By Robert Pruett 999411, aka Simple Man

Week 14 2006
 
April 3, 2006       
E-pod, B-section, 22 cell is where I currently reside. This pod is comprised of every level status: F-section is level 3, E & D sections are level 2, and C & E sections are level 1. A-section houses administrative segregation, levels 2 & 3. From my vantage point - up here on two row - I can see most of B-dayroom and a piece of C-dayroom. The control picket, which is centered on the pod so that the picket officer can see every section, is directly in front of my cell so I can see through the glass windows surrounding the picket into E and F-sections. Scratch that!
Over the past few years my sight has gotten progressively worse (I think the fluorescent lights and limited sunlight are the culprits!) so it would be more accurate to say that I can see shapes and structures beyond B-dayroom, but they're very fuzzy, difficult to make out. I need glasses, it's just a pain in the neck getting the medical department to send me to Estelle Unit to get them. Oh well, as long as I can read and write I am good to go.

There are 6 pods here on 12 building and the alignment is such that 16 sections face each other, giving the guys who live in those cells 3 view from their back window of another pod, possibly a patch of grass or a rooftop. The other 20 sections have a much broader view from their windows: fields of grass, sidewalks, the razor-wired fences that encompass the compound grass fields outside of the unit, guard towers, trees, and several streets.
Fortunately for me, I live in a section with a decent view; although, it does kinda suck that everything is blurry! :-( From my window I can see a patch of green grass, a huge generator surrounded by a fence, a section of razor-wired fence, about 30 acres of a field, a road that circles the unit, another road that leads to the unit, an imposing guard tower, and medium sized trees that surround the entire expanse as far as the eye can see.
I try to peer out the window at least once a day and check out everything that's going on. Birds flying around and dancing on the fences and grass, the truck that constantly circles the unit, sometimes the officer in the guard tower will walk around the balcony up there, and occasionally a group of gp field workers will be out in the field.
Oh and every couple of weeks the inside yard crew will mow the grass just outside my window, I like to watch all of that unfold. It reminds me of the days when I worked on the Skyview Unit cutting grass. We'd start on one end of the compound and begin cutting grass. It would take about 10 days to mow the entire inside grass, so by the time we got back to our starting point the grass had grown back! It's a perpetual job. Good exercise, too.
Earlier I gazed out the window and observed a few cars travelling up and down the road to the unit, a couple of birds at play, and the truck that drives around the unit making sure we aren't trying to slip through the fence. I'll bet whoever gets that job for the day (or night) gets bored in a hurry! Well, at least they get to smoke if they're smokers; there's no smoking allowed inside the fences.
 
I'm excited about the national championship game between UCLA and Florida tonight! As I've already mentioned, I'm kinda pulling for the Gators, but I won't be disappointed if the Bruins win. One of my friends is an alumnus from UCLA and I know he'll be cheering for Ben Howland's team tonight! As long as it's a competitive game, I'll be satisfied.
On that note, I'll slip away for the day. Rumor has it we'll be off lockdown by week's end, no telling though.


April 4, 2006
They're letting us make commissary for stamps and hygiene tomorrow, which could be a precursor that the lockdown will last longer than I anticipated. Usually they'll run us for stamps and hygiene when they know we'll be down a little longer, but I have seen them let us up a few days after a stamp/hygiene run, so you never know.

I have a minor rant that I want to get off my chest. Last night I received a letter from my father who's in ad. seg. on the Allred Unit. He explained to me that they're on lockdown over there as well and that the field officers were on his pod shaking down. He said that they turned their electricity off while shaking down and that he started banging on his door to get them to turn it back on. (There's really no reason to cut the power off during a shakedown. I've seen them cut the water off to prevent guys from flushing contraband, but cutting the power off is nonsensical.) The field lieutenant (highest ranking field officer) and a couple of subordinates walked over to his section and asked who was doing the banging, to which my dad responded with some very angry remarks that essentially questioned why they turned their power off.
The Lt. retorted, "Because we felt like it and I think we'll keep it off for awhile now." Smart- mouthed motherfucker! I worked in the fields for a number of years while in gp and know how most of those field bosses think and act. They're typically young and have a "John Wayne Complex," meaning that they think they have to act tough and show everyone who's running things. And they think their job entails punishing us, which it doesn't. Anyhow, my dad got a major disciplinary case for banging on his door and might lose his level 1 status. He has been in seg. since February of 2000 and this is his first case!!
 
