Prison Pete

Monday, December 17, 2007
  Nothing to do.
Friday afternoon I managed to bump into the officer who wants my computer programming skills. He told me that I am still on his payroll and that he was scheduled to meet with the superintendent this coming Wednesday. He told me he expected to get the go ahead, but that I might have to work in the computer repair classroom in the Education Building.

On the one hand it would be good to have direct access to a civilian computer expert; on the other hand I would only be able to work when the class was held and the most time would be about two and one half hour periods, one from 8:00 to 10:30, and the other from 12:00 to 2:30. It would be better than nothing to be sure, and perhaps once I finish this first project, I could move back over the mess hall and be able to work more hours.

There is plenty of work I can do, and I can only see positive things flowing when I get to the parole board with a fist full of letters from various top dog employees as to the savings my work has accomplished.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been feeling so blue over the last several weeks just sitting around in my cube with nothing to do.

I did manage to type a few letters that I have promised others I would do.

I even got motivated enough to write another letter to the postmaster. Today I received seven papers, including the long lost Monday, 11/19 issue. The other six were 11/30, 12/1, 12/5, 12/6, 12/7 and 12/8. 12/2 to 12/4 were received last week. Go figure.

I know I need to get cracking and send you some more blog stuff, but have resisted sending a bunch of poor Pete stuff.

One funny thing today was when an inmate came end asked if he could borrow a sleeve of saltines. Now I pay about 80 cents for a standard size box of crackers with four sleeves inside each box. They use the crackers to make bread crumbs for a covering when frying the mackerel.

Well I have not used any crackers but I knew someone owed me two sleeves. So when I was asked to lend a sleeve today, I followed the "messenger" out to see which inmate was doing the requesting and as soon as he saw me come out he had a big smile on his face. Yes, it was he that already owed me two sleeves. He promised that he would pay me all three sleeves this week. We will see if it happens.
Friday, December 14, 2007
  I'm so BLUE!
I am still waiting for the powers that be (whatever that means) to decide if I will be able to resume my job, designing much needed databases. I am still on the payroll, so all I do is sit around my cube all day feeling sorry for myself.

When one's reality sucks, diving into fiction is a great way to "disappear" for a while. In the last three weeks I have read the following books:

Short Straw, LA Deal, Fresh Disasters - all by Stuart Woods
The Reef - Nora Roberts
Broken Prey - John Sanford
Drop Dead Beautiful - Jackie Collins
Shiny Waters - Anna Salter
The Manhattan Hunt Club - John Saul
Palm Beach - Pat Booth
Day Trader - Stephen Frey
Balance of Power - Richard Noth Paterson
Cover Story - Gerry Boyle
Mad Jack - Catherine Coulter
Killer Dreams - Iris Johansen

The New York Times has outdone itself in arriving totally haphazardly. I still have not received the paper for the Monday before Thanksgiving, but this past Friday's showed up today, Thursday, with Sunday and Monday arriving yesterday.

I need to write another letter to the local postmaster and get him to confirm once again that the papers do arrive on a same day basis and any delays are caused by the mail room here at my undisclosed secure location. But the funk has left me not up to solving this problem.

There are several "maintenance projects" that are in need of some expert attention in our dorm. Since I no longer work there, and was one of the few inmate employees who strived to get things done, this too is adding to my feeling of ...??? Not really sure how you would describe the feeling but I have been wondering if one can really solely be responsible for "SELF" esteem, or is it possible that it is also a function of how others look at your talents and are willing to allow you to apply them in a positive environment.

Yes, I know I am in prison. I put myself here. But if I am feeling low, and I am certainly able to function at a higher level and have more resources than many of my fellow inmates, how are they supposed to ever be able to change their way of dealing with life and be able to become productive members of society?

As the song says... "We all need somebody to lean on."

It is truly strange how once I start writing, I certainly have plenty to write about, and to be honest, I even feel a little bit better for spending this time putting my thoughts on paper.

One of the major differences between the state system and Club Fed is the way that we able to receive packages. Every weekend I see many of my fellow inmates returning from the visiting room carrying grocery bags full of goodies from the outside world. We are able to get up to thirty-five ponds of food stuff each month, and for Thanksgiving several inmates has some of the vacuum packed fully cooked turkeys sent in. I do not need any additional junk food, and Mom and Dad do send me food from time to time, but it was certainly less "painful" in Club Fed when everyone had to shop at the same store.

