Tag Archives: writing

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Crack

VINCE

Saturday night after leaving my A.A. meeting, I was driving down University Avenue when my brand new tooth popped out of its new home in my mouth.  Only two days in, and my new smile was gone.  I had waited so long to be confident with my appearance, and just like that, it was over.

I pulled up to a stop light and spat the jagged plastic remnant out of my mouth and looked it over and had the thought that just maybe, super glue might do the trick.  At that moment I saw a car pull up to the light next to me.  I looked over and noticed it was a St. Paul police officer and I immediately looked back in my hand and mentally said to myself, “Oh, fuck! This looks like crack!”, and quickly lowered my hand out of sight.  The officer paid me no attention, and we both went on about our respective ways.  It’s been a long time since I have had or done any drugs, but the paranoia still exists in me.  Incidentally, all of your teeth look like crack.  So, now you know that.

On another note… While I was in prison, my only goal every day was to get through the day as quickly as possible: one day closer to the door.  For the first five weeks of freedom, I have carried that attitude with me until I had the realization the other day that I really want to enjoy life.  I think we as Americans tend to live by this same philosophy: work, work, work, then it’s the weekend.  Work, work, work, then you retire.  I have wasted so much of my life doing useless things and it seems like everything I talk about now isn’t just 10 years ago anymore, it’s twenty.  How do you stop the time from passing so quickly?  How am I going to enjoy my life while working the American way, 40 hours a week?  Well, I’m going to have as much fun as I can while I’m doing everything that I do.  I have found that in sobriety, laughter has depth.  Conversations have meaning.  And friendships blossom quickly.  I am going to enjoy every minute of every day because it’s all going to go by quickly, and I’m never going to get out alive.  Twenty years from now, I’m going to be talking about things that happened twenty years ago, again.

I say all of that to remind myself that there’s no more time for me to waste.  I think of all of the people I have left behind in prison, some of them never getting out.  If I go back to my old ways of selling/using meth and I get caught with, for example, the same amount I had last time, I would likely get 96 months without the possibility of an early release through boot camp.  I would have to sit for over five years before being eligible for parole.  Then what?  Move back in with Mom, again at 43?  I think not.

I am restricted to three A.A. meetings per week while I am on I.S.R.  If I had my way, I would have done 90 in 90 as soon as I got out.  I am not planning a relapse, but these meetings give me so much more than just maintaining sobriety.  It’s a place I go to get things off my chest and I don’t feel embarrassed about saying anything.  Sort of what I do with this blog, but I get to hear other people and their stories that I can relate to.

So, I apologize for not writing for a few days.  I needed a break.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  And with that, I pass.

A Break from Breaking Free

ANNE

Vince says he’s hit a wall with the blogging, and I need more than 10 minutes notice to come up with new material.  After over a year of blogging and nearly 200 posts, I’d say we’ve earned a break.

We’ll be back.  If you haven’t yet binge read the thing from the beginning, start here and click on the right-pointing arrow at the bottom of each post to proceed.  Feel free to share with others, and thanks for reading.

 

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.

YourPillow

VINCE

I remember the first time I saw a commercial for MyPillow.  Toward the end of the ad the announcer guy stated that they were proudly made right here in the U.S.A., with no outsourcing.  I can tell you that that is very true because I saw them being made in Moose Lake Prison in the same building that I worked in sewing men’s briefs.  Why ship jobs overseas when you can exploit prisoners right here?

I will tell you right now that I don’t have all of the facts pertaining to the MinnCorr industry in Moose Lake penitentiary but I can write about my own experience and what I heard from some of the offenders that worked on the MyPillow line.  They were paid minimum wage which I believe is still at 7.25 per hour, much better than the 50 cents per hour that I made less than 200 feet away.  The catch is, the prison takes half of the pay right off the top for the cost of confinement.  There can be other deductions from F.I.C.A., MN income tax, and federal income tax.  The workers are left with just over two dollars per hour, a pretty good amount for prison wages.  Our saying on the brief line was that we earned our pay within the first five minutes of work every day.  I say that because they sell our briefs back to the inmates at a cost of $3.25.  I could sew together 200 pair per day.  Not all of them were sold to us.  They have big contracts with other facilities like jails and institutions that buy them cheaper in bulk, but, there’s huge profit to be made with cheap labor.

I’m not saying all of this because I’m mad at the prison for what they paid me.  I’m actually in shock from looking at the MyPillow website and seeing what they charge for pillows made by people (prisoner or not) that work hard and will never get a raise, a bonus, stock options, or even a free fucking pillow.  Just for kicks, and because the website is not at all up front with the pricing, I placed a mock-order that finally took me to the checkout page.  It said that for two queen size pillows, my order came to $199.94!!  That’s before tax and does not include shipping.  It also does not include the pillow cases which can be purchased for…… only ……. $49.97.  What a steal!  Or maybe rip-off.  Now I should mention that they did have some buy-one-get one deals but I would have had to enter a promo code which they had no further information on.  I’m sure I could have found it if I was actually interested in buying one.  Even so, those are some expensive pillows.

