Prison Pete

Monday, May 26, 2008
  A Contest!
Peoples start your creativity engines, please...

One of my hopes when I am released is to work toward the creation of a non-profit organization for spreading religious music resources in prison. This organization would coordinate both live music and resources for use of tapes, CD and Midi files to provide music for various worship services and other programs.

I will provide more details on my vision over the next few weeks. For now I am asking for suggestion for a logo/letterhead design. The initial name of the organization is:

Prison Music Ministry-org

Hopefully that name is not already registered. If it is, and my trusty editor will hopefully note that here, then not only do I need a logo design but please come up with some alternative names. If the blog can support it I have sent along a draft of one possible letterhead. Feel free to use this one, or come up with one of your own.

Thank you in advance for all your assistance. What no responses yet?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
  They mention me in a PC magazine Tip.
A recent issue of PC Magazine included 501 tips for better computing. On the last page of the issue "BACK SPACE" they added tips 502 - 507 labeled "The Most Useful Tips in This Entire Issue":

Tip 503. Be Careful

Your subscription to PC Magazine should give you the ability to communicate effectively with your IT guy, not question his buying decisions or ponytail. Especially not the ponytail.

Yes I do have a pony tail... and no you can not ask...
Saturday, May 24, 2008
  On My Wall.
Since I recently moved into a different dorm upon my return from my little medical sojourn, I only have a few "headlines" on my wall.

There was a recent full page ad for the Spanish television Univision channel. Part of the ad talks about how some people view television as a way to escape. Yep you guessed it via some careful ruler work, I have the following on the wall:

"A way to escape."

Directly under that 1" by 8 " line is:

“The fun starts here"

On the one hand these two lines could be asking for trouble. Possession of any material that might relate to escape plans is considered a no-no.

The other item is a headline from the New York Times Arts section. On Monday, May 12, 2008 on page E6 the following headline sat atop the continuation of a story from page 1 of the Arts section:

"Place for Practice, Practice: Musical Hub is Plenned"

Now that really caught my eye. I checked the first page of the story, and they had a different headline there and I carefully read the article to see if it mentioned the word plenned. Nope. I then pulled out the 2,000 plus page dictionary and no way could I find any word the Plenned could have come from. No plen, no nothing.

I really have to wonder how this could possibly slip by the supposed multilevel fact checking that goes into each story before it is printed. The other point is since the archives of the papers are all digital these days do they simply go back and rewrite the headline, and the mistake just goes away?
Friday, May 23, 2008
I received your get well wishes (on card and envelope!) on Thursday. Thank you.

On Friday I received word via a family friend that my dad has stage 4 Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She sent me a four page printout from Seattle Cancer Alliance. According to what I read it is several different diseases that all affect the blood-forming cells.

The article mentions three risk factors: exposure to toxins, such as benzene, radiation or certain solvents or pesticides, over many years; smoking; chemotherapy or radiation used to treat cancer. Dad certainly has none of those risk factors!

So for now I guess my hope to be able to get out of prison before either of my parents die is fading fast. This also makes the point of me looking to establish some sort of support system on the outside more critical. My one hope for being able to take care of Mom and Dad upon my release while I work at putting my life back together does not look like an option.

As far as how I am doing, besides the heavy emotional burden, my leg is still causing stabbing pains every once in a while and I hope that is a good sign as opposed to the symptom of the bones not fusing. I have been hobbling around keeping all weight off it.

I spent several hours in front of the computer today and had a blast of a time working on some exotic report layouts. Boy I can not wait till I really figure out all the stuff I can get access to do!

The one thing that is a new challenge is working with queries. I can use some of the software's wizards, but then look under the hood as it were to see what the actual query statements look like. I am also getting better at using the Visual Basic stuff.

Let me write a few short posts for the blog and then crawl into bed and rest my very tired body!
Monday, May 19, 2008
  Random Thoughts With a Broken Leg.
I am having a hard time dealing with my broken leg. Okay, the surgeon says hip.

