By Robert Pruett 999411 aka Simple Man

Week 15 2006

April 10, 2006
Mom kept asking me if I wanted some ice cream, but I didn’t think we could afford it, so I told her no. She persisted, "Come on now, it's strawberry, you'll love it."
“But, Mom, we can't afford it and besides, you know I don't like strawberry ice cream!”
“Don't worry about what we can afford! I wanna buy my boy some ice cream, I buy my boy some ice cream. And you love strawberry, what's that nonsense you speak?”
“Yeah, I love strawberries, not strawberry ice cream! You know that, quit being silly!”
“Alright then, do you want to shower?”
”Pruett, do you want to shower?” officer Richmond asked as I was in the midst of a nice little dialogue with my mom, bringing me back to reality. With one eye open I glanced at the clock which read 6:12am and told him that indeed I was going to shower. He told me to get ready and I did just that.

After shower I learned that we are still on lockdown. Yeah, yeah, make your jokes, I already know that I have no future as a prognosticator! It's really hard to accurately predict anything that these folks will do, yet I find myself venturing guesses periodically. Since I have been here they have always lifted lockdowns as soon as 12 building (DR) has been shaken down, this is the first time they haven't. I went out to visitation earlier and spoke with Sgt. Thompson and he said, ”We were waiting for them to finish shaking GP down. They are finished now, so I don't see why ya’ll won't be up in the morning.” His words, not mine! I think the new warden probably told them to keep us down until GP was finished, this never happened under previous wardens. Who knows though.

Today I had the first of two four hour visits with my friend Jolee. (Hi Jolee ;-) ) This is the first time we have met in person, so we were both a bit nervous, but everything went smoothly and I had a blast out there with her. Hopefully tomorrow will be as pleasant as today, I have no reason to think that it won't be.

One thing alarms me: Last night I had an incredibly difficult time sleeping. I was anxious to meet my friend and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop thinking about the next day. This has happened to me in the past. In fact, it almost invariably happens when I know I have a visit coming the next day. Sleep is elusive and when I do succumb to it it is only a light sleep. It makes me feel sluggish the next day, and despite how many times my visitor tells me I'm okay, I feel like a complete dumbass. So why does this alarm me now if it’s a recurring theme? Because I thought that I was beyond this. One of the fundamental things that I strive for is equanimity. All of my life I have been controlled, by fear and desire and I have been working on ridding myself of both. I know that such a thing is exceedingly difficult to accomplish, yet it's not impossible to do. I've noticed some progress on my part, but last night showed me that I still have a long way to go. I'm alarmed because I thought I was much further along than what I am. This is a humbling experience to say the least. No offense to any of my visitors, this has nothing to do with you all, it's all me and I’ll work it out.

Alright, I gotta try to catch a ride with the sandman tonight because I have the second part of my visit tomorrow. Talk to you after I return sometime.

April 11, 2006
I'm utterly exhausted! We're closing in on the witching hour as I begin this and I should just call it a day and crash out, but I'll go ahead and fill in this entry. Whatever I miss tonight I'll cover tomorrow.

As I accurately predicted, we came off lockdown this morning! J I was awakened early this morning by the sound of chatter emitting from the dayroom. To make sure I wasn't dreaming I pinched myself on the arm (a universally accepted test! Haha!) and stumbled to the sink to throw some water on my face. Yep, we are off lockdown status.

Today was the second part of my visit so I got ready for that, then listened to the “Rod Ryan Show” on the Buzz (94.5) until they came to get me. The visit today was even better than yesterday's except for the part when they told us it's time to go. That part always sucks! But I had a great time.

It was close to 4:30pm when I returned so I was told that I'd be going to rec on second shift. Since I was the last one for rec I was able to choose which dayroom I wanted to go to and I decided to go to D-dayroom so I could talk to a guy I haven't seen in awhile. While at rec I conversed with him and did some pull-ups and push-ups. I haven't exercised at all since we went on lockdown so I imagine I'll be a little sore in the morning, but that's a good thing; I need to get back into the flow of things.

After rec I was immediately inserted into the shower. The water was scalding hot, just what I needed after a long, exciting day. They gave me my necessities after I was returned to my house and I immediately read the letter I received while at rec. It was from my mom, I'll write her tomorrow. Tonight I had to write someone else and I just finished that prior to starting this. Today was a productive and stimulating one on many levels. Now it’s time to crash out, I'll talk to you tomorrow!

April 12, 2006
I have the misfortune of living in the first cell on two row in my section. This means that I'm the first one to rec on every even numbered day (one row goes out first on odd numbered days) and that's usually around 6:30am. When I was asked about rec this morning I almost Vred (verbally refused) because my body did not want to get out of bed! I didn't fall asleep until about 1am last night, but I stretched and let out a thunderous yawn in affirmation that I'd be going out to rec.

