Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aluminum Musings

I wake up to metal. Aluminum trays crashing against aluminum tables downstairs. The cops have to be doing that on purpose, don't they? Crash, Crash, Crash! I'm up. Shirtless, I stumble to my sink. More aluminum. I splash cold water on my face and take a sloppy sip from the faucet... tastes metallic, but it's soothing as it hydrates tubes that nearly dried up during sleep.

My muscles ache. Steel toe boots upstairs and soon a key pulls open my tray port and I'm served breakfast. I choose not to say thank you this morning. I eat the breakfast, wait for the sound of boots, return my tray and tuck myself in for a few hours more of vacation.

The few hours more pass in what feels like ten minutes. I want to stay and sleep, but the symphony of crashing has started again and I know within seconds lunch will be served. I say thank you this time and the guard's stupid looks and silence remind me why I usually don't.

I wrap my bread in toilet paper to save along with peanut butter and jelly packets. I eat the cookies, chips, macaroni and fruit. Not bad. I lay back down and wait for my steel-toed butlers to come for their precious tray. The queue has sounded and the quiet is a thing of a few minutes ago. I hear Muslims praising Allah, Mexicans giving each other morning salutations in Spanish and combs sliding across the floors like mice to pick up packages of coffee, envelopes or notes.

I walk to my door and look out the window at the tier. Behold, my town, my community of voices. I hear my name. "Yea!" I yell. It's the Sicilian, my neighbor two cells down. "Get your line ready. I got somethin' for you!" he shouts. The rooster has crowed. "Alright," I say and pull the spool of string out of my sock. "Give me a minute."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Today's Utopia

I was sitting in my cell, listening to some oldies, drinking some coffee and writing a letter to an uncle that I just now finished. I planned on writing a post afterwards, but I think a section of this letter will do. It tells some of the topics that have engaged my mind recently. It starts off with me speaking on the John Steinbeck classic, "The Grapes of Wrath"...

I did reflect on my relatives who migrated to California during the depression and even if they didn't suffer as much as the Joads did, which they very well may have, if Steinbeck's portrayal is anywhere close to accurate, it sounds like painful journey for any family packing west in those days. In my opinion, the most powerful quote in the book is near the end when Tom Joad's mother is saying goodbye to him after his young sister let it slip about the murder and his hiding in the woods. His mom cries for she knows the chances she'll see him again are slim to non and he says confident and reassuringly, "Whenever you see a cop beating a guy, I'll be there. Whenever you hear a hungry new born baby cry, I'll be there. Whenever people are struggling to be free, look for me, Ma, I'll be there."

Tom might not have had it all figured out but his ideology says, people die but ideas live on and those words echo through history.

I have educated myself a bit more on politics recently and though I understand the central ideology reflected in 1984 and Animal Farm, I plan on re-reading them both after I've read more on socialism, totalitarianism and utopia prophecy. Tell me more about your political points of view. I had to cancel my subscription to the New York Times, partly because the only thing I received from them while being subscribed for a month was ONE book review, which I enjoyed, but I wonder how their business is doing and why they forgot the rest of the paper... four weeks in a row! The New Yorker is plenty along with my USA Today and yes, the cartoons are great.

I am impressed with the blog you included. Despite my lack of comparative understanding with the Biblical story of Elijah, I understand the portrayed concept which you made pretty clear. We do live in a greedy, unruly, "sinful" world, that in my opinion resembles a verging Orwellian utopia written about by say, the Founding Fathers.

