Yaaaay! The last day of this cursed month...Good riddance September! Well, I can't say that it was a complete bust, but man, towards the end...Oh well. So, my possessed radio's clock turned back on last night and stayed on...Just strange. I've had some things go wonky on me before, but there is really no rhyme or reason to this.
I woke up this morning because they were doing showers. I guess it was close to six, and when I got back to my cell, I slept in until 9 this morning. I did feel a bit better and more positive, hoping for the best this week. I started my day, wrote my chick, and did my laundry. Well, around 11.20ish, this female guard came by and noticed a wire that I was running to the guy who was letting me listen to his radio...complicated to explain, but no guard sweated it yesterday, and most don't care as long as when we leave our cells, the wire isn't in the walkway. I was honest with her and explained my radio situation...I expected her to say, "Okay," and just walk on by. Instead she said, "Give me the radio." Then I said, "What? Are you for real?" I couldn't read her face. It wasn't like an asshole face, it was just "matter of fact"...Very serious. She told me to give it to her again. Now at this point I'm fuming...Really upset. I mean, this is my sanity, and I even said that to her. Music, a connection to the outside world through news etc...I was not happy. But I didn't want to risk getting into trouble, and I have some visits coming up, so I couldn't put up a fight...But I was angry!
About 12.20pm they started passing out the lunch sacks (fish patty and pb&j...blech!) and the same female guard hands me two sacks. At first, I'm thinking it was an extra that maybe someone else didn't want and said to give it to me. As I was walking away from the door she said, "I went to the property room and grabbed you a loan radio. When you get your new one, you'll need to turn that one in and in the same condition I gave it to you." I opened the bag and was floored! It was a loaner radio...now, usually the loan radios are for people who are indigent or used to replace something that a guard broke...I just couldn't believe it, and I instantly felt awful for being so upset! I thanked her a thousand times and just couldn't believe the kindness of the act. She definitely did not have to do that! Kindness comes in a thousand forms and in the most surprising of places and situations. It should be a lesson, and I will definitely "pay it forward."
I'm hoping that was a good sign of things to come.
Something else I wanted to write about and show my gratitude for is those who stand and protest against the executions taking place in Huntsville. I cannot imagine the emotional toil it can take on the heart and soul to have to go to each one, but I can say that I'm personally thankful and wish more people would show their support as well. Numbers get attention, and when more people start showing up, maybe the media and the State will say, "something needs to change" I don't know. I just wanted to say thanks for being out there, whoever you all are, and it means the world to many of us back here. Thanks to all!
Here's to hoping that October rocks, and is a wonderful month full of good things, and a lot of love!
Hold onto...Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 29th, 2018
This horrible week has come to an end!!! It has just been one awfully stressful week...Between my own life, two consecutive executions - one of which I was almost certain would get a stay - the shake down yesterday and losing my hotpot, and later that evening my radio just going completely dead on me...I can't take much more before I just succumb to an emotional meltdown!!!
Before I talk about yesterday's events, I do want to kind of clarify what I said about Kavanaugh recently, and believing him...After I'd written about him, I struggled with what I wrote because I want to be absolutely clear that I wasn't siding with him. Any victim should always be given the attention and investigation that is needed in any case - especially when it comes to sexual assault etc. I do believe that politics have muddied the waters and I also know that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and we are very quick to judge and condemn in this society without knowing the facts. There are always two sides to every story...I think where my confusion has come from is hearing someone say they are innocent - with a certain desparation in their voice - and I filtered it through to my own experience. Regardless of what anyone believes one way or the other, there is enough doubt to withdraw his nomination. I have never believed he should've been on the Supreme Court based purely on my own views and liberal philosophy - he was too political in the first place...having gone after the Clintons in the '90s, working in the Bush Administration in the '00s, and following his very own comments about the charges being brought against him being some sort of revenge for the Clintons in the 2016 elections...All of these things should've immediately excluded him as a potential Justice.
Anyway, our shakedown was yesterday...For whatever reason, they only did F and E section on C-Pod, and they did my section (E section) at around 2pm yesterday. I really didn't expect them to take anything except maybe some art type crafts I had someone make for my girlfriend, but other than that I was pretty much in compliance. I don't like clutter and I'm not a pack rat, so except for things that have an emotional value or essentials, I don't really keep things. When I receive books and magazines, I generally pass them off to people who want to read them, or try to donate them to the library...although that in no way means it will necessarily hit the shelves...sometimes the inmates who work in the library take off with them. All the same, these things get an extra bit of life, I suppose.
Because it was our shower day, we could take our shower stuff with us, so I had my razor, soap, boxer shorts and a towel with me. I took my time showering and then an hour later they brought us back to our cells. Upon first glance, my cell looked quite the mess! Things were strewn all over the place...I don't know which guard searched my cell, but it looked like a tornado had blown through. In the last shakedown during the summer, everything was stacked nice and neat...I took a deep breath (you can't come out good every time!...) scanned my cell, saw that my radio and fan were in their place, but I noticed my hot pot was gone...Now, I can't blame anyone but myself because it has been through the ringer, and I had jumped the thermostat so it would get hotter than it's designed to...It's the only way of really cooking anything. Otherwise, barely hot water just doesn't cut it! Most guards know this and kind of "turn a blind eye" and don't sweat it, but hey...again, you can't with them all.
