Prison Pete

Monday, May 16, 2005
  This letter will not self destruct,
nor will you be asked to go on any dangerous missions with no support from you superiors, or.... Wait a minute, I have no idea where this letter will go, and if it goes into any of those wonderful romantic suggestions well, truth be told you damn sure are on your own, because on the off chance you take one (or more) of the suggestions, revealing the source of the idea could be hazardous to your health.

I thought about it and hope you realize that if you do take any of my suggestions, and they work, do not say aloud in a fit a fit of exaltation, "Wow, Pete had a great idea!" Doing so would not be conducive to the continued success of that activity. Blaming me for a failure, aloud, would also bring grave consequences upon your head.

Since I have fully disclosed my lack of any professional degrees or licenses, and I have collected no fees, you can not sue me for malpractice.

It is Wednesday, 12:15 PM. I have spent the morning asleep on the bunk, and not had lunch yet. I did just open my first Diet Coke of the day, and will take a break in a bit for a bowl of oatmeal. We did not have hot cereal this morning so I am going to have oatmeal for lunch on those days and see how that works.

I will get back to typing the handwritten letters in a minute. I wanted to share a few thoughts about our current friendship and how I am different today then in years gone by.

First of all I am more honest with myself, and some of that actually leaks out and gets written in my letters. Being in friendships where I am the financially poorer person has been a hallmark of my life. At St. Anthony's, I used to joke how I was around to show the other students what their life would be like if they were poor!

I have in the past played up the "poor me" angle and hoped for the crumbs from the rich man's table would fall to me. I never was able to translate the idea of the good life I might have if I was financially secure into a viable long range plan and lift myself up to financial ladder of success.

Karen had the approach that if you put up a rich front, people will think you are rich. I also realize she was trying to show me what I was capable of, yet I still did not get the idea that I could be any different then plain old poor Pete.

Most of my clients were smarter than me, and able to exploit my low self esteem, to their benefit. The one client that actually treated me better than all the others was the one that I was still working on when I got arrested.

Prison has taught that I can carve out an existence for myself, and see the consequence of my actions. I budget so much chocolate, and if I eat more one day I go without on another.

There is a basic level I am more comfortable with, but even with that I am making decisions for what I really need. For example, I did have my parents send me one hundred percent cotton underwear, yet I have not pursued any other clothing. I have just three sets of pants and shirts to wear, all poly blend.

When the zipper broke on one pair of pants, I had to wear muddy pants while one pair was in wash or not go out that day. In the meantime I have just asked Mom and Dad to buy me the hot pot, and a radio/tape player with the better headphones like I had at the Feds because the music is more important to one at this point than the extra clothes.

I started buying extra cokes because I do see a difference in my ability to stick with a project with caffeine. Yes, they do serve three meals a day here, but the fact is eating them is not healthy and certainly does not provide me with the protein I need to function at peak efficiency.

I am not saving any of the allowance I get, because I am very much living in the here and now! I am able to have a pretty good day when I use the limited resources I have to take care of me.

I am not totally selfish either. I have been paying for the bean meals, this week and last week I ended kicking a higher dollar value of food. This week I also brought more stamps.

I know I have pointed out the difference in our financial situations from time to time. I think this is one of those signs of a strong and healthy relationship. In the past I would have been jealous and expected you to share with poor Pete.

I do not want to belabor the point, but I clearly remember the humiliation I felt seeing my dad consistently get up at the annual church council meetings when there would be objections to the amount of his salary and he would say "No problem, cut it back."

Knowing money was short in the house and being told the message that money was not important. I could buy that argument if there was a benefit, like my dad was home every night, unlike so and so's dad that works all that overtime or two jobs. But I did not see any virtue to being poor. Yet at the same time, as an adult I chose to say money is not important, but if I needed some I would not mind asking someone else to help me out.

I have never been the richest guy in prison, nor the poorest. I think I spend the money I do get wisely, and at most times in Club Fed I worked harder than most of the inmates to secure additional funds. I could have signed up for the Unicor job, and originally could have made $200 - $300 a month, but realized very quickly that I would not fit in well with all the structure and bullshit that the jobs included.

The point is I have pursued this relationship with you not with an eye to putting my hand in your pocket. It may come across a little rough at times and my attempt at humor may fail, but I honestly respect the life you have made for your family.

While you may not believe me, it is rather liberating to be able to speak freely to you and not worry about if I say the wrong thing. I am not saying I would be someone different, but I value our relation for what we both bring to it. While the barbed wire, prison rules, and physical distance eliminate a lot of normal friendship activities, we certainly have forged a strong relationship. Yes, you would rather be able to e-mail or lift up the phone and talk to me, but the lack of those options that has forged the relationship.

Sometimes I may comment about you not relating to me, only because I have become used to that standard. You told me of your dad's letters to you while you were away at school. Now maybe you realize what a gift it was. Not just the time it obviously took, but the connection I assume it helped you feel to you home. In this instant gratification society, the e-mail my mom gets from the relatives is often filled with meaningless drivel, Letter writing is truly a gift of self. I realize it every time I sit down to write, why I hated writing, everything else stops. Even if I am writing off the cuff, I feel the need to speed up and finish to be free to move on to the next thing.

Everyone always thought my dad was a great person, they never connected his constant availability with absence at home, yet I certainly still picked up the "servant" persona. I am not writing all this to boost up my ego,

It is now 1:30 PM and I have just been asked to clear off the table I am working on so that they can have a going home party for one of the lucky guys. I am going to go read the NY Times for a bit. Will return to work after dinner. We get a whole slice of pizza today. I will probably have tuna latter on. I did just make a peanut butter sandwich, forgot about the oatmeal. Well, I will do the oatmeal now and then read.

Hiya Pete! Your last blog entry triggered something in my brain - and that is my own tendency to "go overboard" in helping those around me and yet "martyring myself" at the same time. As a friend of mine frequently says "You don't charge enough". I guess what it boils down to (cliche' I know) is that I go out of my way for friends (and other folks) and expect them to do the same for me - and sometimes get offended when they don't. Not too far from a picture you painted not so long ago in your blog. I'm still working out the answers to this - I *want* to be help to people - but then again I also want a few beers in the 'fridge every Friday too. I want to be altruistic but I also have to pay my bills. The chiastic list goes on. Thanks for the "attitude adjustment" Pete.
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