Jul-Dec 2020 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. The best is yet to come.”
Zig Ziglar
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July 5th, 2020

4th July weekend...It's been so difficult to write of late. I've been feeling quite lethargic and depressed. I've been able to function and get through the day, but everything has been foggy. As I write this we've not had rec since Friday, and we almost didn't even get that. Some people didn't. I had to take a bird bath when I came back in because they weren't doing showers at all.   

When I woke up yesterday, there was a breakfast sack on my floor and it was one measly pancake, and some powdered milk in a bag. We were all grumbling and wondering what happened to the improvement we were supposed to have in our food, according to a Houston Chronicle news report. We were supposed to be getting fruit cups and sack meals were supposed to get better too – according to the TDCJ director. Not on Polunsky!

We were all wondering if we'd even receive a good meal for the holiday...When we asked what was going on with rec a guard said,   

“We are in crisis mode due to staff shortages...No one is coming to work. New officers quit within days or weeks, and no one wants to work in a prison anymore.”

The good news is that we did have a really good holiday meal – BBQ chicken, cake etc. My neighbour wanted to cook some tacos so I tagged and bagged my chicken and sent it over to him so he could use it. The tacos came out really good!   

I went back to my day and was restless and feeling a little down when at 2pm I decided to check the radio again for movies...I heard the announcement and sat up straight!!

“Movies on 106.5!”

My neighbour said,   

“Huh?”

I said,   

“Movies on...Movies on...Movies on!!!”

It turned out to be, 'Captain Marvel'.

When that movie went off there was a pause and then silence...I waited for several seconds when suddenly I heard the familiar 'Star Wars' music and I let out a cry that probably scared everyone! I yelled,   

“RISE OF SKYWALKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!”

Yes, I'm a geek...Can't help it!

I had tears of joy...It was an amazing movie and it tied everything up perfectly and I loved how the movie score worked its way through the movie, paying homage to the various themes throughout the decades of movies.   

Well, the movies continued well into the evening. On Saturday we heard 'Us' – a social/horror commentary on America. It was a bit difficult to follow without actually seeing it, and I was confused in places – definitely not easy to just listen to. They also played 'Glass' which is the third movie in a trilogy that began with 'Unbreakable', then 'Split'. It was pretty good, but again, one you probably had to 'see' to know what was going on. M. Night Shyamalan is very much a visual storyteller, and drops a lot of visual clues throughout his movies. After that they closed out with 'Zombieland 2' which was really funny!

Today, the movies started at 8am with 'Super 8', and then 'Aquaman'. And later they played 'Secret Life of Pets' and then an Afghan war movie before closing the day off with 'Creed 2' – surprisingly good!   

They started to replay all of today's movies again, and I'm listening to Captain Marvel as I type this, and it's really good. I don't think I've heard a Marvel movie that I haven't liked. They keep it grounded, humorous, and a perfect balance of action.   

My spirits felt lifted after all of that!

I hope everyone is doing okay and staying safe and well.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 6th, 2020

Geeze...Well, it was bound to happen! We woke up to the news that the entire unit is on a COVID-19 lockdown again...Ugh! They said they've had cases pop up all over the unit and dozens of officers have tested positive as well. We don't know how long this will last, but these sack meals have to improve. Breakfast was awful – it was a single pancake that had some kind of cheese baked onto it, and that was all. We didn't get lunch until 5pm and dinner came at 9pm. Lunch was okay, but dinner was really bad.   

They still had the movies playing over the weekend, so at least we had that. The guards said we'd only receive showers every other day, and there would be severely limited movements from both officers and inmates...Basically, we're trapped. It sucks, but what can we do about it? I worry that with the 4th July weekend and all of the people who probably went out and partied at Lake Livingston, then went back to work, the spread of the virus will be phenomenal! We're likely to see more and more cases continuously pop up.   

I'm just going to put my head down and try to get through it. It's difficult though...Really hard! But hey, I've listened to 'Rise of Skywalker' three times, and I can't complain too much.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


July 7th, 2020

I woke up with an unusual pep in my step and energy I've not had for a while now. I saw the breakfast sack on my floor, grabbed it, and noticed two pancakes and a handful of raisins and thought,   

“I'm so sick of pancakes!”

Now, I'm not a person who likes to waste food...I feel guilty if there's something I don't want to eat or can't stomach, and normally I'd offer it to my neighbors, but they're all sick of pancakes too. What do you do? I mean, they know we're all sick of pancakes and yet, they still make them. It's a waste! They'd save far more money making a decent breakfast that won't be thrown away.   

Anyways...I decided to make a bowl of oatmeal with the raisins, and ate it before I began my work out. Once I was done I took a bird bath at my sink and then scrubbed my cell down.   

I realised as I was writing to my girlfriend that it's one year ago this week that I was moved to Death Watch...I'll never forget the day because it followed the 4th July weekend and I had my stuff all ready and packed because I knew a date had been scheduled and signed off on by a Judge. Monday passed and nothing happened...Then on Tuesday, if I remember correctly, they did one round of rec and then cancelled it for the rest of the day. I spent the day lounging around and thought I was safe for another day when second shift came on...Then, suddenly an officer came to my door and said,   

“Hey. You're moving to A-Pod, 12 cell.”

My heart and stomach dropped, and everything became dream like. I said goodbye to everyone and as I was leaving I was so moved by the support I had from all around me...Guys were yelling my name and saying I'd be back...It helped me a lot.   

It's just so difficult to believe it's been a whole year, and I feel extremely lucky to be alive. Yes, I've been depressed lately and feeling quite lethargic, but the fact remains: I'M ALIVE! So many don't make it and I wish it was different and we could all be saved.   

I was thinking last night about how it's past time for the death penalty to end, especially in this time of uncertainly. I think of all of the money wasted on an act of pure revenge. You could save so many lives in this COVID-19 pandemic by diverting that money to where it's needed most. As well as all of that, think of all the people sitting on Death Row because they are poor, or black etc, or had a bigoted judge or DA...Does anyone remember the racist emails from the disgraced Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal? Or that for decades, Dallas County used to have a jury selection guide for prosecutors that specifically advised to not pick black jurors for a death penalty case because they would more than likely vote against a death sentence? There are guys sitting on death row right now who were sentenced under those very administrations.

In the quest for equal justice under the law, there's no better time than now to demand an end to the death penalty. People talk about divestment and defunding...think of the money that is spent on a single death penalty case that could be used for a far better purpose. Is the thirst for vengeance so strong that it bypasses rationality and humanity?

Tomorrow there is a scheduled execution...It's insane that this guy is facing execution when he just barely missed the ruling by the Supreme Court that a juvenile couldn't be sentenced to death. He was just 18 years old and sentenced to death – how ugly is humanity that we can do that and think it's okay? Governor Abbott is talking daily about how the COVID crisis is hurting the Texas economy and yet, they still have hundreds of thousands of dollars to waste taking a life...How does this make any sense?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 9th, 2020

Today feels a bit strange. Texas has started executions again, and yesterday I watched as they put a guy in the van to take him to Huntsville. At first, I was not going to look out the window because it's a trauma we all feel here each and every time they take someone away to be executed.

I heard someone say,   

“Here he comes.”

Then we began the ritual of banging on the windows to show our support to him, as we watched him being taken along the side walk. Seeing the procession of guards, wardens, and a use of force team follow behind (in case the poor guy put up a fight) is not something you could ever get used to seeing.   

They marched him into 12 building to run him through metal detectors and carry out a thorough strip search, and then put him in chains and restraints. Then I watched as they put him in the white van to go to Huntsville.  

I really and truly believed that the guy would receive a stay (if only because of the Corona situation) because he is someone who has changed and grown and should NEVER have been sent to death row at all. Despite the rising number of COVID infections in Texas, they still went ahead with it...I guess the thirst for vengeance is stronger than the safety and health of everyone involved in the process. There are several guys who received stays because of the virus, months ago, and now they are naturally worried that this sends the green light for counties to start issuing execution dates again.   

This morning on the prison radio station I listened to the warden give us an update on what has been happening with the virus and the prison as a whole. I was happy to hear the update because there had been what seemed like an administrative back slide to the ways of before, and I think they're trying to figure stuff out and work on improving things. So, the update was we're on a 14 day lockdown as of now. [Note from Webmaster: As far as we're aware (and the postal system is dire!) they're still on lockdown. Please check with other groups on Facebook who have more up to date information]. They do have pockets of outbreaks across the unit where both inmates and officers have contracted the virus and those areas are essentially quarantined.   

The rest of the unit is on 'preventative lockdown' or a 'shelter in place' rule to prevent it from spreading further. This weekend, starting on Friday, a COVID Strike Force Medical Team will start testing all of us again. If positive cases are found, they will put that area on quarantine.

Meanwhile, the warden said that we're required to wear face masks whenever we leave our cells, and both inmates and officers will receive disciplinary cases should the rule not be followed. This seems fair and I've been advocating that guards wear masks because they're the ones bringing the virus in! I don't know how many times I've heard,   

“I have a right to not wear a mask!”

Well, you don't have a right to put peoples' health at risk, and I'm glad the administration is acknowledging that.   

He also addressed the fact that he knew morale was low and people were at their breaking points, and he asked for patience as they figure out ways to alleviate the stress and tension. He also said that ALL custody levels were going to be allowed a 5 minute phone call, and that isn't happening at this point on Death Row. We've not had the phone calls in a couple of months now, so we're all hoping they'll get onto that.  [Note from Webmaster: The phone calls have since resumed!] They have telephone jacks on the pod, and could easily set up a table outside of the control center and bring the phone to us without us ever having to leave the pod and risk spreading the virus. I don't see why this isn't a plausible idea, not just during this crisis, but going forward when we're back to 'normal'.

He also addressed the problems with the food. We've been underfed with the sack meals, and they're working to address that issue as well – we'll see! [Note from Webmaster: Randy has told us that the food has improved a lot, although it's not yet consistent. They've had fresh milk, fruit, and some vegetables. However, there are still days where the food is paltry, but the good changes are something to celebrate and this warden does seem to be dedicated to continue making things better]. I'm glad to say that the last 3 meals we've had have been very good, so we'll see how it goes.   

And that's all of the news for now...I'm pushing through the days, and although I'm feeling quite depressed, my energy is coming back up and I'm doing my best to keep upbeat and help those around me to do the same.   

I hope everyone is staying safe and well.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 12th, 2020

Well, it sucks being trapped in our cells for weeks on end, but at least the prison radio station has been keeping us entertained. Friday night started with some movies, then a new music program with a lot of good music I haven't heard in years.   

They started doing phone calls again which is great news! We all really need those calls back here whilst we're locked down and feeling even more cut off from the world than we usually do.   

Over the weekend I did a little work, and listened to some repeat movies on Sunday as I did my laundry and scrubbed my cell.   

We were told that Covid testing would begin again next week, and we're all hoping for good news. Several death row officers are infected, and some are in bad shape – I hope and pray they will all get well.   

Other news...The sack meals continue to get better, but they're coming extremely late, with 12-13 hours between meals. We realise this is most likely due to staff shortages, and we can only hope it improves.   

That's all for now...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


July 17th, 2020

It's Friday evening and I'm in a little better spirits. I was told today that I had a legal call and I was excited to get to talk to my attorneys, and to move around the building and get a few minutes of fresh air as I walked over to the visitation building.

It was about 12.40pm when I got out there, and my call was scheduled for 2pm, so I was waiting and waiting...I noticed when I was out there that they've taken advantage of everything being shut down, and they're having the place painted. Visitation is now grey and black – pretty depressing!   

I could see the vending machines and they were empty. Well, there was a lonely 3 pack of cheese crackers, probably well past their expiration date, but that was it. The unit looks like a ghost town though. It's really weird.   

The call with my attorneys was great, and hearing their voices really raised my spirits! No legal news that I can talk about right now, but the best news of the day was that they had spoken to my girlfriend...As you all know, she was very sick last year and had to deal with my pending execution date on top of that...It broke my heart that she had to go through all of that and other stuff that came her way even after I got my stay, but the good news is she is doing really, really well and finally 'in the clear'! I was teary-eyed when I got the news! It's the best news in the world and proves she's my Warrior Queen! I'm over the moon! Thank you all for praying for her and for me, and for the support from all of our many friends, and beyond, that my Taffy has had in such a stressful time.   

I didn't get back to my cell until close to 4pm but it was nice just sitting out there and having a change of scenery and getting away from the place for a bit. I'm hoping they'll do some new movies this weekend and I have my new music show to listen to tonight!   

I hope you're all doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 19th, 2020

Today is my friend, Clinton's, birthday...I asked the officer to let him know I said 'Happy Birthday' and he did. Clinton and I have been very good friends for years, and I wish him all the very best!

I want to talk a little about the sack lunches we've been getting – they have seriously improved! Well, it's hit or miss on occasions, but they've been throwing in some fresh fruit and veggies – apples, oranges, and a banana. But the best thing? Milk!!! It's been well over a decade since they took away the little cartons of milk and replaced it with disgusting powdered milk that much of the time seemed more like water than milk. I never thought I'd see real milk again in my life! So, when I received that first milk carton with breakfast...it was divine! I love milk...I've always loved milk since I was a kid. I was the kid that would open up the fridge, grab a bottle of milk and chug it down. My brother, Jimmy, and I would pour a glass of milk, open a packet of chocolate chip cookies, and dunk them...It's so great that we got fresh milk, and I hope it's here to stay.   

They've been giving us fresh broccoli and cauliflower, but I can't eat it – I've always found those two particular veggies to be revolting, ever since I was a small child. But the best part of the food is the apples, oranges etc that we normally only get on holidays. We are all most definitely appreciative of the improved food, and that we are getting more to eat than we were. The warden has done a very good job of sorting out the kitchen and making things better. [Note from the Webmaster: We've spoken to the warden who seems sincere in what he is saying will change, so hopefully this will continue to be the case].

Rumour has it that A-Pod as well as D/E/F Pods all have confirmed cases of Covid-19. One of my long time friends, Big Will, is said to be infected, but I don't know how true that is. When I look out of my window I can sometimes see nurses and guards walking around in full PPE which is a bit shocking to the eye. At 11 Building for General Population, they have a big Biohazard disposal box parked outside the building. I guess it was inevitable with guards coming and going, and some not taking this virus seriously, and refusing to wear their face masks.   

It's been an incredibly boring day today and I've been trying to get through it as best I can. I'm still feeling restless, but I'm still happy following the news of my girlfriend, and that makes me smile every time I think of it. In just a few months we'll have been together for 3 years...Pretty amazing if you know my track record (ha ha). I couldn't be happier though, and it's been really great.   

I hope everyone is safe and well.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 20th, 2020

Today has been one of those 'bleh' days. They started showers really late and then after that I couldn't really find the energy to do much of anything. I was hoping 106.5 would do an album at 3pm, but instead they're playing 'Rambo' for people to listen to. Geeze, the sound quality on this movie is really poor...It sounds ancient!

It started to rain, which we really need. It's been blazing back here and even though the air cooling system is on, it's not compensating for the 100 degree heat we've had for almost two weeks now. Pretty bad! But the cool down is much needed and appreciated.   

Rambo is over...hold on...new movie as I type this! 'Avengers: End Game'. Awesome! I have to catch this. 'Infinity War' was amazing.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 21st, 2020

I woke up feeling really groggy. I fell asleep around 10.20pm...The movie 'John Constantine' was airing, so I went to bed after they shut the lights out and I had given up on receiving mail. Then, around 11pm the guard gave me my letters, I read the one from my girlfriend, then crashed. I slept all the way through until 5.20am. I was going to roll back over, but instead I ate my breakfast of PB&J, hard boiled egg, and coffee cake. I washed it down with the milk and then tried to go back to sleep for a little bit. I tossed and turned...

I grabbed the headphones and heard Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' which was good, but I missed the ending because my neighbour currently doesn't have a hot pot, and I wanted to pass him some hot water so he could make some coffee.   

They said they're not giving us showers today which sucks, so I took a bird bath in my cell. Right now I'm about to start my work for the day, and hopefully the day will go well!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 26th, 2020

We're heading into week four of the current lockdown. On the prison radio station the head warden gave an update about what has been going on and he basically said that until they can get the outbreak under control, we'd stay on lockdown. He said that he knew everyone's limits were being tested and everyone is stressed. He also said that the outbreak had put on hold some “really big plans” he had for the unit. I could hear in his voice that he was sincere in what he was saying, and I do believe he's been trying.   

The prison radio station has become a whole lot better again in recent weeks. I think the key is finding the right balance for everyone, and knowing that the content isn't always going to be to everyone's individual tastes. They're offering an audio Spanish class in the evenings, as well as playing some movies for everyone to hear. They've got some spot light music shows now too, offering a couple of hours of a particular genre, which is great. My show comes on late night Friday night, and I've heard some music I've not listened to in ages, as well as some really good new stuff. It's been nice. For the late-nighters they've been playing electronic and techno music. I think I could hear my neighbour dancing and shuffling around the other night!

The movies have been really great to listen to. I have a mental 'wish-list' of movies I read about and would like to hear, and 'The Joker' was on that list – I got to hear it on Friday night! Geeze, that movie was brutal, but the acting was phenomenal! As far as a character study of a mentally ill man descending into madness and violence goes, it was done very well. The best Joker performance? It was good, but Jack Nicholson will always be my most favourite version of The Joker. I'm really hoping to hear 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' now, as well as 'It: Chapter 2'. The first 'It' movie was perfection!

As far as things are back here...The meals continue to be good. There's' a time or two where the meals are a little paltry, but they've still been trying to add fresh fruit and veggies (the other day we had baby carrots...I love baby carrots! The only thing missing is some ranch dressing to dip them into!). The milk is amazing and now I'm getting double because my neighbour has been passing his milk over to me. Can't beat that!

The other day some medical dude came in dressed up like a Ghost Buster...He had this back pack that looked like a proton pack and a huge cannon attached. Remember the slime cannon they used in part two? It looked just like it, but it blasted out some kind of disinfectant. They pulled us out of our cells, he walked in, and then I heard this, “Rrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm...WHOOSH!” sound as he blasted my cell. Apparently the cannon is highly pressurised and when it blasts the disinfectant out the mist goes everywhere around the area it's been fired.   

B-Pod is still Corona free which is good news...Fingers crossed it will stay that way! I'm praying for all who are infected that they will make a 100% recovery, and that the rest of us stay safe.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
July 29th, 2020

Well, we're into week 4 of our quarantine...Still restless and bored out of my mind, but trucking through it. Actually, I'm a little worried this will carry on and on because whilst they're doing a great job of keeping things sanitised, they're not doing such a good job of restricting movement. They're allowing certain transports from other units and county jails which risks spreading the virus, and contamination by guards who were out sick with COVID and now returning...Some claim to have tested negative, but they're still coughing and showing other symptoms which is a bit scary. One of the officers who made noise about it being her 'right' to not wear a mask was out for two weeks with the virus!!! Now she's back – wearing a mask – but every time she speaks she pulls the mask down and freaks everyone out. Then she says,   

“I can't talk with this thing on!”   

Well, there's a simple solution to that: DON'T TALK!!

There's been rumors that a couple of people have died on the unit, but I don't know if that's true or not – as of now it's just a rumor, and I hope it stays that way! Nothing has been said on the prison radio station either.   

The sack meals have been difficult to figure out. One day they are unbelievably awesome! Last night, we actually had a carton of fresh orange juice with dinner. I've NEVER had a carton of fresh cold and delicious orange juice whilst I've been incarcerated all of these 24 years. Then on other days, the sacks are paltry...Still, we're all very grateful for the good days.   

It's been over a month since we had commissary, although they have allowed us to buy stamps and hygiene products a couple of weeks ago...But that was it. They're saying that the next time we go we'll only be able to spend $15 to buy snacks, and this has sent everyone into a tizzy, and all day every day it's,

“This isn't right. It isn't fair. When are we going to commissary?”   

Every ranking officer that goes by...every officer...on and on and on. It can get a bit annoying, but I do understand, and commissary is important to us back here. I enjoy my snacks, chips and ice cream as much as anyone else, and there's always a bit of excitement on commissary day. It shouldn't be a carrot that the State can dangle over our heads and control us with. I try to think about the friends and all of the love I have...These things can last forever, but a bag of chips lasts just 5 minutes and then you go back to being miserable again. And while our lives literally hang in the balance, there are people on the outside right now who can even feed their families...

Anyway, I'm trying to keep upbeat and positive. I listened to 'The Green Mile' last night. I'd forgotten just how good that movie is, and I really enjoyed hearing it again!   

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.   

Peace


  
July 30th, 2020

A warm and boring Thursday...I'm getting through it! I stayed up late last night because the prison radio station started playing movies at 9pm...I had planned to be in bed by 10.30pm but then after the first movie – I've no idea what it was called – 'The Matrix' came on and I just had to listen to it. It's one of the last movies I ever saw when I was 'free'. I didn't get to bed until turned 1am, and I'm feeling quite tired today.   

I was listening to the news and political programs this morning, and just keeping my mind occupied. Yesterday at dinner they gave us a pack of real cookies – a healthy 'all natural' made with wheat, and real chocolate. They were really good! I couldn't believe that the State would provide these, but I'm so grateful. In our breakfast sack this morning we had a delicious red apple...Geeze, I love apples! I love fresh fruit, period, but more of this, please!   

