Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let There Be Turkey! Er, Chicken. Turchicken? Ham, Maybe? Nevermind.

(Admin note: This should have been posted before the first entry to 149's Corner but the mail monsters had struck again and I received the entries out of sequence)

November 25th, 2010

I am often asked by friends for some sort of description of my daily schedule. Nearly as often, I force myself to swallow down sarcastic references to important meetings with the President and early tee times. Frankly, I have always felt that posting any description of my daily routine would be to merely add to the teeming abundance of useless crap already drowning out intelligent discourse on the web. But then I thought, hey, maybe if I went ahead and wrote something down, future pen-pals would be so traumatized by the sheer mind-numbingness of the account that they would never ask me again. So, my motivations now clearly swinging the balance into a new (and perhaps regretable) position, I give you Thanksgiving Day in the life of a Texas Admin-
Seg inmate.

3:13AM - Breakfast served. I usually VR (verbally refuse) my breakfast trays, as six times out of seven they serve us Polunsky Pancakes. These taste roughly like cardboard soaked in machine grease, with what I imagine to be a similar texture. It takes a culinary alchemist of the most diabolical sort to fuck up a pancake like this, and I often wonder exactly what the process entails. I am not unique in refusing this tray (and the economics behind these refusals is surely the reason for the continued omnipresence of these trays), and I often drift back to sleep to a chorus of "VR's". But not today: no sir, for today is Thanksgiving, and one of only two days of the entire calendar year when we are fed fresh fruit. I have been waiting for this day since last X-Mas. It is also one of the few times of the year when we are given boiled eggs, one of my favorites. I accept my tray with gratitude. It consists of: two boiled eggs, a small apple and orange, and some yellow grits. The grits can rot in whatever dank, sulfur-infested pit in Hades they spawned from, but the eggs are great. I tuck the fruit away for later.

3:41AM - Breakfast trays are picked up. I have long perfected the art of somnambulizing my way through the act of returning the tray to the officers, and I am once again asleep moments after my head hits the pillow. (Read: by "pillow", I mean "jacket rolled up into a pile", as inmates in Texas prisons are not given pillows. Relax, all you people afraid that politicians are "Hugging a Thug" with their policies. No Tempurpedics for us.

4:30AM - I rollout of bed. I am one of those ... uh, "lucky"(?) people who seem to have no natural circadian rhythm. For a few months, I will stay up at night and then sleep in the afternoons. Then, abruptly, I will become a morning person. Which does not imply that I am all lightness, grace, and ebullience at 4:30 in the sodding ante meridien, because the face staring back at me in the mirror would make a Great White shark think seriously about the wisdom of a U-turn. A well-cleaned mirror is a unique sort of curse, I tell you, and I have no idea why I wipe this bloody thing down daily. Self-mutilation for a recovering narcissist? Just one of those things that matters until it doesn't anymore, I guess.

4:32AM - Fill HOT-POT with water. Plug into my home made multi outlet. That's right: my new invention gives me four outlets, instead of the two the state offers. The entire thing is constructed out of: one orange juice can, glue, thick magazine paper, and art boards. I rule. And I only knocked out the power in my section three times figuring out how to construct it. I just barely avoided using the pun about this being a shocking experience. Give me a break: it's early.

4:35AM - Brush teeth, make up bed, wash face, pour coffee into my mug (read: empty peanut butter jar). Drink in the silence and the aroma of hot joe. Here is an interesting piece of Thomas Trivia that I have never told anyone: I actually like one packet of sugar in my coffee, though I have not had it like that in about a decade. Ask anyone from my life, and they will swear up and down that I like my coffee black. Somewhere along the course of my life, I was told that real men liked their coffee without any sweetener, and that is how I vowed to drink it, and still do. Oh, the stupid molds that we pour ourselves into in an attempt to be anything but what we are! Letting the silence of this early hour run through me is maybe the best part of my day.

4:50AM to 6:10AM - Morning workout consisting of:

- ten minutes of stretches (gods, I feel old these days)
- twenty minutes of "short-form" tai-chi
- pyramids of 1~ push-ups, for a total of 480
- a few sets ot squats, crunches, and "pistols"

My arm still feels a little messed up from the over-the-top workout routine I participated in over the summer. I think that so long as I stick to this light workout, I will keep from re-injuring it again. Or so I tell myself. (See THIS link (and THIS link) for more details.)