It's a fact that death row is treated better than ad. seg., despite the fact that we both live under the exact same guidelines (see: Ad. Seg./ Death Row Plan). The reason we are treated better, and that they wouldn't cut our power off like they did the guys on Allred, is because death row has more support. Countless anti-Dp groups, Amnesty International, and many other advocacy groups put too much pressure on these folks for them to blatantly break the rules. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived here in 2002 was that they generally try to keep officers back here who will obey the rules and as a result our living conditions are noticeably better than those of ad. seg. on other farms. If you ask me, it's a shame that we get treated better simply because we're waiting to die. The guys in seg. have a much harder road than we do, particularly those with life sentences and no chance of getting out of seg. They are the forgotten ones.


April 5, 2006
Yesterday I wrote about my father's recent problems, today I think a brief excursus on him is in order. As I mentioned in a previous article (The Memoirs and Musings of Robert Pruett) I didn't meet him until I was close to 7 years old due to his incarceration. I was conceived several months before a cross country robbing spree, that included the willing abduction of my then 16 year old cousin Ronnie who was staying in a foster home, that culminated in his arrest in Arizona. Subsequently, he was extradited to Missouri where he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years for some robberies in that state. Seven years later I laid eyes on him for the first time at the airport in Houston, Texas.

Growing up without my dad left an indelible scar on me, even if I didn't realize it until years later while sitting in a prison cell contemplating my life. Absent from my early years were the guidance, discipline, leadership, wisdom, and love that only a father can provide. The only male role models that I had to look up to were my brother, an adolescent still finding himself, and a decrepit old man my father spent time with in prison in the 1960s that I called Grandpa. He wasn't my biological grandfather, just a guy my dad knew who became family to us over the years. His name was Robert Sutton and I was named after him (I was also named after his son, Tommy Lynn, who was, incidentally, arrested with my father and Ronnie in Arizona in 1979.). Anyhow, my mother had several boyfriends while my dad was inside, but most of them were anything but role models.
I recall one guy named James who beat the crap out of me once and as I was crying I yelled, "Just wait until my dad gets home, he'll kick your ass!!" in my screechy 4 year old voice. He hit me again and sternly replied," Your dad's a punk and he's probably enjoying a good ass-fucking right now! Don't you know what goes on in prison?!" Yeah, it's safe to say that if he knew my dad he wouldn't have said such a thing. At least not to his face! :-)
 
Before I go any further I want to be clear: I don't blame anyone except myself for the way my life turned out. I recognize how influential the environment is in shaping human behavior, and I'm convinced that genetics are equally (if not more) influential in determining our predispositions, but any behavioral scientist will tell you that neither of these are all-powerful. I think we have our own volition and at the end of the day we're the ones who determine whether or not to turn left or right. That said, people are predisposed to certain types of behavior and their genetic commands might seem irresistible at times, but we are autonomous beings and we ultimately decide if we want to obey them or not. In my life I have made bad decision after bad decision and there's no one to blame except myself. I don't point fingers, I take responsibility for all of my choices. I was undoubtedly influenced by my environment, and my conditioning pointed me in all the wrong directions, yet I knew when I was in the wrong and chose to act the way I did anyhow. Many people have grown up in similar circumstances as I, yet they find a way to reach inside and overcome all of that. I failed in that regard. Just know that when I write about my family and my past I'm not whining, pointing fingers, or blaming anyone for my life, I'm simply relaying things as I perceive them and indicating things that I believe were influential, not all-determining.
 
