Shot Callers: Part 8

One of the biggest negatives about men’s prison is, well, it’s full of men! No women except for the female guards. Combine that with the fact that some Bible-Thumpers back in the day wrote a thing called the “Zimmerman Bill” outlawing sexually explicit materials from Federal Prison, and you have a situation that creates unnecessary sexual tension – just as women are women, so men are men.

Because of this unnecessary sexual tension men find other ways of release, homosexuals is one way; most men don’t go there, but another way is through self-stimulation. We’re all adults here so bear with me and you’ll see soon enough how this is relevant. Anyway, we have a prison rule which states that what a man does in the privacy of his cell, is his business – but not all men follow that rule. Some men like to do their business outside their cells while staring at the female guards; we call these men, “Gunners”. I won’t go into all that here, but among the whites, Mexicans and MOST other Hispanics, that kind of activity isn’t accepted. As a White Man, I won’t accept it from one of my people! I won’t tolerate one of ours disrespecting a women that way, just won’t, and if we, the white boys, catch one of our own doing it, the first time, we put their hands on a bunk and we beat the hell out of them! The next time we catch ‘me, they’re done. Mexican of all stripes do the same.

However, among the blacks, “Gunners” are accepted, yep, they’re just a lot more liberal in their thinking’ than we are – again, I ain’t gonna go into all I’ve seen over the years, nor can I illustrate to you, without sounding like a racist, all the ill-feelings this issue has caused between the races. But, because it is relevant to me and my relationship with the Black Hand, I am gonna tell you this one story.

In 2009 I, along with “Chongo,” the Sureno Speaker and two Black Hand guys I have to leave unnamed, were all in cell-block, EA. Along with us were about 15 whites, 30 blacks and 25 or so Surenos, the rest of the 120 men were made up of a variety of others, we however, were the three main groups.

Among the Blacks at that time was a piece of human garbage appropriately named “Dirty”. When he first arrived we talked and I found out that he was from Jacksonville, Florida and that he had grown up in the same neighborhood I’d lived in as kid. I remember how astonished he was when I told him the address of the house I’d lived in (319 w. 24th st) and remarked, “Damn, you grew up in the Hood!” I speak about this conversation in detail in my book “Where No One Hears Me”. Well, suffice to say, it didn’t take long to figure out that Dirty was a serial Gunner. Many were the day when I had to look the other way, when in my heart, I wanted to stomp his guts out; prison rules however, forbid it. And, according to his people, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.

Among the whites there was an older man named Frank Alexander. Frank had done a shit-load of time and was generally considered, “Not all there.” But that wasn’t true. Frank’s problem was, he was just way smarter than the rest of us; needless to say, I spent a lot of time listening to him.

In our conversations I learned that Frank had actually been in the French Foreign Legion! Yeah! How cool is that! Anyway, one afternoon Frank inadvertently moved the Unit Laundry Cart, and low and behold, hiding behind it with his pants down around his knees was Dirty with his eyes locked on a female guard … you get the message. All this info came to me later.

I was sitting in my cell painting when I heard an abrupt knock on my cell door. I look up and see Dirty. I turn in my chair to face the door and wave him in. Instantly I noticed that he has his hand in his pocket – I’m thinking, knife. I stand up. He’s livid and begins to tell me that Frank almost “Blew him up with the cop!” and that “If we didn’t run Frank up top (Protective Custody) he’d go to his people!” But all I saw was his hand in his pocket. “You got a knife?” Silence. “Do. You. Have. A knife?” I ask with steel in my voice. He went deathly silent and I saw fear in his eyes. I moved towards him as I spoke, “Did you bring a knife into my house?” I saw that he was frozen, unsure of what he should do; pull it, or deny it. In that moment of hesitation I was on top of him, looking him right in the eyes. On my children’s life, I told him, “If you pull that knife. I’ll take it away from you and shove it up you ass!” He was scared, real scared, so I open-hand slapped him. I didn’t realize how hard I slapped him, but it sounded like a gunshot and my hand hurt for two weeks afterwards.

The second I slapped him his knees buckled and his eyes went wide like someone caught stealing chickens, (don’t ask me how I know this) but he never pulled his hand out of his pocket, with, or without a knife. Just then Tom Platte, opened my door and asked, “You want me to handle this?” I shook my head “No”, then added, ” I can whip this punk with one hand.” At that Dirty shot out the door.

The interesting thing to note is, Dirty, had never even contemplated that he was in the wrong. Never even considered it; he was a man without honor. That was his fault. My fault was assuming that he’d be too embarrassed to go to the Black Car and admit that I slapped him, and that he’d not fought. I should have realized, a man with no Honor, has no Pride either.

The Black Speaker in Ea cell-block was a big man from Kansas City everyone called, “Preacher.” When I say big, I mean like 6′ 2″ 285 pounds big. But, in spite of his intimidating size, he was very polite and well spoken. Preacher and I were not friends, but we were acquaintances – we knew each other. Problem was, in my absolute dislike of Dirty I had violated the “Hands Off” rule. The only leg I had to stand on was that he’d had a knife – well, I think he had a knife, knowing Dirty he was probably holding his dick. Anyway, after Dirty took off I didn’t think much of it and sat back down to paint.

