Besides the different classes offered for education or the sobriety programs that met two or three times a week there was one resource that, in it’s way, gave great comfort to the inmates. This was the commissary, or canteen. We could receive a canteen order twice a week, with a maximum order of $50 each time. The goods sold by the canteen were pretty basic but they gave us all the chance to have something in our drab existences. All of the basic toiletries were sold (except razors, they were handed out and kept track of by the guard on a needs basis), and there was an astonishing assortment of junk food. Everything from candy (no gum) to SlimJims and pretzels, chips, etc…You could buy envelopes, stamps, better sneakers (Reebok or Adidas), AA batteries, and little AM/FM radios with headphones in which to use the batteries. Best of all, to my mind, was that you could buy paper. The canteen sold white legal pads without any staples for about $1.00 a piece. I wrote my journal on these pads, and at last count have 36 of them. Each pad has 55 pages. I always had an extra pad to use for letters, so I wrote a fairly good amount. I think I averaged about 3 pages everyday of journaling. I also had one of the little radios. That saved my life, I think. I could pick up WAMC, the local public station, as well as a Oldies station that also broadcast the Yankees games while in season. My radio was a pipeline to reality, above and beyond the visits, newspapers, and magazines.
Here are some random journal entries from along the way. The parenthetical asides will be clarifying notes for you, the reader.
No (History) class today. Something must have happened to Gilligan (the Education director and teacher). Either that or the computer was fouled up. I’d believe both. I also would not trust Mazzeo (a notoriously lazy and simpleminded guard) with the task. He’d say “no class” just to keep someone from receiving goodtime.
Gulliano (an older inmate, in and out of jail for years) and Page (Mike Page, another inmate, in for molesting his daughter) almost came to blows. Both are high strung, but Gulliano is a real bum, derelict, scrounging, etc…In jail more than out. I think I’ll nap until canteen arrives.
Gagliardi (a guard known for being a vindictive jerk) searched my cell about 30 minutes ago. Obviously, not being a criminal, I had nothing to hide, but he questioned me about my books (language, travel, etc…) and my traveling. All business, though. I guess the guards have to search 3 cells everyday. Today was my turn.
7/10/04 (only 2 months before I was released)
9:20PM I’ve finished “The Pearl” (short story by John Steinbeck). An allegory of wealth, greed, violence, and death. Kino’s dreams, though good, went against the nature of his life. The dreams of avarice dreamt by the other peasants and the pearl traders were more greedy because they had sampled greed and luxury.
11:30PM Mom visits tomorrow. I’m very worried about her forgetfulness. She went to the store today and forgot the 3 things she went for. She did end up remembering them, but I can tell it upset her. Tomorrow will be the last time I see her until August 8th, after she has returned from Maine. I will worry about her driving those long distances by herself. I certainly won’t breathe easy until she returns safely.
I must be wary of Pete and Lee (2 inmates who became my “friends”, both whom were violently racist, homophobic, and just plain mean). They really are criminals and have no sense of right or wrong. Lee mentioned Somewheresville tonight and it made me very worried. It would make me frightened to see him in my neighborhood. I’d definitely call the cops. I guess that’s all I can say about them. I’ll pray to be relieved of my fear concerning those guys.
So there’s a little taste of my journaling during my time in jail. There’s tons more than that, and I’ll make a concerted effort to find more epiphantic entries for next time. Much of the writing really is just day-to-day goings on and random thoughts in my noggin. But then again, that’s what a journal is all about.
One more thing…I forgot the art teachers name…I had told you all that it was “Joyce”, but it’s not. I remember now. Her name is “Phyllis K.” I know her last name, but I’ll keep that to myself and to protect her anonymity. She was quite the teacher and I remember that when we had our last class together, less than a week before I left, we said our goodbyes, and she cupped my cheek in a real gesture of caring, a mother’s touch. I am still very moved when I think about it. Thank you, Phyllis, wherever you are, for saving my life.