Carlosians 8:l5~The Saga of Sammy Joe
There is biblical irony to being not guilty, yet shackled with a life sentence. With an over ambitious, lazy and corrupt police force playing an angry, jealous, vengeful God casting down my audacious, shining and Luciferian belief in truth and justice. Burying me in my own personal hell. I have been able to perseveree, and at least maintain a sense of humor, but I am almost always in a constant crisis of faith.
As I wander around the prison world, my spirituality wallows between cold numbness and hot lamentation. Almost completely done with divinity and faith, sometimes the desperate, hooked claws of old habits cling stubbornly to the heart. The lovely sea of guilt- spawning indoctrinations I swam through in my solid,educated,Catholic upbringing sometimes rolls in like a neap tide.
I often find myself falling prey to the Indiana Jones temple- trap of omen hunting. Hat,whip and peashooter at the ready, I plunge into the merry chase of Loch—Ness-monster—photos,bigfoot—print—casts, and UFO—lights— like signs of fresh messages from a long silent God.
Some Iightning flash of the Almighty's middle—finger shot at the hubris of blasphemy I so often indulge in. There is a small part of me that would prefer the squawky—voiced TV evangelist's promises of damnation to the void of nothingness of an afterlife the faith of the mtheﬂﬁzpromises. If only so the believers can find the peace they so desperately long for.
This is what happened the last time I glimpsed the fleeting shadow of a little—green—reptilian—yeti of a message from God in my mind's eye.
In prison, as in prison life, there are little quick steps of betterness- Not necessarily goddness, but things are a little better. One such spot of relativity is your living quarters. On this particular facility, better than the three—tiers—wrapped-around~a+ dayroom—cell—boxes of the "buildings", better than "Ad—Seg" where the isolated are sequestered to grow (and caper about in) their own individual psychosises, is the shining city on the penitentiary hill of crushed dreams and broken souls, the "dorms."
Still drenched in rusting metal,concrete,flaking paint, cobwebs, steam and manstench. Still decorated with iron beams,exposed conduit, hanging insulation, Guantanimo Bay torture lights and a lattice of barred, chained and fenced security. Human warehouses though they are, the misnamed dorms feel like freedom when compared to the hot boxes of the buildings.
Dorm assignment bequeathes each slab of numbered manmeat his own kingdom of a ten-foot by—five foot space, with royal subjects of a desk and metal bunk with welded on foot locker. The majesty's august borders are defended by four—foot walls that allow acca&3through a doorless three+foot gap. A common shower/bathroom area allows for the humanitarian boon of not having to sit on the throne (modern
American version) where you sleep and eat‘
The dorms serve a bit more discerned clientele. Occupants have to earn a spot through a stellar disciplinary record, the age—old» pay—a—guy, having been caught with a cellmate in a carnal dalliance, or by the blessing/curse of being too fat, too skinny, too old, too
H short or too broken down to be matched up for cell living by the overworked (for their abilities) and overpaid (for their abilities) correctional staff.
Most deformed, deficient or debauched square pegs go to the round hole of Y—pod. I was chosen like a desert—addled Lost Trlbesman to go to the land of milk and honey, X—pod.
A lot of my good friends live on X—pod. Also present are the full~time, non—working, students of the faith—based Authentic Man program. Making X—pod the calming and maddening house of the God-
Pod. The presence of this motley band of ne'er—do—well but pray, chastise and try—real—hards led to the latest sighting of a posible herald of Yahweh (not to be confused with the 'tentry Spanish "ya, buay" which translates to "stop, mule" in English but really means the Vinnie Barbarino—ian "awrite awready",maybe it is to be confused,
I'm confused, I hope your not confused).
My entire life (not just the Life Sentence), through trying real hard,or arrogance, I have only done three things that I absolutely regret. No,not the crime that put me in prison, cataclysmic dinosaur- killing meteor slamming into the Mesozoic earth of my life that it was, I did not and could not bring myself to ever commit the crime, pay for it though I have.
First on the Cavalcade of head—scratching, guilt~in—the—gut memory lane paths:I had this girlfriend. She was perfect, silly the way only girls can be silly,cute the way only girls can be cute, smart enough to get my jokes, curious and humble enough to look up words I used she didn't understand, loving, kind and ridiculously in love with me (her only flaw). She gave me the "my—period's~late" scare/.commitment test; I'm shamed to admit that it scared the bejeezus out my twenty—year old cusp—of—life—and—manhood self. When her period began, the dam of my fear and doubt broke and I broke up with her.
She cried and couldn't eat for two weeks. I have never done anything in my life that caused so much pain.
The conga line of flouncy—haired dingbats, hoop—earringed hoodrats, after—party sex—for—moneys, romance—dearthed sex—for—sexes, recommissioned lesbians, not—my—baby baby—mommas, wanitbe—my—baby baby mommas that followed in my mummer's farce of a love life, makes me realize I should have married her. Even though she didn't like to cuddle. ,,All smiles
I've earned through frolic, feat, or favor are dim mockeries of her passionate, loving, gleaming tango of teeth and lips.