5:32AM - Lights on; AM shift arrives on D-Pod. I can barely see the picket from 46 cell, so unable to tell the group bestowed on us today.

5:46AM - First count.

6:00AM - Flip from 94.5 "The Buzz" to the morning news.

6:11AM - Peel orange. There is an orgy in my mouth for a few minutes. Must. Save. Apple. For. Later. Temptation. Nearly. Too. Much.

6:15AM to 7:00AM - Read newspaper from the evening before. Humanity still seems like it is dedicated to the goal of killing itself in the most ridiculous ways imaginable. Une mort imbecile, as Camus might have said. This is the hardest part about being sentenced to death: never again will I be able to contribute to the betterment of the world. I tell myself that this desire is what separates myself from the pack, but that may just be self motivating nonsense. I am 30 years old, still young enough to think that I know what I am talking about, just getting old enough to suspect that I am mostly full of it. Anyways, Buddhists have a name for the state of endless change from which nothing and no one ever escapes: samsara. I am feeling very samsaric this morning.

6:30AM - I flip over to 90.1, the Pacifica station in Houston. As usual, progressive radio lifts my spirits a bit.

7:05AM to 7:26AM - Clean my house. First, I wipe down the stainless steel wall with a Bippy/shampoo solution, then buff it dry with a pair of the gray state-issued socks (which is all these socks are good for). Same treatment of the sink and toilet. Mop down the floor with a wet towel, then the desk and shelves. Finally, I wipe down the walls and repour a thin line of Bippy along my floor directly under the door (read: anti-spider defense). Turn on fan to speed up the drying process on the floor.

7:08AM - First round of recs placed in day rooms. As you can see from THIS schedule, on Thursdays my section (D) has no recreation, Now that dayrooms are filled, the noise level increases dramatically. There are no soft surfaces in prison, so the racket just bounces allover the place, seemingly for an eternity. It is about this time that I turn up my homemade SPEAKER significantly.

7:27AM - Temptation proves to be too much: I eat the apple, and give some measure of serious contemplation to eating the core. Sigh. I am not a swine. I do not eat core.

7:29AM - I change my mind about being a member of tamily Suidae, and eat the core. Not bad. Oink, oink.

7:35AM - When floor is dry, I wash my jumpsuit in the sink. Once good and soapy, I lay it out on the floor and rub it down with Bippy and Shampoo, using a hair brush. Pour hot water on the lot of it occasionally from my hot-pot. I then wash it off and wring it out, then hang it on my clothesline. While in the mood, I also wash two pairs of socks, thermal shirt, and boxers. My kingdom for some liquid bleach.

8:20AM to 9:17AM - Enough with the procrastination: open sociology text and work my way through Chapter 4. Ethnomethodology and dramaturgical analysis are fun. Seriously. I love them. You buying that? Me either.

9:02AM – “Necessities" arrives on pod. Normally Thursdays mean new sheets are passed out but seeing as this is a holiday, they only have socks. Who knows, maybe they had sheets for the other pods, but ran out. With all the budget cuts going around, I guess we are lucky to get anything.

9:17AM - The big moment arrives, officers begin passing out the "cold tray" and the Johhny sacks for dinner. These "cold trays" are given out only twice a year, on Thanksgiving and X-Mas. (I should point out that these are designed to be room temperature, whereas the everyday trays are cold because none of the carriers has working heaters. Big difference.) Cold trays this Thanksgiving consisted of: one piece of apple cobbler, one piece of chocolate and vanilla cake, and some black olives. Another fit of oinkiness feels like it is on the way, so I hide the tray in my legal box.

9:40AM - First round of recs are returned to their cages.

10:00AM - Switch to one of my english assignments for change of pace.

10:45AM - Officers pass out Thanksgiving tray, consisting of one piece of "turkey" (actually chicken breast) or ham, depending on how early in the process one's tray was served up; one pork chop; green beans; black-eyed peas; dressing; and coleslaw. (The slaw and the dressing are unique items; like the fresh fruit, you only see them twice a year.) I wished the officer passing out the trays a Happy Thanksgiving, because, after all, they are also in prison instead of with their families. The officer looks surprised and it became clear that I was the first to express my gratitude. This officer and I have had our disagreements over the years (she once called me "uppity"; I retorted by labeling her as a "fascist pig"), so her surprise made me smile inside. (For the record, I am not the only inmate to have had issue with this woman. She even ran over her soon-to-ex husband with her truck. Twice. On accident, of course. Totally an accident. Ah, the uncountable ways of breaking the human heart!)

