Sunday, February 27, 2005

What a visit means - by Average Joe

Our cells have bars across the front - so - we can hear and talk to each other. 14 men on my floor. Conversations are generally open to whom ever wishes to join in. We discuss many topics. From politics - to theology - books - sports - whatever. Sometimes we just joke around for a few laughs.

You may live on the same floor with guys for years. So, it´s like a little community. This is a good floor I am on. We all get along pretty good. Each floor is different. As is each person. Plus you have some who are stressed out or may have mental problems. But, this is a good floor.

My neighbor just called me - asked what I´m up to. Said he could hear the noise from my hamster wheel turning ! We kid each other like that. Told him I was doing some serious thumb twiddling and occasional toe tapping.

Someone mentioned they had a three day visit - starting tomorrow. Ah visit. That's as good as it gets here. Six hours with a loved one or a close friend or family. If they live out of State they get a three day visit. Six hours each day. Something you really can look forward to !

I step into the visiting park see my visitor - the weight lifts off my shoulders. A sparkle lights my eyes and a smile comes automatically to my lips. What really cool is I see the same reaction in them. Then hug and a kiss. Feels so good. Its hard to describe. I´m in this cell all the time alone. No touching - no hugs - alone ! Its like having life pumped back inside you. It flows through your veins. Unfreezes you from the coldness that has surrounded you.

You get a table to yourselves. Oh there's others about. Guards to watch over everyone. All on best behavior ! But, it does not matter. You shut all of that out and there's just you and your friend. To sit and talk, laugh, share some goodies - sodas. Hold hands. Get up and stroll about, hand in hand. For those who wish - there´s scrabble and other board games or cards, or for kids or story books for kids.

It´s not just six hours. But, six quality hours of closeness and warmth. And time to remember. For when the visit is over - to carry with you. And when you feel alone. You remember - the look in the eyes - the smiles - laughs - how it felt to hold someone close and kiss her ! The way she smells - tasted ! Um ! If family - the thing you share with family.

You know it will be sad time when they leave. But, you accept that part. Cause the good outweights the bad the fold. You use those memories as a source of strength to get you by till the net visit ! And to keep those bonds between you strong ! Some get visits every week. Some of us can not. So, have to make each one count !

So, if any of you are considering visiting someone, do it ! It´s a good thing!

Birds on the row - by Average Joe

Tell you of a strange contrast I´ve found. Birds of all types winter here. They build their nests about the building. The pidgeons build their nests on the light fixtures high on sides of wings. The doves - under the razor wire on the top of the fence.

The little sparrows and fences - inside the holes of the posts that hold the fence up ! So, this place which for me is of suffering and death, for the birds - it´s a safe refuge - a haven to build their nests - homes - lay eggs - raise their family.
A contrast so stark - it always makes me smile !

Sometimes a squirrel will run down the top of our fence. Life !

Time to come in - which I always hate ! Leaving the light behind - to enter the dark again !
Get cuffed behind the back - back up the stairs to cell - cuffs off. Time for another bath - strip down - hey no looking !
Then, wash out yard clothes. We shower - in the shower cell three times a week. So, I take a lot of bird baths in my sink. They also do laundry. But, they pick up hundreds of bags each time - just toss them all together in machines. So I wash my own whites. From laundry they come back dingy.

Anyway, past 11 a.m. Time for coffee ! I´m hungry as a bear. Always am after two hours of yard. Which brings us to lunch.

And the yelling of "Chow Time" again ! Tea ! Tea - sucks !

So does this food tray. Macaroni casserole. At least that's what they call it. Some evil concoction of noodles and some type of meat. I´m not sure from what animal - maybe yak or gnu. Nasty tasting critter what ever it is.

Our food has sucked since they contracted it out to Aramark. You look at the menu - it looks like a good variety of food, but, its not. Only real meat is chicken and liver. Rest is processed crap. Mostly soy or turkey. We get turkey out the wazoo. Turkey Hot Dogs - Turkey Sausage - Turkey Bologna. Then processed Turkey Slice ! Somewhere turkeys are catching hell. And even then - its parts of a turkey leftovers.

Probably - feet and beaks and that red thing that hangs down under their beaks. No doubt poop holes ! Anyway, I eat the spoon full of salad and pinto beans. Dump the rest.

Fortunately today is canteen day. We can order canteen once a week if we can afford it.
And yes, it is important !

