Tag Archives: running

Gross

VINCE

The following post is a recap of two of the more disgusting things I saw or dealt with while I was locked up.  I lived with all men for about 460 straight days.  Most of these men, including myself to some extent, were either not capable, or not willing to clean up after themselves, communicate appropriately with others, use toilets properly, or masturbate out of view (not me!).

I’ll start with my personal favorite.  It happened while I was working in the garments section of MinnCorr at Moose Lake prison.  I have mentioned before that I sewed men’s underpants together for a living there.  On a quick side note, it was alarming to me how many grown men take off all of their clothing to make a poop (shit).  It is also interesting to know that roughly 10% of men wipe from the front.  And maybe 2% wipe while standing up.  Keep in mind that these prison bathrooms have a privacy wall on the sides, but nothing at all on the front.  So, as I entered the bathroom this particular day I rounded the corner and saw a man with no pants on taking a shit.  What I found odd is that his hand was reaching into the toilet through the front side.  I don’t normally watch people but that kinda drew my attention.  Without hesitation, he pulled up a piece of his own feces and brought it up to his face and smelled it.  A small piece fell off one end and went back in the bowl.  My only thought was that I was happy he didn’t eat it.  I looked away.  At this point I walked all the way through the bathroom to the other door and exited, having lost my desire to urinate.  I had a slow walk back to my work station, trying to process what I had seen.  Nothing.  I got nothing for ya.

This next incident happened while I was in St. Cloud.  A rather large, very openly gay, very openly H.I.V. positive black man was moved into B house, where I was one of the swampers, otherwise known as house cleaning crew.  Every day I would walk by the cells with cleaning supplies and talk with the other offenders.  It was nice because almost everybody in that terrible prison is on lock-down for about 22 hours a day, so we got to chat.  Well this new guy took a liking to me in a very creepy way.  Every time I walked by his cell he would be very naked, and he would try to talk to me while he was cleaning, but I would walk down the aisle to avoid that.  He would try to touch my hand when I grabbed the spray bottles off of his bars and smile at me in what I assume was an “I’m gonna butter your bread” sort of way.  Well one day he happened to be sitting at my table during chow and he just wouldn’t stop looking at me.  So finally I snapped and yelled, “what!”  He smiled and said, “I would eat you alive.”  Then he proceeded to eat a banana in a very inappropriate manner.  That night during our flag time I walked by the shower stalls and he tried to get my attention while he was showering but I didn’t look.  That night he got his red box and he was shipped out two days later.  I don’t have A.I.D.S.

There aren’t enough words left for me to type another story. But in general, prison was the worst place you could ever be.  There are so many things I think of on a daily basis that ARE the reminder to me–I fuck up, I go back to prison.  No high or drunk can ever be worth losing my freedom.  Nothing in prison will ever be like the relationships I have started anew out here with my family and friends.  Nobody out here poops on the shower floor then mashes it down the grate so they don’t have to do it on a public toilet.  I hope.  And I have yet to see anybody out in the world eating with mouths wide open, splattering bits of food and saliva to and fro.

After a month, things aren’t so overwhelming and everything is getting easier day by day.  It’s still a work in progress, but my future looks bright to me.

BeFUDdled

ANNE

I am writing this on Sunday to post on Monday, which is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I will go to early services, then spend much of the day outside. I love the High Holidays because, for one thing, the weather is always beautiful—crisp and cool, with the leaves starting to change colors and the sky intensely blue. Even though I no longer believe in god, I feel it’s important to participate in community, so I go to services. Now there’s a new prayer book for my stream of Judaism, Reform Judaism, that acknowledges many people’s disbelief. I don’t know if the synagogue I’m going to has it yet, but I look forward to buying a copy. I think that’ll make me feel more “legitimate” walking in the door.

In the evening some friends will come over for dinner. Vince is looking forward to making a real hearty, holiday meal.

Vince has been home for five days. There was so little information available ahead of time that I didn’t clock on to the fact that he’s on house arrest. I don’t know the difference between probation and parole but I thought he’d be on one or the other and would be able to come and go as he pleased, as long as he was doing constructive things like job hunting or going to AA meetings.

But no, he is confined to the house 24/7 except for job hunting from 9-2 Monday through Friday and other things he has to clear with the agents. So for instance he proposed an AA meeting on Saturday night and that was approved but he hadn’t researched how far away the meeting would be or, more important, that there was a meeting at that time—which there isn’t. So he’s looking forward to fine-tuning his schedule.