Is there a point I’m trying to make here?  Meh.  I don’t know.  I enjoyed having a job while I was incarcerated.  It paid the bills so to speak.  And I certainly hope that my work lessened the burden to the taxpayers.  But how come the MyPillow commercial shows workers in a factory all happy and smiling when that is not even where they are made?  Made in America?  Yes.  Made proudly in America?  No.  Actually made most likely by child molesters and murderers.  I guess that wouldn’t have been a good advertising slogan.

In other news…  Today I learned that I am only 36 years old.  For the past 11 and a half months, I thought I was 37.  Somehow I just decided to skip a year.  Now I only get to be 36 for two weeks, then I actually turn 37, which sounds way older.  But not as old as 38 which I thought I would be very soon.  Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind.  Really, I do.  I will stop dead in a sentence and not have a clue what word I was about to say.  It sounds like 38 year old problems, not young 37 (or 36).  That’s all I have for tonight.

Coming up on the next post:  A look back at some of the stranger things I saw in prison.  Things that I can’t un-see.

Scattered thoughts of a recovering addict

VINCE

I’m staring at the screen and nothing is coming to my mind.  I’ve started a few paragraphs and then erased them.  It’s almost 10pm and I’m very tired.  get up at 6:30 to get ready for the day by drinking coffee and making my lunch for work, then head out at 7:30 to catch the bus then the train for my ride in.

Yesterday the first thing I did at work was smash my foot under a very heavy (we guessed 3 maybe 4 hundred pounds) spring loaded loading dock ramp because the truck I  was going to unload supplies from was filled to capacity and when I pulled up the ramp from the floor and it went where it was supposed to but I couldn’t move.  I tried to move my other foot as it smashed down but there wasn’t room so I actually had to step on the ramp itself adding my weight to the pressure.  I have not experienced that much pain for as long as I can remember.  At that point I thought for sure that I had broken it.  I felt the urge to throw up from the pain, something I have never experienced. I got my foot from under the foot-wrecker and took a few limps around the production floor.  It was the seeing spots kind of pain.  I didn’t want to look like an idiot so I went back to work trying to hide the limp as best I could.  I told my friend about it and he was quite sympathetic to my injury.  Fortunately for me the pain dissipated within a few hours and when I got home and pulled off my socks I still had all five little piggies.  There was blood around my big toe and the one next to it (does that toe have a name?) and a little purple bruising but that was it. That’s the whole story.

Starting to build any kind of relationship while on I.S.R., especially the one I’d like to have with Ms. Toaster, is difficult.  My life is so restricted right now that the times I do get to go anywhere it’s for a specific reason.  I get to see her at meetings, and if I go out for shopping or during my exercise time.  Tomorrow I’m going to run with her, I think that’s a very healthy way to be alone with her, but again, it’s only for an hour and she’s not yet allowed to be a visitor at home.  On the flip side, I think it’s a good thing to not be together every waking moment in the beginning of a relationship.  Not that I would get sick of her, but it adds the elements of anticipation and excitement in seeing each other, if only briefly, every other day or so.  The other day she came to meet me after work just to walk me to the bus stop.  I thought that was nice.  I mean, she walked from her place and back just to see me for maybe 20 minutes.  It made me feel good.  Somebody desires my company, something I haven’t thought in years.  Thank you, Ms. Toaster.  I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.

Alright folks, that’s all for tonight.  I’m tired and I’m going to bed.  Thank you to all of my followers and readers for your feedback and comments.  If I don’t reply, it’s because I don’t know how.  I will figure that out someday.  Goodnight everybody.

Camp Heartland

VINCE

Three weeks before  I left prison I went out on my last Restorative Justice program.  R.J. is generally the only time we left the compound.  Once per week, nine of the 17 in my squad got excited about going out into the community to help those in need.  We’ve done everything from cleaning windows in a nursing home, to removing concrete by hand, to shoveling shit after a county fair.  So naturally when It was my turn to leave, I was looking forward to a good day.  Well I got what I asked for.  We packed all of our gear and headed out to Camp Heartland in Willow River.

It is a very beautiful campground.  I didn’t know anything about the place until I got there.  We piled out of the van and lined up and stood at attention and received our orders for the day.  It’s almost always some sort of cleaning detail and that is exactly what the plan was for that day.  Then an employee told us who goes there, and why.  Originally it was set up as a retreat for children with H.I.V.  Now it’s for any child with a life threatening  illness.   We were given a brief tour in which he pointed out the cabins we would be cleaning.  They were small but functional and full of dead and living creepy crawly insects.  Nearly all of the beds had a ‘waterproof’ sheet which startled me a little because there’s really only one thing you need that for.  Enough said.  At that point we gathered our supplies and got to work.