Not life and death. But, to the spirit. It is nice to be able to order a few items as you need. Maybe a cold soda once a week - or an ice cream. A sandwich. To be able to get food stuff that will keep for a week - like peanut butter and saltine crackers. Some bag - o. soups which are freeze dried noodles and a flavor pouch. Or some chips - or nutty bars. These are the cheaper items. But they will get you through days - when the food on the trays is inedible !

Or a snack with a cup of coffee. When I get extra money - I splurge some. Buy the good stuff. Chili or beef stew. Come in a bag - you can heat under your hot water in sink - meal in a bag ! Or tuna fish packs - me and a friend make what we call Tuna Schnitzel ! A pack of tuna - cook up the pack of noodles - add the flavor pack - Cajun chicken. Five mayonnaise packs. Two packs of cheese - one jalapeno - one cheddar. Then one pack of nacho cheese chips. Delicious on saltine crackers !

So, for my friends who help out when they can - thanks !! It is appreciated. Anyway canteen has run, I had my cold coke and some peanut butter and crackers. I´m good till the next meal !

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Two hours outside - by Average Joe

Ah, yard - has just been called ! Which means my floor - gets hours outside on the exercise yard this morning. So, I will leave you guys for a while - sit back - have a cup of coffee or whatever.

11 a.m. I´m back ! To catch you guys up. For yard - they come by at 8 a.m. - yell yard - ask who all plans to go. Then we usually have 30 to 40 minutes to get up and get ready. Get my yard shorts out - a t-shirt - underwear - socks - tennis shoes - and my cap ! I always wear it turned backwards - like a sweat band.

Put those on the bars. Make sure my bed is made - everything else stored in my locker !
Then take a bird bath in the sink. It´s generally common courtsey to not go out all stinky !
The guards come do a visual inspection of our body. Raise the unmentionable balls. Spread the butt cheeks - open mouth - raise feet so they can see the bottom of feet - raise arms to check the pits.

Each time that rebellious part of me says screw the crap. But, the sensible part says just do it - get it over ! It gives me some solace that most of them don´t like seeing us naked either !
Back up to the food slot - be handcuffed behind the back - then out the back door - down a flight of metal stairs. Out the back door - to a gate on the fence leading to our yard.

We step inside - they close the gate - remove handcuffs - open the inner gate - I am on the exercise yard. The yards are between two wings. A triangle shape. Like a slice of pizza.

Wide at the front - narrows as it reaches a point at the rear. It´s just a slab of concrete - with a 12 foot high fence around it. With razor wire all over the top. Room enough for a volley ball court and kind of half basket ball court. With a pull up and dip bar behind the basket ball goal - not great but usable !

I always take a minute to stop and appreciate the day - today was beautiful - clear blue sky - not a cloud insight - about 60° F. Can see the trees off in the distance - cars moving on the highway. Nice, stop take time to shake hands - or tap knuckles - a few words to guys I know ! Then play volley ball - or basket ball for the two hours.

Man, I remember when I first came 1977. I had never played basket ball or volley ball. Just baseball and football on the streets. I was 20 years old. Strong - fast - athletic. After a few years I got pretty good at both. Now, I´m not quiet as fast. So I use experience to compensate ! I still move well for 48. I work out in the cell three times a week. So I enjoy the competition and a good sweat.

Breakfast is over - by Average Joe

So, I still do - even though I´ve seen no rats or roaches over here yet.
Breakfast over - I sit back - sip my coffee - watch the morning news. See what´s happened while I slept. Check the sports scores ! Then plug in my head phones to the little walkman G.P.X. stereo radio. I haven´t a clue what brand G.P.X. could be. But, it´s functional. If I place it in a good spot in my cell I can pick up some stations in stereo. I listen to what ever type of music I´m in the mood for. Variety keeps it from becoming boring. My favorite is old rock. But, I like all kinds - even Celtic music. Most have gone back to sleep after breakfast - it´s very quiet. A good time to think or write. I assume those up - are taking advantage as I am of the quiet time. Though sometimes I too go back to sleep. Just depends on how I feel.

Nurse passes by in the hallway. Checking to see if anyone has a call out request or pass out medication. The Medical Department is a mess. You can´t even get to see a doctor unless the nurse deems it necessary. Or it´s a declared emergency. Last time I tried - my knee was swollen - she stopped asked me what was wrong - I told and showed her. Then she asked me what I thought the doctor could do ? I said "Äh - I guess look at it - examine it - give me something for the swelling - maybe an ace bandage." She made notes. Came back the next day - gave me 30 pills of the cure all - wonder - drug. Said that was what the doctor recommended. So, I was diagnosed and treated without ever being examined. And no ace bandage either.