That certainly makes the time here in the state system closer to life on the outside. Someone will almost always have more of this or that then you do, well maybe not for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. But the point is, it is really not the physical possessions that make one feel better here in the prison, it is those things that contribute to the lifting up of one's self esteem and sense of accomplishment.

The Beatles sang that "happiness is a warm gun" but in here happiness is a kind word, a letter from the outside, or any interaction with another human that lets you know that you are more than just another body that needs to be counted several times over a twenty-four hour period to be sure you are still where you are supposed to be.

Time to wrap this up so it makes the last mail out this week. But there will be more to come.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
  Night Before Thanksgiving...
Tis the night before Turkey Day. Our four burner stovetop has been going all day with my fellow dorm mates all cooking up massive amounts of food. For some reason this year, unlike last year, I am not doing any cooking, nor have I asked to be included in any of the various groups that are cooking.

My next cube neighbor turned 45 on Monday. It was my commissary day so I told him I would be cooking him a dinner for his birthday. I made chicken cutlet Parmesan served over ziti. We do not have an oven but you can melt the mozzarella cheese by using one of our cast iron frying pans, elevated off the burner by three sardine cans. We happen to have a pot lid that fits just inside the frying pan.

Lately, when these long weekends come about I always start off thinking it would be a great time to get some serious writing for the blog done. As any of the regular readers know, the writing never gets done. I have been feeling sorry for myself over the last many months, and it has resulted in a marked decrease in my letter writing. Let us see if I can turn the tide around this weekend. I am still feeling blue, but there are some bright spots. So indulge me for a few minutes here and let me write some of the things I am thankful for.

I am already getting distracted from writing. As a an attempt to be nice to my best friend the editor, I am going to type most of what I get done this weekend into the memory of the typewriter which will hopefully cut done on the editing he has to do.

I am thankful for my parent’s support of me, in writing letters and sending me a monthly allowance. The new six-track keyboard was finally released from its extended stay in the package room. I am thankful for the pen pals that I get to correspond with and apologize for the time delay in my writing letters back. I am certainly thankful beyond words for my friend that keeps this blog rolling along and his support in building up my self esteem that my current location works so hard at trashing.

The above has been sitting patiently in the memory of the typewriter. The typewriter has sat abandoned in my locker for a week.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
  Job update.
I was called to the mess hall around 12:00 today. It was the first time I had darkened the portals since leaving that building one week ago. It was the first time any staff member contacted me about the status of my programming project. As a side note, I have not looked at the manuals or any of my notes or programming since that date either.

The officer that called me down is the one that got me started on the whole thing. He told me he thought the situation would be resolved by next week, and that he had both the Superintendent and the Deputy Supt. of Security on his side. Funny, but I thought the Superintendent ran this place. In the federal system, there were two associate wardens working for the warden. In addition there was a Captain. He had the last word as far as any programs or operations go.

In the meantime I am still going to be paid as if I was working. Which means, at the least, I am getting a two week paid vacation. First time that has happened since I started working for myself over twenty plus years ago. Maybe I could convince this institution that that is the best thing to do with me. Pay me not to work. Ha Ha. I would be perfectly content to work on my writing, music and read, read, read. But like all good things in prison, this too shall pass.

That is where things are for now, so instead of being able to bury my head this coming week in all things computer and sliding through yet another Thanksgiving I will be left to entertain my self this week. Hopefully this will not lead me into any troubled waters.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
  I am feeling slightly adrift.
My incoming mail of late has been sparse and what has been received has tended to scold or be somewhat banal or real deep requiring some equally deep response on my part. In addition to the incoming mail, the ups, downs, and volatility of my new job have added to a sense of detachment that includes not even being able to be sure what I have written and what I should write next.

I finally got around to taking out the typewriter this evening and typed up a short note to the package room sergeant asking him to look onto why it has been five weeks and I still do not have my keyboard. I have certainly been patient and it has now gotten to the point where it is a standing joke in the dorm to ask me if I got the new keyboard.

The sparse was the short note from Mom and Dad that arrived with the monthly allowance, but had no mention of the status of looking for and ordering some music for me. I still am not quite sure how much of the inaction on my parents' part is old age and how much is a desire to put an emotional distance between us.

I know you place some limits on what you do for me and I am grateful for all you do. But I am feeling more and more isolated of late and part of that is certainly related to the lack of action to some of my request to my parents. On the one hand it may be more old age than anything else since they certainly jumped on the keyboard, as did you. So another thought I have is that perhaps I can make some specific request for shopping lists to blog readers and they could e-mail you the results and you could just pass them along to me.