The second regret is rather strange,but a regret nonetheless. By virtue of no divinity, the pursuit of virtue becomes a pursued virtue of mine. From the cornucopia of morality Uﬁs world of fruits and nuts offers, I have chosen three edicts/codes/quotes to live by,
In no particular order:
°Hippocrates' "Do ye no harm"
-Jesus‘ "Love one another as I have loved you"
-Shakespear's "To thine ownself be true."
My own little trinity. I've lived all my prison days by it.
One particular prison day, after no access to the commissary for forty days, we were all on a hellquest to go to store to spend our mommas' money on essentials; food,hygene and medication. The supplies on the ark were dwindling down, some of the two—by—twos were down to one—by—ones or none—by—nones. A bosslady with a mean face,and no small amount of pull, whom I had earned some favor with by stellarly living by my trinity, put me in the front of the line.
Immediately ahead of a bald dead~eyed prisongKOﬂﬁﬁt,not three years removed from a forty—eight day fast. Also ahead of a twisting line of about forty sweaty,impatient, three—hour—sun—blasted, puff and huffing convicted felons.
I had cut in line for personal gain. There was,luckily no harm done, but I didn't love as Jesus loved (sacrificingly) and I belied
"living quarters even better. mine ownself.
The third of my regrets did cause some little harm.
.the aforementioned life—by—the—trinity impressed bosslady, her aforementioned pull, is that I hogged a pasty, bald,
A blasphemy to the trinity.
I made my aforementioned oh so important
The regretful aspect of the situation sleep all day to dream away his sentence Christian for his bunk. I was falsely informed by my new neighbor/co—worker/best friend that the poor sap was willing to move.
He did move, but he was upset.
His rebellion of my conquest and occu—_ pation was limited to haﬁjlymgaﬂmxed secret Christmunity group whisperings that turned to angry resentful stares, for the discernment of God's will on the reputation,
Pastybaldpate's displeasure. owed favors and moxie to weather and prayer circles the matter. Ultimately I had the firestorm of
I still have the bunk, but just because in their eyes,the taking of the bunk ended up being the will of the
Almighty,didn't make it right by the trinity. It was with a mind on a debt owed to the Christmunity that my soul searched for a speck of Godsign.
A couple of days after my third
Cold—War—Era—Russian—like bread line amalgamation of processed and poorly that you enough sustenance to ensure but not a day,or calorie: more.
Perhaps, regret, I was standing in the to recieve my sack lunch. An forged foodstuffs with just serve every day of your sentence as a result of the meager fare, a heavy—footed little fat guy with a sgueekylgentle voice; steeled himself to approach me. Reputed to have once been a boxer,
‘ and that huge head looked like it could absorb some damage. Maybe as a thin youth, but his gait was too heavy and he seemed too timid.
Though generally friendly,
I can sometimes be boisterous and opinionated, especially with men—of—God. A Cro—Magnon brow shelf atop beady eyes,’ atop a throwback—to—Arab—controlled—Spain hawk—like nose, atop a six—foot two—hudred—and—thirty pound hulking Mexican—American, my confused furrowed—brow visage when he got my attention must have had the effect of disturbing some bizarre flightless raptor.
Steel himself he must, and approach he did.
"Uh,huh,uh Carlos, how ya’ doin'?"
"Alright, what's up"
"Well, uh, I don't know why I'm asking this-.."
"S'okay,just ask", a chuckle and hand on his shoulder for comfort.
"God,God just put it on my heart to ask you,um...Some of the Christians are getting together to try to help out the brothers that don't have anything"
"Sure, I'll see what I've got"
"Not just Christians, though, all the brothers, you know Parks right?"
"The pot—bellied bearded Native American with the hernia that looks like an erection on his stomach, and the stalking problem"
"Sure, I've known him about twelve years, good friend of mine."
KHu',Ha, well he decides who needs the stuff most,Soups or soaps or whatever"
"Sure, no problem" I re—agreed.
In Texas, prisoner workers are not compensated in any way. NO money, no time off your sentence, no more likelihood for parole, not even enough food to eat or soap to bathe with. However, those who are lucky enough to have family(Momma) or friends (homeboy's baby momma) to send them money can spend it on food,hygene products and over—the—counter medication. Many people are not so lucky.
Christians call them brothers (Asian Christians call everyone bruddah, well, little Li the warden's eggroll maker does, praise God).
In this instance of penitentiary philanthropy, "soups" are the gwenty—seven cent packets of Nissin® Top Ramen, ramen noodles (in chile, chicken or beef), that live as a staple as they must in college dormitories, Section 8 housing and cannabis dens.
