Prison Pete

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
  Is Anybody Out There?
I have been in a quandary about how to break the logjam that has caused my writing to wane. I still await each day's mail call with hopes for any personal letters. I do get the New York Times consistently these days, so I do get “mail" every day, but the Times does not usually leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling that personal letters bring.

I thought perhaps I should just step up and go for some good old fashioned begging and pleading.

I would like to receive mail from people on the outside.


One reason is to know that my existence matters to someone. Yes, I did put myself in here. But our justice system is supposed to be built on the notion that one pays for a crime, and then at some point re-enters society. Everyone is entitled to their own views of who is redeemable and who is not. One question to think about is what happens to convicted persons if no redemption remorse or forgiveness is "allowed"?

And even when you open the door for forgiveness and redemption, how do you know if the felon is really fixed?

I need some help. I have many projects that I want to work on, and to some extent by keeping a long list of things to do, I can (and do) paralyze myself into inaction.

For example, I have a very unique opportunity coming up the first weekend in June. In addition to normal visiting, the Protestant community is having a family day. This event takes place in our gym, and inmates who have registered as belonging to one of the Protestant denominations can have members of their immediate family join them for this exclusive event. The atmosphere is a little less restrictive and instead of having to sit at a table for several hours, you and your family can get up and walk around. A community meal is served, and we will have a short worship service.

The unique thing for me will be the opportunity to play my keyboard and to showcase my musical skills. In particular since my parents are planning to attend this event, I am looking to be able to play (and sing) their "First Song". When they were married over fifty years ago, their first dance was to "When I Fall in Love." The words continue, "It will be forever, or I'll never fall in Love.”

Can someone out there please find me a copy of the music and words to this song? If you can scan a copy and e-mail it to the blog that would be really great.

Another project I am working on is proposing a keyboard and sequencer set-up for the chapel. The great thing about all these projects is how utterly helpless I am since my only point of contact with the outside is through this blog.

So my goal for the short term is to begin to lay out things I would like to accomplish and see if there are people on the outside who might be able to assist in some way. Some of the assistance could be as simple as anonymously posting to the blog. I am not expecting one on one communication, but that would be great.

At some point, I hope to be able to provide a resource for music ministry in prisons, and have even thought of a possible name and web site. "MMIP.ORG" "musicministryinprison.org"

At what point you ask? That is a long term dream for when am released. But in the meantime, I would like to be able to apply my skills to my current location.

Since we are allowed to possess keyboards with built in sequencers, I am looking to be able to put together a very simple computer system that would be able to edit and store MIDI compatible files. The chapel would have volunteers come in from time to time and play the hymns and other music into the keyboards, and we would then transfer the resulting files to a computer for polishing and storage.

On a weekly basis, we could load the music for that week into the keyboard. It is my understanding that by looking to only work with MIDI file and not have the computer do any sound generation, we would not need to have all that advanced type system.

Since my only knowledge of the mechanics of this comes from what I have picked up from my Electronic Musician magazine and articles in the New York Times, I am not able to make a list of the specific items I need to make the system work.

We would probably end up buying one of the full 88 weighted Yamaha keyboards. There is a product called Synthia that has the ability to play MIDI files through a keyboard. The unit costs $725. plus $200 to $300 for the various song groups. For the money, this unit does not allow any editing of the midi files so that while we could add our own songs to it, we would not be able to make any corrections or use more than one or two instrument voices on playback. It would seem for that amount of money, a software based sequencer program would be much more flexible.

See, this is how I think. I am limited to minimal resources yet I still dream. Am I all wet? Is there anyone out there that might be able to lend some expertise and or suggestions as to how this could be done? Will it just simply be read and no comments made? I am not expecting much. But by way of using this as an opening salvo in terms of how better I can use my skills and this blog to make a difference in some lives behind the barbed wire fences.

Another area I have tried to pursue was writing letters to the historically black Greek letter organizations. While reading a book on sororities, I came across the mention of how the Black Greek letter organizations tended to be much more service-based than traditional white fraternities. I was able to get the address for Alpha Phi Alpha at three local area colleges but alas I have yet to receive any letters back.

The umbrella group has a web site, "http://www.nphchq.org" and perhaps there is a reader out there that is a member of one of these groups and could pass address that I could write to asking for volunteers willing to become mentors to some of the younger inmates here at this location.

I do not know how this will appear on the blog, or if any of it makes sense. Please feel free to drop comments, questions, or any thoughts you might have. Challenge me, prod me, let me know that yes we should all try to make a difference in each others lives.

I will continue to document more of my thoughts and projects.

At the very least what I expect might happen is nothing. That is no one will leave any comments and then I will be forced to move on to other things. As of now, all this is bubbling around waiting for forward motions. If it all falls on deaf ears, I will certainly be forced to let go and chalk up my current limited resources as being too limited to proceed.

There still is the creative writing, the “would you believe” real life adventures of an inmate, and music practice. To keep me busy I have plenty to do.

One interesting tidbit on the inmate front. Last evening one of my fellow inmates was awakened in his bed to find it on fire. Yes, instead of the usual thumping with a lock in a sock while you sleep, one or more persons decided to set a fire. This was the second fire in less than two days.

While they have apparently apprehended at least two suspects, the rest of our dorm is currently under 72 hours of loss of television, microwave, toaster, hot pot (for hot water for tea and coffee), and stove top privileges. While I am able to cook my pasta in my little hot pot, which is now also one of the few sources for hot water for the other inmates here, I will have to forgo my usual Saturday morning breakfast treat of toasted English muffins. Rats.

Time to bring this letter to a close, put it in the mail and let my editor post it to the blog and see what flies.

You want mail? Well, instead of using your friend as a thrid-party filter, simply post your NAME and ADDRESS on this blog and you will get more mail than you ever dreamed of. Yes, that means people will know who you are and what you did - but, many people will be able to overlook your crime in attempt to know the "you" now.

There is another blog out there - Jon's jail journal. He posted his name and address and I understand he gets a tremendous amount of letters. You could do the same.
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