Prison Pete

Sunday, October 31, 2004
  My Hump.
Another way to look at the presence I am aware of which keeps me company here at Club Fed is the following passage I came across while reading Tom Robbins book "Still Life with Woodpecker." (Note to various posters: No, I do not only read erotica.)

"The camel has a big, dumb, ugly hump. But in the desert, where prettier, more streamlined beasts would quickly die of thirst, the camel survives quite nicely. As legend has it, the camel carries its own water, stores it in its stupid hump. If individuals, like camels, perfect their inner resources, if we have the power within us, then we can cross any wasteland in relative comfort and survive in arid surroundings without relying on the external.

Often, moreover, it is our "hump" - that aspect of our being which society finds eccentric, ridiculous, or disagreeable - that holds our sweet waters, our secret well of happiness, and the key to our equanimity in malevolent climes."

The above two paragraphs certainly rang a bell the instant I read them. It is with the help of God, the people on the outside who have remembered me while I am in here, and of late, the positive comments provided by this blog, which have allowed me to transverse this arid place.

Yes, prison has helped me find my "hump", and the sweet waters have come not only from within myself, but also from those friends and loved ones around me in the free world.
  Footprints in the sand.
I have to be honest and say that this is not a God-forsaken place. Although I no longer partake of the organized religious services provided here, I know there is a God and I know he is always walking with me. The wonderful poem/poster "Footprints" is the picture that I have in my mind at all times.

In case you are not familiar with it, it is basically about a person who looks back on the beach he is walking on, and at certain points there are two sets of footprints and at others there is only one set. The man complains to God that he has deserted him, and God simply responds "No, those are the places where I carried you."

One of the earlier posts refers to me going to several different religious services. That was when I was working in the chapel. Actually, the ironic part of that experience was, after all the years I have "worked" in and for the church, it took me going to prison to get paid for it!

I do not get any "credit" for going to the services, as noted in the previous post on time off for good behavior, but it was just convenient to attend all the services since I had to be there as a worker.

I enjoyed worshiping with the different groups, and I have to admit the "spirit" was certainly present in the Spanish group. Since there were not (and are still not) any staff chaplains who speak Spanish, we were lucky to have a local couple that spoke English and Spanish who came in twice a week to lead the service and Bible study.

On a somewhat related note, related that is to the arrival of Martha Stewart to the great state of West Virginia and the women's camp at Alderson, there is a group of five to seven Spanish people that make the trip from the Washington, DC area once a month for a two-hour Saturday afternoon service.

Then they travel "down the road a piece" to Alderson, staying over in people's homes, and then lead a service at Alderson. This is all done on a volunteer basis, and they receive no funding from the BOP at all, not even for travel expenses.

That is truly a beautiful thing they do. I have to admit that one of the "problems" with the Religious Services Department is the idea that the chaplains are also considered cops too.

Another digression, everyone that works at the Federal prison is considered a cop: the secretaries, the teachers in Education, the medical staff; you name it, they are all cops. Each fall, at the start of the new fiscal year, (October 1) all the staff must re-qualify for their firearms certification.

The first few years here at Club Fed, this testing took place several miles away at the local police firing range. For the last four years or so they have been able to use the onsite outdoor range which was built just outside the fences here.

While it is just over a little hill and we cannot see it, we can certainly hear it. So for three weeks in October, all throughout the day, 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM, we walk around the compound to the rat-a-tat of pistol and rifle fire. It does wonders to lift one's spirits to be sure.

The point is that each and every employee must qualify, but there is apparently an option for the chaplains. However, some of us think that at least one and possibly both of the chaplains would love to see a few inmates' faces on the targets.

This is only a guess. No information is available to confirm (or deny) this allegation.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
The only things that can be sent to a Federal prisoner are snail mail, postal money orders, and books sent directly from a bookstore or the publisher.

I have been on the wagon as far as chocolate goes for the last few weeks. I have been walking over four miles a day in less than an hour, and have managed to lose fifteen pounds. I am now hovering around 200 pounds.

I sort of figured, why do all the exercise if I am just putting those hard burned calories back on. Also, since I do find chocolate somewhat addictive, I am saving a few dollars too. I had inched my way up to two to three bags of Peanut M&M's and Hershey's with Almonds, and all that does is create the desire for more.

Since I can only go to the store once a week, if I am strong of will during the hour or so it takes to get my weekly "groceries", then I am able to be a "good" boy for the rest of the week.

Although it is against the rules to sell things to other inmates, a few of the more industrious inmates do run stores. While we are not allowed to have actual cash, you can buy a fifty cent candy bar for three thirty-seven cent stamps, or else you can pay him back on your next store day with two for each one he gives you.

Since I am not flush with money, the cheapo factor kicks in and gives me enough internal fortitude to prevent me from buying from the store too often.

But there are always those moments when only a chocolate fix will do.
  Yes I know...
Once again let me make it clear that I know I have it better than a lot of people. Since a lot of this blog is the result of letters I have written to the Editor, the bitching, etc. is my way of letting off steam.

It is interesting to me how my perspective has changed about life and the problems one has. The most uplifting comments have been the ones like, "Hey, I thought I had it bad", or "I will appreciate what I have a lot more after reading this blog." Or as I recall one young person who sort of hinted that maybe his parents were right about him not working up to his potential.

I used to think I had all the answers. That if I gave someone advice, he or she better take it because I am Oz. Well, what the blog and prison life have taught me is that you can never really know when the path you have traveled will make sense to someone else.

The act of sharing my journey with the hope that others may benefit is what this blog has become. Also, while I may indeed have it better than other people, my pain and frustration is still real to me.

One of the problems I see today is that if we all take the attitude that we each need to take care of ourselves, and that if others problems are their problems, one is likely to miss the best part of being human. That is the JOY that comes from knowing that you have brought hope or some light into someone else's world.

Two people benefit when that happens, the giver and the receiver. Certainly not ail of us can tackle the problems of world hunger, genocide, dictatorships, etc. This is what I have become more aware of. Even though there are those worse off than me, some of you out there have taken the time to brighten my day.

That in turn gives me a little hope and light, and off I go to spread some light and hope. Not in the old way of decreeing "I am Oz", but in a way that allows for others whom I might not have even related to in the past, to be able to approach me and see if yes, can you let me lean on you for a bit? Certainly another one of those pump up the volume songs is "LEAN ON ME."

Part of this process has been an increase in patience on my part. I have also certain been humbled. Like the Bible says, one should walk humbly with the Lord. I know I can probably still program certain aspects of a computer better than most, but there are a lot of people out there who can teach me a thing or two, or simply bring a little light and hope into my life.

One of the things that are different for me is the amount of religious programming on the radio down here. On Sunday evenings there are five to six different locally-produced programs on two of the Country stations. Most nights, at least one of them will remember us prisoners.

One of the Pastors shared the story of a quadriplegic living in a nursing home around here. He was playing with a gun when he was 18; it went off and severed all control of his body. I am not sure if he is on a ventilator or not, but he has been in a nursing home for over twenty years.

The Pastor asked all those listening to remember him and send him a Christmas card. Well, I did, and I even got one back from him, written by a friend that helps him respond to correspondence. He had kind thoughts for me!

Yes, we can all help others get along the road of life, and that is something we should never forget or give up!
Friday, October 29, 2004
  Let us hear it for the Editor.
Yes, this is real, and perhaps we should post a bit of my actual handwriting to show what it is like to have to type from some of my rougher drafts. What is that Ed? All my stuff is rough?

I have been lazy of late and I have been not making the effort to head down to the Education department to type stuff for posting. The guilt finally kicked in tonight, and I will hopefully be typing from 5:15 PM to *;30 PM another great typo, that is 8:30.

Since I will be moving on in the next few weeks, I retired from my Rec job and have been sort of coasting along. Well, perhaps I will get a little more typing done now.

I am sorry to all my readers for my delay in answering your questions, but let us hope that the dent (or is it more like a ding) I can make in them tonight will get my motivation back up. See that, I start the paragraph off thanking the Editor and I end up talking about me! But then again, that is the point, right? Me, me, me! Only kidding.

I am eternally grateful to Ed, and I appreciate the fact that all the readers out there in the wild, wild internet world give him praise also. It is a lot of effort that he puts in, and that is a good thing!
  Ahhh, Music.
I cannot say enough about music. Yes, I actually do know "Pictures at an Exhibition." One of my biggest problems, and it certainly stems from pure laziness, is my not being able to put the title of most Classical or Rock and Roll tunes and to be able to match the artist to them.

Yeah, but it is not a total wipeout. I can name a few Beatles tunes and think I finally got Beethoven's 5th and 9th Symphonies straight, but as much as I talk about my love for music, I am ashamed of my lack of ability to run through a list of tunes, artists, etc.

Yes, I love the violin of Itzhak Perlman, and I know Vladimir Horowitz is a great pianist (I think), but...

Anyhow, I also really perk up when I hear Handel's "Water Music", and although I think that if there are more than one, I like certain ones better. I heard a piece the other day that was "Water Music" and it was like what I thought it was, but not exactly. The same applies to the Brandenburg Concertos. I think I like the 3rd the best, but would not wager any money on that.

There will always be those tunes that, when they pop up on the radio, you just want to crank up the volume. For example, on the rock front, songs like We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust, and Brown Sugar. And Classical music such as Toccata and Fugue by Bach (think every old horror picture).