If they can do this during a lockdown in pandemic times, they can do it all year round...hopefully!

Keep strong...

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.   

Peace


  
August 2nd, 2020

On Friday we had our $15 commissary spend and a little bit of something is better than nothing. We were told that the next time we go we'll be able to have the $15 of whatever we want plus an additional $10 in hygiene/writing supplies. I have to admit that it's a bit weird that they're doing things this way...But anyway...It's a stupid thing to complain about because so many people don't have anything in this world, and we have to take our blessings however they come.    

I was really saddened on Friday because a good friend of mine was taken to Death Watch after receiving an execution date just six hours earlier. Because of the lockdown we didn't even get a chance to say goodbye or to encourage him. I personally think he has some good issues that can help him, and hopefully his lawyers will be successful. This is his second execution date and the last time he received a stay only days from his date. My heart goes out to his wife, his mom and his family, and they're all in my prayers.   

What really irks me (and has done for the last year when I received my execution date) is how the execution process, from appeals, to each individual county in the state setting dates etc, is grossly unfair and inconsistent. In some counties the DA may not actively seek an execution, but in another county it can depend on the political environment. Small counties seems to aggressively seek execution dates, whilst the larger and more democratic counties aren't as active – unless it's a particularly high-profile case. There are guys back here who have had appeals exhausted for years and don't have to really worry about receiving a date because the political environment of their county doesn't have a DA asking for dates. Meanwhile, some guy with his case in a rinky dinky town will receive a date within days of his appeals being exhausted. I don't see how this is equal justice under the law...I think, if anything, it should highlight another reason why the death penalty should be abolished. Food for thought...

I stayed up late on Friday night listening to the prison radio station's 'alternative' music show, and it was really good. It's good to have those programs. You have to check the station regularly because you don't know what's going to be broadcast – it might be a movie, or it might be some really good music, or an audio book.   

As I write this, the movies have been a bit hit and miss for a while. They've played some new ones, but they've mostly been 'action' movies with little dialogue, so it makes it difficult to follow on just listening alone.

Otherwise, I'm getting by!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 3rd, 2020

Heading into week 5 of lockdown...This is officially the longest we've ever been on lockdown on Polunsky Unit. Someone said that there's over a thousand cases on the unit now – again, I'm willing to bet it's because they're not doing a great job of controlling movement, but what do I know? Someone said that you can check on the unit case numbers on the TDCJ website, if anyone is interested.   

We had showers this morning and I was trapped for over an hour in there. The guards were kind of moping about and they didn't even finish, leaving several guys without their showers.   

So, last night they played 'Knives Out'. It's a movie I've been wanting to hear because I'm impressed with everything the director, Rian Johnson, has done from 'Looper' to 'The Last Jedi'. But this movie...WOW! I was completely blown away by the writing, how funny it is, how witty and smart the dialogue, and how great the acting is from all involved. It had me listening intently, and with white knuckles, trying to solve the 'whodunnit' mystery. Daniel Craig really impressed me as the sleuth, Inspector le Blanc...He was so funny and took on the most insanely exaggerated southern gentleman accent I've ever heard! There's a part where he's getting close to solving the mystery and then says,

“This plot has a big hole in it...It's a donut! A donut missing the hole.”   

The delivery was just brilliant and I have to say it's one of the best movies I've listened to in a long time.   

I've been trying to be a bit more constructive with my time lately. I've been having bouts of anxiety because I let my mind wander too much and I get to thinking about 'what if this and what if that' with regard to my situation. For so many years, whilst being optimistic, I didn't really think beyond death row and now I've allowed myself to day dream a bit more. I've also gone to some depressingly dark places....Where there's 'no guarantee'...I'm not out of the woods yet and what if life outside of death row is worse than this? I've been here now for just over 17 years and I guess I'm used to being here and having all of that upended and possibly starting over and having a 'new life'...I never thought that could be so frightening, but it kind of is. Of course, I'm not even off death row yet, so I guess it's silly to get into these thought processes....But I do feel like I have a huge question mark over my head.   

The anxiety comes and goes, but I'll be okay.   

As I type this, I'm waiting to see what 106.5 will do for the 3pm album, and I'm trying to keep busy with my work as and when I can. Of course, I look forward to a couple of movies to listen to tonight as well.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 4th, 2020

This has been a bit of an odd day. It started at 3am and I woke up with my cell light on. They can control our lights manually from the control center and normally they only turn them on for 'count time' or for some kind of emergency. I got up and looked out the door and could see the female officer messing with the sack meals for breakfast. Guys were yelling out for the guard in the picket to turn off the cell light, but the woman yelled back,   

“It's chow time! We'll turn them off after we feed!”

She fumbled with the bags for a bit longer and then took FOREVER to pass them out. It was only two pancakes, and a biscuit as hard as tack they ate on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s! The biscuit was so hard it could've been used as a hockey puck!

She made it to our section close to four in the morning and we said,   

“Turn the lights out!”

“I still have milk and a cup of oatmeal to pass out!”   

I was thinking,

"You could've just put that in the bag with everything else like a normal person does.”

So, she finishes that and then I watch as she goes to a big blue barrel that had the milk in it, packed in ice. She pushes the barrel into A-section, changes her mind, and pushes the barrel back out. Then, she pushes it back in before pushing it out for a final time, deciding to put the milks in a crate. She does that and throws the cups of oatmeal on top, and then goes back to feeding. This takes until FIVE IN THE MORNING to do!! Meanwhile, a guy on my section decides it's time for him to wake up and turns his speaker all the way up....I'd had enough at this point! I said,   

“Dude! Just because YOU want to start your day now, it doesn't mean everyone else wants to. Please...turn that crap down. Geeze.”

I drink my milk, ate my oatmeal, and got back to sleep until 8am. After I'm up and about there's a lot of commotion and a full clean up crew of trustees come into the pod to clean... They're saying that the quarantine is over in General Population, and things should begin to return to normal – whatever that means these days! My only concern is that with more movement, things will flare back up which seems inevitable. I just hope they do this smartly and enforce mask wearing strictly.   

A group of ranking officers and the Wardens poured into the pod and were looking around at things. They were pointing to something, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. They looked around a bit longer and then walked off the pod...Who knows what that was about??

Other than all of that, I'm as upbeat as I can possibly be...Just trying to get through the day.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 6th, 2020

I woke up to chaos and noise today...Firstly, I was surprised that they were doing showers because, for the last 5 ½ weeks, our showers have been Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I rolled over and went back to sleep until it was my turn.   

They're also doing 'semi-recreation' and I'm assuming they're doing it that way to keep movement minimal? Well, some recreation is better than none, and I hope to get out of the cell soon.   

Yesterday I had a bit of an anxiety attack...I think some of it has to do with being trapped in the cell for so long, and whatever psychological effects that has – even if we don't acknowledge those effects, or even realise what's happening to us. Spending 24/7 locked in a cell with no recreation, no visits, no minister visits – nothing...It can wear you down. That's not me whining – it's simply fact! Some would say,   

“You deserve that.”

Really??

We don't even treat animals that way – in fact, it's a crime to do that animals...

The rest of it is due to thinking about my case, and I guess, the natural fears that come with all of that. I can't fathom the State or Dallas County fighting something that is clear cut and irrefutable: I had a bigoted judge, even by his own acknowledgement with certain things. What I find interesting is how a lot of people say,   

“I have a Constitutional right!”

Or...

“They're violating the Constitution!”

Even in today's pandemic-driven world, people scream that out as a reason to not wear a mask! What I've experienced is that people cherry pick what they 'believe' when it comes to the Constitution of the US. If it doesn't mesh with their world view, or political agenda, the Constitution becomes a hindrance to them and gets thrown out the window. I don't mean just for Conservatives either – people on the left are just as guilty. I fundamentally disagree with the interpretation of the second amendment and guns...but if someone wants to buy a gun there are creative ways to limit the sales and access to ammunition, weapons of war sold to civilians etc.   

I guess the point I'm getting at is when it comes to one of the biggest Constitutional rights a US citizen has, it's the right to a fair trial...If evidence shows that a defendant didn't have anything remotely close to a fair trial, it's fought tooth and nail. If a conviction is thrown out or a person gets a new trial, some people scream,   

“It's an injustice!”

No...it's the Constitution. When evidence is overwhelming, it shouldn't be a political burden to just do the right thing whether you're conservative or liberal. I'm not fighting to be set free...I'm just trying to get a new trial – a fair trial – where the Judge doesn't make decisions based on the fact I'm Jewish.   

It gets to me sometimes and it's scary to think that some people would find it hard to just do the right thing...I'm not perfect, and I have great remorse and regret for the actions in my past, and the choices I've made in my life. I'm not a killer, but I've not been perfect. It can be difficult to do the right thing when it gets muddied by influence, impulsive behaviour, and drugs. But it shouldn't be hard to do the right thing when you're a person or people with a certain amount of power and the Constitution backs you up.   

Anyways, to get through the anxiety I prayed for a bit and read some Psalms...I have to trust that the right thing will eventually happen.   

I spent pretty much the entire day reading the book, 'Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership' by Steven Livingston. Once it gets going, it's impossible to put down! I finished the book convinced Joe Biden is the right candidate for President in this moment. I was a Bernie Sanders guy, and I still believe that if Bernie had ran against Trump, he would have won. But right now...Whilst I would love huge changes in this country, I think more than anything we need civility, empathy/compassion, and normalcy returned to the Presidential Office, and the way decisions are made. Bernie would've shaken things up, but I don't think we're ready for fundamental shifts right now...

The book convinced me of Biden's heart and instincts, and the guy truly cares and is selfless. He never used politics as a way to enrich himself or for ego purposes...The book convinced me that he did it because he wanted to help the little guy. We need someone who can pull this country back together again...We really need civility. I highly recommend the book – but be warned that you'll need Kleenex at the ready because it'll bring tears a few times...

I hope everyone is safe and well.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 10th, 2020

I was going to do a journal entry yesterday, but things devolved into chaos when, unexpectedly, they ran recreation. I was out at rec from 8am until 11, and then I went to the shower. When I got back to my cell I was behind on my weekend chores, and by the time I finished I didn't feel like doing much of anything else.   

I was a bit down over the weekend because on Friday night I heard on the Prison Show that a guy who had been on death row about 10 years ago, passed away from COVID-19. We called him 'Big Joe'...A Latino dude and great man! One of my best memories of him was when I turned 30 years old...We were neighbours, and I hadn't broadcast that it was my birthday, but as the guard was doing the roster check he looked at the paper and said,

“Dang, it's your birthday today, Halprin. Happy Birthday.”

I said,   

“Thanks.”

Then I went about my business and 'Big Joe' said,   

“Hey, dip shit!”   

(He called me that a lot because he always let me know what I was an idiot for escaping back in 2000).

I went to the door and said,   

“What's up, Big Joe?”

“How come you didn't tell anyone it's your birthday?”

“I don't know...it feels like any other day to me.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

“Thirty????? You're not going to celebrate that?”

He said,   

“Happy Birthday!”   

I thanked him and went back to what I was doing.   

Later, around dinner time, I could smell something cooking from his cell and it smelled really good...I yelled over,   

“Hey, Big Joe, that smells good, whatever it is.”

“Yeah...I'm tired of waiting on dinner. I'd offer you some, but...sucks to be you! This is just too good to share.”

I laughed, and waited on my dinner tray. When the guard came with the carrier, he went to Big Joe's cell, popped his slot and Big Joe said,   

“Give this to Halprin.”

I could see him hand the guard a brown paper sack from the side of my door, and I thought, 'I wonder what this is?'

The guard came over, popped my food slot open, and handed me the bag. I looked inside of it and it was a soda and 5 tacos – the food he had been cooking earlier!   

“Thanks, Big Joe!” I hollered out...

“I was just messing with you earlier,” he said. “I didn't cook anything for myself, so enjoy them. Happy Birthday, but next time, say something, dip shit.”

That'll always be how I remember him, and a lot of guys back here will remember a lot of good things about him too. We're all painted as these horrible people and yes, some people have done some horrible things, but the act doesn't make the person. We're defined by bad choices, and rarely remembered for the good ones, or for kind acts.   

So, today I woke up and at first they said recreation had been cancelled and they were only doing showers. I got out of bed and waited...As I waited, the mail room lady brought me some legal mail. Since the beginning of this year, the Dallas DA, John Creuzot, has been trying to have his office recused. The first attempt, the trial court Judge denied his motion. Some time passed and he tried again with success. It is what it is and can't be changed now, but my attorneys said almost nothing changes except for whoever is acting on the State's behalf. It could be another county or the State Attorney General's office. The fact remains – as my attorneys pointed out: the claim is SOLID! That's reassuring, and I have to remain faithful that the right thing happens.   

It's scary, and gives me bouts of anxiety, but the fact remains that my claim is indeed solid, and I have mountains of evidence that we've acquired over the past year and a half that is hard to get around, but I'd be naïve to believe that the State will just roll over and concede, no matter how solid my case is.   

I recently heard a report about a man who had been locked up for over two decades. DNA completely cleared him, and the man whose DNA it was, was having a trial for another similar crime and confessed, allowing the other man to be cleared. You would think that would be it, right? NOPE! The Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas is, in spite of ALL the evidence, refusing to acquit the wrongfully convicted man. So, of course, they'll fight us on what is clear cut and solid...It's not a surprise when a system's foundation is rooted in racial inequality, religious intolerance, and other bigotry.   

Still...I have to keep the faith.   

It's hotter than blazes! August is my least favourite month...It's so hot in Texas and I can't believe how hot it can get in August. It makes you long for the end of September.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace

Dedicated to 'Big Joe', and all who knew and loved him.

  
August 16th, 2020

It's hotter than hot right now!!!!!!! Again, it's not that we don't have the air cooling system – the building does have that, but it's just that it's so beyond hot that it isn't making any difference. The walls could fry an egg, I'm sure of it – it seems to pulsate heat! The good news is that it's supposed to break tomorrow and I'm more than ready for Fall!

It's been a pretty boring weekend. Yesterday, with the heat being so bad, I was drained of all energy and couldn't get much done. On Friday we were able to get out of the cell. I talked to another guy who lives near me about getting outside together...He's a nice guy to talk to and a good exercise partner. We both always push each other and don't criticise one another's workout. That irritates me more than anything – guys who don't help, but just criticise. It's annoying! So, we talked the night before about getting outside but the problem was that he stayed up to listen to a movie at 3am, so on Friday he slept in. I was a little upset, but decided I was going out regardless. I really needed the fresh air.   

I asked the guard who he was going to put me out with and I wasn't happy about who it was...The guy is known as being really strange, and there was a time when he stripped naked in the visitation booth whilst there were people all around the place. Still, I wasn't going to let it deter me and I didn't have to talk to him, so I went outside.   

I began to jog when he went to the other side of the rec yard and the first thing he did was make some weird noises, but then he began to exercise as well. The water worked on my side but not on his, and I couldn't ignore that because it was so hot outside and very humid. I said,   

“Hey, do you want me to fill your bottle up?”

I climbed the bars/mesh that separated us, grabbed his bottle, and filled it up. I told him that if he wanted more to just let me know...Then I went back to working out.   

Well, he asked for another refill, and I obliged, and started talking to him. I realised very quickly that he has a mental disorder. Because nobody really talked to him, and he didn't act like some other other mentally ill people, everyone just assumed he was being provocative and just strange at times.

I started to feel really guilty about my own judgements towards him, and in the end, I actually enjoyed the almost FOUR HOURS we were outside. Once I figured out how to talk to him, we had some really pleasant and good talks. He loves animals and birds, especially, so we talked about watching the birds outside and birds in the jungle, and the birds he used to have as pets. It was a moment I needed for myself because in the end, even with the weird things he sometimes did, I ended up understanding and liking the guy.   

Even as one who defends the mentally ill, and doesn't like seeing them being picked on, I realised that I had my own biases towards people I didn't think were truly mentally ill, but who were just acting strange or being provocative. The reality is that mental illness is not a 'one size fits all' diagnoses and I think we should all be more mindful of that. I know that going forward I certainly will be.   

So, last night I heard the movie, 'A Star is Born' with Lady GaGa...Now, I've never been a fan of her music, her voice, or the stuff she does for her 'art', and I went into the movie feeling sceptical, but found myself surprised at how good the movie actually was! (But geeze, it was depressing!) Get ready to reach for the Kleenex a few times because the acting from everyone – including Lady GaGa, and how her real singing voice is worlds apart from her 'pop' voice. She can actually sing!! I really enjoyed the movie.   

Not much else is going on around here. I'm just trying to keep my head above water, staying positive and bit more focused than I have been.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.   

Peace


  
August 17th, 2020

Yesterday evening was insane...I settled into the evening, waiting on the night time movies, when the power flickered on and off. It did it again a few seconds later, and then the third time it completely went out. I heard the generator – which happens to be behind my cell wall – come to life, but everything else went out, despite that. It was already hot, but by 5pm it was still blazing hot and we immediately felt the building turn into an oven...I dreaded the evening before us.   

When I was in general population in the late '90s, there was no air conditioning on the buildings – and most units remain air-less to this day. (There are lawsuits pending trying to change this) and let me tell you, it was MISERABLE.   

Anyways, it felt like that until about 7pm or so when the power jumped back on. We still don't know what happened, but if I had to guess it's the giant mutant rats that run around this place – they're as big as coyotes and they were probably chewing on the wiring.   

A storm rolled through Livingston late last night and cooled things down considerably. Even as I type this it isn't nearly as hot as it had been. The humidity is low, thank goodness. It looks nice outside and there's still a lot of cloud coverage, but they're not grey clouds, they're the fat, white and fluffy clouds that look like marshmallows ready to be sucked out of the sky and eaten. What I wouldn't give to have a bowl of those sitting before me right now – is there anything better in the world than marshmallow? Probably not!

I woke up this morning, jumped out of bed, and because recreation was cancelled ONCE AGAIN I started exercising as I waited on my shower. When I got back I set to the day by writing and selecting old poems for a new collection I want to put together. I need to reignite my creativity and be a bit more constructive with my time since I'm trapped in the cell all day long...I'm working on it.

Stay safe and well!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


August 18th, 2020

Yesterday I tried to get to bed relatively early. After listening to the first night of the Democratic National Convention (the movies never came on last night so I opted for that instead) and then waiting to hear Stephen Colbert's take on the first night, I crawled into bed, pulled the sheet over the top of my head, and fell asleep. Some time after that the guard woke me up to bring some books that a friend had sent, and then I fell back to sleep.   

My eyes shot open again at 1.45am with a ridiculously early 'breakfast' which was only two pancakes and a box of Cheerios. Some of us asked about the milk, and the guard said,   

“I'll pass it out later.”

I was bit confused on why he would want to create more work for himself by making several trips up and down the stairs when he could've just put seven small milks on top of the tray carrier and brought it all at the same time. But hey, I don't get paid to make the big decisions around this place. I went back to sleep only to wake up at again at 3.30am when the dude decided to pass the milk out.

At around 7am I woke up, slammed a cup of coffee, and took my vitamins before working out. At the time rec was cancelled (again) and so I wanted to get my workout of the way before going to the shower. They ended up starting recreation for C-section and the typical noise and chaos ensued. At the time of writing this, that's essentially been my day. Well, I decided to wash my bed sheets and they're drying out right now. FUN, right?

Someone is passing around a really good article by Keri Blakinger, about the quality of the sack meals served to us during the lockdowns we've had. The article is spot on in what it says, and even includes pictures (somehow taken)  of the food given to us. [Note from Webmaster: The article can be found here:


This morning I was listening to some of the commentary on political programming for both the left and right side of the arguments. It's always interesting to hear how both sides of the aisle frame the debate/conversation. One program on American Family Radio – a conservative/fundamental Christian station - had some guy on the show telling the other hosts that an election shouldn't be about character, or whether they're a decent person or not, or if they're honest or dishonest. They were making the argument that because of some of the things Trump has done for 'religious freedom' or in his picks for Federal Court Justices, or even his Supreme Court picks, that it 'trumps' (no pun intended) any bad behaviour on the President's part.   

“You don't have to like the man to like his policies.”

I was flabbergasted that this would be a legitimate argument – especially on a Christian radio station. Well, I use the term 'Christian' loosely because AFR is actually a politically motivated activist station that masquerades as a Christian organization...listen to them for a day and I don't think there would be a single person who disagrees, especially when they  make calls to action throughout the day for various issues. It irks me to high heaven that they get a tax free exemption under such duplicitous reasons!

I think, as humans, it's natural to overlook certain behaviours if it benefits us in some way...To a certain extent it's part of evolutionary survival. We overlook a President's sexual dalliances or overlook something we might deem as week or strong...If a friend does something that doesn't sit well with us, we tend to ignore it or not call them out on it because they are our friend. I get that.   

What I can't wrap my head around is making excuses for a person who lies every day – someone who is an outright racist and bigot, and one who pits Americans against fellow Americans...Who talks about being a 'Law And Order President', but is arguably a criminal himself (whether it be using the system to his benefit or a serial sexual assaulter – his own words, not mine. Has anyone forgotten the Access Hollywood video?) A person who has zero empathy for anyone, always whines about how unfairly treated he is, and has made us a laughing stock of the world. A person who coddles dictators and despots whilst ostracising our allies, and a litany of other things that make him morally reprehensible. And for what? A few extra dollars in your pocket? A few extra dollars that are going to cost the country and planet billions, if not trillions later down the line? I feel like the country is in an abusive relationship and we're making excuses for the victimiser!