Back to my father. Over the years I've heard most of his stories and, being someone who is intrigued by human behavior and it's etiology and has studied the subject, some of the things that influenced his behavior are apparent to me.
As a child his socioeconomic status was well above the average person's. A white kid with a very successful family in the oil equipment business in Corpus Christi, Texas, they had everything they needed. But things weren't easy for him. Not in the least.
 
Born Friday the 13th in December of 1946, his fanatically religious mother and grandmother were convinced he was evil. I've heard the stories about them calling him a devil child and treating him like the scum of the earth. It's hard to believe any mother would do such a thing, but his siblings confirmed his stories. Before he was old enough for school he'd been brain-washed into believing that he was evil. "I'm cursed and I've always been! Just look at my life and all of the signs!” I've heard that a time or two. He also points out that his name - Howard Steven Pruett - has 6 letters in each name, a reference to the number of the beast in Christian mythology (Revelations 13,18). Now he says all of this jokingly, but you gotta wonder how it all affected him as a child. Maybe he once believed such nonsense?
 
Not only did he have a psychotic mother, his father was an alcoholic prone to physically and mentally abusing his children. And he took a special interest in my dad. Once, an old coon dog that they had came up missing and my dad figured he ran away. Several days later the house they were living in and the surrounding area started stinking of dead animal and my grandfather looked under the house and saw where the dog had crawled under it and died. Must've been snake bit they thought because they lived in snake country. Anyhow, grandpa made my dad get naked and crawl under the house to retrieve his dead dog. His reasoning was that he didn't want him to get his clothes dirty so he told him to take them off. My dad was afraid to crawl under there because snakes where all the time slithering out from under the house and fleas were under there as well. But he sucked it up, crawled under and pulled the dog out, and his dad then picked him up and threw him into the cement pond (yeah, I know, Beverly Hillbillies like a MFer! ) to wash the fleas off! His older brother Bill had offered to get the dog out from under the house, but grandpa wanted my dad to. I guess he wanted a laugh. He was a mean old bastard from all that I hear.
 
According to my dad, he started getting into troubles shortly after his sister, Lema, moved out with her husband, Wayne Mclain. She used to protect him and he felt closer to her than anyone. She was the one who consoled him when everyone else came down on him. So when she left he felt that she had abandoned him and a deep resentment developed towards her over the years. Until the day that she died he was still mad at her, yet he never stopped loving her.  
 
So he started screwing up at every turn. He stole a truck with another little boy when he was about 10 (I think?) and his mother told the authorities that she couldn't
control him any longer and they shipped him off to reform school. By the time he was 17 he "graduated" to the penitentiary (as he so fondly describes it), a place he was in and out of all of his life.
 
Alright, enough about my family for the day. This is a daily journal and I want to discuss my family and my past, but I don't want it to be all about that. So I'm determined to write at least a little something about the things going on here on Polunsky each day. There will be days when I write nothing about me, my family, or my past, but I'm going to make an effort to mention something about this place in every entry.
Unfortunately there isn't much to report today. We're still on lockdown, yet the end is in sight. The  rumor I heard earlier is that the shakedown crew is on their last pod (A-pod) and we should be up after they finish with it. My feeling is that we'll be up by Friday.
 
Something I forgot to mention a couple of days ago is that the sun sets on my back wall where the window is. The sunset should occur in about an hour and I plan on watching it, I'll relay the experience here afterwards, cool? Cool.
 
Okay, let me attempt to describe this: I folded my mattress in half and stood up on it so I could peer out the window without tip-toeing. The sun was still extremely bright, I couldn't look directly at it when I first looked out the window. Instead I looked to the left of it and took in everything else for a moment. The blinding, bright light illuminated the razor-wired fence and the fence surrounding the generator just to the left of my cell. Everything was glowing as the sun cascaded over every object in my sight, magnifying its color. The little white truck that circles the unit was parked out in front of the guard tower and I noticed the driver get out and motion towards the person in the picket. It looked as if they were about to witness the sunset with me.
 
