Prison Pete

Friday, November 14, 2008
  Wonder Wheel.
"Trying to Uphold Coney Island's Character, City Buys Wonder Wheel Site," a headline in a recent NY Times article certainly caught my attention. As a child growing up in the New York City area, Coney Island always was a place that I hoped Dad would steer the car off the Belt Parkway and stop at.

When we would head home from visiting Grandma, we would pass by this wonderful site of rides and other attractions. As we neared the exit that would deliver us to the rides, there would be some quiet mumbling from the front seat of the car as Mom and Dad would discuss if stopping off at Coney Island was an option. Okay, maybe it would be more like Dad wanting to stop and hoping Mom (who had the pocketbook with the money) would agree.

Most of the time there was a standard two-pack we all would enjoy. First, was the ride on the Wonder Wheel and then each of us would get an order of Nathan's French Fries.

The Wonder Wheel is a rather unique Ferris wheel in that it has two different types of car's to ride in. One set is the traditional and simply hangs in the same position on the wheel with some mild rocking back and forth. Each of the second set travels on their own oval track within the circular structure of the wheel. As you begin to climb up higher on the ride the car begins to slide into the center of the wheel. This would always provoke giddy laughter from us kids, and a mild exclamation from Mom. "Ooh, Honey," Mom would say, holding tightly to Dad's arm.

One time Mom and Dad sent us three kids on a ride by ourselves. This was certainly a unique experience. The ride was called the Bobsled. It was an older ride and a form of roller coaster. The ride started off by diving into a dark tunnel where a loud siren blasted you right out of your seat. You emerged from the dark at the top of the hill and started racing down a wooden trough without any tracks to guide the 'sled'. The sled was had around ten cars, each two seats that held four people, on wheels. Since there was no track to guide the sled, you would slither like a snake up and down the sides of the trough. It did move a lot faster than any snake we had ever seen. After the ride we discovered that Mom and Dad knew about the ride from their younger days and did not warn us about the darkness or the siren.

We would occasionally get to ride the bumper cars and the carousel, but it was the Wonder Wheel that was the standard ride each time we stopped at Coney Island. Coney Island is located on the beach in Brooklyn, NY. Out one side of the Wonder Wheel you could see miles of the ocean, on the other all of Brooklyn.

The Nathan's fries are special in that they are freshly cut and fried twice right on the premises. This double frying gives a nice crunchy outside and moist tasty inside. Served with lots of catsup, they are a much better fry than served at Burger King or McDonalds.
Friday, November 07, 2008
  Dad Died.
It has been about two weeks since I received the news that my dad had passed away.

If you have a death in the immediate family, New York State Department of Corrections will take you to the funeral service provided it is within the borders of New York State. As the celebration of my dad's life took place in Pennsylvania, this excluded my attendance.

There was the semi-annual REC event held last weekend in the facility gym. Ironically the last time I visited with my parents was in the gym at a family event in June of 2007.

REC (Residents Encounter Christ) is a three day retreat sponsored by the Albany Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. They sponsor REC's in about seven facilities in this area. This was the 42nd one held at my location.

On Saturday evening we have a hootenanny which includes an additional 15 or so volunteers joining the 15 already leading the weekend. There is a lot of upbeat signing and a talk given by one of the volunteers about finding peace.

After the talk, I had the opportunity to dedicate and sing a hymn to my dad. I briefly shared with my fellow inmates and the volunteers that I was celebrating Dad's life and that by default they were all being included in the celebration. I mentioned how the last time I saw my father was in the gym and that my dad would have certainly enjoyed the evening with all the singing and inspirational talk.

The song was "I Am the Bread of Life" by Suzanne Toolan, SM. Let me sing it for you. Oops that will not work.

It is originally published by G.I.A. Publications and I know it is in the ELCA "Evangelical Lutheran Worship", hymn # 485 if anyone cares to look up the music.

The words follow:

Refrain: And I will raise you up, and I will raise you up and I will raise you up on the last day,
l. I am the Bread of Life, You who come to me shall not hunger, and who believe in me shall not thirst, no one can come to me unless the Father beckons.
2. The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world and if you eat of this bread, you shall live forever, you shall live forever.
3. Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, and drink of his blood, you shall not have life within.
4. I am the Resurrection, I am the life. If you believe in me, even though you die, you shall live forever.
5. Yes, Lord I believe that you are the Christ, The Son of God, who have come into the world.

Sunday Father John, a Franciscan, dedicated the mass to my dad.

So off you go Dad. I am proud to be your son, although I am certainly not proud of ending up in prison. I am sorry that due to my own actions I was not around to be with you and Mom as I should have been. Your constant love and support was and will be with me always and for that I am very grateful and lucky.

With the nice long phone call with Mom, the celebration at REC, the dedication of the mass today, and this blog post, I have been able to share my dad with the rest of the world, both near and far. Given the limitations I am at peace.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008
  Now is the time
I could really use some good classical music. Where is NPR when I need it?

I dropped my radio the other day and knocked the headphone jack off the circuit board. The guy in the cube next to me did attach a different jack, but it is not doing the stereo mix right, so I am getting all one side in both ears. Maybe I will pull out the keyboard at 10 PM when the lights go out and make my own music.

This weekend, probably as you are reading this, I will be participating in the semi-annual REC retreat. REC = Residents Encounter Christ. It is sponsored by the Albany Diocese and there will be about fifteen volunteers from the outside. About fifty inmates will start out at Friday around noon. It will last till 9:00 PM Friday night, Saturday from 8 AM till 9 PM and Sunday 8:00 to 3:00.

It will certainly be helpful to be surrounded by some human beings that care about us inmates as people.

Well that is all for now. Thanks to you for your continued support and for being my friend.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
  Sad News.
I came back to the dorm around 7:30 PM and the following letter was waiting for me:

Dear Son,

I have missed your letters and phone calls. In the meantime I have been very busy with Dad. He needed multiple rounds of chemotherapy treatments and many blood transfusions.

He seemed to be doing very well at one time and celebrated his 80th birthday here at the house. It was well attended by many people. family from near and far, friends from NY and PA, old friends from St. Stevens church and many others.

After the party he enjoyed a couple of comfortable months when all seemed to be doing well in his blood.

However, two weeks ago he slowed down quite a bit and was having a lot of difficulty breathing. The doctor initially thought that he might be dehydrated as Dad did not like drinking a lot of liquids. He was not always so good at telling the doctor how he was feeling.

He got an infection in one of his teeth and his body was not able to fight it off due to the chemotherapy treatments. On Friday, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance and he died the next day on Saturday evening.

Dad was cremated and a memorial service was held at St. John's Lutheran Church on Saturday. It was so crowded that they needed to set up extra chairs. His ashes were spread by the family from the bridge at the bottom of the falls.

How are you getting along now with your leg? Are you still playing at the two church services?

It is okay to call me here at the house.

I am enclosing the normal money order.

[signed] Mother

So now what? It is 9:00 PM here, and I will wait till tomorrow to try and call from the chaplain's office. I am entitled to one emergency phone call, and I would like to be able to make the call with Chaplain Paul around. I have told two of the inmates here in the last hour or so but hey there is no one here I can talk to at all. I can not even find a corner to cry in.

Tomorrow I will go to work in the morning and then hopefully get up to see the chaplain around 1:00 PM

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