The Mayor of Corpus Christi

Shot Callers: Part 14

With the arrival of some solid men things began to level off for me and I found an element of comfort in my daily routine of writing, painting and contemplating the wonders of life. It was during this time that I was introduced to Lynn in England and with her help started this blog. Like I said, these were relatively good times for me, but alas, reality happens.

One afternoon one of the Louisiana Blacks walked up to me and tells me there’s a big problem between the Blacks and Whites, “Shit’s fixing’ to jump off!” Then he put his hand on my shoulder and added, “I told the Big Man that he should speak to you first. I told him I trusted you. He wants a meet on the sidewalk at Chow Time.” With his words I got that sick feeling in my stomach, the one I had with Ziggy, Preacher, Gordo and a dozen others when something like this happens. But the good thing about this was, I didn’t have to wait very long to see it play out, one way or the other; nothing worse than having to wait all night for a meeting the next day.

At FCI Pollock there are sidewalks that lead from the cellblocks that all meet in the middle of the yard at a large circular feeder you walked around until ultimately spinning off to go whichever direction you chose. Well, that circle was also a meeting place, sometimes guys from different cellblocks would walk around and around that circle and discuss business, it was a neutral spot.

I was told by my friend that his Shot Caller would meet me halfway between that circle and the Chow Hall, on the sidewalk in-between. At that time I had no idea who ACTUALLY spoke for the Blacks, it’s never the guy you think it is; there are guys who are out front, but they ain’t the guy, “The Guy” is usually undercover; it’s harder to “Hit” him, if you don’t know who HE is. There’s a division between blacks and whites, one that’s kept active and even compounded by men on “both sides” who hate the others. So none of this was unexpected.

Whenever there’s a scheduled meet like this, one car to another, especially between Blacks and Whites, the rule is – their Speaker, or someone they designate – shows up with half-a-dozen of his best guys, and you show up with a half-dozen or so of your best guys. These guys will all stand around and stare at each other, pop their knuckles and do all the other flexing that goes on when men are at their most primal – you get the picture. Show of strength? Yeah, and as much as it shames me to say it, I’ve been counted among their numbers.

A scheduled meeting like this one is very different from the chaos of the one I spoke of between the Whites and the Paisa’s – those almost always result in violence. A, scheduled meeting, means, there’s a problem, but we want to resolve it. The third type of course is the one you don’t know about – this one was potentially like that – I had no idea there was a major problem between us until told so. A lot of times you don’t even know there’s a problem, one minute you’re going about your business, the next, thirty guys run in your cellblock and attack.

Show of strength? Yeah, you bet your ass! You gather your guys, put your boots on and buckle up, that’s the norm … but once I matured and actually took the “Keys” to a yard, I rarely followed that rule … I think there’s a better chance at a peaceful solution, without all the posturing. That day, even though I had a long line of tough guys I could have called to stand my back, I went alone.

I’m standing alone at the designated spot looking for some muscled-up front man who’d fit the movie image of a Shot Caller, when I noticed a group of Black men standing at a distance around two older men. One was about the same age as me; a couple of inches shorter. The other one was maybe ten years older than me, about the same height. I looked around and saw the normal half-dozen, then as I looked around again and saw another dozen or so standing inconspicuously in patches here and there, close, but not too close. The older man, he was the one.

Black folks respect their old folks much more so than we do. With the Blacks they take care of their elderly, they listen to them and for the most part, obey them, we, white folks, for some reason don’t have that same code of honor. For the most part, old white guys in prison are ignored, past over and even preyed on; I have been a champion for the older men around me … what, Hell NO, I don’t consider myself old! I was only makin’ a comment about how one of the old black guys was my age … Damn it man! … I just admitted it, didn’t I ! Well, don’t get it messed up here. I ain’t old like most guys my age! Anyway, as I made eye contact with the guy TEN years older than me, we began the ritual of meeting in the middle, along with him came the other older, I mean, middle aged guy.

Now, I’m from the South, and that means I have good manners. I was taught to always respect my elders, always, and I’ve lived my life by that rule. I saw their guy and I recognized he was older than me, considerably older, so when we came face to face, I smiled, stuck out my hand, and said, “Hi. I’m Mayor Mark. I speak for my people.” After a brief moment of hesitation he responded in kind and shook my hand. I then asked him how I could help, opening the door to his concerns and letting him know I preferred a peaceful solution, most men do. He then told me that he spoke for the Blacks on “The Yard” and then introduced the other man with him and told me that he was an old friend of his from New Orleans … what? No, not OLD like in years, but OLDDDD like a long time friend! You need to get over it. For the record, the next one of y’all who says I’m old, id gettin’ the boots! Anyway, the Shot Caller for the blacks went on to tell his side of a story I’d actually heard from the White Boy perspective, so I wasn’t caught off guard by what he said. But I was caught off guard when he added, “I’m willing to go to war over this.” The issue he was willing to go to war over was this.