As the sun began to dim I closed my eyes and turned my head facing it. My eyelids turned bright white as I gazed at our 15 billion year old star and finally I opened them to take in its rays. It took a few seconds for my eyes to become acclimated and I was able to survey the glorious scene unfolding in front of me. A plethora of changing colors illuminated the sky and the earth as the sun inexorably moved towards the horizon: bright shades of orange and red merged to create an abundance of other color, mutating hues of blue and purple shined through the white swirled clouds, and a variety of birds flew around bathing in the magnificence of it all. I soon found myself lost in thought, pondering not only the awesome scene transpiring, but also life's imponderables. Such acts of nature induce deep philosophical thought, yet I didn't want such distractions right then. Philosophies, concepts, doctrines, and world-views of any sort would only diminish the experience. I wanted to just observe and absorb and I tried to clear my mind of all thought. Reflection could be reserved for a later time. So I watched in awe the beauty of nature. Life truly is an amazing experience, how exciting it is to be involved in it all!


April 6, 2006    
I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that the lockdown will be lifted tomorrow. To be fair, all the signs point in that direction so don't start calling me Nostradamus if it turns out that way! :-) They fed us a hot meal today for last chow ( tuna casserole... bon appétit!) and the officers working the pod say that the shakedown crew finished DR earlier, all of which indicates that we'll be up in the morning. Of course you never can tell with these people, they often seem hell-bent on defying logic.
 
Sometime after the lockdown I plan on writing down my daily schedule. I don't exactly have one right now and when I do formulate one it certainly won't be immutable; maintaining a repetitious schedule for any extended period of time isn't conducive to my mental well-being. I'll note the adjustments I make to my schedule as time passes. But right now I want to tell you about one of the things I try to do everyday: get my comedy fix!!
 
First of all, I understand that, "the happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved."  (Joseph Campbell, " The Hero With a Thousand Faces")Tragedy is the realization that everything changes, everything dies, decay is inherent in all things, nothing lasts forever, and life is fleeting. In tragedy we come face-to-face with the harshness of the life cycle on this plane of reality, but comedy offers a diversion, a respite of sorts, from this wicked garden. Furthermore, it points, in a subtle and sometimes metaphoric manner, to the transcendence of this ephemeral level of reality, beyond the field of opposites, to that ethereal state from whence all things derive and return.
 
Living in a place where tragedy roars its ugly head almost daily, I try to find a balance with a heavy dose of comedy. Every weekday at approximately 4:20pm the classic rock station in Houston ( 93.7 The Arrow) does what they call a "birthday scam." Dean and Rog, the hosts, get information from a winning contestant about a problem a friend or family member of theirs is having with some organization (i.e. a Home Owner's Association) and they call the target and scam him/her. As soon as this person answers the phone Dean or Rog pretend to be a representative from whatever org. said person has a beef with and the comedy unfolds. They usually make some smart-ass comments, question the person's intelligence and integrity, then they give it up right when the victim is about to explode with rage, "Do you have a birthday coming up? [Such and such] wanted us to call and do the birthday scam, happy birthday!" It's usually some funny shit, especially when the person getting scammed starts cussing and making threats! Haha!
 
Another station (Rock 103.7) does an " 8:20pm funnies" when they'll play skits from a stand-up comic who performs at the  Houston Improv. People like Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Cedric the Entertainer, Robbin Williams, Dave Chappell, and many others perform there, so you can probably imagine how funny some of those skits are.
 
Besides those two sources, I get my comedy fix from a couple of sit-coms that I can catch on the radio. "The King of Queens' and "That 70's Show" come on every week-night and I try to listen to them if I'm not too busy. The kids from That 70's Show remind me of me and my old friends from the world, sans all the weird clothes ! J (No offense to all you folks from the 70s! Hehe.) In my opinion Fez and Red make that show go, but Kelso is pretty funny in his own right. I've heard that the new ones don't have Kelso or Eric. Hmmm....that's gotta be weird. Anyhow, I've loved comedy from as far back as I can remember. Laughing soothes the soul, I recommend a daily dose! If I can find humor in something every day, or maybe make someone else laugh, then it has been a good day.
 