Integrity, decency, an ability to empathise with people – these attributes matter! It's everything! Who are we as people if it doesn't matter? How can we even begin to lead the world in human rights, the economy, and climate change, if it doesn't matter? If decency doesn't matter in this election, then we truly have lost our way. No one is perfect, but we have an opportunity to show the world who we are as a people, and as a country. So yeah, It matters!

They also mocked one of our congresswomen for suggesting more people use the postal service by getting pen pals, which would help bring money into the struggling US Postal Service. I definitely think she's on the right track...If not pen pals, I do believe more people should use it to send 'thank you' notes or 'thank you' cards, or even a card just to tell someone you're thinking of them. Technology has been a wonderful thing in connecting people to one another faster, but there's something so much more intimate and joyful when you open your mail box and see a card from a friend or loved one – in their own hand writing – that says they're grateful for you, or that they're thinking of you.

I can remember before emails the joy I would have running to the mail box after the postal service dropped off something to our home. It could be anything! More often than not it was for my father, but every now and then there'd be a card from my Aunt Carol, or a friend. We've lost that now and it would nice if people would start a card campaign of sending 'thank you' or 'thinking of you' cards, and it would help to keep the postal service alive. For kids (and even adults) it would be an amazing teaching moment for them to connect via a hand-written letter through the post, to a person in another country.   

I don't know...I just worry we truly will lose our souls with another 4 years of Trump. I would expect that there would be things that Joe Biden does that I don't agree with on a governmental level, but what I do know is he's not going to denigrate people. He's not going to call women, 'nasty' if they're strong. I believe he'll listen...I believe he will bring 'heart' back to our country.   

I was thinking about Michelle Obama's wonderful speech last night and especially about what she said about getting out to vote. She said,   

“Pack a dinner sack or even breakfast if you have to.”

Meaning, standing in long lines to vote. I'd really like to see people standing outside of poll stations offering snacks, hot cocoa or coffee, tea or even blankets to voters waiting in lines so that they won't be discouraged from waiting and leave. I hope someone will have had the same thought as myself and gather up volunteers to do just that. Regardless of who you vote for...to just get people actively involved in our democracy would be amazing! It's a gift that I don't get the luxury of having – I gave up my chance to vote because of my own stupidity and at 18 years old I didn't think it was an important thing to do...I remember my dad telling me,

“Well, if you don't vote, you don't get the right to complain.”

Geeze, how true that statement is! Please...register to vote and then VOTE! In Texas it's important to point out that there is no longer 'Down ticket voting' meaning you could just check one box for the candidates in your preferred party. This was a power move done by a Republican controlled state legislature to confuse voters and hopefully win some votes by the uneducated voter. It's important to let Texans know this so that they'll be aware that it's going to take a bit of time to go through the ballot and vote INDIVIDUALLY for their choices. Also, for those trying to reform the Justice system in Texas...The Court of Criminal Appeals is an ELECTED POSITION!!! It's not appointed by Greg Abbot, so voting in democratic justices is CRUCIAL to begin to implement change in the Texas Justice system...If you're in Texas....please, please, please VOTE and educate people about this.   

I think I've got all of that out of my system for now!!! I'll probably write more about this leading up to the election, so stay tuned!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 19th, 2020

A sucky and miserable day...I didn't get much sleep last night. The movies came back on, but I blanked out on the second one. I fell asleep close to 1am and then woke back up at 7am, did a little exercise and started my day. They ran rec on D-section and it was a bit loud, but I did my best to not let it distract me. I'm hoping I'll get to rec by the weekend...I hate being trapped in this cell and I could use a really good jog to clear my mind.   

I was reading some Jewish literature this morning – a newsletter on Jewish thought, and it had something in it about being wise, and it was really interesting. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a guy back here who I personally believe is the smartest dude on death row. His ability to retain information and apply it to situations is almost supernatural. He knows he's smart, so when I asked him,   

“Who do you think is the smartest buy on death row?”   

I fully expected him to say it was himself, but he humbly replied,

“Everyone back here has varying degrees of intelligence. Just because someone isn't book smart, doesn't mean they're dumb. I don't have an engineer's mind, and I couldn't build my way out of a wet paper sack, but there are guys who (without ever taking advance mathematics) can design, figure out angles and mechanics and other things that would make them seem like a genius. There are guys back here that meet the standard for mental impairment, but can replicate a renaissance painting using nothing but home made paint and brushes. So...what is smart? There are guys who can read people and their emotions, and empathise when others can't. I dont' think it's easy to quantify intelligence.”

It's interesting that I would read essentially the same thing in this newsletter. It says,   

“Do we define a wise person by his IQ, the number of letters after his name, or how much he knows about the ancient Incas? In the Mishnah, Rabbi Ben Zoma asked the question, 'Who is wise'? And his answer was, 'One who learns from every person'. Another sage offered, 'Who is wise? One who sees the results of his actions'".

To see or have the ability to know and understand our faults and to work to improve on those can, I would hope, make us wiser...I have a lot to learn in life and life is always a teaching moment – every waking day. I think we all have a lot to learn in life.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 21st, 2020

I normally don't do journal entries on a Friday because it's going into the weekend and I typically summarise the few days into one journal...But my mind is so full of thoughts this morning and I need to get them out before they're blunted or forgotten.   

For the last two days almost everything has been shut down, and they've done no recreation because of a critical staff shortage which I've talked about before. It's so critical at this stage that the night shift officers have had to stay over a few hours in the morning to help run showers and get first shift up and running. I do feel for them because each shift is already 12 hours, so staying over must be tough. Some have to drive to Houston or Huntsville which is an hour away, and then just a few hours later they're back at work to do it all again. How the State of Texas thinks this is any way safe for anyone just boggles the mind.   

I've been hearing lately that people are making parole at break neck speeds, and that's a good thing. I'm assuming it's to alleviate some of the pressure of staff shortages because they have to have a certain amount of officers per inmate ratio, and like I said, that's critical right now.   

If there's a silver lining to any of this it's forcing both Warden and the powers that be at Huntsville, to FINALLY think outside of the box and create real change. At least with the Polunsky Unit Administration, I've seen more change since this pandemic than I've seen during my 20+ years of incarceration...

I've been an advocate for more educational programs for years, and yesterday on the prison radio station, they announced that they had permission from Huntsville to simulcast programming from the National Geographic channel, which I think is awesome. A lot of us back here are really excited and waiting for it to be programmed in. For years the Unit has been without an educational TV station. They used to have PBS, which was one of my favorite stations to listen to on the radio – a couple of months ago I wrote to the Administration asking if they'd consider programming it back in for simulcast on the prison radio station, as they've been simulcasting other TV content like the Houston News and other shows...To finally have the NatGeo channel is going to be great. I'm in no way saying I did this (ha ha). Many people back here and on the outside have been pushing for this and I'm beyond grateful for their efforts!

If you could peer inside my mind, I'm always thinking of ways that can make this place better. Not out of the desire to have some kind of country club existence, but because I've been locked up long enough to understand on a fundamental level what should be done to end recidivism, to educate and enlighten...To reduce violence amongst inmates and officers, and give back to society.   

I'm not someone who is very materialistic. My dad used to pound into me and my brothers' heads to “be happy with what you have, not with what you don't” when we wanted something so badly. If it was expensive he'd make us work for it, and I remember in the early '90s I wanted this pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes...I begged and cried and pleaded,   

“But dad!!! All of the cool kids have them! Please!”

One day he buys them at $120. He showed the box to me and said,   

“You want these, you have to work for them. I pick the jobs, and I don't want to hear gripes or complaints. If you complete the jobs within a month, you get to have the shoes. If you don't, I'm returning them.”

At first I was excited. I took to the tasks with vigour, but as most 13 year-olds would do, I began to slack off, thinking,   

“Ah, dad will give me the shoes. He won't return them.”

How wrong I was!! After a month I never saw those shoes again. It was the same when my dad had gotten a dog for my brother. He was required to feed, walk, and bathe the dog...When he didn't do any of these things, my dad gave the dog to a family friend.   

Those lessons in life always stuck with me and I'm never comfortable with handouts. If I could have a job right now I'd cherish the ability to work and pay for the things I want or need...I'm very low maintenance and I don't like clutter either. I give most of what I have, whether it be books or magazines or comics to the guys around me less fortunate than myself. I went years without anything, having to 'hustle' for basic needs like hygiene...Sure, I have things of sentimental value that I hold onto – I have every single card that my girlfriend sent to me over the last 3 years...I have a cherished Rumi book, a book of meditations, a Stoicism book and some music books she sent to me, and I wouldn't part with any of them for the world...I have a graphic novel that my good friend, Big Will, gave to me as a birthday gift some years ago, and I've had a hard time letting go of that because it was HIS favourite and he loved it so much.   

“Keep it.” He said.

Things like that, I keep. I'm not really attached to my radio (ha ha).   

One thing I recently suggested to the Administration and chaplaincy department (in light of the pandemic and the economic down turn) is for a way that prisoners with the ability to go to commissary, can give back to the communities we've hurt by creating a sort of 'food bank' where we could donate it to a free world food bank or shelter. I think that would help some of us to show that we are human, and we have regrets and remorse.   

About 3 years ago – almost to the date – we had a terrible hurricane come through the area. TDCJ allowed for inmates to have money taken from their accounts to give to the American Red Cross. The newspaper article I read about it said that over a hundred thousand dollars was raised from INMATES...The desire for us to help and give back is there! Imagine if the 100,000+ inmates in Texas gave just a couple of dollars in commissary each couple of weeks, and the amount of food that could be donated from that to a food bank. It would be phenomenal! That's remorse in actions, not words!

I guess my point in all of this is to say that I'm glad that the Administration on both Polunsky and in Huntsville is finally receptive to ideas and innovations. Not everything suggested can or will happen, but things are slowly changing.   

Going back to the 3 years worth of cards I have from my Taffy...I think this weekend I'm going to read through all of them again, because I'm really missing her.   

They announced on the prison radio station that they're going to rebroadcast 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' and even though I've heard it several times, I'm excited it's going to be on again. A couple of guys on my section are huge Star Wars fans, but missed it the last time it was played, and so they're excited. It was funny because I guess guys back here had been requesting to hear it again, and the DJ – a prisoner whose moniker is 'The Megamind' said,   

“Alright guys...Y'all want to hear Star Wars again...I don't know how y'all listen to space ship sounds and lasers,but it'll be on this weekend.” (ha ha)

Stay safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 22nd, 2020

I can't wrap my head around the fact that this is the tail end of the month. Time is flying by at break neck speed, and I'm full of anxiety on so many levels...An election is right around the corner, not being able to get out to recreation on a regular basis, pending appeal issues, personal issues, and a whole lot more. It's crazy because 2020 had really started out with so much promise and hope, and then it became a horror show and a bad reality TV show all rolled into one.   

So, the evening movie was Tarantino's 'Kill Bill' volumes 1 and 2. I'm a huge fan of his movies, for sure, but the violence in this movie is particularly over the top and cartoonish, but no one, and I mean NO ONE writes dialogue like that dude! It makes you question certain pop culture references and puts a different spin on it via the ridiculous conversations the characters have with one another. He makes his characters ask the questions that go around in our heads, but are afraid to ask because they're either politically incorrect, or would be interpreted as stupid. Anyways, I listened to that and then caught the Alternative music show they do at 11pm. It was okay, not great. They played a lot of new bands I wasn't too impressed with because they sounded over produced and too polished.

So, I set my alarm for 3am just so I could check out the late night movie they play on the prison radio station, for the late owls. I overslept, and then my sleep was interrupted at 4am by screaming! My eyes shot open and I was confused...until I realised I had my head phones on and a horror movie was playing...I turned off my radio and went back to sleep. Then I woke back up at 7.30am and was told that the power went off sometime around 5am. The prison radio station was completely out because it's automated in the late night, and has to be reset whenever the power goes out. I got up and started my day and thought that there was another staff shortage; but apparently they were waiting for officers from other units to show up and help. They are doing recreation for A and F sections, so I'm hoping tomorrow or Monday I'll be able to get to recreation.   

I don't really have a lot planned for the day...I look forward to my 5pm 'Date' with my girlfriend every Saturday...We used to listen to a program called 'Live From Here' together on NPR, but that's been cancelled so now we use it as time to just think of one another and reflect. She has music lists of mine she likes to play until she falls asleep, and today I'm going to look at three years worth of her cards. Cheesy and sentimental? You bet! But I'm a cheesey and sentimmental kind of guy.

One of the things giving me huge anxiety recently is that there was a guy some years ago who had an execution date - we call him 'Big Jay' - and he received a stay for reasons I'm not entirely sure about. I think it might have been junk science and a witness who changed their statement...Anyways, it was a strong enough case to receive a stay and be sent back to the trial court for review. He languished for, geeze, I think close to 5 years, and after all that the State was successful in arguing against him...The CCA agreed with the State, and he was denied just like that, and back in the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court denies him he'll be right back on death watch, and whilst I know each case is very different and I know my case is solid and very strong, it's still scary to think about having to go through all of that. I try to push it out of my head, but it's so darn difficult when you watch this happen time and time again to other people. I mean, even someone like Duane Buck...the facts were on his side, and the State fought tooth and nail to still see him killed. Thankfully the Supreme Court saved his life, but with the possibility of another four years of Trump, and several of the more progressive Justices barely hanging on as it is, there's no guarantee that a super-ultra-conservative court majority would ever do the right thing again. It's terrifying to think about.   

Fundamentalists know this and I believe it's why they excuse Trump's behaviour because an ultra conservative court could hand them this country on a silver platter, and it should NEVER be that way! They've made their Faustian Bargain with Trump, and everyone gets to suffer for it.   

I'm not thinking solely about myself in this...When the Supreme Court is decided by politics and ideology, we no longer have a democracy – and I say that whether it be far left or far right. It's no longer representative of 'We The People', and the decisions are no longer made through the lens of 'us'. It's scary to think about...

I'm really frustrated with young progressives right now because, whilst they have every right to be upset with everything that has been going on with both Democrats and Republicans, and the world that they will inherit, they're losing sight of the bigger picture when they say,   

“Joe Biden is just another old white dude who doesn't care, and I won't vote for him.”

That's the most idiotic kind of thinking you can have...Voting anyone in doesn't give that elected person the right to do anything they want – you have to hold them to the fire and make them accountable! Laying it down before that is just stupidity. Refusing to vote will LOSE your right to complain. Don't take to the streets after Trump wins to air your grievanes...No! You don't get to do that...In remaining silent when it counted the most, you gave Trump his mandate. Now, if you voted for Joe and Trump wins, then you have every right to pour into the streets and demand accountability. Think about that!

Young people...Please! You cannot allow this guy to win. He's not a 'Law and Order' President. He doesn't get to use that! The dude is a damn criminal himself, and almost everyone around him is either under suspicion of breaking the law, or has been arrested and charged with something. No...You've got to make him accountable by electing him out of office and then you go to Biden and Kamala and say, “WE ARE THE FUTURE! YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO US!” That, people, is democracy in action...Think strategically. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face...Please!

Okay, rant over...albeit temporarily!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
August 23rd, 2020

Sunday...I woke up at about 7.45am and started my day with writing my girlfriend, as I always do. I had been hoping that our section would be going to recreation and it would be an absolutely beautiful morning to have tried to get outside. We've got a big storm/hurricane system that is expected to dump a bunch of rain on us by Wednesday/Thursday, so I really hope I can get outside before that happens. They're 'short-staffed' as of now though, so it doesn't look like any kind of recreation is happening.

I was disappointed at breakfast time when we had a return to powdered milk instead of the real milk we'd been getting. I really hope they've not returned to that! As I drank it I thought,

"This is digusting!"

It was like drinking the milk of a stegosaurus - not that I know what that tastes like, and they're reptiles...so...but if they did have milk I'm sure it would be warm and thick like this was! My stomach is churning just thinking about it.

As I was cleaning my cell today I battled with a couple of mutant cockroaches. These things have incredible speed! What's crazy about them is that when see them, they'll pause and know you're watching them. Their little antennae begins to move around - I'm assuming to plot their course of escape. You move slowly as you're about to squish them, and just as your hand twitches the subtlest twitch of intent, ZOOM! They're off! You're like,

"Come on you SOB!"

We went years without ever seeing a cockroach, until around 2013/2014 they began to use two sections on B-Pod, A and B sections, as transit or holding cells for guys being shipped to and from Polunsky. All it took is one of those guys to have some cockroach eggs amongst his belongs, and that starts an infestation. Because there are all sorts of cracks and crevices in the walls, as the building is literally falling apart and the foundations are shifting so much that doors and gates jam because they're warped, the cockroaches set up shop and became official squatters. At some point they decided to revolt against the humans in their path, and now it's a daily battle between man and insect...I swear, one had sharpened a staple into a shank and tried to kill me in my sleep...They're silent assassins...You'll never see them coming...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 24th, 2020

It's hard to believe that this is the last full week of the month! Where on earth is the time going?

Well, it's another day without recreation. I don't even know what to say or think about it anymore. I've been out of my cell for only a total of a handful of hours in over two months. It's hard and stressful, and with everything else going on the world, any distraction is needed...

There was an update on the prison radio station from the head warden, and he was chastising people for not wearing their masks. He also said that he didn't know when/if visitation would ever resume any time soon, but in the meantime he said that TDCJ was working on getting technology set up for video visits. I don't know if they'd ever allow death row inmates to use this, but I did get hopeful about it because I'd do anything in the world to see my girlfriend's face for a few minutes...That would be amazing! The warden said he didn't know when or how long it would be before everything was set up, but I'm hoping soon.

Later on I was listening to the radio and the song, 'Pictures Of You' by the Cure came on. I always have trouble settling on a favourite Cure song...For me, there are just too many of them, and as I was listening to it, I thought,

"This has to be it."

I remember 3 years ago writing to my girlfrirend and introducing her to some of the songs I liked, and I said,

"Some Cure songs are like mini-movies"

And they really are! Robert Smith is brilliant at telling a complete story in a song - that's a rare talent. The way that 'Pictures of You' starts with the long intro, setting the mood for the song/story and then the opening line,

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you..."

Then he reminisces on his relationship...I imagine the camera fading as it flashes back to his relationship and relives it. Then, it comes back to the present where he's dealing with the loss and then the realisation of wishing he had come up with the right words to try to save his relationship, before closing out with longing and regret. From start to finish, the song takes you away. There are a ton of Cure songs that do that. From, 'Jupiter Crash' to 'A Pink Dream', 'To Wish Impossible Things' to 'Swimming The Same Deep Water As You', and one of the best - 'From the Edge Of The Deep Green Sea'. These are epic songs...Mini movies...Get lost in them.

We're expecting two hurricanes this week and I hope they're nothing too serious, and that people are safe.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 25th, 2020

These are such odd times...Right on the heels of the COVID outbreak on Polunsky (which, according to the latest announcements from the Warden, they've got the numbers down to less than a dozen cases out of 3000+ inmates - pretty impressive!) we're now facing a direct hit from Hurricane Laura. I'm listening to the news simulcast on 106.5, the prison radio station, as I type this...Usually, we get dumped with a ton of rain and the occasional power outage, which I pray doesn't happen, but units built in low lying areas are typically flooded. So, in order to be pro-active, the TDCJ has shipped a few hundred inmates to Polunsky. I think they're being housed in the gym areas that are used by general population.

The only thing I worry about in this is having some people carrying the virus into our unit and starting the spread all over again. Cramming a bunch of inmates into a gym can't be a good thing...

Because of all this, we're on a 'hurricane lockdown'...They gave us a sack meal last night which was only a sausage and PB&J - breakfast was PB&J with a handful of prunes...so, it's back to bad sack meals for the time being. Hopefully, lunch will be a bit better.

You wouldn't think there's a storm barreling down on us from the look outside of my window - it's gorgeous! Blue sky with a little stroke of clouds across it...It's really peaceful.

I'm just trying to get through this day...Otherwise, there's not much going on. I'm a bit down, but hopefully things will get better in time. I'll write again soon.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 26th, 2020

Wednesday...We're all on pins waiting to see what this hurricane is going to bring to us. I really hope we don't lose the power because it's hot enough already and having a few days without a fan is going to be nothing nice. But...other people in the world never have power so I have to be mindful of that when I complain - we'll be fine!

I didn't sleep too well...I had a bit of an anxiety fit last night, but it's personal stuff I'm working through and brought on solely by me and my own actions...It's difficult to get into, but if I can be honest with myself it comes to me just needing to grow up sometimes. I'd like to think that I'm a fairly well adjusted adult (I just laughed when I wrote that because it's kind of ridiculous...I've been incarcerated since I was almost 19 years old, so how in the world could I ever be 'well adjusted'? It's more like a case of arrested development) but I do need to grow up in certain aspects. I also like to believe I'm mindful of things and how they affect other people, but I still have my issues with impulsiveness sometimes. The truth of it all is that I can be a walking talking idiot at times, although nothing is ever done with the intent to hurt, but I guess sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.