I cleaned up my cell and settled in, listened to the news and just chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. I was exhausted by the time the Prison Show came on, but I listened to it, then tried to get to sleep. Even though I was really tired, I just tossed and turned and decided I'd listen to Seth Meyers. I went to put the radio on and it was dead...nothing! I thought something was maybe loose, so I fiddled with it, and then the FM and AM were out! I messed with it until 1 in the morning and just gave up...the cheap piece of crap died on me...I did try to fiddle with it today as well, but still...dead air. But hey! The clock works...I suppose whenever the lockdown is over with I will try to get a new one...and a new hot pot. I tell you what, though...when my luck is on it is on...it's firing on all cylinders and everything just falls into place, but when it's off...it is just bad event after bad event. The Stoics teach us to always expect bad things, that way you won't be surprised - actually, not to "expect" things to happen, but to know that inevitably they will, and we should be mentally/spiritually prepared for when they do...I definitely need to work on that!
Well, here's to hoping next week is a little better!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 27th, 2018
Today has been one of those whirlwind of emotions kind of day...From listening to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, receiving our red crates in preparation for a possible shake down, to the execution of a potentially innocent man – and the second of two back to back executions...nuts!
So, today I listened to a hearing on the potential Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. It got to me a bit more than I expected, and I thought about how I wanted to write about it...not going into it with an opinion, but rather speaking from experience. I think what I'm going to say will not be popular, and I had to think about how to properly articulate myself...I believe the accuser...I believe she experienced some kind of assault and life long trauma because of it. It could've been Brett Kavanaugh, and if he's appointed to the Supreme Court we may never really know...I get angry when I listen to conservative radio and they disparage and demean the accuser, and I think there should've been a bit more investigation before anything moved forward.
I want to preface what I'm about to say next with the fact that politically, I swing to the left. I consider myself a pretty hard core liberal - not extremist, but definitely left of center. My views don't jive with Brett Kavanaugh's political and probably judicial philosophy, and I don't want to see him appointed. But here's where people will get angry...What I'm going to say is purely based on my own experiences, and because of those experiences, I found myself believing him...I could feel his helplessness in his own words whenever he said, “I did not do this.” Or, “I am innocent of these charges.” When people are throwing accusations at you and they aren't true, there is a feeling...I can only describe it as a drowning feeling...You're thrashing about, screaming out, and no one is listening. No one will come to your aid. Do I believe he was a saint in high school? No...Most of us weren't. I'm sure he did some questionable things. I also know the feeling of people taking things way beyond their context or weaponising tasteless jokes and behaviours against you.
Listening to the hearing and the democratic Senators referring to statements written in yearbooks, or things he said as a teen, or what he wrote in a calendar...I went through the very same thing in my own trial. Little substance spent on the actual crime itself, but instead, using letters, jokes, and even cartoons I'd created as some kind of “proof” that I was a horrible human being. And when I'd try to defend myself or explain what any of these things meant, it was thrown back at me as blame shifting, or showing no remorse...Listening to him, I was having flashbacks of being in the same position when I was on the stand, and it just made me shake and relive those moments...
I can't say one way or the other if he did or didn't do it, but we live in a country where we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. This doesn't mean that we discredit the accuser and say her claim isn't valid...Our hearts and compassion should go out to her. And if the incident did happen with Kavanaugh, I believe that he either truly doesn't recall it, or he has convinced himself that it didn't happen. Again, we'll never know...But I find myself believing him.
I also have a problem with society ruining whole lives based on actions that happened in a person's life when they were in their teens, or even their early 20s, no matter how horrific the event might be - it's not an indicator of who that person will be 10 or 20 years down the line. I'm not the same person I was at 18, or 23, or even 30 years old! If science has shown us that the brain isn't fully developed until around 25 years old, and we claim to believe in the power of redemption, why do we then, as a society, cast those young people out onto the dung heap?
All that being said, if Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court, I hope the process has been a learning experience for him. If he is truly innocent of these accusations, then it will be interesting to see how he looks at cases where people are truly innocent (or before the Court on appeal) because it should allow him the insight to be more fair and empathetic to the innocence cries of others...If anything good can come out of this, it will be that he is more balanced and insightful in his judgements.
Anyway, at around 4pm they brought the red crates around for us to pack our property into for the shake down, which I'm assuming will be tomorrow. It's weird but they always seem to get C-Pod done on a Friday, or Monday...I just hope it isn't that bad! I just want to get it over with. I'm packed up and ready to go...
Today, Daniel Acker was also executed...I've known him for a while, though not on any kind of personal level, but we did have some conversations. I've heard his story and it has always been the same...He was no saint, but I do believe him when he said he didn't murder his girlfriend, nor was it his intent for her to die...There's a strong chance that today, Texas has executed an innocent man, and I hope it will be revealed, should someone decide to investigate post-execution...Another of those “we may never know” circumstances.
It's been a long day...An emotional day...but another day that I find strength in the friends and the chick this dude loves...I'm a very fortunate guy – more fortunate than I deserve.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 25th, 2018
I have to start this out today by letting my special chick know that I adore her, and I'm so grateful for everything she does to keep me in this fight...Sometimes we don't always do things perfectly, and we don't always have the right words to say...We stumble, we fumble, and we screw-up, but all of this...this journal, this beautiful website, and the spark to my recent writings and creativity, is all because of HER...And so, I want to thank her and tell her I love her...
