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On the Concerns of Others…

14/09/2014   |   2 Comments

I'm feeling happiness for someone else? This never happens!Deny this ugly age of self mania; recognize the concerns of others.

Something I dislike about myself is that I’m occasionally caught off guard by my reaction to the concerns of others. I spend so much time pretending to care that when it’s real, my whole being awakens. And it doesn’t matter if my bureaucratic, rubber-stamping brain comes along or not.

Finding myself 100% unreservedly happy for someone else’s joy, for instance, makes me need to find a chair, fast; to think and relish the awareness before it fades. Sadly, I can only remember nine or ten instances in which I recognized the strange sensation of wanting to sing out-loud because something good happened to someone else.

It works the other way too, like it did with Big Wednesday, a well-fed, fifty-something homeless guy with sun-bleached dreads. I hadn’t seen him when I pulled into the gas station, but suddenly he was at my bumper. Read the rest of this entry »

Upselling Prison

05/09/2014   |   No Comments »

No matter what your prisonware supplier tells you - these do NOT age wellA former inmate sizes up detention products

It’s a dubious distinction, I know, but I’ve been among the first 75 inmates to enter a brand new prison. The place hadn’t been “officially” opened yet, and it wasn’t even entirely complete. In fact, it took months before the technological marvel it was said to be actually began to function as designed. My memoir, Where Excuses Go to Die, can tell you more about that story; today we’re simply going to look at some of the design elements and corrections products that represent modern incarceration in America.

Big phone companies rip off inmate familiesI bring up my own experience because, in the absence of a boisterous and threatening prison population, I actually had the luxury of appreciating the punitive design genius behind shelving, inmate phones, door hinges, mattresses, linens, flooring, high pressure laminate table tops, mirrors, hooks and hardware, and so forth – almost as if they’d been displayed in an art gallery. It was spooky and (relatively) wonderful.

Imagine an essentially empty prison, almost entirely free of brutality, toothless Yard apes, and the white power hoo ha they blabber on about. It didn’t last, of course, but I treasured it while it did. Throughout the following year, inmates and staffers recognizing each other from that quieter time enjoyed something of a secret handshake, as if we were a step above unappreciative newcomers. It made eye contact and common goals a bit easier for us both to reach.

At any rate, whether you take your first custody turd in a prison cell, a county jail, or a police substation, sitting on your first steel pot will make you wonder what sadist invented such an uncomfortable throne. Read the rest of this entry »