Charged a $ 4.00 co-payment ! So, I said screw it. Took the pills - and exercised my knee - put hot compresses on it till I got it back to normal. Took about three months. There was one guy who had chronic stomach problems. They kept telling him he just had acid and nerve problems. Anxious. Then he got real sick, they did tests, finally found he had cancer. Had for a long time. He died less than three months later. We´ve had 7 - or 8 die of cancer the past five years. I find it unusually high rate. But they say it´s because of the men on the row are aging.

I thought cancer hit any age !

There are a few others with some type of it. Anyway, best not to get sick !

Animals at Florida State Prison - by Average Joe

In the old days at F.S.P. the place was infested with cockroaches. I mean thousands of them. They got into everything. If I set a cup of juice - or food down - leave it there for five minutes - roaches would be all inside it. I once removed the back of my radio - to clean it out - dust. There were hundreds of roaches inside it. Apparently they like the warmth and dark. And ate the wax inside. Soon as I opened it they scattered. I was stomping roaches for five minutes - and still half of them got away.

I´d be laying back watching T.V. and one would drop off the ceiling onto my chest. Turn the light on - they would be all over the walls and cell. I would get up - use my shower slides. Kill all I could. I killed thousands over the years - didn´t make a dent. I´m sure others did also. There were so many - you could smell them. And always seem to find a way into the food trays !

Those and rats ! Rats everywhere. Big bastards too. I called the big ones "T-Rats". Like the dinosaur - "T-Rex". When I first got to F.S.P. and summer came - I decided - since it was like 100° F in the cell - I´d put my mattress on the floor - it would be cooler. I did - it was cooler. Then I woke up late that night - with a rat sitting on my chest. I could see his red lil eyes in the hall light. Just sitting there - cool as could be. I stayed still till it climbed off me - scurried away. Got up, put my mattress back on my bunk. Never slept on the floor again.

Heard another guy pulled out his card board box one night - one jumped out - bit him on the cheek - had to put our food stuff in a bag. Hang in on a clothes line to keep them out of it. In a plastic bag to keep the roaches out. Anyway - with so many rats - there´s lot of rat turds about. Which also got into food at times ! So along with those surprise treats - and the occasional piece of metal or plastic. You always checked the food.

An average day on Death Row - by Average Joe

Ahh, the sun shining through my window - freshly brewed coffee smell coming from the kitchen.
A cheerful voice calls out laughingly asking - " Hey sleepy head you gonna stay in bed all morning."
My stomach groans knowing there´s bacon and eggs - with some strawberry jam - being made for me and I´ll soon be tasting ! Nice thoughts huh, yeah, such things are my dreams made of
- but back to reality !

I wake up - roll off my bunk - stretch out to get rid of the kinks or still asleep parts of my body - from the lumps in my mattress. Look about - see the walls - bars across the front of my cell - dimly lit hallway. The scent of a lot of men in a confined space - and the hallway drain - which seems to be backed up again from the smell.
Yeah, everything is still there - which unfortunatly means so am I.

And the day begins at 5:45 - with the sound of breakfast coming on the wing and shouts from the guards and runner rounds of
" Chow Time - Coffee !"

I get up - walk to the door - a food tray is slid in the food slot in the door. A plastic tray - like they used in school for lunch. Take the lid off - 2 cold pancakes - like wise with the oatmeal - some type of syrup and a glob of margarine. Supposed to get an orange - but some genius decided to slice the oranges in half - and send them back all tossed in to a garbage can like container. So, few eat them. Too much chance of germs. I pass on the State coffee. Tastes like crap. Make my own cup from hot water in the sink.

Check the oatmeal - to be sure there´s no foreign objects in it. There usually isn´t here at Union Correctional. But, I still do it out of habit - from when Death Row was at F.S.P. (Florida State Prison). Death Row lived at F.S.P. - until around 1992 - when they opened this new facility at Union Correctional.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Happy Valentine ?? - by Average Joe

Feb 14th, makes 28 years for me on the row.
I came to F.S.P. Feb 14th 1977
6 months in jail before that.
28 1/2 years in all !

a sad hello from Average Joe