There are certainly many more, and the "like" index of any particular song can vary depending on my current state of mind. One recent Country hit that has caught my ear specifically for the lyrics is "Live Like You Were Dying."

For a prisoner who has come to have a much greater appreciation for freedom and the way to maintain it, the words in that song are right on the money.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
  Watching the Yankees lose.
I got two letters today from you and five more books. I am sorry for the time lag on the letter writing, but I am still having a tough time getting all the physical and mental stuff all working in the same orbit. A lame excuse to be sure, but instead of this being the time of my life waiting on impending freedom, well, there are so many variables floating around that to be honest, the best approach seems to be to avoid the whole pile and escape into the books!

No, please do not stop sending the books; they are the only things that keep me from going all the way around the bend. I am sure there are a few people who would say what do I mean, stop from. Once one has gone around the bend, is there ever the possibility of coming back? Let me type some of the latest goings on around Club Fed in hopes that you can convert them to posts with relative ease.

I stood at my door, peering through the six-inch wide window to watch the end of both Yankee games (Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS vs. the Boston Red Sox). I kept switching eyes, since only one eye can look out the window at a time. Game 6 was a great cliffhanger. However, Game 7 reminded me of all the NY Mets games I used to go to when they seemed to not bother playing once the other team scored a few runs.

I was still hoping for a ninth inning miracle, but alas! So I am sure you are a little tired as I write this, but hey, I took a nap from 8:00 AM to 10:30 AM yesterday and today! Sigh, I know, tough life. Hey, I do not like sitting around, but when your efforts are not appreciated, what can one do?

I do not know how some inmates can sit around this unit day in and day out. It drives me crazy!
  My non-schedule.
Last night was a cluster fuck, and made me realize how I appreciate my schedule without really being on one.

Mike, the guy I usually walk with, works Monday and Tuesday nights. So those two nights I usually take the radio or, like last week, I take a night off. Well, Monday I know I better walk, and did hit the road.

I got the latest five book purchase but was "surprised" there was no letter. So walking was a good thing.

Tuesday mail call and BINGO, two letters. I decide to hit Education at the 5:00 PM move and type. The result of that endeavor is enclosed.

I was sort of cruising along, and stayed at it during the first move back at 6:30 PM. This meant I would be there till 7:30 PM, but that would still leave me time to eat, bathe, and finish "packaging" the letter to you.

Well, sometime after 6:30 PM, a few inmates in one of the other housing units decided to rumble. The net result was there was no 7:30 PM move. (I just had a visitor looking for some reading material. I sent him off with three books.) So by 7:30 PM I have had enough typing and am getting hungry, so I sort of end up pacing the library till 8:25 PM when they finally call Recall.

I hoof it back to the unit to find that the lights are out in our cell! Actually they were out in the entire row of ten cells. We have two outlets in our cells, one GFI type by the sink, and another outlet by the beds. Neither one was working. Well, make that three outlets, because the four-foot long fluorescent light fixture also has an outlet. The bozos around here plug the industrial size buffing machine in there and duh, it blows the breaker.

To reset the breaker requires our CO to get one of the Compound CO's that rove around the grounds to come up and access the equipment room that house the breakers. Well, either she (Yes, we actually have two female CO's working in the unit this quarter. One works the 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM shift, and the other, the 3:30 PM to 11:30 PM shift.)

So, I was saying that sometimes the Compound cops do not "feel" like coming to reset breakers, and depending on the amount of "pull" the housing office has, etc., etc., suffice it to say we did not get lights back on till 8:30 AM this morning. Yeah, and that CO in Alderson is bitching about staff cuts affecting safety. Like they really care! Yes, some do, but...

OK, so I get back cranky and I make my dinner in the dark and end up plopping down in front of the TV to watch Shallow Hal on USA Network. Eating at 9:00 PM is a little different from eating at 7:00 PM and I end up tossing, turning, and jumping out of bed for several hours. I ended up "napping" in the morning before lunch.

I did walk tonight, came back, showered, had dinner, and now I am writing to you! I have so much to say and I realize if I do not get something in the mail tonight, you won't get any mail this week. So I am going to make an edit sheet for my typing and see what time is left. 8:45 PM now!
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
  So how long is 10 years you ask?
While there are a few exceptions, everyone sentenced to do Federal time since 1985 or so is given a definite sentence. What this means in legal terms is that you will serve exactly the number of months you are sentenced to. However, you do get credit for not being "bad."

Although it is reported otherwise, provided you do not get into trouble - think major fighting, breaking bones, stabbing, drawing blood (and we are not talking about in the lab) - you do get approximately forty-five days off your sentence each year for "good behavior." This works out to approximately 15% of your time.

So while I was sentenced to 120 months, I will serve 104 months. I "earned" all the good time I could.

It was once reported in a New York Daily News article that one lawyer's client got out early because he helped with tutoring in the Education department. The point that angers me is that this comment is not only misleading, but wrong, and I am pretty sure that the lawyer knows that.

I have done plenty of good acts here at Club Fed and I am serving the same time as other inmates that sit in front of the TV all day and night watching sports, soaps, and BET/MTV videos.

As a matter of fact, there is even a case before the Federal Appeals Court disputing the calculation of good time. They do not credit you any good time the first year, and since you earn it on an as-you-go basis, you do not get 15% off the entire ten years. It would mean an extra sixty days or so for someone like me, and each day less is a good thing.

The point is that even though this good-time system has been in place for over ten years, some inmate finally challenged the "formula", and it may change.

There is one other way to get time off your sentence once it is given, and that is to take the one year, 500-hour drug course. We happen to have that here at this prison, and after completing all of the requirements, you could get up to twelve months off your sentence.

As a side note, at one point they were actually throwing people out of the program, but then the completion percentage suffered. So lately it seems they are more likely to let the slackers stay, but push them a little harder. The point is it is what is on the paperwork that counts!

So is that clear?

Finally, while it is not always the healthiest way, you can drastically reduce your time by telling all you know about other's bad acts. Yes, this is called ratting, and can have detrimental effects once you arrive in prison.

One of the ways one used to prove he was not a rat was to show other inmates his Judgment and Committal (J&C) paper. This is the actual court document that outlines all your charges and how you sentence was computed. Well, it is now illegal to have that document in your possession.

So since no one can show their J&C, you never know for sure who is a rat and who is not.
  So here's the plan.
I was going to stop after the first page but I am now starting page four and I feel a little better. I know you will read this, and that helps. Thank you.

Tomorrow we go to the store and then I wait two weeks to go again. They are out of over forty items, including five or six of the basics I need: teabags, salsa (which I use for tuna salad), and no mayo either, so I will have to go more with the mackerel and rice (which they have) since I only have half a bottle of salsa left. I have an extra box of teabags, so I can probably make it on the Diet Coke/tea mix.

I have $50 left in my account, which is about the amount I will not be getting next month, so for the first time in a while I have actually saved money. It may not seem like much, but it is pretty big for me. True, I have given up some things, but as Mom would say, "You are still alive." Then again I am thinking of the old hymn "Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seen."

So here's the plan: this is in the mail tonight, Friday morning I draft email replies to some of the blog comments, then go to Education and type them. Friday night, a bigger bite: draft post to go with the other letter. Saturday 7:00 AM to 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM to whenever, type in Education so that by Sunday night mail I will have a typed post and two to four emails. Since Education is closed on Sunday, I will probably enclose a handwritten letter which you can return for typing by the "Pete Typing Service!" It's not very fancy, but the price is right.

I do have plenty to write about and some of it hopefully will bring a smile to your face, and a slight lifting of my spirits. And that, my friend, is a truly noble thing to accomplish, and I thank you for your part.

Well, this is getting messier, so let me jump off the slope now.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
  More about my new schedule.
So under one of my "new" life dealing tricks, I am backing up, breaking it down to the basics, and edging my way back up. I do not like dealing with the atmosphere of the typing room. I think might have mentioned the last time I was there I was told I could not have my headphones on. Why? Again, no printed rule exists, but I still do not deal well with stupidity when I have no alternate plan.

So read this letter, send it back, and I will mechanically retype it in a mindless, drone way. That should be easy. Then maybe once I get back up to yo-yoing back and forth to Education, I can work my way up to straight typing and/or writing the drafts for a couple hours and then typing them. When scheduling conflicts, I will just drop the handwritten letters in the mail and pick back up. It seems that this might help with the "bitch" factor of not having access to the resources.

I have limited time left here, but I should be able to type what is not currently typed and get back to some "great" writing for the blog. True, the hits are down, but the ones reading now are probably the ones that really count! So while the ride is great, I am not all that sure that the true readers are still there and hey, the hundred-plus links ain't bad. I am lucky to have your contact, and none of this funk is related to you.

It is just an understanding on my part that if I am having trouble dealing with the way "life" is currently working, I need to toss out my current map and go a different way. It might not make sense to you, and for the short run I ask your indulgence and support for me to pick myself up and figure out how to make the new batch of lemonade from the current crop of lemons.
  My new schedule.
I know you want to provide me with a fully typed "file" copy and I appreciate all your efforts, but I will get my butt over to Education and send typed copy after this letter. In the case of handwritten letters, just send me back the copy and I will type it.

But why do I not wait and just type it first? Well, then I get into the "round tuit" syndrome. This way I can separate the task into two distinct tasks, writing and typing, and I think it will help. I have to do something to get out of this funk I am in, and it is not easy.