I think back to this time I wrote about in my memoir, Falling Down, when I was out walking with my headphones on, lost in a song...People ahead of me were avoiding something but I thought it must be dog poo or something, and paid it no attention until I felt a squishiness beneath my foot. People stopped and looked at me like I was a piece of crap, and I was confused. I took my headphones off and could hear a bird in a nest built in the sign above me, chirping frantically...When I looked down I noticed it was a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest. It wasn't something I meant to do and would never intentionally do, and my knees literally buckled and I started crying. I felt like crap...but I hadn't been paying attention, and I was lost in my own world, so it was my own fault.

It seems I do that a lot in life and I don't know why. Sometimes I get lost in my own head too much and just don't pay attention to what is going on around me...

I'm trying to work through it and I hope things will get better.

The news on this hurricane is really confusing. Each report out of Houston has been different. One minute they're saying it won't be that big of a deal, and the next minute it's upgraded to a Category 4 storm and is going to cause chaos. I pray it isn't too bad because people in the world do not need this right now. It's like one punch after another, made all the more difficult by a President who can't lead his way out of a wet paper bag.

Last night the prison radio station introduced a new one hour music show at 9pm focused on '80s/'90s new wave. It was pretty good and I heard an Erasure song that I've not listened to in over 24 years! I think it's called, 'Weep For Me'. It's a really beautiful song!

The sack meals have improved a bit today as well. Nothing beats fresh fruit!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 27th, 2020

As I'm typing this I'm munching on a Golden Delicious apple that we got for breakfast. There's almost nothing better in terms of food than fresh fruit. That is the one benefit of these lockdowns lately...Oddly enough though, we've not had any fresh milk in a while now.

The hurricane had almost zero effect on Texas, thank G-d, although Louisiana seems to have borne the worst of it. We had a little wind, some rain, and now it's bright and sunny and expected to be 95 degrees today. I think the reporting on the hurricane was some of the most inconsistent reporting I've heard in a long time. Every few hours the models changed and they'd report,

"It's going to go right up this way so hunker down!"

Then a few hours later they'd report,

"Our model has changed slightly and now we expect it to avoid this area and go this way."

It was all over the place and very frustrating. It's also a bit dangerous because people think when the next hurricane is barreling in,

"They were so wrong last time, I ain't even listening to that...I'll be fine right where I'm at."

In the end though, thank G-d, it was okay here and I hope the people in Louisiana are okay.

So, last night the movies were supposed to be 'The Visit' and 'JoJo Rabbit'. My mind is on other issues and I'm still a bit down...okay, quite a bit down, but I was going to listen to them for a distraction when suddenly I heard the first notes of John Williams' Star Wars score...I jumped up and told some other guys that Star Wars Rise of Skywalker was starting...It was so cool to hear it again! I also listened to JoJo Rabbit which was really surreal and funny.

After that was all over with I went over to hear what our Vice President, Mike Pence, had to say at the Republican National Convention. That's 35 minutes of my life I will never get back! It was the biggest and most insane crock of crap I've ever heard outside of some of the fried bull crap that Trump spouts on a daily basis. It's like Pence's speech writer threw in every American cliché he could think of. Don't get me wrong! I love my country and I'm on Death Row using a typewriter and listening to movies on my radio. I get that we have it better than most...but no one talks like,

"When I look across these fields of amber grain from sea to shining sea, I can see our flag, its stars and stripes rising high into the sky and the hope and courage that it inspires across the fruited plain."

C'mon dude! You couldn't think of anything original to say? Your speech writer just stitched a bunch of patriotic songs together...I half expected to see a bald eagle fly across my cell with the American flag clenched tightly in it's talons.

But the funniest line of the evening?

"Believe this people...Joe Biden is a trojan horse for socialism"

Huh??

And his final line of the night,

"Let's make America great again...again."

So, you have to do it twice??

Colbert, who threw away the jokes last night on his show, and got serious, said,

"I'm not going to give my time and attention to what is clearly an alternate reality and lies..."

His monologue was hard hitting and cut deep. I encourage people to check it out.

Colbert made a very strong point...Trump and Republicans continually pound in that if Joe Biden wins you'll see nothing but civil unrest everywhere; the cities will be smoking and in ruins...But the fact remains, all of this is happening under Trump's Presidency. He has made no effort other than to say he's a 'Law and Order President', whilst he continually protects his criminal buddies or denies his own criminality). He hasn't lead us at all...He hasn't tried to listen to why people are upset...Or to find solutions...He only says,

"Give me four more years or it will only get worse."

No, Mr President, four more years and it WILL be worse!

It's insanity. We live in a bizarre world where nothing makes sense anymore.

I had another rough night of sleep. When I finally settled into a deep sleep, I woke up at around 8.30am. I'm praying with all of me that I'm able to get through my personal stuff and be a bit brighter and lighter. As I get close to what I and others call, 'my new birthday', I do want it to be a time of reflection and happiness. I want to smile and be grateful for all I have. I know I am always grateful...I would just like to have a lighter heart and be full of love and joy.

I'm wondering when lunch will get here. We've been having it at around 3pm for the last few days, then dinner a few hours later.

Okay...it's a bit later now and lunch came at a reasonable time today. I was surprised! The day has turned unbelievably gorgeous...Hot, yes, but the sky is clean and clear.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 30th, 2020

I'm under the fan as I write this...We're in the middle of an unusual heatwave. Typically, entering into September things begin to taper off on the heat front. It doesn't mean September isn't hot, but definitely not like it is right now.

Today I was fortunate to have recreation. None of us on B-section were expecting it so when asked if I wanted to go outside I was like, "Hell yeah!"

I quickly got ready, grabbed two bottles of water, and headed out. I can't begin to describe how humid and hot it was. After being in a controlled environment for so long, the air was sucked right out of me. It felt unnatural, like stepping into an alien planet.

The sun was directly above me, so there was no respite or shade, and I was cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey. Totally my fault as I was so excited to go outside I forgot to put my sun block on. We were outside for four hours and whilst I loved it, the pain for the next two days absolutely sucked! I'm good now though, a little red and tender, but okay.

Saturday I relaxed, wrote my girlfriend off and on, and waited on the evening movies. The DJ on the prison radio station announced he would do a Star Wars movie night for the 'Star Wars fans on death row', which was awesome! After that, a movie I'd been hoping to hear for a while, 'IT:Chapter 2' came on. It was good, not as good as the first chapter, but still, as I reflected on it more, I would love another listen. I can do Pennywise the clown's voice, almost to perfection. It's a fun voice to do. I love figuring out new impersonations. Some can be hard on the vocal chords, but still, seeing the expresson people's faces is priceless. I've been making my neighbor laugh by doing the clown's voice.

I woke up this morning and because it was already so hot at 8 in the morning, I decided to get all of my chores done and out of the way. They're running recreation on C-section, which came as a surprise. I'm relaxing right now and will continue to do so.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
August 31st, 2020

Another scorcher of a day...made worse by disruption and chaos that began last night. We still don't know all of the details, but it began around 9.30pm when suddenly there was an explosion in chaos and noise...Guys on the other side of the pod (each pod is split into halves - A, B, and C on one side, and D, E, and F on the other) kicking on their doors, screaming and banging.

Initially, I shrugged it off as a night at good ol' Mos Eisley Cantina, as some of these guys can get rowdy when they imbibe. But around 10 minutes later, about 10 guards came pouring onto the pod like ants, and they went into F-section which is out of my line of vision from where my cell is. Clearly something was going on but we really had no idea until about 10pm when the air went out and the use of force team came in...They dragged some dude out of his cell after hosing him down with 'gas' (imagine riot strength pepper spray) for reasons still unknown.

During this time they had turned the air off - it's often used as a precautionary method to keep the gas from spreading everywhere, but that stuff is so powerful and spreads everywhere like fog, whether the air is switched on or not. It's already been hot on the pod because we're in the midst of an end of summer heatwave...but when they gas someone, by policy, they're still supposed to remove anyone with major health issues like heart or breathing problems, because the gas can create severe medical complications. A guy on A section called one of the guards and asked them if they had removed a man with COPD - Artie Aranda. He's almost 70 years old and has complications with lung disease, and to have him near this gas is a recipe for disaster.

The female officer went and checked on Artie and found him passed out, and unresponsive. She called medical and more guards and medical staff came running in and they took him off the pod. We haven't had any update on his condition as of this morning.

We've not had this kind of unrest here in a quite a while now, and I'm curious to know what kicked it all off. I know many of us are plain restless because we only get recreation time about once every couple of weeks, and another group of guys are frustrated that they can't see their families and friends at visitation because that's still closed down...And then, some are irritated because we haven't been to commissary in over two weeks...I suppose it's a bit of a perfect storm of frustration.

I'm getting through it all okay, but I get restless and depressed just like anyone else. I try not to take out my frustrations on other people, and the majority of guys back here, although we might snap or get a little cross with one another at times, there's an understanding of 'leaving our problems in the cell' so we try not to take it out on each other. I'm fortunate to have two really great neighbours - one is so funny, and makes me laugh a lot, and the other is a really calm and peaceful dude who spends his time making beautiful art, and listening to movies. We talk, laugh, and share food together when we have it.

I've also been playing Scrabble a bit more too...Although I keep barely losing because the guy I play has been studying a 6th Edition Scrabble Dictionary which has words that don't even seem real!! He's at an unfair advantage (ha ha). It's frustrating to lose by a handful of points just because you challenge some strange word that looks like gibberish. It's all in good fun though.

Nothing left to do but wait on the afternoon album on the Prison Radio Station, and pray Artie is okay. They're going to play some Star Wars tonight as well! All of that and waiting on mail...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 3rd, 2020

I'm filled with a lot of anxiety and heartache today, but hopefully it'll sort itself out...

Anyways, it's a strange day as it is. They did some moves earlier which surprised everyone. They swapped some guys out from C-Pod and B-Pod, and I guess this is a sign of things returning to a bit of normalcy. I've been in this cell for the longest I've ever been and I assumed (with all the moves I've had in the past) that I would have been moved by now. But who knows? Typically, before the pandemic, they moved everyone on a 6 month rotation...I was moved about every 2 months, sometimes a little longer, but for the past year and half I averaged about every 2 months. If they're moving everyone around it wouldn't be out of the question to put us on lockdown and do a shakedown as it's been a while.

There was no recreation today which sucks. It would've been nice to get outside and have some fresh air because the heatwave we're having seems to be ending, and we're expecting some much cooler and fall-like weather for next week - I'm really looking forward to it!

Not much of anything else has been going on...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 7th, 2020

As I write this it's Labor Day...It's been a long and boring weeend and I've been trying to keep my head above the water. Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sadness, and other times I feel better and full of pep. I really need to get more recreation and fresh air. We had rec on Friday and they did it for C/D section yesterday, but today there's been none. We average about one day out of the cell per two weeks now, and that just isn't right, especially since I have personally seen no sign of a staff shortage in the past two weeks - we've had 3 officers working the pod every single day.

Over the weekend they started doing hair cuts again, which is a sign that things are opening back up on the prison, and yet we cannot get rec. Oh well...

So, it's Labor Day and I overheard a funny conversation this morning: Two guys were arguing over what 'Labor Day' was really about. One guy passionately argued that it was a day to celebrate women giving birth. Get it? 'Labor'Day...The other guy said it was a day to honor America's workers and the guy that thought it was about women said,

"Man, that don't even make sense! Why would the government honor workers? They ain't soldiers. It ain't like they're out there dying or anything."

They went round and round with their arguments until the guy who was arguing for child bearing said,

"I'll bet you ten dollars in commissary that it's about women in labor."

I felt like trying to prevent a train wreck and stop the bet, but you know, sometimes people have to learn the hard way. It was quite funny.

Our holiday meal was pretty good. We had baked chicken, beans, green beans, potato salad and some weird fruit cocktail doughy thing...It looked weird, but it tasted pretty good.

I really don't have anything more to talk about for today...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 8th, 2020

It feels like a Monday because of the holiday weekend, but I'm glad it's Tuesday because I'm already ready for this week to be over. Last night turned into a nightmare for me...I've got a rogue toilet that won't stop flushing! I was listening to the final movie of the night, Harley Quinn, when I went to use the restroom. I flushed the toilet and it wouldn't stop flushing...My initial thought was,

"Why does this always happen to meeeeeee?"

The exact same thing happened to me in another cell last year.

I called and called the guards until one finally answered me and I had to yell over the noise from the toilet because they are extremely loud, and powerful enough to pull down a Wooly Mammoth's turd! I asked that if they couldn't fix it to shut my water off, and they said they'd call the plumber. No plumber was ever called...In fact, when I asked a sergeant at breakfast time, he said he didn't even know about the problem. I wasn't too happy about that but I went back to sleep and decided I'd try to get the day time crew to take care of it.

12 hours later and my toilet is still out...

I've talked to a lieutenant and a sergeant, and they're telling me that there are no parts available and they don't have a day time plumber which is complete and utter horse crap. So, I know I'll be going round and round with them for a few days until I'm at my wits end and have to sound like a mad man to get it fixed. I'm going to have to have them take me to the day room each time I need to use the restroom. They'll get tired of that, and I'll have to use it front of 14 men...Small price to pay to get it fixed though.

I didn't get much sleep last night and they started running A-Section to rec at 6am. My friend, Irving, was there so I got out of bed to wish him 'Happy Birthday', and as a gift I gave  him my complete collection of Deadly Class novels - the best graphic novel series ever! He likes the series a lot, and whilst the books had sentimental value to me, I know he liked them just as much and doesn't have the support to get them himself...I loved that I could give them to him. It's the least I could give to him and I know he'll take good care of them and enjoy them.

The property officer came by today and I donated some hygiene items to the Chaplain's Indigent program for men in General Poplulation who cannot purchase these items themselves. I think I'll donate each time we go to store now, and they're always talking about the program and how it helps guys in prison, on the Unit's radio station. It's the least I can do to share what I have and believe me, I know what it was like having to beg for a tube of colgate, or to have to hustle to get something I really needed when I was in General Population.

Giving to the program today got my brain turning...It's always been one of my long term goals to have outside organisations donate radios to those who can't afford to buy them. I was thinking now that the Chaplaincy has a donation program, I'm going to suggest that those of us who can, donate $20 or whatver it costs for a radio. If just a few hundred guys could do that it would cover a lot of those who are indigent and can't buy a radio. I think that with the Unit radio station this would be even more feasible to give access to men who can't listen to the church services or the movies, or music. I think it would be a fantastic opportunity to reach a lot of guys in Ad-Seg.

So, we'll see what we can do...When these movies come on at night it goes quiet back here, and when good music is on, guys are all in a better mood. Earlier they played a block of Tupac and so many guys were rapping along and saying,

"Oh man...that shot me back to when I was free!"

These are good things and a good way to rehabilitate and educate people.

It's getting grey outside and it looks like a storm might be moving in. We're supposed to have a cool front move through tomorrow so this might be the first sign of a real fall! I can't wait...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 10th, 2020

Insanity abounds...To quote Whoopie Goldberg,

"I half expect to see Godzilla come out of the East River."

Can this world get any crazier???

So, I woke this morning at 6am because someone was calling out my name, needing some advice. I crawled out of bed and started my day, noticing that the crew we had were made up of brand spanking new guards...Despite their limited training, they were tasked with doing showers and setting up rec, and didn't seem to know how to do it which created quite a spectacle. At the same time, a huge cleaning crew came in with 20ft long dusters, scrubbers, blasters, bleach, disinfectant etc, and who knows what else, and began scrubbing the pod. Whenever this happens it means someone very important is expected to show up and inspect the place.

On top of all that, my toilet is still out of commission and I've been reluctant to press the issue because I'm not trying to get moved out of the cell. I like where I am and I have good neighbors. So, I'm pouring bowls of water into the toilet to 'flush' it, and it's doing the job for now. It takes a lot of time, but it kind of works for the moment. I've talked to all manner of people back here and the story is they're out of the parts they need to fix ANY toilet on the unit. Whoever is in charge of ordering parts and supplies should be fired.

When I worked in maintenance in General Population it was my job as a warehouse clerk to have a proper inventory of all parts, from every little screw to copper pipes...The top priority items were always plumbing. From gaskets, seals, o-rings, and springs (back then they didn't have what's called a 'flush kit', which is an entire piece that snaps in place to flush the toilet) if the plumber asked us for a part, it was expected that they'd receive that part there and then. Plumbing/water works is the most important thing on this unit. It boggles my mind that they have zero flush kits.

Sigh...

We're having a nice cool front right now. It's grey and looks like a fall day outside of my window. It won't be long before the two trees I can see standing above a building will shed their leaves.

Geeze...two months until the holiday seasons begins! Time flies...I mean, it's been almost a year since I received my stay of execution...

Otherwise, I'm getting through the day...Just waiting on Godzilla!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 13th, 2020

It's my birthday today...43 years old. I feel blessed and fortunate to have another year of life and hopefully, G-d willing, many more. We're not guaranteed a single second in this life and to highlight that exact point, we've learned today via the prison radio station, that two men in General Population passed away yesterday, of heart attacks.

My day has been pretty nice...I've received many birthday greetings and some snacks as gifts. My neighbor made some really good tacos for me and some guys sent me the most ridiculous picture of a naked man wearing nothing but a huge sombrero on his head, and a tiny one covering his, um, business, as he's riding a donkey. In big bold letters it says,

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY"

And they all signed it with birthday wishes. I crack up every time I see it, and I'm going to send it to my girlfriend so that she can keep it and have something to laugh at (ha ha).

Football season is getting started today, so a lot of guys are excited about that and it's been a bit rowdy. I'm actually happy that football season is here because it gives these men (who are restless) something to focus their attention on. With the administration ending the Covid phone calls we were allowed to have every few weeks, and not knowing exactly when visitation will resume, some guys were getting frustrated with the situation...This will hopefully keep their minds preoccupied.

It's been a relatively peaceful weekend, all things considered. On Friday I had a legal phone call with my attorneys and they wished me a 'happy birthday' and passed on a birthday message from my girlfriend. I received some promising news about the status of my legal proceedings so I move forward with a bit of optimism. I'm grateful for the people representing me and whilst I do have my bouts of anxiety and worry, I also have a great deal of optimism.

It was nice to have the walk outside to and from the visitation area where the legal calls are made. I could smell the air, look at the sky and the clouds...I heard the birds singing and chirping, and after being kept locked up in a cell all day long, it always amazes me how vivid everything seems! Stepping outside on the walkway you notice so many things, and it's mind-blowing. Before being on death row I never really noticed many of these things, but if you pay attention and look, you can see it.

Yesterday I spent the day relaxing, reading a bit, and listening to the prison radio station. I heard an album by the Deftones, the 'Deftones', which was really good. Then later I listened to a movie called, 'The Mountains Between Us', starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. It was better than I expected. The ending was a bit of a downer, but I like it when movies aren't perfectly tied up and all neat and pretty. I like them better when they reflect human emotions and sometimes heartache that can't be explained away and made better. The DJ of the station said he was going to do a 'Rambo' movie marathon today for the guys who don't listen to football. He planned on airing all four movies which is cool. I like the first one a lot, but the rest are a little cheesy.

I want to thank everyone for the the birthday greetings, and to thank my Rabbi, as well as my Taffy, for giving me a ton of love this weekend. It means a lot to me and makes the day even more special. I'm a lucky guy to have her and I love her completely.

Here's to hoping the coming week is blessed as we enter into the Jewish high holiday season!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 15th, 2020

As I type this I'm at my wits' end...It's been a week now since I've been trying to get my toilet fixed and each time I bring it up I get told the same thing,

“We don't have the parts.”

I'm having a difficult time believing that – especially when they can find another cell that's empty, or even salvage the parts needed. I'm having to take 15 minutes each time to fill up a bowl with water and throw it into the toilet to imitate a 'flush'. We're not going to rec regularly anymore, and guys don't use the toilets in the day room because they're out in the open and there's ZERO privacy – those images are not easily forgotten.

Yesterday was a bit of a stressful day. Things had been going okay when in the afternoon the Regional One shakedown team came pouring into our section. Now, Regional One comes from Huntsville and they are the professional shakedown team. If they're called to a unit it means they're looking for something that is a real security threat. Believe me when I say they are unrelenting and ruthless when it comes to shaking a cell down. They will trample on your sheets, tear up your personal papework, throw out your hygiene items, and take any electronic item you own - all but leave a giant crap in the middle of your floor just because they answer to NO ONE but the TDCJ director. They have absolute power and carte blanche to do as they please.

So, they come pouring into our section after they removed two guys from their cells and demolished everything...Items were being flung out on the walkway and the pile of things just grew bigger and bigger. They spent over two hours on two cells! The rumor was they were looking for a cell phone, but I don't believe anything was found in either cell, except for some pornography and maybe some prison wine...

Still, this is what gets me...TDCJ is always quick to blame visitation as the way illegal things come in. Now, the rumor here is that they've been finding things all over the unit recently, and visitation has been closed since early March – not a single visitor has been allowed in. So,it begs the question: How else are these items coming in??

Anyways...Regional One left sometime after 5pm, but it was a very stressful couple of hours. You never know if they want to pick a random cell to ransack, or even the neighbor of one of the guys who was being searched, just because they might think they're holding something for them. It's stressful for all of us!

I woke up early in the morning after not much sleep, and decided to start my day. Of course, it's another day where we don't have rec again, but this time the excuse is 'pest control' which is a bit wishy washy to me. Why can't things just return to normal around here? Either that or come up with an alternative solution.

