July 1st, 2018
July 1st...I cannot believe it's already a new month. June went by so fast, that it feels like it hardly existed. I haven't written anything in the past week or so because the air conditioning was out until Thursday, and it was just too hot to function or focus on anything at all. Thankfully, they finally got it fixed, and as I type this it feels like the North Pole! That baby is cranked all the way up! I will give the people in charge some credit because they were passing out ice water every couple of hours, and even continue to do so now...I'm not big on sodas, but some of these guys back here have been putting their Coke cans in the cold water, and chilling them down into an ice cold drink! Small comforts go a long way back here...Some would see it as pampering inmates, I guess, but I just see it as treating people like human beings.
I had an interesting conversation or exchange, rather, with a mail room lady recently...My location on the inmate roster has been all out of whack since they tried to move me to 8 cell, and I wouldn't move to a broken cell. I was placed in 78 cell on C-Pod, and have been here for the past two weeks, almost. But whoever makes the count roster, has had me in 15 cell, 64 cell, 8 cell, etc. So, I receive a book and the mail lady finally finds me and I said, "yeah, they've got me all around this place." She says, "well, other offenders know where you are, so we just ask them"...And I then said, "yeah, just ask other PEOPLE" and "Oh, another PERSON told you?"...I kept emphasising people and person because I can't stand the word "offender"...TDCJ switched from inmate to offender in the mid-1990s; it seems its sole purpose is to dehumanise and make a person a lesser individual. I don't much like the word "inmate" either, but at least it doesn't make me cringe like the word "offender" does. How can you expect or ask a person to be rehabilitated or be a productive member of society, if while they're incarcerated you do everything in the world to show them what pieces of crap they are and treat them as a lesser individual than you are? It has always irritated me!
Anyway, that was a tangent...ha ha!
This week, the State's response to my application for a COA in the 5th Circuit, is due...Unless they ask for a further extension. I'm naturally nervous, and a bit anxious, but it's one of those things that I really have no control over. I can ask for prayers and positive thoughts, though, and I'd really appreciate anyone who wants to throw some my way...Here's to hoping for the best.
I'm going to be getting back into the groove of writing, so stay tuned!
Courage. Strength. Hope. and Faith!
July 4th, 2018
Independence Day...We had a really good meal for lunch! A cheeseburger with pickles, a hot dog, beans, corn, potato salad, and peach cobbler. That was definitely appreciated, and I know I was grateful...It's a bit of a grey and wet day, so there'll be no watching fireworks tonight, but that's cool. On the NPR station, they'll do "patriotic" symphony music, and I like to catch that late in the evening - especially the 1812 overture, which is a great piece of music!
I guess not much else to say...It's just kind of slow moving today. Hopefully I'll get the writing back into gear tomorrow.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 10th, 2018
I don't know why it's been a little difficult to write anything of late, but I'm hoping to turn that around...Today's Stoic quote was about the humble art and practice of doing what you love, and I do genuinely love writing, and so I need to do something each day. Even on days when I feel "blah".
I'm struggling to think today for several reasons: my mind is on my appeal, and the State's response that was just filed...It's what I expected from them, and I'm hoping, praying, and wishing that something positive happens and I can turn all of this around. Again, thanks to those who have been praying for me; it means more than you'll ever know.
The other reason is I'm being rattled to death with the beating, banging, and grinding that is going on in order to remove these shower doors on this section (e-section), right next door to me...Ugh! I'm sitting on my bed, and I can feel it rattling in my buttocks. I'm jiggling and not even dancing! Anyway, they're replacing each shower door (12 doors in total) on 12 Builiding. They're pretty fancy stainless steel doors and can't be cheap; from what I've seen, the "window" on each door is really big, and has a mesh screen which is going to make it easier to breathe. The current doors are rusted heaps of metal with a plexiglass window that has nine "breathing holes" drilled into them.
As they do each section on a pod, they move/empty out the inmates in those cells, and bump them down a section. So tonight, I will be moving to e-section. I'm currently trying to be proactive because the cell that I could end up in is said to have been damaged. So, I don't want to have a repeat of the night I had a few weeks ago. I'm talking to guards and the rank today/this morning, to see if the cell is working or not. If it isn't, I'd like to be changed to a cell that does work...We'll see what happens.
Oh, and did I mention that we're on lock-down? It started yesterday morning. I had a feeling it was coming up because it seems to always happen in July. My neighbour told me, "But it hasn't been 90 days yet!". To which I replied, "When has that ever mattered?"..."Good point, he said.
Anyway, here's to hoping for good and positive things to happen! I'm holding onto...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 11th, 2018
Day three of the lock-down...As I write this, the maintenance crew are installing the last set of shower doors on the pod. I went to the shower this morning at about 5.30am (on lock-downs we only get three showers a week) and the door is pretty spiffy! They cannot be cheap...Solid stainless steel, and a big mesh window which definitely makes it easier to breathe when we are stuck in there. The slot that we place our hands out of to have the handcuffs taken off, is a bit wider and not as low to the ground; you still have to squat down, but not nearly to the point where your butt is touching concrete, like it is in our cells.
So...let me talk about last night...I seem to have really bad luck in being assigned to broken cells, just lately! Because of the work they are doing in the showers, they have been clearing out an entire section and bumping the whole section down to the next section. I was living on F-section, 78 cell, which meant I was to be moved to E-section, 64 cell...However, 64 cell has been broken for weeks without being fixed, and I worried that if I didn't address the problem in the day time, I'd have problems AGAIN at night. I wanted to avoid the stress that I had a few weeks ago. I was already a bit on edge and stressed because of the State's response to my appeals, that were filed on the 6th - any more stress would potentially send me into a spiral of depression.
I thought the day time guard was a decent enough guy, so I ran the situation by him; I asked him to check out 64 cell and see if 1) it was black tagged or not, and 2) to please check the cell and make sure everything worked and it was in good shape, if it wasn't black tagged. He said he would.
A few hours pass, and I ask him what the deal is...He told me, "Everything is great in there; everything works, and it's not black tagged." I was like, "cool...appreciate it!" I packed up my things and waited on second shift to come on and get the moves started. At the same time, I had this strange feeling that maybe I should have second shift check the cell again, just in case something wasn't quite right. Over the years I've learned (from many move cycles) that once that door closes behind you in a cell, it takes an act of congress to get moved out of it again! You're in a much better position to negotiate a move to a different cell if you just don't go to the cell you know isn't working...That's not to say that some officers won't still try to force you into a broken cell - like the one who recently tried to force me into 8 cell...So, the odds are in your favour if you're proactive to begin with.
Second shift came on, and we had a really decent crew. One guard in particular, a Nigerian dude, is super kind, professional, and a genuinely good person. He'd given me an extra cinnamon roll breakfast tray just a couple of weeks ago, and he treats everyone the same - even the asshole inmates. So, he passes by my cell, and I say to him, "Check it out...they're going to be moving me to 64 cell. When you pass by that cell, will you please check it out and make sure everything works? The day time officer told me everything is good, and while I have no reason to not believe him, I just want to be on the safe side. You know how it is once you get stuck in a bad cell". He told me would check it out, and so I waited. Well...things went pear shaped fast! Before he could check the cell, he was called off the pod and asked to go and help with the shake-downs on B-pod. Another move crew came in and began moving us to E-section. I asked the guard if the cell was cool and he said "yes". Again, I had no reason to not believe him. I moved to 64 cell, had the handcuffs removed, checked the toilet, and...
THE BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEP THING DIDN'T WORK!!!!!!!
I yelled back to the guard. "Hey! Hey! Man!!! This toilet doesn't work! You just told me everything worked!" He came back and said, "It doesn't work? I thought it did".
"You thought it did? You told me you checked it!" I said. In my head I'm telling myself to calm down, and kept repeating, "Serenity now! Serenity now!" from an old Seinfeld episode.
He told me he'd notify rank, and walked off...
At this point I'm tired, frustrated...I keep telling myself to breathe...When the officer comes back, he'll get it sorted out for me...I don't even bother unpacking because I am NOT staying in that cell!
An hour passes and the Nigerian dude comes back around 10.30-ish pm. I tell him the situation and he begins to apologize. He didn't have a chance to check the cell because he had to leave the pod...I said, "Look, it's not your fault. Your fellow officers lied to me; you did nothing wrong. All I'm asking you is to please get me out of this cell". He looked me right in the eye and said, "Halprin, I will have you moved in a minute. I promise".
I'm assuming he immediately got in touch with a ranking officer because about 10 minutes later, he came back with another officer, and I was moved right out of that cell and to 57 cell downstairs. I thanked him a thousand times, and a crisis was averted. I'm actually thinking of writing a grievance because whoever is doing these moves in the main office, is not logging cells as "broken". It's really crazy. They used to stay on top of things like that, but whoever took over doing the moves on the computer is either really bad at their job, or just doesn't care. Not every inmate is as calm as I am in this situatiion; some would have blown a fuse, and things would turn much uglier...But something needs to change about this because it happens ALL OF THE TIME with us guys on c-pod. I'm sure it happens on other pods as well.
Anyway, 57 cell is much better...Geeze, 64 cell looked like something out of a horror movie. It was filthy! Dead bugs everywhere, spider webs, some kind of mildewey fungus/mold on the walls - it had been THAT long since someone lived in it! I had the heebie jeebies, and I wasn't even in that cell for very long. Had the toilet worked, and I ended up staying there, it would have taken me a whole day just to scrub it down...And I hate bugs - spiders especially! I would've been screaming "ahhh!" all night long...
Thank G-d for good people.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 15th, 2018
It's early Sunday morning as I type this up, and I'm listening to the news and getting things in order for our potential shake down tomorrow. I thought they'd have us done by now, but they stopped shaking down on Thursday, and when they picked it back up again on Friday, they only did half of that pod (E-Pod, I believe) and finished them up on Saturday. They've stopped for today, so our guess is they'll be over here bright and early Monday morning. Now, the question and speculation is where on C-Pod will they begin? A section or E section? F section is completely empty as they had shifted us over to E section when they replaced the shower doors. Either way, I think we're in a good position because when they shake down early in the mornings, the guards are still zombies, and in that "I don't give a crap" mode, just kind of half assing everything. If they do E-section late in the evening, they just want to get everything finished with and kind of hurry through everything. It's midday where things gets chaotic, and the guards are wide awake and tearing through the place like a Tazmanian devil on looney tunes!
The past week wasn't that bad. I've managed to catch up on a lot of reading, and while I've not done much in terms of writing anything, I've been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly prompted by the State's response to our application for a Certificate of Appealability...It's never easy reading nasty things written about oneself, and the State's impression of you...I just tell myself they're wrong, that the overwhelming facts support my side of the story, and while I don't know how all of that shakes out in Constitutional Law (Justice Scalia infamously once said that the constitution doesn't protect the innocent, because if you've had a fair trial, innocence doesn't really matter...to paraphrase) we'll see what happens. Hope and faith...that's what I have right now.
This week I am going to make more of an effort to do some writing. I have a couple of ideas I want to do for my memoir section that I think will be pretty fun. It's been inspired by all of these "Things to do before you die" books that have been popping up, and I thought it would be fun/cool to do a must watch movie list from my perspective, sharing little memories and why they're important to me. I'm also going to do one relating to music...It should be cool! Keep your eyes opened for that!
Well, prayers and hope are still needed, so thanks to everyone who has been throwing them my way. It means more than you'll ever know!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 16th, 2018
Raisins + prunes + peanut butter and jelly...catastrophy of gastronomical proportions!...Ugh! Anyone have any Pepto-Bismol???
So, we've officially been on lock-down for a week, today. I was certain that we'd have our big "shake-down" today as they had started on A-section early this morning, at around 6.30am. I was all ready at 5.30am for a shower, but the guards said they weren't doing any showers as they want us in our cells. As it turns out, almost no one came to work today so they had ONE sergeant doing the shake down by himself (14 cells total) and he said, "screw that" and told the guards to put everybody back in their calls and just do the showers. They weren't going to work his ass to death, on his own...
I am now assuming that they're not going to do anymore until tomorrow, but that might not happen because there's a scheduled execution. That could slow everything down because they like to have extra man power to handle any situation should the condemned put up a fight, or family members/friends go crazy out at visit...Guess we'll just have to see. I hate being in this holding pattern though, 'cause you just want to get it over with and can't really live "normally" because half of your stuff is piled up and ready to be packed into the red crate they make us put all of our belongings into. First world problems, I guess.
Something interesting has developed concerning the scheduled execution...and I think it'll test my theory on the white privilege thing with Thomas Whittaker, and a poor minority...So, Christopher Young, the guy scheduled to be executed, is seeking clemency (as do most people back here) but the twist is that apparently the victim's family has been openly telling the prosecutors and the State that they don't want him executed. Where do you think Greg Abbott will fall on this? One of the arguments that pro-death penalty supporters make for the death penalty, is closure for the victims' families...but if the family doesn't want it, what then? Are you doing it for the victim's family? For closure? Or does it just then become a blatant act of revenge by the State? I suppose we'll find out tomorrow.
This day is kind of going by quickly. I've been working on something new for my memoir section that I hope will be finished by next week. I'm writing ten parts each day...Stay tuned!
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith!
July 17th, 2018
What a mess of a day!...It actually kind of started last night when they moved a guy upstairs into 64 cell. Now, if you remember, just last week they tried to put me in that cell and the toilet was broken? Although before they moved the guy in there, they had maintenance go in and "fix" the toilet. I heard him banging around in the pipe chase, and causing quite the ruckass, so when he popped back up and said, "Everything is fixed! You're good to go" to the guard, we all assumed it was fixed. They moved the guy in there and he settles himself in, checks everything, and the next thing we hear is, "Hey! Hey Officers!!! The toilet doesn't work!!!" I just shook my head. To add insult to his injury, they just took him out of 8 cell - THE BEAST - after telling him that it was fixed (it wasn't). Maintenance shows back up, bangs around, and once again tells him, "You're good to go!" When we didn't hear anything else the rest of the night, I assumed things were finally fixed.
Breakfast gets passed out in sacks at about 3 in the morning...I crawled out of bed, grabbed the sack off my food slot, and throw it in my locker...Crawl back into bed, and sleep until 6.30am. Now, here's where things get interesting...I sleep with a sock over my eyes, and ear plugs in my ears, so, when I woke up I pop the ear plugs out and I hear the pattering of water somewhere. It's hitting so hard and loud that I think it's raining hard and slamming agsinst my window. I take the sock off of my eyes and see water all over my floor, and a cascade of water flowing like Niagra Falls, out of...MY AIR VENT!!! I'm like, WTF?!?!?!? I jumped out of bed, splashed in all of the water on my floor, and see that much of what I had piled in stacks ready for the shakedown - books, legal work, a pad of paper and magazines I had received the night before - is all soaked in water! I freak out and start hurriedly picking things up off the ground, and then I ran to the door and screamed, "LOOK OUT OFFICERS!!! I HAVE AN EMERGENCY IN 57 CELL!!!" A few other guys help me yell, and try to get the guard's attention, but no one comes until a little after 7am. Now, if I was dying, I would be already been dead with rigor mortis setting in by the time they came, but thank G-d it was just water...
A guard comes through doing a security check and I say, "Do y'all just not care when a person screams 'emergency'? Are you trained to ignore us?" She looks down and sees the tidal wave of water heading out the bottom of the cell door, and I said, "I've got water pouring from my vent!" Apparently the maintenance guy broke a pipe whilst attempting to fix the toilet, and it took about an hour to get everything under control and properly fixed by a more professional crew. By that time I've got water up to my ankles and I'm wading around in it. I was just soooooo pissed! I dried out what I could and threw everything else out: books, comics, magazines, and some paper and envelopes. It was a mess!...But not surprising. I just wonder why it always happens to me? ha ha.
On a sad note, according to the latest news report, it looks like today's execution is going to go through. I mean, anything can still happen, but the Clemency thing is out the window, which sort of proves my theory about white privilege, wealth and influence...Today, it's a poor black man whose victims have pleaded with the State to halt the execution, and don't want it carried out in their names...But the board seems not to care about that. Maybe there are unseen reasons and I'm completely wrong...I think it just looks bad though. I mean, do these victims not get to have their voice heard? Or is the State just hell bent on revenge? Again, the whole freakin' death penalty is a sham...the whole stinking operation.
So, we remain in this holding pattern, waiting to have our shake-down, and nothing is happening...They've had C-pod like this for two days now, and I really just want to get it over with. There's no way we'll be off lock-down before Monday now...Sigh...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 18th, 2018
Wednesday...We're still in this holding pattern on C-pod. We've gotten our showers for the day, but when asked if they were going to finish shaking down this pod, the guards were like, "Don't know...", and it's getting to the point of being very frustrating. We've all had our stuff packed up/piled up since Monday morning, and we haven't had clean laundry since Friday because the pod is blocked off due to its being "in the process" of going through the shake-down. But nothing is getting done. Granted, it's only 9.44am at the time of me writing this, so I guess they could start/finish today, if they really wanted to, but that remains to be seen.
So, the execution yesterday went through, and from what I heard on the news this morning, the victim's family is really upset at the State and the AG's office (Attorney General) for not only ignoring their pleas, but for being very hostile and dismissive towards them. So much for victim's rights, huh? Typical of Texas. I was recently reminded in a letter, of an old journal entry in which I quoted my dearly departed mentor and friend, David, and he had written:
"What's really ironic is that their fervor allows them to forget the most important teachings of Christ, about whom many also claim to be passionate. The disconnect between these two separate beliefs in Texas is so great, that it borders on schizophrenia...". Leave it to David to be so succinct!
Anyway, yesterday I listened to the Execution Watch program on KPFT - a program that is supposed to educate people on the death penalty, and how it is applied in Texas. It's only broadcast on nights where executions are taking place, and to be honest, since it's inception some many years ago, the show was never well produced, but it has gone from bad to worse and seems to be more about bashing the condemned, than education and reform. Sure, Ray Hill is legendary in his activism and outreach for prisoners, but it is surprising that on a proud, left-leaning radio station, we hear a group of people (outside of Ray Hill, and one other attorney who regularly defends the condemned) make the case for why a person SHOULD be executed...When you start the show by giving a history of the person's case and say, "This is a really bad guy..." and then go on to disparage him, even when mitigating factors are brought up...Then you have an attorney say, "Blah, blah, blah...people need to stop blaming their backgrounds and take responsibility..." the program's mission statement is lost.
You are neither educating nor reforming. Ray Hill, bless his heart, is not good at guiding the direction of the program, and the show often devolves into a mess of personal opinions, tangents, and digression. It's time for the show to end, and if anyone out there who listens to this program agrees with me, I highly suggest you call the station manager on 713 526 4000, extension 310, and state your reasons why this program should end. It's doing more harm than good.
On another note, and anyone who has read and kept up with my journals over the years will know how strongly I feel about this subject...The so-called "anti-death penalty" groups out there, and the many missed opportunities there have been for educating people...
Many of these groups are very cliquey, and very mean towards those who are new to the movement, and/or are genuinely curious about why a person should be against the death penalty. I know that in this day of "everyone has an opinion and wants it to be heard", and the 24 hour news cycles that we live in, it so often seems that no one is actually and actively listening, or even wants to listen. I truly believe that people just need to be educated and SHOWN why they should change their opinions. But few are making the case...Few are truly reaching out, being patient, or guiding people. If a person shows up to a Facebook page or forum, who is either new or relatively new to any group or movement, and asks an innocent question like, "Well...what did he do?", and you instantly attack that person, scream, and run them off the page, you've missed a golden opportunity to educate someone and bring them into the fold. They run off thinking, "These people are freaking nuts!" and they will tell OTHERS to stay away! If a person asks, "Well, what did they do?", your reply should be...calmly, "It doesn't matter what the person did...as abolitionists, it's not our duty to judge. People make mistakes, people change. Those executed are often not the same person who committed the crime, and this is one of the reaons we feel the death penalty should end...". Nobody wants to be screamed at and run off of a page or a group before they got to learn about anything! Stop screaming!! (I just yelled that, I'm sorry :-) ha ha). Start listening...Start talking and reaching out...Start educating...Things aren't going to change until that begins to happen.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 19th, 2018
Well, that's all over with! Now we sit, stuck in our cells, waiting for the lock-down to end. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend...
By "that's all over" I mean the shake-down that happened yesterday...It was beginning to look like another day wasted with nothing done, when at about 1pm, a gaggle of officers poured in to shake down C-section. I'm on E-section, and we still didn't have our red crates - the thing that ALL of our personal property has to fit into. I had a stack of books and Star Wars related material that I was going to donate to the library, and thankfully was not destroyed by the flood that happened to me earlier this week. So, donating that stuff helped me with saving some space...Everything was ready to roll...
They breezed through C-section in about an hour, and on to D-section...they spent about an hour on D-section, then the officers came to our section to pass out the red crates for us. We all hurriedly packed our things and were ready to roll when at a little after 3pm, the guards just stopped...Stopped cold in their tracks, and the sergeant yelled to the officers, "Okay, I think we're good for the day. One section left and we'll let night shift do it!" A guy on my section yelled out, "Are you kiddn' me? Y'all have done enough? You got one more section to go and don't get off of work 'til 5.30pm!"
But the guards didn't care. As soon as the sergeant said they could leave, they got off of the pod faster than Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes.
And so we waited on second shift...
Second shift came, and the guards were pissed off that first shift didn't finish their work which never bodes well for the inmates, because they just take their anger out on us, and we were all thinking we were screwed. It was going to be a blood bath for us! And so we waited and waited, dreading what was to come, when at 7pm the guards came pouring in like Army Ants!! They strip searched us, took us out to a metal detector, ran us through it, and then put us in empty cells on F-section. We waited for about an hour, and then they came back to get us, ran a metal detector wand over our bodies, and then brought us back to our cells.
