Prison Pete

Sunday, May 29, 2005
  It is Wednesday here
and the time is now 6:20 PM. I went to bed at 10:30 PM and still took my morning nap after breakfast. I have yet to read any NY Times, and having received Monday's today, I now have eight papers to read. Will hopefully finish up the letter and have time to knock out last Monday's paper before bedtime.

I cooked my bean & pasta meal tonight. I started a little after 3:00 PM and we were eating around 4:50 PM. Try cooking pasta one half a pound at a time in a pot that will not heat the water over 200 degrees. Patience is certainly becoming one of my strong points. Admittedly it does not always come through in my letters to you.

Sometimes what I write and see as being a positive statement, you take as a negative. That is not really a problem, except when either of us assumes the opposite and then fires back a comment that is based on a false premise. This is also true of not realizing a line was meant in jest and instead of passing a joke back, one of us takes the statement as the truth and again "hurt" is directed where it should not really be.

For example, the comment about me living with you. It would certainly have been a smarter approach for me to ask for clarification first, before shooting off the very sarcastic comment about you and the postage. I am really working on being more concerned about what I say, and speaking in positives instead of negatives. Don Rickles I am not.

That of course is really a challenge in here, and I am guilty of using my sarcasm in my letters to you. Perhaps I should save it for those times when I am describing a third party, and not directing it at you. I am really asking for "help" and "clarification" from others more than I have in the past. It is too easy for me to slip into my old smart ass self.

A good example is the other day when we were playing cards. In addition to Tom and Bill, we included a new person. Walter happens to be in here on a sex charge, was actually a therapist, has a Masters in Social Work and is certainly smarter than the average inmate.

I know all this because after the card game that night I was giving him some prison background and he ended up dumping a whole bunch of stuff on me. Another sign of progress on my people skills, usually I would have never given him the ability to shut me up, let alone engender a sense that I might actually be a sympathetic ear.

The point is while the four of us were playing cards, I jokingly accused Tom of cheating. When Bill and Tom play cards and I would check in with how they were doing they would each accuse the other one of cheating. This time Tom ended up taking me seriously and really started giving me the cold shoulder while we were still playing cards.

When we finally ended the game I pulled Tom aside and asked him what was the problem. He was sore because I accused him of cheating. I said you know I was only kidding (I was getting such lousy hands) and he said there was a new guy there (Walter) and that is why he got pissed at me.

I said Walter knew that I was only kidding and Tom would not budge. I said look this is exactly why I said previously I wish we all could not be so negative. I was guilty of being too fast with the negative remarks and I was really sorry. He accepted my apology and we moved on.

Later on I realized that what might have really been bothering Tom that night was that Walter was sitting at the table with the catalog and a big list of things he was going to buy. Tom seeing this and realizing that Walter obviously had money, probably was the real reason Tom was in a funk.

I need to be slower on the put-downs, be more aware of what others are feeling around me. I need to be willing to seek clarification of what I perceive the other person is feeling to be sure what I do or say will not be taken the wrong way. I also have to be much quicker than I have been in the past to be willing to accept the possibility that my words or actions might actually have hurt someone.

Just because I thought what I said was a joke or not a big deal, does not mean the other person took it that lightly. Yes some of this may be obvious to you, but I have been working on some of my anti-social behaviors and some of this was not always obvious to me.

What does this have to do with tonight's promised topic of Money? I think a lot. When it comes to money, and more than one person is involved, there will always be the possibility of misunderstanding and bad feelings.

I am not jealous of others money and success. If I start feeling jealous of anyone, it would become a never ending pity party for me. Easy to say, but might not be the truth you say. I will agree.

The point is I have so many areas to be jealous of that while it may be unrealistic to say I never have any jealous thoughts, they do not take up permanent residence in my mind. The guys around here with less time with me, the ones that spend $100's of dollars on phone calls, get the full thirty five pounds of food each month, etc.

What I do seek is your understanding of what my thought process is and how that matches or differs from your thinking. One aspect of a strong friendship is the ability to agree to disagree, as oppose to avoiding an issue and have it be like a two ton elephant sitting in the room that everyone sees but no one talks about.