After a couple cabins, the officer in charge came and got me and said there was a project inside I could do, so I followed him in and I ended up cleaning a huge sort of room with a stage, costumes everywhere, and lots of muddy footprints.  To back up a little, on the way down to the basement, covering the walls from top to bottom were drawings and kids’ names and dates when they were there.  There were thousands of them, and later I would find even more outside.  I kept looking at the walls as I cleaned, and I started to notice other things about them.  And that’s when shit got real.  Next to or on the paintings themselves were little white crosses and dates.  I realized what it meant, and I couldn’t believe how many there were.  I decided to take a little break and wander around and I just kept seeing more names, more dates.  I felt emotion for the first time in a while.  I couldn’t believe that all of those kids had been here and left not knowing if they would ever make it back.

It was then that I really felt guilty about how much of my life I had wasted when these kids were dying off left and right.  How could it possibly be fair that I was out dealing drugs and being completely irresponsible in every situation and never got killed along the way while these kids were literally fighting for their lives?  I took some time to read a lot of the writings on the wall.  Every one of them was positive about their situation; little kids who truly appreciated whatever time they were with us in this world.  It is even making me a little misty-eyed as I type this.  I don’t ever pray, and I don’t believe in God, but right there, right then, I said my version of a prayer in my head the words of which only myself and they will ever hear.  I continued to clean.

For over five months I had been eating only prison food which sounds and tastes exactly like prison food.  That day, the employees that were there (there were no kids there when we went) cooked up a feast for us.  All things we hadn’t seen since our sentencing.  We sat around a table and for the first time in years I sat at a table with people and ate.  I ate three brownies for dessert after eating as many fresh vegetables, slices of garlic bread, and I’m drawing a blank on the rest of it but it was amazing, and we all felt like humans that day.

As we were leaving, I saw even more names.  These ones engraved in the sidewalk that circled a water fountain.  All of the had two dates, and I had to walk away after I saw the name of a four year old that had died the day before his birthday.  I can’t waste any more of my life, it’s just not fair to them.

If you ever are looking for a good organization to donate to, I recommend Camp Heartland.  Let them show these kids some fun before they leave us way too soon.

The Toaster Situation

VINCE

I met a girl.  I actually saw her at the very first AA meeting I went to a few weeks ago ( For that reason and the fact that we already have an inside joke, I will from this point on refer to her as Chelsey Toaster.  (Her pseudonym).  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.  Somewhat unprofessional in a meeting, but what could I do, I’d been away at camp for a long time.  I couldn’t be certain, but she seemed to either catch me a couple of times looking at her, or she was checking me out too.  (Very unprofessional, Ms. Toaster.)  I shared about my recent release from boot camp, and my struggles with anxiety and how everything seemed to be moving so much faster out here.  When the meeting was over, she came up to me and said that she had also just been released from prison.  I said, “Really?”  And she replied, “No, I wasn’t.  I just wanted to make you feel better.”  Hmm.  A jokester, I think I like that.  And that was all.  Well not quite but the rest was recovery related so I don’t talk about it because it was at a meeting.  Very professional, Vince.
So I kept seeing her at meetings, and I kept my eyes on her.  She is beautiful, smart, funny, charismatic, and I kept thinking about her, and she kept letting me talk to her after meetings, which was great because I was having issues with socialization when I first got back to reality.  I have never pursued or dated anybody in recovery.  It’s not that it’s a bad idea, it’s just that it never happened.  So I asked her for her phone number, which she gave me.  And ever since, we’ve been talking, and seeing each other whenever possible on my limited time out of the house.  We went for a walk yesterday after I got off of work and it was really nice to walk hand in hand with somebody.  And today she accompanied me while I ran my errands.  It’s been a very long time since I have had the company of a woman who wasn’t strung out or drinking heavily.  So that’s my introduction of the lovely and brave Ms. Toaster. I don’t want to rush into anything on many levels, but I have a feeling that many future posts will involve her.

I haven’t had any kind of a relationship in years.  Even before prison.  It’s not that I didn’t want one, it’s that I was a huge piece of shit for so long and I knew it and I knew that any real attempt at securing a girlfriend would probably have meant that I would have to curtail my alcoholism and addictions, something I was not willing to set aside for anything.  And although I’m fresh out of the clink, I believe I’m in the best position in a very long time to, at the very least, see if I’m capable of starting and maintaining a healthy connection to another human being.  So, I have that going for me, which is nice. 🙂
In other news, I went in for an eye exam today.  Thank you Lisa!  You know who you are.  The optometrist told me that my eyes are more football shaped than globe, which she could have just called astigmatism, and I wouldn’t now feel self-conscious about.  I mean, what gives her the right to tell me my eyes aren’t normal other than her being an eye Doctor?  What are her qualifications?  I bet she doesn’t even have her G.E.D.  Well, anyhow, I have contacts now but I still keep pushing on the place where I used to have glasses sliding down.  Now it just looks like I’m pointing at my head.  I’m sure that will go away in time.
And finally, I got to see my uncle and his family today.  He and his wife brought their two incredible children whom I had never met due to my substantial absence.  My mother baked a chicken, and I made roasted garlic and squash soup and a chocolate cake with caramel-butter frosting.  And we sat around the table and caught up.  I’m really starting to like this family thing.  I still feel guilty sometimes, but I know I’m forgiven for my absence.

Next up on the blog: Camp Heartland– An eye opening experience.

Until then…..