Now, when I got back to my cell the first thing I look at is my desk where my radio sits along with my lamp etc. We don't have to put electronics in the crate, so what I usually do is turn the radio on with some music playing, and leave my cell. I haven't seen an officer take a radio in a very long time, but you just never know...It was there when I got back to my cell, although the station had been changed to some god awful pop station! I guess they weren't *feeling* The Spot - an '80s/'90s station that I mostly listen to these days, 'cause everything else is crap!
Anyway, I noticed that everything - and I mean everything - in my cell was neatly stacked in piles on the bunk frame. So, once the hand cuffs were removed, I began to look through everything and see if anything was missing. Nope. It was all good.
So, really, it wasn't that bad. I didn't lose anything at all, and they treated my cell with a bit of respect, which is not a guarantee and often looks like a tornado ripped through the place...And even more surprisingly, the guards passed out mail before 10pm!
The wait sucked, and it was stressful, but once it was done it was a relief. Just one more pod to go (A-Pod) and the lock-down should be over with!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 20th, 2018
Well, it doesn't look like they're going to finish up shaking down A-Pod today, which means we'll most definitely be on lock-down until Monday, at the very least. What I find strange about all of this is how each lock-down seems to get progressively longer. This is only conjecture on my part, but it seems that these things are starting to become week long breaks of "vacations" for the officers, because they litterally don't have to do anything except pass out sack lunches and take us to the shower three times a week. They get to sit around the rest of the time. There was a time when we'd have these once-every-90-days lock-downs that would be over in a week.
Maybe it sounds like complaining, and yeah, it is, but it's hard for anyone on the outside to know what it's like to be stuck inside of a small cell with no access to anything whatsoever - not even a hot meal - for weeks on end. I have a strong mind and resolve, so it would be very difficult for this kind of environment - or any environment for that matter - to break me. I'm fortunate that I have an active mind; I'm fortunate that I have friends to write to and books to read, but not everyone has that. Not everyone can adapt or hold onto their mental wherewithal, and I've watched over the years as men crumble like pieces of clay as they succumb to this place...That is the essence of my complaints.
Speaking of mental wherewithal...I have a growing problem with our psyche department. I don't know if anyone who keeps up with the death penalty news or execution dates has noticed the MANY mentally ill/disabled men, losing their appeals and ending up on the execution list...It really is frightening, and it makes me wonder what kind of reports the psychiatric department is writing when they "check up" on guys. All we ever see is the MHMR lady come to a cell and say, "You okay in there?" before checking off something on her clip board, and moving on to the next cell. I didn't know that qualified as a psychiatric check up. There is NO WAY that in that amount of time she can assess someone's state of mind. No more than 20 seconds is all she spends at each cell door...That's no exaggeration or embellisment!
So, when you look at the execution list, you'll see the names of guys who are legitimately mentally ill; there is no way in the world that men like Rockwell or Kemp should even be on death row...Shit is getting real here, and fast! I don't know how many more times we can beg for people to step up their efforts to educate and inform people, and their activism to end the death penalty.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 22nd, 2018
I don't know what happened on Friday afternoon, but the air on C-Pod went from arctic to mildly cool. It was 100 degrees that day, and I'm no AC expert, but I knew something had to be up with the system. We'd heard reports that other pods were blazing, and to the rank's credit, they were handing out ice, and iced water, every few hours...Anyway, on C-Pod, we were okay, but on Saturday, it got even warmer...Something was clearly wrong with the AC system, and by Saturday evening it was blazing, and I mean BLAZING HOT!
I always sleep with my fan on, but by the middle of the night, I had turned it up on high and kicked off the sheet I was covered with. Today, it's no cooler, so the AC needs to be fixed...Again! It's nuts how many times it breaks down, but hopefully, they'll get it fixed on Monday.
I'm not sure if we'll be off lock-down tomorrow, or not. One of the guards said they did finish A-Pod, but they were working on 11 building and 10 building today, and that should be it. We're still getting sack lunches though, so that means the lock-down is still in effect. Maybe we'll get a hot meal sometime today...I sure do hope so!
I'm really hoping for some recreation time tomorrow. I need to have a proper jog, and just get some good exercise. I woke up with a lot of energy this morning, surprisingly, so I decided to go ahead and work out in my cell anyway. Then I cleaned my cell, and took a bird bath in my sink. I'm sitting uder my fan as I type this; I was listening to Star Wars but I needed to get this typed out and work on my movie list, and then I can plug my radio back in. We've only got two outlets...
Well, that's another weekend over and done with!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning...Contains some bad language**
July 23rd, 2018
Finally...We're off lock-down. I had a feeling when, for breakfast, we had a hot meal of eggs and biscuits, and not the usual sack meals we get during lock-downs. I ended up going to recreation 1st round, and it was just nice to finally get out of the cell - even if it was really hot this morning and I had to exercise. I think they're working on the air now, and that's a relief because I heard on the news that the high was going to be in the 100s again...It's insane! But hey, that's Texas.
Remember when I talked about how inadequate the psych department is here? Well, this morning one of the mental health "Doctors" was making her rounds, and she stopped off at this guy's cell on our row - a guy who is actually mentally ill, and in need of proper care. He lives in filth, and we often have to get onto the guards because they don't make him shower, and then it starts to smell like road kill down here amongst the cells. I suppose the irony is the guards take his shower time away from him because he's too doped up and can't function well enough to know it's "shower time", then they complain about "how nasty he is...".
So, this "Doctor" goes up to his cell and knocks on his door, then jumps back about 5 feet because it stinks...She then has the nerve - the freakin' nerve! - to say, "Everything good in there? You doin' okay?" My neighbour blew a gasket, and yelled out, "Apparently not! You just jumped back 5 feet because he smells like shit, and you ask if he's okay? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?" I think he scared the lady because she clenched her clip board tightly, and got off the section fast...But I mean, geeze, he was absolutely correct. All this "Doctor" was doing is marking off her clip board, and not really trying to address the problem that this man obviously has. He smells like feces...Obviously he's NOT okay. It's a joke!
What really bothers me is that with all of the advances in science, and being in the 21st century, we really should be able to understand mental health issues, and take them more seriously. It's like we're still stuck in that "pray it away" mindset, and people don't think it's a serious problem. Well, it is, and we still haven't pulled our heads out of our asses! I have a theory on why a lot of people don't take it seriously, and it's this: if we start attributing many of our problems and decisions on our mental faculties and neural cognizance, then it begins to cast doubt on things like religion and free will...And so we're stuck in this circular thinking process and it's like...Come on people! We've got the tools...Science and technology...We can probably fix it now and we choose not to, because why? I don't get it...
Other than that, the day has been kind of "blah" - another typical Monday. I was just happy to get out of the cell for a while. It seems I spoke too soon about the AC being fixed...It wasn't...And it's just hotter than it was before!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 24th, 2018
At the time of writing this, it appears they've got the AC sorted out, because it's really cold. I was thinking yesterday about the guys in general population, and it made me feel really bad for them because the buildings out there have no AC at all. It's pretty crazy. I guess the justification over the years has been that because they can "open their windows" they don't need AC, well...if you've ever seen those "windows", they are basically little rectangular slits in the concrete! They make no difference to the temperature, especially when it's 100 degrees outside. The day rooms are worse...They've got huge factory fans there, but it just turns the dayrooms/buildings into a giant convection oven. In the last couple of years there were several law suits filed against the TDCJ, with successful settlements, and I think Texas will eventually be forced to convert their prisons to air conditioning. There's a lengthy article about it in the July 2018 issue of Prison Legal News...If you want to check it out, you'll find it at prisonlegalnews.org, titled "Litigation Heats Up Over Extreme Temperatures In Prisons and Jails", and it was written by Matt Clarke and Christopher Zoukis...My Webmaster has posted a link to the article under "News Article Links", which is under the **News** tab on the website.
It's been a pretty slow day today; I went out to recreation first round, came back in, and I'm now just trying to keep busy...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 25th, 2018
Sometime in the afternoon, the air petered out again yesterday, but this morning it was back to being cold, and has stayed that way since...I went to recreation 2nd round, in the F-section day room (F-section is completely enpty) and I had a great workout! I wasn't bothered or interrupted by anyone, and could just think as I was exercising. It felt pretty good. I like when it's peaceful and quiet, and I can think...
It's really been one of those ho-hum kind of days.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 26th, 2018
You know, this month has just flown by...I mean, I look up at the calendar, and I see the date, and I'm like, "wow!"...crazy! And while waiting on the courts to see what happens next can be stressful, I do have some wonderful things to look forward to in coming months.
As I write this, I'm waiting to find out when I'm going to recreation. It's going to be one of those long days, and just...well, you just have to roll with it.
Today, I want to write about how I'm feeling, and to show my appreciation to my friends who have stuck by my side, through thick and thin...It means more than they could ever know. But I really want to thank someone extremely special, and who I am just enjoying so much, and who makes me the happiest I've felt in a very long time...For a while I'd been looking, but not looking, if that makes sense. And in my non-search I'm sure I've inadvertently hurt a couple of people, which I am sorry for...But there was nothing that could "fill" that emptiness I had inside, and I've written about it often over time. I just felt like I was always missing something, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, last year, I made a friend who forever changed me, and it's one of those "once in a lifetime" things...Yes, I've made friends before, and yes, some of them I've become extremely close to and would literally give up anything for them, if it meant them having a safe and wonderful life...but this...it's like my heart could explode! My drive is back, my creativity is at an all time high, and my brain is constantly firing on all cylinders! Sure, there are sluggish days and depressed days - I'm locked in a cell for 22 hours out of the day for crying out loud! But to have someone encourage me and support me the way she does, and to kick around ideas on projects...I've never experienced that with anyone before. And as well as that, to be able to contribute to THEIR own creativity and dreams, is something I've never experienced before, and it's wonderfully fulfilling! It's like my heart is full all of the time. I've described myself doing the "Snoopy Dance" - you know, where he's got his head in the air and his feet are flying away...That's me on a regular basis. And it's not just the support of that person, but the support of all of her friends too? It's pretty amazing, and it's changed me in a very profound way...It's a wonderful journey. Nothing is ever 100% perfect all of the time, but that's part of life. You can drive half way across the country to reach your destination, and you're bound to have a flat tyre, or some other issue pop up. But you're still happy when you reach that destination.
I just wanted to show my gratitude, and let that person know that they are "everything..."
Courage. Strength, Faith and Hope...
July 30th, 2018
This place just can't seem to get the AC worked out. I was writing in a letter earlier today, that either someone is messing with the thermostat constantly, or maintenance just doesn't know what they're doing...or it could be a combination of both. It was nice and cool in the cells over the weekend, and all the way until morning. Then around 6am, everything got wonky and stuffy.
They've been passing out iced water quite frequently, which has been nice, and up until last night there hadn't been any problem with officers giving the 2 cups of eight ounces we're supposed to receive by policy. Now, some guards have been really cool about guys getting even more than that, or filling up their bowls with ice or iced water, so that they can cool their sodas down or whatever - and nothing beats an ice cold V-8 juice! I'm just sayin'...As my girl says, "It's the dog's!" Anyway, none of the guards have been pissy about it at all, until this hot shot guard comes in and he's passing out water (to give you an indication of his personality, he's got the word "Carnage" tatooed on his forearm...) and starts yelling, "One cup of water! That's all you're getting". At first, the other officer isn't saying anything...Then this one guy down the run starts yelling at the officer and saying, "We get two cups. Polcy says we get two!" And they start screaming at each other back and forth until the other officer says, "The offender is right; policy says we're supposed to give them two cups of water." But the guard refuses to give in and gives his c-worker a look of disgust, like, "How dare you take their side!" I'm sitting in my cell thinking, "Geeze, it's ONLY water..." Like, did we suddenly become like Mad Max, and water is precious, and everyone is fighting over the last drop?
What really got to me was that look the officer gave the other...and I don't understand why some people have that mentality when someone else is doing the right thing...they see it as a betrayal, even if they're in the wrong and KNOW they're in the wrong. Some of the officer's hats have "We take care of our own" on the back, and they are usually the ones who have that kind of attitude. It's a dangerous attitude to have in prison, and I hate making this comparison, but it's no different than Nazi Germany..."You're going to do what I tell you to do, even if it's morally questionable. You wouldn't take the side of an ANIMAL would you?"...But not speaking up makes you equally culpable.
This weekend, otherwise, was quiet and peaceful. I just can't believe this month is already coming to an end.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
August 6th, 2018
I didn't write anything in the past week because I really didn't have much to say. I'm back at it this week though, and I'm feeling good, even if today was a bit on the chaotic side. This place never ceases to amaze me, and make me shake my head...
It actually started last night when they moved all of the guys off of A Pod, F-Section. Now, F-Section for A-Pod is known as the "cripple" section, because several of the guys who have lived on that section for over a decade(!) are in wheelchairs, have walkers, or have other medical conditions which are serious. The showers on F-Section are also equipped for those guys who are disabled (even though they do still have to step over a large chunk of concrete to get in the shower). There are hand rails, and a nifty little bench, as well as a lower shower head for those sitting on the bench. I've actually showered in it before, and thinking it would be cool to have two shower heads run at the same time, pressed the buttons, and the lower shower head hit me right in the nuts!...Never did that again! And I have never had the mettle to sit on the little bench, because my bare butt cheeks are not going to share the same space that another pair of warm, wet cheeks have sat on...just saying...
Anyway, they're installing new shower doors, and someone decided that it would be a great idea to move those guys all the way to C-Pod, even though B-Pod has TWO empty sections, and is directly across the hall from A-Pod! Now, as if that wasn't bad enough, they have to trek all the way up the hall - one inmate at a time - to let the cripples (please don't be offended by that term...they call themselves by that word, and it is actually a term of endearment in this place...freakin' cripples...) use the handicap equipped showers. Brilliant!
Having the 14 extra guys here - even if only temporary - has sent the guards into a tizzy! Thankfully, they sent some other guards to help out, or else it would've been really bad!
I was fortunate though; I was able to spend some time outside today with one of my closest friends who I haven't seen since before Thanksgiving of last year. He has heart problems, and that is why he lives on the cripple section. He was telling me that he has just had a stent put into his heart, and even though he was shackled up the entire time he was in the hospital, he did get to watch a few days of tv, and saw a bunch of cool movies. I was happy to hear that. He said that one of the strangest things about watching tv after not seeing it for 18 years, was having his eyes catch up with how fast the images were. He'd have to close his eyes sometimes and just listen to it. It was also strange for him to actually see movies that he had only ever listened to on his radio before, and the images he made up in his imagination were quite different from the actual images, which was a strange feeling for him...Like being blind all your life, and seeing for the first time.
In other news, we've got a new warden back here. It seems like we have a new guy every year...Well, this guy is a particular hardass, and has already been stirring the pot with inmates and officers alike. He's ordered guards to write bogus cases (one guy was shaving and he ordered the officer to write him up for being "out of compliance" for having a beard with no pass...even though the inmate was in the process of shaving the stubble off!) and I guess the place is just too peaceful for him. We've had relatively little dust ups over the past couple of years because whilst you'll always have some officers who get off on stirring up trouble, but for the most part the ranking officers and wardens had been staying out of the way. To be continued...I don't see him lasting that long...They never really do.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
August 7th, 2018
I've noticed a weird phenomenon back here; in the past couple of days, and due to the moves from A-Pod to C-Pod F-Section, I've been talking to guys who I've not seen in almost a year, and as I was talking to a guy earlier, it dawned on me that our conversation pretty much took off from where we left a year ago. It kind of freaked me out when I realised that we both (and others talking to one another) were talking as if no time lapse existed. As if the moment I left A-Pod last year, froze in time.
It isn't like being away from friends in the world, or family, and reconnecting with them for some kind of holiday or gathering. When you do that, you've got milestones in your life to talk about. Things to brag about...a life to share. Here, we've nothing...And so conversations freeze in time, and you just pick back up from where you left off...Really strange!
Today has been okay...I woke up at about 6.30am, and went outside a little after 8 in the morning. It felt great outside and while it was hot and humid, I loved seeing the morning blue sky. A flock of white herons even passed over us, which is really cool to see. I've been noticing more and more of them lately. Polunsky Unit must be some good eatin' for insects because they land here often by the dozens. Maybe word is getting out to their other comrads. I think they're beautiful birds, and their walk is just sooooo funny!
It's just been one of those coasting days. The guards aren't bad, and things are just moving along...
Courage. Strength. Faith and Hope!
** Warning...Contains strong language**
August 8th, 2018
Man...at some point they've got to move me off this pod! The negativity amongst some of these dudes is like an open, festering wound, and ever since they moved the guys from F-Section A-Pod over here (and they're here to stay) it's only gotten worse for several reasons: Now C-Pod is filled up completely, and where rec. used to be done in 4 rounds, it's not jumped to 6 rounds of recreation. Guys set up for second shift were screwed - well, not all, but a handful - out of their recreation because the guards have to shut everything down before 10.30pm. They didn't get 5th round out until close to 8pm, and it was just a royal mess...But that is only part of the problem. A couple of the guys they moved from A-Pod are notorious shit starters, and it started up today...We'd been relatively peaceful and drama free, but as soon as they started up...And when you couple that with some of the guys over here who are sooooo freakin' negative, but were being calm...things erupted, like someone threw gasoline on a pile of smouldering ashes. It just blew up. I'm trying really hard to not let it get to me today...but I'm already irritated because it is looking more and more like I'm the one who is going to get screwed out of recreation tonight. It's already 1.19pm and I'm not even scheduled for recreation...Sigh!
On a more positive note, this guy they call "Old School" came to our section last night, and was telling everyone it was his birthday. Some people don't like him because he can be a bit grumpy, but he makes me laugh, and I can do a spot on impression of him that makes other people laugh. So, he's in the dayroom and says, "I'm 59 today!" And I said, "59??? Well, that's cause for a celebration! I'm going to make you something to eat." I cooked up a quick batch of tacos for him and sent them to him while he was in the dayroom. He ate them so fast I thought he was going to choke on them...I was saying, "Dude...damn Old School! Slow down and enjoy them." And his reply was sooooo funny...He got really serious and said, "I am mother fucking enjoying them. If I wasn't, I'd have spit that shit out!" I couldn't help but laugh! He is known for speaking what is on his mind, and so who am I to argue with him? ha ha.
Earlier, I was listening to AFR, and they shot my blood pressure up...I've really got to stop listening to that station! They were on the gun debate, and mental health care access, and the host made the comment "If liberals cared about mental health, they wouldn't block legislation that would allow homosexuals to receive psychiatric care to help them get over being gay!" I almost started cussing at the radio because I am thinking, is she really equating being gay with mental illness? Wow!...Ignorance has no boundaries, I suppose.
Otherwise, I'm holding up!...Got to stay focused. As Qui Gon Jin said in the "Phantom Menace"..."Your focus determines your reality".
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
August 13th, 2018
Today is a special day for me...a day in which a year ago, my life would go in a direction I never expected it to. And it couldn't have come at a better time either, because I was facing a lot of uncertainty. My attorney at the time was piss sorry, and hadn't talked to me in over a year, and my website was floundering, and not taking the creative direction that I really wanted it to go...I was also becoming embroiled in unnecessary drama and crap from other peoples' lives, and then...things suddenly improved, and I was filled with a sense of courage, strength, hope and faith. We often don't know in which direction the river of life will flow, but in those moments...when life hands you a sturdy life raft, it is wise to climb up on it and let it get you to safety.
So, the past few days I've been a bit down, but I'm feeling better today. I'm just...I can be an idiot sometimes, and whilst I don't mean to take things for granted or assume anything, I did just that, and I should've just talked about things and explained things a bit better. You live and learn (or at least "should" learn...) and I've used it as a learning experience, and will definitely be more mindful of things in the future. We should never take our friends, and people we love, for granted on anything...or fail to take into account their feelings and concerns. We can't assume them to be mind readers or read between the lines with certain things, and we should definitely communicate...So, it's a learning experience for me, and I have definitely taken the lesson on board!
I spent most of Sunday just listening to music, and thinking. It was a fairly peaceful day, and some rain storms moved in...Hearing the thunder in the distance, and the rain patter against the concrete was really meditative, and so today I feel peaceful and positive. I didn't even get irritated when the guard threw my clothes and book across my cell when I came back from recreation. I just shook my head and was like, "Wow..."
I just looked out of my window and there's a huge flock of white herons out there! Oh man...I initially was just going to see if any wild flowers or pretty weeds had popped up after the rain, and that's when I saw them near 8 Building, scattered across the lush green grass (must be so green and vibrant after yesterday's rain). They're just pecking around...I love their walk! It's so goofy, and their body moves ahead of their heads, and then the head swings forward. They'll stop, look around, then dive their beak into the grass. Unlike other birds, I haven't seen them try to "steal" one another's food...If a heron comes up with a tasty morsel, the other ones look at it like, "Good catch, dude!" And they dive their beaks back into the ground.
Some time ago, I was watching a different type of bird at sunset, and they were scattered across the grass looking for dinner I suppose, and they would literally charge at one another and try to steal food from another's beak. It was crazy! They looked like they had all gone mad.
Well, here's to a positive week anyway!
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith!
August 22nd, 2018
Woo hoo! Cool air!!! I can finally focus, and get back to work...The air went out last week, and it seemed to get progressively hotter as the time passed. We're in the midst of another heat wave...Thankfully, yesterday afternoon, the air (slowly) kicked back in. It was insane!...Right now, it once again feels like a meat locker, and I love it!