I started off the day as I usually do, and then I had a surprise legal visit. It went really well, and I'm so fortunate and blessed to have the people I have representing me, fighting so hard for me, and most importantly, believing in me. They inspire hope in me, and strengthen my will to do good and pay it forward. I'm very fortunate.
The gossip mill has it that things are speeding up on the shakedowns, and that the warden has seemingly eased up on the ruthlessness a bit. Of course, this is a different crew of guards so it could change again in a couple of days on a new shift...We'll see...They should be on C-Pod tomorrow (the pod I've been on since last December!) and start shaking down, but there are two back to back executions happening this week, and they have a way of derailing the process. I'm thinking that the guy due to be executed on Thursday could get a stay...He's got a really strong innocence claim...We'll see. I'm ready to rock 'n' roll with the shakedown and get it out of the way!
On the way back from my legal visit, this female guard was talking to another escorting officer, and often they'll talk over the inmate as if he doesn't exist, and I'll soak up their conversation. Well, apparently the female was upset that some people were celebrating in cosplay (where people dress up as their favorite comic/manga/movie characters) at a park that she takes her son to...Her exact words were, "As soon as I saw them weirdos, I grabbed my son and left!...They could've been a group of paedophiles!" Now, I've never done cosplay, but I do fancy myself a bit of a dork, and it offended me that she would say such an ignorant thing...So, I said, "It must suck." To which she replied, "Yeah, it does...It makes no damn sense..." I said, "No, it must suck to live your life being afraid of things you don't understand." And that, sadly, seems to be the way American life is becoming...That fear and ignorance of people, religions, customs, culture...Things we don't understand but we need not be afraid of learning about...I wish people would start opening their minds more.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 24th, 2018
Ever had a dream that you were talking about music with Rod Stewart, or having an in depth conversation about movies with Gal Gadot? Well, for some odd reason, I did...What the hell is wrong with me?
Anyway, I woke up this morning and started my day by working out, then I wrote to my love and got busy on chapter 10 of my memoir, "Falling Down." I actually started chapter 11, but will finish that up tomorrow. I also have three new poems ready to roll out...They were harder than others to write because they started off kind of stream of consiousness, then I shaped them up. It took some time to get them just as I wanted, but they're as good as they'll get now, so off they go to be posted up on my website - check them out under the tab, "Poems/Lyrics," sub-tab, "New Poems for 2018".
I don't know if people are following my new memoir, but I've been having each chapter posted up on the website as I finish it, and I am easily picturing this taking shape into a whole book! I have at least 20 chapters planned, and I'm just writing them as I go, but when I get my head into that "space" all kinds of forgotten memories pop up and I want to write about this or that...So, there may be even more than 20 chapters by the time I've finished! Still, that part of my life is very important in leading to where I am today...I don't know if it aplies to a lot of lives or just a few, but there is a very visible single thread. Where some lives are full of branches, I see mine as having started off with many tree limbs, but they soon fell off, and there was one long, gnarly and twisted branch left...My hope is that the tree of my life will once again produce beautiful and healthy limbs, and lots of them!
Well, I think most of us back here are wondering if this warden is just bored, and seeing how many new rules he can put into place...The latest is a kind of dumb because not everyone back here can actually afford a commissary cup and the kitchen/guards never provide a cup or eating utensils for us to use. So, all we have is either a commissary cup or maybe a peanut butter jar or something, if a guy can get one from another inmate. Well, he's now said the only way we're to get juice, coffee, or milk, is via a proper cup. But again, the kitchen doesn't provide cups like they're supposed to, so what are the guys without supposed to use...their hands? It's ridiculous!
Apparently, last week as they were shaking down A-Pod, he was ordering officers to take "unstored" legal work, which is also a violation of policy. If you are a guy who has been going through the appeals process for many, many years, the chances are you have mountains of legal material like letters, filings and rulings - heck, a trial transcript can be thousands upon thousands of documents! When I first came to death row, I had so much stuff it could've filled up the back of a truck bed. A lot of it was ruined in various cell floodings and general damage from being moved around so often, but there are guys who can fill up whole buggies full of legal work. Where are we supposed to store it? It's protected by the courts, so where does the guy get off in telling his officers to confiscate it?
The follow up - just came down the gossip mill right now - is that he was ordered to return the legal work back to the guys he took it from.
Well, I'm still holding onto hope, tightly!!! I need those positive vibes!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 23rd, 2018
I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, the first official day of fall – my favourite season, I should add. I'm looking out of my little window, the sky is grey, and in the distance to the left of my view, there are some buildings, and a tree line on the horizon. The trees are swaying ever so gently in the light and cool breeze I imagine is blowing outside...What wouldn't I give to go for a walk outside right about now?...Oh, the things we take granted, huh?
I woke up this morning at about 5.45am for a shower – normally during the lock-down we only get showers on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday, so I was a bit surprised that we got one today. When I asked the guard why they were doing showers today he said they wanted to get an early start to the shakedowns tomorrow. I thought, “yeah...THAT won't happen...” but it was still nice to get a shower! When I returned to my cell I listened to a program called, “On Being.” It's a spiritual program that covers philosophy, and the practice of well being and mindfulness...not the new age goobley goo nonsense, but in depth conversations with some of the great thinkers and compassionate people of our time.
