The news reported hue and cry outside of the jailhouse on Saturday morning - a public protest about the conditions. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's swift response was to have us served with tasty mashed potatoes instead of the usual rotten potato peelings. On Sunday night, we actually received a scoop of ice cream. Unfortunately, the ice cream was served on top of warm cabbage, transmuting it into cabbage soup. Anyhow, we appreciated the gesture, and we are still receiving mashed potatoes - but for how long?
The daily temperature highs are in excess of a hundred degrees and rising. The air is stale and debilitating. On Monday, an inmate told a guard he felt ill and requested medical treatment. The guard told him to drink plenty of water and to lie down. The inmate persisted, stating he was a diabetic and he really needed to see a doctor, but the guard continued to fob him off. On Monday night, the inmate slipped into a coma and was rushed to the hospital. He has not been seen since.
Frankie paid Yum-Yum's $225 bond. Before Yum-Yum departed, I learned he has "fifty wigs at home," and that he had been arrested when the police forced their way into a hotel bathroom: “I was tweaked out o' my mind and gettin' fucked by my friend." Sadly, Frankie did not land a cell with Yum-Yum, but his investment will probably enhance his reputation among prison transsexuals.
I was awoken this morning by a small cockroach heading toward my face up my arm.
Mark still refuses to eat the jail food. He had a nightmare about giant cockroaches dressed in guard uniforms chaining him to a bunk and force-feeding him red death.
Frankie, a Mexican Mafia contract killer – his fee is $50,000 per hit – instigates most of the hullabaloo in our pod. He is a recent arrival from the jail's infirmary. Last month he was playing cards in a maximum-security pod when someone stuck an eight-inch shank into the back of his neck. Unfazed, he extracted the shank, and was about to return the gesture, but a guard blinded him with pepper spray. Frankie was dragged from the pod with blood gushing from the wound. He was promoted to our pod – an area where inmates are confined to tiny cells for twenty-three hours each day.
Frankie looks and acts like Joe Pesci playing Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. He wears his thick, black hair slicked back, and his arms are heavily prison-tattooed. He overcompensates for his Napoleonic height with a cocksure manner, but the inmates have warmed to his lewd wittiness. During a seventeen-year sentence, he became a chess heavyweight. On my hour out, I usually play a game with him by holding the board up in front of his cell window. His piercing hazel eyes and fiendish grin animate when he attempts intimidation tactics:
"Eat dat fuckin' pawn!"
"Let me fuckin' teach ya somethin'!"
"Eat dat fuckin' bishop!"
"Watch dis! Check! Trick move! What'd I fuckin' tell ya!"
"Don't do it!"
"Move my bitch [Queen] all da way up!"
"Nobody fucks wiv da champ!"
Hearing my rapping neighbour whimpering to his grandmother on the phone in the day room, begging her to bail him out, the inmates lambasted him for being a crybaby. Nevertheless, his grandma followed through and he was released.
He was replaced by Yum-Yum, an eighteen-year-old transsexual who looks like a malnourished teenage girl. Yum-Yum has black, curly hair, speaks like a female, and has stirred up the love-starved inmates. Frankie is leading the pack. Every day, Frankie has offered Yum-Yum sweets to move into his cell to “make ma cell look good.” Frankie complains that his eighteen-year-old cellmate, Cup Cake, will not participate in "sword fights" (sexual acts) with him. He seems confident that Yum-Yum will be more obliging. I sense a love triangle.
The heat is making it difficult to sleep. Las cucarachas are getting more adventurous. They wake me up as they explore my limbs.
The inmates are speculating that the foul-smelling breakfast meat is ostrich.
My green onion, that had sprouted six inches, suddenly wilted and died.
I found a quote by Jon Adams (1756.) that is helping me ignore the madness that I am surrounded with:
"May I blush whenever I suffer one hour to pass unimproved."
Sex in Jail
Most inmates agree that the hardest part of incarceration is the absence of female company. There are various ways in here to address sexual frustration. The most common occurs in the shower. Some inmates even tape sexy pictures to the shower wall. Unfortunately, the shower I share with twenty-nine men drains poorly. A puddle of semen and pubic hair swirls around my feet as I wash. In the shower, I wear pink socks for protection, and quickly rinse them off afterwards.
The more innovative methods of gratification are often bragged about. That's how I heard of a "fee-fee bag," a hot, wet sock, lubricated with soap or lotion. A creatively-folded towel can also be used.
For homosexuals, it's business as usual. I have noticed three types of gays in jail: those openly gay before and after their arrest, those who are temporarily openly gay in jail but do not tell their wives and girlfriends, and those in the closet. The first two groups boast about their conquests and ultimately reveal the members of the latter group.