There comes a point when the heat gets so stiffling that you cannot focus on anything else. It's just this feeling of...misery! I honestly don't know how they did it pre-air conditioning days. I suppose they were just really used to it, and because they knew nothing else, they dealt with it. We're just spoiled, whining bastards!
Not much has really been going on. Last Wednesday I wanted to write about the most insane fire drill I've ever witnessed, and I'll get to that in a minute, but for now...my mind is just thinking about my appeals and when the final response will be filed, and then...it is truly in the hands of fate. It could drop any time now and I'm just praying for mercy and a miracle. I really do thank everyone who has been sending love and positive thoughts my way...It means more than you'll ever know.
So, the fire drill...It was a little after 9pm on Wednesday night, when a sergeant, and a pretty plain clothes woman entered our section. Of course, everyone was like, "Who is that?", and there was the typical cat calls etc...but then, weirdly, they locked themselves in the day room. They both sat down at the table, and the lady began to jot notes down on a clip board. We assumed it was some kind of inspection which was kind of odd for so late at night.
Anyway, the sergeant pulled out his walkie-talkie and said, "Fire Drill! Fire Drill! C-Pod E-Section day room. Electrical fire! All available officers respond."
A couple of minutes later, a few guards show up, then a couple more. NONE of them are prepared! No fire extinguishers or anything. Meanwhile, the guard who is running the control center isn't even paying attention, so other guards are trying to get INTO the section, and they can't because he's not opening the gate! So, the sergeant who is locked in the day room is hollering, and trying to get his attention by yelling, "Fire! There's a fire!", and the officer is just spaced out, looking at the other side of the pod. Then, a woman sergeant shows up on the pod (the same one who wrote me up on a bogus case for a broken coax cable) and she's barking orders at the guards saying, "Get the fire hose! Get the fire hose!" A couple of guards run off the section to go to this little metal cabinet where the hose is housed. The sergeant in the day room is yelling, "No! It's an electrical fire. NO WATER! It's an ELECTRICAL FIRE!!!" but the female sergeant is steadily yelling, "Get the hose! Get the hose!"
The woman in the day room is just looking at them like, "You've got to be kidding me" and so I start yelling, "We're dead! We're all dead! We're burning up and crispy critters..." and someone else starts singing Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire".
This goes on for like 10 minutes, and I'm thinking, "What? Do they actually train these people?" They're just running around, no organisation whatsoever, no leadership, and not even the ranking officers know how to handle the situation. It's funny, and I was laughing my ass off, but if it had been a real and serious fire, we'd all be dead...and that's no joke!
Well, here's to getting things back on track and keeping positive, focused, and full of...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
August 23rd, 2018
This has not been one of the greatest days...I woke up feeling pretty good and pumped up that I would be getting outside to enjoy some quality sunshine! I was going to be playing some basketball with my neighbor; he's really, really good, and forces me to step up my game. His encouragement has improved my game ten fold, so I was looking forward to playing ball with him again. I've been playing basketball for 15 years now, and it just never gets old...I enjoy it so much.
I started my day with writing and listening to the news, and then some music programs. Around 10am I stretched, got my bottle of water ready to go outside, and around 10.30am we headed out. It was hot, but the sun wasn't right over us quite yet, so we started playing. I come out really strong and win the first couple of games, but I feel the tendons in the back of my leg getting tight...I'm pretty good with pain and can block it out, so we continue to go at it...He starts winning and really just kicking my ass; it's getting hotter and I'm getting slower, and my leg is screaming at me! I don't want to be a guy who makes excuses as to why I can't win, so at 40 games we call it quits and he gave me a royal ass kicking with a score of 35-3 :-( Ugh...we laugh about it, talk for a while, and lay in the sun until the guards take us in at 1pm, and by then it was scorching. By that time I just wanted to rinse off and get under the air conditioning.
As I'm entering our section, this guy down the run says, “Hey, Randy...the warden, Major, Captain, Lieutenant and Sergeant were all in your cell for about ten minutes!” I was like, “What?!?” Now, I know there's nothing to worry about, but I'm thinking, “why me?” By the time my cell door opens and I see the inside of my cell...my jaw just hits the floor! It was a mess. Things were strewn about everywhere! My lamp was on the floor, all of my electronics were unplugged, and clothes, books, and papers were everywhere. I really didn't understand it and the guard said, “Hey, your clothes line was up, you know?” I'm like, “Okay...so that's an excuse to tear the shit out of my cell?” I'm looking around my cell and I don't see anything missing, but it's like sheesh! The guard did make me laugh though...He said, “Dude, it could've been a lot worse you know? You're lucky the Warden is a huge Star Wars fan and saw all of your Star Wars stuff...” So, I was saved by Yoda!
Anyway, I cleaned everything up, washed my clothes, and took a bath in my sink...Then I took a long nap! I was mentally and physically exhausted. The only think that sucks right now is how sore my leg is, and I'm hobbling around like a cripple...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
August 26th, 2018
I live for the weekends...the peace and quiet after a week of non-stop noise and commotion. However, weekends can also be incredibly boring because the only thing we can leave our cells for is a shower, or if you're one of the fortunate ones, a Saturday night visit. This weekend has been another mind-numbingly boring one...but hey, at least it's been super quiet.
My neighbour was kind enough to give me a set of novels that all tie into the Alien movie series - a series I love tremendously - so I was eager to start reading them, and I've been doing that all weekend. I'm two books in!
I just heard on the news that there was another mass shooting in Florida, and it makes me shake my head...Hopefully young Florida voters will come out in November and elect people who will actually address the issue of guns instead of protecting special interest groups that care little about the constitution, and everything about money and power. I find it ironic that a lot of conservative politicians, pundits, and evangelicals, blame these shootings on the so-called fact that we no longer value life, but it's blaringly obvious that profit and politics have eclipsed the "value of life" that they claim to want to protect...Hypocrites - all of them!
Hopefully I'll have a week of inspirational writing...my brain is kind of stuck on pause, and focused on my court filings right now.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
**Warning: This entry contains foul and offensive language which I do NOT condone, but this is what happened...**
August 27th, 2018
I don't know what they put into the breakfast this morning, but this has been one of the craziest and most chaotic of days I've experienced in a long time. I woke up feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the end of the week as it's Labour Day Weekend, and the possibility of a really good meal is always something to look forward to in this place.
So, I started my day off by getting everything in order for second round of recreation. I knew it was going to be a long day in the sense that nothing was going to get done with the two officers I noticed “working” on the pod. They weren't known for doing much, but they're not assholes like some, so I suppose it's the trade off for a shower later that evening...it happens! You take the good with the bad in a place like this.
However, what I hadn't noticed is that we also had two training officers, and the two “senior” officers weren't training them! They were literally letting them do all of the work. They had no idea how to read a rec or shower sheet, which leaves them directionless if they can't do those simple things...That particular paper work tells the guards who is out at rec, those who have already been out to rec or have had a shower, and generally, where each inmate is at that rotation. Anyway, because these guards in training don't know what they're doing, inmates are getting frustrated – some are yelling at them, and they're scared and don't know what to do! I've seen a lot of crazy things in this place, but never something like this; it was on a par with the fire drill I witnessed last week.
I finally made it out to recreation at about 9am. On the way out, I was going to kick out my laundry in front of my door to exchange for a clean towel and socks, but I was told it was a state holiday today and there wouldn't be any clean laundry. I was like, “What holiday? It better not be one of those BS confederate celebrations!” TJ, a guy from down the run, told the guards it couldn't be a holiday because he had a legal visit scheduled for today – his attorneys told him so last week. The guards shrugged their shoulders, and taking their word for it, I kicked my laundry back into my cell.
Out at rec I started exercising and I'm kind of getting a kick out of all of these guards running around like headless chickens! Apparently, the female officer is on some kind of meds and properly doped up because she kept nodding off at the control panel, and the only way the other guards could get the cell doors or other doors open was to scream at the top of their lungs. I even contributed with a, “Hey!!! PAAAAYYY ATTTEEENNNTTTIIIOOOONNN! FOCUS!!!” It was comical.
An officer showed up with an ice bucket to pass out to everyone, and he saw the chaos and was like, “Hell no...this is insanity!” He left the pod and went to notify a sergeant. When the sergeant showed up I asked, “Hey, Sarge? What holiday is today 'cause the guards said there's no laundry.” He told me it was Lydon B Johnson's birthday...a Texas political giant who ushered in the civil rights bill as president (but also wouldn't get us out of the mess that Vietnam was, and actually escalated that war...) but he said there would be laundry anyway. I thought, “great...my crap is stuck in my cell now!”
The sergeant attempted to get things back under control on the pod, and had to call for another sergeant to come down as well. They were pissed...I'm watching, humorously, when an ongoing issue that has been building on my section boiled over between two dudes...This problem began when a white dude got mad at a black female officer on the 4th of July, because he didn't get a hot dog on his tray like everyone else. The female officer told him she didn't care, and he could stick the hot dog up his “white ass”...to which he replied, “Oh yeah? Fuck you ****** bitch”, using the “N” word, which quite understandably pissed off some of the black dudes on my section. He said he wasn't directing it at THEM, only her, because she told him to stick the hot dog up his WHITE ass. So, he felt that opened the door for him to say what he said to her. I told him he didn't have to use that particular word - it really is the most offensive of words. To the dude's credit, he apologised to everyone, and emphasised it wasn't directed at them. But...they still took if offensively, and refused to pass anything he was sending to other people. I told him that in light of using that word, he would have to respect and accept the consequences.
Well, a couple of weeks ago one of the black guys came to our dayroom and was going off on one of the guards, and called him a “bitch ass white boy,” and this set off the guy who had used the racial slur back on 4th of July...The black dude said he wasn't directing it at him, but since he jumped in the car he called him a bitch ass white boy as well. This provoked the other guy and he said, “If I'm a bitch ass white boy, you're a bitch ass black boy.” (See how childish this is??)
Fast forward to today...The white guy was in F-section and some of the guys over here asked me if I'd see if this dude they call “Ippy” had any 'crack bars' – a crack bar is a homemade chocolate candy concoction that is admittedly delicious, and will have you hooked like you're on crack...I said, “You know, dude is over there...” There was a silence and then one of the black dudes said, “Ho ass mother fucker...” Well, white dude heard him and yelled back over, “Fuck you bitch!” I had enough...I said, “It's bad enough we all have to fight the State just to try and freakin' live! We're fighting for our lives! And you guys are getting into it over childish shit! You are all acting like kids. Dude over there was wrong for using the “N” word. You are wring for calling him a “white boy”. This tit for tat shit is going to solve nothing. Okay, feelings were hurt...It's in the past. What are y'all going to do now? Fighting like kids is going to accomplish nothing. Y'all get along, or ignore each other. Simple as that. If y'all don't want to fuck with each other, then ignore each other. But stop with the insults...It's over...”
After that, nothing was said and I went back to working out. My neighbor opted out of rec today and said to me, “I'm glad I didn't go! Better you than me!” I just shook my head and laughed...About another 20 minutes passed when the white dude called me over to the bars near his section. He handed me some wrapped crack bars and said, “Here...give them to dude...It's a peace offering. I bought them for him...You're right, this is childish.”
I grabbed them and hollered the other guy's name and he came to the bars, “Shoot your fishing line to the day room. I've got something for you,” I said.
“Where did it come from?” He asked.
“From dude...do you want them? He said it is a peace offering.”
A few moments of silence passed, and then, “Yeah...tell him I appreciate it.”
Now, whether this continues on is to be seen, but in that moment I was glad that hopefully I was able to talk a little sense into them because geeze, we've got a much bigger battle to fight, and it's stupid. Racial strife is stupid. Period.
After another ten minutes of exercising, laundry showed up. I told the guard passing out the towels that I needed him to get my cell door open and exchange my towel. He said he would. He went to my door and began to yell, “Open 57 cell!” No response. “Roll 57 door!” Again, no response. I walk over to the bars directly across from the control center and try to see if I can get the officer's attention, when I see her, head down on the panel and fast asleep! I told the other officer, “She's apparently taking a nap,” and he was like, “She's WHAT???” I shrugged my shoulders and started laughing. “She's on that good shit!” another inmate yelled. Which had the whole entire section laughing so hard. The guard began to bang and scream to get her attention, and another inmate was yelling, “Help! Officer down! Officer down! But she didn't budge. About that same time, the sergeants came back through and they had this look like, “What now?” on their faces, and couldn't believe it when they looked and saw the female officer passed out. The sergeant had the food slot bar in his hand, and began to slam it down on the bars extremely hard, and her head jerked up and her eyes went wide!
Just another day on Polunsky Unit...
I actually made it to the shower fairly early because the sergeants regained control and order, and the rest of the day, whilst emotionally exhausting, was peaceful.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
**Warning: This entry contains foul and offensive language**
August 29th, 2018
Yesterday I was focused on writing part 4 of my new memoir, “Falling Down", which should be posted in chapters quite soon...I'm going to keep on writing each part and have them posted individually as I've got a lot to write about for those particular moments in my life...Stay tuned!
I was also waiting on a legal visit for most of the day...I was particularly eager (and a bit anxious) to talk to my attorney as I knew we were facing a filing deadline. Thankfully, we've made the filing and I'm officially in the hands of fate. I could use all of the prayers and positive vibes anyone is willing to throw my way, and of course, I hugely appreciate it. I don't know how long it is going to take to receive a response from the Fifth Circuit as it varies from case to case, but again, every prayer towards the granting of my Certificate of Appeal so that I can continue the fight, would mean the world to me.
For the most part, yesterday was calm, and today, whilst it started out okay, it deteriorated into chaos after lunch. We pretty much had the exact same crew that we had on Monday, but early on they were on top of things. I ended up going to rec. at about 5.55am...I had it in my mind to try a sort of social experiment for my own humor, but first a little back story...
At the front of each pod is a normal door with a glass window. To the side on the wall is a doorbell and intercom button for the officer in the control center or “picket”. For whatever reason over the past few years, the guards have been ignoring the button and just kicking the door, banging on the frame with a baton, or hitting the glass window. In turn, the glass has been cracked and replaced MANY times...I used to work maintenance and I know that those glass panes cost HUNDREDS of dollars to replace! But over and over again they pound on the glass...So, here's the thing – the button actually works! The other effect of pounding on the door is the picket officer assumes it is an inmate pounding on their cell door, and so they just ignore the beating on the front door. It can take several minutes for the picket officer to realize that it is the front door!
After coming back from my legal visit yesterday, I stood in front of the door with the two officers at my side. One officer began to pound on the door with his baton, and I didn't say anything...I wanted to see how long it would take for the officer in the picket to actually open the door. We waited for almost 3 ½ minutes, then I said, “The button works.” The other officer pushed and the picket officer immediately opened the door. “Isn't technology amazing?” I said.
In that moment, however, I thought...”You know what? Tomorrow I'm going to make a sign that says “button works,” and see if I can get a guard to tape it to the front window. I was curious to see how many people would push the button or just kick the door. So, early this morning I made my sign, folded it up, and took it to recreation. It took about an hour to get the sign taped up, but after that, every guard that came to the pod pushed the button! But it was short lived...Another officer saw the sign and demanded to know who put it there. I told her I got an officer to tape it up because it made no sense to kick and bang on the door when the button works. She said, and I quote, “I hate that button! If you've got to hear it all fuckin' day long...beep beep beep...it'll drive you nuts!” And she ripped it down. I said, “Wow...you'd rather have your officers kick and bang on the door rather than put up with a beep?”
So, now I was curious to see how long it would take for the officers to start kicking and banging on the door again, and it was immediate! It was like the sign never existed, and some of the very same officers who had read the sign, then pushed the button, went right back to kicking and banging on the door like they'd never seen the sign!
My neighbor was kidding with me and said, “That didn't last very long, Randy.” And I said, “No, it didn't...But I'm going to keep putting up a new sign every day if I have to!” ha ha.
Well, the day got progressively worse when not too long ago, a guy they call “Turk”, had just come back from a follow up appointment at the hospital in Galveston. A couple of years ago he had his prostate removed...They send all inmates with serious medical problems to Galveston, no matter where they are in Texas...Anyway, he'd had some kind of scope inserted because he was telling the guards he had rectal bleeding and it wouldn't stop. He needed the nurse, but the guards, thinking it was funny, were not taking it seriously...They were walking around telling everyone, “so and so's asshole is bleeding.” One of the female officers walked by laughing, and both my neighbor and I said something to her...It just really pissed me off.
Anyway, please pray and send positive vibes my way! I need it!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
August 30th, 2018
Today was another one of those crazy days...not nearly as nuts as the past few days, but another very disorganized day. It started when, after going to bed at 1am, I fully expected to be able to sleep in until about 8am because I wasn't supposed to be going out to first round of recreation...Wrong! I was asked if I'd go out first round, so I dragged my butt out of bed, slammed a cold cup of coffee, and got ready. It was an absolutely lovely morning though...Kind of cool, with a nice breeze. I could see about a third of the moon in the sky, and it was beautiful. The guy I was outside with asked me if I wanted to play some ball, and I told him I was really tired, but I'd play anyway. Quite honestly, I should have beat this guy, but he gave me a pretty bad whooping!
When I came back in around 8.30am, I waited on a shower that never came, so I decided to bathe in my sink before taking a nap...I was woken up by the mail room, then commissary....I finally managed to take a short nap into the afternoon, and it got me through the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, these guards are just running around trying to look busy! I mean, if I was just a passer by I would easily think, “Damn...they're busting ass!” But I'd be sadly mistaken! It's 4.31pm at the time of writing this, and they've done very little in the way of showers, and they've not even pulled out 4th round of rec. yet! There is still a 5th round waiting to go as well...
Anyway, I'm sitting here contemplating the filing my attorneys made which I received last night, and it was good! I thought it was very good to be honest, but still...I'm in the hands of the universe now. I'm in no position to demand anything from God, the universe – whatever...All I can do is ask for mercy and a chance....Just a chance...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 3rd, 2018
I'm sitting here listening to the last of the movies over labour day weekend...The sky, which has been grey and raining most of the day, is fading into a dark charcoal. My mind keeps drifting to a letter that I received on Friday night from my brother, Wesley...I miss him so much, and I'm happy and relieved that things seem to be improving in his life. He appears to have a good group of people around him who believe in him, and want to see him succeed. As the quote says, “it takes a village...”, and to have people around you who believe in you, and your own self-worth.
He wrote something that broke my heart, and has had me thinking all weekend long...He said, “I wish our family wasn't so torn apart.” I've had that wish for 20 plus years, but I wonder, did this all start with me? Am I to blame??? Had I not left home back in 1995, would the events that followed still have unfolded in some other way? Would my brother have been kicked out of the family home at just 16? Would the whole family have disintegrated, or would we have remained tight...Strongly bound? Were the bonds of family even as tight as I once believed, or did they always have weak parts and defects just waiting for stress to snap them apart? On the flip side, I could argue that regardless of my mistakes and bad decisions, I still tried to reach out to them for help...I tried to come back home and get my life straight, and they rejected me. I firmly believe that nothing – NOTHING – I had done up to that point, warranted such a harsh rejection. So...the question remains...Who is to blame? Wesley and I have both desperately wanted the same things over the years: a feeling of being wanted, of being loved, of family...A feeling of knowing that in spite of our flaws and mistakes, there are people who love us.
I get especially upset because whilst I know that the abuses I suffered in the first 5 ½ years of my life, and the damage that resulted because of those abuses, I wasn't suffering the same debilitating psychological and mental health issues that Wesley has suffered, which went undiagnosed throughout his childhood and were only diagnosed and treated in more recent years. In many ways, he has little control over some of his actions, and yet my parents seemingly still abandoned him. It hurts that because of my own stupidity, I can't help him...And, yes, it sometimes angers me that my parents chose not to help him.
All that being said, I wish we had a family...I miss everyone...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 4th, 2018
The holiday is over and everything is back to normal. Today has turned into another one of those chaotic days. You'd think over the years that I'd be accustomed to it, but it's still as frustrating as ever! Maybe because there are lulls...You try to live your life with a bit of normalcy and routine, but building a day around when you're going to recreation, which officers are working the pod, and their particular work ethic and level of intelligence...It's something you just can't get used to. All you know is that it will either be a good day or a really screwed up day – there really isn't any in between! When the lulls come around, you are spoiled because you get kind of used to it, especially the peacefulness of a holiday weekend, or just the weekend in general. Everyone is catching up on mail, or listening to favourite radio programmes, or football...People are reading, people are talking quietly with their neighbours...And whilst these can at times be insanely boring days, you are easily sucked into the illusion of peace that comes with those days...
What can you do? It sounds whiney when I talk about it, and I don't mean for it to sound that way either, it's just that it seems to have become worse here recently. Even an older officer who has worked back here for YEARS, commented on the state of employees, saying, “Geeze, they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
I'm just trying to stay focused on being positive and hopeful, and willing something good to happen with my appeals. It's easy to allow yourself to get pulled into the abyss, but I'm clinging to the edge desperately...trying to keep myself from falling into it.
There's little else I can do...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 5th, 2018
Today has been chaos free! It's really amazing how the vibe of a pod can change depending on the officers working. Today, they've been laid back but getting all of the work done and keeping everything running smoothly and peacefully. It's the best we can hope for back here.