After the program, I want back to sleep. I didn't expect to sleep until 9.30am but that is what happened! I jumped up, drank my coffee, wrote to my love, and put on TNT to listen to “Pete's Dragon” - the remake of the Disney classic. I listened to it last night, going into it very sceptically. I'm not a big fan of remakes because they often don't get them right – they actually get them very wrong! Disney, however, has been on a creative roll with their live action remakes of a lot of their animated classics from Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent), Jungle Book, Cinderella etc...I've been very impressed with what I've listened to thus far and the remake of the original “Pete's Dragon” had gotten really good reviews when it hit the theaters, so I had high hopes...The original was a favourite of mine growing up. The mix of animation (Elliot the Dragon) and live action was amazing, and Pete's interaction with Elliot threw my imagination into overdrive! The movie was also a musical, and I loved the song and dance numbers...I knew that this wasn't a “straight on” remake - in fact, the only similarity with the original was Pete and Elliot...That was it! Yet, it was BRILLIANT!!! The movie made me laugh, and it made me cry several times too! I couldn't SEE the movie, but my imagination took over. It had the feel of a classic '80s adventure movie, and the musical score was breathtaking, and beautiful. The folksy tunes that fuelled the movie were wonderful...I really loved it, and it sparked the feelings of wonder and being a child all over again. To borrow a line from the movie, it made me "feel the magic.”
Anyway, like I said, before I ever heard of the movie I had read the reviews and they were mostly good...except for a couple saying it was overtly “manipulative” in pulling at the heart strings. I thought, as I was listening, isn't that what movies are supposed to do? Isn't that their purpose? The fact that you watch something in that moment – and suspend disbelief – IS manipulative...It's supposed to be! A good movie makes you believe in it...It can make you scared, it can give you thrills, it can leave your jaw on the floor with fanciful feasts of visual effects. It can make you cry! That is what a good movie does! Of course, movies are manipulative...Any kind of art is...Anyway, check it out!
The rumor mill has it that the new warden is being an absolute tyrant on this shakedown...Telling officers to write cases for the smallest of things, and in general creating chaos amongst the inmates. To put it into perspective, for the past couple of years the discipline pod – F-Pod death row side – has stayed nearly empty, with just a couple of guys down there at any given time. It went from housing a couple of guys to being completely full under this new warden! Surely, the administration in Huntsville would see the sudden spike in cases that send guys to F-Pod, and wonder what the heck was going on? But so far, he's getting away with it...There was an incident on another unit where the warden and ranking officers were involved in a quota system for bogus disciplinary cases. An email was leaked, the news exposed the illegal scheme, and the State fired those involved and said it wouldn't happen again...Apparently, this new warden didn't get the memo! Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose...
Oh well...it's out of our control!
Here's to hoping for a good week, and a beautiful Autumn...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 19th, 2018
I woke up this morning fully expecting to go to recreation...I skipped breakfast because I'm fasting for Yom Kippur, and whilst technically recreation (and writing this) could be defined as "work," I was certain that G-d wouldn't be upset that I wanted to get out of my cell.
So, the 1st shift officer came around at 5.30am, setting up the rec. schedule, and he asked me if I was going...I said, "yes." Then he told me, "First round, F-section." I kicked off my sheet, rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, said my prayers, and began a letter. Whilst I was writing, another guard yelled out, "No recreation. You guys are on lock-down." I didn't believe it as that particular officer has been known to be a prankster! Then, they said they were going to do showers only. When he said that I was certain we weren't on lockdown as we don't get showers for that first 72 hours...(which I have never understood!)
So, they started doing showers and then a ranking officer came through and confirmed that we were on lockdown, and that they had accidentally given the order to do showers, but we weren't actually supposed to be getting them. I thought, "well, great...that was really unexpected!" We really weren't expecting to be on lockdown right now because the rumors had us going on lockdown on October 1st...So, here it is and I suppose it will be a long one - probably a few weeks!
As I wrote earlier, it is Yom Kippur and I've been fasting since yesterday evening at sundown...Of course, the day I decide to fast is when they have really good meals! Breakfast was some kind of eggs, and the sack lunch they passed out earlier had baked chicken in it...Argh! The torture! Ha ha...I put the lunch in my locker and will eat it tonight to break the fast - assuming it doesn't give me food poisoning after sitting in my locker most of that day. I haven't always fasted, but this year I just felt it would be important and I'd reflect and pray, and of course ask for forgiveness for any screw ups, or for any hurt I've caused to anyone over the past year. I'm sorry and I hope you will forgive me...
Of course I've been listening to the radio, and this Supreme Court nomination fiasco is a mess! I was listening to AFR and some right wing stations earlier, and it is amazing hearing them attack the woman for making accusations of sexual assault, but it was also interesting to hear people call into the shows and say, "He was just 17...even if he did do something awful like that, should we ruin a man's life and family over something he did as a teenager???" And I'm thinking, well, actually we do it every day...We charge 14 year olds as adults, we lock up teenagers, we bring up their teenage past in sentencing phases to show "their character" so we can sentence them to death...These same people calling in or commenting don't seem to have a problem with that. Now, I do agree - if these things did happen when he was a teen - it isn't worth ruining his life/career if he has shown remorse, regret, and apologised. I don't think any of us are who we were in our teens, or even our early 20s...but neither do I believe he should be sitting on the Supreme Court if these allegations are true, and he's denying or covering up his actions.
