Earlier this year two friends of mine, after long sentences, went home. One of them I was certain would not come back, the other, I was certain, would. Recently I found out that both of them had failed their Probationary Drug Test, and were back in jail.
Recently Ramadan, a Muslim celebration started; it’s a month long daylight Fast supported by extensive prayer and personal reflection. A good thing under any guise. Now, I’m very critical of prison Muslims, truth is, most of ‘me are faking, using religion to hide their racism and to Game the system for privileges the rest of us don’t get – like better food, yeah, Muslims get preferential treatment in Federal Prison. Like I said, most of these prison Muslims are fake. But … not all.
We have one prison Muslim convert in my cellblock who is actually trying to improve himself mentally and spiritually through the “Discipline” of Islamic practice. And, even though he lives with a man convicted of Terrorism, he loves this country, and heavily criticizes attacks against it. I like him and clown around with him all the time about how this new Hip Hop culture is destroying the Black Family. FYI: I gave him my copy of “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” to read … ain’t sure if he’s ready for that kind of truth, but he took it and says he’ll read it. We shall see.
This past week, after his Ramadan service in the Chapel, he came to my cell, upset … maybe not upset, but, emotional. he had just found out that the two guys I mentioned above, were back in jail; they were guys he knew well and hung around with. Like I said, he came to my cell, upset, and told me that he’d been praying to God, Allah, and that he was questioning God as to, “why guys like them were able to go home, and guys like me, couldn’t”. His eyes even watered a little as he told me this. After he left, I sat down and did a little praying myself, wondering what I had done to deserve such heartfelt prayers from someone, less fortunate, than me. I was deeply moved by this … more so than I am saying. This was the first good thing to happen during this perfect week.
For years, decades even, the prison system has sold a Sony AM/FM radio, it was a good and dependable tool. A couple of years back, Sony stopped making these radios; hell, I guess folks on the outside have stopped using AM/FM radios. Well, as a result of this, the prison system has started selling other radios, radios of lesser quality, as a result of these over priced, inferior radios, the old Sony’s are highly coveted, well, the good one are anyway, most of the ones circulating around are junked out; worn out by years of usage. I have one of these Sony’s, in, well, fair condition, but not good by any stretch of the imagination.
In Federal Prison we have a gang made up of illegal Mexican Immigrants called, Paisa’s, I have spoken of them on numerous occasions, I get along with them pretty good.
The Paisa’s have a rule: if you’re from Mexico, even if you haven’t patched up with them, most do, but not all, you still fall under their rules; meaning, you do what they say, live where they tell you to live and recognize that the first time you cross ’em, they’ll beat the brakes off ya. I ain’t sayin’ that’s a good thing or a bad thing, truth is, in here, it’s necessary – I believe in rules. Anyway, one of the rules these non-affiliated Mexicans have to abide by is: When you are deported you leave without your property, well, any of it the gang members want, anyway.
In my cellblock is an old man from Mexico. A couple days after the Muslin guy came to my cell, this older man comes to my cell, and hands me a “Brand New” Sony radio – no, it ain’t BRAND NEW dummy. I already told you they stopped making those radio’s, I just said that for affect! But it damned sure looked new; perfect condition! Then, in Spanish, he tells me, “I’m going home soon. I want to trade you this radio for the one you have.” I told him that mine was garbage, then added that I would give him my radio and some money … he shook his head, no, put his hand on his chest and answered, “From my heart. I would rather you have this radio than for other people to have it.” I understood what he was implying … he told me not to tell anyone. What … no, I ain’t breakin’ my word! He went home! Yeah, I’m tellin’ you this today, because he went home last week! Look, you’re really getting on my nerves with that smart mouth of yours; one of these days, POW!! right in the chops! Anyway, my point is, on the surface, my life would appear to suck, but, that ain’t the truth. I have folks praying for me, and I have a beautiful radio, some folks don’t even have that – but that ain’t the end of this story.
In 2003, a guy named Thomas Rutledge gave me a home-made pocket watch, Tommy is famous in the system. He had four life sentences and got three of them overturned, and though he’s famous for that, he’s more famous because he could literally, make anything out of cardboard and glue! Very talented. Anyway, I frigging LOVED that watch and carried it every day since he gave it to me. Did I mention I firiggin’ loved that ugly wood cased old relic of a watch!! You get the point. A man ain’t got much in here, that watch was one of the things I valued. Yeah, I knew you were smart “valued”, past tense. As of last week I no longer have it – that’s another story for another day.
There’s a guy here from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, he’s of Mexican decent, but born and raised here in the U.S. … but, a guy who hates this country; believes we stole everything from Mexico and Mexicans – a guy I have butted heads with on numerous occasions’ NUMEROUS!!! Now, he’ll deny’s it, but he resents white people; I know this from being around him for years now; if you listen close enough, a man’s words will tell you what’s in his heart. With that said, he’s friend of mine and I have endeavored to educate him to reality, how much of it he has accepted, I don’t know. What I do know is that for some reason only God knows, lol, he is deathly loyal to me. On friday of this incredible week I’ve been telling you about, Danny Boy, brings me a brand new Casio Watch … No, it’s BRAND NEW, I know I lied about getting a brand new radio, but this is real, it was still in the box!! So give me a break here … and I didn’t lie about that radio, I exaggerated to make a point, well that, and I got little carried away by emotion, but, this WAS a brand new watch; he gave it to me to replace my old pocket watch. Yeah, it’s a fifty dollar watch! that’s a lot of money in here and probably constitutes 25% of all the money he has. Beautiful gesture. Beautiful week.
When my son Marco was in elementary school he wanted to make a bead necklace. So him and I sat down at the kitchen table and made two sets of beads, one for him and one for me. Mine were turquoise and white. No gold for me, I wore those beads everyday up until I was arrested.
When I came to prison I asked one of the Navaho Indians at USP Florence to make me a set of beads like the ones I lost – he did, I wore those beads everyday for the past 19 years, past tense! Damn, y’all are smarter than I thought you were. Hell, I figured if you were readin’ my stuff you must be a complete idiot. Go figure…
At USP Florence I had a friend there who was a Hopi Indian. One day out of the blue he surprised me with the gift of a Medicine Bag he’d made, especially for me. I wore that bag, yeah, past tense, for 15 years. My watch, my beads and my Medicine Bag … my treasures. I no longer have them.
As I was writing this, Danny Boy, came into my cell and gave me a set of beads and a new Medicine Bag he’d spent the night hand sewing … new gifts, new treasures to replace the old ones.
I guess the message I’m trying to convey with this entry is, this, whatever you may think about me, or these men around me, we are men who care and give, and, pray for others. We are sons, brothers, uncles and fathers. Now, it is fair to say that some of the worst folks on the planet are here, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that, but, it is also fair to say that some of the best, most honest and descent men I’ve EVER met, are also here.
Yeah, its a crazy world we live in, more so from my perspective I suppose. The good thing about life is, well, it’s life, and some folks are losing theirs as we speak. So count your blessings rather than whine about all the things you ain’t got, and never, ever, complain about how bad you have it, because, trust me, no matter how hard your life is, someone has a harder life. Yeah, the greatest lesson adversity has taught me is to stop looking at the Walls surrounding me and appreciate the little flowers at my feet. This is the greatest gift of all. Peace be with you.
Three Rivers, 5-16-19