I have to be honest, lately my entire existence has been counting the minutes till the next mail call. True, I have been going to lunch almost every day. I was doing breakfast too (6:00 AM to 7:00 AM) but this past week that has not happened. I get up around 7:00 AM, and give my cellie a half hour to get his tail up and dressed. At 7:30 AM he is off to work.

I straighten up the room, make the bed, and then lay back down, crawl under a blanket and read/doze until 10:30 AM when I get up and wait for lunch call, usually around 11:15 AM to 11:30 AM, and then come back to catch "The Division" that is just starting up at noon on the USA Network.

As a matter of fact, on NPR's "Fresh Air" I heard a conversation with two of the writers of the HBN series "The Wire." It is a show about cops and law in Baltimore. They raise some really pointed issues, but also said the problem with "The Division" was the concept of Washington DC needing a "Great White Hope" to save it from all the mismanagement etc. of a "Basically Black" town. The opposite comment might be that hey, it doesn’t matter the color of the savior, just be grateful someone can help.

But go ahead and send me back a copy of this and I will type it. I will leave a margin on the top and the bottom of each page, so you should be able to cut and auto feed with 8½ x 11 size paper. The various sizes of paper, different pens, and varying degrees of neatness all are part of the current "limited" resources I am adjusting to. Or not adjusting to, as the case is more accurately described. I do find the simpler, the better.

The scheduling/resources of my Rec job enabled me to deal with the normal constrictions of prison life. So since all of my grand plans to write drafts, then type, and then mail are now in the crapper, let us start with the basics. I "need" the option of writing to you and not having any hurdles to interfere with that process. It is lame, not very adult, but for now it is obvious that the idea of getting typed stuff to you is not happening.
Monday, October 25, 2004
  Mail call was delayed
till 8:45 PM. It is now 9:20 PM and I have opened three magic envelopes, your letters from last week, all of which I received today.

I just got interrupted by an inmate who returned two books to me this afternoon. I told him I was expecting a delivery today. Sure enough, he came by just now to see if I got any new books in. I told him I did not realize he was out of reading material. He said yes, and since we did not get out till 10:00 AM today (fog again) he wanted to get something to read in case fog returns tomorrow.

So as luck would have it, I did not get to Education today. There was no chance in the morning, so I did another weeding and cleaning of my papers, so to speak, to find out exactly what I want to toss or save.

BTW, I trust you have an archive of all the web comments so that I can safely toss what I have here at some point? I will save the letters just for continuity sake.

I received several pages of return address labels from Amnesty International. I love some of the mailing lists I am on.

Sorry, I wanted to at least get something in the mail, and I want to read all the stuff you sent. I feel like a kid at Christmas. I will get out to Education tomorrow and get some stuff typed. Let me drop this in the mail just to keep the words moving over state lines!


P.S. Although policy states they are supposed to provide paper and envelopes for inmate use, this is the paper they are currently handing out. 5x8 pads with no lines does me a lot of good.
I want to comment on how I.B.M. (It's Better Manually) is still the best way to do some tasks.

As I think I have told you, one of the inmates here gets the NY Daily News. Unlike the NY Times, there is no "National Edition", so the paper is truly all NYC news. While scanning the paper and stopping to read articles of interest, something I think is far easier on paper than using a computer, I found an article about a traveling show that Mickey Rooney does. The show was in NY for a few weeks back in September.

Well, I thought my Dad would probably like something like that, so I told him about it. Then when I called tonight to wish them a Happy Anniversary, Dad told me they had gone to see the show, followed by a meal at the "Tomato Restaurant." So had I not been flipping the pages, Dad would not have known about the show.

The premise in a nutshell is if I want to know, for example, how many deaths the paper reported, give me a computer and a search engine, but ask me to "summarize" the goings on in a city and the actual paper is faster and much more efficient.

This raises a question of how to get back to a point where humans run the computers, not the other way around.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Sunday evening here. I only got one letter on Friday, so I guess I will get one for sure on Monday.

I am sorry that the letter writing slowed a bit. I know what the problem is but have yet to come up with a surefire fix. It is an olio (good crossword puzzle answer or clue. I looked it up in my thesaurus and one of the other words it lists is gallimaufry. I like that one.)

Anyhow, part of the mélange is the confusion of where to start. It has been a sensory overload. Between the awesome effort you have personally put forth on my behalf, the support in the face of some pretty hateful comments, and still having to deal with lots of life's other battles that have nothing to do with me, I am way beyond any true words to describe the light and hope you have brought me over the long haul, but specifically over these last several months.

Next, those comments that could be replied to, well, which one to start with? The fact that any journey begins with a single step sounds great, but that is certainly a weak spot for me.

By now you should have gotten some of the stuff I typed on the manual typewriter. I am going to go to Education, provided they are open, at both the 9:00 AM (to 10:15 AM) and the 2:00 PM (to 3:10 PM) moves Monday and will hopefully get a couple of pages available for scan and posting.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
  My Papers.
I am wondering what to do with my papers. Seriously, I need to get most of my worldly (yes, I used that purposely) possessions. Basically, I have two sets of papers. One is the actual legal stuff, including transcripts, lawyer letters, and other legal stuff (technical term).

Some of this legal stuff I will actually travel with. The rest needs to be sent to a location where it may then be sent to a lawyer that I will hopefully have when the Feds rule in my favor and force NY State to "resentence" me. Again, what I am hoping for is that the Feds will rule I had ineffective counsel and then NY will have to start over.

Since the double punishment issue should have been handled pretrial, what I would hope is that the court would appoint a lawyer, he would file the proper motion, the NY court would be forced to admit and "drop" the NY changes with prejudice, meaning they cannot bring them back up. If that motion failed, then I would immediately file an appeal, still before they could move forward to the "trial" stage. This could take a few months, and I am not sure what resources my appointed lawyer would need.

My other papers are basically all the cards and letters I have received (including that thirty-day supply of returned letters) plus newspaper clippings. This resource is also something for future blog/book use. This stuff would be less than half of a ten-ream 8 1/2 x 11 paper box. This stuff I would rather have you hold than Mom and Dad since they might "lose" it.

There is certainly nothing earth shaking in this box, and you probably know most of what is in there since most of the issues discussed by the few others I have corresponded with I have shared with you. I was reviewing some of it today, and some of the issues are really good and was surprised by the number of "short notes" with apologies from Mom and Dad for not writing more or more often. Ah, such is life.

By the way, I have lost over ten pounds and am now tipping the scales at 203, down from 217. The walking is working, but has also increased my appetite.

I also have some books that I will send to Mom and Dad in the hope that they will be the start of my "free man" library. I am going to dive into a book now and try to clear out some of the funk.

I will be writing more tomorrow and have some interesting articles form the latest CFO magazine. Interesting stuff on tech hiring and outsourcing, but that will be for tomorrow’s writing!
Friday, October 22, 2004
  I feel pain and joy.
Possibly part of my funk is withdrawal caused by the loss of my job and consequent boredom, plus the frustration of not to be able to respond directly to some of the blog comments.

Well, if I am free in a few months then I can, and if not, after I find a place in my new prison, maybe I can acquire a few pen pals!

No matter what, you have given me the greatest gift of your time and talents and the positive energy I have gotten from this blog project will always be in my mind no matter what dark days I have ahead. Of course, this is part of the problem, seeing the possibility of a life with real people, yet still being hog-tied. But that proves I am still human. I feel pain and joy.

I am also enclosing an article on a coaster stall. Maybe you could send it to Annabel on my behalf just to let her know I am thinking of her (not romantically but as a friend).

One of the books you recently sent was a book copyrighted in 1948 (hardcover) with the paperback printed in 1961! You cannot beat it for the use of language, and the idea of handling a book over forty years old! You cannot even pull up a text file from ten years ago. The printed word lives!

The enclosed death penalty article is about one of the individuals I got to share a cell next to while spending time in the county jail. That is a conversation for another time when we are having that anchovy pizza! Just file it in the archives please!
Thursday, October 21, 2004
  Jailhouse lawyers.
I am enclosing a few of my attempts to use the manual typewriter. I am not sure if any of it is worth scanning. I am not clear on the OCR, but am sort of under the impression from what you have said that if the letters do not match a word, it displays the characters in question as a graphic. If this is the case, I can see how the xxx outs of stray letters at the end of a line would be a pain in the ass.

I did drag myself down to Education today only to be told thirty minutes into my typing that I could not wear my headphones! Actually, the way the inmate/staff dialogue went was, I was summoned to the office by an inmate, and then my old boss from the print shop asked me why I was wearing my headphones.

(See how easy it is to really answer these stupid questions?)

Well, he informed me I could not wear my headphones in the library. No such rule exists, but this is one of those no-win situations, since if I pushed the issue, the rule would all of a sudden pop up.

So instead of being able to type undistracted, I am forced to be in a room with six or seven inmates all babbling over what they are typing and the absurd conversations of the jailhouse lawyers using big legal terms without actually knowing the meaning of the words. Makes one want to pull out ones hair!

I am enclosing my varied attempts to type some stuff over the last two weeks. I would be interested to see what the OCR does with it. I am not sure if any of it can actually be posted.

I am enclosing two more winning wrappers from the Hershey contest. One is an instant coupon for a free Hershey bar, and the other is worth a free bag of Twizzler's! They claim one in five wins candy instantly! Yeah right, I figure of about the thirty candy bars I purchased, only one was an instant winner.