Yesterday he had a two-hour window approved to go shopping. I thought he would enjoy the farmers market, with all the colors, choices, and people watching. Not to mention, it’s cheap. I dropped him off with some reusable shopping bags and went to park the car. These are the bags.

A few minutes later I got a text from him:

I don’t like it here. There are no instructions. And I’m the only one with purses.

These are the “purses,” aka shopping bags.  Do they look gay?

Bags

He was overwhelmed. I joined him and explained that everything was “two dallah.” We consulted our list for the holiday dinner and he seemed to relax into the experience. Then we went into the adjacent Asian market, which was even more crowded and full of the smells of live fish. He got a kick out of some of the items:

Fud

Last stop, Aldi, also crowded. I am normally a very slow and deliberate shopper but even I was sick of the shopping crowds, so we threw a bunch of stuff in the cart and got back to the house with time to spare.

It is definitely a big adjustment for me to live with someone. The condo is 825 square feet, not large by American standards.

This morning we both got up and out of the house at 7:30 am for exercise. He ran, I walked. I stopped in at the nearby YWCA to get membership info and picked up a scholarship form for Vince. I gave it to him when I got home and won’t ask him every day, “Did you fill out that form?” It’s none of my business.

On the other hand, when I walked into the bathroom and saw some clothing tags next to the wastebasket instead of inside it, that was my business.

“Vince, what would they have done at boot camp if you’d thrown trash on the floor next to the wastebasket?”

“Ah, someone would have picked up after me,” he joked. I think he was joking. Anyway, the tags were gone next time I looked. No drama.

So that’s all I have to do for a year—know when to say something and when to bite my tongue. So far there has been no yelling, eye rolling, sighing, or crying.

A great day for freedom

VINCE

It’s good to be home. After 15 months of incarceration, I’m finally able to type my own words. The first few days have been fairly uneventful. I’ve mostly been relaxing, healing, and setting up my schedule for this week. I took the train down a good portion of University Avenue and back. There were a lot of people everywhere. it’s overwhelming. But I survived. I have a few more posts coming from my last few days in Willow River. Then it’s on to the next phase of my life. Thank you to all our followers, I hope it has been helpful and entertaining at the very least. Here’s the last few posts from prison.

8-2-15   On day two, our first full day of boot camp, we had our initial weigh-in. I had arrived in St. Cloud at an alarming 216 pounds. I did a little better when i got to Moose Lake at 201, with a body-fat percentage of 14.4%. Today we had our final weigh-in. When I saw the numbers appear, I was shocked. 173 pounds and 9.5% body-fat. I succeeded in both of my fitness goals! Then we ran our test-out mile. My entrance mile was 11:14. I shaved off four and a half minutes. One mile in 6:45. I was breathless after i ran but it still felt good.

I feel good about myself in so many ways. I am so ready to get out of here.

OK, that’s all for now. Typing is very frustrating for me. I need to work on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prison News Round Up Part II: The Good News

ANNE

In the same weekend as all the depressing news stories I listed two days ago, there were these two uplifting ones.

The Week published an excerpt of this article in Runners World.  Yes, Runners World—about a program at the Oregon State Penitentiary that allows outsiders (even women) to go inside and run with prisoners.  They even race half marathons.  For some inmates, the outside runners are the only visitors they see.  I am not a runner, but I’ve always been an exerciser—I go nuts if I skip my daily walk and I’ve been pretty faithful to weight training for 25 years.  I swear by exercise as the best medicine for everything from depression to anxiety to all sorts of physical ills.  So way to go, Oregon!

Second good news article: The good old New York Times can be depended on to run something about America prisons almost daily.  Usually it’s extremely depressing, but this past weekend there was this one about dogs in prisons that will make you dog lovers out there weep.  It made me weep, when I got to this line: “One older inmate cried when he met his puppy. ‘I haven’t touched a dog in 40 years.’”  It made me wonder how heart-wrenching it must be when these guys have to turn their dogs over after they’ve been trained to detect bombs, which is what the program does.