I guess what I'm most upset about in all of this is the blatant hypocrisy in politics, and those who will excuse (both left and right sides) certain behaviours because they are on the winning side, and their agenda is being put through. At what point do we, as a nation, say that I'm not going to sacrifice my principals or standards to just get what I want...something is going to have to give...It's just dividing us further. Besides, I don't think our founding fathers EVER intended giving the Supreme Court the power it has now...We don't elect presidents on what they're actually going to do for the better of our country any more, we elect them to protect Federal Judge seats, and the Supreme Court. It isn't supposed to be this way, and it isn't the representative government they had in mind...
On a more positive note, I was thinking of a "happy" Yom Kippur memory I had when I was 14...I had just come back from Kentucky on a fall break, and it was my 8th grade year...I may have just turned 15, and I'm not sure if Yom Kippur fell in September then or not, but my dad and I went to our synagogue, Beth Shalom, in Arlington. I met up with my friends from Hebrew School there, and I told them about my time in Kentucky and answered their questions. My friend, Mindi, had asked if going to school there was like the movie, "School Ties." But what I remember most is she had a friend with her...Her parents were atheists, but wanted her to attend a service for cultural reasons, and she was really cute! We went into the services, and one thing we'd all do if it just became unbearably boring, was to sneak off "to the bathroom" one at a time, and then either meet up in the day care room, or go outside and eat pecans that fell off the trees, because we were hungry. Well, we went to the day care room and hung out for a while, and me and this girl really hit it off. In the afternoon she called a friend on the speaker phone, and the friend asked if there were any cute guys there...She looked right at me and said, "Yeah," and smiled. I had butterflies in my stomach! We went back to the service, then after it ended we all drove out to a pond to throw bread into it to symbolise throwing our sins away...Then we went to break the fast at a restaurant. It was my dad and I, Mindi, and her family, the Goldbergs, and Mindi's friend. I sat next to the girl, and we were playing footsies and sword fighting with the butter knives, and so I decided to take a chance and ask her out..."No," she said. I was caught off guard! I really didn't expect that...Then she said, "You go to school in Kentucky...It'd never work!" Couldn't argue with her on that.
My dad had planned to go over to Mindi's house for a bit and have some coffee, so her parents drove off and we offered to bring Mindi back home and drop the other girl home. She held my hand on the drive, and told my dad how to get to her place. When we got to her home she climbed over me to get out of the car, and kissed me on the cheek...Sadly, I never saw her again after that! It's still a happy memory though...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 17th, 2018
Today has been one of those days that hasn't been bad, but a bit on the chaotic side...I woke up and hadn't even wiped the sleep from my eyes when guys were hollaring to see if I'd type up some grievances for them on the two issues that the new warden had suddenly put restrictions on...The Grievance Officer usually picks them up around 8 in the morning, so I had to jump up and type them up in a hurry. Then I had to get ready for recreation, and everything has just been busy busy busy since then. It finally calmed down a bit after I returned to my cell.
Whilst I was out at recreation, I had an interesting conversation with a guy waiting on an execution date. He told me he was "ready to go" and had been since he was kicked out of the Supreme Court back in 2013. I said, "Wait...your appeals have been finished since 2013, and you're still alive?" He said, "Yeah, I know. Crazy, right?" Apparently his attorneys filed a last ditch appeal, and it has kept him alive all of these years!...A ruling is pending due to his having a more liberal Federal judge or something. I don't know, I was a bit confused on the details, but he hated the fact that he was still alive.
I told him, "Maybe the universe isn't done with you yet. Maybe this is a sign...or maybe you shouldn't give up so easily and keep fighting." He told me he was worn out and just ready to go...but maybe the universe/God or whatever did have some greater purpose. I don't know what I believe half of the time...I know that I believe in something greater than us and having grown up in Judaism and being Jewish to my core, I believe in the oneness of God...but signs, miracles etc...I just don't know. And yet, I can say that there have been events in my life that aren't fully explained, or were "signs" that I have willfully ignored. I have a very strong sense of intuition, and I tend to ignore it either out of stubbornness, or an attempt to think rationally, and yet, some things in life just aren't rational and sure as hell don't make sense.
Maybe if we started paying attention to the world around us, and actually receive the signals its sending out, we'd be better off? Maybe our "purpose" in life isn't always what WE think it is...I just find it strange at times, and fascinating too.
My other thought was that this pod just holds some very strange negative energy, and always has. Just about every guy here is permanently miserable or agitated or angry, or else he has given up on life. I've been stuck - trapped - on this pod since last December. In fifteen-and-a-half years, this is the longest I have ever remained on a single pod, and it sucks...I just want to get away from the negativity and hate on this pod...And it can be contagious...spreading like a disease or wild fire, from person to person...even amongst the guards. I am hoping I will be moved off this pod this week...I've been in this cell for two months now, and it's well past my move date.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 16th, 2018
Man...this weekend has flown by! I've been in relatively good spirits...I spent Saturday morning typing up grievances for guys to turn in, and listening to Star Wars. Like music, Star Wars is like medicine for me! I had a visit on Saturday night and it was soooooo refreshing to get out of the cell. I needed to clear my head, and on the way out saw the most amazing sunset. I've not seen the sunset in months, so seeing the sky awash in colours, and darkening, was just good for the soul. Breathing in the fresh air, seeing trees...Just sublime!