I went out to first round recreation at around 6am, exercised, and walked around. Whilst the officers were doing the morning showers, I ended up in a conversation with one of them about the new warden - he's one of these guys who comes in, disrupts the general flow of things, and makes up new rules as he wishes. The officer said that he had been just as hard on them as he is on us...Some of the officers are already talking about quitting. You'd think the folks in Huntsville would try to actually think of ways to keep a hold of staff for longer, instead of pissing them off to the extent they end up quitting! I think a big part of it is the leadership problem. Prisons are only as difficult as you make them; an asshole guard who treats inmates like crap is going to feel a push back from the inmates...But a guard who just gets things done and doesn't intentionally try to create chaos is going to have an easy time...It's the same as when an inmate looks for trouble with another inmate or inmates...He ends up finding it!
Both Huntsville and the politicians think they can solve the staff shortages by throwing bonuses and extra perks of the job at employees, in an attempt to keep them working here, or to hire new people. But unless they're sadistic, or a psychopath, nothing is going to keep them here for very long. To quote the officer today, "No amount of money is worth this shit." I've been saying it for years...the Texas Criminal Justice System we have right now is just not sustainable. You can't send everyone to prison, and nobody wants to work in prisons anymore...Something has to give!
On another note, I'm trying to keep myself upbeat, positive, and hopeful...It's weird going through my day, trying to just function normally whilst waiting on the courts to decide my fate. I feel like I've been to the doctor for some tests, and I'm waiting on that call to tell me I'm good or I've been diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness. It's stressful...It's emotionally taxing...I read an article some time ago about the evolution of our flight or fight responses...a mechanism that was important in our early years. When a saber tooth tiger was sizing us up for their next meal, our brain would flood our system with adrenaline so that we could either run away as fast as we could, or put up a good fight. As we evolved and our environment became safer, our need for the flight or fight response wasn't so important, but it still is a part of our make up...So, when a person is in a state of stress, that mechanism kicks in and your body is flooded with adrenaline...In the long run it's not healthy, and leads to all kinds of problems. When I feel that anziety come over me, I have to stop myself and breathe, and just calm down...It's not always easy, but I try. It's just a sucky situation all the way around...I keep telling myself, "I'll be fine. I've got this. I will live..." Or, I'll just pray in that moment and say, "Grant me mercy." What else can I do?
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith...
**Warning...Contains some offensive language**
September 11th, 2018
I'm in a weird position when it comes to writing this...I'm not having any kind of writer's block – on the contrary! I feel like I've been having one of the best writing spurts in years. The problem is it's been so chaotic here, I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record and a little bit on the whiney side. So, when these days get absolutely insane, I step back and just don't write anything at all – but I'm trying! I'm just self-conscious of people thinking,“Blah, blah, blah...shut the hell up.”
Anyway, today I want to write about an exchange I had with another guy back here. It was interesting...It started after he was getting onto another guy back here who is in the process of dropping his appeals. I've always had mixed feelings about people who do that...On one hand, I can totally understand the desire to just want to be done with it all; that feeling of, “Why am I doing this? Why am I fighting? I'm miserable all of the time.” When you're carrying so much heartache and pain from the past that it becomes a heavy wet blanket, suffocating the life out of you...I get that. I've been through that in the past! On the flip side, I sometimes feel insulted because there there are guys fighting so freaking hard to see the next day, and live, and you think, “My hardships are just as difficult...You can fight! Fight!” But I guess you can't compare the burden you carry on your own soul, to the burden someone else is carrying.
So, this guy – someone who's been in general population, and revels in stories of essentially being a predator out there – starts attacking the guy who is dropping his appeals. Firstly, he asks him, “Why?” And the other guy says, “I'm tired...I don't want this to be my life.” The other guy asks, “You afraid to go to general population?” The other guy says he's not afraid, he just doesn't want a life sentence. So, the other guy says, “Oh, you're afraid someone is gonna take your booty. I know your kind.” Dude then says, “You've got me all wrong...I have no problem fighting.”
“Nah, I can tell you'd give up the booty. But you know, if you've got money, there are people who will protect you...They ain't gonna let anything happen to you. You ain't got no money, you can suck and fuck...You'll just be somebody's girl.”
Now, the dude who is dropping his appeals is defending himself and pushing back, so I didn't feel any need to jump into the conversation – even if it was pissing me off! Whilst I've never been a “tough guy” or “badass” in general population, I've never liked bullies, racists, or predators, and I didn't have a problem defending myself against it. I was no fighter...I hate fighting, and if it could be avoided, that was always the best thing.
The conversation between the two ended, and the general population guy went on to clown him to his so-called “home-boys” and telling them how general population really was, according to him. At that point, having been in general population myself, I decided to ease into the conversation...I asked dude if he thought of himself as a predator, and he said “No.” Then I asked if he thought of himself as a rapist? He said he couldn't stand rapists...So, I said, “But you are both these things.”
“No I ain't.”
He told me that there was a difference between “protecting” someone, and just taking the booty, and I said, “But if you're extorting a sexual act from the guy, to keep him from safe from someone else trying to rape him, or you're taking his commissary, it makes you no different. It's against his will...Done out of fear. He's not doing it wilfully.”
He didn't say a word, and honestly, at this point I expected him to turn on me and start cussing me out or something...So, I asked, “You'd like another chance in the world, right? To go free?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“So, how are you going to make it when you can't even drop the general population persona on death row? You sound like an idiot! I'm not trying to insult you, but do you hear me or other guys who have been in general population, acting like that? You've got to get your mind out of this place, or you'll be doomed to fail. Nobody cares about what it is like in general population...we've got to stay alive to even get out there! That's where your focus should be. If you survive this, that's the real battle story, not beating up dudes or making them pay for protection. Get your head out of prison, man.”
After that some other dudes kind of took over the conversation and were agreeing with what I said. I don't know if any of this stuck in his head, but maybe I planted a seed anyway.
Another thing I've been thinking about is the “future dangerousness” issue a jury has to decide on when handing out a death sentence...I have two thoughts on this, actually...One relates to a recent court ruling (I don't know which case, or the title of the case) in relation to some University of Texas professors suing the state over the issue of allowing students to carry guns on campus. I think the argument was “what if one of these licensed gun carriers just started shooting the place up?” The court, if my understanding is correct, came back and said, “You can't determine a threat based on what MIGHT happen.” I could be wrong, but if I am right, I'm thinking "wow...but you can twist that very same argument when sentencing someone to death??”
The second thought I have on this is that according to a jury, there was reasonable enough information before them to have them believe that I could be a threat in the future...Keep in mind this was 18 YEARS AGO!!! And whilst I never hurt anyone in the escape, or afterwards, let's exclude that...going 18 years without so much as a threat to someone, or a single act of violence, is a long freakin' time! And there are guys who have been here for 20-30 years without a single act of violence as well...I think reason would conclude that if it hasn't happened in almost two decades, it's not going to happen, and I don't want to hear that stupid argument that prosecutors have made, saying, “Well, they're just waiting for the right moment to strike!” Really? The right moment? Don't you think in that amount of time, the right moment came and went? What does that even mean? If a person is going to hurt someone, and that's their intent, any moment could be the right moment. For most of us back here, the thought doesn't even cross our minds. I've seen guards jack food and starve guys for days, and the inmate doesn't retaliate. I really do wish people would push back more on this future dangerousness issue.
In other news...We've had quite a bit of rain in the last few days. I actually went outside earlier this morning in the rain, and it was lovely. It feels like autumn is settling in a little early...but this is Texas. It could be hot and sunny tomorrow – you just never know!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 13th, 2018
It's a weird feeling to wake up on your birthday and wonder if you're going to make it to be 42 years old. I've made it to 41, and many years ago I didn't expect to last this long, but I'm here and I'm both blessed and grateful for this year. All I can do is hope, and continue to ask for mercy and for another chance to prove my value and contribute/give back to people less fortunate.
I wanted to thank those who have wished me a happy birthday! I really appreciated it, and whilst today has been nothing spectacular, receiving cards, Jpay messages, and well wishes, has filled my heart with so much happiness and love.
Nobody here has done anything special for me; no tacos or anything, but that's okay. No one owes me anything and I don't need any kind of reciprocation. I know that if I was around certain friends here that I haven't seen in almost a year, they would be really spoiling me. The guys around me now...I'm good. I'm grateful to be alive.
And finally, thanks to the wonderful person in my life who has made my birthday so extra special...I've received some amazing cards and extra lovin', and it has had my heart up in the clouds. I'm a lucky dude :-)
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 14th, 2018
Well, the day started off great! It was like a late birthday party...Totally unexpected! I had just crawled out of bed when someone said they had something for me, that I had to fish to the dayroom to pick up...It was tacos! Four fatty heart clogging tacos! The best kind! And a bunch of other dudes had sent me candy bars as gifts as well. Here I was moping around because I didn't get anything from anyone here, yesterday...And what a surprise it's all been today! It really made me feel appreciated. I never expect or want any kind of reciprocation from anyone, and I've always given from my heart with no strings attached. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel appreciated, and that's the feeling I've had this morning...
So, the day started out great! It was really grey outside and storming early on, but not even that could ruin the morning. Then I went to recreation a little after noon, and things turned absolutely chaotic! I was getting ready to exercise and work off those yummy tacos (which ended up giving me heart burn, but they were worth it!) and the guards were still serving lunch. The food cart was parked out in front of the control center, and a guy in E-day room (directly across from D-day room, the day room I was recreating in) said, "Randy! Look...A cockroach!" I looked at the cart and watched as one of these horrible insects came from INSIDE of the cart, walked along the edge of the door, and went back INTO the cart! I said, "Holy shit!" So, we tried to get the female officer's attention to let her know before she started loading up trays to feed...I said, "There's cockroaches in the food cart," and she says, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" The guy who warned me about the cockroaches said, "Take it back to the kitchen!!!" She unplugged the cart and pushed it out the pod door...She was gone maybe 4 or 5 minutes when she pushed the cart back in. Now, the kitchen is about 60-70 yards away from C-pod, so it would be an impossibility for her to have taken the cart to the kitchen, replace the trays, and bring it back in that amount of time...So, I called her out on it. I said, "You did not replace those trays. Unless you can bend the space time continuim, there is no way you traded those trays out or replaced that cart." She ignored me...
About that same time a sergeant came on the pod, so we tried to tell her about what happened. She said, "We know about the problem!" And so the guy in E-day room said, "Do something about it then!" Nothing was ever done, so all we could do was warn guys that cockroaches were in the food cart.
After that, some other officers came in and started posting "Effective Immediately" signs all over the place from the new warden. This guy is a complete tyrant! The two new signs said we are no longer allowed to bring games like chess or dominoes to the day room, and he was putting a restriction on candy, juice, ketchup, and grape jelly, from the commissary. Now, I'm a ketchup junkie! I put it on everything, and buy a couple of bottles each time I go to commissary - it's the only way to make the food palatable. That being said, these particular ingredients can be used to make hooch, but they've got disciplinary mechanisms in place to try and keep guys from making prison wine. The warden cannot assume that just because a person buys these particular items that they're going to make hooch!...It's ridiculous, and he's hell bent on taking any kind of "comfort" away from inmates that he can. I'm sure there are people who would say, "Good! You guys shouldn't have diddly squat in your cells, or any comfort! You need to be miserable!" But consider this: the more harsh conditions become, and the more restrictive they are, leads to some truly awful things...The mental collapse of inmates - a health issue which in turn creates more of a burden on the State, and on the taxpayer who has to cover the medical costs of these problems. And for some of the more aggressive inmates, it gives them the sense that they have nothing left to lose, and they can end up hurting someone, and putting staff at considerable risk. It's not a good thing...There is a reason why the TDCJ allows certain privileges and comforts. The warden is not above these policies and privileges, and cannot make up his own rules and policies as he goes.
I offered to write grievances on various issues, for guys who can't write, and just asked that they promise to turn them in. That is our only course of action back here...I don't expect it to be effective, but it is all we can do!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
September 16th, 2018
Man...this weekend has flown by! I've been in relatively good spirits...I spent Saturday morning typing up grievances for guys to turn in, and listening to Star Wars. Like music, Star Wars is like medicine for me! I had a visit on Saturday night and it was soooooo refreshing to get out of the cell. I needed to clear my head, and on the way out saw the most amazing sunset. I've not seen the sunset in months, so seeing the sky awash in colours, and darkening, was just good for the soul. Breathing in the fresh air, seeing trees...Just sublime!
I'm sitting here getting caught up on things, and getting ready for the new week. I wonder what surprises are in store for us??? Sheesh!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 17th, 2018
Today has been one of those days that hasn't been bad, but a bit on the chaotic side...I woke up and hadn't even wiped the sleep from my eyes when guys were hollaring to see if I'd type up some grievances for them on the two issues that the new warden had suddenly put restrictions on...The Grievance Officer usually picks them up around 8 in the morning, so I had to jump up and type them up in a hurry. Then I had to get ready for recreation, and everything has just been busy busy busy since then. It finally calmed down a bit after I returned to my cell.
Whilst I was out at recreation, I had an interesting conversation with a guy waiting on an execution date. He told me he was "ready to go" and had been since he was kicked out of the Supreme Court back in 2013. I said, "Wait...your appeals have been finished since 2013, and you're still alive?" He said, "Yeah, I know. Crazy, right?" Apparently his attorneys filed a last ditch appeal, and it has kept him alive all of these years!...A ruling is pending due to his having a more liberal Federal judge or something. I don't know, I was a bit confused on the details, but he hated the fact that he was still alive.
I told him, "Maybe the universe isn't done with you yet. Maybe this is a sign...or maybe you shouldn't give up so easily and keep fighting." He told me he was worn out and just ready to go...but maybe the universe/God or whatever did have some greater purpose. I don't know what I believe half of the time...I know that I believe in something greater than us and having grown up in Judaism and being Jewish to my core, I believe in the oneness of God...but signs, miracles etc...I just don't know. And yet, I can say that there have been events in my life that aren't fully explained, or were "signs" that I have willfully ignored. I have a very strong sense of intuition, and I tend to ignore it either out of stubbornness, or an attempt to think rationally, and yet, some things in life just aren't rational and sure as hell don't make sense.
Maybe if we started paying attention to the world around us, and actually receive the signals its sending out, we'd be better off? Maybe our "purpose" in life isn't always what WE think it is...I just find it strange at times, and fascinating too.
My other thought was that this pod just holds some very strange negative energy, and always has. Just about every guy here is permanently miserable or agitated or angry, or else he has given up on life. I've been stuck - trapped - on this pod since last December. In fifteen-and-a-half years, this is the longest I have ever remained on a single pod, and it sucks...I just want to get away from the negativity and hate on this pod...And it can be contagious...spreading like a disease or wild fire, from person to person...even amongst the guards. I am hoping I will be moved off this pod this week...I've been in this cell for two months now, and it's well past my move date.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 19th, 2018
I woke up this morning fully expecting to go to recreation...I skipped breakfast because I'm fasting for Yom Kippur, and whilst technically recreation (and writing this) could be defined as "work," I was certain that G-d wouldn't be upset that I wanted to get out of my cell.
So, the 1st shift officer came around at 5.30am, setting up the rec. schedule, and he asked me if I was going...I said, "yes." Then he told me, "First round, F-section." I kicked off my sheet, rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, said my prayers, and began a letter. Whilst I was writing, another guard yelled out, "No recreation. You guys are on lock-down." I didn't believe it as that particular officer has been known to be a prankster! Then, they said they were going to do showers only. When he said that I was certain we weren't on lockdown as we don't get showers for that first 72 hours...(which I have never understood!)
So, they started doing showers and then a ranking officer came through and confirmed that we were on lockdown, and that they had accidentally given the order to do showers, but we weren't actually supposed to be getting them. I thought, "well, great...that was really unexpected!" We really weren't expecting to be on lockdown right now because the rumors had us going on lockdown on October 1st...So, here it is and I suppose it will be a long one - probably a few weeks!
As I wrote earlier, it is Yom Kippur and I've been fasting since yesterday evening at sundown...Of course, the day I decide to fast is when they have really good meals! Breakfast was some kind of eggs, and the sack lunch they passed out earlier had baked chicken in it...Argh! The torture! Ha ha...I put the lunch in my locker and will eat it tonight to break the fast - assuming it doesn't give me food poisoning after sitting in my locker most of that day. I haven't always fasted, but this year I just felt it would be important and I'd reflect and pray, and of course ask for forgiveness for any screw ups, or for any hurt I've caused to anyone over the past year. I'm sorry and I hope you will forgive me...
Of course I've been listening to the radio, and this Supreme Court nomination fiasco is a mess! I was listening to AFR and some right wing stations earlier, and it is amazing hearing them attack the woman for making accusations of sexual assault, but it was also interesting to hear people call into the shows and say, "He was just 17...even if he did do something awful like that, should we ruin a man's life and family over something he did as a teenager???" And I'm thinking, well, actually we do it every day...We charge 14 year olds as adults, we lock up teenagers, we bring up their teenage past in sentencing phases to show "their character" so we can sentence them to death...These same people calling in or commenting don't seem to have a problem with that. Now, I do agree - if these things did happen when he was a teen - it isn't worth ruining his life/career if he has shown remorse, regret, and apologised. I don't think any of us are who we were in our teens, or even our early 20s...but neither do I believe he should be sitting on the Supreme Court if these allegations are true, and he's denying or covering up his actions.
I guess what I'm most upset about in all of this is the blatant hypocrisy in politics, and those who will excuse (both left and right sides) certain behaviours because they are on the winning side, and their agenda is being put through. At what point do we, as a nation, say that I'm not going to sacrifice my principals or standards to just get what I want...something is going to have to give...It's just dividing us further. Besides, I don't think our founding fathers EVER intended giving the Supreme Court the power it has now...We don't elect presidents on what they're actually going to do for the better of our country any more, we elect them to protect Federal Judge seats, and the Supreme Court. It isn't supposed to be this way, and it isn't the representative government they had in mind...
On a more positive note, I was thinking of a "happy" Yom Kippur memory I had when I was 14...I had just come back from Kentucky on a fall break, and it was my 8th grade year...I may have just turned 15, and I'm not sure if Yom Kippur fell in September then or not, but my dad and I went to our synagogue, Beth Shalom, in Arlington. I met up with my friends from Hebrew School there, and I told them about my time in Kentucky and answered their questions. My friend, Mindi, had asked if going to school there was like the movie, "School Ties." But what I remember most is she had a friend with her...Her parents were atheists, but wanted her to attend a service for cultural reasons, and she was really cute! We went into the services, and one thing we'd all do if it just became unbearably boring, was to sneak off "to the bathroom" one at a time, and then either meet up in the day care room, or go outside and eat pecans that fell off the trees, because we were hungry. Well, we went to the day care room and hung out for a while, and me and this girl really hit it off. In the afternoon she called a friend on the speaker phone, and the friend asked if there were any cute guys there...She looked right at me and said, "Yeah," and smiled. I had butterflies in my stomach! We went back to the service, then after it ended we all drove out to a pond to throw bread into it to symbolise throwing our sins away...Then we went to break the fast at a restaurant. It was my dad and I, Mindi, and her family, the Goldbergs, and Mindi's friend. I sat next to the girl, and we were playing footsies and sword fighting with the butter knives, and so I decided to take a chance and ask her out..."No," she said. I was caught off guard! I really didn't expect that...Then she said, "You go to school in Kentucky...It'd never work!" Couldn't argue with her on that.
My dad had planned to go over to Mindi's house for a bit and have some coffee, so her parents drove off and we offered to bring Mindi back home and drop the other girl home. She held my hand on the drive, and told my dad how to get to her place. When we got to her home she climbed over me to get out of the car, and kissed me on the cheek...Sadly, I never saw her again after that! It's still a happy memory though...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 23rd, 2018
I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, the first official day of fall – my favourite season, I should add. I'm looking out of my little window, the sky is grey, and in the distance to the left of my view, there are some buildings, and a tree line on the horizon. The trees are swaying ever so gently in the light and cool breeze I imagine is blowing outside...What wouldn't I give to go for a walk outside right about now?...Oh, the things we take granted, huh?
I woke up this morning at about 5.45am for a shower – normally during the lock-down we only get showers on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday, so I was a bit surprised that we got one today. When I asked the guard why they were doing showers today he said they wanted to get an early start to the shakedowns tomorrow. I thought, “yeah...THAT won't happen...” but it was still nice to get a shower! When I returned to my cell I listened to a program called, “On Being.” It's a spiritual program that covers philosophy, and the practice of well being and mindfulness...not the new age goobley goo nonsense, but in depth conversations with some of the great thinkers and compassionate people of our time.
After the program, I want back to sleep. I didn't expect to sleep until 9.30am but that is what happened! I jumped up, drank my coffee, wrote to my love, and put on TNT to listen to “Pete's Dragon” - the remake of the Disney classic. I listened to it last night, going into it very sceptically. I'm not a big fan of remakes because they often don't get them right – they actually get them very wrong! Disney, however, has been on a creative roll with their live action remakes of a lot of their animated classics from Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent), Jungle Book, Cinderella etc...I've been very impressed with what I've listened to thus far and the remake of the original “Pete's Dragon” had gotten really good reviews when it hit the theaters, so I had high hopes...The original was a favourite of mine growing up. The mix of animation (Elliot the Dragon) and live action was amazing, and Pete's interaction with Elliot threw my imagination into overdrive! The movie was also a musical, and I loved the song and dance numbers...I knew that this wasn't a “straight on” remake - in fact, the only similarity with the original was Pete and Elliot...That was it! Yet, it was BRILLIANT!!! The movie made me laugh, and it made me cry several times too! I couldn't SEE the movie, but my imagination took over. It had the feel of a classic '80s adventure movie, and the musical score was breathtaking, and beautiful. The folksy tunes that fuelled the movie were wonderful...I really loved it, and it sparked the feelings of wonder and being a child all over again. To borrow a line from the movie, it made me "feel the magic.”