Since you have been deluged with my letters of late some of what I considered important points may have been lost. The actual cash spent on an item is never the best way to judge a purchase.

I have enclosed an accounting of my total worth for the last three months. Pretty good for me. I think that is the longest I have actually kept a running balance of what funds I have, both before and after my arrest.

It is my opinion that in trying to explain my thinking on a money issue to you, I have inadvertently ended up sounding jealous and sarcastic. For example, you clearly know from my whining and other assorted remarks that I wish I had more cash in my commissary account.

The question then becomes, Okay how much more do I want and/or need? Aha. There is the problem, who determines what I need, and how much does what I want enter into the discussion. Please understand I am throwing out the following points with the hope you will not take them as me being jealous but as in inside peek to my thought process.

This discussion is not one you would have with the guys down at the hockey rink or at the scout meetings, but I think we are beyond that level, and it is actually a factor in our friendship, not in terms of me chasing after your money, but me being clear as to what the cost of certain things are to me and how I pay for those things.

The first question is, "Why do I need any money at all?" The prison does provide food, clothing and shelter.

I have proven that given enough money to buy my own food, I can lower my cholesterol. The lower one's cholesterol is, the longer that person might be able to avoid heart disease and other circulatory problems. How much is that worth personally to me?

If I had no one sending me money, I would not be able to buy the current amount of healthy foods I am eating. I am not even talking about my soda, candy bars and postage. With the eight dollars I get a month in inmate pay, I could not buy enough healthy food to make a difference.

Do I have a right to ask others; parents, relatives and friends, to help me buy the healthy food? I know I put myself in prison, but provided we are willing to not simply accept a black and white solution here, the point I am making is where does it end? I mean that from my side. Yes you would not normally be a party to this discussion, what someone else does with his money, but I am willing to be open to your opinions.

Let us take the specifics of my situation. I get $100 a month from Mom and Dad. I am not even including all the other money they have spent on the radio, typewriter, supplies, some clothing and the food they did send. They were sending me $125 while I was in Fedville and claimed the reduction was due to the cost of sending me the NY Times.

I guess if I told them to cancel the Times, I would then get an additional $25, even thought the paper runs about $50.00 per month. This means that I am giving up $25.00 a month to read the New York Times. Obviously I am the only one that can decide if the Times is worth the expense. We are talking about a twenty-five percent increase in my cash each month if I stop getting the Times!

It is the Sunday before commissary and I still have twenty-four of the forty-eight Diet Cokes I brought twelve days ago. I think that is the most soda I have ever been able to "save." I would usually buy my commissary based on what I would (or could) use in one week, and proceed to "make it so."

This time I brought enough soda to have three or four cams a day, but have managed to not drink that many. I had brought a box of tea bags for eight-eight cents and have been drinking two or three mugs of tea (without sugar) to still get the caffeine that I think helps me perform at a higher level.

I do value money, and can change my expenses even at my low level. I have always been very short sighted when it comes to money and never was able to see the benefits of a well thought out financial plan.

This is in direct contrast to the "friends" I had while attending St. Anthony's. They were all quite well off. The lesson here is that it is not how each of us grew up that matters, but how each of us took our experiences and what paths we chose for our future.

I am no longer seeking to use my "deprived" childhood as an excuse, but as a forensic tool to make drastic changes in my thinking. I may point out a perceived difference between you and me without first making sure I am not sounding sarcastic or jealous.

I have never really been a cheap person, but lately am more conscience of the fact that I must be willing to give without expecting anything in return. I do not say I get it right, but I am working on it.

I have made several bean and pasta meals, and have said that I do not expect them to pay me back. While Tom does not have anything to give, Bill has gotten a few food packages in. He just finished a box of Girl Scout Cookies, and I did not get offered a single one.

In the past, my "giving" was usually attached to a sense of entitlement of a payoff in some other area. Yes I still notice the lack of reciprocity but it is mot with the same emotional feeling of betrayal as before. I simply see it as a decision that I can make at any point to cease sharing my food with them.