This COVID-19 crap has really messed up every aspect of life. If Trump had not deceived the American people and disregarded the science and advice of health experts, maybe things would've been okay right now. I can't believe people stand beside this buffoon! It's like a cult...No...it is a cult! It's scary. Anyways...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 21st, 2020

Just when you thought that American politics couldn't get any crazier...Don't worry, I'm not going to get into all of that right now. I have some different thoughts floating around my head as I write today...Firstly, if you have 100 people praying for something. Let's say, 50 people praying for something to happen and another 50 praying for the opposite to happen...Both camps proclaim themselves to be a 'believer' in a particular faith – any faith – and something happens in favour of one of those groups...Does that invalidate the others' belief system'?

To go a little further, if one side feels the other side's view is 'evil', or vice versa, who is really evil?Marcus Aurelius said in his 'Meditations',   

“Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you'll feel compassion instead of astonishment or rage. For you may yourself have the same notions of good and evil, or similar ones, in which case you'll make an allowance for what they've done. But if you no longer hold the same notions, you'll be more readily gracious for their error.” (Meditations, 7.26)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because the majority of us think our own belief systems or our politics is the 'right' way, the good way of things. Another group of people view our thinking as evil...I don't know. It's a fascinating thought practice, although I do believe there are certain absolute or universal truths, and the manipulation or bending of those truths for political or personal gain is in itself true evil.   

It's early...I'm still feeling a bit panicky over Ruth B. Ginsberg's passing. Should the Supreme Court have a 6-3 conservative rule it's going to make it so much harder to end the death penalty – unless there's pressure on Congress to issue a moratorium, or put pressure on states to end it individually. It will  make the appeals process almost impossible. If a person has a last minute appeal the hurdle to receive a stay just became even harder because, whereas for the most part they had four liberal justices, they only had to convince ONE conservative to side with them. Now, with only 3 justices on the left they have to convince TWO justices to side with them...It just seems an impossibility, especially since there doesn't seem to be any moderates on the court. It's scary, but I'm trying to remain positive and hope for the best.   

In other news...We had recreation yesterday. I guess the way they're doing it now is we're going to have rec every other day. It doesn't make much sense because if you have the people run rec (and they currently do) why not just keep the normal schedule because you have less people to run to rec, and they're done before second shift. Yesterday, they ran all six sections to rec and had people in the day rooms until after 11pm! Before, you had one 'off section', two sections outside, and 3 in the day rooms; and rec would finish (if the guards weren't being lazy) before second shift. Now, we don't have a guarantee of an outside day because the guards get to pick and choose who goes outside and everything is chaotic!

Yesterday I went to the day room in the morning. I was initially scheduled for second round but they bumped me up to first round. It was nice to get out of the cell and I'm going to have to start jogging again every other day.   

I talked to the guy they got to test the new phone system...He was shocked because they randomly chose him. I think what they're going to do is have a phone with a magnetic clip on it and they'll stick it to the outside of the cell and put it on speaker. The guard will have another phone and will listen/monitor the call. The only problem is the background noise...Gates slamming...guys yelling out of their doors...people being generally rude...I can see this leading to problems if people aren't quiet and respectful during a call. Guys will get angry and tempers will flare. There's no guarantee that this new will be the 'new system' but it's looking like it. I wish I could get my call and speak to my girlfriend!

Anyways...I'm just rambling today...I can't seem to get my thoughts clear.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.   

Peace


  
September 22nd, 2020

We had recreation today which was nice. There's still not a way to fairly get people outside regularly so I've been thinking of a way to write a grievance on it...We're supposed to be allowed one day out of the week of outside time, but with the way things are right now, it's a crap shoot!

The good news is I finally have my toilet fixed, and I don't know how to act...It's like receiving a Chanukah gift early! When maintenance showed up on the pod I was in the day room; I all but begged to have my toilet fixed and he said,

“Well, I've got a list of people I'm doing in order. I have to fix other toilets before yours, and I only have enough parts for 7 of them on the entire building.”

I walked away feeling ticked off and hopeless...He fixed the toilet on the section I was recreating on, and then I had a thought – maybe he could cobble working parts from the toilets he was fixing, and in turn fix mine? I ran it by the plumber and he was non-committal, so I didn't have any hopes. But he did it, and sweet purple baby Barney, the toilet is fixed!!

I exercised at rec and my thoughts just kept going back to the hypocrisy of the Republicans and how they're going to ram a justice on through to confirmation, but should Biden win (please...if there's any justice in this universe let him win!) there's all kinds of things the Democrats can do. I don't like the tit for tat responses of each party when one takes power, but I wish people would just talk and find middle ground. We're headed down a dangerous path and honestly, both parties are at fault. I just don't know what the solutions are.

In terms of the death penalty, abolitionists are going to have to work hard at state level. They're going to have to reach out to all faiths, give speeches at churches, bring forth new ideas and fresh arguments...Saying it's 'cruel or unusual' or 'it costs too much'...those arguments are plain old and just don't work anymore. I don't think that the anti-death penalty movement isn't less compatible with other racial/civil rights issues. It should be brought into the fold.

We've gotten to a point where the restorative justice movement is falling on deaf ears. I disagree with cancel culture because it leaves no room for restorative justice or forgiveness and rehabilitation. And...the cancel culture movement's own argument is used against them when it comes to trying to protest or make a real change. People need to rethink their strategies...

That's my rant for the day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 23rd, 2020

Yesterday afternoon was quite amazing. It was around 3pm or so and I was having a conversation with a guy a few cells down, about the prison radio station. We were talking about requests for next Monday's 'All request Monday' that they've started. What the inmates are encouraged to do is send the station an 'I-60' form with a request. I had already gotten mine in this week – I requested The Cure's, “The Last Day of Summer” as it's a song I heard right after my stay of execution. The guy I was talking to said,   

“I can't think of any songs I want to hear, but if you want to use my request, just tell me what you want to hear and I'll write it down and send it out.   

I thought it was a very kind gesture, so I said,   

“Man, I'm craving The Cranberries! Something they don't play on mainstream radio. How about, 'Free to Decide' or any song they don't play on the radio.”

Well, around 4pm he hollered down at me and said,   

“I think you need to tell me another request because the DJ just said he was about to play an hour of the Cranberries!”

I couldn't believe it!

It was an amazing hour of music and for most of the songs I  had tears pouring down my face...The music is soooo beyond good, and I have a ton of memories attached to their first three albums. One in particular is 'I can't be with you' where I copied John Cusack in the movie, 'Say Anything'...

What had happened was a really bad break up in the Fall of 1994. I think it was late September, and back then, for me, every break up always felt like the end of the world. I had been listening to 'No Need to Argue' which had been out only a short while. I had this idea that when the girls went to the Canteen (our school store where you could buy snacks and other items like hygiene or detergents) I'd go into my friend's room, put his speaker in the window, and blast out, 'I can't be with you'.

The room was right above the Canteen and I knew it was a brilliant and romantic idea! I grabbed my CD, knocked on his door and shoved my way in. I took over the stereo and put the speaker in the window...When I pressed 'play' on the CD player, I looked out the window and could see my ex-girlfriend, Amy, standing in line...The girls looked up and their 'escort' (a supervisor from the girl's dorm) looked up and yelled,   

“Y'all need to turn the music down NOW or I'll write the whole entire room up!”   

My friend said,   

“Dude, you're going to get me into trouble. Turn if off!”

So...so much for the grand romantic gesture!

Anyways...it was just a wonderful hour of music. Today, the guy asked me if I had thought of anything else and I told him,   

“U2's 'Unforgettable Fire' or any U2 they don't play on the radio all day.”

He joked,   

“Watch...you'll get an hour of U2 today.”

We laughed...That would be so cool though!

Later that evening I had planned on listening to the new Cosmos science series, but almost an hour in I dozed off when I was jolted awake by two guards at my door.   

“Hey! You want to make a phone call?”   

I jumped up and said,   

“YES!!”

They escorted me down the hall and my heart was thumping because I really wanted to hear my girlfriend's voice.   

I entered the office and the first thing I noticed was a group of guards (unmasked, I should add, which freaked me out a little since it's physically impossible to socially distance in there) and it looked like they were throwing a little party. They had an electric griddle, and one officer was cooking food on it and it smelled sooooooo good!! Real food being cooked right in front me – torture!!

I sat down and a sergeant dialed the number for me and everyone was quiet...It went to voicemail the first time, but the sergeant dialled again for me and she picked up! It was definitely an emotional boost of positivity which I needed, and I was so grateful to be allowed to call her.   

I can't help but see some good things happening...I think with all of the doom and gloom news in the media, the scariness of the Supreme Court, and the blatant hypocrisy of politicians, I still think good things will happen and prayers will be answered. I've been purposely limiting my news intake because it just isn't healthy. I think more people should limit how much news they listen to because it takes a toll on our mental health...It can create fear, panic, anger, anxiety...Much of it is irrational.   

I've also been thinking about the idea, or wishing there was a movement, to take a day like Sunday and just hit the pause button on capitalism. I'm a kid of the '80s and '90s and I can remember a time when almost everything was closed on a Sunday. There were essential services like grocery stores, and maybe the Mall was open for half a day...but for the most part everything else was closed. Kids were forced to find something to do. Me and my best friend, Chad, would ride our bicycles around, have adventures, sometimes get into innocent trouble because we went water sliding in drainage ditches (okay, not exactly safe in hindsight!) or we'd have sleepovers on Saturday nights. It was a 'reset' to the week. Now though? Everything is 'go, go' go' and 'sale, sale, sale'...There's no time to slow down at the weekend. No time to reset...This can't be healthy.

People need to shut things off for a while and just breathe, spend time with friends and family. Connect...Create bonds...Be human. We're losing our humanity in all of this crass commercialism...

Anyways...These are my thoughts for the day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
September 30th, 2020

I cannot believe it's already the end of another month! I think we're in some kind of weird time vortex, or the outer limits or something. It's so strange for so much to be happening in the world and have it feel like a blur.

It's been a wild few days...It started last Friday when a bunch of ranking officers swarmed into our pod and went to D-Section. They searched a couple of guys and one of them had a cell phone. This was right on the heels of them finding a cell phone on this pod a couple of weeks prior. We thought since they had found what they were looking for that that would be that, but Sunday evening we were told that our pod was about to be shaken down. They gave us the red property crates for us to pack our property into, and we were then on standby.

Monday came and they started the morning by doing showers, which was a bit of surprise. Everyone kept asking about the shake down and the guards didn't know when they'd begin. Then, at about 10.30am the professional Regional One team came pouring into A section about ten deep!

This crew is ruthless! They take their marching orders from Huntsville and no one else. They come in like heat seeking missiles with the latest technology, to find cell phones, weapons, and drugs, and don't think for a single second you're going to hide something from them because they are the elite shakedown team. The Navy Seals of searching a cell! If you were to hide a tiny cockroach turd, they'd find it.

They spent over FIVE HOURS in A-section! They were taking so long that we thought they were doing one section per day, when around 3pm they swung into B-section, pulled us out, and took us to isolated holding cages. I got back to my cell and it looked like a category 4 hurricane had come through...Everything was strewn about everywhere, and they confiscated my hot pot. Now, to be fair and honest, that was of my own doing because I had altered it so that it would 'boil'. I like to cook and I like to heat up the food they give us on the trays, and that's why I fix it to 'boil'.

For me, at least, other than losing my hot pot and having to clean up a disaster area, I came out okay. Others weren't so lucky.

On Tuesday they never came back to the pod to finish; instead, they jumped to another pod. Apparently they're doing it like this to be unpredictable because this morning they swung back to our pod and are currently shaking down D, E and F sections.

Also, we are currently going through a Death Row administration change and getting another new Warden...I don't know if it's a result of the cell phones popping up, or just routine. We go through Wardens back here like bubble gum, so who knows?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.
  
October 1st, 2020

I can't believe it's already October! It's almost like I've been in some weird kind of dream these past six or seven months. I mean, just about a year ago I was given the news that I received a stay of execution and trying to figure out how to reboot my life and 'live' again.

Speaking of my stay and legal affairs, I just received news yesterday (from one of my attorneys) that the State side of things has been handed off to Tarrant County, so whilst I'm fighting things in Dallas County, the DA Office of Tarrant County will be arguing for the State. I just have to say what my attorneys always tell me:

“It doesn't matter who fights us, the facts are the facts, and the facts are SOLID.”

So. as I was settling down for the evening last night, I was told that I was being moved to another cell on B-Pod. I was moved to B-48 cell, and it was kind of strange to pack all my belongings and move after being where I was for so long, but I did it and was in the new cell by 8.15pm. It took me until 10.30pm or so to scrub the cell and feel like I can settle down...The cell had a smell of pee to it, like whoever lived here before me kept missing the toilet. My neighbor told me the poor guy stayed drunk for most of the time, so that made sense. Anyways...I scrubbed and scrubbed, crashed, and then this morning I went over everything again and now it feels clean and bright.

This morning Regional One came in to shake down E and F sections. I don't know if they're finished yet, but this pod should be done by tonight, and hopefully we can all have a breather from the stress.

Earlier a guard came by and told us that we had to take our clothes lines down as per orders from the new warden over death row. He said we can only have them up from 6pm to 6am, and it seems like every time someone new takes over, the first thing they do is bark orders about our clothes lines and then Huntsville has to tell the new warden,

“No...it's fine. They don't leave their cells so they can keep their clothes lines up.”

Who knows what other rules he'll try to implement...

Tonight's movie on the prison radio station is 'Captain Marvel' – I'll definitely be listening to that. It's a surprisingly good movie! I listened to 'It: Chapter 2' last night, and it was my second time hearing it...It seemed better the second time.

In the first movie, Pennywise, the clown, is more playful and disarming...evil, yes, but also like a cat playing with a mouse. In the second movie he is far more menacing and out for revenge. That kind of threw me off on the first listen, but now I get it. After 27 years of waiting on the kids that beat him the first time around, he really wants to make them suffer as adults. I need one more listen though.

I'm looking forward to the weekend...Good music and movies to listen to, and I'm going to begin reading 'Frankenstein' with my girlfriend. We've decided to start reading some of the classics together at the same time. It's been a long time since I read Frankenstein, so I'm looking forward to it.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
October 4th, 2020

It's been a long and boring weekend, but you know what? I'm just happy to be here a year after my stay of execution, and I'm so grateful to be alive. Some would say that being kept in a cell all day long and not having any recreation, and not having any control over day to day affairs, isn't much of a life, and there was a time that I would have agreed with that. There was a time when I was younger that I would have much preferred to die than to experience life in this way. Not that I was suicidal at that time – I really wasn't...I wasn't in any hurry to die, but neither did I want a life sentence.

Being completely honest with myself, I still get bouts of anxiety thinking about a life spent in prison - spent in an Ad Seg type environment because of something that happened 20 years ago. But I also know that I can live...I can affect lives and hopefully help others and help to change things for the better. It might sound 'happy-clappy' but those are the kinds of thoughts that keep me going and keep me wanting to live. I want to live beyond myself, if that makes sense. Maybe the world could be a little bit better (no matter what kind of life we're living) if we lived beyond ourselves.

I can remember last year when I received my stay, like it were yesterday...It still seems dream like, in a way. Early that morning I was having a conversation with a good friend, Abel Ochoa (who, sadly, has since been executed) and another guy. I knew I'd be having a legal call later in the day – not a call I was looking forward to because the point of it was to discuss plans for my last days. I was full of anxiety, but still holding onto a sliver of hope. The conversation turned into a conversation about hope and believing that things aren't over until they're over, and the dude (who, ironically, received a stay a couple of weeks ago...) said,

“Y'all need to accept the reality of things. The odds are against you and just accept it.”

Abel quoted some scripture, and they went back and forth and the guy kept saying,

“I know what I did. I accept responsibility and I'm ready to go. Y'all are living in a fantasy world.”

I said,

“Yeah...I can accept reality, but I can still have hope.”

My time came for recreation and I went out, moped about a bit and made small talk with some guys. Whilst I was out there, a guy we call, 'Big White' was in C-Section and he told me,

“Keep your head up. It ain't over until it's over. I was two days away from being executed, and I've had a stay now for several years.”

I told him I appreciated what he said.

I listened to the Texas news at noon just to see if the CCA had made a ruling on my appeal, and when nothing was reported, I let out a sigh and thought,

“Please G-d don't let this drag out until the very end. I'd rather know now so I can mentally prepare myself if the worst is to happen.”

Shortly after that they took Rodney Reed out to a legal call and I joked with him about not hogging the phone because I was expecting a legal call myself. Then, around 1pm, I went out there to visitation for my call, and waited...I could see a couple of guys having regular visits with their friends, and there was a guy directly in front of me visiting with someone, and I waved at him and he gave me the 'what's going on with your case?' signal...I threw my hands up and shrugged like 'I have no clue'...

I had my call and my attorney asked me how I was doing. I said,

“I'm doing my best to have hope and hold on...”

There was a pause...Then he said,

“Well...you got a stay!” The CCA just sent you back to the trial court!”

In the background I could hear the other attorneys in the office clapping and cheering. I was in complete disbelief...I said something like,

“Are you serious?”

He said,

“Yeah!”

We joked for a second and then the phone line went dead! My mind was racing and I yelled to the officer, and then another guy asked me,

“What's going on?”

“I got a stay!” I blurted out...

“Stop playing!”

“No! For real! I just got a stay, but the phone line to my attorneys just went dead!”

The officer came back and said,

“You're making a bunch of noise to tell me you got a stay?”

I said,

“Well, I got a stay, but the line to my attorneys went dead...I need to call them back!”

She grabbed the phone and tried to get a call out. Meanwhile, the guy in front of me was looking at me like,

“What's going on?”

I quickly wrote on a piece of paper,

“CCA GRANTED MY STAY!”

(I still have that piece of paper I wrote that on...)

The guy blurted out to the other visitors,

“RANDY GOT A STAY!”

I could hear some people shouting,

“Hell yeah!”

Then, the office managed to get my attorneys back on the line and then it went dead again...

There was another of my attorneys visiting with someone a few booths away and he ran down to my booth, grabbed the phone, and said,

“Is is true?”

“Yeah!” I said.

“Oh, man...Oh man...Thank God! We all worked so hard on it! I can't wait to call them at the office.”

I was filled with so many different emotions...relief, gratitude, happiness...I thought about my Taffy and my friends, my Rabbis...I was trying to process so much all at once. I didn't want to leave the guys behind on Death Watch – I wish with all my heart we were all walking away from there that day. There is a kind of 'survivors guilt'...But I was beyond grateful for all of the hard work of so many people were who were truly behind me.

I wasn't sure when I left visitation if I'd be going back to my cell on Death Watch, but as soon as I entered the death row building a woman yelled,

“Take him to C-Pod!”

I asked about my property and she said it would be with me shortly. Everything felt surreal...like a dream. When I got to C-Pod some guys saw me come in and were like,

“Hell yeah!”

I made talk with some guys until my property arrived and I left it in the middle of my cell until the sun began to set. I didn't know what to do...I was still processing everything.

When I was on Death Watch I had made a prayer,

“Please G-d, let me see one more sunset before I die.”

I didn't think I'd ever get the chance because where I was on Death Watch, I couldn't see the sunset. But, the cell I was on in C-Pod was in the perfect position to watch a beautiful sunset on that very special day. As I watched the sun go down, I had tears in my eyes...I was just so glad to be alive.

A year later and we're still working our way through the appeals. I do know there's still a long fight ahead, and when I think about things I still get scared and have fits of anxiety. But as my attorneys have said numerous times,

“The facts are the facts, and the facts are SOLID.”

I'm so grateful to have lawyers who are so dedicated to doing their job. I have to believe, hope, and pray that the right thing will happen.

In the meantime, all I can do is live and continually work to be a better person than I was the day before...to learn as human being, and to love and be grateful for the love I receive and the life that I have. Life is what we choose to make it whatever situation we are in; and to quote 'Red' in 'Shawshank Redemption',

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
October 5th, 2020

Monday morning...I'm writing this, unsure of how the day will go. I've been to the shower and I'm waiting for 'The View' to come on...I enjoy that program especially in this political climate. I enjoy Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers – all smart, all funny, and all 3 can really pack a punch when it comes to making a point politically.

I woke up a bit early this morning; I'm trying to get myself back into a normal routine because I find I'm a bit more productive if I get an early start on things. With the pandemic, the lack of recreation, and now the lockdown, I've been staying up late, sleeping in until almost 8am, and I find it's difficult to get a hold on the day like that. I'm naturally a morning person and I do my best thinking in the morning.

So, I went to the shower, came back, and put some laundry in my sink. I'll rinse that out in a little bit and then figure out what to do next. At 1pm on the prison radio station they're starting a new show called the 'Singles Palooza' where we can send in requests for a song. If they have it, they'll play it. I've sent in a few over the last couple of weeks, so I hope to hear at least one. Then, at 3pm, the album of the day will be Billie Eilish. I've heard this particular album before and it's fantastic! I love, love, love Billie Eilish!

We're still on lockdown and expected to be on it until some time next week. Thinking about it...we really don't get recreation at all now and all the days seem the same, so it really doesn't matter. Something has to change though, and I wish there was a way to have some kind of stimulation in other ways...You hear the wishes for TVs, but I mean...it seems like the most reasonable option. I will always want to get out of my cell, and get fresh air, and walk around. But a good chunk of guys would be equally as content to watch TV. And hey, there's a way to limit TV time...they can control our lights with a switch, so they could have the TVs plugged into the same control and flip the switch if people are acting up. If you don't want people staying up all night long, flip the switch. Never mind that it's the ultimate control tool for behavior! People will always act up, so it's easy for them to take the TV out of their cell for a period of time.