Anyway, like I said, before I ever heard of the movie I had read the reviews and they were mostly good...except for a couple saying it was overtly “manipulative” in pulling at the heart strings. I thought, as I was listening, isn't that what movies are supposed to do? Isn't that their purpose? The fact that you watch something in that moment – and suspend disbelief – IS manipulative...It's supposed to be! A good movie makes you believe in it...It can make you scared, it can give you thrills, it can leave your jaw on the floor with fanciful feasts of visual effects. It can make you cry! That is what a good movie does! Of course, movies are manipulative...Any kind of art is...Anyway, check it out!
The rumor mill has it that the new warden is being an absolute tyrant on this shakedown...Telling officers to write cases for the smallest of things, and in general creating chaos amongst the inmates. To put it into perspective, for the past couple of years the discipline pod – F-Pod death row side – has stayed nearly empty, with just a couple of guys down there at any given time. It went from housing a couple of guys to being completely full under this new warden! Surely, the administration in Huntsville would see the sudden spike in cases that send guys to F-Pod, and wonder what the heck was going on? But so far, he's getting away with it...There was an incident on another unit where the warden and ranking officers were involved in a quota system for bogus disciplinary cases. An email was leaked, the news exposed the illegal scheme, and the State fired those involved and said it wouldn't happen again...Apparently, this new warden didn't get the memo! Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose...
Oh well...it's out of our control!
Here's to hoping for a good week, and a beautiful Autumn...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 24th, 2018
Ever had a dream that you were talking about music with Rod Stewart, or having an in depth conversation about movies with Gal Gadot? Well, for some odd reason, I did...What the hell is wrong with me?
Anyway, I woke up this morning and started my day by working out, then I wrote to my love and got busy on chapter 10 of my memoir, "Falling Down." I actually started chapter 11, but will finish that up tomorrow. I also have three new poems ready to roll out...They were harder than others to write because they started off kind of stream of consiousness, then I shaped them up. It took some time to get them just as I wanted, but they're as good as they'll get now, so off they go to be posted up on my website - check them out under the tab, "Poems/Lyrics," sub-tab, "New Poems for 2018".
I don't know if people are following my new memoir, but I've been having each chapter posted up on the website as I finish it, and I am easily picturing this taking shape into a whole book! I have at least 20 chapters planned, and I'm just writing them as I go, but when I get my head into that "space" all kinds of forgotten memories pop up and I want to write about this or that...So, there may be even more than 20 chapters by the time I've finished! Still, that part of my life is very important in leading to where I am today...I don't know if it aplies to a lot of lives or just a few, but there is a very visible single thread. Where some lives are full of branches, I see mine as having started off with many tree limbs, but they soon fell off, and there was one long, gnarly and twisted branch left...My hope is that the tree of my life will once again produce beautiful and healthy limbs, and lots of them!
Well, I think most of us back here are wondering if this warden is just bored, and seeing how many new rules he can put into place...The latest is a kind of dumb because not everyone back here can actually afford a commissary cup and the kitchen/guards never provide a cup or eating utensils for us to use. So, all we have is either a commissary cup or maybe a peanut butter jar or something, if a guy can get one from another inmate. Well, he's now said the only way we're to get juice, coffee, or milk, is via a proper cup. But again, the kitchen doesn't provide cups like they're supposed to, so what are the guys without supposed to use...their hands? It's ridiculous!
Apparently, last week as they were shaking down A-Pod, he was ordering officers to take "unstored" legal work, which is also a violation of policy. If you are a guy who has been going through the appeals process for many, many years, the chances are you have mountains of legal material like letters, filings and rulings - heck, a trial transcript can be thousands upon thousands of documents! When I first came to death row, I had so much stuff it could've filled up the back of a truck bed. A lot of it was ruined in various cell floodings and general damage from being moved around so often, but there are guys who can fill up whole buggies full of legal work. Where are we supposed to store it? It's protected by the courts, so where does the guy get off in telling his officers to confiscate it?
The follow up - just came down the gossip mill right now - is that he was ordered to return the legal work back to the guys he took it from.
Well, I'm still holding onto hope, tightly!!! I need those positive vibes!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 25th, 2018
I have to start this out today by letting my special chick know that I adore her, and I'm so grateful for everything she does to keep me in this fight...Sometimes we don't always do things perfectly, and we don't always have the right words to say...We stumble, we fumble, and we screw-up, but all of this...this journal, this beautiful website, and the spark to my recent writings and creativity, is all because of HER...And so, I want to thank her and tell her I love her...
I started off the day as I usually do, and then I had a surprise legal visit. It went really well, and I'm so fortunate and blessed to have the people I have representing me, fighting so hard for me, and most importantly, believing in me. They inspire hope in me, and strengthen my will to do good and pay it forward. I'm very fortunate.
The gossip mill has it that things are speeding up on the shakedowns, and that the warden has seemingly eased up on the ruthlessness a bit. Of course, this is a different crew of guards so it could change again in a couple of days on a new shift...We'll see...They should be on C-Pod tomorrow (the pod I've been on since last December!) and start shaking down, but there are two back to back executions happening this week, and they have a way of derailing the process. I'm thinking that the guy due to be executed on Thursday could get a stay...He's got a really strong innocence claim...We'll see. I'm ready to rock 'n' roll with the shakedown and get it out of the way!
On the way back from my legal visit, this female guard was talking to another escorting officer, and often they'll talk over the inmate as if he doesn't exist, and I'll soak up their conversation. Well, apparently the female was upset that some people were celebrating in cosplay (where people dress up as their favorite comic/manga/movie characters) at a park that she takes her son to...Her exact words were, "As soon as I saw them weirdos, I grabbed my son and left!...They could've been a group of paedophiles!" Now, I've never done cosplay, but I do fancy myself a bit of a dork, and it offended me that she would say such an ignorant thing...So, I said, "It must suck." To which she replied, "Yeah, it does...It makes no damn sense..." I said, "No, it must suck to live your life being afraid of things you don't understand." And that, sadly, seems to be the way American life is becoming...That fear and ignorance of people, religions, customs, culture...Things we don't understand but we need not be afraid of learning about...I wish people would start opening their minds more.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
September 27th, 2018
Today has been one of those whirlwind of emotions kind of day...From listening to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, receiving our red crates in preparation for a possible shake down, to the execution of a potentially innocent man – and the second of two back to back executions...nuts!
So, today I listened to a hearing on the potential Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. It got to me a bit more than I expected, and I thought about how I wanted to write about it...not going into it with an opinion, but rather speaking from experience. I think what I'm going to say will not be popular, and I had to think about how to properly articulate myself...I believe the accuser...I believe she experienced some kind of assault and life long trauma because of it. It could've been Brett Kavanaugh, and if he's appointed to the Supreme Court we may never really know...I get angry when I listen to conservative radio and they disparage and demean the accuser, and I think there should've been a bit more investigation before anything moved forward.
I want to preface what I'm about to say next with the fact that politically, I swing to the left. I consider myself a pretty hard core liberal - not extremist, but definitely left of center. My views don't jive with Brett Kavanaugh's political and probably judicial philosophy, and I don't want to see him appointed. But here's where people will get angry...What I'm going to say is purely based on my own experiences, and because of those experiences, I found myself believing him...I could feel his helplessness in his own words whenever he said, “I did not do this.” Or, “I am innocent of these charges.” When people are throwing accusations at you and they aren't true, there is a feeling...I can only describe it as a drowning feeling...You're thrashing about, screaming out, and no one is listening. No one will come to your aid. Do I believe he was a saint in high school? No...Most of us weren't. I'm sure he did some questionable things. I also know the feeling of people taking things way beyond their context or weaponising tasteless jokes and behaviours against you.
Listening to the hearing and the democratic Senators referring to statements written in yearbooks, or things he said as a teen, or what he wrote in a calendar...I went through the very same thing in my own trial. Little substance spent on the actual crime itself, but instead, using letters, jokes, and even cartoons I'd created as some kind of “proof” that I was a horrible human being. And when I'd try to defend myself or explain what any of these things meant, it was thrown back at me as blame shifting, or showing no remorse...Listening to him, I was having flashbacks of being in the same position when I was on the stand, and it just made me shake and relive those moments...
I can't say one way or the other if he did or didn't do it, but we live in a country where we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. This doesn't mean that we discredit the accuser and say her claim isn't valid...Our hearts and compassion should go out to her. And if the incident did happen with Kavanaugh, I believe that he either truly doesn't recall it, or he has convinced himself that it didn't happen. Again, we'll never know...But I find myself believing him.
I also have a problem with society ruining whole lives based on actions that happened in a person's life when they were in their teens, or even their early 20s, no matter how horrific the event might be - it's not an indicator of who that person will be 10 or 20 years down the line. I'm not the same person I was at 18, or 23, or even 30 years old! If science has shown us that the brain isn't fully developed until around 25 years old, and we claim to believe in the power of redemption, why do we then, as a society, cast those young people out onto the dung heap?
All that being said, if Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court, I hope the process has been a learning experience for him. If he is truly innocent of these accusations, then it will be interesting to see how he looks at cases where people are truly innocent (or before the Court on appeal) because it should allow him the insight to be more fair and empathetic to the innocence cries of others...If anything good can come out of this, it will be that he is more balanced and insightful in his judgements.
Anyway, at around 4pm they brought the red crates around for us to pack our property into for the shake down, which I'm assuming will be tomorrow. It's weird but they always seem to get C-Pod done on a Friday, or Monday...I just hope it isn't that bad! I just want to get it over with. I'm packed up and ready to go...
Today, Daniel Acker was also executed...I've known him for a while, though not on any kind of personal level, but we did have some conversations. I've heard his story and it has always been the same...He was no saint, but I do believe him when he said he didn't murder his girlfriend, nor was it his intent for her to die...There's a strong chance that today, Texas has executed an innocent man, and I hope it will be revealed, should someone decide to investigate post-execution...Another of those “we may never know” circumstances.
It's been a long day...An emotional day...but another day that I find strength in the friends and the chick this dude loves...I'm a very fortunate guy – more fortunate than I deserve.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 29th, 2018
This horrible week has come to an end!!! It has just been one awfully stressful week...Between my own life, two consecutive executions - one of which I was almost certain would get a stay - the shake down yesterday and losing my hotpot, and later that evening my radio just going completely dead on me...I can't take much more before I just succumb to an emotional meltdown!!!
Before I talk about yesterday's events, I do want to kind of clarify what I said about Kavanaugh recently, and believing him...After I'd written about him, I struggled with what I wrote because I want to be absolutely clear that I wasn't siding with him. Any victim should always be given the attention and investigation that is needed in any case - especially when it comes to sexual assault etc. I do believe that politics have muddied the waters and I also know that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and we are very quick to judge and condemn in this society without knowing the facts. There are always two sides to every story...I think where my confusion has come from is hearing someone say they are innocent - with a certain desparation in their voice - and I filtered it through to my own experience. Regardless of what anyone believes one way or the other, there is enough doubt to withdraw his nomination. I have never believed he should've been on the Supreme Court based purely on my own views and liberal philosophy - he was too political in the first place...having gone after the Clintons in the '90s, working in the Bush Administration in the '00s, and following his very own comments about the charges being brought against him being some sort of revenge for the Clintons in the 2016 elections...All of these things should've immediately excluded him as a potential Justice.
Anyway, our shakedown was yesterday...For whatever reason, they only did F and E section on C-Pod, and they did my section (E section) at around 2pm yesterday. I really didn't expect them to take anything except maybe some art type crafts I had someone make for my girlfriend, but other than that I was pretty much in compliance. I don't like clutter and I'm not a pack rat, so except for things that have an emotional value or essentials, I don't really keep things. When I receive books and magazines, I generally pass them off to people who want to read them, or try to donate them to the library...although that in no way means it will necessarily hit the shelves...sometimes the inmates who work in the library take off with them. All the same, these things get an extra bit of life, I suppose.
Because it was our shower day, we could take our shower stuff with us, so I had my razor, soap, boxer shorts and a towel with me. I took my time showering and then an hour later they brought us back to our cells. Upon first glance, my cell looked quite the mess! Things were strewn all over the place...I don't know which guard searched my cell, but it looked like a tornado had blown through. In the last shakedown during the summer, everything was stacked nice and neat...I took a deep breath (you can't come out good every time!...) scanned my cell, saw that my radio and fan were in their place, but I noticed my hot pot was gone...Now, I can't blame anyone but myself because it has been through the ringer, and I had jumped the thermostat so it would get hotter than it's designed to...It's the only way of really cooking anything. Otherwise, barely hot water just doesn't cut it! Most guards know this and kind of "turn a blind eye" and don't sweat it, but hey...again, you can't with them all.
I cleaned up my cell and settled in, listened to the news and just chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. I was exhausted by the time the Prison Show came on, but I listened to it, then tried to get to sleep. Even though I was really tired, I just tossed and turned and decided I'd listen to Seth Meyers. I went to put the radio on and it was dead...nothing! I thought something was maybe loose, so I fiddled with it, and then the FM and AM were out! I messed with it until 1 in the morning and just gave up...the cheap piece of crap died on me...I did try to fiddle with it today as well, but still...dead air. But hey! The clock works...I suppose whenever the lockdown is over with I will try to get a new one...and a new hot pot. I tell you what, though...when my luck is on it is on...it's firing on all cylinders and everything just falls into place, but when it's off...it is just bad event after bad event. The Stoics teach us to always expect bad things, that way you won't be surprised - actually, not to "expect" things to happen, but to know that inevitably they will, and we should be mentally/spiritually prepared for when they do...I definitely need to work on that!
Well, here's to hoping next week is a little better!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
September 30th, 2018
Yaaaay! The last day of this cursed month...Good riddance September! Well, I can't say that it was a complete bust, but man, towards the end...Oh well. So, my possessed radio's clock turned back on last night and stayed on...Just strange. I've had some things go wonky on me before, but there is really no rhyme or reason to this.
I woke up this morning because they were doing showers. I guess it was close to six, and when I got back to my cell, I slept in until 9 this morning. I did feel a bit better and more positive, hoping for the best this week. I started my day, wrote my chick, and did my laundry. Well, around 11.20ish, this female guard came by and noticed a wire that I was running to the guy who was letting me listen to his radio...complicated to explain, but no guard sweated it yesterday, and most don't care as long as when we leave our cells, the wire isn't in the walkway. I was honest with her and explained my radio situation...I expected her to say, "Okay," and just walk on by. Instead she said, "Give me the radio." Then I said, "What? Are you for real?" I couldn't read her face. It wasn't like an asshole face, it was just "matter of fact"...Very serious. She told me to give it to her again. Now at this point I'm fuming...Really upset. I mean, this is my sanity, and I even said that to her. Music, a connection to the outside world through news etc...I was not happy. But I didn't want to risk getting into trouble, and I have some visits coming up, so I couldn't put up a fight...But I was angry!
About 12.20pm they started passing out the lunch sacks (fish patty and pb&j...blech!) and the same female guard hands me two sacks. At first, I'm thinking it was an extra that maybe someone else didn't want and said to give it to me. As I was walking away from the door she said, "I went to the property room and grabbed you a loan radio. When you get your new one, you'll need to turn that one in and in the same condition I gave it to you." I opened the bag and was floored! It was a loaner radio...now, usually the loan radios are for people who are indigent or used to replace something that a guard broke...I just couldn't believe it, and I instantly felt awful for being so upset! I thanked her a thousand times and just couldn't believe the kindness of the act. She definitely did not have to do that! Kindness comes in a thousand forms and in the most surprising of places and situations. It should be a lesson, and I will definitely "pay it forward."
I'm hoping that was a good sign of things to come.
Something else I wanted to write about and show my gratitude for is those who stand and protest against the executions taking place in Huntsville. I cannot imagine the emotional toil it can take on the heart and soul to have to go to each one, but I can say that I'm personally thankful and wish more people would show their support as well. Numbers get attention, and when more people start showing up, maybe the media and the State will say, "something needs to change" I don't know. I just wanted to say thanks for being out there, whoever you all are, and it means the world to many of us back here. Thanks to all!
Here's to hoping that October rocks, and is a wonderful month full of good things, and a lot of love!
Hold onto...Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 1st, 2018
A new month. A New Hope...See my Star Wars reference there? They're finishing up with the shakedown of this pod today, but they've still got one more pod to do. That being said, some guards said we're expected to be on lockdown until October 15th...I really hope it isn't that long, but it's out of our control. When they passed out laundry earlier, we asked when we were going to receive our blankets because the nights have been getting a bit cooler...the officer said, “October 15th,” so...who knows?
I woke up this morning with a bit more pep in my step than last week. Trying to pump those positive vibes into the universe! I exercised, bathed from my sink, and cleaned up my cell, wrote a bit and finished another chapter of my memoir which will get mailed out tonight. Oh, and they allowed us to buy some stamps and hygiene items from the commissary, which was cool 'cause I was dangerously low on stamps!
I was still in a bit of shock after that kind act by the Officer yesterday...I asked her before their shift was finished, why she did that...She said, “I didn't want to get in trouble for having that wire out there, if a ranking officer or the warden saw it, and I know it must suck to not have control over what you want to listen to.” I thanked her again and again.
Anyway, just trying to keep positive and stay focused on good things to come. Not too much to report on today.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 7th, 2018
I can't say with absolute certainty, but I do believe that the lockdown is winding down. Rumors have us coming back up on Tuesday, but we'll see! They allowed the Christian Ministry service "Kairos" to come and do their ministry work for General Population this weekend, and as always, they came to death row and gave everyone cookies which is always an appreciated thing. Especially since we are on lockdown and receiving very limited food...But it's a positive sign!
This past week has been pretty much the same as any, and I do think I'm off to a good start to the month following a pretty poor ending to September...I'll take the positive out of that. My head has been full of so many different thoughts, and a lot of these thoughts were to do with the political climate we are in right now, and I feel it's given me a sense of helplessness. For months I've wanted to write an open letter to Evangelicals and Christian Fundamentalists, but more and more I find myself just wanting to speak to everyone who voted for Trump - especially those who claim to be pro-prison reform, or against the death penalty, because I find it very contradictory on the whole. In a lot of ways, those who are lamenting the fact that Texas has already executed 10 people this year (whilst the entirety of the rest of the country has only executed 6 people at the time of writing this) are the very same people responsible for the very political climate we live in right now.
I'm not trying to bash Trump supporters - I don't think that does anything to help the cause and only creates more of a divide...but I do wish those of us on the left, instead of just screaming at those on the right, would try to communicate a bit better because we're doing a horrible job of that right now. Instead, we should focus on education and SHOWING people how voting on purely single issues is not only wrong, but very dangerous...
For those who wanted Trump in office in order to overturn Roe -v- Wade...you may well get that now, or at least the Courts will allow the States to essentially render it moot with so many regulations and restrictions. But at what cost? Watch as the Courts give more power to the Executive branch...Watch as the Courts allow Corporate America to rob the working class who work hard...Watch as the elite and wealthy Americans have more and more power, and the working class has none...Watch as the Prison Industrial Complex grows, more poor people are locked up, and private prisons reap the rewards...Do you enjoy clean air? Do you enjoy drinkable water? All of these things are in danger...Just look at what the Trump administration has done with the EPA in the last two years! And it isn't that I don't think you care...I believe, deep down, you do...but your single issue mindedness, your wish to vote straight party ticket, gets in the way. Loyalty is a good thing...but if your best friend said, "Hey, I think it's a great idea for us to jump off this cliff!" And he or she jumps...I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be THAT loyal! I'm speaking to Democrats on this issue as well - they don't have all of the solutions either, which is why communication and education is so important.
Obviously, I see things through the lens of wishing the death penalty would end...I see things through the lens of wishing prisons to change and have fewer people locked up...If I'm blessed enough to survive this mess my two primary focuses in the rest of my life will be education/ending illiteracy (especially working with those in administrative segregation/solitary confinement) and reforming the prison mental health system. These are two very important issues to me, but that being said, I also want to see people in the LGBT community be treated as equals...I want to see people have a right to better education, health care, and a clean environment. For the life of me, I don't understand how tax-payers have little problem spending almost a trillion dollars on the Military Industrial Complex, and then go ape shit crazy over the idea that it should be a basic human RIGHT for everyone to have universal or even affordable health care. If you are a person who is a pro-life supporter, it should be a no-brainer!
All I'm saying here is that you should look further than yourself...Look at the person next to you...Look at the country as a whole...Look at what is at stake...VOTE! You've got to get out and vote! Don't be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution! If you don't vote, you don't get to complain one way or the other. I'd do anything to be able to vote...
In other news, and on the execution front, I want to bring attention to a couple of guys on death watch who have little support, and who are mentally ill...Whilst all executions are a shame, these two in particular will be a very shameful day in Texas' history should they be allowed to go ahead - I'm talking about Kwame Rockwell and Emanuel Kemp...I've witnessed first hand that both are extremely mentally ill, and have no business even being on death row. Rockwell had just come back from the psychiatric hospital before he was given an execution date...People back here call him "Snake Man" because he has severe visual hallucinations, and thinks there are snakes in his cell. I wrote in February this year that whilst in the dayroom one day, he yelled at me, "Hey, you throwing snakes at me?" I replied with, "No, I hate snakes...I'd never do that to anyone!" Throughout his time on death row, he has been back and forth from the psychiatric hospital, with no real care being given to him.
