As a free man I always had a job ... never even contemplated another option.
I left home at 15, the first thing I did was to go and look for work ... trust me, it isn't easy for a scruffty looking 15 year old kid to find a real job. But I always seemed to miraculously stumble into enough work to eat. No ma'am, it wasn't always easy, but I managed. Hell, I once ran a mile race for the reward of a twenty-five cent "Pot Pie"! Yeah. Sounds crazy right, but it's true. Ok, I'll tell you the story.
After I left home I naturally struggled, missed a few meals along the way, but, that's life on the streets. As you know I grew up in Jacksonville Florida. The neighborhood I grew up in had a few Mom and Pop restaurants and as a last resort, when I was really hungry, I'd wait until they were closing up for the night and then I'd go in and volunteer to sweep the parking lot, or, wash pots, dishes, or whatever they needed done, this I'd offer to do for some of their leftover food ... and I found that someone would always take the deal, you see, most people are kind at heart. Point is, I was never afraid to work ... The Pot Pie story, yeah, hold your horses, I'm getting there ... OK!! Calm down. I'll tell you the damned story!
When I was young I was a notorious runner - sprinter. No, we didn't have set distances, we raced from telephone pole to telephone pole, whatever that distance was. I would race kids from other neighborhoods for comic books and other childhood treasures, I was fast, real fast. So I had a reputation of being the kid to beat. The height of my racing career was when this kid from our neighborhood named Romero, we lived in a racial diverse community, got a visit from his half brother, who lived across town. Well, he showed up and Romero put up his whole comic collection and then dared me to race his older by two years. I did and beat him by about a hands length ... I was in comic book heaven! Hold your horses, I'm getting to the story, but I have to put a little dirt in the hole first or the story won't have roots! So hang in there.
In my neighborhood I had a few kids I hung around with, one of them, my best friend, was a kid named Michael Owen Hartley … crazy I remember him so well. Mickey as we called him was a big kid, big like 6′-10″ at 16 – yeah, big blond and a gentle giant for certain, a very gentle soul. Now Mickey had a couple of sisters, the oldest was named Candy – she was the first girl I wanted to marry – man she was pretty; two years younger than me. I loved her, but was too shy to tell her, so I missed the chance. I do remember however, the last time I saw her – she was wearing a white bikini and man she had the longest legs I’d ever seen on a girl; she kissed me that day, but, I was so shy I didn’t know what to do … YEAH! SHE WAS TALLER THAN ME! What of it? Anyway, I remember her to this day … did I tell you that her Daddy almost shot me over her? Oh, yeah. What about the Pot Pie story? Oh, now it can wait, right! Alright I’ll tell you the Daddy story. This is what happened.
My parents divorced and my mom moved across town with a new husband; a Pentecostal Preacher ... a real "Nut Job", yeah, he used to wear sackcloth under his clothing as repentance for being a horrible sinner, and other crazy stuff. My issue with him was he was mean to my mother and I hated him, well, let's say, we hated each other. He put allot of pressure on my mom and gave her the option, him or me. One evening she came to me and told me I had to leave. I did. I just turned and walked out, didn't even take my clothes - regretted that later on :).
Later that night I was faced with the question of where I was going to spend the night. Hell, I hadn't thought of that either, so I called my best friend, Mickey, and explained the situation, he told me to meet him at his house. So I hitchhiked across town to my old neighborhood and guess what I saw when I arrived? Mickey was outside in the dark laying on the back of his daddy's car waiting for me; must have taken me several hours to hike the twenty miles or so across town. I'll never forget that. Anyway, I told him what had happened.
Next to Mickey's house was an alley and on the other side of that alley was a restaurant. After some discussion we decided that I'd sleep on top of that restaurant ( it had crisscrossed blocks on the back corner, I could use them to climb up the side ). So I did. I climbed up the building and was walking along the edge looking for a place out of the wind where I could lay down. All of a sudden I hear someone yell, "Don't move or I'll shoot!". I looked down and there was Mickey's father standing in the alley pointing a pistol at me. "Get down here," he says keeping his pistol pointed at me; this would be the first of four times I'd have a pistol pointed at me, not really something to be proud of.