Vince and I wrote about the dog-training program at Moose Lake, where he was before boot camp.  Only about six prisoners out of a thousand get to participate, so it sounds good but it’s not exactly at scale.  As I’ve mentioned, I do foster care for kittens through the Humane Society.  Every day from about April through August, I get dozens of emails a day from them looking for fosters for cats and kittens.  Below are just two photos from the 13 emails I received today.  For some reason the world doesn’t seem to be flooded with stray puppies or dogs so much, except those taken in from domestic violence situations, which require months of special care.  Could it work to have prisoners foster kittens?  Is that a cray-cray or a win-win idea?

478cfb96-ca59-41c4-88e8-4f7206e744d1Kittens

I got some good news—my visitor request was approved!  That means that after I get home from Berlin I can visit Vince.  By that time, it will have been eight months since I’ve seen Vince.  The ban was for six months, but due to me being denied a visit, and to two chunks of international travel, it’s stretched out to eight.  And yet on every visitor application and in the information for families that the Department of Corrections publishes online, they tout the importance of family connections.  Ha.

Gigs, L.E.s, and Recycling

VINCE

Today has been a rough day.  It started with a run that was a bit faster than I’m used to.  We ran seven laps with an average time of 8:50 and fastest mile at 8:14.

This was only the second time we have been able to run in the last two weeks because the track was under repair.  I was proud of myself for finishing the 4.9 mile run.  I would guess that 1/3 of the men that started it today did not finish it.

Our squad also took our blue-hat test today.  I got 47/50 correct.  My brain says that’s 94% passing.  Three weeks left of brown hat.  I know that sentence is shady at best, but I can afford some bad grammar once in a while.

Anywho, we will soon be seniors.  This is the time for us to take the knowledge we’ve gained here and apply it.  We will help train in the new guys when they get here, and will be held to the highest standards and expectations of the Challenge Incarceration Program.

I’m nervous, but only a little.  The blue hat phase is where a lot of guys get kicked out or recycled into a squad a month behind, turning this into a seven month ordeal.

I have six total gigs.  That’s really, really good as far as discipline goes.  I have no L.E.s (Learning Experiences, which are given out for major infractions, or accumulated gigs, which are minor infractions.)  If a guy has four L.E.s, he can be recycled.  A few or our squad have three.  I’m in good shape.

One thing they say is, don’t get comfortable.  Stay on our toes and follow all the rules.  Avoid the “snowball” effect, piling on gigs and L.E.s in a short period of time.

I just got an uplifting email from my mom.  It would appear that people out there are willing and able to help me out when I’m released.  That is wonderful.

I know I’ll have work soon after I’m out, but until the paychecks start coming it’s going to be tough.

I’m beginning to feel better about leaving here.  I’m one of the few in my squad that have been working hard to get everything we can out of this while we’re here.  We don’t ever want to come back to prison, and we will put our all into that.  As the old saying goes, “If we put half as much effort into staying sober as we did into getting high, we will succeed.”

Well.  I will succeed.

Victory Lap

VINCE

Sitting in my blue plastic chair, here’s what I see.  Three feet in front of me, my bunk mate is sitting in his blue plastic chair, facing me.  He also has folders on his lap, which we call our “desks.”

To my immediate right is our bunk.  My bed is on the bottom, our combined four foot lockers under my bed (not four feet long, four of them).  Blue blankets stretched flat with 45 degree angles on the foot end, our brown blankets stretched over our pillows with a 45 degree angle at the top.

To my left, three feet away, is the same thing.  To my right, the same thing five more times.  Like one of those infinity mirrors where the same scene seems to go on forever and ever.

Everybody is talking in different directions, some talking over others.  It’s louder than one might think.  A Correctional Officer just walked by and dropped somebody down for working on personal letters.  So that’s all for now.

Every other morning, well, actually every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I tell myself over and over that I will finish the run.  It’s still kind of tough, but I’ve only dropped out once in this past month.

Today, I struggled.  I really wanted to fall out after the first three laps.  Lap four came and when we were almost to the point where we have to yell, asking for permission to fall out, there was a C.O. walking around the small track, right where I would fall out.  I didn’t want to have to answer a bunch of questions about my motivation so I continued on.

It was very humid out.  I was drenched with sweat, and cramping up in my stomach.  All sorts of reasons to quit.  But I made it through lap six.  Then, the physical trainer leading the run decided to bring us around one more time.  It was the hardest lap of my life, but I did it.  Five miles (4.9, but we call it five).  I’ve felt great ever since.

So.  That’s what I did before 7:00 am.  How about you?

