building and start slaughtering people? It's the same logic! You can't have it both ways, dude!
Well, today other than being upset about the execution, my head isn't as twisted up as it has been over the past couple of days. Still a little on the sad side, but I feel whatever happens in whatever way that it does I'll just accept it all...You know, I'm not one to put a lot of weight into signs and omens and all of that stuff, but sometimes things happen all at once that makes it seem as though it's coincidence...I had a letter from my brother recently (sadly he's in jail...long story) and he asks me the strangest question, and I'm thinking where on earth did that come from and why now do you bring it up? It all tied in to my problems with my head being a pretzel and I just found it weird...
Another weird thing, lately all of these birds I've never seen before since being here are popping up all over the place. Really pretty birds...Also a crap load of heron. We always see them fly over and occassionally land on the prison grass but for about the past week they've been everywhere.
I think I'll stop here for now.
September 19th, 2013
It's hot and I'm pretty tired 'cause I was woken up at 5.20am because I had ordered some documents from the Law Library. You only get to hold the item(s) for 24 hours and why on earth they deliver it THAT early in the morning boggles my mind. They will be back at my cell tomorrow at five in the morning to pick it all back up. If I haven't finished the work I needed to get done I will then have to resubmit a request for the same paper work over and over and over until I finish...so I've been on the ball ever since I returned from recreation. Fun stuff!
Yesterday, admittedly, I was quite emotionally out of it. I don't know...it's just that empty feeling that I don't know what I need to fill it. It sucks! Really it does...I'm not one of these doom and gloom kind of people and really I'm a glass half full kind of guy. I'm generally optimistic about life, but it just seems that at times the world conspires against me - or rather the freaking universe. Yeah, I know I did this to myself, believe me, I know...But it still blows turtle nuts.
In unrelated trivial absolute meaningless news...I'm ready for a new season of "Survivor" and the finale of "Big Brother". Both guilty pleasures for me and just good ol' escapism. Something to distract the head and the heart. Oh and I recieved the latest issue of "CHEW" and my kickass rooster "Poyo" took on Mutant Corn and Superfish...Genetically modified mayhem! Food fighting furiously! The grocery grotesquery! Seriously, there is no hope for me...
On that note I shall bid thee adieu...
September 20th, 2013
Fall is finally here, and it actually feels like fall here in good ol' Livingston, Texas. Actually, today is a beautiful day. The last 3 days we were inundated with rain. I think it rained more in three days than it did all summer. Texas has been in a drought for some time now and the rain was needed. The nights have cooled off tremendously as well so I hope they pass out blankets soon because it got a little chilly last night with just a sheet to cover up with.
They did execute Robert Garza on Thursday. It looked like he might get a stay for a while, as the execution had been delayed for a bit, but in the end they did kill him. According to the radio I guess he filed some late motion on his own for something that the prosecuters withheld from the defense. It wasn't enough to get the Supreme Court to intervene...I guess in time one becomes numb to it all, back here. But definitely not apathetic like the majority of the American public...That's a rant for another day.
I haven't really been doing much the past few days. Just trying to keep my mind off of certain things and keeping busy by doing laundry, cleaning my cell, and other mindless activities.
And now.. .Ladies and Gentlemen, as promised, and without further ado, I present to you...