As for Kemp...he has been on death row for a long, long time, and has spent many years coming back and forth from the state psychiatric hospital. His mind is that of a child..I've never seen him in the same state I've seen Rockwell, but witnessing first hand his interactions with guards and inmates alike, there is no question that he suffers with mental illness and mental retardation. I'm pleading with people to look at these two cases, and if there's any kind of mercy, any kind of humanity in your heart, support and call for an immediate stop to their executions! Please...
Well, here's to hoping that this week we'll be off lockdown. I really need to stretch my legs! To be able to get outside would be lovely as well. The past two days have been gorgeous looking. I'd love to just take a deep breath of cool and fresh air, play some basketball (heck, I'd even taken an ass whoopin' or two on the court...gladly! Just to be able to run...) and let the sun shine on my face...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
GET OUT AND VOTE!
October 8th, 2018
I'm starting this journal entry at 10.28pm on a Monday night...I'd spent the early part of the day listening to political programs, and becoming enraged at conservative talk radio and their mock outrage at Democrats' handling of the Kavanaugh hearings, and the "political correctness" of wishing to change the named celebration of colonialism and genocide from "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Day", and to instead celebrate the history of Noble America and its indigenous people. One AFR host and fundamentalist spat, "The Indians weren't innocent - they were savages!" Yeah, dufus, because we were killing their people and taking their land. You'd defend your home if someone was invading it and laid claim to it. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus didn't say, "Hey dudes, there's this continent across the ocean...It's free for the taking! Go for it, man!"
Later, I listened to some left wing liberal radio and found myself getting annoyed because, whilst they're still smarting over the appointment of Kavanaugh, it's time to cut their losses and move on. Focus on taking back the house, the senate. Make the argument to those Americans who feel ignored or left out, or marginalised on why they should turn out to vote.
Trump can tell his base that he's kept the vast majority of his promises, and be surprisingly truthful about it. He can create fear amongst men that "women are coming after them" or put fear into those who just need a reason to be afraid of something...
But Democrats and the left need to be making the case for what Trump and Republicans have not done:
1. They haven't solved the gun safety/gun violence problem.
2. They haven't addressed mental health in America.
3. They haven't solved the opioid crisis.
4. They haven't addressed climate change.
5. They haven't fixed our health care system.
6. They haven't fixed our education system.
7. They haven't solved the student loan/student debt crisis.
8. They haven't addressed our crumbling infrastructure problem.
9. They haven't addressed the equal pay gap between women and men.
10. They haven't (and won't) address LGBT rights issues.
So yeah, the Republicans can boast about separating illegal immigrants' families, locking up children and placing them in tent cities...They can boast about cutting regulations on clean air and coal factories so that people will have breathing problems, and have toxic chemicals dumped into rivers and lakes that people drink out of or swim in...They can boast about a miniscule tax cut that does far more for the super rich and gives a paltry few dollars to the working class...They can boast about spending almost a trillion dollars to bust up an already jacked up military...They can boast about so much! But Democrats need to start talking to the people directly...Time is running out!
Politics aside, I spent the other half of the day working on my memoir...I'm getting into Chapter 15 now; it's still 1995 for a couple of chapters, but I'm not looking forward to Part Two which will be 1996...To relive those 9 months up to September...Ugh! It was a very ugly chapter in my life...so many regrets, so much remorse...and I can't sugar coat it! I can't gloss over it! I have to face myself down...
Anyway, I'm calling it a night. May God grant me mercy!
GET OUT AND VOTE!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 9th, 2018
(I'm actually continuing on from my journal entry of the 8th, because when I closed out that particular entry, I just wanted to follow up with a note of thought...If you read this in the US of A and listen to NPR, I highly suggest a new program that comes on late at night - 12am Eastern/11pm Central time - it's called "America On The Line." It's a wonderful live call in program that debates in a very civil way on various political issues. I think it would be a good example to those who don't know how to engage people who have a differing opinion to their own...Just a recommendation! Goodnight people! For real this time...Peace!)
[Later this morning]
So, word on the street is that lockdown will indeed be over tomorrow! I really do hope so...I need to get back to a normal schedule because my sleep has been all off during this period. Normally, I'd start my day at around 5.30-6am, and be in bed by 10.30pm...Yeah, an "old man" schedule, but I found myself to be more productive and "fresh" with that schedule. This particular lock down I've been staying up really late at night and sleeping in until almost 8-9 the next morning, and it's got me to where I am now, which is tossing and turning when I sleep. I didn't make it to sleep until after 1 this morning...I tossed and turned, and then once I was sound asleep the guard woke me up at the 3 in the morning (after we were told earlier that evening there was no mail) to give me mail! I couldn't get back to sleep until 6 in the morning after that because I waited on 1st shift to see if we were going to either get a shower or have recreation. Neither happened so I slept until 8 and then decided to get up.
A couple of months ago I talked about how they were shifting sections over to put in the new shower doors. Well, today they are starting to shift sections again because they are putting new locks on the food slots. The ones they've had for the past century are a spring loaded bolt that requires a steel bar and a tip that looks similar to a crow bar...About a year and a half, or maybe two years ago, on another unit, an inmate snatched one of those bars out of the hand of a guard and beat him to death. It was really something awful, and now that inmate is on death row. Since then, they decided to go to a turn key style lock on the slots, and are in the process of converting all of the food slots. I don't know when they'll get to my section, but I figure it will be soon, so I'll either be going to F-section or D-section. But who knows? I can't go to B-pod or A-pod because I'm not allowed to be around my co-defendants...
As I type this, the guards are saying we are supposed to get a hot meal for dinner...Woohoo! I'm ready and starving!! Today's lunch was a hot link, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and one slice of bread...Meal of champions, right there!
Well, so much for the hot meal we're supposed to get tonight...they just gave us one bean burrito and a PB&J sandwich...Wow!...Another meal of champions!
Anyway, remember...GET OUT AND VOTE!!! You can't complain if you don't VOTE!!!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 22nd, 2018
Today hasn't been a terrible day...I just came in a little while ago after playing 70 games of basketball. It was nice and cool, and I felt like I could play forever...but whilst I was beaten pretty badly, I needed the exercise! I thought 60 games on Friday was pretty impressive, but 70 games is just insane...maybe the next time we go out we'll aim for 80 games!?! I'm soooo sore and completely exhausted, and plan on getting to bed early tonight...When I came in I was able to get straight to the shower, and then I finished everything up that I needed to.
The really great thing that happened today is that both of the mentally ill guys I wrote about recently were taken off death watch. I was surprised but thrilled when Kwame Rockwell was given a stay and moved onto our section. I said, "Hell yeah!" when he walked through the gate...And I was proud of all the guys on my section as we all tried to offer Kwame some snacks and coffee or whatever else he needed, but he wouldn't respond to us...(maybe we'll try again later). I can't begin to imagine the kind of trauma he went through over there.
I'm going to wind it down for the day...it's getting quite cold and I want to get under the blanket.
GET OUT AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH!!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
** Warning...Contains foul language **
October 23rd, 2018
Here's how I woke up this morning...It was about 6.45am or so, and I opened my eyes and heard two officers pass by my cell. The female officer - a new one in training - yelled at the other officer, who was male, "If you try to touch me one more time, I'm reporting you!"
"I was just trying to get a pen out of your pocket!" The male officer replied.
"Get your own fucking pen, creep!"
I got up, got ready for recreation, and started a letter to my girl...then I headed out to rec. I wanted to work out, but I was so sore from yesterday that all I did was walk around and talk for a couple of hours. I came back in, wrote a little more, then had lunch and an early shower. It's now second shift as I write this, and I'm listening to the news, waiting on dinner, and hoping I get mail relatively early.
Wow...Trump is calling himself a nationalist??? Why do I feel we're inching toward a repeat of 1933 Germany?...Jesus!
GET OUT AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH!!
[Below, you will see a copy of the grievance I filed on the cockroaches in the food carts...I guess I won??]
October 28th, 2018
It's been an emotional weekend...Yesterday, I was heartbroken to hear the news of yet another mass shooting, this time at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, during a baby naming ceremony. I've been to many of those as a kid...The parents hold the baby in front of the ark of the Torah, as the Rabbi blesses and names the child.
After news of the shooting broke, Trump gave a brief statement to the press, and it sounded so empty...I challenge you to listen to the real anger and emotion of ex-President Obama, after news of a shooting, and then listen to Trump...I was put off by his empty words even more when Trump said the incident called for the death penalty. Even as a Jew, I wouldn't want that for the shooter. What gets to me even more is that Trump takes no responsibility for any of this...for his rhetoric laced with tribalism and nationalism...his legitimising of hatred and violence. He can say that American politics has no place for violence, or that no one should be attacked for their religion or ethnicity...But where were these words when he praised a Congressman who body-slammed a reporter when he refused to speak against a white nationalist protest that resulted in the death of a protester? Where were these words when he openly attacked and demonised migrants and muslims? Trump's actions have led to this...If people don't vote to put in place a check and balance on this rogue administration, it will only get worse.
This weekend, I also learned that a supporter of one of my co-defendants posted some words online that I wish to state here and now have NOTHING to do with me, nor do these views coincide with or reflect my views, or those of my friends and supporters. I disown and detatch myself from any connection or supposed notoriety attached to the label "Texas 7"...I want no part of it, and I don't lay any claim to that title. I will be forever ashamed and have the utmost regret and remorse for ever having been part of it, or associated with any of it, and I will forever ask for forgiveness... I have spent my years on death row trying to distance myself from that label/title...There is no honor in it, only shame.
In other news, many of you who read my journals will know that we have a new warden here...I've written a little about him in previous journals, but each day it seems like he's enforcing some new rule - one minute we can't have our clothes lines up, and the next, we can put them up from 6pm to 6am...Then he changes it from 6am to 10pm! He's also been swapping out the ranking officers, some of whom are okay, and now he's stocking the building with hard asses...Dudes who love to stir up trouble. They've been writing bogus cases galore! This man is determined to make both inmates and officers as miserable as possible. I've heard officers talk about quitting...I've heard inmates say they've had enough...And if he keeps at it the way he is, some of these guys won't continue to fight their appeals. Right now, we're at one of the lowest points back here...one of the worst since I've been here. I just try to keep my head full of positive thoughts, and push through it...What else can I do?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 30th, 2018
Last night was pure madness...the guards had about 40 showers to do and it took them until after midnight to finish them. Then, someone else came from another pod to pass out mail, and they woke me up at about 11.30pm to sign for a Jpay letter! Then, I had to write a quick note to my chick, and crawled back into bed after that. They kept the lights on all night long, and then another crew came in with a very loud pressure washer to wash the bars in the day room...It seemed like every time I fell asleep, something else was waking me up. I had a solid bout of sleep from 5.30am until about 8am, when the mail room woke me up again to sign for a magazine...That was my night's sleep!
I had been told I was going to recreation third round so I began a letter to my girl and then, just as I was about to start on other stuff, the guards came back and told me I had been bumped up to second round! I scrambled to get ready and went to recreation, exercised, and spent the next four hours trapped...I made it back to my cell a little after 2pm, and I haven't had time to catch a breath or rest...You are probably thinking, "how busy can a person be when he's locked up all day long?" Apparently, very busy!
So, last night I also received a response to the latest grievance that I will have posted below this journal...the grievance was about the sack meals they were feeding us during the last lock down, and how they did not meet the dietary standards. To give an example, breakfast is supposed to be 600 total calories, lunch 800 calories, and I believe dinner is another 600. However, for breakfast, all that they were giving us was 3 or 4 pancakes thrown into a bag...We used to get raisins or some kind of fruit, and a PB&J sandwich. Lunch used to be a fruit item, PB&J, and another sandwich. What they've been giving us lately...the calories are barely adding up to 1100-1200, and that is being liberal with the math! Well, I lost the grievance as the kitchen said we were getting what we're suppsed to get. Sucks, but that's our life back here now.
Otherwise, I'm holding up...I've been learning a valuable lesson in communication of late, and I'm working on it! I hope to get better...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 1st, 2018
Man...this year is flying by! So much to look forward to this month! We've got election day next Tuesday, and I know I'll be a nervous wreck the entire day, building up to the results that evening. Then, Veterans' Day on the weekend of the 10th, and Thanksgiving day holiday on the 22nd...
Yesterday was Hallowe'en, and the kids in this area were most likely really disappointed because it rained so hard, and the storms were something so fierce that I doubt they got out to trick or treat...I hope they got to do something!
So, today, I want to share a Hallowe'en story that happened in 1990...At the time I was a huge Batman fan, and still riding off the excitement of the movie by Tim Burton the previous year. My best friend Chad, and I, had decided that for Hallowe'en we were going as The Joker. I had a suit, a long trench coat, a purple hat, and I bought a make up kit and green hair spray that sat in my closet a good two months before Hallowe'en.
At my school in my 7th grade year, I had made a new friend from Brazil and his name was Conzo. His mom had invited me out to some haunted house along with him, so a few weeks before Hallowe'en, on a Saturday night, she picked me up and off we went. It was a blast!
Now, around this time there was a lot of stories going around in the news about kids huffing gasoline and spray paint, and turning into vegetables..and parents were warned to be vigilant and keep these items out of the reach of kids and teens. I remember Chief Waybourne, the head of our suburb's police department, speaking to my dad about it.
So, I came home after being out with Conzo and his mom, and my dad asked me how the evening was...I said it was a blast, but then he starts crinkling his nose up and he says, "What is that smell on you?"
"Huh?" I replied.
"That smell...It smells like spray paint," my dad said.
"I don't know...I don't smell anything." I said.
"Have you been huffing?" He asked me.
"I smell paint. You've been huffing with that new kid, haven't you?"
"No! I swear!" I kept saying.
My mom came into the living room and my dad says, "I think Randy's been huffing. Do you smell anything?"
Mom gets close to me and sniffs, and says, "I smell something, but I can't make it out."
Now, I had just turned 13 years old...I'd never touched a single drug, huffed anything or had anything to do with drugs leading up to this. I wasn't doing great in school - actually I was doing pretty badly in school at the time, but I was also busting my butt studying for my Bar-Mitzvah. I couldn't believe I was being accused of huffing!
"Go to your room until we figure this out." Dad ordered, sternly.
I couldn't believe it...they had no reason not to believe me. I went to my room, turned on my stereo and paced back and forth. I decided I was going to have to make something up to defend something that never happened. I opened my closet, pulled out the green hair spray, broke the seal and let out a couple of bursts. Then, I walked out to the living room and handed the can over to my dad...
"Is this what you could smell?"
My dad held the spray tip up to his nose and said, "Yep, that's it."
"I was playing with it earlier. I'm sorry. I wasn't huffing...Just getting excited about Hallowe'en."
My dad handed the can to my mom and said, "Well, you're still not going trick or treating this year."
"Nope. Me and your mom just decided you're too old anyway...You can stay home and help pass out candy."
I was sick...me and Chad had planned this out! My parents bought the costume - or most of it anyway. Not only was I accused of doing something I didn't do, but I had to make up a story to cover for something I didn't do. I thought maybe they would change their minds, but they didn't. On Hallowe'en, they took Wesley, Jimmy, and an an infant Kevin, out to trick or treat...I stayed home to pass out candy. Chad stopped by to hang out a bit and then went out on his own. I did my best to make it fun, though...I had a scary sounds record that I put on my dad's stereo, and I made bowls of spaghetti to look like brains, and a soupy gunk with grapes for eyeballs, and told kids they had to stick their hands in it before they could get any candy...It wasn't a total bust!
The following year, I was stuck home once again while Chad was about to head out. I guess my dad picked up on the fact I was down about it, and said, "If you can throw a costume together really fast, you can join Chad." I leapt off the couch, ran to my closet, and grabbed a camouflage shirt and pants, then ran to the games room and tore through my brothers' toys...I found a war helmet and said, "I'm going as a soldier...bye!" Then I ran out the front door and all the way to Chad's house before he took off to trick or treat. I don't remember what our candy score was, but I do remember the night being really chilly. All of the following Hallowe'en holidays I had were spent in Kentucky.
Anyway, in other news...As I expected with this new warden and administration, and as guards had been threatening to do, many have quit the place and we are once again short staffed. Nobody wants to work for peanuts and be screamed at by an out of control warden who riles up the inmates and then leaves the guards to clean up the mess. The policies are supposed to keep the place safe and secure for both inmates and guards alike, but they do the opposite because they're so arbitrary that they make little sense, and are now more about control than security. In turn, the officers have to enforce the arbitrary policies, riling up the inmates, and they then have to deal with the fallout of that...And if they don't enforce the policies, they are threatened by the ranking officers or warden, put on probation, or else they have their pay docked...It makes no sense, and Huntsville has to figure that out! You complain about not having enough staff - well look at how they're running things! To quote an officer in the Houston Chronicle, "It's not the inmates who are the problem. It's the administration."
But hey...I just live here and observe things from my cell...What do I know?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 3rd, 2018
I can't believe how fast this year is going by! It really is mind boggling...I always look forward to this month and getting into the holiday season, and the weather getting cooler - there is something truly magical about it. In getting into the holiday spirit and the tradition of things, I have made my own traditions over the years and in particular, listening to "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life" on my radio is something I enjoy every year....along with many other positive things.
Something I really want to mark this year, especially, and it really is a moment to celebrate, is that my girlfriend is stepping out on her own and beginning a new and brave journey with her own business. To say I'm proud is an understatement! She is a crafter who makes beautiful things, and works so hard every day of the week...Over the months I have been wowed and blown away by how fast things have moved for her, and I've tried to help and encourage her in any way I could. Of course, since I first met her, I was always amazed by what she does and her creativity, but when you fall in love with someone, it becomes immensely more personal and it feels like you have an even greater investment in that person and their success.
I've been reluctant to talk about it in my journals, but she says I should let people know how I contribute, and I do find a lot of joy in coming up with ideas and input when I can. One of the things I helped her with was coming up with an idea that came to me when thinking back on the times my parents would drag me around craft fairs as a child...They are often huge events with so many things on display, and if I ever touched something, I'd be screamed at! So, I thought, "they've got to have something that entertains and occupies the kids...something that makes the parents feel it's a nice touch, and it deserves their business..." So, I suggested putting together some grab bags with crayons, colouring books, little novelties etc...I fully expected her to say, "yeah...not doing that!" But she ran with it, and it turned out to be a huge success! It put a smile on the kids' faces, and brought the parents' business her way too...Soon, she noticed that other booths at these fairs were copying her grab bags...I guess imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery!
After that the ideas kept flowing, like, a drawing contest for the kids with a prize for the best drawing...The kids pin their drawings to a cork board, and someone judges the entries...And she runs prize draws for the adults on occasions too. Needless to say, it has all helped her, and I can't help but beam with pride at the hard work she puts into all of it! We just work together really well, creatively...I can't explain it, but every now and then someone that is a freakin' Unicorn comes into your life and she is my Unicorn :-) I'm really fortunate...
In other news...The weekend has been long and boring as usual...I don't know what it is about this pod since they swapped a bunch of people out, but even the weekends have gone from peaceful and quiet, to loud and chaotic. It's really crazy, and has hindered my focus, but I'm trying to get back on track. Then, I've got this guy upstairs from me who has suddenly taken to banging all of the time...I used to have the worry of him flooding me out, but now I have to deal with him banging and tapping all day! The other night I said, "What are you doing, building Noah's Ark? Geeze, dude..."
Well, I'm hoping to get eveything back on track with more writing, and other stuff to focus on...Stay tuned!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 11th, 2018
As I type this I'm smiling to myself because I've just finished Part One of my Memoir! Chapter 16 ties up the end of 1995, and I know that writing Part Two (which covers 1996) is going to be emotionally difficult...But I will get it done! I'm wondering if going through that period of my life will offer new insights, maybe bring back to the surface any forgotten or supressed memories...There's so much to write about in that period of time, and how things stacked on top of each other. I'm planning to begin Part Two over the Veteran's Day holiday weekend.
For all of you who are following my Memoirs so far, thank you! I really couldn't have gotten to where I am right now without the help of my love, my friend, my everything...Her encouragement, her enthusiasm and support...Thanks, babe!
Well, election day 2018 has been and gone...On Tuesday night I waited on pins, unsure of what to expect. I was in this exact same cell when the 2016 elections were taking place, and by the Wednesday morning of that year, I remember being an emotional wreck! I was in a state of shock, disbelief, and couldn't wrap my head around it. I remember a week or two later, I was on B-Pod, writing pages and pages of emotional vomit, just trying to process what had happened. And whilst the Democrats lost more seates in the Senate - something I don't understand when the candidates who ran for the Republicans (outside of, maybe, Mitt Romney) are as extreme and far right as you can get. The Democrats did win the House though, so it wasn't a total bust! The other thing is that with Democrats in control of congress, they can subpoena Trump's tax records and other things...I think this has him a bit nervous, and it was reflected in his rambling incoherent and nonsensical press conference yesterday...He actually called a black reporter "racist" for asking him about racism! I was scratching my head on that one...
Anyway, it does give me a little hope and maybe - God willing, and with his mercy - I will be around for 2020 to see even greater things happen. I certainly woke up in a much better mood the day after the 2018 elections.
I'm looking forward to the coming holiday weekend and especially the fast approaching Thanksgiving holiday...I think I'm really going to throw myself into the holiday spirit this year. Let's make it fun and full of love!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 12th, 2018
Well, I thought today was going to be an observed part of the Veteran's holiday, but it appears it isn't. That being said, the day has been loud and chaotic and nothing has gotten done - I got my shower at 4pm! I was fully expecting to get it this morning because I skipped out on recreation. Sigh...Can't win them all!