10:45AM to 11:05AM - As I gorge myself, I am thankful for the friends and family that have not drifted away from me over the years. I honestly have no idea why any of you put up with me but if I am mostly alive today, it is completely due to you all. I am also appreciative of some of the guys in my section. I have lived in sections with nothing but pederasts and degenerates, and it makes a huge difference having civilized, interesting people to chat with. Prieto, Adrian, "Big Joe": here is to another good year. May we make it until next Thanksgiving. I do wish that I was not the only white guy out of the fourteen in this section, though. It is starting to feel like little Tijuana over here. I am constantly having to remind these mojados about the battles of San Jacinto, Puebla and Mexico City. Haha (quickly ducks flaming spears).

11:06AM - While flipping through the dial, I am inundated with countless X-Mas songs. Several channels will play nothing but carols until Christmas. Bah bloody humbug.

11:08AM - I resolve to celebrate the pagan festival of Saturnalia in protest. There was a Roman tradition on one of these festival days for the slaves and their masters to switch places. I seriously doubt any of these guards are going to give me their uniforms.

11:11AM - Find my Word of the Day: rebarbative: unattractive and objectionable. That ought to be easy to use in conversation five times, given the reality of my life here.

11:20AM - Begin studying for my Finite Mathematics final, which I should take next week when my proctor makes it up to the unit.

11:36AM - Officers pick up the trays. I eat the chocolate cake on the cold tray, trying not the think about the amount of laps I am going to have to run in order to work this off.

11:55AM - Second round of recs placed in dayroom. In go the earplugs.

1:15PM - Take a break from studying for a nap. If I had eaten turkey, I would blame this on the trytophan. I guess I will just have to claim sloth on this one, then. Wait, there is tryptophan in chicken, right? Just nod and say yes, ok?

2:00PM - Wake up, eat vanilla cake and drink second cup of coffee. Start writing a few letters.

2:34PM - Second round of rec returned to their cells. There will not be a third, today. Seems the tryptophan got to others, as well.

2:38PM - Nurse comes around, handing out medication to those who take it. My neighbor on the right is Jonathan Green, one of several inmates they are forcing to take psych drugs. The courts have ruled that he cannot be executed until the medication makes him sane enough to understand what is happening to him. If that sounds unbelievably fucked up, then I am glad. Try Googling the name of Panetti, or Steven Staley. This is YOUR government that YOU elected. Think about that as you eat your leftovers.

3:15PM to 5:26PM - Play Scrabble with Prieto. Test out the Battle of San Jacinto joke on him, which causes him to stomp on me the first game. I get my revenge in the second, using his " c" to make "lambency" on two triple word scores. Ownage!

5:30PM - PM shift arrives on the pod.

5:55PM - First PM count. PM shift pissed off that AM shift only managed to shower 12 people during the entire day. Amusing.

6:00PM to 7:15PM - Write letters.

7:17PM to 7:30PM - Take down jumper, now dry, from my clothesline. I lift up my mattress and lay the jumpsuit out on the metal bunk. Once it is all lined up and straight, I place the mattress back on top of it. By the time I sleep on it for a night, it will look as if it had been pressed.

7:37PM - Taken to the shower. Water semi-warm.

8:15PM - Returned to cell. Listen to last half of the "Simpsons" movie on local Fox affiliate.

9:00PM to 9:30PM - Meditate. On normal nights, this is about when mail gets passed out, but today is a holiday, so no mail.

9:30PM to 10:08PM - Read about 30 pages of Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Blue and Brown Books". Understood maybe three words, though thanks to this book, I am not even sure that I understand the concept of words having meanings. Bah.

10:10 to sometime just before Letterman starts - Listen to evening news, crash into dreamland rather abruptly.

Wow, that was even more boring than I had envisioned. I guess when looked at from a distance, we accomplish far less in a day than it seems while in the midst of it. Gold star if you managed to make it through this without having your own tryptophan moment.

I promise to attempt to write something more stimulating this week. In the mean time, seriously, go Google "Scott Panetti "

If what you read does not enrage you, then I have no idea what will.

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

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