For example I am in need of some "office supplies" and in particular carbon paper. Staples where my parents have order from in the past no longer carries it as far as the phone orders go. If someone was able to find a source with a phone ordering system, they could email the phone number along with the item numbers and I know Mom and Dad would order for me. Having them go shopping and mailing stuff to me is apparently too much trouble.

The next area I could use some outside research is music. Again here perhaps someone would be able to recommend particular publishers and item numbers and I could broaden my music playing.

For example I am looking for a copy of "Oh Happy Day" and any collections of old time spirituals and some of the more recent praise-type Music. Titles like “Our God is an Awesome God”, "Open the Eyes of My Heart". Maybe someone knows where to get some of the "fake" books with hits from the 60's etc. With the five track sequencer I should be able to do some really great renditions.

I am finally making some progress on the Access "language" and should have the re-write and improved version of the project I wrote using Approach package ready for beta testing in a say or so. The only downside right now is that unless the one officer that got me started on this works double shifts, I am being kicked out at 2:00 each today. Today that was just at the point where things were starting to fall in place and I was on a roll. On the one hand the mandatory cut off did give me time to type this letter to you, I am certainly not used to just working on a project till I drop.

Now if I could only take the computer and printer back to my cube.... I know I hear you saying "He is never satisfied always has to want more" I do have other thing to work on, and just hope nothing goes wrong at this point that has me losing the right to finish what I have started.

Okay, that is all for now. Hopefully this letter is slightly more coherent than some of the latest ones I have been sending.
Monday, December 10, 2007
  New Captain.
We have a new Captain, one of two on the staff, and he seems intent on ratcheting up the tension here. Most weekends we get to stay up to 3:00 AM on Fridays and sleep undisturbed on Saturday morning. Not this Saturday.

As I headed down to the mess hall at 6:00 AM, six of the fourteen dorms had all their lights on. This means that the overnight officers went around to each of those dorms between 5:30 and 6:00 AM and personally made sure each and every inmate was up, dressed and their beds made.

The usual purpose of this early morning wake-up is a dirty dorm. There are never more than one or two dorms a weekend and many times none. This is just another one of those cycles that we prisoners must live by.

Many of the higher up officers prefer to deal with life here in the compound on an as needed basis. They do not go out of their way to find things to hold us inmates accountable for.

Then there are the ones like our new captain. They come into town guns blazing and seem to feel empowered by God to be sure each and every prisoner knows they are incarcerated.

7:20 PM

I cannot begin to describe how physically exhausted I am. The ironic part is that while I have managed to impress several staff members with my designing skills and have accepted their praise with humility, I am not receiving any emotional lift. This appears to be a good thing on the one hand. That means that I am no longer seeking to define my emotional self by my practical skills as a programmer. Nor am I attempting to put too much weight in the value of this endeavor.

I have no doubt that my efforts in the maintenance department were more than adequate for normal expectations. The only reason I was fired is because the civilian, who is second in command, had an axe to grind with me. Life is like that. I know that. I am a little miffed that none of the inmates still over there have said anything to me about missing me or wishing I would come back. But that is also part of life in prison. As long as it is not your misery, anyone else's misery is great to watch and feed off of from the sidelines.

This letter is still not what I would have hoped but hey it is only a few days that I have had this new office set up, and I will only improve. It is somewhat scary for me to be able to sit down on touch type. To think of all the hours I wasted hunt and pecking my program code in.

7:34 PM

Damn, the officer just came in and told me to wrap it up - gotta go.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
  I am sitting in front of a computer!
I am sitting in front of the computer and I am going to see if I can spend the rest of the time here typing a real letter to you. I will end up back at the dorms around 8:30 PM and reading over the Access Developer's Guide for the umpteenth time and hoping that more and more of it sinks in.

One of the inmates who had me do an emergency retype for one of his homework assignments last week received an A. I did some editing and suggestions for clearer wordings.

I returned to my cube last night having been out of the dorm from 6:00 AM till 8:30 PM to find that someone had decided to help himself to about half the magnets that I had on my cube wall. The paint is layered on so thick that it tends to hold things to it after they have been on the wall for a bit. I noticed one or two things on my floor that should have been on the wall. Upon further inspection, I discovered several of the smaller items were just stuck to the wall without any magnets holding them up. The magnets cost $1.00 for a dozen.

I took this minor thievery as a sign that all may not be well in the dorm. It trickled over to the subconscious and left me restless as I tried in vain to get a good solid five hours of sleep. I was up at 5:15 AM and stayed up, took a shower and headed back down to work at 6:00AM this morning.