Vsoaps" are little institutionally scented, hotel one—time—use size bars of anti—bacterial Dial®. They supplement the five match- book size bars of lye and lard that the prison gives its ward a week, to bathe, wash and sanitize. They are so small that guards use three at a time to wash their hands. Amazing considering that guards‘hands aren't that big, generally, and they are not that astute at cleanliness, generally.
I normally have a little disdain for the Christmunity. I respect them as any good convict respects any criminal organization out for the enrichment of its members,but the hypocrisy is a little thick with them and their leaders. Unfortunately, I had wronged one of their members, and if the God of all things, maker of heaven and earth is taking time out of his busy schedule of glory and praise collecting, to graffiti my name on the degenerate,loverworked, under—excercised, corrupt heart of a little fat glutton, I might as well give his request a shot. Give1%hU3ChristmunitV to prove their much ballyhooed goodness, save some face with them for hogging one of their bunks, and find the sign/portent/omen that has been eluding me for seventeen yearS- Just a little posi—vibes to show that maybe just maybe my blasphemies have been in vain, my ancestors have a peaceful post—death existence and the gentle-voiced tele—evangelist% exquisite coiffure is truly divine. Even if it means all dogs,Mafia bosses and child molesters go to heaven.
I stepped into my subjegated kingdom of a cubicle and ransacked for a little charity. A killer—whale fin of a memory surfaced through an ocean of repression as I found it. I had mind—blocked a recent seventv—two hour,non-line cutting, commissary ordeal. Could it have been a bolt of Jesus hurled stupiditv that caused the sales window grunt to misread my list and give me forty bars of soap instead of the ten I wrote down on my slip? Was it the hooves of one of the steeds from an apocolyptic horseman running over the earth that caused the unit's operations to be so extremely off of their normal only a little off paces,thatJZwas too flustered to object? Was this stupid bundle of soap that kept getting underfoot like a playful lamb really a sacrifice I was to render unto God to bring me back in the fold? Great Jehosephet! Was God speaking after two thousand years of silence, and speaking to me with a pudgy pile as my burning bush?
I skeptically stewed in the pot of possibilities and gave the little penguin man the soap and some Top Ramen.
Somewhen, somewhere, somehow, someone showed me that when you do a good deed, just do it and forget it, Ehat way you know you did it for the right reasons. I moved on with my day and forgot about soups, soaps, heart scribbles, on high shots of stupid, Gabriel's horn and secret messages from up above. Then, I was reminded.
I was lying in my bunk boldly gazing at the unfolding breadth, of human history, daring to plot my course in honorably serving my duty to it, or reading a comicbook. I only do one of those two :?:::y things when I'm lying awake in my bunk. Just then Sammy Joe eclipsed the institutional light. Identifying with his mother's (whom he disdains) people (white) yet hanging out with his father's (whom he adores) people (Mexican), this brown bearded and blond mustached little spark-
8 plug of a frat—boy's presence has lightened up my life (sentence) just as he now darkened my door. With the mischevious gleam in his curiously blue eyes , ghosted over with a hint of the night's indulgences, he got my attention.
"Dude, you'll never guess what happened"
"Whu,hu,hut happened"I chuckled back like my Grandpa at some kiddie bit of hijinx.
"Me and Chacka are on the bench,lit, going through there,he's so stoopid, ha,ha,ha,..."
"No, look, this guy comes up to me and says ‘God bless you brother, the brothers want you to have this’ and he gives me ten bars of soap and six soups"
"Wait a minute, didn't you just give a speech about how ‘if your not spending ninety—five go to the back of the line?"
"yeah ha ha"
"On hell dayl?"
"You cut in front of me!"
"You still took the soaps"
"And soups, God bless that man"
"I just gave that sonuvabitch thirty soaps"
"Well God bless you,too "
"Hold up, who else got stuff"
"I don't know, me , chacka,JP,Caveman,Tim..."
"Awww man, not again, I forgot who I was dealing with"
"What do you mean?"
"ﬂoﬂﬁeall pretty little white—boys"
"Ahhh;ha,ha,ha, What's up. rec in morning?"
"uh, yeah if they call it"
" I'm going back to the dayroom"
"Make sure you wash your ass, use the soap"
"God bless that man"
The ruckus I raised after the incident changed the collection,3vetting aﬂidistribution process for the monthly Commissary tithing. They pretty much have it down now. The bastards send limping, flushed face, good natured, grandfatherly Old Man Larry to collect. Nobody wants to say no to Old Man Larry. It really is just some soap and soups.
The sasquatch was a costume, Nessie was just some flotsam, and the UFOs really were just weather balloons. I'm still a spiritually abandoned orphan waiting at the kid's home for my estranged Holy
Father to show up and make everything ice cream and pony rides,
At least,even in hell, the people that populate it can make a better place by just trying real hard and making up for mistakes, when they can. That's good enough to still smile, and to wake up in the morning,
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