It is a lifestyle thing, it is a choice that I and I alone am making. I am responsible for the outcome. If I do not like the way Bill is treating my generosity, I can mot change his actions, I can only change mine. That statement is also empowering, I do mot have to take the treatment I am getting if I do not want to!

There is a possible middle ground, but that really depends on the level of the relationship. The middle ground being an open discussion with Bill about him sharing more. By that statement, I am changing the definition of sharing to mean more of a pay me what I spend arrangement.

The "risk" is that he will say no problem; I will not eat your food anymore. Why is that a risk? Well if I am truly giving in the spirit of free giving, I contradict that by my action. I also am ceding some of my control. Instead of giving the food, I am admitting that I am in need of a similar sense of giving on his part.

I am forced to practice what I preach. I have stated openly that it only cost about a dollar to prepare the meal for all three of us, and with the exception of the pasta, I would not use less tomato sauce or beans if I was only going to cook for myself, and would have more food than I really needed.

I am not really giving up all that much. The whole pound of pasta cost around thirty-eight cents. I need to see where I do have control over my life. In the past I would always excuse myself from responsibility, because it was always someone else's fault.

I am not one hundred percent "cured." I will still voice an opinion once in a while about life being unfair, and something not being my fault due to something that happened or did not happen in my life. I have said I do not want to be labeled a "victim" and only want to understand how past actions in my life are affecting my life now. I think to some extent I say that, but my letters will bear witness to me still claiming life is not fair from time to time.

When that happens, I have no problem with you pointing it out to me; again some of this may seem either too "mushy" or trivial, but I am willing to put myself in the position that you can be honest with me and point out areas where I am not being consistent or something I have said makes you angry.

While I have made several adjustments to my letter writing to you over the years, there is still room for improvement. I am still too lazy to look up some words that I am typing. I do bring both the dictionary and thesaurus with me each time I bring out the typewriter and do look for words that fail the spell-checker.

You have asked that I only type on one side of the page, I do so. I have switched to using ribbon for all my letters, but this is really for my benefit, since I hopefully will now be able to scan all the letters I send to Mom and Dad. I am not really sure on the amount of ribbons I will be using, or how much will be too much in terms of ribbon expense.

I have already showed Mom and Dad how much I spent on basics, which I asked them to comment on in terms of me cutting back, or perhaps giving me a few dollars more. I never got an answer from them on the subject.

I have managed to save around $12.00 by cutting in half my soda drinking on my own, and I could probably even eliminate all the soda. My question is what level of "treats" is acceptable to them and where do they think I could change. I do think it is important to be sure those on the outside do realize what is actually available to me and how I use my resources.

Well it is now 6:20 PM on Sunday and I finally printed out the previous two pages. I actually printed two or three proofs of each page and did some pretty heavy editing. Deleting some sentences and changing words and phrases. I do not know if you will see all that much of a difference and to be honest there is still more that could be done but it has to get out at some point.

I am not sure how much more I am going to write tonight, I am at a pretty low point emotionally and do not have a lot of energy to deal with much more of the issues in your letter. But they need to be addressed. They are not going to go away.

I am hoping that some of the preceding text explains my position properly and makes amends for what has been offensive to you in the past. I do promise to be more respectful in my writing, and do not really see a way you can "hide" your financial status from me. I do not say that in a mean spirited way at all.

When we fail to ask each other the right questions, our relationship tends to suffer a "rough" spot that eventually comes out somewhere, and is actually more of a problem than had it been dealt with correctly the first time.

The best example of that is the ease of scanning my letters, (why you wanted single sided) and the fact that I was assuming that the carbon paper was working a whole lot better than it was. That is to say I assumed you could get a satisfactory scan from much more than one use of the carbon.

Those two examples are certainly nowhere near the personal and emotional weight of discussing your financial situation, or my actual behavior that put me in jail, but do simply point out that given the lack of any concept I have about the outside world at this point, I can not really "assume" much. This means that I need things explained to me, so I can understand the "weight" a particular issue carries and how it may or may not affect our relationship.

I am not a stupid person, but I have made a lot of assumptions in my life that have later turned out to be false. These false assumptions have led to, at best, awkward situations and at worst, a lot of the reason for my incarceration. At this point it seems what is really needed is for me to back up and look at this from a chronological point of view. It will be an interesting and painful journey for me, but one that needs to be done.