Among the White-Boys we had an Irishman from Boston in the cell-block – a real paranoid character. Over the prior six months he’d been cutting steel shanks out of the beds and shelving – he had a virtual armory stashed … did I mention he was paranoid? Yeah, well, he was every Speakers nightmare, an F-ing nut job who lived for the chance to go to war. Sorry but I can’t remember his name. Anyway, while I was trying hard to forget Dirty and all that had happened with the end of a paint brush, he’d heard about what had happened and gathered up all the white boys, armed them, then came to my cell and said, “Mayor Mark. I’ve got the fellas posted up on the Blacks.” I just shook my head and thought to myself, “Of course you do.” Then I said the F-word out loud and rushed out of my cell, and sure enough the whites and the blacks were all grouped up and facing each other. As the Irish guy and I walked out I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had a look of sheer delight, the look a teenage boy gets when he sees his first set of titties. About the time I reached the front of the whites I hear Dirty holler something at me from BEHIND Preacher and the other blacks. I didn’t catch what he said.

We were standing in two groups about five meters apart. Just like in the movies Preacher walks towards me and I walk towards him, the fellas on both sides stay put. When we get face to face we stop. I begin by explaining what had happened with Dirty. I added that we didn’t need to wreck these two cars over an idiot like him.

Preacher listened and when I’d finished he said, “Your man (Irish dude) has been sayin’ he’s gonna kill a nigga today.” I don’t know the exact face I made, but it was one that said, “Of course he did, he’s a complete idiot.” I knew then this wasn’t ALL about me and Dirty, I also knew there would be no peaceful solution. Best I could hope for was a one-on-one between my big Irishman and one of them; which would be better than the alternative; of my 15, only 6 would go hard, the others were shitting their pants.

As Preacher and I began to argue about who started what, things were quickly getting out of hand to the point that I felt like he might be getting ready to take a swing on me – then I saw him hesitate. Yes, my eyes never broke contact with his, but I still held a fools hope that we could work things out peacefully.

As soon as Preacher hesitated I saw him look over my shoulder at something behind me. I saw his eyes open up the way a man’s eyes would if he saw his wife walk into a restaurant with another man; unsure as to what he was seeing. I could tell that something was going on, I could see it in his eyes, then his face, and then he took a step backwards and stopped. Then Chongo was standing beside me.

I never broke eye contact; that’s a sucker punch-move; being tricked into looking the other way. Then Preacher broke the brief silence and said to Chongo, “You backin’ the White-Boys?” Chongo answered “Nope. Just Mayor Mark. His business is our business.” At that exact moment the cell block was flooded with guards rushing in and frantically hollering “Lock Down!” We all broke up, but not before I turned around and saw EVERY Sureno in the cell-block standing behind me, and when I looked up I saw the Black Hand guy who’d “Blessed Me” leaning over the rail like a general ready to give the attack signal. As our eyes met, he nodded and I finally understood what being blessed by the Black Hand meant … my business was their business. This is the end of this weeks entry. Thanks for reading. Peace be with you.

Interesting side notes:

In my last posting entitled “Texas Massacre” I spoke about John Bent (JD) the man who held my door closed during that violent attack. Interestingly enough, JD was one of the guys I spoke of in the Charlie Brown incident, he was one of the guys who went after Charlie Brown after he’d stabbed the SAC member. However, as I mentioned earlier things smoothed out for me and JD and during this time of peace we spent many a day talking about spiritual perspectives (JD is a Buddhist) and as such became close. In 2009 JD went home and sent me a letter, I am going to include it here for you to read.

Mark. Greetings and salutations from the “Free World”; old friend. Sorry you haven’t heard from me sooner. I actually wrote you after leaving Florence, the letter was sent to my father along with a request to forward it to you, but he refused out of some uptight principle of his.

In that letter I merely expressed that I consider you one of the precious few Lights met along my perilous pathway through the Federal Prison System that I admire the strength and character with which you conduct yourself in that jungle; that I Thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and remain inspired by your work ethic.

Mark, it has been a true honor to know you and I hope our friendship may carry on. Namaste, JD.
Something else I just remembered concerning the Charlie Brown incident. At the time of that stabbing we had some D.C. Blacks in our Block, and I was close to them. When CB stabbed that SAC member the other gang-members went after him, this to include JD. CB backed up into a shower stall and used his shank to keep his attackers at bay until the guards arrived to rescue him. During this time I stood by and watched. Later one of the D.C. dudes named Keith Kirkland came up to me and said this, “If the right man had gotten involved, we’ have jumped in to help him!” He of course was talking about me! Like I said, I was close to him and his cellie “Fats”. Unfortunately, these guys were all gone by the time that Midwest crew showed up. I will add that there was another D.C. dude there at that time called “BB” and BB got crosswise with the Mid-West car and I rounded up the whites to back him. SO even though I speak about the segregation in prison, there are some folks who walk around that. I am one of them.


Next week I’ll tell you what was said between after the Dirty incident and then I’ll tell you how, as a result of my relationship with the Black Hand, I took on an almost legendary status at USP Florence.

Some of you have asked me how to find my books; here’s that info.
“A Poet Dreams” and “Where No One Hears Me” can be bought on Amazon in both EBook and hardcopy. I have other books such as, “Siriusly Bent”, “The Prophet” and “As A Convict Thinketh” which can be downloaded for free, here on my homepage at menu "Books".

Three Rivers, 10-23-18