Remember the white guy from New Orleans I told you about in Part 13? Well, the black man who’d adopted him as a child was the MIDDLE AGED man with him. Well, what I didn’t tell you is, for reasons unknown to me, a couple of the guys in that cellblock couldn’t stand the guy from New Orleans who’d been adopted by that family. Since THEY and he, all lived in F-3, they gave him hell. The two white boys I’m talking about were Alaska Mike and most especially Chopper (RIP). Chopper, literally hated this guy.

I told you before that Chopper was 6′-3″, tattooed from head to foot and rode with “The Banshees” Motorcycle club; he was big, tough, and, sometimes a bully. But for reasons I never really understood, he loved me, and right or wrong, I, in the end, would’ve been with him. I cried when I heard he’d died. Back to the story.

A few days earlier Chopper had told me that this guy from New Orleans had been out on the yard asking for a shank – supposedly to use on him. When Chopper heard about this he went ballistic and basically threatened to break his neck if he even thought about pulling a knife on him. So when Chopper told me the story, I, of course agreed that he’d had every right to go after the guy, but then I added that, in my opinion, he had some responsibility too, because he had in fact given the man a hard time. Then I asked him to do me a favor, and to forget that incident and leave dude alone … he reluctantly agreed. But, obviously, the damage had already been done. This guy was obviously terrified of Chopper, who wouldn’t be!, and went to the Blacks for protection; hence the meeting.

When the Yard Speaker for the Blacks finished telling his rendition of the story I saw the surprise in his eyes when I answered him with a “Yes, sir. I was familiar with the event,” rather than a simple “yeah” or “yes”; my good Southern manners, a phrase I’ll mention here is unused among men of equal status. Later on when I replayed that meeting over in my mind (to make sure I wasn’t miss-interpreting the outcome) I concluded that that one gesture of respect for him as my elder, was the thing that softened him and swung the result in my favor; like I said, I’m from the South and manners are a part of my upbringing and a testimony to my people. It ain’t a black or white thing with me, it’s a man thing, it’s how men, real men, carry themselves.

When he had finished I agreed with him and told him he was right, that my guy had been wrong for dogging his guy and that I’d already asked him to stop. But, I saw the flash in his eyes when I added this, “But your man was out on the Yard asking for a shank to use on my guy. And, by the Rules, I have the right … and so does Chopper – to put him down.” Like I said, I saw the flash in his eyes that let me know, he, hadn’t heard that part of the story. “But,” I continued, “that ain’t necessary. I’ve taken care of the problem from my end, and I trust you’ll take care of it on yours.” After some unrelated conversation, we parted as friends. In fact, him and I made a treaty between the blacks and whites that said we’d never go at each other without first trying to talk things out. Literally and figuratively we became friends. No, we didn’t hang out together, but when we saw each other we went out of our way to always let others see us shake hands … in here, little things like that, are what mountains sit on.

At FCI Pollock there were three SIS Officers, that I knew about; I’ve already mentioned Voorhies, the other two were both Lieutenants; Lt. DuCote and Lt. Transou.

One day Lt. Transou was showing our new Warden around the cellblocks when he sees me sitting and watching TV. He leads the new Warden, a female, over to where I’m sitting and says to her, “This here’s Mayor Mark, he was the Mayor of Corpus Christi, Texas.” I nodded and said hello; she of course looked at him, and then me, like he’d asked her if she wanted to see my penis … and she wasn’t quite sure whether she should admit that she did! You see, according to Staff Protocol, Transou was out of line by calling me “Mayor Mark” instead of the condescending and intentionally demeaning term, “Inmate Crawford.” Yeah, as strange as it sounds Transou gave me a hell of a compliment that day … one I’m obviously still talking about. Yeah, these guys were different than your normal guards; and as inappropriate as it to say, I liked all three of the SIS guys at Pollock, they were like me, old school.

Mayor of Corpus Christi, yeah, I know. I was the Mayor of Ingleside, not C.C., but somewhere along the way half the folks in prison have made that same leap. Hell, I kid you not, some folks have even claimed I was the Mayor of Texas, but, I’ve told you not to be surprised, because a lot of the stories about me are exaggerated.

After my meeting with the blacks I decided since I was right outside, I’d go ahead and go to the Chow Hall.

As I came through the line Lt. Transou pulls me up and asks me how things are going between the Blacks and Whites. “Fine” I reply. He looked at me like I was crazy, then added, “You do know what I’m talking about, right?” I replied “Yes”. Someone, an informant among the Blacks, had obviously told him that they were gonna go to war against the Whites – so he was skeptical thinking maybe I didn’t know how serious things were. Finally he says, “If you know what I’m talking about then tell me which of the Blacks has the issue.” I gave him a reassuring smile and replied, “The Louisiana Car.” He responded by saying, “You’re telling me everything’s okay between you?” I smiled again and said “Yes,” and walked away. And it was.

Never once in my three years at FCI Pollock did the Black and Whites go at each other; we always kept it one on one. I’m proud of that.

Well, thanks for keeping up with this, and as always, Peace be with you. Mark

Three Rivers, 11-30-18