 
April 7, 2006    
I was wrong, we didn't come off lockdown this morning. They ran showers and told us it would probably be Monday before they let us up. We are getting hot meals though, which is a plus for me because I need my veggies!! : -)
Now that I know that we won't be recreating or showering this weekend, I can finish the book I've been reading without too many interruptions. I'm reading, "The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism" by the physicist Fritjof Capra. The esoteric disciplines intrigue me. I don’t practice any specific religion, I guess you could say that I take an eclectic approach to spirituality; I perceive truth in most religions, but only a penultimate truth because I don't think the ultimate is capable of being completely expressed in any way on this level of existence. The best we can do is use symbols and metaphors and these can never communicate anything Ultimate. Yet they point us in the right direction and assist in evoking the Infinite into consciousness. It just gets tricky when people start interpreting their symbols literally. Anthropomorphize God if you want, but to maintain that such images are the Final Reality leads to the spilling of blood. Anyhow, I digress. Seeking enlightenment has consumed me for quite some time now and I do think that I'm on the right track, that I've glimpsed the ineffable, but I'm far from being spiritually mature...On my spiritual journey I found myself seeking out information about quantum physics and soon began reading any books I could get my hands on pertaining to that awesome field.
At first I wasn't sure why or how I became interested in such a random subject, and I'm still not entirely sure, but I think that anyone seeking spiritual understanding and knowledge in this day and age who has an undeniable scientific proclivity as I do, well, that person will be directed towards modern physics. And the book that I'm reading is the first I've ever read that discusses the many similarities between two seemingly diametrically opposed fields: eastern mysticism and modem physics (relativity theory& quantum theory). In the past I have picked up on some of these parallels (i.e. both insist that the universe is interconnected, one), but this book elaborately details every known congruency between the two fields. So I'll use the weekend to immerse myself in it and finish it up. It should be stimulating, exploring metaphysics and science usually is for me. I'm weird that way I guess. :-)


April 8-9, 2006
You'll have to excuse me if I sound extra incoherent today, I've just emerged from the subatomic world where particles travel at velocities exceeding 40,000mph, pop into and out of existence, don't know whether they want to be particles or waves, and only show “tendencies” or “probabilities to occur”!! That's the realm of atomic physics and any attempt at conceptualizing that reality is useless. It's like trying to comprehend the ancient Koans:

“What was your original face - the one you had before your parents gave birth to you?”
“You can make the sound of two hands clapping. Now what is the sound of one hand?”

Mind-boggling, eh?! Nevertheless, physicists try to form concepts that convey their equations, but they admit that words or concepts can never express the two levels of reality that they deal with. And I've been contemplating their attempted concepts all weekend so my brain has turned into putty! :-) Please bear with me until I can regain my mental faculties! Hehe.
 
As I expected, the weekend has been quiet and uneventful, with just one exception: one of the guys in the ad. seg. section lighted his mattress on fire. I can't see through the window of the door separating our sections, but my neighbor can and he told me that he team was standing in front of his cell prepared to run in, but after they gassed the guy he submitted to hand-restaints and came on out. They then proceeded to take all of is property out of his cell and return him to it. As to why he did what he did, well, your guess is as good as mine. I'll probably find out after they lift the lockdown.

 I've thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet all weekend, it has made reading and ruminating so much easier. They usually keep the run and dayroom lights off during a lockdown unless they're feeding or running showers. It's sorta like putting a blanket over a bird cage, as soon as you do so the bird gets quiet! Haha. But hey, I like the ambiance during lockdowns, it sure beats all the noise and banging on a regular day. That said, I'm ready for some recreation so I can resume a regular work-out regimen. We'll be up tomorrow, I can feel it!! ;-)
 
One day at a time,
Simple Man