With channels like National Geographic, access to the news and other channels, think of the education and mental stimulation that could be gained from that...We'll see what happens, but something needs to change!

Hopefully this day will shape up well and I will update this later on. Right now I'm going to listen to The View and pace my cell for a bit. Then, I'll begin reading, 'Moby Dick'. I've been reading the classics with my girlfriend whose knowledge of English Literature is really impressive! We have a whole list to get through this autumn/winter.

I just heard a funny conversation. The lieutenant just walked through and a guy down the run asked him,

“When we gonna get off of this lockdown?”

To which the lieutenant responded,

“When y'all stop getting cell phones!”

The inmate didn't miss a beat!

“Well, shit! Y'all are the one's bringing them in, so when is that going to stop?”

The lieutenant didn't have anything to say after that...I thought it was funny, but very true.

You know, it had me thinking about this multi-million dollar security system they've invested in that is about as worthless as a kayak with a hole in it. They just 'upgraded' the cameras earlier this year, replaced every single one that was installed in 2009 and they've accomplished nothing. I guess cameras are only as good as the people watching them, huh?

I've been spending some time looking out my window. I can watch the front of the prison from the parking lot all the way into the prison and there's a shocking number of people – guards, nurses, administrative personnel...NONE of whom are wearing masks! Some of them cluster together on the pavement, definitely not socially distancing! It freaks me out and makes me feel like it's inevitable that we'll have another outbreak. Shouldn't it be TDCJ policy that the second you exit your vehicle, you mask should be ON?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
October 7th, 2020

Another day on lock-down. You know, I had a thought earlier this morning as I was exercising...There's no doubt that the collective of death row is restless, a bit stir crazy, and tired of being kept confined to cells almost 24/7 since last March. I mean, recreation is almost non-existent! There's been no visits, and they've ended the routine phone calls they were allowing going back to one call every 90 days...and even through all of that, we, as a collective, have carried ourselves with dignity. We haven't lashed out...There hasn't been any assaults or incidents outside of a mentally ill guy who'd had a difficult day.   

I ask these questions a lot: Where is the evidence that the majority of us are 'future threats of dangerousness'? Where is the evidence that we are maniacal mad people? I mean, there is really no carrot they can dangle over our heads to keep us in 'good behaviour', and yet we remain decent.

I had a funny idea...I starting thinking about songs that, at least in title, would make a special edition 'Trump Mix Tape'...Now, lyrically, the songs don't all pertain to Trump, but thinking of the titles made me think of the clown he is. Here they are:

'Liar' – Rollins Band
'Criminal' – Fiona Apple
'Loser' – Beck
'Policy of Truth' – Depeche Mode
'Cult of Personality' – Living Colour
'Been Caught Stealing – Jane's Addiction
'Taxman' – The Beatles
'Highway to Hell' – ACDC   
'My Name is Mud' – Primus

Anyways, thinking of these songs made me laugh!

I've not been doing much today; just listening to NatGeo, and I'll probably torture myself and listen to the VP debates tonight.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 11th, 2020

October is well on its way and we are now two weeks on lockdown. I know that we're still on lockdown because we've not had showers either Saturday or today...and I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that you wouldn't want people going to the shower during a pandemic. I think trying to figure out TDCJ is an exercise in futility...

It's been a relatively peaceful weekend though. Last night's movie on the prison radio station was 'Pretty in Pink'. I heard someone down the run moan and say,   

“A freakin' chick flick?”   

I yelled out,   

“Man, this is a classic! Don't judge it on its title – listen to it and then tell me what you think.”

The movie came out in 1986 and I don't remember watching it until I was in my teens. In fact, speaking of John Hughes movies, outside of maybe 'Uncle Buck', the first 'Home Alone' movie, and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', I hadn't seen any of Hughes' movies because I always viewed them as 'chick flicks'. My mom had them on DVD but I just never watched them. So, discovering them as a teen was something to behold. How could a movie speak so true to my feelings as a teenager?

Listening to it as a 43-year-old, I was in nostalgic heaven, and it was awesome to hear it again. When the movie was over, the same guy who judged it prematurely, said,   

“That was really good! And the music...I didn't know all of those great '80s songs were in that movie!”

I laughed and said,   

“I hope they continue with these '80s movies at night. There are so many good ones.”

Anyways, it was a nice moment and I hope we get to hear more.   

I had realised this weekend that it was the 30 year anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah. I had turned 13 in September, and I should have had it on my birthday, but there was some kind of scheduling conflict so it was pushed back to October.   

It was a crazy time as a 13 year old! In my elementary years I was a bit of a geek...Then, something happened and I was suddenly noticed by girls and became 'popular'. Over the summer of 1990, I had a growth spurt and was one of the biggest kids going into the 7th grade, and I was no longer picked on. There was an invisible power in that...and still, I had always felt like I didn't really belong. There was a lot of conflict within me in that feeling.   

I did embrace the new life that 7th grade afforded me, although my grades suffered and I began to care less about school. However, for my Bar Mitzvah, I poured all of my heart into my studies when I needed to. I wanted to make my father proud, and I also knew that family would be coming in from all over the country to see me and I didn't want to disappoint anyone.   

I had a girlfriend from my synagogue at the time – Shoshana – so it was an exciting time for me. When it got to the Friday (before I would read from the Torah) I was a bundle of nerves. My beloved Aunt Carol who was battling cancer, was coming to the ceremony...all of my dad's side of the family were coming as well. The plan was, after school, to go out and have a nice dinner. Then I would lead Friday night's services for Shabbat. I went to school, and because of my nerves, I ended up feeling queasy and I threw up all over the place. Still, I pushed through it and when the nurse asked if I wanted her to call my parents and have me go home, I said,

“No!”

I was not going to have the day ruined.    

After school, I took the bus home and dad was waiting for me. He was making last minute plans for the Saturday night party that was going to be held at our house, and then he said we were going to drive up to D/FW airport to pick up Aunt Carol. He told me to get dressed up nicely for the evening, then Mom came home from work and we headed out.   

I remember seeing the entire family later that evening and we went to a sea food place and then drove to the Synagogue. I saw my friends all sitting together, including my girlfriend. I lead the services and afterwards everyone shook hands with me, and I received a ton of hugs and kisses on the cheek. Then, my girlfriend took me outside to the playground. She said something like,   

“Well, I'll give you your birthday present...”

She leaned in to kiss me and our mouths opened, and it was my first kiss with tongues! What was funny about that moment was when we were younger, attending Hebrew school, Shoshana was also a bit of an outsider/geek, as I was, and she blossomed into a really pretty girl when she turned 13. She used to tell us these crazy stories, and once she told me a story about a swing accident in which she bit her tongue off and had to have it stitched back on...During our kiss, I remember thinking,   

“I hope her tongue doesn't fall off!”

Sheesh! When she pulled away, she kissed my neck and got some lipstick on my dress shirt, so when I returned to my family my brother, Wesley, saw the lipstick and his eyes went big...

“I'm telling!” He said.   

“Telling what?” I asked.   

“You've been kissing a girl!”

He ran off and told my mom and I remember her just laughing it off.   

On the Saturday we drove to the synagogue and I would be leading morning services. Everyone arrived and it was much the same, only this time I would carry the Torah around the congregation and then read from it. I was nervous and afraid I would drop it somehow because I've always been a world class klutz, and there's not a day that goes by when I'm not tripping over something or knocking something over. Thank G-d nothing happened on that day!

I read from the Torah, and then I stood in front of the Ark of the Torah where my dad put his hands on my shoulders and blessed me. I remember standing there feeling so proud and full of emotion as tears streamed down my face. My dad hugged and kissed me, and then after that I read a speech about 'becoming a man' that I'd written. I had added a few self-deprecating jokes to it that went over well, and the congregation laughed. I was so proud of that speech.   

Years later, I read an interview with Sheriff Bill Waybourn, and despite the fact that it was littered with half truths and bare faced lies, the one true thing he did say was that he remembered that speech on the day of my Bar Mitzvah, and he thought,   

“Wow, the kid can write...He's going somewhere in life.”

The service ended and I knew everyone would meet up again later that evening for the party at our house. We drove back home and I changed my clothes and we had some time to kill. My mom took Wesley and I a few blocks away to a harvest festival. We walked up there and I remember entering a raffle to win a foot scooter. Back then, I had an uncanny ability to win raffles and contests. Now, I didn't think I'd win the scooter because the bowl was filled with hundreds of tickets, but I took a chance and bought Wesley and myself a few tickets.   

We walked around for a bit, played some games, and when it was time for the raffle I took my ticket stub out of my pocket and waited as the smaller prizes were handed out. Wesley won a fish tank! He was excited, and I said,   

“You're carrying that thing home.”

When the time came for the scooter prize to be drawn, I thought it was going to be a bust for me. We spent our good luck on a freakin' fish bowl! But as the numbers were called out, each one matched mine and I won! I couldn't believe it. We went and collected our prizes and I remember feeling like the luckiest kid on the planet. A year later, that scooter nearly killed me...

When we got home my parents couldn't believe our luck either. My Aunt Carol and other relatives congratulated us. I watched as the caterers for the party were laying out food and bottles of wine. If I'm honest, the party looked like something more for adults than for me, but I was so happy at that time, I didn't care.   

My friends showed up and we hung out and goofed around in the back yard. Wesley disappeared for a bit and suddenly showed up full of fear...He had a history of creating mischief and this night would be no different.   

“I think I broke the neighbors' window!” He cried.   

“You did what?” I asked, in disbelief.   

“I was playing with some rocks in our driveway and threw one...I heard a crash. Don't tell on me!”

I took a deep breath, and fearful of bringing the party to an end, I decided it would be best to not tell my parents. The neighbors were at the party too, but I knew the daughter...She was a couple of years older than me and was babysitting her baby brother. I figured I could work something out with her.   

I grabbed Wesley by the shirt and dragged him next door. We could hear a baby crying, and when I saw the broken window I muttered,   

“Shit...” and rang the doorbell.   

The girl opened it and said,   

“What?”

“Uh...my brother accidentally broke y'all's window, and I was-”

“He what?!?”

Suddenly she lunged at Wesley! I pushed him behind me and said,   

“Hey! Calm down...Please! We just wanted to apologise and work something out. I'll give you some of my Bar-Mitzvah money if you say you accidentally broke the window. No one needs to get into any trouble.”

“Oh no...No way! Your brother is going to pay for this!”   

She ran around me and straight to our house to find her parents. It was too late. Her parents talked to my parents and abruptly left. I think it was agreed that Wesley would do chores for the neighbours to pay for the window.

Thankfully, the party continued on, and it was a night I would never forget.   

One more thing that stood out at my Bar-Mitzvah...My Aunt Carol, in her weakest state from chemotheraphy, had hand-stitched a Tallit bag for me...A bag for my prayer shawl. It was maroon, and had a gold stitched menorah on it with my initials on the bottom. It meant more to me than any other gift I received that day and the fact she used what little energy she had to do this for me...I cherished that bag, even more so when the following February, she passed away.   

That was my Bar-Mitzvah...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 12th, 2020

I think I've slept harder than I've ever slept in a long time...I slept through breakfast and I didn't even wake up when the guards opened my door slot to drop some toilet paper in. I woke up at about 6am and decided to get up and start the day. I exercised and then waited for a shower that for some reason hasn't happened at the time of writing this. It's now been 3 days since we've been allowed a shower.   

Early this morning the head warden of the unit gave us an update on things, and he stated that there's been an increase in positive COVID cases. He said that because of this it would now be even longer before he saw visits resuming, which was upsetting news.   

What's really frustrating about this, at least for Death Row, is that we're not getting any recreation...We're not getting the two week phone calls...We're not getting any minister visits, legal visits or regular visits that so many guys depend upon for mental well being...We're not getting anything!...No kind of mental stimulation whatsoever...No fresh air regularly...I know it sounds like whining, but it needs to be said.   

The warden also said that there's a Special Prosecutor now in place, and he will go after anyone involved in the use of or smuggling of illegal contraband, i.e. cell phones and drugs. He said they are prosecuting everyone involved 'to the full extent of the law.' So...there's that.   

WOW...they just started showers at 3pm. The guards just said they've finished shaking down the building and we might be off lockdown tomorrow!

I'm now on chapter 10 of Frankenstein, and I'm just about done reading Moby Dick – I'll probably finish that later this evening.   

That's my day in a nutshell!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 13th, 2020

We actually had recreation today, and the lockdown is over with. Initially I was scheduled for 4th round rec which would've been late in the afternoon, but a guy who was scheduled for 2nd round asked me if I wouldn't mind swapping with him so he could go out later...That was fine with me.   

To say that the day has been chaotic is the understatement of the year. The officers act like they forget how to operate when we go long periods without recreation...Things quickly turn into insanity!

While I was out at rec a guy upstairs from me noticed that the guards weren't putting anyone outside. He told me to ask the officers working if he could go outside, so I asked the woman doing the paperwork,   

“Excuse me, ma'am...the guy in 50 cell wants to know if he can go outside, seeing as it's open and all.”

She looks at me, blinks as if I'm speaking a foreign language, and says,   

“I ain't gonna do that because it'll mess up the system I'm working with.”

“Yeah, but the rec yard is open and it makes sense to utilise that rec yard, and you'll have less rec to do or to leave for 2nd shift, and it ensures that people actually have a chance to go to recreation.”

Blink...Blink....Blink...

“So?” I continued.  

“It may seem like I don't know what I'm doin' but I do. I just ain't figured it out yet. Be patient with me.”

“Clearly.” I said.

I looked at the guy in 50 call and said,   

“She said 'no'.”

And that was that. They never did put anyone outside the entire day.

I spent 3 hours at rec, which was nice, but it wore me out. I worked out, chatted with some people, and then I was fortunate enough to go straight to the shower.   

The rest of the day I was tired, and waited on mail.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 14th, 2020

Today has been one of those 'bleh' kind of days. I knew we weren't going to have rec today, but I woke up early and decided to get a jump ahead on the day and get my workout done. I was fine yesterday, no soreness, but lately my hip flexer has been tender...This morning it felt like it was on fire! I'm thinking this has to do with my mattress as it's several years old and starting to fall apart. I've requested a new one but I'm always told,   

“You're on a waiting list.”

There a policy here called, 'The Decency Policy', and it requires all inmates to have a mattress in their cell. I sometimes feel like kicking this thing out my door and having it thrown away, just so they HAVE to give me a new one.   

Anyways...I backed off exercising and instead paced back and forth until it was my turn for the shower. When I got back I started a letter to my girlfriend, and began my day.   

For most of the day I've been listening to the radio and reading off and on. These political advertisements in Texas are ridiculous – for both parties! Each party describes the other as nothing short of being a monster. They're utterly ridiculous, and the one I roll my eyes at the most is some sheriff talking about some District Attorney race and he says,   

“If I say it you know it's true...So and so wants to abolish prisons and let gang members free from jail to roam your neighborhood. You won't be safe with him.”

Okay, firstly, that's just a big crock of dog doo doo...No single person has it in his power to 'abolish prisons' and who in their right mind would?? What sane person would think the chaos of that could be a good thing?? What he's trying to do is conflate prison REFORM and restorative justice with 'letting prisoners go.' So, no Mr Sheriff! If you say it, it isn't necessarily true. You're trying to scare voters and manipulate them which is actually very dangerous.   

Another advertisement has a woman running for Senator – a Democrat – and one I actually support, but her ad is ridiculous. She talks about when serving in the military and in Afghanistan, and her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban. Another helicopter comes and rescues them and she straps herself to the landing skids of the helicopter and returns fire on the Taliban...Now, whilst I'm sure some of that story is true, all I can see is a Hollywood action movie in my head, with a soaring and pulsating score in the background. It just sounds so far fetched that this would be how you get people to vote for you. What does any of that have to do with policies??   

Another ad from a Republican is where he talks about his grandma and the chocolate chip cookies she used to bake, and he'd sell, showing that he “knows how to take care of small businesses!”

Listen, if you're deciding how to vote for someone based on a 30 second political ad, then there's something wrong here. Do your research and please make an informed judgement based upon that research.   

That's my rant for the day!

I'm on chapter 12 of Frankenstein now...The narrative changes from Victor to the monster, and I love that the monster gets to share his perspective on being rejected and not seen as human. It allows the reader to empathise with him. Even in real life when someone does something so completely unacceptable, it's easy to label the person with all manner of titles. Good people will always want to listen and get to the root of that person's problem...When we do that we get to know the root of the action, and that it's far more complicated than just black and white.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 16th, 2020

It's a very nice and cool Friday, although I feel a bit anxious today. It's probably because we have a really mean spirited guard working. I really don't understand why she is even working this pod when so many people have written legitimate harassment complaints against her, and the majority of her own co-workers don't like her because she creates chaos every single time she works.   

We're not having rec today...Not that I expected it for our section. Yesterday they ran rec for only two sections on the pod – C and D, and I currently live on D. I went outside and it was lovely...We were stuck outside for 4 ½ hours, which I didn't mind at all. It was warm, and the clean and fresh air was wonderful! I cherished every single minute of it...The way things are right now, it might be a long time before I get outside again.   

We were expecting commissary yesterday and they usually arrive no later than 3pm with our orders, but I knew that when it got to second shift, they wouldn't be coming. Then, close to 7pm, they suddenly showed up! I've never seen that happen before. Apparently a couple of the employees who run commissary suddenly quit, so that department is now understaffed as well. It's abundantly clear that nobody wants to work in a prison anymore – even when work is hard to find right now. We get these new officers by the dozen each week. They come in, work for a couple of weeks, and then vanish.   

I think it comes down to two key issues...If you have any kind of empathy or a smidgen of a heart, you don't want to see prisoners treated the way they are. Plus, the media and the justice system portrays the collective whole as 'violent thugs' and criminals, and yes there are some, but there are plenty of violent people who are not in prison...So...

And then there's the officers who see a completely different side of things. So many of them have told us over the years that we are not what they expected us to be...Go figure!

The other issue is just poor management. The people who make supervisor or 'rank' are often immature and don't know how to resolve problems or how to lead, or even how to treat their fellow co-workers. In fairness, they aren't given the necessary training, so how can we expect them to do their job to its full extent?

That's my take on things anyways...

I digress...It was weird seeing commissary coming so late.   

Nothing more to report today; just an average kind of day.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


October 18th, 2020

I realised as I was about to begin this journal that our Presidential Elections will have been decided by the time this entry is posted...weird, and slightly scary. Well, big breath of air and... “Let's Go Joe!” G-d willing...

It's unusually loud for a Sunday morning. For some reason on this side of the pod, everything is amplified and it echoes around like a cavern. For someone like me who is very noise sensitive, and with supersonic hearing, it all gets mixed in my brain as a cacophony of sounds and can be really, really irritating.

It's been a fairly uneventful weekend. They've not done any recreation since Friday, and there's not been a really good explanation as to why. They keep saying that they're 'short staffed' but we've had 3 officers working the pod every single day, and they have extra officers to do things like pull guys out for legal phone calls and medical...So, it sounds like a big crop of crap.   

Here's a plea and call to action for those who have loved ones on Death Row, or pen pals...Please get with organisations like TIFA or call TDCJ or even the warden of Polunsky and explain how important it is for us to get to recreation on a regular basis. The warden himself has said that he does not see visitation opening up any time soon. Make a request that we get a 5 minute phone call every other week, like they were doing a while back.

I don't like to sound like I'm complaining...I'm naturally introverted...I enjoy my own silence and treasure it as a gift, but I'm not anti-social and I do not like being couped up in a cell 24/7 or not having routine contact with my loved ones.   

Anyways...I hope this next week will be nice and peaceful. I still cannot believe that we're just two weeks away from the holiday season! I'm looking forward to all of it and even though I'm Jewish, I enjoy the movies, the music, and the spirit of the season!

That's it for now. My brain is kind of all over the place today and I can't really focus on much.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 19th, 2020

A very boring Monday...They ran rec for E/B sections, but that's the only two sections they did on the pod. This rec schedule makes zero sense, and here's the thing: You'd think the guards would be done with everything by now and have all of the showers done, but they're not...More than likely they will leave work for second shift to do, so if the goal was to finish their work load early, they've failed horribly.   

My friend, Clinton, came over to the day room in my section and has been stuck in there now for almost four hours. It's cool though because we've not really had much time to talk recently, but we had a great conversation about hope and how we both have very good chances for retrials. I hope it works out for him.   

I found myself getting a bit anxious and restless today...It happens from time to time, and I think if I had more things to do to distract myself, and have a bit more structure than the chaos and uncertainty of the past year, I'd be able to cope with these feelings in a better way. What a weird year it's been for everyone!

So, last night was very interesting. A guard came to a guy's cell with a phone, and let him make a call. They put the phone up to his door on speaker-phone, and fortunately everyone on my section was quiet and respectful. He had a five minute call, and then they went to another cell, but that guy didn't get through. I guess instead of taking us out of our cells now, they'll just bring the phone to us and put it on speaker-phone.  

I asked the guy later if it was his 90 day call, or a call like they'd been allowing us earlier this year, and he said he just put in a request so he wasn't sure. I went and ahead and filled out a request, and sent it in. I can but hope. I guess I'll know in the next week or so whether my request is approved or not.   