Also enclosed find a few of my favorite cartoons that hung over my desk at Rec. Since I cannot put them on my bulletin board here in the unit, I thought I could send them to you. Please save them with this letter somehow. Did you ever get a chance to check out those "old" Boondocks?

Yeah, like you have not spent enough time doing stuff for me.
  Funk central here,
tonight is the first night in more than two weeks that I have not walked. True, it is raining here, but that is only a part of the funk. I had this overriding sense of doom today. Mail call did not bring any bad news, and I actually got a letter from Dave, via the usual scenic routing. He was answering my letter he received back in June! He did not mean to take so long.

While admittedly my stress level is lower now, much less interaction is needed with staff (or inmates), and when I get funked, it is harder to break out of it because there are less options.

For example, today was store day and though I have cut down on soda and junk food, I will miss the $90 I was making in my Rec job. Since I actually had two six-packs of Diet Coke left of the six I purchased last week, I only bought two this time. Now I am funked out and better not rip through a six pack tonight. I did treat myself to a pint of Butter Almond ice cream, plus I brought a Hershey bar with almonds and mixed it in with the ice cream.

I went over to eat dinner at the chow hall and it was what they call Turkey a la King, and is one of worst meals. The turkey is the ends of the deli-type cheap meat, and the goo it sits in is not only lacking in any taste but is the consistency of wallpaper paste.

So I turned right around and came back to the unit and made a bowl full of mackerel and rice. I almost broke down and went with pepperoni and cheese wraps, but I am still saving this for a really low moment.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
  Letter writing.
I actually tried to call you back on Friday after our call on Thursday to really show and tell you how much our friendship has meant to me. As you know from all my writings, I can be pretty thick sometimes when it comes to keeping a relationship going. You are spending a ton of time working on the blog. Your trips to the bookstore are priceless. I do not want you to feel used in any way.

While this is not the only point of reason, one of the things about the lack of letters last year was probably related to the lack of a response from you. It is hard to explain, but one of the hardest times in prison can be mail call.

With 130 inmates in the unit, there is always mail call. Someone is always getting letters. There is usually a small core group of ten to twenty inmates who are guaranteed to get three or more letters a week. To write and then not get a response is harder than not writing at all.

For example, one of the inmates I talk to on occasion just removed all the photos from his bulletin board. I stopped by his room the other day and commented on the removal. He said he had to "kill" them all (NOT literally). He said he knows he is never getting out, knows he will never be with those people again, so he had to remove them. Understand?

The other thing is I am being more realistic. Like some of the comments on the blog, yes, prison has taught me to be more respectful of others. To understand that the importance I subscribe to something is not the same as what someone else does.

9:25 PM. Man, my hand is killing me. I know this is a mess, but I am so distracted and am not even sure if any of this makes sense. One way to find out is when I call you Tuesday or Wednesday. I do appreciate all your work on my behalf.
  Cash shortage.
I have asked Mom and Dad for an extra $30 to help mail out the books and legal stuff I need to save, and if they would include an extra $50 for October and November. I was making $88 at Rec. I ended up working till the end of the pay period that will be posted to my account this month. I will really miss the money next month.

Do you understand that 100% of my money is spent on maintaining my three meals a day and the soap, shampoo, etc. that I have to buy? True, they serve three meals a day here, but they are so lacking in protein and are all fat and carbohydrates. So I try to avoid eating in the chow hall. I have started hitting the breakfast and lunch to begin to stretch my remaining funds.

But I can already feel the difference. Today for example, lunch was baked chicken and I chopped it up with lettuce and made a "salad". The salad was strictly iceberg lettuce with some carrot shavings and cucumber slices! I spent the afternoon feeling like I had sucked down a pint of 10W30 motor oil!

Besides the health issue, there is the psychological issue. What is the cost? So am I being selfish by not paying $3.45 for a phone call? That is three cans of tuna or mackerel, one six-pack of Diet Coke, and a bag of rice.

Also, I find the phone calls are good and bad. As you know, it is hard to have any kind of discussion in fifteen minutes. But we are only talking about the next few weeks since in the county jail it is all collect calls and there is no option for privacy. But that is another story.

I have been walking every day at the dinner hour. I do between twelve to sixteen laps at .39 of mile per lap. The first ten or so are at a 5:15 per lap clip. This means I miss dinner. This is the most constant time for me to walk the track.

So, by going to breakfast and lunch, I am left with needing one meal a day. I am working on kicking down my five to seven six-packs per week Diet Coke habit. Tonight I had a twenty ounce lukewarm tea with no sugar and have enjoyed the poor man's Gatorade (water) also.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
  47 Vitamins.
Well, it is 11:19 AM and here I am, no life, bored, and sitting in good old Education. I am skipping lunch today so that I can get something typed and out to you this week.

Last night, well actually late afternoon, during the great 4:00 PM stand-up count I figured out that I have 47 days left till my release, so I counted out 47 pills of my One-A-Day vitamins, and now when the bottle is empty I will be gone from this place where I have spent the last six years.

Think about it for a minute. For the last six years I have not been outside of a one-mile radius of this place. No outside trips to the hospital, no quick trips to the mall, no nothing. Six years in this little patch of God-forsaken West Virginia, which is all there is, has been, and will be for me for the next 47 days.

And then what?

Well, as I have mentioned before, I will be escorted from this gated community by some officers of the law, and after some car and plane travel, I will find myself back in New York State.

I will be handcuffed as I walk through the airport, but due to FAA regulations, I am not allowed to be handcuffed on the plane. This will be my first time on the plane since my last "trip" on my way back from my re-sentencing in North Carolina six years ago.

There is a slight possibility I could travel with one of those "private" transport services that take you in a van and drop you off in various county jails along the way. I seem to recall it was one of those exact vans that caught fire a few years back and ended up roasting a few prisoners. Probably you could find the story out there on the web. Search for "van inmates fire death" and I am sure it will pop up.

Here is hoping I will be personally escorted like last time.
  Unemployed again.
It is already 8:30 PM and I have not gotten anything typed for the blog today, and so I need to get this done in the next hour or so.

I have to admit to a partial bit of laziness since you say you have enough to post. So part of me says no pressure on me. FCI is doing its part to put the roadblocks in the way. Tuesday was a "training day", so there was no access to Education for the typewriter. Today we had fog, so no typing in the morning, and at 2:00 PM I was sort of "napping."

It is now the second week of my new schedule, and I have not really acclimated myself. [Editor: Pete is no longer working at his Rec department job and is currently unemployed. Since he is a "short timer" there, he will likely remain unemployed until he leaves Federal Prison in WV destined for NY State Prison sometime in November. I realized after reading the above line about his "new schedule" and looking back in the old postings that he never wrote about this recent change in job status, but instead told me about it in a phone conversation. So this brief explanation is offered to avoid any confusion.]

I have been getting up for the 6:00 AM breakfast when we are not fogged in. This morning the fog actually rolled in at 7:00 AM so they squeezed the breakfast in. This morning was scrambled eggs, so instead I got the "healthy" alternative, two hard boiled eggs. I took them back to my cell and had one tonight in my tuna salad, and will have the other tomorrow night.

I had the "cheese" grits this morning. Grits is a corn product and has the consistency of farina. It is a yellow color, the alleged cheese, but I can not taste any cheese, and all I could think about as I ate it was "Don't eat the yellow snow."
Monday, October 18, 2004
I lost a filling last night munching unpopped kernels from the bag. Luckily, although we had another fog day (now seven out of the last eight days), I managed to get the filling replaced within two hours of being let out this morning. Another one of those silly little games we play with ourselves about how I am invincible - unpopped corn, bah. I am eating some popcorn now as I write this, but I will not eat the kernels this time.

I have so much to write, but will dedicate the remainder of this letter to the subject of divorce! Divorce is probably #2 behind prison in terms of how one finds out all kinds of things once one has already started down the path. First of all, let me throw out that unless we are talking about you ending up with sole custody of the children, I cannot think of a scenario that would be anything like "normal" living. I do not know if I should stop here and hope that is the option!

OK, here is some of my practical knowledge. If you do not get custody, the Mom gets 25% of your gross income as child support. You think Kerry would tax you to death? You ain't seen nothing!

Next, I now realize that unless one finds a young chickie looking for an older guy, you would be meeting single moms, probably with custody, and then you become a defender of the scum that her ex was, at the same time being the scum according to your ex. It's kind of a Catch-22. You think the kids play Mom against Dad now? Just wait.

Now, if your ex wants to become the visiting parent, I can tell you that, even in the best of breakups, there is still a whole bunch of emotional garbage, as you get some holidays with the kids and some without.

Then, certainly one or both of you will remarry, relocate, or undergo personality changes. Think of the kids telling you about the pizza delivery guy that shows up with the six-pack and stays the night. OK, so maybe you say that won't be your ex, but how about she shows up in court to redo the visitation or child support schedule and she is wearing dark glasses because her new boyfriend decided to be an abusive SOB! Yeah, both are true stories!

The point I know beyond a reasonable doubt is that emotionally, as long as both of you will still have contact with the kids on any sort of basis beyond one or two times a year, you end up with the emotional burden of two households, and one of them you can do nothing about, but will find it very hard to ignore! OK, probably impossible.