What is true is that I broke the right femur right under the ball that fits into the hip socket. I have three or four pins that are attempting to allow the bone to fuse itself back together. I am due to see the doctor in three more weeks and may know at that time if there is any possibility that this operation will succeed.

At that point it may not yet be clear as to success or failure and in any case the doctor said it could take up to three months to reach full healing. I am keeping all weight off the leg as he instructed me last Monday. Unfortunately I was told by some of the prison nursing staff several days earlier that I was supposed to put weight on it!

Hobbling around on one leg with a pair of crutches in prison is a real challenge to say the least. There are many tasks that I can not accomplish without asking for another inmate's assistance.

I was talking to one to the counselors that appears to have a strong background in sports related injuries and his advice to me was to be sure I ate healthily. One wonders how healthy the food the state provides is.

For the fourteen days following my surgery, all I ate was the regular prison diet. I was in a medical ward which was a room with four beds, a shower and toilet. The only activity was to lie in bed, or sit in a chair and watch TV or sleep. I did not have my glasses so reading was not an option.

When I returned to my usual secure location last Friday, I weighed in at 214 pounds. That means I had lost at least 6 pounds eating all the food I could and expending minimal physical energy. Now that I am up and hobbling around the compound, one wonders how "healthy" I would be eating if not for my ability to purchase cans of tuna fish, peanut butter, American cheese and pasta from the commissary. I need protein!

When I received my property last Monday, I was saddened to find out that my fellow inmates in my former dorm (yes I did end up losing my cherished corner cube) had appropriated all of my food supplies save one bottle of cinnamon, and all my plastic bowls, cooking spoons, etc. There is absolutely no honor among inmates. Despite all the random acts of kindness I would perform in the dorm, when the opportunity arises for free stuff, it becomes a question of what can I get.

It is yet another one of the conundrums of prison life. Supposedly one of the criteria the parole board can use to decide if I should be released is how I got along with other inmates. But I ask you, how do you deal with people that you know at the first opportunity will take advantage of you?

While I am willing to continue to assist my fellow inmates, I refuse to invest any emotional energy in a relationship that is solely based on what can you do for me right now and no, it does no stop me from robbing you blind (or standing by while others do the thieving) as soon as the opportunity arises.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
  My Last 17 Days.
On April 12, I decided I had sat on my ass long enough and made my third trip in the two years I have been here up to the Rec yard.

I walked for about 90 minutes, and did not feel too bad considering I have been sitting around my cube doing minimal physical exercise. I walked again on Monday, and then one last time on Thursday, April 17.

Somehow between walking on Thursday between noon and 3 PM and one more trip up the hill to the activity building at 3:30 for an ILC meeting and about 5:00 AM Friday morning, I fractured my right femur, right below the point where it forms the ball that sits in the hip!

I was at the surgeon's office today and saw the x-ray of my hip. It turns out the procedure (the surgeon?) has a high failure rate and the result of that failure would by replacing some of my God given parts with manmade alternatives.

The goal is not only to have the bone mend, but also not leave the ball starved of vital nutrients so that it does not "die".

This entire escapade started to evolve at around 7:30 AM on Friday morning when I discovered while lying on my right side in my tightie whities and T-shirt, that I could not move from this position. I had been hobbling around for most of the night, and had signed up to go to sick call in the morning anyhow.

Somehow upon returning from a trip to the bathroom around 5:00 AM and getting back into bed, curling up while lying on the right side I completely broke the bone. As I said in my last letter, I later thought this might be the result of a long forgotten injury,

Meanwhile I had my neighbor alert the officer that I could not get out of bed. He calls for the area sergeant, who calls for the nurse to come up and supervise my transfer from the bed to a folding canvas stretcher at floor level. Between the nurse, another officer, the sergeant, and one or two inmates I am lifted by the bottom sheet and placed on the stretcher.

Since I have nothing but bad luck, there was no medical doctor in attendance on Friday. Between a phone consult one of the nurses decided that some Ben-gay applied to my right thigh would make my pain go away.