The headlines these days are constantly disastrous and depressing and even though I haven't been a consistent newspaper reader for very long, I can see that if the patterns had been this bad for any past number of years, the world would have burned up a long time ago. The odds are surely against us in this plentiful, industrious twenty-first century where we gamble with mother nature for a green bill that is constantly declining in value. Maybe some day, we will look back, releived, at what a mess things were at the start of the century. Then again, maybe someday the price of clean water will dwarf the price of oil and fresh produce and poultry will surpass the value of gold. I hope not that the latter will resemble the future world for my unborn children and their children alike. But like you said, it's in God's hands. I don't know who God is exactly but I'm sure He knows better than any human being what our doom is and will be of our own making. How can we pray for assistance if any elementary educated person can see the cause of our troubles is us?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fishing for Poems

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to blog about this afternoon but couldn't come up with much more than these words you're reading now. I'd like to share a poem written by a friend of mine who lives two cells down the tier from me. I live in a super-maximum security prison unit where they don't let myself or anyone else physically interact with each other. Despite these restrictions, strong relationships are built by yelling to each other or passing notes. The latter is done with a technique called "fishing."

To fish I slide a comb with a long piece of string tied to it under my door and down the tier as close to my target's cell as possible. Then he pulls my string into his cell by hooking onto it with his own comb/string missile. I connect the note, newspaper or whatever I'm sending over to the end of string still in my hand and he pulls it into his cell. Boston and I share notes, news, poetry and artwork by fishing. He has been in prison for 21 years and has around 15 years and two life times before he's legally considered free. I think his poem is a look into the constant daydreaming that goes on in this solitary place called home, but I won't try to critique his work. Enjoy.

After doing 10 straight years in segregation in Walpole's D.D.U. Control Unit in Massachusetts, two things can happen to you; one, you go crazy or two, you grow stronger mentally; I chose number two even though sometimes I feel like number one found a place inside of me!!! My writing poetry helps stave off number one. Enjoy.

"Seasons of Reflection"

Does the purple dawn silently creep or is it more a misty blue?
Does the black crow outside still screech as the day drinks up night's dew?
I don't know anymore, but I know you do!
Let me tell you what I'd like to do;
I'd like to take a long walk outside and try to lose myself in the treetops where inside my mind I'd find a warm safe place to hide and let my eyes lick the foliage like lollipops, surely I shall be reminded by the radiant colors of the trees of my youth and sin of existence and a decade shall be reflected on the scent of a cool breeze as I refuse to let my age wear down my resistance!

The Autumn chill wraps tighter around my bones with time and wrinkles the faces of familiar expressions. Those colorful leafs of yesterday shall be long left behind as their purpose leaves illusional impressions...

As my memories fade and go back to where they stay and the trees are left standing naked and bare, I am forced into another season where age and time reason but refuse to let my dreams become dust in the air...

And still be reminded by all my reflections during their daily inspections on how quickly they try and steal all my graces, as my senses become dim and their changes grow slim and one day we'll both be gone without traces...

Everything D.O.C.'s ever done will turn into particals in the sun, even my gravestone will turn to dust; just like these words, butterflies, bees and birds, even all of their iron and steel will turn to dust!!!

Daniel T, aka Boston
Still Going Strong 21 Down
© Daniel T. 2010

"Are we animals in a cage,
or caged because we are animals?"

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Few Paths I've Crossed

I once met a man who had lost his legs in what he called a fishing accident. His legs were crushed by another boat as he hung for his life off the side of his ship after nearly being thrown by a giant wave into the violent abyss that roared beneath him. We were at a bus stop downtown and he invited my friend and me to his apartment to smoke a joint and eat dinner. He would have gone hungry to keep our bellies full if it had been necessary.

My friend and I were homeless at the time. More so, mobile with a different kind of mobile home. The mobility lived in our sneakers and home was your couch or your floor or maybe your parents bed if they were out of town. We almost always found a place to sleep, my friend and I. We didn't even have to ask several people. In fact, most people who would have us over at all already assumed we'd be staying for the night.

I had a pretty girlfriend who would have snuck me into her parent's house every night, but I tried to limit stays at her house to a few times a week, since we would usually get caught in the morning. Her step dad hated my guts. One time he told me he was going to get his gun and that when he came back I had better be gone. He didn't come back. He didn't even know where his rusty gun was. We did. We used to play with it. The gun was actually hidden under my girlfriend's bed while he stormed off to fetch it. He didn't worry me. My girl and I were sixteen and in love, or so we thought and he was no more than a source of annoyance who had a habit of making hallow threats. He probably still can't find his gun. Maybe he never even looked for it.