You cannot even dream of what will happen if jobs are thrown into the mix, and now not just where you and your ex need or want to relocate for work or personal reasons, but think of each of you with a new spouse who may also need or want to relocate for work or personal reasons!

OK, so physical intimacy is lacking, or maybe not lacking, but non-existent. Well, here you might ask how I can speak but bear with me and my hindsight.

First of all, I have learned that while I would not choose celibacy as a lifestyle, during my incarceration I have made it eight years without any sexual activity that involves more than one person. Even the one-person stuff is severely limited due to privacy problems! So, one of the things prison has taught me is yes, the human spirit is capable of many different approaches to life, and while it may not be our first choice, one can make a go of it.

So my question is, what are the real issues in the marriage? I agree that there is no one person that can control the other totally, but we each have to decide how much we can contribute or "take" in a relationship before we throw it out. I obviously took very little of my girlfrind's shit even through at the time I would have told you she was a tyrannical bitch who never wanted me to see my kids!

Another thought is how when I read the various "mens" magazines or a copy of Penthouse Letters, it seems everyone else is always "getting it." But I truly believe that there are no two couples that behave the same way. No magic pill. Some relationships just require one partner to consistently give 80%, but yet maybe by really mixing things up, changes can occur if only it is the perception of one party.

The point is there is no perfect relationship. You know your wife better than anyone! Maybe (I can dream can't I) you can find the right combination of outside help and your own adjustments to turn your current relationship into something better! I am not saying you are doomed to the life of a monk.

BTW I did hear on People's Pharmacy that studies have shown that the "pill" can drastically lower the sex drive in some women! There was a recent show on the whole subject. You can probably check it out on the NPR website.

Well, it is 9:48 PM and this has got to get in the mail!

I hope some of this makes same. Forget that, I hope you can read it! But this is very tough for me to write! I know that only you can decide the path you want to take, but I will always be your friend and pray that you are given wisdom and peace in your quest for a healthy, rewarding, and love-filled life!
  Comments about my intelligence.
There is an inmate here who is doing fifteen years for being in possession of a firearm and being a convicted felon. To have him tell it, he had done a bunch of years in a State prison, was out for ninety days (paroled on his state sentence), and gets picked up by a cop stop. The woman driving him home from a bar had a gun in the car. It was her gun! It is legal in that state to carry a gun in plain view, but it is called constructive possession, meaning he could have used it, even though he claims he did not know it was there! Well, he has done most of his time and is due for release in about twenty months.

Public radio has the psych show 8:00 to 9:00 PM tonight and another special on blacks in NYC during revolutionary times. It started last week with the meaning of that black cemetery they found in downtown NYC.

Anyhow, I need some soothing music, so it is Country for now. Boy, am I running out of gas here. Not that I have nothing to say, it is just that what I really need is a hug or positive affirmation. No, forget that.

My walking partner responded to my comment that I have realized that my intelligence can be intimating to a lot of people and I need to be aware of that and be sure that I am not alienating people. He said something to the effect that one of the things he liked about me was my intelligence. He went on to say that sometimes I went over his head, but on the whole he could understand me. I said thank you!

I sort of hoped it was time to talk to my therapist, but alas, not till next week. But she did say she would see me the early part of the week.

I went looking for a new piece of carbon paper and lost the next thought. Well, it could not have been that great!

I am going to cuddle up with the one "soap-drama" book you sent in the last batch and disappear into the hills of Aspen. Damn it though, the book talks about ski runs and torchlight ski parades. Ah, fantasy!
Sunday, October 17, 2004
  Surviving without BET.
I got your Monday letter today, it took an extra day. Lots to read and think about in so few pages, and no small type. It goes to show it is not how much you say, it is how you say it.

I will hopefully get to type the letters soon! I have gotten six pages of the first letter done already. The fog has really screwed up my schedule. I actually had to work all day today!

I did another ten laps tonight, and I have to admit it feels good. But my feet are killing me. The EEEEEE width boots still crunch my toes a bit. Calluses to come soon.

I have found that I will clean up some of the "fuzziness" of the handwritten letters. I wonder if I should use the handwritten letters as a guide, and then go ahead and edit and condense on the first type?

I do not want you to be overloaded with too much bullshit, and I am still hoping I can gradually get some serious discipline in terms of this writing thing. I am already aware of the amount of time the writing process will take. I hope that once I get up to the point where I can go back and review the revised type pages, I can begin to produce some nice, tight writing. I am not setting my expectations too high, but I am committed to expending some major effort in developing this plan.

I did skip writing yesterday, but was suffering from a total sensory overload in following around my new boss while he completed the various phone calls. I tried to spend a few minutes describing what it is I actually do, but it was hopeless.

For some reason the cable TV has been screwed up lately and BET is not coming in. I have not heard any official talk and do not know if it is a "policy" thing or not. Even without BET, they still manage to find crap to watch. The other night we had a "choice" of black shows on UPN, football, wrestling, or Headline News.
  Talking to Arnold.
What I have done in the past is use the inability of having what I considered the "right" tools stop me from doing a task. So yeah, typing all this would be a great computer letter, but for now anyhow, I have pen and paper, so I can write.

Also, this way you get to read "the full scoop" and do not just become a vehicle for me to get my ego stroked. Yes, I am dreaming that there is a lot of work needed to produce some final polished readable product!

1:44 PM, I had to work till 8:30 PM. I will explain later.

I also ended up talking to Arnold (his last name). He says he is in here for killing people and spent six years in the military. He is a smart and insightful guy, so we got to talking and I let the clock run out on today's letter. Good thing I got the carbon copy going.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
  Mail Call.
You mention the few letters last year. Yes, that was during the "cold spell" when I was pretty much living within myself. It is a double-edged sword. You hope for mail, yearn for a word from outside, seek outside confirmation that your life is worth something to someone, and the other side of just going rather mechanically through the day.

For example, as mail call started yesterday, I had the physical sensation of that halting breath and "tickle" feeling you get on that start of the first downhill of a rollercoaster. What would the mail hold today? Would I receive any legal news? I saw the stack of books and assumed they were for me (they were), but I cannot tell the same in terms of letters.

The CO grabs a handful at a time and simply reads one name, waits for a call to pass it, and then goes on to the next envelope. On Mondays there are usually three to four five-inch-high stacks of envelopes. By Friday, you are lucky if it is one handful. So that is what mail call is like.

Another good piece of music coming, Gustav Holtz The Planets! Cool, good music and plenty to write. God, now I only have to find a way to get my fingers to be consistent to type all this stuff.
  Now what?
OK, so you are all feasting on my miserable life. Now what?

Is there an easy way for you to send me comments? Do I even get any? Yes, I get all of your comments and emails, but the time gap actually makes carrying on a "dialogue" difficult. On the one hand, this is a good exercise in producing something without receiving direct specific praise. The trick would seem to be to not turn it into an egotistical pity party so that readership nose dives.

Since it is still my hope to use all this "stuff" as background for a book, I am very happy with the results so far. Although I am still hoping for release in November, I see plenty of mystery and intrigue on tap to feed a blog for years to come. Maybe we should start charging a subscription fee! Just kidding. Even if my life is an interesting read, getting readers to pay for any of it is not likely!

In terms of a living, if I can ever discipline myself and actually become a writer this initial stuff... Talk about going off on a tangent. The suite of West Side Story is finished, so I got to hear it all.

It is now 12:51 PM and no work call yet. They just closed the chow hall, so work call should be in fifteen to twenty minutes or so. So this really screws up my typewriter access. I need to get you some typed stuff quickly to keep the interest up!

My goal would be something like that page I sent you in yesterday's letter in addition to the retypes of my other letters. See, I have a lot of work to do, but am feeling really positive about "working", and starting with the basics.
Friday, October 15, 2004
  West Side Story!
Well, another fog day. It is almost noon. We were locked up till 10:00 AM. There was no Rec move before lunch, so I am stuck in the unit till after they are done serving lunch. So I had some rice and mackerel, and now with a full belly, write some thoughts on paper.

The local public radio station programs from noon to 4:00 PM, and I am waiting to hear a new arrangement of Bernstein's West Side Story! It will probably be interrupted by the afternoon work call.

So I read some of the blogs you sent, and I loved the rants of the NY subway and tampon stories by Eurotrash. As far as the subways go, I can remember on more than one occasion forcing my way out of the subway using my Samsonite briefcase as a battering ram, feeling justified in my right to push my way out.

Now I hope to never experience that lifestyle again, but I will not feel so "angry." Having put up with the utter stupidly here, which still continues to amaze me, I realize it just cannot be helped by a whole segment of our population!

Ah, the West Side Story suite just started. I may be able to hear the whole thing without being interrupted by work call.
  Drug problem.
I have not touched on the intellectual points yet, of which I actually scribbled some notes on subjects which I would like to discourse on.

The stupid question of the day was asked by some inmate that just came back from a piss test and wanted to know if he didn't get high, but just handled the stuff, would he get a positive on the piss test?

I have no idea who the idiot that asked the question is, but yes, we do apparently have a drug problem here at FCI. Go figure. I have been piss tested three times in the last six years under the nationwide BOP random drug testing plan.

One of life’s embarrassing times is when your bladder/kidney system decides not to function because some guy is peering over your shoulder to ensure that it is indeed your urine being deposited in the collection cup. Of all the times and places I have taken, or as George Carlin would say, given, a piss, why this is any different beats me, but then again, the mind can do some pretty strange things when it wants to prove it is boss!