And that's been my day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 21st, 2020

Yesterday our section had recreation and I went outside first round. It was nice to get outside and get some fresh air. There's a guy down the run from me who has this 'sense of entitlement' and he threw a fit because he also had to go to rec first round. He got into an argument with the guard, saying he wanted to out second round, but the guard was having none of it.   

The inmate told the guard,   

“I don't do first round! I want to go second round!”

To which the female officer said,   

“I don't care what you do or don't do. You'll either go out first round or not at all. Your choice.”

They bickered back and forth, and he cussed her out and said,   

“Fine.”

A lot of times the guards don't want to argue with him so they let him have his way...But it's annoying to the rest of us. The guy I was outside with said he had been living next to him for over a year now and was sick of him, and couldn't wait to be moved away from him.   

One of these days the dude is going to piss off the wrong guard and it isn't going to be good for him. I don't like seeing my fellow inmates treated badly in any kind of way – none of us do – so it upsets me when I see dudes behave in a way that could get them into trouble. It's not that I don't get the frustrations of this place...I get as frustrated at the next person, but nobody needs any extra frustrations in this place.   

After I came back in they shut everything down, so he wouldn't have been able to go to rec second round anyway. They said the big exterminator was coming, but he never did. They didn't even resume showers until that evening.   

Speaking of evenings, mine was good last night. There's a program on the Prison Radio Station at 9pm – it's a new wave '80s/'90s alternative music show and they call it 'The Lizard Lounge' based on an actual club in Houston and in Dallas back in the day. That's the program that usually plays one or two Cure songs. So, I thought I'd send in a playlist of song suggestions I'd really like to hear, and see if the DJ would play them. Last night he played the entire list! I was super excited and listening to the songs for an hour, I was proud of myself for the vibe...All of the songs meshed really well and I thought I'd share the song list in this journal. He played them in this exact order:

Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies
What's On Your Mind? (Pure Energy) – Information Society
Flesh for Fantasy – Billy Idol
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? - Paula Cole
In a Big Country – Big Country
Rapture – Blondie
Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
Midnight City – M83
I Think I'm in Love – Beck
Letting the Cables Sleep – Bush
Beautiful Girl – INXS
Saved By Zero – The Fixx
Walls Come Tumbling Down – Erasure
Under the Milky Way – The Church
Ruined in a Day – New Order
Inbetween Days (Remix) – The Cure

It's a really good mix!

Today they have rec shut down again, saying the exterminator is going to come around...We'll see what happens.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 27th, 2020

Insanity...That's the only way to explain this place and what's been going on for the past week. We're on our second lockdown within a month, and as I write this we're waiting to go through another shakedown. It's stressful, and really it's unnecessary because they have the technology to find what they're looking for in a matter of seconds.   

Still, it bothers me more that we just can't ever seem to get to recreation with any kind of normalcy...I'm sick and tired of being trapped in the cell!!

Also, the food they've been giving us has been the worst ever...I shared an article some time ago about the sack meals they give, and as a result of that the article TDCJ had promised to improve the quality of the food. During the summer, for the COVID-19 lockdown/quarantine, there were some improvements in the form of real milk, fresh veggies, and fruit, and even some palatable pouch meals. But for the life of me, whoever is in charge now clearly doesn't care.   

Here's what we've been having consistently:

Breakfast: two pancakes with a smear of peanut butter...The peanut butter has been cut with oil, and that's no joke! When they first gave it to us my stomach was in knots for a whole day – it was horrible. We get a biscuit with that and sometimes there might be a hard boiled egg.   

Lunch: Cut peanut butter and jelly, and a corn dog, and maybe about 20 raisins. The corn dog might be substituted with something we collectively call 'cat food' – pureed bologna with added mustard or relish. They smear about two tablespoons of that on some bread.   

Dinner: The same as lunch...The exact same thing...

There's little variation from day to day, week to week, and one day they gave us cornbread with meat crumbles mixed in. Another day they gave us a soggy chicken pattie, but this has been what they've been feeding us. It's by far the worst sack meals we have ever had, and if you write prisoners back here just ask them...This is no embellishment or exaggeration.   

I don't like complaining about the food, I really don't. I try to remain mindful that people are starving all across the world. However, I guarantee if you gave one of these sacks to a homeless person, they would peer inside and look at you like,   

“Are you playing with me?”   

They would probably throw it away...It really is that bad.   

Well, the Supreme Court is now a 6-3 majority for conservatives. How that will affect us on death row remains to be seen. It's scary, especially since (in the past week) two guys from this pod were just given execution dates. Now, the new Justice appointed (as a matter of her Catholic faith) is personally opposed to the Death Penalty...or so she has written about in legal journals over the years. But just as progressives have demanded she recuse herself because of personal beliefs on issues such as Roe V. Wade, I would assume many Catholics demand she recuse herself on capital punishment cases as well. Everything is up in the air and yet to be seen. We just have to wait and see...G-d be with us.   

I can't believe it's almost November...Time is flying!   

Not much else to report today – just waiting to get this shakedown over with.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 29th, 2020

Thursday morning it's f-f-f-f-reezing! I mean, it really is cold! It took a lot of willpower to crawl out from under the blanket this morning, but here I am getting a jump on the day and hoping for the best.   

Yesterday they did our shakedown again. They did F and E sections during the day time, and then around 7pm they pulled out my section (D) and took us to some holding cages in the hallway as they searched our cells. My cell was a  mess when I returned...Nothing was missing or trampled on like the one we had a few weeks ago, but it took me a long time to straighten and clean my cell up. I was glad to be back in good order.

My neighbours are so funny! They keep me laughing. One is choc full of conspiracy theories, and thinks the guards are always messing with him...The other tells the wildest and most grandiose stories I've ever heard! I think he truly believes them...

So, last night as I was trying to get to sleep, they were talking. The guy to my right said,  

“You know, in the last shakedown they took my book, but I see they returned it today.”

I jumped into the conversation (from bed, I should add, blanket pulled up to my chin and snug as a bug in a rug!) and said,   

“Wait...that doesn't even make sense! Why would a guard take your book, keep it for three weeks, and then say,   

“Well I'm searching his cell...maybe I should return that book I stole. He'll never notice it!”

I mean...dude...are you sure you just didn't find it after reorganising your things? Maybe misplaced it? It would make more sense for the guard to just read it, take it home, or throw it away...

He replied,   

“Oh no! You'd think that, but they do that kind of stuff to me all the time.”

Oooooookay!

Something that isn't funny at all is the food they're feed us. I've been locked up 25 years and I've never seen it this bad. I don't know how they're getting away with it either. If I had to guess what our calorie intake is on a daily basis, right now, it's barely 1100 calories...And it's all sugar/carbs. Bread upon bread, and that's it!

Breakfast this morning was two pancakes and some kind of square piece of dough with sugar in it. Yesterday, lunch was a corn dog and PB&J sandwich. That was it! The diabetics here must have problems with their blood sugar levels, and the medical staff isn't expressing any concern to the administration or to the kitchen staff.   

After the report from Kerry Blakinger last summer, we were promised the food would get better, and it's only gotten worse. I really don't like complaining about it, but what they're doing is inhumane and cruel, and it's going to end in long term health damage for all of us.   

Anyways...I feel like I'm whining, but it's a serious issue. I mean, who puts vegetable oil in the peanut butter to spread it out?

All that being said, I'm in a relatively decent mood. It's a beautiful and bright day, and I'm dreading the elections next week...Come Tuesday the 3rd I'll be a nervous wreck, but I have to just believe that it will all turn out the way it should. I have to believe this country will come to its senses and course correct things...It's our only hope.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
October 31st, 2020

Happy Hallowe'en!! It's a bright and beautiful Saturday – the last of the month. I woke up feeling full of positive energy, even if we've now been on our lockdown for almost two weeks. Eating this awful food has my stomach torn up from the inside out, and this is expected to go on for another week or longer. But as my Taffy always says: Onwards and upwards!   

I'm loving this fall weather spell we've been having. It got really cold the other day, and they turned the heat on which made it feel nice and cozy. In the mornings I have to fight myself to get get out of bed, but it feels just perfect...just like fall should feel.   

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The prison radio station had been out for a few days. The DJ, who goes by the name, 'Megamind', (an inmate in general population who has been assigned to handle programming etc.) came back on around noon and explained why the station had gone out. Apparently, the office where the radio station equipment is kept – thousands of dollars worth of equipment, donated by various Churches and volunteer services in the free world – is in an indoor gym in general population. Well, some guards were shaking this gym down for contraband, and decided to ransack the office and mess with the equipment as well. The DJ said he could tell it was done deliberately, and with malice, and asked us to pray for those who carried such hate in their hearts.   

Anyways...everything was running smoothly by the afternoon, although my heart was crushed at 3pm when they did the afternoon 'Album Spotlight'. I was super excited when I heard the Cure's opening notes to the song. 'Plainsong' – the first track of the Disintegration album. It played for about a minute and then clicked off. The DJ then came back on and said,   

“Oops! Wrong album! It's supposed to be Boston today...”

I was crushed!

Later that evening he began the audio movies and announced the beginning to the Hallowe'en Fright Fest. He played 'It: Chapter One' and 'It: Chapter Two'. At 3am (waaaay to early for me) he was going to play, 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose', and tonight it's going to be the original 'Child's Play' and 'The Nun'.

I'm taking the day off from politics news today...I'm already a nervous wreck anticipating Election Day. I'm surrounded by Trump supporters here, which is just mind boggling to me, especially since the dude is so fond of the Death Penalty.

I received a wonderful letter from my girlfriend last night, as well as some other great mail in general...It really has my hopes and spirits running high! It's going to be a good day, and I hope we're going into what will turn out to be a great month!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
November 8th, 2020

It's a new day in America! There's a song by U2 on their 'War' album, called '40', and it's based on Psalm 40. I think of the line,

"I will sing a new song."

That's what's been going around in my mind.

It's been a long and stressful week starting with election day. I wanted to write a journal, but every time I sat down to do it, I found it hard to not spew a ton of verbal vomit, so I waited as patiently as I could. Believe me, for one who is anxious (even if often people say I always look calm and peaceful...my girlfriend always calls me a 'swan' because above water I look graceful, but below I'm kicking furiously) and neurotic by nature...it was difficult! Especially as results were taking days to come out, but moreso because I would listen to some of the officers who voted for Trump repeat baseless claims of election fraud, saying things like,

"They're stealing the election. Trump said they would do this."

It's easy for me to blurt out things like, 'idiot', and I'm guilty of it from time to time. But I think we're at a place where insults aren't really going to get the country anywhere, as a whole. I don't know what the solution is...I don't know why people believe in conspiracy theories...I don't know whether more progressive values or conservative values makes any of us less or better than the other when it obviously doesn't. So, it begs the question: How do we find middle ground?

I really believe, and it's my fervent hope that Biden is the person who can calm things down, bring us together, and begin to heal our country. We need that more than ever.

I told a friend back here (a die hard Trump fan...),

"Dude...I'm glad Trump is outta here, but I love you, and it's going to be alright."

And I mean that...

Yesterday was a good day. Just as news broke that Biden was declared the winner, the guards started to schedule recreation. Our three week lockdown was ending, and I wasn't expecting rec because we had already had our showers. Our section was set up for outside which was perfect. It was warm, but not hot. The sun was out and I enjoyed every minute of it. I kept getting teary-eyed as I thought about the election and Biden's win. The feeling I had can be summed up in one word: Relief! The emotions were very much the same emotions I had on the day I received my stay of execution. I was thinking...

"Thank G-d...now I can move forward."

Four years of Trump were devastating to our country. I don't think that is an opinion or point of view - it's fact! I think history will bear that out. Who knows what the next four years will bring? But I think if people stay engaged and participate in their democracy...if they are willing to find middle ground...willing to compromise on some things...We'll come out a little bit better than we were before.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


  
November 17th, 2020

Sigh...another day trapped inside of my cell with nowhere to go and very little to do. It seemed that last week things were looking up. We had several straight days of recreation, and I was able to get out of my cell and start up my jogging routine and get back into the groove. We all felt that with an influx of brand new guards, they would start getting us back to a normal schedule. Then, a ton of old guards up and quit and we were back to being short-handed again. It seems to be a vicious cycle...Hire new guards, old guards quit...Nothing changes...Rinse and repeat. It's become so bad that even as I type this the night time guard is still here this morning, working overtime until they finish the showers. Hey, at least we're getting showers, right?

Well, last Friday was a bit strange because I had just come back from the shower early in the morning, and started to clean my cell and do some laundry, when a guard showed up to my door and said,   

“Hey, you need to pack your stuff and get ready to move.”

I was dumbfounded. For one, they rarely ever move me these days, and for two, I've never been moved that early in the morning. I asked the guard where I was moving to and he told me A-Pod. I wasn't upset about it...To be honest, whilst I love my friends on B-Pod, I was ready to move off the pod. There was too much negative energy there from a few, and it was kind of messing up my own positivity because I felt like I was walking on eggshells around certain individuals. Not to mention the noise on that pod – it was pretty bad!

I wondered if I'd be moved during the day or later that evening, but around lunch I was shuffled over to A-Pod. The first thing I noticed is how quiet it is over here! Some guys yelled out their 'hellos' to me, but it was quiet apart from that. The cell was nice and clean and thank G-d there doesn't seem to be any cockroaches! I still cleaned and scrubbed before I settled in, but it didn't require the effort that other cells sometimes need.

My only complaint is that the reception for my radio isn't great, and my view sucks. All I can see is the medical building, and on the horizon, the tree line poking over the top of other buildings. For the past few days, even though there's been no rec, it's been peaceful. Everyone is positive and I'm around some good friends here, and haven't been able to speak with them since I got my execution date last year.   

Today is our commissary day, and after over five weeks without, everyone is eagerly awaiting its arrival. I told my neighbour,   

“I've been craving chips for so long that I'm just going to grab a bag and obliterate it...I'll be spitting out pieces of plastic. I don't care!” (ha ha)

Anyways...today is my brother, Wesley's, birthday; he's 40 years old. Whenever I think of him I see the same kid that would get on my nerves, but I loved him to pieces anyway – even when we'd fight. I was thinking of a memory to share...Because he got into trouble a lot, it was often my responsibility to look after him and be in charge. That came with its own set of headaches, and we'd squabble if he wouldn't listen to me. But I look back at those times and miss them, and I miss him.   

I think when I look back at us, the things I feel most guilty about is not being there after leaving home in the summer of '95, and at times, when we would fight I'd say,   

“Sometimes I wonder if you're even my real brother at all!!”   

I never meant it and even thinking of those words now brings some tears to my eyes. But just like my little brothers, I wish I had been there for him. I think with some stability at home, and maybe having me to turn to when he needed me, maybe whatever mental illness that lay dormant inside of him wouldn't have been awakened, and consumed his life going forward.   

Anyways...I wanted to say,   

“Happy Birthday, Wesley! I love you little brother.”

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
November 23rd, 2020

I can't believe that in a few days it's going to be the Thanksgiving holiday. It certainly doesn't feel like it! I'm ready for the good food though.   

It's been an interesting few days – mostly good, but a bit of the strange as well. I'll start with the good...

On Thursday I had a legal call and that went really well! I can't speak about the details, but there are definitely very positive developments. After we talked the legal stuff, we caught up on life in general and I'm always pinching myself because I can't believe how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful group of people representig me. They are all such good human beings, and I have a deep appreciation and love for all of them. I've never left a legal visit or a call feeling down in the dumps...Even when I had an execution date and I was scared, I was always optimistic after a discussion with them.   

Later that Thursday I was listening to one of the music programs on the Prison Radio Station, and the DJ said,   

“Friday night on the alternative music program, we're going to do a Cure concert. Three straight hours. In anticipation of that I thought I'd warm y'all up with the singles album, 'Galore'."

Of course, it was great to hear that, and I was bouncing off the walls with excitement waiting for the Cure concert. Friday night couldn't arrive soon enough! I kept busy for the whole day, and when the concert came on it was amazing! After the concert was over the guy who does the alternative show on Fridays, came on and said,   

“How about an encore?...I'm going to play Cure: Show, and Cure: Live in Paris.”

I was up until after 3am!! Any great song or band always energises me. It's like drinking a thousand cups of coffee back to back! Electricity courses through my body...I can't explain it. I think any great art does that for people if they're open to it.   

I fell asleep shortly after that and woke back up at 7am...I was still full of energy. I thought they might do recreation but they didn't, so I kept busy for most of the day.   

Sunday is when things turned a little strange. Shortly after showers a ton of guards poured into A-Pod and went straight to F-Section. They began to pull guys out of their cells and take them into the hallway. After that the Warden showed up and the guards began to tear up the cells. They spent several hours shaking the entire section down...I've been on death row for 17 ½ years and I've never seen that happen before – especially on a Sunday! It had the rest of us on pins for the rest of the day. That evening the Wizard of Oz came on so I listened to that, and was in bed before 10pm.   

Today I woke up and was told I was scheduled for 6th round recreation, which means I'm probably not going to make it. A little while ago I had a conversation with a guy from F-section, and he said that none of them knew why they were shaken down, and the guards didn't even find any contraband. We talked about how the whole process of a shakedown can be humiliating and violating, and then he said something insightful...He said,

“You know, when I was free I didn't think twice about stealing or robbing someone. I never intended to kill anyone – that was never my intent – but I got a certain excitement from robbing. I can't explain it. But you know, years of going through this bullshit, of having my cell destroyed and my stuff taken or torn up by the guards...it forced me to think about all of those people I've robbed or when I broke into a house and tore up a bedroom to look for money or something I could pawn. I realised that sense of violation that I have when it happens to me is the exact same feeling, if not worse, that those people felt. I've never felt sorry...I'm just being honest. I never had any regret for the robberies. I definitely regret killing, for sure, but never for robbing someone. It was just part of the hustle. But now? I understand...I ain't going to lie. I broke down and cried last night and felt bad...Suddenly, I got it.”

He was becoming very emotional in the day room, and I said that empathising and understanding that your actions have hurt someone is part of self-discovery, and that he was now on a healing path...It was a very profound moment.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
November 26th, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!!! It's a cool Thursday, and very peaceful. They didn't run rec today – a trend they started a couple of years ago. For a long time things ran as normal on Thanksgiving, but then they started letting the guards have it easy on the holidays. So, I got up early, went to the shower, and began my day.   

We had a pretty good meal; our paper cold tray had cobbler, cake, cranberry sauce, coleslaw, black olives, onions, and some pickles...Then, the hot tray had turkey, chicken (some had pork) potatoes with garlic and butter, green bean salad, beans, biscuits, and stuffing with gravy. My neighbour started to complain which annoyed me, especially after we turned in our trays and he wasted half of it. I said,   

“You were complaining about not getting enough food, but then you leave half of the tray?!?”

He said,   

“Well, that's the stuff I don't eat.”

What??? Trust me, it was a lot of decent food!

In the evening they passed out sack meals, apples and oranges. I was stuffed! On the unit radio station they played the movie, 'Milan'. It was okay...A live remake of the animated film, but without any of the humour, and a straight on take on the real life tale. I'm sure the battle scenes were epic.

Of course, holidays are a time to reflect...I really like this quote by the artist, Sana Takeda:

“Life can reward us with something better in the midst of a wrong choice.”

I think it means that in life, when we take a wrong turn or do the wrong thing, we can turn it into a positive. My wrong choices have lead me to self-reflect, to learn, to ask for forgiveness and to grow. Along the way I've made wonderful friends, had the chance to love and be loved, and now, be IN love with a wonderful person. I have wonderful mentors and lawyers; people who are invested in seeing me succeed. To say, “thank you” isn't enough, but I'm grateful and I'm beyond thankful.   

Thank you, the reader, as well! You all encourage me to continue to share, to fight, and to live. My life has purpose and meaning.   

Thank you to all invested in my life...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
November 29th, 2020

I went to bed fairly early last night. The last two days were a little stressful because they've hired a new crop of guards, and it's apparent they don't want to be here...I'm certain it's a 'transitional job' for them, and as soon as business is back up they'll quit and return to those jobs. It seems like they were told they don't have to do any work here because they are some of the laziest guards we've ever had. We're getting screwed out of showers and rec and everything else.

It's been pure chaos here for the last two days, and this is a very peaceful pod. Now everyone is wired up and on edge, and the atmosphere is like a disturbed bee hive...It sucks!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 2nd, 2020

It's been an extremely stressful week...I don't know what's happened, but in a very short space of time, and a handful of new guards, we've gone from being treated semi-decently to less than human. Yesterday was the worst of it.

It started with recreation...I was scheduled for first round and didn't leave my cell until 6.50am. I was told I was the only person going outside because everyone was skipping out because it was cold. The guard – a new guy – tried to talk me into skipping out of it as well, and it only irritated me so I dug my heels in.   

“It's really cold outside. I mean, really cold.” He said.   

“Okay.”

“I don't think you know how cold it is.”

“No. That's fine. I used to live in Kentucky, so I know cold!”

“Well, if you go outside you'll be by yourself.”

“Okay.”

“Don't knock on the glass and try to come back in.”

“Okay, that's cool.”

So...I went outside thinking I'd be there for the allowed two hours of recreation. WRONG!!! I didn't get back in until after 1pm!!! Six hours of recreation!!