Transsexuals, known as "cheetolins" are in high demand. Most of our resident cheetos are Native American or Mexican American. Some inmates cannot resist an opportunity to receive oral sex. Cheetos are known to convert many inmates who once thought they were straight.
A recently sentenced cheeto in our pod yelled out, "I can't wait to get to prison for all that sausage!"
I could be having so much fun in here, if only I were gay!
A Forgotten Hero Named Duke
In court, I watched the sentencing hearing for fifty-four-year-old Duke. Most of the onlookers wept with him as he listed his mitigating factors. Duke had joined the military at age nineteen and was quickly dispatched to Vietnam. He served as a supply clerk in the thick of some of the goriest battles. After three years of being in "hell," and watching “many peoples' faces gettin' blown off,” Duke was shot in the head. Comatose for three months, his eventual survival was deemed a miracle. For serving his country, Duke was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Duke discovered drugs in Vietnam. Upon returning home, he was prescribed painkillers, psychiatric drugs and seizure medication. He suffered from various mental problems, including PTSD. He was in and out of the Veterans' Hospital for three decades. During his most recent visit, the surgeon reattached his foot, which had been torn from his leg by a hit-and-run driver. Duke's foot is presently held on by a thirteen-inch metal rod, and he limps.
Duke shed tears as he apologized for his drug problem, which he referred to as his "disease". He apologized to his children and grandchildren for letting them down. Duke's final cry for leniency was, "Please help me get help for my disease."
From Judge Wilkinson, Duke received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence for possession of .02 grams of cocaine, found on the floor of his car. His attorney said Duke's long history of drug use and the fact he owned a new car had aggravated the sentence. The prosecutor claimed Duke's car could only have been paid for by dealing drugs. A concession granted by the judge was that Duke would be housed in a prison with a good drug-rehabilitation program.
Duke was sullen as he exited the courtroom.
15 Apr 04
I received lots of eggs on Easter Sunday – cockroach eggs. I noticed what looked like a piece of a worm glued to my dictionary – it was full of cockroach babies. I discovered two more empty egg containers, and more nests in my commissary bag and legal file. In my Manila envelopes, large and tiny cockroaches were running wild. I poured the cockroaches out of one envelope into the toilet, but in the time it took to press the flusher button, they had scurried out of the toilet bowl at warp speed and were scrambling around my feet.
They were none too happy about their encampment being besieged on a holy day, and as darkness came they struck back. Numerous baby cockroaches, tinier than ants, started the demonstration by zigzagging on the walls like miniscule bumper cars. They were soon joined by the adult members of their community. One about the size of an almond nut crawled onto my bare foot. Some larger ones invaded the blanket near my right shoulder, and I had to sleep with a sheet wrapped around my head because I feared they were coming after the earwax they love so much.
The bug activity perturbed Mark. Staying awake for most of the night until his eyelids finally closed, he then dreamt they were crawling all over him. He awoke in a terrible sweat, scratching his body, and discovered his dream had come true.
Federal law states that inmates have the right not to live in an insect-infested environment, but the jail flouts the law by showing the external referees its insecticide spraying records. As you are aware, the insecticide is sprayed upon the inmates and the only effect it has upon the cockroaches is as a temporary intoxicant. On spray day they act like drunkards, stumbling home from the pub, but they quickly sober up.
My new neighbour's behaviour has upset the whole pod. He’s young and he boasts he is a rapper and a "shit talka." Every day he uses his cell walls, door and table as drums. He likes to tell passersby to "fuck themselves" and he is recklessly hostile to the guards. What upsets the inmates most of all is his nighttime soliloquizing. He has received numerous threats upon his good health. Presently, he is rapping:
Da roaches on da wall,
We don’t need no water,
Let the motherfuckers fall!
Now he’s clicking his fingers and cackling to himself, “I’d have my shit on motherfucking billboards by now if it wuzn’t for deeze assholes! I should be a fucking millionaire! Please, I wanna get out of here! I wanna go home!"
I placed a green onion from my dinner into a polystyrene cup. I half filled it with water and to my delight it started to grow roots. Now I have a plant of my own to love and care for. I haven’t seen a plant in years! Mark said he suspects I’ve been here for too long.
Quote of the month:
"For the secret of a man is not his Oedipus complex or his inferiority complex: it is the limit of his own liberty, his capacity for resisting torture and death."
John Paul Sartre
Thanks for all the letters of support I’ve received since the blog began.