When I climbed down I was confronted by Mickey's father - Mickey was standing beside him. His father says, pistol in hand, "You were up on that building looking in Candy's bedroom window, I was stunned ... then mystified - why hadn't that occurred to me! No!! I'm kidding, getting a peek at candy was the last thing on my mind that night. Well, to make a long story short, Mickey explained to his dad what had happened and he invited me to spend the night with Mickey - I did. The next night I slept under a freeway. After that I bounced around from garages to abandoned buildings to... well you get the picture.
The Pot Pie Race
That year they had the Summer Olympics on TV. I wasn't watching them, I was out on the streets of Jacksonville, young, the wrong color and homeless, but Mickey was fascinated with them. Anyway, one afternoon I went to Mickey's house to visit him and he was all fired up about the Olympics and somehow he ended up wanting me to race this other kid - and if I did, he said, he'd give me a "Pot Pie". I readily agreed and we, me and him went and got the other kid and went out to this place close by to race. Mickey at that time had a little Honda motorcycle and as the other kid and I raced the mile or so course he followed us on his motorcycle. I won the race, but it damned near killed me. True to his word he gave me a beautiful, warm, Pot Pie.
Why am I telling you all this?
In prison there are jobs available. We prisoners clean the cellblocks where we live, cook the food, cut the grass and a hundred other things. These jobs are well, “Convict” jobs; the work we do is for our benefit. But, there are other jobs as well – the ones that pay the most – like close to a $100.00 dollars a month as opposed to $18 to $45 for those other jobs. Those jobs are considered “Inmate” jobs. What are Inmate Jobs? Well, any job that your work benefits the Guards, like cleaning their offices and so forth, is considered an Inmate job.
I came up in the Old School, not to mention, USP Florence, a Convict joint, being my first stop. So I was taught NOT to work around the guards. Why you ask? well, it ain't because of the Guards themselves, it's because of the other convicts. Let me tell you a story.
One of the other unspoken rules for Convicts ( Convicts are different than Inmates … BIG difference ) is, do not look into someone else’s cell window when you walk by it. I know the rule – you might see something you don’t want to see. For instance: there was an Indian dude with me at Florence, he was a Sioux off the Rose Bud Reservation, anyway, him and I were friends – but he was a paranoid character – and he was a killer. One day I decided to go visit him. When I walked up to his cell door I looked in and he was standing at his sink, heating a bag of wine in his sink. As soon as I looked in, he in turn looked up and saw me looking in the window. I knocked, opened the door and said “Just checking on you. I’ll come back later.” Pretty straight forward right? In the real world, maybe, but in here, I accidently saw something I wasn’t supposed to see.
I know you don't understand that but, IF, at some later day ( it takes 3 days for pruno, prison wine to cook off ) some guard decides to shake down his cell and happens to find that trash bag of wine - there is a high probability that he, in his paranoid mind, would think, COULD think, that I had told on him. In which case he would attack me. If I happened to have a job, say, cleaning the guards office, then every paranoid prisoner, when looking for a reason why they were busted for something would put me under scrutiny. Fact is: it's damn dangerous to work a job around the guards.
Now, sometimes we don't have a choice where we work. Well, because there are only a few prisoners that can be trusted around female staff - I'm one of them ... What? No. I like women, I'm just not a predator, that's all. Trust me, they can tell by daily observation who can be trusted alone in an office with one of the secretaries. Point is: only two times in all my 24 plus years behind bars have I actually taken a job, one that involves daily interaction with the guards. One of those times I was assigned, drafted by the yard Captain, and told to report to the Associate Wardens Office as a janitor. Now, the A.W. had this light skinned black gal who worked in his office and everybody on the compound wanted that job, just to be around her. I didn't - no, she was certainly beautiful, but that job was a no-no for a guy like me. It was considered an Inmate job.
After my first month there I told them I wanted to quit. The A.W. told me I couldn’t, because his secretary was comfortable with me being alone with her. But I could see the danger that job put me in. She was a beauty, no doubt, but not worth dying over. So a few days after they told me I couldn’t quit – I walked out to the ashtray the guards used and picked up some cigarette butts, and before I went to leave dropped them out of my hand in front of ol’ gal – she had to fire me – then asked me why I didn’t want to work for her … I never answered.
