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.
The best laid plans on Easter Sunday.
It is 9:15 PM and I have managed to waste my first day off since I started playing the keyboard for the Catholic services. Since they celebrated Easter with a vigil service last night, there was no service today.
I had my typewriter out since around noon, but aside from typing two short notes to staff for two inmates and the copies of essays that some inmate received in the mail and others wanted copies of, I have not done much in the cause of moving my life forward.
I was going to start the day typing by making a list of all the things I have in front of me that need my attention with number one on the list being to make the list and included in it would be things like the FAQ you are waiting for, letters to you, Mom and Dad, Abby, and a few others friends I have not heard from in a while.
I am again hoarding up over three weeks of newspapers that need to be reviewed, although one week of them is from this past week and the rest are over a month old. I managed to get rid of a few of the more recent ones week by week, so the backlog has a gap in it. I will hopefully get rid of the most recent ones tomorrow.
Did you read the recent editorial about the prison reform bill for Washington State that the NY Times was bragging about? They specifically mentioned that the bill provided for free GED training for inmates and college courses at inmate's expense. The fact that the Times was pointing out those two items as a great goal really worried me. At both the Fed prisons and here in New York State GED training is mandatory for any inmate that does not have a high school diploma. Not only are the classes free but they count as half a day of the required work assignment and you do get paid for attending classes.
As far as college classes, you will remember I was taking correspondence classes (at my expense) while at Club Fed, and by the time I left they were working with the local community college and offering free classes (including books) three nights a week. So why is the Washington State bill such progress? I think not. Where is the Times research staff? I was going to send a letter to the Editor, but have sort of been waiting to see if anyone else writes. I would think if our new Commissioner saw the editorial he would fire off a letter A.S.A.P. But then again I bet he does not read the Times.
There are inmates here already taking college courses via correspondence or an Advanced Placement type of test that the facility gives twice a year. If you pass the practice test, the state even pays the fee. Now that I think of it, maybe I will send the editorial to our superintendent and see if he wants to brag to the Times.
It is now a few minutes before 10, so I will send this on its way and hopefully send lots more this week.
My basic problem is the need to evaluate what things I would really like to focus on and how best to arrange my schedule to fit it. As an example, as it stands now, I sort of only do maintenance work between 7:30 AM and 3:00 each day.
While the time I am being productive is less than four hours of that time. This is due to the fact that we only have tools to work with for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon.
If I was to become a dorm porter, I would probably end up working less than an hour a day and be in the dorm the entire time doing reading, writing and music practice. Yes, stuff would not built as well, and our dorm would suffer a bit when it needed something fixed, but is that worth the time crunch I am under to take care of things that might actually be beneficial to me in both the short and long term? For example getting back to writing more blog posts not only improves my writing, but also could find me some more pen pals.
Maybe someday when I grow up I will figure it all out.
DON'T MESS WITH MOM.
My son came home from school one day, with a smirk upon his face. He decided he was smart enough, to put me in my place.
"Guess what I learned in Civics Two, that's taught by Mr. Wright? It's all about the laws today, the 'Children's Bill of Rights'.
It says I need not clean my room, I don't have to cut my hair. No one can tell me what to think, or speak, or what to wear.
I have freedom from religion, and regardless of what you say, I don't have to bow my head and I sure don't have to pray.
I can wear earrings if I want, and pierce my tongue and nose. I can read and watch just what I like, get tattoos from head to toe.
And if you ever spank me, I'll charge you with a crime. I'll back up all my charges, with the marks on my behind.
Don't you ever touch me, my body's only for my use, not for your hugs and kisses, that's just more child abuse.
Don't preach about your morals, like your Mama did to you. That's nothing more than mind control, and it's illegal too!
Mom I have these children's rights, so you can't influence me, or I'll call Children's Services Division, better know as C.S.D."
Mom's Reply and Thoughts
Of course my first instinct was to toss him out the door. But the chance to teach him a lesson made me think a little more.
I mulled it over carefully, I couldn't let this go. A smile crept upon my face, he's messing with pro.
Next day I took him shopping at the local Goodwill Store. I told him, "Pick out all you want, there's shirts and pants galore
I've called and checked with C.S.D. who said they don't care, if I brought you K-Mart shoes instead of Nike Airs.
I've canceled that appointment to take your driver's test. The C.S.D. is unconcerned so I'll decide what's best.
I said, "No time to stop and eat, or pick up stuff to munch. And tomorrow you can start to learn to make your own sack lunch.
Just save the raging appetite, and wait till dinner time. We're having liver and onions, a favorite dish of mine."
He asked, "Can I please rent a movie, to watch on my VCR?" "Sorry, but I sold your TV, for the new tires on my car.
I also rented out your room! You'll take the couch instead. The C.S.D. requires just a roof over your head.
Your clothing won't he trendy now, I'll choose what we eat. That allowance that you used to get, will buy me something neat.
I 'm selling off your Jet Ski, dirt-bike and roller blades. Check out the 'Parent's Bill of Rights.' It's in effect today!
Hey hot shot, are you crying? Why are you on your knees? Are you asking God to help you out, instead of C.S.D.?"
From a MOM (Mean Old Mother)Author Unknown
You feel like a candle in a hurricane
Just like a picture with a broken frame
Alone and helpless
Like you've lost your fight
But you'll be all right
Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you are made of
You might bend till you break
Cause it is all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands and shake it off
Then you STAND... then you stand
Life is like a novel
With the end ripped out
The edge of a canyon
With only one way down
Take what you're given before it's gone
Start holding on, keep holding on
Every time you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place.Author Unknown
Feast or Famine.
On Sunday night I called my parents for the first time in many months.
Our new Governor came through on a campaign promise and as of April 1st, our collect call rates were cut in half. It now costs $1.50 for the initial connection and 8¢ for each minute. We are allowed to stay on the phone for up to 30 minutes, so the overall cost of the call is around $4.00 as opposed to $8.00.
Yeah. Maybe I can get some phone pals? I will be sending a post on that idea.
Well Mom and Dad seemed to be in good spirits from their trip to Florida. I mentioned to them about a special Family Day that the Protestants have on June 2. They thought it sounded like a nice idea and they are planning to come visit me that weekend.
On Monday I received no mail at all, then along comes Tuesday and I received a letter from Mom and Dad, a letter from you, and four NY Times (Fri-Mon), and the monthly Lutheran magazine! Then today (Wednesday) Tuesday's Times arrived.
I am pleased to announce that I have finished the first read of all the papers and I completed the Monday and Tuesday crosswords.
Your letter was great and contained lots of emotional energy (for lack of a better description).
I now have music practice with two other musicians for the Catholic service on Monday and Thursday afternoon. One guy plays bass guitar and the other plays lead. This means I can relax a bit and just work on playing melody without having to store anything.
I am still the lone musician for the Protestant service.
Tomorrow I will have a practice from 3 to 5, and then the Catholic service at 7:00 P.M.
Friday there will be another Catholic service in the afternoon from 1 to 3.
On Saturday I will be in the chapel for the Protestant service and set-up from 11 to 4 PM and then return at 6 for the Catholic Easter Eve Vigil. So this is the last chance I will have to get a letter out to you this week.
It is already almost 10 pm and I still have not done any practicing.
I will have a "day off" on Easter Sunday, so hopefully I will use the time to get a nice long letter out to you along with a bunch of stuff for the blog.
Thanks for the IFC schedule, I have already shared it with other inmates.
After many denials, they finally approved the other half of my nose surgery. This will be to fix my deviated septum. The doctor here had to really push for it. No date is set yet, but it should be in the next few weeks.
Much more to come.