26 Oct 08

Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 3)

Before leaving Tucson prison, I asked Jack (a 49-year-old lifer whose encouragement led to my foray into short-story writing) if he would be willing to write for Jon’s Jail Journal. Sadly, Jack has been sick and suffering from depression. This is his first letter since March. Click here for his previous blog.


Dear Shaun,

And like a bolt of lightening out of a clear blue sky, there he was. Just when you were beginning to wonder if you would ever hear from me again, a letter appears as if by magic. Whether this anomaly is something to rejoice in, or cringe in fear, I will leave to your nimble mind to discern.

Although I haven’t mentioned it yet, let me say congratulations on winning 1st prize in the Koestler/Hamish Hamilton short story category. I never had a doubt that you would eventually get recognized for your work. I am proud of you because you are an example to the world that we prisoners aren’t all a bunch of bloodthirsty thugs. Your determination and ability will carry you to the top of the writing world. I am looking forward to one day ordering your first book.

As for me, what a sad little tale. I have been back and forth to the hospital several times since June. Nothing to worry about, just a gauntlet of invasive tests designed to make one question whether the cure isn’t worse than the disease. The hubris that the doctors exuded when I began this little journey seems to have waned considerably. Although it does occasionally re-emerge when I have the unmitigated audacity to question their treatment plan, or ask whether there could be interactions between the various drugs they are prescribing for me. Regardless, I am still up and about and I intend to stay that way.

I haven’t written anything in quite a while now. Most of my “creative talents” have been directed toward my paintings. I find the actual act of creating something visual to be uplifting. One could say it is cathartic (yes, I know it sounds like a cliché, so sue me), at least I am not despondent when I paint.

I recently found out that I will be a grandfather, again. This will be my fifth grandchild, and I still have another daughter that wants children when she graduates college. The numbers continue to climb, along with my gray hair and age.

I realise it’s not your kind of music, but I recently got my hands on a group called Wicked Tinkers. I guess the best way to describe them is a cross Celtic folk songs and Scottish Highland pipes. I can see you screwing up your face as if you’ve just tasted something foul. I really can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but this music stirs something in me. Maybe it’s the Scottish side of my genes, but I like it.

What do you think of the financial bootndoogle we’ve gotten ourselves into? There are so many people pointing fingers and laying blame that no one is facing the reality of just how devastating this fiasco will eventually be. Not only are fortunes being lost but the average family in this country is looking at losing their retirement accounts and foreclosure of their mortgages. One of my ex-wives invested her whole retirement account in General Electric, those shares were trading at $36 a month ago, they closed at $21 last Friday. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve bottomed out yet. We could easily be looking at a devastating depression that will have far reaching consequences. What a wonderful system capitalism is.

Well, my friend, it’s time for me to close for now. Once again, I am very pleased with your success, but not surprised. I have every confidence that you will rise to the top of the publishing world, and well deserved that rise will be. Take care of yourself in that indomitable way only you can muster.



Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below

Shaun P. Attwood


Chris Phoenix said...

Hey, I've heard the Wicked Tinkers play! With Heather Alexander, back before she morphed into Alexander Adams.

They were... loud and energetic. I suppose they were as tuneful as you can be while playing bagpipes.

But I liked Heather's pre-Tinkers version of March of Cambreadth a lot better than her post-Tinkers version.

Alex's tastes seem more than a little different than Heather's - quieter and less edgy - I wonder what Alex thinks of the Tinkers?

(If anyone actually knows what I'm talking about, it'd be cool to hear from you!)

JM said...

excellent writing. It really came across with a lot of feeling. I try to empathize with lifers and its very saddening. What can one do to overcome such despair? I know many take the "I dont give a fuck route", and others find hope or inspiration thru family. I can only say thanks for the read and keep your head up, as cliche as it is.

~big jason ~

Suzanne said...

I would also love to see a post from Shaun on the state of the global economy - not stock tips, but an analysis of what is going on. I think he would have a unique perspective and ability to speak to this issue.

Personally, I invest my 401k in one of those "lifeband" funds that is suppsoed to be geared to your age and subsequent ability to take on 5risk. Since I'm young, I've been invested in riskier options and have lost -24% this year. Not worried, it will rebound and hopefully my fund managers are buying up stocks on the cheap.

I do worry for the older folks who were hoping to retire - I'm a bit appalled that Jack's ex-wife doubled down on GE stock instead of diversifying, but the stock was doing well before. My thinking is that if people hold tight, we'll get out of this, as the market is cyclical. Sell now and you're buying that stock at its lowest value - better to stay in and wait for a rebound. Would love to hear Shaun's perspective.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Shaun/Jon!!