I was transferred to an observation room. I had thought I was waiting for the doctor to make an appearance. The nurse returns about thirty minutes later and is ready to move me out of the infirmary, back to my unit and comes in with a pair of crutches. I attempt to stand on the crutches and am not able to move forward one bit. The nurse seems to think I am faking for whatever reason. They then decide to send me across the street to the infirmary.

I am placed in a wheel chair, pushed out to the van and then have to literally crawl my way from wheel chair to the 12 passenger van. The officers offer no assistance; they are not supposed to anyhow, and one of the officers supposes that it might be my sciatic nerve and tells me how he had the problem and how they pump you full of drugs to solve the problem. This is exciting to the officer since he is hopping the once the doctor agrees with his diagnosis, he hopes he will be the lucky one to take me to the Medical Center earning a whole bunch of overtime!

I finally end up on the x-ray table. After taking my close-up, and while still lying on the table, I hear the x-ray tech say something about a broken hip.

Talk about your big sinking sensation. I am left on the table while they figure out what to do. The bottom line is an ambulance is called and I am dropped off at the local area hospital. Then they take some blood, evaluate the x-rays and decide they do not want anything to do with me. They call for another ambulance and give me a shoot of the pain killer Dilaudid. We are off again to the Med Center.

I spend most of Friday evening in the hallway with many other infirmed, the only difference being I am guarded by two gun toting correction officers. Eventually I am admitted to the prison wing and am put in a single room.

Saturday Morning I sign surgery authorization for either a full or partial hip replacement.

Just before I am ushered into surgery I meet the surgeon that will be doing the operation and he says they are not doing the hip replacement they are going to put the pins in.

I survive the operation, and by Monday afternoon I am picked up and dropped off back at the Infirmary.

The infirmary consists of two rooms with four beds, one shower and one toilet, and one color TV.

I was in this infirmary for two weeks, initially getting around by use of a walker, then graduating to crutches.

Since I was yanked out of the hospital so soon I never talked to the surgeon, only one of his assistants. This individual changed the dressing on my wound on Monday, and led me to believe that what they were waiting for was the results of a pathology report to confirm no bone disease, and I would be good to put weight on it. This report was due within four or five days.

Since I was eager to break out of my isolation, I did not even have my glasses, so all I could do was watch TV or sleep, I made sure the nurse followed up for that report. When it was faxed over and apparently confirmed no bone disease, I was given the go ahead to put some weight on the right leg, for a day or two with the walker, then the crutches. One of the nurses even took me out into the hall way one night and encouraged me to put as much weight on it as I could.

Finally on Friday, May 2, at around 1:00 they decide to send me back to my normal government funded secure location.

I arrived too late to receive any of my personal property which in my two week absence had been packed away and my sweet corner location given away to another inmate. Yes they jump into your grave quickly around here.

So I end up in a different dorm. I am issued the most basic supplies, sheets, blanket, towel, wash cloth, tooth brush. I had hoped I would simply drop back into my corner cube and be able to run a brush through my mangy hair for the first time in two weeks. I had no access to any shampoo or comb and brush for the two weeks I was in the infirmary.

The one bright spot was I went down to the kitchen Saturday morning and the person that had been stopping me from working on the computer has finally retired Friday. Ironically, at his retirement party he told two of the staff that works in the kitchen that now they could have their computer back. I was operating with quite a handicap since I still was without my reading glasses so could not see some of the print on the screen.

By Sunday I had the computer system back up to date data wise and was eagerly awaiting Monday so that I could get my glasses and really get to work. I also got to go to church on Sunday and it was good to be among some friendly caring people.

Then Monday arrives, and the storm clouds begin to gather. I headed out to sick call at 7:00 AM with hopes of getting some more definitive information as to what I should and should not be doing. I get in to see the nurse and she tells me that I am scheduled to see the surgeon this afternoon.

That was good news. I return to the dorm around 8:00 AM and ask the officer to call about me getting my property. Since I was due to leave at 12:30 for the appointment, I would not be around in the afternoon.

I roped in another inmate to assist me and went down to collect about 12 bags of my property. Plus my keyboard and typewriter. I consider this a good sign and assumed that I would find most of my worldly possessions safely tucked away in the bags.