I'm sitting here getting caught up on things, and getting ready for the new week. I wonder what surprises are in store for us??? Sheesh!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 14th, 2018
Well, the day started off great! It was like a late birthday party...Totally unexpected! I had just crawled out of bed when someone said they had something for me, that I had to fish to the dayroom to pick up...It was tacos! Four fatty heart clogging tacos! The best kind! And a bunch of other dudes had sent me candy bars as gifts as well. Here I was moping around because I didn't get anything from anyone here, yesterday...And what a surprise it's all been today! It really made me feel appreciated. I never expect or want any kind of reciprocation from anyone, and I've always given from my heart with no strings attached. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel appreciated, and that's the feeling I've had this morning...
So, the day started out great! It was really grey outside and storming early on, but not even that could ruin the morning. Then I went to recreation a little after noon, and things turned absolutely chaotic! I was getting ready to exercise and work off those yummy tacos (which ended up giving me heart burn, but they were worth it!) and the guards were still serving lunch. The food cart was parked out in front of the control center, and a guy in E-day room (directly across from D-day room, the day room I was recreating in) said, "Randy! Look...A cockroach!" I looked at the cart and watched as one of these horrible insects came from INSIDE of the cart, walked along the edge of the door, and went back INTO the cart! I said, "Holy shit!" So, we tried to get the female officer's attention to let her know before she started loading up trays to feed...I said, "There's cockroaches in the food cart," and she says, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" The guy who warned me about the cockroaches said, "Take it back to the kitchen!!!" She unplugged the cart and pushed it out the pod door...She was gone maybe 4 or 5 minutes when she pushed the cart back in. Now, the kitchen is about 60-70 yards away from C-pod, so it would be an impossibility for her to have taken the cart to the kitchen, replace the trays, and bring it back in that amount of time...So, I called her out on it. I said, "You did not replace those trays. Unless you can bend the space time continuim, there is no way you traded those trays out or replaced that cart." She ignored me...
About that same time a sergeant came on the pod, so we tried to tell her about what happened. She said, "We know about the problem!" And so the guy in E-day room said, "Do something about it then!" Nothing was ever done, so all we could do was warn guys that cockroaches were in the food cart.
After that, some other officers came in and started posting "Effective Immediately" signs all over the place from the new warden. This guy is a complete tyrant! The two new signs said we are no longer allowed to bring games like chess or dominoes to the day room, and he was putting a restriction on candy, juice, ketchup, and grape jelly, from the commissary. Now, I'm a ketchup junkie! I put it on everything, and buy a couple of bottles each time I go to commissary - it's the only way to make the food palatable. That being said, these particular ingredients can be used to make hooch, but they've got disciplinary mechanisms in place to try and keep guys from making prison wine. The warden cannot assume that just because a person buys these particular items that they're going to make hooch!...It's ridiculous, and he's hell bent on taking any kind of "comfort" away from inmates that he can. I'm sure there are people who would say, "Good! You guys shouldn't have diddly squat in your cells, or any comfort! You need to be miserable!" But consider this: the more harsh conditions become, and the more restrictive they are, leads to some truly awful things...The mental collapse of inmates - a health issue which in turn creates more of a burden on the State, and on the taxpayer who has to cover the medical costs of these problems. And for some of the more aggressive inmates, it gives them the sense that they have nothing left to lose, and they can end up hurting someone, and putting staff at considerable risk. It's not a good thing...There is a reason why the TDCJ allows certain privileges and comforts. The warden is not above these policies and privileges, and cannot make up his own rules and policies as he goes.
I offered to write grievances on various issues, for guys who can't write, and just asked that they promise to turn them in. That is our only course of action back here...I don't expect it to be effective, but it is all we can do!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
September 13th, 2018
It's a weird feeling to wake up on your birthday and wonder if you're going to make it to be 42 years old. I've made it to 41, and many years ago I didn't expect to last this long, but I'm here and I'm both blessed and grateful for this year. All I can do is hope, and continue to ask for mercy and for another chance to prove my value and contribute/give back to people less fortunate.
I wanted to thank those who have wished me a happy birthday! I really appreciated it, and whilst today has been nothing spectacular, receiving cards, Jpay messages, and well wishes, has filled my heart with so much happiness and love.
Nobody here has done anything special for me; no tacos or anything, but that's okay. No one owes me anything and I don't need any kind of reciprocation. I know that if I was around certain friends here that I haven't seen in almost a year, they would be really spoiling me. The guys around me now...I'm good. I'm grateful to be alive.
And finally, thanks to the wonderful person in my life who has made my birthday so extra special...I've received some amazing cards and extra lovin', and it has had my heart up in the clouds. I'm a lucky dude :-)
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
**Warning...Contains some offensive language**
September 11th, 2018
I'm in a weird position when it comes to writing this...I'm not having any kind of writer's block – on the contrary! I feel like I've been having one of the best writing spurts in years. The problem is it's been so chaotic here, I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record and a little bit on the whiney side. So, when these days get absolutely insane, I step back and just don't write anything at all – but I'm trying! I'm just self-conscious of people thinking,“Blah, blah, blah...shut the hell up.”