Speaking of drug tests, one inmate recently failed his "random" drug test. It was questionabe how his allegedly one slip in several years was "caught" the next day by a test. He thinks he was ratted out by one of his fellow drug partakers.

The point is since everyone here claims this is one of the worst places for inmates telling on one another, why even get involved in something that might bring any heat on you? As Forest Gump would say, stupid is as stupid does.

Let me pause from my ranting and cover your letters. I think I will shortcut the "type, proof, retype" process and see if I can put the above into an instant post tomorrow, depending on fog, etc.

Well, now it is late and my hand is feeling like my ankles now, sore, so off to bed I go, plus I think my cellie is doing the old "I am ready to sleep thing and why are the lights still on?" thing.

So the rest of this will be completed tomorrow and be ready for mailing by 10:00 PM.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
  Minute by minute report of my day.
OK, so the 7:30 PM moves comes up and I am tempted to head in, but I opt to walk! I did skip yesterday, and knew that one day off is good, but two would become a pattern. So I walked. I listened to half of Fresh Air, and then at 8:00 PM, Selected Shorts comes on.

I did the first four laps in 20:14, the next four in 20:50, and the last two in 10:59. Not bad. The bad part is really bearing the pain to my ankles. The track tends to be somewhat uneven, and my clod hoppers always seem to want to land on a slant. The pain is reminiscent of the first time on ice skates before one discovers the joy of ankle supports.

Selected Shorts had one fifteen-minute story and then the second one was entitled the "End of the Line" by Jonathan Franzen. The story actually is a good one about the life of a sheltered 18-year-old girl working in a railroad company home office in the blueprint room. The room houses the thousands of prints of all the electrical stuff, crossing gates, red/amber lights, etc.

She works as a "summer intern", and her father is the boss about three levels up. The timeframe seems to be the late 1970's. And yes, she is warned to stay away from all the other workers in the department, who are described as all white, and who have been promoted from the field after having worked on the electrical systems for so many years that they figure it is easy enough to just train them in blueprint reading.

Anyhow, as you might have guessed, there is a sexual tension set up fairly early on, and it gets better. Go to symphonyspace.org for a reading list and you will enjoy the story. The first story is about dads reading to their kids. You would like that one too. By the way, have you cracked the cover of the True Love book yet?

So here it is, Recall, the middle of the story, and I have to march back to the unit without being able to have my headphones on. So I crank the volume up and hold one earphones up to keep track of the story. The Koss headphones need and can take more power than my little Sony gives, so it not easy to hear with the ear cup three to four inches away from my ear.

I came back to the room and have to accomplish a bunch of tasks by 10:00 PM and some are not combinable. The first is listening to the rest of the story. So that precludes the shower. And since I am actually listening to the story, that nixes writing to you.

So I go ahead and mix up my dinner, tuna fish without mayo. I finished the last of the mayo and am not replacing it. I mixed the tuna with the salsa. It’s not as smooth as mayo, but since the calories of mayo are all fat, I have decided to skip it for a while. So I munch my dinner, kick two people out so I can concentrate on the story, and then 9:00 PM comes.

So I "send a message to the Warden" as some might say, and then head to the shower. Now I am feeling torn between shorting the shower to provide more writing time, and the need for the soothing waters of the shower.

I get out of the shower around 9:25 PM and dash off that short letter to you. Now you have the full minute by minute report of my day here at Club Fed.
  Cheap PC?
The good news of the day does appear that the SV is actually gone for two weeks, something that pleased my new boss greatly.

So this evening I ended up doing some more "clerk" work, tried to explain kiln operations, not quite successfully, and spent some time looking through PC Magazine for information on shareware software that is supposed to mimic Microsoft Word or WordPerfect.

Of course, I thumbed thorough the fifteen to twenty magazines I had and could not find it. Do you know of the name of any such software? You could probably access the PC magazine web site and search their reviews. I will enclose a copy of my address label for any codes you might need to access it.

This cop is semi computer literate, and purchased an HP with 500 MB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, and a DVD/CD burner. I think it is a model 630 HP? He was viewing a 17 minute video he downloaded and said it was "stop-start" on his computer, but at work it plays fine.

I suggested it might be the bottleneck of the hard drive or maybe low memory on his video card. The specifications for his machine said something about 125 Mb (shared) RAM. Any clues?

He has Windows XP Home operating system, but no application software. He said there were lots of links to sites to buy the various packages.

Suddenly a cheap PC ain't so cheap!
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
  New boss.
I will give the recap for the day and then retire to peruse the mail you sent today.

Today was the first day the new assignments for the Rec cops actually counted, since my new boss was out yesterday. So I spent much of today truly playing Radar to his Col. Henry Blake. My new boss is the previously mentioned "Bible Thumper", reservist, and boxer who likes to think of West Virginia as a Southern state.

He has set the style that it is okay for me to "handle" all the paperwork, even to the point that since he did not drop off the innate orders today, he had me take them back and hold them on my desk till he comes in at 12:30 PM tomorrow when, like the ever trusty clerk, I will bring them to him, and be sure to head off to deliver them to the proper place. It must be done by a staff member.

So from 12:30 to 3:30 PM I essentially bounced back and forth between the tool room and the Rec cop's office getting paper work initiated and phone calls placed. Not very intellectually challenging, but it kept the forward motion going.
  Getting organized.
Well, it is now 10:00 PM, the doors are about to be locked, and I am listening to classical music on NPR. I popped a second bag of popcorn (the first one was at 3:30 PM) and gave half to my new cellie. He is busy loading up his locker now.

Today started out with some massive fog, and we didn't get out of our cells till 10:00 AM. They are forecasting fog again for tomorrow. So I proceeded to head down to Rec at 10:30 AM and spent a couple hours typing in some more of the handwritten letters.

I have even made up a six-part folder to help keep track of what needs to be done. We have the handwritten copy typed into Wheelwriter. As I complete each double-sided page I get the joy of tossing the handwritten page in the trash. Progress.

Then I have the place for the 1 1/2 line spaced typed drafts awaiting proofing, typed drafts proofed waiting for correction in the Wheelwriter, and typing of original plus carbon which will be filled at last section and also sent to you. Let us see how many days I can keep this up and also if I get enough typing time!

The point is by keeping this folder with me at work, I can always do something!
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
  Walking In the Rain, With the One You Love.
No, I have not turned gay or left prison; I just walked four laps around our track in the rain. It was one of those light rains, and the temperature is high enough so that even though the cotton T-shirt is wet, it is not chilling.

I was walking at a fairly fast pace, twelve minutes per mile, and listening to some mellow classical music. While there are over 1,600 inmates here, I was the only person out in the Rec area.

The size of the area is tough to say, but the track is an oblong, and a lap is .39 of a mile. Inside the gravel and clay track are two softball fields and between them, a non-regulation size football and soccer field. Got the picture?

So here I am walking the track. Three quarters of it follows the outside perimeter fence, complete with lots of razor wire. There is an outer perimeter road that is used by the roving trucks to be sure no idiot thinks they can challenge the razor wire. About twenty yards or so beyond that, we finally have woods.

So with the great music, the quietness of the area, and a little imagination, it was a very soul cleansing time. True, I am now sitting at my desk with a wet T-shirt on, but it is not uncomfortable in the least.

I need to do some of my official government sanctioned paperwork, so I am off to dispose of some more former trees.
Monday, October 11, 2004
  Things You Missed By Not Listening To Performance Today on NPR.
There is a new CD out with different versions of Ravel's Bolero on it. In addition to the traditional orchestral version, there is a Benny Goodman swing version and an electronic music version.

OK, inquiring minds want to know: who has actually made love to the Bolero? I have to confess I never even attempted the feat, and would humbly suggest on behalf of the rest of the male population that to be fair, one would include "foreplay" in the definition of having made love through the entire song. I do not think there would be all that many complaints from members of the opposite sex by including foreplay, provided they were the recipient. I am purposely using the term "making love" as opposed to having sex! Well, if there are any comments on this subject, please feel free to respond.

I personally look forward to a day when, having found my soul mate, I can indeed lavish all the attention in the world on a member of the opposite sex while this piece is playing. That would be the orchestral version to be sure. Although the swing version would certainly be a challenge.

There was also a live studio performance by guitarist David Russell. He mentioned his unique method of memorizing a piece of music. He starts at the end! Depending on the piece of music, it may not even be a full measure!

One benefit mentioned is this way the "new" part is played first and the latter parts are already stored in the memory. He also mentioned that he used a two or three step process in that first day, short-term memory, later on that day, medium-term memory, and the next day, long-term memory.

I have not tried this yet, but I am going to try and use this method to memorize a couple of short dramatic readings. I will let you know how it works!
  Losing my single cell.
Fast. It is now 9:26 PM, so I have thirty minutes to get this in the mail.

I got your letters today. Lots to digest. Compliments are always welcome.

I am enclosing a "post ready" page for the blog and will write some more after lockdown that will go out in my Tuesday letter. I will explain why I have so little time then, since it is tough to condense.

I also have to read all of the comments you included, and then reread your letters.

Oops, good thing I took care of some personal business, because I am losing my single cell as I write this. Bummer. No more dumping when needed. I hope my body will adjust comfortably and quickly. I still have to do the dishes from dinner.