I crawled out of bed, brushed my teeth, washed my face, combed my hair, fixed my second to last cup of coffee, then listened to the news until they came to get me for rec. Once out there I talked to the other guys in the dayrooms for a few minutes, debated on whether or not I would work out as I finished my coffee, admired the lithe mailroom ladies as they picked up our mail, then proceeded to exercise. I did push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups. Two hundred reps each on the first two and 75 reps of the last one. I’ll definitely increase those numbers as my body adapts to the added strain. Truth be known, I was just tired and lazy this morning. Haha.

They returned me to my house around 8:50am. I think I got an extra 10-15 minutes of rec time, whoo-who!! I knew that lunch would be here shortly thereafter so instead of taking a nap which I desperately wanted to do, I read the latest Discover magazine. As I was finishing it up I heard them pushing the chow cart into the pod. They had some sort of beef stew as the entrée, corn, pinto beans, green beans, and biscuits. It was actually pretty good.

After lunch I addressed some envelopes and straightened my locker box up as I waited on my shower. With this two hour rec format for level 1s it’s almost guaranteed that the first round of rec will have to wait until they feed lunch, switch out the second and third rounds of rec, and pick up trays before they get showered. Today I didn't get into the shower until close to 12:30pm. Afterwards, I crawled back into bed and took an hour nap! I know it, I'm a lazy MFer!

It was just after 2pm when I arose reinvigorated. I made my last cup of coffee (boy I hope we get to make store tomorrow, I am out of everything) and pulled out my mother's letter, which I received last night. I reread it and pulled out my pen and paper to respond to her.......

When I was free my mother and I were very close. She was my nurturer, my comforter, my confidant. With her I could do no wrong. I recall times when I'd get into trouble at school or in the neighborhood and she'd almost always handle me herself rather than tell my dad, who was at work, because she knew he'd bust my ass. She'd usually just talk to me sternly and make me do some chores. She did that because she didn't like seeing me hit in any kind of way. I love her for that, but in retrospect I wish she would’ve let my dad kick my ass a little more, it might have made me think twice before I pulled some of the crap that I did. Because when my dad disciplined me he had my full attention and I understood every word out of his mouth! Yes, Sir! ;-) When he said something I did it, no questions asked! In my first case the assistant district attorney told our jury that I was the chief of my house, my family the Indians. HA! Bull-fucking-shit! Make no mistake about it, my dad ran his household.

So yeah, my mom and I were best friends the entire time I was free. She stayed close to me for about the first year of my incarceration, then things got pretty complicated. Letters became infrequent, almost nonexistent. There was a span when I didn't see her for close to 5 years, or anyone else for that matter. In her defense she had no money and was totally dependant on others to provide for her (still is), so I can see the cause some of her behavior. But back then it shocked me. Not hearing from her for months at a time, having letters returned to sender because she'd moved without informing me, and the overwhelming feeling of being neglected disturbed my 17 year old mind, inducing a state of despair that nearly ended my life. It wasn't entirely her behavior that caused my languished state of mind, that 99 year sentence for a crime I didn't commit had a crippling affect no doubt, but I think her behavior affected me more than anything. I felt alone in the world for the first time, and what a shockingly violent world I was forced into.

As the years passed I came to understand her behavior a little better. My mother isn’t mentally capable of dealing with me and my situation on any sort of regular basis. It eats at her soul, sends her whirling into seemingly irretrievable bouts of depression, and causes extreme levels of anxiety. I've suspected this for a number of years, but I felt it at the core of my being the last time I visited with her. She can't handle it, so she (subconsciously) avoids it as much as possible. It has taken me awhile to not only realize this, but to accept it. I do now. Nothing can ever convince me that she has stopped loving my father, brother, and I, it's just that she can't think about us and our situations for very long. Imagine how it must feel to lose your entire family just like that. She hasn't committed any crime, yet she is forced to suffer along with us. That hurts me deeply. And I don't blame her in the least for the way she deals with us. Truth be told, it's hard for me to face her myself.
All that being said, we write each other every couple of months and she tries to find a ride down my way to visit once a year or so. It's works for us and I'm content with our relationship these days. She’s Mom and I’ll always love her.

I finished her letter just after the “birthday scam” and then cleaned my house. I typically sweep and wash my floor every Mon., Wed., and Fri. sometime after I shower so I can use my towel to sweep. Those are the days that we exchange our towels for clean ones. I also clean my stainless steel wall and toilet with bippy on those days, although I'm constantly wiping it down everytime I use the toilet or sink.

No sooner did I finish cleaning did I begin writing this entry. They're about to change shifts right now (they change out at 6pm and 6am) and I'm about to wrap this up and read the rest of the night. Depending on whether I get some mail or not that is. If I get a letter tonight I might go ahead and respond we'll see. But right now I'm gonna get out of here.