To even begin to write this is opening all sorts of emotional feelings. Not you fault at all; I just have so little resources to deal with these issues solo. I will do it, and begin in the next week or so.

I am not doing it to convince you of anything, I will be doing it so that the picture of my life as I see it is available to you. Passing tidbits seem to confuse more than enlighten, and that makes no sense. The painful part in writing this all out will be the obvious opportunities I had and the massive FUCK-UP I made out of my life.

I can see clearly now life was not all as bad as I thought, and I was really a pretty lucky guy overall. So like the song says, regrets I had a few, but then again too few to mention... My case there are way more than a few and I will mention them.

I do honestly feel there are a whole bunch of lessons in my life that perhaps others can learn from, at the same time I remember how little I wanted to listen to anyone. That has changed, I do honestly care and listen (or read) intently your criticisms of either what I write to you, or even the little things that I can do to make this friendship work.

I do think you can make things go a little smoother with your wife, and I know when I say that you can either dismiss it as I have no idea what you put up with, or how could I possible know anything about dealing with another human given my past behavior.

That is probably the biggest stumbling block I have with anyone. I can either be pitied and treated like the caged animal the prison system treats me as, or I can be accepted as a horribly flawed individual that is working on repairing some of those flaws. The genie is out of the bottle. I would hope this relationship does not turn into the one I feel I have with my parents at this point which is one of very little emotional involvement at all.

Another page and I was not going to add much.

My parents have made the long trek to visit me, and no matter what was happening before their arrival, my dad consistently falls asleep at some point during the visit. I ask how often I should call, since it is now collect only and they never answer the question.

I send three or four letters; they only answer the last one, pretending I have not written the other three. When I do not write, or at Club Fed, did not call for a few weeks I would get a letter asking why they have not heard from me.

This has never been a problem with you, lack of an emotional connection. Although I had high expectations of you writing more often, we have eventually come to an understanding of the amount of time you have to write me.

Even as I write this I wonder if this letter is being read on the front stairs or are you by a computer to be able to make notes. I can clearly picture you working on the blog, cursing the lousy carbon paper or some of my lousy spelling, poor grammar, and lack of any coherent sentence structure and yet you still turned out a quality blog.

Yes I did notice the poor English in some other blogs you sent and how you were proud that Prison Pete met a higher standard. And I do understand your desire to do that. I am only sorry that I did not "help" you sooner with making your job easier.

Okay enough "open heart" surgery for now. I am going to be more controlled in my writing. Well I am going to proof and print these last three pages and call it a night. It is 7:30 PM now.
Just a note to let you know that I've just started reading this blog and it is definitely bookmarked...

Mainly because my own chances of going to jail in the near future are pretty good in a not-so-good way. But I will say that reading you has been an education, no matter the outcome of my own circumstances.

By way of feedback, you might consider seperating personal correspondance from "blog writing" per se. As a reader, I feel funny reading just the one side of a personal conversation.

As an editor, it would make life easier, as well. If and when I get a new blog up, I'll defintitely be channeling other readers in this direction. The best way to get readers (and comments) is to actually leave comments, and get blogrolled. Obviously, not possible in this case.

Pending the outcome of my own case, currently under investigation (hence the destruction of my former successful blog) I'm definitely going to do what I can to get some traffic going. More traffic and comments make life easier on you and your editor because other people share the load of correspondence (The editor simply has to print the comments off and mail them) plus, you get more material to draw from as comments and questions come in, Pete.

I think this blog and others like it can go a long way towards maybe improving things in the inside. Most of us on the outside have absolutely no idea what goes on inside. And we'd rather not know. I've driven by more than one prison, and thought about what a sad place it must be without really thinking about the people actually in it. You put an important face (sort of) on it...it feels much more *personal*. Or maybe it's just me, because I'm faced with the possibility of checking in.

Surely there's a good body of knowledge around you about good and bad joints. Anyone you know who has spent time in the Georgia State facility? It sounds to me like maybe the Federal prison was relatively better than the state one. "Relative" being the operative word.

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