Well, let me drop this in the mail now, and get on with the business of making this a two-man room again!
Sunday, October 10, 2004
  More sex in prison.
As one might expect, sex is always a subject of conversation here, but it is not only inmates. The sex life of staff members, especially the assumed lesbians, is also a daily topic to be sure. Most of the inmates will constantly talk about getting a piece of this or that staff member. They talk of making up for lost time when they get out and screwing everything female. So the little mountaintop certainly provides plenty of fodder for an essay on sex.

I have come to see sex with another person for pure release as not an area I want to pursue. Yeah sure, you say, you have no women there. Well, that is not entirely true. I have heard rumors of one or two female staff member having sex with inmates, and have personally witnessed one female CO who would stare into cells at night and watch the inmates play with themselves. I extrapolate this fact, because I only saw the CO standing at a door with her flashlight shining in the window for a good five minutes. But there are plenty of stories of female staff who will purposely rub against an inmate.

Another example is my recent acquisition of a Penthouse Letters paperback. They actually have them listed in the Hamilton catalog, but they are not exactly the thing to ask Mom and Dad to pay for! There are several stories in there that are too far out to believe or find mildly erotic, but some are close enough to the truth to be of interest and therefore erotic to the inquiring mind.

The point is, sex sells. The doings of others are things lots of people like to look into, yet at the same time it appears that what is missing is what is appropriate, and when. The preacher's kid talks about how she is very comfortable with her sexuality, but not with the men that call on her as a professional masseuse and ask about "full service" massages.

There seems to be some people that feel there is a clear line between what is and what is not proper sexual behavior. Yet I think the problem stems from the fact that the line, if it does exist, is not even the same line for everyone.

For example, if you find those cuddle party descriptions and I am not putting words in where they were not, male hardons are OK while cuddling up against a female, but sex is not OK. Meanwhile, slow dancing with a female you just met, (same as at the cuddle party) would be considered gross misconduct by some women or a great compliment by others, or even a turn-on to her ability to "tease" a man.

I am going to stop now. I will pick up my pen again tomorrow.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
  Sex in prison.
Mind you, we had inmates here drooling over the Olympic gymnasts! Not me though, honestly.

For example, I have pretty much avoided most of the pictorial pornography here. I have no copies of females glued to the insides of my locker door, nor do I pay stamps to preview years-old copies of hard core books. I do, on the other hand, enjoy and have read much erotic "literature." You know what blogs I am reading!

The point I would like to write about is how we in America have such a hard time seeing sex as part of a loving relationship. Also, it is probably the biggest area of false reporting. I am thinking of everything from the old airbrushed, now digitally edited, Playboy pictures, to the surveys that are now popular fodder in the FHM and Maxim type mags.

I was thumbing through the latest FHM and came away truly thinking of the pictures in there as being "cartoons", with the old admonition from Mom ringing in my ears about how the women in those pictures were not "real women." By being so isolated from all forms of intimacy and sexual comfort, I am in a great position to speak as to how I see things.

Some of these sentences make no sense because I am just getting a feel for how to verbalize what I am driving at. I need to be able to break down the subject and talk about what I am missing, what are available for replacements, and how that works.

For example, my friend Dave was certainly the only person within the last eight years that I have openly shared my feelings with. There were certainly no feelings of sexual intimacy with our relationship on my part, but all other areas were openly discussed. It was more than a couple guys getting together over brews at the bar after work, or even sharing with siblings.

By contrast there is usually an opportunity to experience a physical relationship with another inmate. We have had from time to time a number (under ten) of openly, feminine gay inmates. I have personally seen (not to any great joy) two guys exiting the single toilet down at Rec, and other blatant examples, so I can speak from firsthand knowledge of gay sex in prison. I have heard stories of much more, but I know that a lot of it may indeed be stories!

The point there is that there is physical intimacy available here. I cannot speak to the emotional love involved, although there have been some great lover's quarrels. And they are great for gossip all over the 1,600 man compound.
Friday, October 08, 2004
  The Bubble.
Well, it is now 7:30 PM Sunday. I just finished eating my second "gift wrap". Random acts of kindness.

Ah, Richard just stopped by. Who is Richard? Well, I just met him also. He is a white guy currently living in what we call "the bubble." The bubble used to be a TV room with two TV's. What they did was knock a hole in the wall to the cell that was next to the room. This former cell was reconfigured to have three toilets side by side with no dividers between them, and two sinks.

They then put six double bunks and bingo, they now had room for twelve inmates where they used to have room for only two! The room is at the corner of the building and has about twelve feet of glass, with bars, that give a bird's eye view into the area from the day area.

So Richard asked me if I had a cellie yet. I said that one of the Mexicans had already asked me, but if he changed his mind, I would ask to have Richard move in. Ah, to be so popular!

I was joking with another inmate that I was having the top bunk removed on Monday so that this would be a single cell! Wishful thinking. There are no official single cells here. Some other institutions do have some single cells. Hmmm, is that what they call an amoeba? Ha ha.

So although I do not fraternize with too many inmates here at the dorm, Kevin dropped off one wrap at 5:00 PM. I said thank you. Around 7:00 PM he asks if I have any more wraps because he made another bowl of "stuff" and this was better then the last one.

Well, fifteen minutes later he shows up with a four-pack of wraps and "complains" he has to always look out for me. So I open the pack, take out one wrap and go up to his cell and fill it with a rice and hot sausage mix. Yum yum. I had already made some tuna fish. So now I have had two wraps and my tuna fish.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
  Pearls in the writing?
We had fog this morning, so we were served two stale doughnuts and a cereal bar with a side of 4 oz. OJ. The doors first opened at 10:30 AM, since we have the 10:00 AM count on weekends and holidays. So now I think I may be able to write at least four more pages.

I was watching a TV movie on Lifetime. The title was "A Relationship to Die For." Besides the fact that there were way too many and too long commercial breaks, the plot was really stupid except for the prurient value of the two females were lovers, one of them married to a rich man. There were one or two hugs, and despite interesting dialogue closest to a girl/girl relationship that you get on TV, it was a true waste of two hours. I am now listening to the World Café on NPR and they are featuring Los Lobos.

Well, let me go back and see what I wrote last night and see what needs to be said. Well so far, not bad. It seems to me that there are some pearls in the writing, but also some pretty useless stuff.

I did say I would send two exhibits; the second is a facsimile of my Employee of the Month award. The original is laminated and the border is blue. So it is not even useful as emergency toilet paper, but hey it will be a good coaster. Large enough so the glass will not mark the fine furniture I am sure to have in my pad someday. Yeah, right.

It is funny that when I said I would teach an ACE math class, the response was, "No, we were not going to run classes this summer", but then they go and do that floor cleaning class! Another proof that as long as we can show something on paper, it is OK if the actual implementation is bullshit.

The library is closed on Sunday, but to be able to say they provide an alternative, they bring a cart that has four of the twelve or so daily papers we get and five magazines, over to the wellness area in Rec. Think 1,600 inmates, and "reading resources" and all of a sudden a closed library does not seem so bad. But of course the main problem is that also leaves no access at all to the law library!

Well, I am drawing a blank and I have a James Bond book to finish, so TTFN.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
  Paint it!
Well, let us see, I mentioned the waste of the floor waxing. Due to the recent inmate hide and seek episode, they went ahead and welded a five foot metal strip to the doors, covering the edge with the lock, I guess keeping the opening from being able to be wedged open. The interesting thing is that since they have to buff off the paint for the welds to stick and the strips they put on were unpainted steel, they went around and painted all the work areas with that rusty red brown primer! I knew someone here knew what you had to do to protect metal!

We have these metal with concrete tread stairs that gets us up to the third floor entrance on each of the six top pods. They all are showing signs of severe rusting and our staircase had the riser part of the first stair rot all the way through already. Under the Fed system of, "If it moves, move it, and if it don't, paint it", these stairs are repainted one or two times a month with a water-based, paint which does nothing to slow down the rusting! Yet as evidenced by the primer on the trap doors, someone here does know the proper paint to use! What a waste! Brand new steel already rusting through! Well, more later on.

Hey, it is now 10:30 PM Saturday. I managed to type 2 1/2 pages into the Wheelwriter. So it typed out to 1 1/2 pages at 1 1/2 lines. So I proofed it, now with a red pen, and I got to toss out the first two pages of handwritten draft. Now I will read the first four pages and let it rip from there.

I think printing (vs. script handwriting) is better. It is still not great, but it is a step up. I am less likely to squiggle out letters and words when I must lift the pen for each letter. I did notice that some of the stuff in the first letter was missing words that should have been included and also had some interesting word goofs. But that is sort of the point, I actually feel like a writer this way. Brainstorm, clean up, brainstorm some more, keep copies of what goes out, and write without waiting for an answer. Yes, I might be writing too much minutia. But hey, let me work on a system and see if I can develop a habit.

I am sitting here with my Roget's II, The New Thesaurus, so maybe I can do some spell checking and make even better use of the English language! One of the CO's down at Rec tonight said I might be in good shape because he thought the SV was out for the next two weeks. See all the enjoyment and excitement I provided here! I walked eleven laps tonight with my sometime walking partner Mike. He can walk or jog, and is in better shape than I, so he keeps me pushing. We are doing 5:05 laps.