When I arrived at 3rvs I fell into a convict job. I worked on the computers afforded the prisoner population, the ones we use for emails and such. Yeah, the irony is, I've never been on a computer before 2013, then only to email and some basic word processing functions. Nope, I've never been on FB, Google, hell, I've never been on the Internet! No, they had the Internet when I was out there, but it was new, in truth, nobody I knew had it either. Anyway, I was hired to change wires, keyboards etc; nothing very technical. It was a job I actually worked about 2 hours a month at.
When I got this job, it was a new job, the staff here at 3rvs didn't see a need for. But, the guy who ran that department had a female assistant and even though she was perfectly capable of doing my job, he, didn't want her bent over a desk, or under a desk on her back changing out computer wires with 100 aroused, sex starved inmates watching her, so they hired me to do that work for her. Believing it better to have me on the payroll for 2 hours a month than to subject her that scrutiny.
Now this lady I worked for was HOT, real hot. But I know better than to cross any lines with the females, so whenever I'm around them I go to extreme to NOT look at them in any way that might make them feel uncomfortable, But, like I said, she was hot - was, yeah. The only reason I'm telling you this story - 6 years after the fact is that she no longer works here. Anyway, she was in the prime of her life and she had these big ol' ... well, lets just say she healthy, very healthy ... you get the picture.
So the first time she calls me out to work with her we needed to go across the yard together. Remember, I know how to conduct myself ... but it was all I could do to keep from looking! What'd I do? Well ... I broke weak and SNUCK a quick look. When I did I couldn't help but notice that sown on the front of her shirt ... right on the most prominent part of her chest, pocket area, were the words, "Self Defense Instructor".
We went into the first building to change some wires and she was telling me that she’d help this first time so that I understood what to do in the future. So I’m standing there, right in front of her, eyes UP, when she suddenly reaches back with both hands to tie her hair back. Well, when she did, them puppies popped right out like something in a 3D movie. In a moment of … well, you know how when something unexpectedly moves, you automatically look at it?. Yeah, well, when she went tie her hair back and them babies jumped out at me, and before I could catch myself, my eyes dropped … and got stuck for about three seconds.
When I regained my presence I looked back at her face, she was looking me right in the eyes! And trust me, them eyes of hers were shooting daggers into mine. I knew I was gonna get fired. What did I do? Well, remember, I’m quick on my feet … so, in an unintentional little girls voice I squeaked out “I see you’re a Self Defense Instructor” like I was reading the writing on her shirt rather than ogling her assets. What did she do? well, she lowered her arms and then her expression changed to. well, you know that look your mom gives you when she knows your lying but can’t actually prove it – yeah, that’s the look she gave. To make a long story short, she didn’t fire me, I never again looked at her uhh, state of health … WAS THAT LIGHTNING!!! whew, ok God maybe once or twice but I was discreet … so, I worked for her for 6 more years – 2 hours a month
We have a building on the Recreation yard where we are allowed to go and paint; you know I'm a serious painter. Well, due to the Corona Virus scare we have not been allowed to go and paint since January of this year. I miss it. I miss being out there, so, when a full time job came open out there I took it. Now don't go to worrying your pretty little head about me, I'm fine and, this is considered a Convict job, so I'm good ... plus, I have enough stripes and stars per se, that I'm pretty much above suspicion when it comes to telling on people, so I'm good. Now they're working me like a hebrew slave, yeah, I go to work at 6:30 am and work till 2pm, sometimes 3pm, then I go back to the cellblock for a stand-up count (they count us at least 5 times a day, mandatory) then when they let us out at 6pm I go back to work until 8 or 8:30pm. That's why you haven't heard much from me; I ain't had the time. During my very limited time in the cellblock I try to call my kids, that's between 2pm and 3pm, I have to stand in a line to do so. Then in the evenings when I get off work I have to shower and try again to reach my kids on the phone. Not much time to write blogs and stuff ... but, this will change around the first of the year, I hope. Anyway, that's what I've been up too, and that's the reason you ain't heard much from me ... I'm frigging working for a living, like y'all :).
Peace be with you, and as always, please forward this along to your friends.
Three Rivers, 10-10-20