Anyway, today I want to write about an exchange I had with another guy back here. It was interesting...It started after he was getting onto another guy back here who is in the process of dropping his appeals. I've always had mixed feelings about people who do that...On one hand, I can totally understand the desire to just want to be done with it all; that feeling of, “Why am I doing this? Why am I fighting? I'm miserable all of the time.” When you're carrying so much heartache and pain from the past that it becomes a heavy wet blanket, suffocating the life out of you...I get that. I've been through that in the past! On the flip side, I sometimes feel insulted because there there are guys fighting so freaking hard to see the next day, and live, and you think, “My hardships are just as difficult...You can fight! Fight!” But I guess you can't compare the burden you carry on your own soul, to the burden someone else is carrying.
So, this guy – someone who's been in general population, and revels in stories of essentially being a predator out there – starts attacking the guy who is dropping his appeals. Firstly, he asks him, “Why?” And the other guy says, “I'm tired...I don't want this to be my life.” The other guy asks, “You afraid to go to general population?” The other guy says he's not afraid, he just doesn't want a life sentence. So, the other guy says, “Oh, you're afraid someone is gonna take your booty. I know your kind.” Dude then says, “You've got me all wrong...I have no problem fighting.”
“Nah, I can tell you'd give up the booty. But you know, if you've got money, there are people who will protect you...They ain't gonna let anything happen to you. You ain't got no money, you can suck and fuck...You'll just be somebody's girl.”
Now, the dude who is dropping his appeals is defending himself and pushing back, so I didn't feel any need to jump into the conversation – even if it was pissing me off! Whilst I've never been a “tough guy” or “badass” in general population, I've never liked bullies, racists, or predators, and I didn't have a problem defending myself against it. I was no fighter...I hate fighting, and if it could be avoided, that was always the best thing.
The conversation between the two ended, and the general population guy went on to clown him to his so-called “home-boys” and telling them how general population really was, according to him. At that point, having been in general population myself, I decided to ease into the conversation...I asked dude if he thought of himself as a predator, and he said “No.” Then I asked if he thought of himself as a rapist? He said he couldn't stand rapists...So, I said, “But you are both these things.”
“No I ain't.”
He told me that there was a difference between “protecting” someone, and just taking the booty, and I said, “But if you're extorting a sexual act from the guy, to keep him from safe from someone else trying to rape him, or you're taking his commissary, it makes you no different. It's against his will...Done out of fear. He's not doing it wilfully.”
He didn't say a word, and honestly, at this point I expected him to turn on me and start cussing me out or something...So, I asked, “You'd like another chance in the world, right? To go free?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“So, how are you going to make it when you can't even drop the general population persona on death row? You sound like an idiot! I'm not trying to insult you, but do you hear me or other guys who have been in general population, acting like that? You've got to get your mind out of this place, or you'll be doomed to fail. Nobody cares about what it is like in general population...we've got to stay alive to even get out there! That's where your focus should be. If you survive this, that's the real battle story, not beating up dudes or making them pay for protection. Get your head out of prison, man.”
After that some other dudes kind of took over the conversation and were agreeing with what I said. I don't know if any of this stuck in his head, but maybe I planted a seed anyway.
Another thing I've been thinking about is the “future dangerousness” issue a jury has to decide on when handing out a death sentence...I have two thoughts on this, actually...One relates to a recent court ruling (I don't know which case, or the title of the case) in relation to some University of Texas professors suing the state over the issue of allowing students to carry guns on campus. I think the argument was “what if one of these licensed gun carriers just started shooting the place up?” The court, if my understanding is correct, came back and said, “You can't determine a threat based on what MIGHT happen.” I could be wrong, but if I am right, I'm thinking "wow...but you can twist that very same argument when sentencing someone to death??”
The second thought I have on this is that according to a jury, there was reasonable enough information before them to have them believe that I could be a threat in the future...Keep in mind this was 18 YEARS AGO!!! And whilst I never hurt anyone in the escape, or afterwards, let's exclude that...going 18 years without so much as a threat to someone, or a single act of violence, is a long freakin' time! And there are guys who have been here for 20-30 years without a single act of violence as well...I think reason would conclude that if it hasn't happened in almost two decades, it's not going to happen, and I don't want to hear that stupid argument that prosecutors have made, saying, “Well, they're just waiting for the right moment to strike!” Really? The right moment? Don't you think in that amount of time, the right moment came and went? What does that even mean? If a person is going to hurt someone, and that's their intent, any moment could be the right moment. For most of us back here, the thought doesn't even cross our minds. I've seen guards jack food and starve guys for days, and the inmate doesn't retaliate. I really do wish people would push back more on this future dangerousness issue.
In other news...We've had quite a bit of rain in the last few days. I actually went outside earlier this morning in the rain, and it was lovely. It feels like autumn is settling in a little early...but this is Texas. It could be hot and sunny tomorrow – you just never know!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 5th, 2018
Today has been chaos free! It's really amazing how the vibe of a pod can change depending on the officers working. Today, they've been laid back but getting all of the work done and keeping everything running smoothly and peacefully. It's the best we can hope for back here.