I broke down and wore my shorts, which are sweatshirt material, instead of the khaki uniform pants. It makes a difference in terms of certainly being cooler and there is less friction on my legs. Tomorrow Mike is going to run so I am going to use that opportunity to do my laundry. I might try to walk some during the day but I am not too sure. My ankles are a little sore but I do feel a lot better in terms of my energy level.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
  Keeping in touch.
I did get the thin envelope from you today with your note on page five. I’m not sure what letters you have received, so I am sort of puzzled as to why I have received no feedback from you.

On the other hand, the point I was making about just writing and letting you pick what you like is not to worry about you responding. I do not mean that in a negative way. It seems to me that by writing in a somewhat diary format, you might actually see something that you would not normally have received had I been typing.

Also, by not expecting a response to everything I write, I am less confused and disappointed when I think I have sent you something important and I do not get a response from you, or I get a delayed response since we are not actually trading letters. So do not sweat it. Besides, it is already day three of this plan (oops, now day four) and I almost screwed up on jotting down today's activities and thoughts.

I sort up screwed up food-wise tonight. After my walk I came back, took my shower, and couldn't decide whether to eat my last two mackerel wraps, have the usual tuna fish, or make my wraps with cheese and pepperoni. So I made the tuna fish, one can with ten or twelve crackers, and then immediately decided I was still hungry and made the wraps with cheese and pepperoni and ate all four of them.

I also popped a bag of popcorn right before 10:00 PM lock down and sat there munching it while reading the blogs you sent today. The preacher kid (now grandma) is interesting in parts. I saw an article in the NY Daily News a couple weeks ago about cuddle parties. People of both sexes lay about in PJs and cuddle. I believe the article hinted that while some males may get "excited", there was no sex involved.

I did go back and read the fourteen pages I sent out Thursday. I have to be careful when writing side two that I do not move the second page carbon, because a few lines ended up written over each other. Oops.

As I said, I am going to try and type the pages, but I found that some of the sentences were missing a word, sometimes a key word and tough to figure out. That speaks to the speed of my mind moving faster the speed of my hand. I hope it is not too troublesome for you to read.

I think I tended to slowly slip down that slope of legibility, but let me know if this will work for you. We will see if I can even keep this up long enough for your response to reach me.
Monday, October 04, 2004
  Bum Deal.
It is now 11:37 PM. So much for writing a bunch each day.

I sort of thought I might actually write some tonight during the all-night jazz show, which starts at midnight. I am sort of watching Law and Order through the cell door window.

Why, you might ask? Oh you didn't. Well, today was another one of those fucked up days here at Club Fed.

One strange update on the shit storm in the Rec department: this morning they decided to strip and wax the pool room area. This was being done by the ACE class (ACE stands for Adult Continuing Education). The point is the floor was just stripped and waxed four weeks ago. Money down the drain.

Anyhow, the SV decides we all have to stay out of the area. So at 9:00 AM I come back to my temporarily single cell and pile into my comfortable bunk; comfortable because my mattress, that I inherited when my cellie went to the SHO, has five pillows sewn into it. Well, I think that is why it appears twice as thick as my old mattress.

While reading James Bond and dozing, I managed to pass the time till 10:30 AM. Then, feeling ambitious, I cooked some lunch. I made a full bag of rice, two cans of mackerel, and some pickled vegetables into four wraps, and still had extra rice mix left over. I ate two of the four wraps so far.

Then I found out that there would be no afternoon work call and we would be locked in our cells while they did some work on the fence. So more lying around/sleeping/reading. God bless the single cell.

Then I go down to Rec at 5:00 PM, take care of some clerk stuff, and do six laps. Another inmate mentions that one of the Rec cops stopped by the tool room last night and asked them how things were going.

He told them how the SV was riding them and he mentioned that things seemed to be OK back here except for "the heat Pete is getting."

The cop answered that it was a bum deal and all he could say was he knew it was not true what SV was mad at me for.

That is certainly a cryptic response.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
  Man love.
There were only about three inmates in the Rec area during lunch today. Two guys decided to take over one of the smaller room that has the piano in it. The room was unlocked, and when I went to try and practice the piano, I saw two bodies in way too close proximity to each other. The room is about twelve feet deep and six feet wide. The six feet is in front with a three foot square window and the door also has a window, but with the lights out it is murky inside.

Another guy in the tool room had gotten up to make a pit stop, passing by the room or on his way, and he mentioned that he saw the two kissing and groping! The office was in the other side of the building, so it does go on here.

Man-love! Yuk!

Anyhow, 9:32 PM and this has gotta get mailed. So I will review, and start page 15 with where we are, and move on.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
  The OCR process.
[Editor] Just for fun, I thought I would show you all what the process is for me to get Pete's words into the blog. In adjacent posts you can see pictures of his original typed letter to me, the letter with errors marked in red pen, and the output of the OCR program. I corrected the OCR output to produce the final text for posting, shown here.

September, 25, 2004
Dear Jim,

Well, it is Saturday 11:40 AM and I finally made it down to Education and I almost missed this time too. Friday turned out to be a wipeout as far as my promise to get down here to do some typing.

This morning I heard all the various announcements, which start at 9:00 AM on Saturdays, but decided to keep my head firmly fastened to the pillow and my tray firmly fastened and the seat in the upright position.

As if you could not tell, I am typing this without the benefit of a draft copy, so you are going to have a little extra work on the editing, but it should be good enough and save you the expense of the typing service. When you send me back my latest handwritten letter I will go ahead and type it for you. (Okay, I will type it for me.)

I made it halfway across the compound before one of the eagle-eyed correction officers noticed that I was in need of correction.

As I might have mentioned before, we are supposed to carry not one, but two ID cards. I had forgotten to attach my color coded by housing unit picture ID card. By the time I walked back to the unit and found the card, the moves were over. The CO in the unit said that since I was sent back by the compound officer, I could go ahead back out. However, by the time I made it down to Education the door was already locked. A couple of the worker inmates were waiting to go to eat, so when the staff member came to open the door, after a little discussion as to what I was doing on the compound after the end of the move, she allowed me to enter. So here I am, stuck till they are done serving the noon meal. Yes, I am missing a free meal to type this. I will also miss dinner since that is my walking time. But no sacrifice is too large to get the flow of words back up to speed.

A couple of inmates are cleaning up the print shop area and deconstructing the filing system that I designed. I am going to see if the staff member, there is only one here today, will let me lend my experience. That will also let me get a look at the new machine I will let you know. Stand by. See, any distraction to not have to sit here and use the manual typewriter.

This is the output of the OCR program. I printed and scanned the Microsoft Word document so you can see exactly what it looks like before any edits I make. Even in this short letter, there are a lot of typos. The first thing I do is run it through the spell checker, and then I read it carefully and correct anything the spell checker missed.

Pete will be the first to admit that he is not a great speller, nor is he a good typist. I have highlighted the errors in red. I do not normally mark up the documents, but did it here to illustrate the OCR process.

The original letter as I received it. This letter is a draft copy typed on a manual typewriter. This is fairly typical of the typed letters I get from Pete. I scan the typed copy as shown here into an OCR program which converts it to Microsoft Word format.
  In the future.
The way I thought this might work in the future is I will do this Dear Diary stuff, keeping a copy, and you get lots of stuff to read. You find things you like and write me back to say as Editor you want this or that story on the blog. I refresh my memory and type up the story for posting. The point is that this is private, long time writing feels good to me, and I am not as tense about hearing back from you.

In other words, I give you the bird's eye view and as Editor, you pick and choose the rewrites as it were. You see, about the only thing I can guarantee is that I can sit in my room from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM each night and put pen to paper. It clears the mind, helps with sleep, and while I like all the work you have does, it might give me a little more control over what gets on the web site.

Damn, 9:17. Well, let me spit this out. Part of me wants to say the hell with it.

I am also thinking of going ahead and typing the carbon copy as I go along. Since timeliness is not an issue. I would essentially type up to a page at a time, then probably still use carbon, sending you the original, to keep the all-typed stuff up.

If you can read this without too much effort and I do type it out, well, I think you will get more fodder that can make it out on the blog.
Friday, October 01, 2004
  Premise gone wrong?
I wonder if you have gotten a sense yet of how my mind is jumbling hundreds of things at a time and this writing is downright painful, like trying to squeeze caulk out of a pinhole instead of a full cut tip.

While in the shower it hits me, hey, if this blog has gotten off on a bad road and there is no turning back, one could just start a new one, the... shit, my mind really would rather be elsewhere now. Sorry, this is not so neat.

So the web really would let one start again so to speak. Not that I want to do that or that I do not understand all the work you put into the blog. The funny thing is how I was really stressing over the path it was taking and up till an hour or so ago the transient nature of the whole experience never occurred to me. Sort of like not being able to see the forest through the trees.

Also if you get a chance to cruise the NPR website, check out the "All Things Considered" section for 8/12 and look for the "Lemonade Stand Story." I hope you can find it, so I will skip the details, but here is what I would do: overnight I would package the story with links to other versions of the story. Include MP3 files, text of conversations, comprehension questions, grow a lesson - about business vs. individual rights, how people can make a difference. Would it still be cute if you had a deli nearby and your soda sales nose dived for a few days? Then the class would upload the debate. Viola - nationwide learning. You get the premise I trust. So each day, teachers would log on the VPN and get an updated list of resources added. The point is others could feed stories or issues they wanted and I would do all the packaging to assure.

So let us see where we are. Damn, two six-packs of Diet Coke gone, four left. Caffeine is a lovely thing.

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