On the one hand I am out of the dorm no most days from dawn to dusk; on the other the jealousy factor may be kicking in just for the fact that I may be doing something I enjoy. It is not that any of the malcontents could do this job or would want to; it is just that no one is allowed to have too much control over their own world.

Someone could have taken my cream cheese and American cheese out of the five-gallon pail under my bed, so I guess I should be grateful it was only the magnets. The problem is that this shows a lack of respect for my humble abode. I hope it is an isolated occurrence and not the start of a trend that escalates into some more heinous behavior.

One of the inmates here just ended up in a tussle because he was holding the door in the dorm for another inmate and as he passed he was told the least he could have done was say thank you. The younger inmate took that as an insult and swung at the older (and larger) inmate. Score now: younger inmate in the box, older inmate transferred to another dorm and under keep lock feed in.

Meanwhile where are the heartrending and lascivious details of my day to day prison life? Each time I pause to look at the television, I feel so disconnected from the world outside. There is so little individual affirmation around here it is to the point of wonder there is not more physical altercations.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
  Blowing the place up.
It is 11:00 AM and I have been up since 5:15 AM. I am currently working on the new data screens and am swimming around trying to pull all the various functions into a cohesive block so I can get the form to look and perform like I want. I will be working till 2:00 PM then heading up for Catholic services. It remains to be seen if I will be able to return after that.

I found out today I will be required to wear the mess hall "whites." Sort of a pain in the ass as it is just another set of clothes I have to squeeze into my already overcrowded locker.

I need to break the design ideas down into smaller pieces and gradually build up to all the features I want to use. One of the problems is that the programmer's book I am using has plenty of coding examples but alas they are all on a CD which is long since gone. The new 2007 book I bought is only the end user type basics and does not deal at all with the background programming.

One of the male staff members just entered the staff bathroom and told me I might want to take a break as he was planning on "blowing the place up." Where was I when they were teaching grown men to talk like kindergarteners?

I did find a strange bug last night. While I was able to use "No" to set some Boolean type variables, it did not recognize "Yes". Once I changed the constant to "True" it fixed the problem. Figure that one out.

With a little luck I will get to spend some time down here in the evenings when it is real quiet and no one is around. I am looking forward to using the gift of this word processing to get out a bunch of writing that needs to be done.

Just before I received your latest letter I was digging through the archives of our letters. I was looking for the class project that was done on the blog a while back and ended up looking at some of our older letters. My writing has not been up to the quality I had obtained while vegetating at my last place. Now with me putting in long days here at the mess hall, I want to set apart a portion of each day and type two to three pages. I will probably end up saving a file during the day, and then being sure to clean out the recycle bin too.
Friday, December 07, 2007
  A new life?
I have been on an emotional downslide ever since my parents' visit back in June. All the disappointments of them being so late for the two days of visiting and then seeing first hand the toll the aging process has taken was just the beginning.

Then came the doctor's report of the permanent damage to my diaphragm. The damage is apparently a result of my asthma, and mainly affects my ability to expel air. I can get it in, just not out. Strange. I guess I will never be a great trumpet player now.

I am typing this letter on a computer. It is an IBM with a 10 Gig hard drive. Only 128 meg of ram though so I will have to suffer some.

Today is my first day in my own little office. It is a storeroom on the way to the staff bathroom but for now it is all mine.

I installed Windows XP Home edition on this machine. It had Windows 98 and would not take the upgrade path so I did the new install. It wiped out the software on the disk so today I was able to reinstall the entire Microsoft Office, minus the parts that relate to the Internet.

I do not know how long I will have this job but for the short term there should be a 100% improvement in my letter writing. Little red squiggly lines, little green ones, so much help and boy do I need it.

I feel the clock ticking and hope I can deliver the goods on this programming gig before the vagaries of prison life come around and bite me in the tail. For the time being it would appear at least no one else wants this job, nor am I doing anything that someone else got tossed off of.

It is 4:30 now and while the officers are here till about 8:30 I am not sure how long they will let me stay. They are not the usual PM staff and that is a good thing. Hopefully now that I no longer have to work in their office, they will not mind me coming down. Of course this means I am going to immerse myself in programming but I really need to get a self taught crash course in Access so I can show daily progress.

I am sitting here typing this letter to you and feeling like a human being for once. I really do live in conditions of deprivation. Yes, I know there are people dying all over this world but for a minute I am realizing that I was born to do this stuff. And man did I fuck up the lives of the ones I love and put myself in the hellhole.

Now here is hoping I can use this extremely unique position to springboard myself into a new life.

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