April 13, 2006
Last night we were informed that this pod isn't making commissary until the 19th. We haven't made store since late March, and everyone is out of everything, so naturally the announcement was met with a collective sigh and a few expletives! J I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity and use it to quit drinking coffee......again! Haha. I've' quit several times in the past, but I invariably rationalize that it isn't such a bad habit and fall off the wagon. Don't get me wrong, I love the boost that it provides, it's just a real bummer late in the day dealing with the energy crash. Besides that, I've grown dependant on it again and that bothers me. I'll be over the caffeine headaches by the time we make store anyhow, might as well leave the stuff alone.

One row went to rec first this morning so I slept in. I needed that after not getting much sleep since Sunday. By the time they made it up to two row with the recs they were finished with rec in A-section, the section that went outside today, so I was able to get put outside. It felt great to get some fresh air, soak up the sun, and run around like a kid just out of school! I try to do that every time I go out there. There's a basketball, a basketball goal, and a pull-up bar outside and if I'm not shooting hoops, doing pull-ups or some other exercise, I'm running around, walking on my hands, turning flips, or climbing on the bars that hold the goal onto the wall!! I'm still a kid at heart, always will be.

April 14, 2006
I went to sleep last night with every intention on going to rec this morning, but when they asked me if I was going out I said no. I was sleeping too good!

As I've mentioned in the past my house is located directly in front of B-dayroom. The space separating my door from the bars that encompass the dayroom is approximately 4ft., so I can see most of the dayroom rather clearly. Before we went on lockdown I was conversing with a guy in this dayroom (I'll leave names out of this for the sake of anonymity) and I noticed a nervousness about him that hadn't been so conspicuous in the past. He had a slight stutter, fumbled with appropriate words to fill his end of the dialogue (unusual for him, he's a very articulate man), kept moving his arms and touching his hands together as if to conceal an almost imperceptible tremble and he averted his eyes from my cell so we rarely made eye contact. I've only known him for a few years so I asked, “Since you've been on this unit have you noticed a change in your social skills? Has it become an effort at times to communicate with others face-to-face?” He thought about it for a few seconds then replied, ”Without a doubt.” Seeing him in the dayroom like that reminded me of an old observation of mine: the architectural design of 12 building on these “Michael Prototype” units can, and often does, contribute to our diminishing social skills.

We are confined to these cells for 22 hours per day for 5 days a week (24 hours per day the other two days). Most of the time when we communicate we are doing so through our doors, not looking directly at anyone, just at a lot of steel and iron. Sometimes one becomes so absorbed in what he's doing that he may go days without talking to anyone. Over an extended period of time this type of living can have adverse effects on our communication skills, if one isn't careful That's why I think it's important that we don't become reclusive and cut off communication with others here, but rather we should make a point of interacting with others as much as conveniently possible. This place can only break you if you allow it to.

I vividly recall a conversation I had on Connally unit in October of 2000 (while on 12 building) with a guy I hadn't seen since 1997 in GP. Throughout the conversation I kept thinking that something was different about the guy, I just couldn't put my finger on it. Finally I said, “Dude, you seem different, I'm not sure how though. Are you taking psych meds or something?” He took a deep breath, looked at mycell, looked to his left then right, then refocused on my cell and said, ”No, I ain't on psych dope. It's this fucking seg shit, man. It's got me all screwed up, can't even talk right anymore.”

Are you not convinced that the lack of communication, or even this abnormal way that we are forced to interact, contributes to the diminished social skills that many of us exhibit? Emperor Frederick, the thirteenth-century ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, wanted to know what language had been spoken at the birth of mankind in the Garden of Eden. Was it Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? He ordered an experiment in which the original circumstances would be re-created as closely as possible. A group of infants were to be isolated from hearing all human speech from the moment of birth until they spoke their language. The babies were to be raised by wet nurses who were strictly charged to maintain complete silence when with the babies. All the conditions of the experiment were successfully carried out. The result? Every one of the babies died! The lack of communication is often toxic and can be lethal. (Robert Bolton, Ph.D. ”People Skills”)

For the record, I have certainly noticed this phenomenon in myself. In fact, earlier this week it was pointed out to me at visitation. Even though I am aware of such things and try to circumvent them, I'm not impervious to it all. It's a constant battle, but with awareness and determination we can prevail.

April 15-16, 2006
Let me make a couple comments about yesterday's topic. I've talked extensively with guys here about the debilitating effects this milieu has on one's social skills. One of the things that bothers some dudes is being in those dayrooms. The cells surround the dayrooms and everyone has a view of it and whoever is in it. Some dudes have told me that they feel as if they are on a stage out there, as if everyone is watching them, evaluating their every move. Of course they admit that this isn't happening, but the feeling is present nonetheless.