Now, people are reading this and thinking,   

“Well, you should be glad you were out of your cell for six whole hours.”

On one hand, I can't complain about that, but it also meant coming back to an exposed lunch tray sitting on my toilet sink, cold and disgusting. It meant that I wouldn't be getting a shower until later than evening. It meant that other guys were screwed out of their recreation because I (and others in day rooms) were out for the equivalent of three rounds of recreation.   

So, I went about my day and just tried to ignore my growing frustration.   

The dinner cart arrived at about 3.20pm, and the guards fed F-section and then had to stop to pull out the inmates who receive insulin. That took us to almost 5pm, and then second shift came on and began to load the tray carrier before heading to D-section, and we're thinking,   

“That's odd...they should've fed us next in that order.”

Well, at around 7pm we were told that first shift had fed us!!! So, of course, we had to make a huge fuss and tell them that we didn't get dinner. It was a mess!

Oh, and it didn't stop there...When they started to do showers the guards kept skipping over me. Finally, I go to the door and say,   

“Hey, why am I not getting my shower?”

“It says on the paperwork that you turned it down.”

“What??? What time did I refuse my shower?”

The female guard looked at it and said,   

“It says 11am.”

I blew a gasket...

"11am??? I was outside at 11am. I didn't get back to my cell until after 1pm. The paperwork will confirm that.”

“Well, I don't care. Take that up with first shift.”

“First shift is gone, and you are here, so I'm letting you know.”

I was fuming...They walked off and a sergeant came around. I remained calm and asked him about my shower, respectfully, and told him everything hoping he would do something about it. You know what he told me?

“Take it up with first shift.”

I left it that...I was fuming and just wanted to get my mail, and especially my girlfriend's Jpay to calm me down. Guess what? They never passed out Jpays for anyone on our section. I was so looking forward to hearing from her because she's busy getting ready for Christmas and decorating her tree and her house, and I wanted to know if she received the birthday gifts I sent to her. I didn't even have that small comfort. It's so frustrating...

So, today, I was out at rec for 3 hours. A bit of an improvement, but when I talked to a day time sergeant about yesterday's events, she said she'd “look into it.” I don't expect them to address any of it though, I mean, right now I'm waiting on a shower and it's looking like it'll fall on second shift and who knows what's going to happen? Will I get screwed over again? To be continued!

I'm trying to get into a better mood, but I'm just tired of this attitude towards us. I don't know what it is or why it is, but this particular batch of new guards are especially bad. They all walk around with this look like they've not even supposed to be working here because it's beneath them, but so many lost their jobs due to COVID and they have to work here. It doesn't mean they should treat us badly though.   

Well, it's a little later now and I made it to the shower at 3.08pm. The guards began to move really fast – faster than I've seen in a while. I'm relieved...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 6th, 2020

This has been an INSANE weekend...I really can't make sense of what's happening to this place. Sometimes, I want to say to myself,   

“Okay, it's the holidays...guys are feeling restless, they can't get their visits, they can't get their phone calls, mail etc...COVID has everyone in a tizzy.”

But then I think of the total lack of leadership, discipline, and integrity of some of these ranking officers and it feels more deliberate and sinister. I'm not a paranoid person and I'm loath to give credence to conspiracy theories etc, but as far as management is concerned...It's pure chaos!

Friday was nuts...We didn't have rec and the excuse was because of some PREA audit. PREA stands for Prison Rape Elimination Act. It's a nationwide standard to end prison rape, and TDCJ has incorporated it into their 'Safe Prison' program which is intended to end gang violence and retaliation.   

So, on Thursday and Friday, maintenance had gone round the place and were fixing a chest high 'shield' made of rubber, around the day room bars. It's fastened by plastic straps and it's intended to block the unnecessary gazes of officers and inmates during strip searches...Trouble is, it only blocks half of the day room/rec area, and people can still see from the other side. We asked maintenance if they were going to do the entire day rooms, and they said,   

“No. They only told us to cover half of each day room.”

We were speechless...

Another new 'policy' is that we must leave our cells fully clothed. Now, this is interesting because I've been locked up almost 25 years, and whenever we go to rec we're strip searched and told to carry our clothing until we're out at rec. and then we can get dressed. Even on death row, if we have a shake down, go to rec, or go to the shower, we are strip searched, and exit our cells in nothing but our underwear. It was a 'security issue' according to the administration. Now it's a 'security issue' to come out in our underwear, and even going to the shower we must wear a t-shirt of some sort.   

I'm 100% behind actions and policies to end extortion and violence in prison, and it's sad that it's taken Texas 200 years to do it. But, better late than never! That said, some of these new policies just make you scratch your head because they make zero sense.

So, everyone was excited on Friday to have commissary. That was the day's saving grace, but they didn't show up until after 11pm!!! We were all thinking,   

“What is going on around here???”

It's never come that late at night, and I didn't even know the store would be open that late. It was weird eating a snack at almost midnight! I'd argue it's never too late to eat ice cream, but it's still weird.   

I made it to sleep after midnight. The prison radio program I listen to on Friday nights did a live Depeche Mode concert which was pretty cool.   

Saturday was more chaos...We had 6 officers working the pod and three of them were new, and others in training. No one knew what they were doing. I was scheduled for third round of rec but the way things were going, I knew it would be very late in the day. It soured my mood because on Saturday nights my girlfriend and I have a 'date night' where we listen to a radio program at the same time, or read a book together. It seems cheesey but I love those moments. I was out at rec during that time and didn't get back to my cell until almost 7pm!

I tried to ease myself into the evening but I was exhausted and restless. I did, however, devise a plan in the day room to try and straighten out the mess of the past few weeks. I don't know if it'll work, but we'll see. I'm hoping if enough guys complain to the psych department that we're suffering from emotional distress – which is very true – it'll raise some alarms. The psych department is a joke, but they're supposed to write reports on the state of our mental health on death row...if they write a ton of them, I'm thinking they might complain to Huntsville that things are a mess. I know myself and others have been super-stressed lately.   

Sunday, thank G-d, has been quiet and peaceful. I'm going to spend the day listening to a Star Wars marathon that will end with The Last Jedi and then I'm going to bed to be fully rested...Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 7th, 2020

CHAOS!!!!! Unbridled chaos!! Thank goodness I'm well rested for this madness...I woke up at 5.45am and waited to see if the guards were going to do recreation. When they began I was scheduled for third round. I'm surprised I slept so well and didn't even wake up for breakfast.   

The PREA auditors are supposed to tour today and there are clean up crews running around like headless chickens! Guards and ranking officers were barking orders and through it all, nothing is getting done. I wish they played the video footage of this pace – like, have it on a live feed to the public. You'd see we're not making this stuff up.   

I'm trying to keep my mind occupied though. I don't know when I'll make it to rec, and more than likely, if I do make it it'll be under second shift, but I'm going. I've made a vow to myself to go no matter what...no matter what the stress....no matter how late. I don't like going out late, but I'm going to get what I'm supposed to have!

It's insanely loud as I write this. I feel like I'm in some kind of bizarre world. A-pod is the 'show pod' and is usually run in an orderly fashion. They keep guys on this pod who are quiet and peaceful, but everyone is riled up and out of their minds with stress right now. I can't explain it...It's like nothing I've seen here before.   

I'll get through it though...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 11th, 2020

It's the first official day of Chanukah and I'm in relatively good spirits, all things considered. Last night I brought in the first night by pulling out a beautiful cardstock Menorah my girlfriend made for me last year. Some guys on my section wanted to participate in bringing the first night in and so I recited the prayers for lighting the Menorah and they repeated them. It was funny because the guys couldn't get their tongues around some of the Hebrew, but it was also touching, and I got a bit choked up that they wanted to do it with me. That's the first time it's ever happened like that since I've been here.   

I woke up at 5.55am this morning and tuned my radio to the prison radio station because it was time for my favourite music program which they do twice a day – 'The Lizard Lounge'. It was named because the program plays the same kind of music you'd hear in the club of the same name. When I was a teenager growing up in Arlington, Texas, the alternative radio station would do 'Live from the Lizard Lounge' on Saturday nights. It's a cool little throw back.

Hearing a Cure song I've never heard before right out of the gate, put some pep in my step and got me motivated...I got up, worked out, and began a letter to my girlfriend.   

My section is 'off' today, so we don't have rec, but now they've shut everything all the way down without explanation. I had a thought last night because I tend to get upset at second shift when they complain about first shift's lack of work. I sort of began to understand whey they always say,   

“Take it up with first shift.”

Before I was kind of thinking,   

“Geeze...you still have a job to do. You don't get a pass out of work just because you work at night.”

But then I thought, you know...first shift is BARELY getting anything done – only doing, on average, two rounds of rec, and almost zero showers, and leaving all of the brunt of the work to second shift. It's really unfair to them and yet, the ranking officers continuously let it happen. Second shift has to come to work, sometimes feed dinner, do the remaining rec rounds, do a ton of showers, pass out mail and Jpays, do late night insulin, pass out breakfast...It dawned on me how unfair it was to them, and then on top of that they have to listen to us bark at them because first shift screwed us over. That's a lot of stress all round. All of that being said, I still think there's a way to talk to us with bit of decency and to not treat us like sub-humans.   

So, it's Friday and I'm bumbling through the day, trying to keep busy and keep my mind in a positive head space. I'm tired of feeling stressed and tired of complaining about this place...I really am.   

I also think that some of the frustration comes from just wanting to get on with my life...I have dreams and goals, but I'm in this strange limbo. Whilst a part of me believes that one day I will be able to fulfil these things, there's that small little part of me that gets anxious and worries, even doubts at times. I try to chase it away but it often nags and nags and nags at me...The joys of a neurotic mind!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 13th, 2020

I didn't get any sleep at all last night. I had every intention of going to bed at a decent time, but the prison radio station played the entire double album of Smashing Pumpkins' 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness'...Talk about memory overload and a ton of emotions flooding over me!!! Anyone who has read my Memoir knows that that particular album was a huge part of my life at the end of 1995 and going into 1996...So, I listened to that and then they played another Pumpkins' album after that!

I had intended sleeping in until about 8 in the morning but they surprisingly began recreation to make up for the screw over on Friday. It was noisy, so I woke up and decided to start the day and plough through it.   

It dawned on me a short while ago that today marks 20 years since I escaped. When guards find out that I'm one of those guys they say,   

“Are you one of them?”   

I always, always respond with,   

“Unfortunately.”

When they question me about it I try to brush everything off because it's not something I like talking about, and definitely isn't anything to brag about. It's a regretful and shameful part of my life, and I'm fighting to stay alive because of that fateful decision.

I wish I had a time machine...I'd keep myself from ever leaving home in 1995, and if I couldn't convince my 17 year old version of myself, I'd go straight to 2000 and I think it would be bit easier to convince that version of myself because I was always on the fence about everything at that time. I mean, it's a horrible thing to feel when you think,   

“Had it not been for that...I'd be free right now. I might be on parole, but I'd be free.”

It sucks to have those feelings, but I made my bed...

It's been really chaotic today but I'm getting through it. I want to listen to that movie, 'Wonder' again. I listened to it yesterday and it was so good. I'd read the book about two years ago, but the movie really had an extra emotional punch. The acting was really good and several parts had me choked up and teary-eyed. I like a feel-good story and one of triumph over adversity...I highly recommend it.   

Everything is okay today...I'm looking forward to a Jpay from my girlfriend tomorrow – Monday's are always good because I can read about her weekend, and she's always super busy with creating and making her art and her crafts. As we approach the New Year we will have been together for 3 years! To have her to connect to in friendship, laughs, and love...To have her in my corner...To have her believe in me and push me on the hardest days to overcome, and keep on fighting...Someone like that can't be measured against anything. I'm blessed...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace.

  
December 14th, 2020

I woke up this morning and got ready for rec. I was scheduled first round and I like going out first because I can get it all out of the way and get on with my day and my work afterwards.   

Things ran smoothly until second round, and then the chaos bomb went off! Fortunately, for me, my rec and shower were all done before things went sour, so I could coast through without stressing. That being said, I'm mindful of how stressful it was for the other guys who weren't so lucky.   

It's been cold and grey – the best kind of winter weather, but I heard that for the holidays next week, we are looking at warming up into the '70s. Only in Texas! Don't like the weather today? Stick around and it'll be very different tomorrow.

We've been told that the Major over Death Row is being replaced, so we're bracing ourselves for changes again. Who know how it'll be but we'll soon find out, I suppose.   

Today, I heard a 'best of' collection by the The Cranberries. I'd heard it before but those songs are timeless and all have memories attached to them. The song, 'Free to Decide' punches me in the gut every single time. The inmate DJ on the station said he got a bunch of new music in and will start to update the play lists. I heard some newer Cure songs I've never heard and really liked them. I'd never have heard them if it weren't for this station.   

The guys around me compiled a list of holiday movies we requested, and the DJ said he'd try to get some of those on. We're looking forward to it!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 15th, 2020

Something told me last night that I should get to bed early because I'd be first round for outside recreation. I woke up around 5.45am, and when the guard asked me if I was going to rec I said, “yes” and was told I was first round. Being up so early I tuned into the prison radio station and heard the Cure's, 'From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea' – I love that song!! It's 7 minutes of pure brilliance. Then they played 'Wrong Number' and 'Lullaby', and that got my day off to a good start.   

I went outside and it was so cold! I warmed up as I worked out, and it felt good to be out in the fresh air. When it was time to come in the male officer starts to strip me out and threw my clothes on the ground. Keep in mind we're outside and there's bird poop everywhere...It was filthy. I'm standing there, freezing, and said,   

“Dude, you're just threw my clothes down on the filthy ground”

He looks at me and says,   

“I have nowhere to put them.”

Well, besides the fact that he's allowed to hand them back to me, on the gate there's a huge handle made of a steel rod, and there's a big gap in it to hang clothes on. I said,   

“Use the handle”.

He looks at it and says,   

“Oh...Didn't see that there.”

Really? He just literally had his hand on it!

After strip searching me he handed my clothes back and I was shaking my head like, “Life shouldn't be this difficult for people.” The guy I was outside with said,

“Now I can see why our country is in the dumps..”

I kind of laughed, and went back to my cell.   

When I returned my neighbour said they were going to shut the water off, so I had to scramble and get a quick bird bath out of my sink, and fill up some cups and my hotpot with some water. It turned out they never did shut the water off, and now they're saying it'll be tomorrow.   

That's pretty much been my day.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 17th, 2020

Yesterday was a so-so day. I went to recreation first round at 6.30am, did my exercises and talked to some guys on D-Section. Things were running smoothly until this one psycho guard came on the floor and everything blew up. Because certain things like the kitchen and other departments were closed for pest control, the craziness wasn't as bad as it could have been. We had lunch and dinner in sacks so the guards didn't have to pass out trays, which for some weird reason takes certain officers hours to do.

Now, last night things could have gone down the drain really fast when they began showers. I was already a little miffed because I was first for rec, and now I'd be last for the shower – which is not how things are supposed to go. The policy is those who went to rec go to the shower in order of their recreation, and those who skip rec go last. It's done that way to be fair, because guys exercise in the day rooms and come back sweaty and dirty.   

Well, when it should've been my turn the female officer said,   

“Hey...it shows you gave up your shower.”

And just as I was about to protest, she said,

“But I know you didn't. The times don't add up...You were at rec when they marked you as refusing your shower. Do you want to go?”

I let out a sigh of relief and said,   

“Thank you for not jacking my shower.”

When she was taking me back to my cell, she said,   

“I know you guys are being screwed a lot with rec and showers. I don't operate that way.”

I said,   

“Thanks. You know, you'll be amazed at how far a smidgen of understanding can makes things easier for all of us here.”

Anyways...I waited for mail and when we were told that the Jpay letters were coming late, I went to sleep. I woke up when the Jpays arrived, and I was happy to receive a bunch, with two from my girlfriend. I slept pretty well after that.   

Yesterday on the prison radio station I heard the Counting Crows album, 'August and Everything After'. It's a personal favourite that I listened to repeatedly in the '90s. Not a single dud track on that album and listening to it for the first time in 25 years, I was whisked back to 1994 and awash with memories...So good! I'm so grateful for this station and the music I never thought I'd hear in my life again.   

I woke up this morning thinking I'd overslept, but my clock was wrong. I jumped out of bed, exercised, said my prayers, and skipped out on going outside – it was much too cold! I wasn't feeling like subjecting myself to being trapped outside when it's that cold. I like it a little on the cold side, but not that cold!

The day has been relatively chaos free and peaceful. In my morning prayers I told myself I was going to try and do a better job of not letting this place infect me, my mood, and how I react to things. It can be a struggle at times, especially because things have deteriorated so badly. But I'm not a negative person and I hate feeling like a wet blanket has been dropped on top of me when things go topsy turvy.   

Some sad news on my section...An old Latino man downstairs (who is already half blind and has diabetes) was just diagnosed with liver cancer. We're trying to support him the best we can. My friend, Big Foot, lives next to him and he's helping with trying to reach his family and get him a call home. Both of his neighbours have told him to hit the water or call out if he needs help, and they're making sure the guards check on him regularly. It's heartbreaking...Another guy upstairs was just diagnosed with Hepatitis C which is a bit scary as well, but at least he's receiving treatment for that now.   

Please pray for all of the old, sick and infirm people back here...They have it much tougher than the rest of us.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 27th, 2020

It's early Sunday morning as I type this...about 7.35am to be exact. I haven't written anything in a few days because I've been in a bit of a funk...Frustrated and irritated by the way things are back here, and feeling stuck in limbo. I thought, a few days ago, that something needs to change. I feel like I've gotten into a routine of complaining all of the time, even though I'm truly grateful for so many things in my life. My complaints about this place and way things have deteriorated, are still small potatoes in comparison to how bad some people in the free world are having it. People who work hard and do the best they can deserve a good life...People that had to go to a food bank for a holiday  meal whilst I'm feasting on baked chicken and brisket...

Of course, Christmas Eve is the hardest day for me and I always pray and ask forgiveness for that night 20 years ago, and the escape. My regret and remorse cannot be measured in words or deeds. I'm just truly sorry for everything that happened.   

On Christmas Day, the guys around me were in good spirits. Everyone wished each other a 'Merry Christmas' and we waited on the food which showed up around 9am. There was a ton of food – almost too much to eat, and my neighbour gave me his onions and black olives. The cold tray had cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, celery with peanut butter, onions, black olives, pickles, and potato salad. The hot tray had baked chicken, a slice of brisket, cheese rolls, beans, corn and some other veggies. Dinner was a sack meal of PB&J and salami sandwiches.   

Anyways...after much reflection over the weekend, I've decided to kick myself in the butt and make a strong effort to be more productive in 2021...To be more positive and focused...2020 turned into such a crazy year, but still, my life was spared the year before and I've been given a chance to fight another day. I'm still alive and I can help to uplift and inspire where I can. I'm sure I'll still have a complaint or two – it's natural to vent – but I'm not going to let it to bring me down in the way I've allowed it to!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 29th, 2020

Today has been a sad day as we received word of someone's death back here. We don't have the full story, but he did have health complications and some are saying he died of a heart attack. In recent weeks I decided to start eating healthier (as much as I can in this place) and to get back to my regular exercises that are typically cardio heavy, after seeing so many guys diagnosed with diabetes and other health issues. It does little to fight to save your life from the executioner if you're not willing to also take care of yourself in the process.

Part of taking care of yourself is good mental health. I've been feeling so down over the holidays; I had one of the worst bouts of depression I've had in a long time, and I kept thinking,   

“Something needs to change...I've got to change something.”

It had me all out of whack, and I have to try harder to not allow this environment to affect me as much as it has been. Everything, and I mean everything was starting to irritate me. I was becoming more sarcastic and my patience was running thin. I woke up yesterday and thought,   

“Well, here we go...I'm going to go with the ebb and flow of the tide, and ride the day...Let's see if I can keep it positive.”

I went out to rec, and honestly, I didn't expect to be trapped in the day room for so long. I expected a chaos bomb to go off at some point, but even on the first round of recreation, one wouldn't expect to be more than a couple of hours out of one's cell...It's typically after that first round of rec that things go pear shaped. Two hours turned into three...Three turned into four...And four turned into seven!! I kept pacing around saying,   

“Ebb and flow...Ebb and flow...”

Guys were coming to their doors saying,   

“Geeze, you're still in the day room?!?”

I replied,   

“Right now I'm riding the current. If this was the Iron Man of recreation, I'd be the champion right now.  This is the triathlon of rec!!”

It wiped all of the energy out of me, but I remained calm and kept a smile on my face, and I'm going to keep on doing it.   

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


  
December 30th, 2020

I woke up at 5.30am for recreation. I knew I'd be going out first round as that is just the way it is on my section, but I was ready. I almost aborted the mission though, because I saw that we had the same crew as Monday, and who left me out at rec for 7 hours...But I thought,   

“You know what? I'll ride it out. Whatever happens, happens.”

I don't like giving up my recreation and I know I'd regret it after the fact, so I just went with it.   

I worked out, had a little conversation with some guys who were awake, and then they began to change out rec at a reasonable time. It's gone a little pear shaped since then, but at least I made it back to my cell.   

It hasn't been a bad day, but it hasn't been great either, which is due to a certain male officer who keeps starting problems with other guys back here. But I'm in a bubble of relative positivity right now...I'm ebbing and flowing...I'm cool...I'm zen.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.   

Peace


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