The first couple of bags gave me even more reason to feel secure as some of the things one would assume would be left were in the bags. For example the hair ties that were on the post of my bunk, and the plastic bag with my broken fan and radio.

It was not till I was down to the last bag that I realized that all my food was missing. Cans of tuna, black beans, mackerel, sugar, spice and everything nice. All gone. They also found my envelope of stamps and that is gone as well. Here I was looking forward to my first real jolt of protein in two weeks and nothing is left. As a friend of mine used to say, cheer up things could be worse, so sure enough I cheered up and they got worse.

We arrive at the Med Center just in time for my 3:00 appointment and I get an x-ray of my hip taken. The surgeon comes in and says "You are not supposed to be putting any weight on that leg at all!" I get to see what was done and see three or four "nails" that are all that is holding the ball onto the bone. He mentions how it has already collapsed some due to my walking on it, but that it was still within the amount that it could do so.

He then told me that this surgery did not have a high success rate and it would take up to three months to see if it would take or not. If not, I would then have to have some sort of man-made parts installed!!!

I am now really feeling like shit and the officer escorting me tells me that since I am not supposed to put weight on the leg I might be moved back to an infirmary location. Egads up to three months with no access to my typewriter, keyboard, my computer job, camaraderie of the Catholic community. Stuck eating only state food. As an aside I lost at least six pounds over the last two weeks. Possibly more. I now weigh 214. Several months ago I was up around 220, and probably gained a few more pounds.

Here is the question. How if all I did was sit on my ass or lie down for the last two weeks eating every bit of state food I am provided could I lose weight? The portions are the same as everyone else gets. And now the prospect of eating only state food for three months!

So it is now 9:30 PM and I am going to finish up this letter. I am scheduled to go to commissary tomorrow, and will fill the sheet out with high hope that I will be around to pick up the items. I have already lined up another inmate to carry back the loot and am buying him a pint of ice cream for his assistance.

The thing I have not figured out is that even if I stay it would be difficult to do my own cooking, which would mean I would have to feed him for his help that would be tough to do. I could certainly handle the 1/3 pound of pasta in my hot pot. And my tuna salad is easy enough.

That is my world over the last 17 days. Is that all it has been?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
  Broken Leg.
I am back at real work. Computer programming!!! Yeah. I received your latest letter and was warmed by the thoughts you had about getting our correspondence up to a more frequent basis.

As I write this letter I am now two weeks and two days on the road to recovery. Recovery from what you might ask. One broken right femur. I had some screws and a plate installed on my right leg, just below the ball joint. The initial surgeon's consult said I might need a partial hip replacement but that proved to be unnecessary. Thank God for that.

You might be asking how an otherwise health male of 52 could break a bone without suffering any direct trauma. That is what had the doctors worried too.

But as the pain set into the deeper recesses of my gray matter, I remembered an incident with the table saw at maintenance. We are talking at least eight months ago.

I was putting some dado grooves in 3/4" plywood for a custom cabinet I was building. The cabinet was about 36" deep and high and about 8” wide. There were four shelves. So I was cutting 36" long grooves in the two 36 x 35 side pieces to hold the shelves. In other words, the open part of the cabinet was the 36" high by 8" wide, with the shelves going back 36 inches.

At one point I lost control of the wood and it came spinning back at me, catching me in the right leg, right below the hip. It stung like hell at the time but like someone else just recently told me about his injury, I was too proud to notify any staff members. Sometimes it is staff, sometimes the wife.

So what the general consensus is I must have given myself a partial fracture, which did not get worse, but was never able to heal. About three weeks ago I finally started heading out to the Rec yard to do some speed walking. After three days, the bone finally gave way and hence I ended up in the hospital.

It seems entirely possible at this point that I was walking around with a broken femur for over eight months!

I am mobile now, with minimal weight bearing on the right leg and a pair of crutches as my constant companion.
Friday, May 16, 2008
  Tears in my eyes redux.
While printing out the draft of my post I was looking through my backlog of newspapers. I came across an article that brought tears to my eyes. "For Bronx School's Dancers, the Moves Are Irish", New York Times; March 14, 2008.