Also, the officers are required to strip-search us every time we exit the day room and for many such a thing is not only degrading, it's emasculating. I grew up in prison (literally, I've been here since I was 15) so stripping naked doesn't have this affect on me, nor does going to the dayrooms, but I know this isn't the case for a lot of guys here. Some guys are so afraid of being put in the “spotlight” that they never even go to rec! Little do they know, refusing to recreate and to come out of the cell from time to time can have an
even worse psychological effect.

So yeah, I think that the way these dayrooms are designed plays a role in some guy's fading social skills. I'm not sure what they can do about it either. When I first came to prison I had to strip ass-naked in front of hundreds of men several times a day. I At first it made me paranoid and extremely defensive, but after some time I became used to it. I told myself that I wouldn't blow-up on anyone so long as they didn't make any moves on me! ! J One time I yelled out," Hey motherfuckers, you can look but don't touch!!" Haha! Anyhow, I guess guys will either get used to it or find some way to deal with it.

We got a new mailroom supervisor not too long ago and the result has been delayed incoming and outgoing mail. I talked with one of the mailroom ladies the other morning and asked her what the problem was, she said, “Things are a little crazy right now with the new supervisor, plus we're short-staffed, but we're working on it.” That would be nice.

Alright, I don't want you people thinking that I'm whining about all of this, I'm not. I'm stating facts when I write about things here. If what I write is merely an opinion or a perception of mine I try to make that abundantly clear (correct me if I'm wrong). Everything I've written thus far pertaining to our living conditions has been objective (or intersubjective) and when it's just an opinion, etc.... I think I've been explicit about it. I try not to complain about anything, that's not my style. But if I do, well, sue me!

Personally, I tend to think of this as just another learning opportunity. Adversity is intricately (and intrinsically) apart of life no matter where you are. Sure, this might seem like an extreme place to be for some, but there are much rougher places in the world. I'm thinking Third World countries, Iraq, parts of Africa, and even some parts of the USA. But no matter where you find yourself on this plane of existence, there are lessons to be learned through adversity, that's just the way of life. And we are strengthened by adverse situations. I firmly believe in the maxim, “That which does not kill me only makes me stronger.”

One of the greatest songs ever recorded just came on the radio......”Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd!!!!
I love this song, it reminds me of a time when I was riding with my brother in his truck. We were just cruising around, blowing off steam, and I crawled half way out of the passenger's side window and screamed,”and this bird you'll never cha-ain-ain-ange, owhoa-whoa-whoa!” as I flapped my arms in the wind! J My bro just laughed and told me to get my crazy ass back into the cab! Haha. That's me though, I like to be wild sometimes and have fun with life. That's the meaning of life if you ask me: to live in the moment and enjoy yourself as much as you can. Sure you gotta take care of business and perform your duties, but that doesn't mean you can't be a kid occasionally and be silly. Find that kid inside that you keep repressing, release your inhibitions, and grab life by the horns, you'll thank yourself in the morning.

So what's so exciting about death row? How can a man be happy in this situation? Well, first of all, I don't believe happiness or peace of mind come from external things. Haven't you heard the stories about those billionaires who say they are depressed and can't seem to “find” peace of mind? They own the world, have the most beautiful spouses, have seemingly unlimited power, but they aren't happy inside. It's because you won't ever find “peace of mind” or true happiness from material things. (And don't mix up pleasure with happiness, that's not the same. True happiness and contentment are lasting; pleasure is temporary, fleeting.) If peace of mind and happiness are what you're after, then you must look within. If something isn't right inside, you won't ever be truly happy.

For the first time in my life I think I have healed my inside and my entire life has taken on a new meaning. I'm not worried about the future, or dwelling on the past, I'm trying to live in the moment and breathe in life as it unfolds. I sing more, I joke around a lot (sorry about that guys! J), and the stars shine again. I can' t predict the future or change the past, all I can do is live in the present and embrace life, which is what I do. I see people around struggling to cope with their situation, wondering what's next, preoccupied with yesterday and tomorrow, and missing out on today. I can't live like that anymore. I refuse to. This place can't steal my tranquil state of mind, I won't allow it. Of course I get off track at times, I'm far from perfect and we all stumble but it's so much easier to get back on the horse these days. Furthermore, I find that I'm excited about climbing back up!

No longer do I hate waking up. Each day is a new adventure and I welcome whatever transpires. I'm finished with grasping, clinging, resisting, recoiling, and running, I fully accept each moment and release it once it passes. Life is beautiful again, I can see clearly. And what is it that I see? An awesomely dynamic, ever-changing process with an abundance of potential for creativity, achievement, growth, excitement, adventure, and meaning. I just let life flow through me and observe the beauty of existence. If I can do it here, you can do it there. Just remember............

One Day at a Time,
Simple Man