I went out to first round recreation at around 6am, exercised, and walked around. Whilst the officers were doing the morning showers, I ended up in a conversation with one of them about the new warden - he's one of these guys who comes in, disrupts the general flow of things, and makes up new rules as he wishes. The officer said that he had been just as hard on them as he is on us...Some of the officers are already talking about quitting. You'd think the folks in Huntsville would try to actually think of ways to keep a hold of staff for longer, instead of pissing them off to the extent they end up quitting! I think a big part of it is the leadership problem. Prisons are only as difficult as you make them; an asshole guard who treats inmates like crap is going to feel a push back from the inmates...But a guard who just gets things done and doesn't intentionally try to create chaos is going to have an easy time...It's the same as when an inmate looks for trouble with another inmate or inmates...He ends up finding it!
Both Huntsville and the politicians think they can solve the staff shortages by throwing bonuses and extra perks of the job at employees, in an attempt to keep them working here, or to hire new people. But unless they're sadistic, or a psychopath, nothing is going to keep them here for very long. To quote the officer today, "No amount of money is worth this shit." I've been saying it for years...the Texas Criminal Justice System we have right now is just not sustainable. You can't send everyone to prison, and nobody wants to work in prisons anymore...Something has to give!
On another note, I'm trying to keep myself upbeat, positive, and hopeful...It's weird going through my day, trying to just function normally whilst waiting on the courts to decide my fate. I feel like I've been to the doctor for some tests, and I'm waiting on that call to tell me I'm good or I've been diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness. It's stressful...It's emotionally taxing...I read an article some time ago about the evolution of our flight or fight responses...a mechanism that was important in our early years. When a saber tooth tiger was sizing us up for their next meal, our brain would flood our system with adrenaline so that we could either run away as fast as we could, or put up a good fight. As we evolved and our environment became safer, our need for the flight or fight response wasn't so important, but it still is a part of our make up...So, when a person is in a state of stress, that mechanism kicks in and your body is flooded with adrenaline...In the long run it's not healthy, and leads to all kinds of problems. When I feel that anziety come over me, I have to stop myself and breathe, and just calm down...It's not always easy, but I try. It's just a sucky situation all the way around...I keep telling myself, "I'll be fine. I've got this. I will live..." Or, I'll just pray in that moment and say, "Grant me mercy." What else can I do?
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith...
September 4th, 2018
The holiday is over and everything is back to normal. Today has turned into another one of those chaotic days. You'd think over the years that I'd be accustomed to it, but it's still as frustrating as ever! Maybe because there are lulls...You try to live your life with a bit of normalcy and routine, but building a day around when you're going to recreation, which officers are working the pod, and their particular work ethic and level of intelligence...It's something you just can't get used to. All you know is that it will either be a good day or a really screwed up day – there really isn't any in between! When the lulls come around, you are spoiled because you get kind of used to it, especially the peacefulness of a holiday weekend, or just the weekend in general. Everyone is catching up on mail, or listening to favourite radio programmes, or football...People are reading, people are talking quietly with their neighbours...And whilst these can at times be insanely boring days, you are easily sucked into the illusion of peace that comes with those days...
What can you do? It sounds whiney when I talk about it, and I don't mean for it to sound that way either, it's just that it seems to have become worse here recently. Even an older officer who has worked back here for YEARS, commented on the state of employees, saying, “Geeze, they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
I'm just trying to stay focused on being positive and hopeful, and willing something good to happen with my appeals. It's easy to allow yourself to get pulled into the abyss, but I'm clinging to the edge desperately...trying to keep myself from falling into it.
There's little else I can do...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 3rd, 2018
I'm sitting here listening to the last of the movies over labour day weekend...The sky, which has been grey and raining most of the day, is fading into a dark charcoal. My mind keeps drifting to a letter that I received on Friday night from my brother, Wesley...I miss him so much, and I'm happy and relieved that things seem to be improving in his life. He appears to have a good group of people around him who believe in him, and want to see him succeed. As the quote says, “it takes a village...”, and to have people around you who believe in you, and your own self-worth.
He wrote something that broke my heart, and has had me thinking all weekend long...He said, “I wish our family wasn't so torn apart.” I've had that wish for 20 plus years, but I wonder, did this all start with me? Am I to blame??? Had I not left home back in 1995, would the events that followed still have unfolded in some other way? Would my brother have been kicked out of the family home at just 16? Would the whole family have disintegrated, or would we have remained tight...Strongly bound? Were the bonds of family even as tight as I once believed, or did they always have weak parts and defects just waiting for stress to snap them apart? On the flip side, I could argue that regardless of my mistakes and bad decisions, I still tried to reach out to them for help...I tried to come back home and get my life straight, and they rejected me. I firmly believe that nothing – NOTHING – I had done up to that point, warranted such a harsh rejection. So...the question remains...Who is to blame? Wesley and I have both desperately wanted the same things over the years: a feeling of being wanted, of being loved, of family...A feeling of knowing that in spite of our flaws and mistakes, there are people who love us.
I get especially upset because whilst I know that the abuses I suffered in the first 5 ½ years of my life, and the damage that resulted because of those abuses, I wasn't suffering the same debilitating psychological and mental health issues that Wesley has suffered, which went undiagnosed throughout his childhood and were only diagnosed and treated in more recent years. In many ways, he has little control over some of his actions, and yet my parents seemingly still abandoned him. It hurts that because of my own stupidity, I can't help him...And, yes, it sometimes angers me that my parents chose not to help him.
All that being said, I wish we had a family...I miss everyone...