 

 

Red Hat Days

VINCE

We still haven’t had our red hat reviews yet. This is very disappointing because two squads left today, and we would have been given our brown hats today. Hat color means a lot around here. Without brown hats, we get not weight room, no visits, no phone calls. There’s still time, but it’s kind of annoying. If we were late for anything, they would treat us as if we were idiots. Oh well. Only four months to go.

Our red hat review was postponed until Monday. We’ve been nervous about it all week, now we have to make it through the weekend. I’m not actually worried about anything, but a few of my squad mates are. Because, of course, they aren’t doing very well in one or all aspects.

I finished my fourth run today. I’m still amazed at the end. I’ve come so far.

Here are a couple things that are difficult, even after two months. The first one is a position we hold briefly before we march that gives us our proper alignment. It’s called “dress right, dress.” Upon the execution command of the second “dress,” we snap our left arm out straight left, and look directly right. Then we all move to touch the fingertips of the guy on the right. If we don’t do this correctly, and somebody wants to be mean, they will make us stand in that position for five minutes, without touching anybody else. You should try it at home. Just put your arm shoulder height, straight left, and see how long you can hold it.

Day 60. 1/3 of the way. 120 days to go. 360 meals, 52 runs. However I want to put it, I’m getting there.

Yesterday, 18 of us went out on a mission to plant trees on a Department of Natural Resources tree farm. We walked two miles on dirt and sand in our full khaki uniforms, coveralls, hat and gloves while carrying shovels. It’s a lot of work just to get to a job site.

Along the way, a few of us found a pretty good number of agates, which we tossed back to Mother Nature, as we are not allowed to have any contraband.

The planting trees part was actually quite peaceful. Quiet is what I enjoy most in any prison/jail setting, probably because it is so rare.

So the 18 of us planted 250 1-foot tall pine trees in an area similar in shape to, but twice as large as, a football field. It was warm out, but I hardly noticed anything but nature. It was a good day.

Fit, Fat, Ffffttt

VINCE

This morning at 0645 hours I finally achieved my goal of completing a run. I ran 4½ miles without stopping. It hurt a lot, especially with some cramping near the bottom of my ribcage, and general soreness in my knees and thighs, but I was too happy to care. I did it.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it every time, but I do know now that it’s possible. On a side note, I started taking a probiotic supplement today. I think it’s supposed to help me with my poops. But for now it just makes me fart a lot. More on that later.

Two days later, 0633 hours. My down day, my second least favorite day. Yesterday was tough. For the first time since my arrival we did not go out on work crew assignments. We did, however, practice marching. The worst was from 1415 to 1610 [2:15-4:10pm] when we did half step march (120 steps per minute) up and down the side of the track. Half step is difficult because it’s faster and we have to pick our boots up about 6 inches from the ground every time to keep us all in line. It looks nice, but doing it for two hours hurt.

That wasn’t the worst of it. We had to wear our full khaki uniform and work gloves and a hat. Ugh. So hot. My gloves were soaked by the end. We did a total of five hours of marching yesterday. I’m still alive.

I completed the run again. 4½ miles. I even felt great afterwards. This is especially good because our brown hat review is in a few days. It’s the second of four big reviews. We will have a meeting with our case manager, counselor, squad officer and physical trainer. We will go over everything positive and negative from the past month. If all goes well, we get upgraded from red hats to brown hats. That means our seniority goes up, and we have more responsibility. More on that later.

We had our monthly weigh-in this morning. I went from 194 pounds and 13.4% body fat to 189 pounds and 11.2% body fat. That’s pretty good for a month. It means I’m turning fat into muscle, I think.

[ANNE: Eleven percent body fat!? That’s so unfair! I signed on with a personal trainer for the first time in my life about a month ago, and she measured me at 34% body fat. Ugh. I’ve always loved weight training, and she has added all sorts of cardio, which I hate because I hate sweating. But I am doing it. And after three weeks Ta Da! Still 34% body fat, no weight loss, not an inch lost. Again, ugh. She told me not to be discouraged, to keep it up. I mentioned that Vince is at 11% and her jaw dropped: “That’s really, really good for a 36-year-old man,” she said. Skeptical analyzer that I am, I wonder if the devices at the Y and in prison are different? Maybe I could find some way to have them test my body fat when I finally get to visit Vince? No, that’s crazy thinking. Now I understand why there’s such an obsession with naming thing “boot camp,” if it gets those kinds of results.]