Anyway, I put my head down and got busy working on the latest chapters of my memoir - I'm up to chapter 3, part two, and they will be posted up on the website soon. It's kind of strange writing about how things continue to get worse...there are moments when at that time I thought, okay...things are going to get back on track, only for me to self sabotage myself or make a bad choice about things...It's hard. And it builds and builds until it all explodes...Very difficult to write, but I have to get through it.
The weather is extremly cold! We're expected to hit the 30s tonight...Anyway, I'm still holding on to...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 16th, 2018
I woke up early in the morning with a little panic attack, and feeling slightly distressed...It came because last night, my neighbour had received an update on the most recent execution dates, and my other co-defendant, Patrick Murphy, received a date for March...that leaves me as the last one of us...As positive and hopeful as I am trying to be, it feels like I'm at the edge of the cliff, holding onto this tiny little root sticking out of the ground, and I just hope it's strong enough to hold me and keep me from falling. I have to press on through though, keep hopeful, keep praying and asking for mercy, and believing that something positive will happen. As Yoda would say, "Difficult the future is to see, always in motion..." [Update from Randy: the news about Patrick Murphy receiving a date was not entirely true...What is happening is the DA in his case is pushing to have a date scheduled for March 2019, but NOTHING is confirmed by the TDCJ as yet].
The day started off a bit on the crazy side! I woke up, shook the negativity out of my head, and had a cup of hot - yes, hot - coffee! I was finally allowed to purchase a new hot pot yesterday, after going weeks without being able to have a hot drink, or to make any hot food for myself. After my coffee, I started writing my daily letter to my love, and then had a conversation with a guy in the dayroom when suddenly there was a whole lot of commotion, screaming, chaos and confusion...apparently, as the guards were taking someone to recreation, another inmate tried to stab him with a homemade spear, as he passed by his cell. I don't understand being so angry with someone that you want to do physical harm to them, and if you do feel like that, just step back, breathe, and blow if off...Some guys just can't do it...It's a pride thing, or something to impress their so-called friends with, and some just want to come across as "tough". It solves nothing, impresses no one, and now that guy is going to be in the dungeon for the entire holiday season...Why? Because he couldn't let something go...Back here, we should know more than most that revenge never solved anything!
Weather wise, we've just had a deep freeze, and now we're thawing out. The only problem is that the back walls were "sweating" from condensation, and as things are drying out, there's this persistent smell of mold and mildrew...It's disgusting! I'm just glad I can go outside this afternoon and breathe some fresh air and clear my head. Until then, I wanted to share a passage from my Small Stones From The River meditation book...It's a book my girlfriend sent to me at the beginning of the year, and I pick it up just about every day. The passage I want to share speaks about how the way we respond or react to things can have an equal response in turn, and how everything in our lives, whether we see it or not, is interconnected...
tug one string
and the web ripples
the scowl you receive
is the scowl you once gave
so smile to receive a smile
lessen a burden
and feel your burden lifted
we live together
in the web
and all of us
are tugging on it
Isn't that amazing? I'm doing okay, and keeping positive!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 17th, 2018
I'm facing today in a bit of a sour mood, but I'm really trying to shake it off! I wrote about how things were in a state of chaos yesterday, and after I finished writing, things grew impossibly worse...First, a bit of clarification...Yesterday I wrote that Patrick Murphy had received a date - this has NOT happened yet. The position is that the DA had only requested an execution date for late March, but it is up to the trial court to set the date, and they do usually side with the DA of that county. Nonetheless, nothing has been confirmed yet, so we must remain hopeful, as always.
So, where to begin? I was scheduled for recreation, 4th round, and this usually lands around 3-4pm. It's very rare that the guards get 5 rounds of recreaton out on first shift, but it can be done quite easily. That being said, it was looking like 4th round of recreation was going to run into 2nd shift, which I really didn't mind because I figured I would get back in around 7pm, get my shower, and then listen to the Prison Show. I was really looking forward to getting outside because it was a beautiful cool day - not warm, not cold, but just perfect! Getting outside didn't happen...3rd round of recreation was out until 6.30pm! They didn't pull out 4th round of recreation until almost 8pm and so I had to skip out on recreation because I didn't want to miss the Prison Show, so I figured I'd just get my shower at 9pm, and even though I wasn't happy about that, I was certain I'd be back in time for the shout outs...I really wanted to hear my girlfriend's voice...9.30pm came, and I was still in the shower...10pm came and I was still in the shower...The guards had disappeared to the other side of the pod!! I didn't get back to my cell until 10.35pm having been trapped in the shower for an hour and a half!!! I was soooooo angry, and hoping I hadn't missed the call, because she is almost always on in the first 10 minutes of the calls...But when I put my radio on, the reception was so staticky that I could barely make anything out for the rest of the show...Sigh...
The guards didn't finish showers and recreation until after midnight! This is insanity...I'm amazed at how this new warden is doing everything in his power to make our lives as miserable as possible, but he does NOTHING to make the officers do the job they are supposed to do. Not all of them are lazy, but I'd say three-quarters of them are, and no ranking officer ever tells them to do the job they're supposed to do. However, they can write us up on bogus cases, or enforce stupid rules that do nothing but make our lives difficult, and have nothing to do with actual "security."
Alright...blood pressue is going up again...I need to get to some laundry and cleaning, and keep my brain occupied.
Courage. Strength. Faith and Hope.
November 18th, 2018
It's 1.49pm and I'm getting caught up on writing my Memoirs...I've started the day off finishing up laundry and cleaning my cell from top to bottom. We're facing a mildrew and mold problem because it has been so damp and humid, and the circulation of air is really messed up. The smell of mold and mildew is so strong it was giving me a headache...And when I scrubbed underneath my bunk, which is a large metal frame, the rag came out pitch black! I had just cleaned all of that out a couple of days before. My neighbour told a guard that they should pass out face masks so we don't have to breathe in this crap because even the guards are complaining about headaches and allergy issues. This new warden has the trustees running around polishing brass drains and door knobs, but this mold/mildrew issue hasn't been addressed thus far. I'll probably write a grievance about it on Monday morning. If people reading this have loved ones on death row, please encourage them to file a grievance...On the outside, you can legitimately complain to officials (the ombudsman office) about the issue. There's little doubt in my mind that if this was a public facility, any inspector would condemn the building.
Anyway, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and the holidays. One of the radio stations is already playing its 24/7 Xmas music, which will put anyone in a good mood! Chanukah is approaching fast, and to my Jewish Brothers and Sisters: Happy Chanukah...I might share some funny stories this year, in my journals, as it approaches.
Well, here's to a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'm going to force myself to get into a better mood...!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning...Contains explicit reference to drug use**
November 19th, 2018
Today was one of those days...not terrible, but not the greatest day in the world either. If a word could describe the day, it would be, "Meh."
I woke up with the intentions of getting outside and enjoying the cool weather...I knew it would be grey and cool, but there was no rain forecast for the day. Wrong! Just before I was about to go outside, we were hit with a torrential downpour! I called it off, even though the guards hadn't shut the outside rec yards down. I can handle getting a bit wet - I love the puddle hopping, and splashing around like I've lost my mind, but when it's this cold? I'll pass! Fortunately, the guards let me get straight into the shower, so I was able to get that out of the way and get on with my day.
When I got back to my cell, the mail room lady had shown up and posted a notice...This is VERY IMPORTANT for anyone who writes to prisoners in Texas, because it applies to all units...Apparently, people have been smuggling in a chemical called "K2", via letters and other methods. The chemical is sprayed on paper or pot pourri, or some other leafy materials, then it dries out and can be smoked. Using this drug causes an hallucinogenic effect - so much that it causes people to freak out like they have taken Angel Dust or something...It's become quite the epidemic in TDCJ, and has caused many inmates to be taken to hospital.
The mail room, in an effort to get control of this epidemic (Why don't they ever look at their own??? Things like this don't come in just through letters, and they always blame the inmates and the people who write to them!) has decided to come up with new receiving mail rules...They are as follows:
- No stickers on letters, of any kind.
- No lipstick kisses (this one sucks because my girl keeps me topped up with kisses, which makes me happy)
- No letters sprayed with perfume, or ANYTHING else that they feel cannot be inspected.
You do not have the right to appeal any decision made by the mail room, and you will not be allowed to receive or read the letter. It will be denied and destroyed.
So, keep that in mind people...
[Update: Randy wrote this journal on 19th November...We have no mail or journals, as yet, for after that date, and with Thanksgiving holidays and generally slow running mail out of Polunsky, it may be a few more days before we receive anything further. With all of the differing stories going around about this policy being either "in force", "cancelled", or "on hold", we are sure that Randy's later journals will have an update on what has been decided. Obviously, when he wrote this journal, the only information he had to hand was the notice the mail room had handed out to all of the inmates on that day, but at least it tells us why such action regarding the mail is being considered/in force or whatever...We will update again when we know more, but in the meantime, we suggest people call Huntsville if they want clarification on the current state of play]
[Update 10th December, 2018] According to the mail room at the Polunsky Unit, the rule about no perfume, stickers or lipstick kisses is not in force]
Well, that piece of news made my morning a bummer, but I trucked along, determined to not be in a bad mood!
When the afternoon came, a guy came to our dayroom and started demanding I cook something for him to eat whilst he was there...Everyone knows I have a new hotpot now, and people have been asking me to cook. I'm "booked up" with cooking plans, and did not intend to even touch my hot pot today, so I said..."I'm not doing anything today. Sorry." He kept trying to talk me into it and I kept saying, "No." I was starting to get a little irritated the more he pushed, and I finally said, "Look, dude, I don't cook on demand! Drop it...I'm getting annoyed, and it would be dumb for us to fall out over cooking something. When I cook I'll send you something, but for now, just drop it." He backed off after that and things were calm...We even joked around to lighten the air.
I don't mind cooking - I actually enjoy it! And I always share just about everything I own. I often tell people I have no material attachment to anything I own except personal things like cards, letters, and pictures, as well as my radio. That's it. If I've got anything else I will always share it, because I am lucky enough to have good fortune and blessings at times...But ask, man...don't demand it of me.
After that was done, I cleaned up my cell because (as I mentioned in an earlier journal) we're dealing with a condensation problem on the back walls, and a very bad mold/mildew problem. I needed to get my toilet fixed as it was starting to leak, and when maintenance showed up, he had an inmate helper with him who asked my name...I said, "Randy"...He told me he was in a faith based program, studying to be a minister and said, "I'm going to pray for you and your appeals...I hope you get out of here." That really touched me. He doesn't know me from Adam, and it was a totally sincere gesture. I thought, wow...what are the odds? My toilet is acting up, we get it fixed immediately, and this dude tells me he's going to pray about my situation, and I didn't even know him? Pretty wild, but I'll take it!
One last thing...It's my understanding that someone has posted some very disrespectful things on a public platform, towards the victim (Officer Hawkins) of the shooting on the night of the robbery at Oshmans. Those statements - and anything like them - do NOT reflect my views in ANY way, nor do they reflect the views of any of my friends and supporters who are fighting for my life. And from what I'm told, the person behind the comments is NOT connected to anyone here on death row either.
Officer Hawkins was a good man, and I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. Now, some people will roll their eyes reading that from me, but for anyone who knows my childhood, they know my dad's best friend was the Chief of Police who taught me Karate and boxing, and when I went to boarding school in Kentucky, he often visited me there.
Over the years I've spent on death row, I've seen many crazy things...Unfortunately, life on death row often attracts some things we would rather not have to deal with, and thank G-d these things usually blow through quickly. But that doesn't mean we aren't affected by these things...nonetheless, they are out of our control. We have no link to the outside world other than through mail, or a visit from a friend or loved one, so we are clueless about what is going on outside. So I ask only that people who read disrespectful and distateful things about a victim, or anything to do with someone back here, they do not automatically associate it with the inmate.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 21st, 2018
Thanksgiving Eve...Well, the holiday weekend has officially kicked off and it feels like a Friday, and not the middle of the week! I went to recreation, first round, very early this morning, and when my rec time was over, I was told I had a legal visit. Fortunately, the guards let me jump straight in the shower so I could clean up before I went out to visit, and as soon as I was ready, the escort crew showed up to take me out to my legal visit.
Yesterday, I had a legal visit as well, only not with my attorneys, but with an investigator working on my appeals, and I am hopeful she will be able to uncover some good stuff that will help me...It meant a lot to see both my investigator, and my attorneys, right before the holidays. It says a lot about the caliber of people they are, and how much they care about their clients.
As I was waiting to get back to my cell, I noticed a large family come in and sit in the booth in front of me. It made me smile that a family would come to visit their loved one right before Thanksgiving...That is real love.
Well, here's to hoping that we get some really good food tomorrow!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 22nd, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving! Firstly, I want to thank everyone who reads my words for whatever reason, and for the people who offer prayers and are pulling for me. It means more than you could ever realize.
I also want to thank my friends...having you all in my life has been a real blessing, and saying "thank you" could never be enough, but I do thank you. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and I really hope that I'll be around for another and another...
Well, we had a really good meal! They brought the dessert tray first, which had a piece of pie, a piece of cake, some black olives, fruit infused jello, sweet pickles, and celery sticks. When the actual meal came it was loaded down...We had a giant biscuit, stuffing, a pretty good sized piece of turkey smothered in brown gravy, and a piece of ham that was smothered in gravy too...There was also some corn, beans, green beans, and cranberry sauce. I was stuffed! For dinner they gave us an apple and an orange, as well as two salami and cheese sandwiches, with two home made cookies.
All in all, pretty good!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 23rd, 2018
I started the day by getting outside for first round rec. It felt really nice, and we played 50 games of ball. When I came back in I went straight to the shower and settled in for the rest of the day...I will say that I'm getting tired of cleaning up mildew and mold...I clean the cell every day, and when I wake up the next morning, the back wall is covered in black blooms again! Every one of the guards is complaining about the strong smell of the mold and nobody is doing anything about it. My neighbor said when he gets a visit he's going to talk to his girl and see about talking to the warden about it. I can't remember a time that it has ever been so bad...I've never had to deal with it on this level since I've been on death row.
The rest of the day I've just vegged out and been listening to some radio...Tomorrow, I really need to get caught up on some writing.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 24th, 2018
I've been busy all day catching up on writing and filling out holiday cards...I had to clean my cell AGAIN, because of the black mold and mildew...I can't deal with this crap much longer...it's driving me nuts!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 27th, 2018
I woke up this morning at about 5.45am...I didn't get to sleep until midnight as I tossed and turned after reading an article about my co-defendant whose execution date is next week. The article was littered with inaccuracies, and some pretty blatant mis-statements that don't actually reflect the record of evidence and statements given by my other co-defendants, but I'll leave it at that. I guess my main problem with the article as a whole is how someone can claim to be a devout Christian, yet be so loose with the truth. But that is a story for another day...A group of my friends and supporters have come together to produce a response to the article, and asking that the reporter check the court record and double check the facts...The truth doesn't change, and my truth hasn't changed in all these years. You can read the article and the response from my friends under the "News" section of the website.
After waking up, I was told I was scheduled for recreation, first round, in B-dayroom. I rolled out of bed, got ready, and was out of my cell by about 6.20am. When I went out, a large crew of maintenance workers were coming by cells and checking the air. Yesterday, the warden came through and he could smell all of the mold and mildew...Apparently, and I hadn't seen this for myself, but on A-section, one wall was covered in its entirety in mold! The warden blew a fuse and started screaming at officers and other ranking officers demanding to know why this issue wasn't addressed. He ordered an officer to grab some trustees on the clean up crew and had them scrubbing the walls with bleach, all day long. He even had them to into some cells to scrub the walls. When my neighbour and I addressed the issue on B-section, the warden told us that he was going to get it taken care of. Well, the maintenance crew that came through kept saying amongst themselves, "It's fine...the air is on...It's warm in here." Another inmate had to explain to them that it was the air flow and ventilation. No air is moving. Sure, it's warm, but the air is stagnant and the moisture is trapped, which is causing the moisture to sit. Even as I type this, my back wall is dripping with water and I'll have to scrub it shortly before it starts to bloom again.
After maintenance left, I started working out and was back in my cell a little after 9 in the morning. I started writing a letter to my girl, doing laundry, and then I decided to bathe in my cell because I'm not going to wait on this particularly lazy bunch of officers to start showers...They've just been slothing around and doing nothing...Serenity now!
Anyway, I'm just trying to press on and stay positive and focused. I believe the universe has my back and I'm in good hands! It does little for my well being to stay stressed about things or to worry.
I'll close today with a quote from my Small Stones From The River book:
be the miracle
in someone's day
an unexpected kindness works fine
Something to focus on!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
December 5th, 2018
I woke up in a bit of a depression...so many thoughts running through my head and I'm trying to work through them. As I'm writing this I am listening to Texas State News on a local radio station, and they just had the Detective who worked on our investigation talking in response to Joseph Garcia's execution yesterday, and he said, "I don't want there to be any reason for people to say the justice system doesn't work in executing all of these men." Really? Well, sir, it doesn't always work and executing 6 people, if you have your way, isn't going to prove that system works. If anything, it is going show exactly how the system failed and continues to fail...and only highlights the fact that the system is rooted in vengeance, not justice. Do not confuse the two - executing non-shooters is not justice.
I think the only way to write today's entry is to just let it flow and be a bit of an emotional vomit...That's the only way I'm going to be able to get my head out of this and not bottle everything up...
Firstly, I'll start with Joseph Garcia...In no way have I hoped for his or anyone else's execution - I believe the death penalty should end for all, not just for me, or any of my co-defendants. For "all" I mean ALL. That being said, I have sat for the past week agitated and upset at his account of events and his blatant lies to the media and even his supporters. If he wanted to make his story about finding religion and redemption, I could fully support that. If he wanted to highlight that he never should have been in prison the first place, because he was only defending himself, I could support that because I will give him that - his story never wavered one single bit from the very first moment he told me that series of events back in 2000. But I cannot accept or allow him to give an alternate history of the events of December 24, 2000. There were only ever two non-shooters that night: Patrick Murphy and myself. Period. I'm irritated that both the media and some of his followers did not bother to check the court records and statements given by other co-defendants - I can appreciate the willingness to help, and attempt to save his life, but what I can't accept is the perpetration of a false narrative when all it would've taken is a little digging to find the truth.
Whilst my story has never changed (you can go back to when I was 23 years old after being captured and review early interviews in February 2001) I don't want people to either blindly follow or support me. I hope that doesn't come across as being either snide or unappreciative, because I'm beyond grateful to anyone who would invest even a second of their time to show me any solidarity or support - it means more to me than you can imagine! I just want people to do their research first...Look at the court documents posted on my website or elsewhere...Look at how several of my own co-defendants gave sworn affadavits that say they even went as far as checking my gun and seeing it hadn't been fired, and in their initial statements after we were captured, they said I was not a shooter. Look at all of the evidence...Look at the ranking document that shows they believed I was the least dangerous of them all, and at the time of the escape, I was suffering from depression (even the guards' accounts support that). Look at everything! Let there be no doubt about my role in things. Decide for yourselves...Then I can ask you to fight for me. I'm not asking to be set free - I should be punished, but I am not a killer and I should not be executed for something I didn't do and didn't want to happen.
If I had a time machine, I wish with all of me that I could change the events of that night. I wish I had never escaped. Hell, I wish I could go back to the summer of 1995 and never have left home that day...I wish I could go back, run into my driveway before I stepped into that taxi cab, tackle myself to the ground and scream, "Don't be a fucking idiot!" I wish I could change so much in my life. But I'm here, and I'm trying to be the best person I can be...I'm trying to right my wrongs and poor decisions. I'm trying to lift people up and show from my mistakes the they, too, can work to be better people. I have dreams and goals...wishes and desires. I think I'm worthy of life and I would hope that others think I'm worthy of life and another chance. I'm not perfect...Heck, I'm probably more flawed than most people, but no one can say that I don't try to be better!
I've been irritated by the way the media has reported things as well...We all joke (liberals anyway) when President Trump uses the term, "Fake News," and far be it from me to agree with him on anything he says or does, but he isn't always entirely wrong when he uses that statement. Sometimes reporting is down right sloppy, lazy, or sensationalised, especially when it comes to local news. I wanted to yell every time they referred to us as a "gang" or a "member of the Texas 7" - a term that was created by the media back in 2000 after the escape. None of us were gang members or had ever been part of a gang! We were 7 individuals that decided to escape. To mis-characterize us as a gang is unethical, and only serves the purpose of trying to frighten the public by comparing us to other violent and real gangs like the MS13 or something like that.
I was especially upset whilst listening to KPFT's "Execution Watch" program, when they got a myriad of facts wrong. One of the lawyers on their "professional" panel said we had 40 something automatic weapons and an AK47...That was entirely wrong! George Rivas stole revolvers from the prison and a semi-automatic rifle...There was never an AK47 or automatic weapons - not from the prison, and not from the Oshmans sporting goods store. Again, these so-called "facts" only serve as a means to frighten the public, and in my opinion, make them think, "wow...maybe these guys do deserve to be executed!"
I don't know...I just get upset at the many inaccuracies that are reported, and unfortunately it happens to anyone working their way through the "justice" system...Please, people, do your research and don't blindly accept what you read/hear in the media...The truth is there on record, if you look for it.