Caroline Duggan came over from Ireland at the age of 23 accepting a job to teach music at PS 59 in The Bronx. One has to wonder why we can not produce our own music teachers, but then again when most of the arts programs were cut from schools in the eighties. Duh.

This story highlights the difference one individual can make. I encourage you to read the story, but let me give you the highlights.

Over the last six years, Ms. Duggan has developed an Irish dance troupe, which last year managed a trip to Ireland for 32 students and 19 chaperones. The group of Bronx school children performed on Ireland's "Late Late Show" and at the official residence of the president of Ireland. They also marched in this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City.

Did I mention that the school Ms. Duggan teaches at is 71 percent Hispanic and 27 percent black? The first trip to Ireland cost $70,000 and the funds were provided by a network of Irish-American New Yorkers.

That is what I want to do. Make a difference in other people's lives. As the quote the hangs on my wall says, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
  I am happy again.
Today is April 8, 2008. The date is only relevant because the post that follows this one has been sitting in the memory of my typewriter since February 25. Time flies when you are ignoring the world. (Actually it is now May 11 and I have no idea what happened to the February 25 post. Did I get it finished and mailed out or is it sitting in one of my many to-do envelopes. It is no longer in the memory of the typewriter so I do not even know what it was about.)

I am feeling good today, and starting early, 10:00 AM, to see if I can get something in the mail today. I will be editing both this post and the leftover one and if I can stay focused they will be in the mail and on their way to the blog. (Note on 5/11/08: So much for staying focused!)

I have decided to take the blog in a direction that may end up looking like a plot line from the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show. I have realized that in eighteen months I will be appearing in front of my first and hopefully last parole board. This particular event is occurring 60 days prior to my earliest release date of November 2009.

The journey over these eighteen months will hopefully be well documented on the blog. I am going to be honest and add that I am hoping to engage all of you readers in the journey with me. Your support will become an integral part of this journey. The emotional downside to this journey is severe. If I spend the next eighteen months planning a life outside of prison, and am denied release, then it will be two years before I get another chance at freedom. If I choose to ignore reality, and the world, (like leaving a post sitting in the memory of the typewriter for over a month) than I will certainly not be released.

Now is the time to plan. What I can use help with is getting as many different points of view of my plans, and also rely on the varied life experiences of my readership to broaden my knowledge.

In one sense I am starting with a clean slate. After spending the last 144 months incarcerated, I have little concrete knowledge of what it is going to take for me to support myself on the outside. Even the basics, food, clothing and shelter are things that I have not had to deal with. I need to gather general information to be able to formulate a plan for how I will live once I leave this life of living in a governmentally funded secure location.

Perhaps some of you may be willing to provide generic housing information. What are the rents for apartments in a particular area? Another example would be someone willing to apply current prices to the food I am buying at a discount. I know I can exist on the food I buy. I have no idea what things cost in the real world. Sure I would love to be eating T-Bone Steaks, lobster, shrimp and other delicacies, but from day one, I need to know about the necessities I need to exist.

I will lay out some employment possibilities, and perhaps be able to get some solid advice as to if there is any hope for my plans. Some of the information I would like to gather can certainly be sent in via the blog anonymously. In the long run, perhaps I may be able to develop some "live" contacts but do not panic, I will take what you are willing to give.

By the way, everyone is encouraged to simply read my musing, and do nothing. That is okay too. Just the fact that people are reading what I write goes a long way to supporting my self-esteem and desire to go forward.

Initially my goal is to be able to build a foundation of where I am at now, and gather all the various issues that you all out there in the free world deal with on a. daily basis. Things such as health care, dental care, clothing, food, all things I have not had to depend solely on myself for. Yes I have spent most of the last few years providing my own meals, but I have had access to three meals a day, without any cost. Once I am released, I will be in need of feeding myself each and every day task I certainly look forward to but one that I have not had any practical experience with in over 144 months.

I am not sure if any of this makes sense yet, but hang in here for a while, pass on comments and questions you may have and we will begin this journey together.

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