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My First Riot

The judge specifically sentenced me to suffer. I doubt that he has any idea as to how random and offbeat the misery is in here. I compose letters to acquaintances in the outside world, trying to explain rehabilitation by ordeal, but mostly I’m trying to explain it to myself. Christine, one of the women I write, says she believes not a word, but that I am to continue our correspondence because the letters are entertaining. That she regards my suffering as fictitious yet interesting, comforts me in a curious way. Still, not everything is a lie. So, I keep my eyes open, stay alert, and write about what’s happening here in the correctional facility. Continue.

Three Pillows

Around midnight, while I was out clubbing, someone came into my house and stole three pillows off my bed. Ordinary pillows. I had been drinking and by the time I discovered the theft, yes, prone to confusion. I took an accounting of my valuables – stereo, CDs, musical accoutrements – only the pillows were gone. The thieves had been very particular. Even a sober person would have been baffled. After searching my bedroom about ten times, I sat in the living room and tried with all my might to think up a possible situation or scenario that ended with three pillows vanishing. My imagination couldn’t get a good grip on the off-kilter facts or find an angle from which to view the curious violation of my home. A crime simultaneously ludicrous and mundane leaves its victim without any notion of how to feel. Alone in the house, the sheer oddness of what had happened gave the night an eerie, slightly supernatural cast. Continue.

Low Stabbing Ratio

I was afraid, naturally. In the purgatory of county jail you wait months on end for the bus to prison and listen to talk of race riots, stabbings and the mayhem that waits in the penitentiary. Thanks to my 22 year 8 month sentence for multiple counts of 2nd degree robbery (no weapon), the State of California wants me in a Level IV prison, mostly reserved for lifers, murderers and those who are steadily in trouble no matter where they find themselves. Many Level IV convicts have been locked up for 20 years or more. I couldn’t imagine what this had done to them. I couldn’t imagine any of it. Every single thing I knew about prison, and myself, suggested nothing but disaster. Continue.

Letters of Light from a Dark Place

Things go wrong. Call it entropy or original sin or plain old human suffering. One it gains momentum life can go downhill at an astonishing rate. Bad decisions are famously blamed and the full truth is that anyone anywhere in the world can be swept up in someone else’s bad decisions. It’s almost a blessing to make your own and know how it started. A decision I made 30 years ago led to 22 years in prison. I can’t remember my exact thoughts, but sometime around 1976 I decided to smoke heroin on tin foil. Continue.