I washed dishes at a hole in the wall "home style" restaurant. The food was deep fried and delicious but there was never more than a single table or two occupied. The host ended up being a good friend. He would sneak shots of whiskey to me during my shift and sometimes when the bosses left early, we would smoke a joint in the back alley by the trash bins. My girlfriend's house was only a few blocks away and sometimes she would walk over and smoke with us and wait in the empty dining room for me to finish my shift. On Friday nights after work the three of us would walk twenty blocks to the host's house, stopping at the lucky mart for a twenty-four case of beer. We'd drink and laugh and order pizza and I would sleep in an empty room across the hall from the host's on a half-inflated blow out mattress with my girlfriend for company.

One night the host had ten or fifteen people over to barbecue. A few hours into the gathering after most were one too many beers full, the host in a drunken rage broke his hand on a windshield as the driver pulled off barely escaping what had started out as a mellow party and ended in chaos justified by reasons not accounted for. A few minutes later as the few people left over sat around the host's bedroom, passing a joint and watching him nurse his swelling hand, four police officers walked into the room with their guns drawn and told the host to put his hands behind his back and the rest of us to exit the premises. That's the last time I saw my friend, the host. His roommate said he had had warrants out for his arrest for years. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that the police raided the house on that particular night. I spoke with him a few times on the phone. He said he was happy and that he hoped he could turn his life around some day.

Sometimes I'd stay with a kid I'd met in middle school. His mother had smoked crack while she was pregnant and he had been born nervous and manic and addicted to drugs. He stayed with his foster dad in a giant house in a nice part of the city. His foster dad had grown sick of the kid's behavior long ago, but instead of trying to "discipline" him, which seemed impossible, he would keep the fridge and garage constantly stalked with frozen food, soda, ice cream and would supply the kid with a carton of Newport cigarettes every week. The entire house pretty much belonged to the kid, a giant playground except for a room in a remote corner of the top floor where his foster dad lived safely sealed behind a door thicker than the one to the vault at your neighborhood bank and with more locks, alarms, and safety measures. I would almost never see the foster dad. I would walk through this house and be amazed at how many man-sized holes covered the walls. Some of them actually had the perfect shape of a human body as if some mysterious wall people had detached themselves from their native habitat leaving only their hollow shape as evidence to their existence.

The kid sought constant attention and he was overly hospitable. He would feed anyone who would keep him company and give us cigarette packs and there were several rooms to sleep in if it got late. Sometimes I would wonder what would happen to the kid when his foster dad passed away or decided he wanted his house back. It wasn't the kid's fault, the way he was. He had a good heart, but was doomed for failure in terms of any productive role in society from the moment he took his first painful breath of air, shrieking and clawing at the strange emptiness, already feeling the loneliness and urgent neediness that would galvanize his simple ambitions and conduct his torn relationships. A future of yesterdays and constant setbacks. A revolving door of sort of friends to pat him on the back and ask for a cigarette, then a light and thank him for the dinner and for his hospitality at such an odd hour.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

About Me

"No matter how high the gates or charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." --William Ernest Henley

I am 21 years old and living in a State Penitentiary. Despite my present circumstances, I have many passions and dreams that don't have anything to do with the criminal life. We've all made mistakes on our journey, some mistakes carry greater consequences than others. Some mistakes get people thrown in jail - some times for a few hours or days, some times for a lifetime. I'm blessed to have landed somewhere in between. I have plenty of time to further educate myself, build a stronger relationship with my family, and work hard on my character so I can be successful in whatever I decide to pursue upon my return to society.

I am starting this blog to share with you, whoever you may be, some things about life inside this place. To share with you some things that cross my mind from day to day; and to share with you some of my ideas and reflections. And I hope, at some point, we can relate to each other, you and I, and hopefully learn something from each other as well.

If you decide to email me or leave a message on my blog page, I will respond as soon as I can. I do not have computer access in prison. Everything I blog is written on paper and sent to a good friend of mine who then enters it onto this site.

I hope all is well.