My other thoughts are a bit more all over the place...I woke up this morning and it seemed like everyone was asking me, "Did they kill Garcia?" I didn't want to sound like an asshole, but I kept saying, "Do you not listen to the radio or the news?" Why ask me? But it made me realise - and even I'm guilty of this - how we just carry on into the next day as if in our own oblivious bubble, blind to the severity and reality of our situation. When someone says, "wow...I'm surprised they killed so and so..." I think, "Really? You're surprised? We're on freakin' death row! It has "death" in the title! No, instead we wake up, drink our coffee or eat a snack, start our letters and go to recreation...Wash, rinse, repeat...Maybe it's our way of dealing with the situation and pain of it all. Some executions do affect some of us more than others, and I suppose it is no different in the free world. Your grandfather's death is a terrible loss, but if your friend's grandfather dies, you tell them, "I'm sorry for your loss, I'll pray for you." And then you go about your business as normal.
There's a scientific theory called "Dunbar's Number." Scientists took all kinds of different monkeys and studied their brain sizes, and the size correlated to the number of other monkeys they sought out to make a "tribe." The smallest brain could get along with groups of ten to twelve other monkeys...Medium sized brains could deal with slightly bigger numbers in the group, and so basically, the larger the brain, the larger the society. Homo Sapiens have the largest primate brain; our number reaches to around 150 people in our sphere - family, friends, co-workers...At a certain point everyone else melts into the background. Even if you see the postman every single day, and ask him how he's doing, they're not as "real" to you...They become a fixture of your environment but they aren't a member of your group or tribe. You CARE about the family pet, but you dont care about the animal you're eating for dinner. You'll cry and grieve when your grandmother dies, but when a highschool full of kids is slaughtered by a gunman, you'll be moved by what a tragedy it is and then...You'll move on. I think that in a certain way, as it is back here, it's the same out there...The death penalty continues because, whilst as a society we can say, "Yeah, we really shouldn't be killing anyone...especially when there's the chance we could get someone innocent caught up in it," how many people REALLY and TRULY care? Sometimes, as a species, I feel like we're dogs chasing cars...We'll never "catch" them. That's not me saying I'm cynical or that I doubt the intentions or sincerity of those within the movement. There are people who fight with every bit of physical and emotional energy to make real changes...Unsung heroes in my opinion. But I do wonder if, as a species, we're making half the effort we really could make to bring about the change.
And my final thought on the issue of the death penalty/executions stems from the revelation of the execution drug supplier in Texas, as a result of the investigative discovery by Buzzfeed.com. In an article published in the New York Intelligencer, here there's a sentence that stands out over and above the whole article..."The existence of the death penalty presumes that a country whose wealth was derived from black slave labor and indigenous-land theft and seen thousands of racist lynchings, has a moral legitimacy to be executing people in the first place." I couldn't agree more with that...Where does this sense of "moral legitimacy" come from? How messed up the United States' history is...come on, really! Slavery! Freakin' genocide! Does society feel it has the moral legitimacy to carry on with the death penalty? It's a sham! The system as it is applied is a sham! When we bomb an enemy and a couple of hundred civilians are killed in the process, it isn't "murder," just collateral damage. When an innocent black man is gunned down, it isn't "murder," but an accident. When whole entire tribes of indigenous people are wiped out, it isn't "genocide," but Manifest Destiny...It's all bullshit! The whole concept of "eye for an eye" is bullshit because as a great non-violent activist once said, "It will leave us all blind."
And now, for an upate on the mold issue...The problem continues. To give Warden Perez credit, when he learned of the problem he sent in a crew of trustees to come and scrub cells and walls etc. But until we can get some properly circulated air in here, the walls are going to continue to condensate and unless we, the inmates, are proactive in cleaning it up ourselves, the mold and mildew will persist. The warden is not going to send a clean up crew down here to scrub and bleach walls every single day.
Let me give you an example of how serious this problem really is...Kwame Rockwell...I've written about him before, and the fact that he's mentally ill. He does not function like the rest of us, and whilst he does occasionally go the shower, he had not been cleaning his cell. Now, I can make the argument (a very strong argument) that it isn't his responsibility to ensure that he regularly cleans his cell - his brain isn't even functioning on that level. And yet, the Warden and other ranking officers were "disgusted" at how bad his cell had gotten. Yesterday, they pulled Rockwell out of his cell and moved him to B-Pod. The sergeant was talking down to Rockwell as he stood on the run, and he stared back, blank-faced, as if he didn't even fully comprehend what was going on. When they pulled his property and laundry out of his cell, it was pitch black with mold! Another officer said his entire back wall was black with mold...Now just three days prior to that the so-called psychiatric doctor or nurse or whatever the hell she calls herself (we've taken to calling her Doctor Death) supposedly came to check up on him to see how he was doing. She jotted a note down and walked off...Surely she could smell the mold and see that the wall was pitch black, and see how he was living! The mental health department here is a freakin' joke! She reminds me of the sadistic psych nurse on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
As they were taking Rockwell off the pod, we were all telling the sergeant, "Don't get mad at him. It's YOUR duty to make sure he's taking care of himself. It's YOUR duty to look out for his mental wellness." Everything about state's system is a sham. Wake up people, you've been bamboozled! Your tax dollars at work...!
What else can I say? I'm trying hard, so hard, to keep my positivity and hope. I'm trying so hard to survive. I feel like a Looney Toon character that was pushed off the cliff and managed to catch that tiny little flower poking out of the side of it, and I'm just trying with everything in me to hang on.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 6th, 2018
I've been a bit emotional today...waves of every emotion a person can experience...And then I read an article in the latest issue of GQ, about the Thai Cave rescue of 12 Thai kids and their coach, and I found myself tearing up throughout the article at the miracle of an entire world coming together to save these people! I thought, "Wow...maybe we aren't completely lost as a species." I began to think about all of the little "miracles" we experience daily, and don't ever see or recognize, and I thought,, "I really do have a lot to be thankful for, even through this experience, as painful and frustrating as it can be." And I do try my best to continually be grateful for all the things in my life, but I can also let little things eat at me that I should learn to let go of...
I also realise that whilst I do forgive easily, I need to be better at forgiving, and I was thinking about the things that upset me over this past week and thought, "I should forgive them all..." And so, I forgive Joseph Garcia...I forgive the Detective that said he hopes we all die to show the justice system "works"...I forgive the panel of experts on KPFT's Execution Watch for referring to Patrick Murphy and myself as #s 5 and 6, instead of using our names...I forgive the media for getting the facts wrong...In turn, I too ask for forgiveness for my own flaws.
Well, today has been a bit on the wild side...Early this morning they brought some drug searching dogs into the pod. They didn't find any drugs per se, but they did bust a couple of guys with some prison hooch, and sent them to level 2. Everyone was kind of laughing about it because they train these dogs to find narcotics, and all they find is a few bottles of juice and candy mixed up to make prison wine...Tax dollars hard at work!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 9th, 2018
After a long and exhausting week, I'm hoping that the new week ahead will be a good one. I'm trying to get my head into a more positive space and renew my sense of hope...
The weekend seemed to go by in a blur...Yesterday was a bit crazy as the heat went out. The walls have been sweating badly with condensation, but when the heat is off it's much worse! I've wrung out bowls of water...I'm tired of mopping it all up, and in my 15 1/2 years of being here, this has never happened...They had the heating on, then it went out, then it came back on, and went out again over night...When I woke up this morning I was swimming in water, and again had to clean everything up. On average, I'm wiping up three to five GIANT bowls of water per day - imagine those big mixing bowls you put cake batter in....That's how big the bowls of water are! My neighbor again asked the Warden what was being done about the situation and he said, "I have an active work order!" Then he left and I said, "What is that? Active/Work is redundant!" Anyway...
A friend visited me last night and it was nice to get out of the cell, and I asked that they send my girl a "Happy Birthday" message, because the mail has been screwed up and extremely slow lately, and she hadn't received my birthday card to her. As I was waiting for my visitor to show up, my friend, Blaine who has an execution date, was telling me he has a 50% chance of getting a stay...Better odds than most! I told him to stay positive and keep hoping for the best. It ain't over 'til it's over...
I thought of a new phrase for the anti-death penalty movement, that I'm coining! Maybe people will use it: Heal. Don't kill.
Here's to hoping the next week will be positive and full of hope, healing and love. Forgiveness isn't as hard as you might think it is, and compassion should never be confused with naivety...
Courage. Stregth. Hope and Faith.
Peace to all!
December 16th, 2018
We've been on lockdown since Tuesday the 11th...It kind of came unexpectedly as everyone was guessing it would happen right after Christmas - it's been that way for the last several years. Now, almost a week in, everyone is wondering if we'll be back up before Christmas...I hope so! That said, other than it being a bit of a psychological downer, it wouldn't affect us too much because for the first time in many years, they've actually been giving us normal meals instead of sack lunches. I think this is because the head warden (Mr Butcher) who was the assistant warden many years ago, was allowing death row to eat hot meals during our quarterly lockdowns. Now that he has returned as head warden of the entire unit, the food has also improved a bit. I think a lot of people - guards and inmates alike - are hoping that Warden Butcher reigns in the new death row warden...Things do seem to have calmed down a bit.
Another plus is that the air problem seems to have been fixed and we've not had the condensation build up or mold/mildew problems that we've had for several weeks. Well, I can say that for the guys who clean their cells...I'm sure some cells haven't been cleaned and are in pretty bad shape - I had to scrub my cell for days to get the smell of mildew out of it.
I was fortunate to see my attorney last week and we spent some time talking about recent executions...I'm trying to keep my hopes up, and have hope for Patrick Murphy as well. My faith and positivity are fully intact, and knowing I have truth on my side gives me strength. It means a lot to me that so many people have researched my case, read the facts, and told me they believe in me. All of that and the love and support of my friends and my girl, her friends and her family...It's hard to put into words how much that means to me.
I was talking to my lawyer about all of this on Tuesday, and even going back over the events of September of 1996 with him, I said, "I am not that person...I'm not dangerous, and I'm not violent..." He looked at me and said, "I know. I know you're not that person." I thanked him, and told him how much that meant to me...To have people believe in me and my value as a human being...To believe in me. All of these years, even going back to my teens and my screw-ups, I just wanted to have someone believe in me and know that they see something of worth...That's all I've ever really wanted my whole life.
As the new year approaches, I keep holding onto hope...faith...courage...strength...and love! Lots of love! I think being in love with someone and having a life - yes, even as an inmate, as difficult and improbable or impossible as it can seem - it gives me focus and drive. To share goals and dreams, and to share creativity and imagination...These things give me a strength that can't be described, and I'm incredibly grateful for it. I thank G-d for it! When I pray, and I thank the universe for the things that I do have...outside of praying for mercy, I never pray for anything that isn't realistic. Mercy, love, to love and to be loved...and to live! Pretty reasonable things to pray for, I think.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 17th, 2018
This has been one hell of a day...I woke up in pretty decent spirits, started a letter to my girlfriend as I do every morning, and I was happy we were going to get showers after two days without any, because we've been on lockdown since last Tuesday.
When I got back from the shower, someone started yelling that they were passing out the red crates for shake down...All of our personal property has to fit inside of the crate, and anything that doesn't, they can take. Well, everyone was expecting our shakedown to be on Tuesday - maybe even Wednesday - because they decided to skip A-Pod and move over to C-Pod, which honestly makes little sense, but very little makes sense in this place! There was a mild panic for those unprepared, but they're moving so slowly with things that there's more than enough time to prepare. It's taking them about 2 hours per section which is really slow...but that also means they're being very thorough.
I knew they weren't going to get to my section anytime today, so I decided to kick back, drink some tea and listen to the radio...I put on the classic rock station, 92.7, which is a local Livingston station that broadcasts Texas news updates every hour, on the hour, and at 1pm I hear, "5th Circuit decides not to hear appeal of remaining Tx 7, Randy Halprin." I mean, what do you do? My initial thought was, "Okay...I lost." And then I worried that my girlfriend would be in a state of worry over me...It sucks to be in this situation, but it wasn't a knock-out punch - not yet - and I was oddly calm about the news. I'd like to know what kind of time frame I'm looking at, and I know my attorneys aren't giving up, so why should I? I don't feel out of the fight and I do have a lot of hope in other things. I'm strangely zen about it, and it isn't or shouldn't be confused with being reserved, or a feeling that it's all over - it's far from it! Normally, as neurotic as I can be, I'd be in a state of worry and anxiety...But I don't feel like that at all, thanks to my lawyers who are good and honest people who know that the truth is on my side. I have to place my trust in them, and in God, and hold onto the love and support of my friends and my girlfriend.
So, what do I do next? I don't know...where to start? I have faith in my attorneys, and I also have a personal desire to fight and to LIVE, and so...I'm asking anyone who has read my story and who knows my case, my life, my appeals...If you believe in ME and in my human worth, please tell anyone you can about my case...Please...pray for me...Pray for a miracle, and tell anyone you know who believes in me and knows my case, to please speak out for me and the possibility of another chance to live, and to do right by it. I don't want people to blindly follow or support me - I would prefer you look at everything to do with my case first, and then, if you are convinced of my value and worth, please speak out for me. That is all I can ask.
I'm still fighting, and there are so many things I want to accomplish. I have dreams and goals, and ultimately, I want to make up for my mistakes in life. I'm not giving up and I'm not giving up that I'll be spared and earn a second chance...
I don't know my time frame at this point; I don't know when my appeal is due to the Supreme Court, but as I know more information I'll update. But for now, please, pray for me and believe in me, and believe in miracles...They can and do happen! Thank you.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 18th, 2018
There's a moment in my past that I wrote about in my memoir, "Falling Down," where I sat down on some rocks that oversee the track and field, and further in the distance, the farm and hills of OBI (the school I attended). I wanted to share a moment with my girlfriend at the time, and her family, but I didn't think it would happen because her family was angry with me...So, I sat and prayed until the tears ran down my face. It was real...It came from a sincere place. And now I find myself humbly praying to God for mercy...praying with tears streaming down my face...It's difficult to surrender to what feels like the impossible, and whilst I strongly believe that faith without action behind it is worthless - and I'm too neurotic to just blindly "surrender" to an unknown - I still pray...I still ask for mercy each and every day.
I've come to realise just how little control we have over our destiny, because even for those people who are goal-oriented and driven, and who control every facet of their lives with a certain degree of success, none of us are guaranteed our next breath. That said, is it so wrong to want just a little more time? Another chance to get it right this time? All I can do is surrender...Pray, and surrender...
The days here continue to roll by, oblivious to my current predicament. As I write this I'm waiting on our section's shakedown. They stopped on D-section and should begin C-section some time this morning. Hopefully (depending on how quickly they move onwards to B-section - my current housing) they will complete A-section, and that should hold us until early April. Anyway, I'm packed up and ready to roll!
It's the afternoon now...My shakedown went without a hitch, and all of my property was neatly stacked when I got back to my cell. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief to be over the stress, things took a turn for the worst at noon...Apparently the warden ordered that D/E/F be searched again because the guards didn't finish yesterday! Well, two mentally ill guys on D-section freaked out, and they gassed a 60 year old (maybe older) mentally ill man. The psych department should have immediately been called to defuse the situation, but that didn't happen. Instead, a guard just said that if they don't finish C-Pod, they will have to start all over again tomorrow!! Pure absurdity! Do you see my will to live? That I actually want to live in this crap...Geeze! Well, we'll see what happens.
5pm...They finished the shakedowns for the pod! In spite of the chaos and absurdity I live with here, I'm not giving up...EVER! Please, pray for me...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 19th, 2018
Today started off a bit iffy...I woke up for a shower at 5.30am, after staying up until midnight reading the denial from the 5th Circuit of appeals. I planned on getting some more sleep after the shower, but ended up being trapped in there for an hour!
I finally made it back to my cell after 7am, and just couldn't get back to sleep. So, I started typing a letter to my love...I was relieved she was taking the news okay, but I know it's hard on her. She contacted my Rabbi for prayers and his response was incredibly kind, and my other friends are rallying support and prayers as well. I am beyond grateful and humbled. They say you can tell a man's worth by the friends he keeps, so I must be a billionaire!
One thing I find very difficult back here is listening to guys being so negative about things. There's a difference between having hope grounded in reality, and being delusional, and when I say "I'm going to live" and "I will live," this is me refusing to accept any other "reality." After all, as Qui-Gon Jinn says in The Phantom Menace, "Your focus determines your reality." Negativity will attract more negativity, but positivity allows hope to flourish and grow, and I am not a quitter! I am NOT a killer, and I trust in G-d and the truth to make that known.
Anyway, I'll be writing a little more about the 5th Circuit's opinion soon, and clarifying the facts, because they have mis-stated some events. Maybe from a legal standpoint they felt they were correct, but I find it alarming that lives can be at stake based on opinion contained in a document almost 250 years old. But I'll write about that when I can get my thoughts together.
Anyway, the rest of the day brightened up and now, as I write this, I'm just waiting on today's mail. I can't believe Christmas is almost here and we're still on lock-down!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 23rd, 2018
It seems like a slow roll to the Christmas holiday here this year...Last year it was cold, and there was a different vibe to the pod. This year? It's warm, people are arguing, and it feels miserable...One guy on my section received an execution date on Thursday or Friday. It's just a strange vibe here right now...I hope the mood lifts before Christmas Day. Tomorrow is always a difficult day for me, and I usually spend it reflecting and meditating on things...But just for Christmas Day, it would be good to feel a more positive vibe for all of us here.
Well, last Friday was a good day! We came off lockdown, and I went outside to recreation. The air was crisp and the sun was out. At about 10am I was told I had a legal visit which I was expecting, and the guards came to take me out there. I spent a good amount of time with one of my attorneys and he told me the game plan going forward with things...It has really boosted my spirits! We have some very good things in play, and all I can say right now is that I am blessed to have such good and honest people as my attorneys. They know the truth, and they believe in me, which means so much to me. And they are honest in their work and efforts for me which is something I value immensely - we are nothing without the dignity of truth. My attorney also told me that I've been granted permission to ask for a re-hearing at the 5th Circuit, and whilst I don't expect anything to come of that, it's a start to filing in the Supreme Court. For obvious reasons, I can't go into any detail about the other issues my attorneys are working on, but he did say to me, "It's far from over, and there's everything left to still hope for"...I left the visit feeling upbeat and optimistic.
Friday night I heard my girlfriend's voice on KPFT as she gave me a shout out, and that was medicine for the soul. Her best friend recently had a baby son - the cutest little fella you've ever seen! His mom and dad call me his "Funcle" (fun uncle) and joke about me teaching him all about Star Wars, and how to be a Jedi as he grows up (ha ha). My girl bought him a Yoda for Christmas, which I thought was brilliant! Hearing her say that put a huge smile on my face...You know, I've been touched - deeply touched - at how loving, supportive, and (most importantly) accepting of me, her friends and family have been. They have never judged me, and have remarkably jumped into the fight to save my life, without hesitation. They have been so kind in sending books, and supported our relationship - again without judgement. To have that support, and the support of all of my own good friends who over the years have stood by me, means more to me than they could ever imagine. To know these people have done their research as I have asked, and then come back to me and told me they believe in me, and stand by me...It touches me deeply.
So, to all of you - my long time good friends, and my girlfriend's friends who love and support us...Thank you! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart..."Thank you" could never be enough for the love you have all shown me...You are ALL awesome! One thing I would also like to say to my girlfriend's friends....PLEASE! Drag her away from work a bit more often!! She works so freakin' hard, and non-stop, and she needs to get back out onto the ski slopes!
Anyway, in other news, Saturday was kind of slow and boring, but I listened to "Live From Here", a really good show that airs on NPR on Saturday evenings. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve...As I have done every year since the escape, I will use this day to reflect, pray, and ask for forgiveness for my mistakes and bad choices, and my naivete in thinking I could escape...And whilst I stand by the fact I never hurt anyone during the escape or afterwards, no day goes by where I don't feel regret and remorse about everything that happened...I pray for everyone who was affected, and for the loss of life on that Christmas Eve...I pray for forgiveness for all 7 of us, and that G-d will grant mercy to Patrick Murphy and I.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 30th, 2018
It's a Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting here listening to a classic edition of Casey Kasem's American Top 40...They're actually doing the Top 100 for the year 1986 – a pretty good year for music. Actually, I think the sweet spot for just good FM radio play was from 1980 to around 1997, until corporate radio dug its greedy heels into music and ruined it with template pop across all genres. There were some great songs since then though – songs that slip through the cracks on mainstream radio, and some amazing bands have sprung up from 2000 onward...But on the whole, It's pretty awful! Even '90s pop music has a certain originality and craft to it that sticks with you across the decades. Name a song from the early '00s, or even 2010 onwards that when you hear it, you say, “Damn! That was the jam!” It's hard, right? Or maybe I'm just getting old (ha ha).
Well, it's the last weekend of the year...I can't believe how fast this past year has gone by. It was almost a blur...At 1am we received a “first ever” on death row – the guards woke everyone up passing out a little hygiene kit; I guess it was a New Year's gift? It contained a tiny shampoos, a bar of soap, two packets of shaving cream, a toothbrush, and some deodorant. We were all shocked to receive it, and we're not sure who donated it, or who to thank, but it's surprising they allowed us to have it.
This past week has been a bit on the chaotic side...Each night they left 60+ showers for second shift, and as well as all that, they have to feed dinner, and do a round of recreation before they shut everything down at 10.30pm. Needless to say, guys were getting screwed out of showers! Second shift says, “We've got too much work to do!” We hadn't been getting mail before midnight...On Friday night it was a bit smoother, and of course we don't get recreation at the weekend, but I kind of dread the coming week...There are good, kind guards who bust their butts to get the work done, but the calibre of people they've been hiring lately – it's like they snatch them off the street and say, “Here! Work, you bum!” And they get a job here.
Otherwise, I'm just trying to remain positive and focused and moving forward...I've got to keep positive and deal with the mayhem!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.