Archives for the month of: July, 2011

Reader, my on line writers’ group, CHPercolator, prompts Post July 31, 2011:

You mean life is more than material for books?
Seeds of crazy believe
Black marks march across the page
Working like a canine for very little money
Mended, the floor of my soul was finally strong enough to bear my full weight.

The floor of my soul is doing pretty good now, occasionally it has the strength to do an oingo boingo, like a brand new trampoline! Yesterday, my soul went oingo boingo all day. You betchum Red Rider, The funny thing about souls and weight, when you lean into fine tempering your soul through life experience, or just pulling the splinters and shards of same off the floor, once you get it down, get your soul mended strong enough to bear full weight, it becomes gossamer light.

Which brings me to a gossamer event yesterday of two people who found each other, Red and Jan, and their wedding. No black marks march across the page on this wedding; nope letters of every hue; flamboyant pink, awesome yellow and rainbow blue and ultraviolet appeared in the sky.

Some people might say what kind of seed of crazy are you ingesting old girl, and I tell you, most of the time I live in the land of practicality. Years ago I worked like a canine for good money as a secretary in law firms, good law firms, and now I work like a joyous canine for maybe not as much money, but I am like an abused greyhound dog, or Black Beauty the horse, remember Black Beauty, finally out sharing the pasture of words and events and how to do this and write like you talk, sing, dance, you know. You catch my drift.

A lot of people comment on how much I read. Okay I admit turning our one and only walk in closet top shelves into a library, despite the fact that we live in a two-room pool house might be excessive, but they leave such a lovely glow in my heart. Yes, books glow, but I tell you this reader; are you still with me? I tell you, life is more than material for books!

See you around the trails, around the bend.


It was 1992, and my husband Igorovich insisted we drive to the Wisconsin Cheese Farm to photograph shelves and glassed in cases of cheese, no abundance of lack as in our city, Dnepropetrovsk, where cheese was called sere to my American ears.

We were newly on our honeymoon and I was to bring Igorovich back to my home in Boston, to a family which prided itself on their standing within the generations. My great grandfather had been Sheriff of Suffolk County in the early 1900s, and with a name like “Keliher,” I gathered he’d come over before the potato famine.

But history or generational placement was far from my mind, that hot day when odors of cows and an occasional sniff of sweet grass relieved the tedium of flat stretch after flat stretch of highway, only relieved by country stores, with 12 empty rocking chairs lined up as if to say hello, come to Cracker Barrel and find root beer candy, sarsaparilla drinks from the past.

But no, Igorovich, as I was soon to learn was a “pusher,” and a bull dog, and I a small Chihuahua personality myself, was not match to his drive and intention. But it wasn’t all “plocha” awful, that day as we drove off the highway ramp, the only Edsel for miles, the only car for miles, because I had heard of a writing group on the “net,” as they say.

We parked in the dusty graveled parking lot, headed towards a low slung, ranch style building covered in a wine-colored wood, and as we opened the air conditioned doors, air, cold air blasted us back an inch or two.

Igorovich was rubbing his meaty hands together, reverting to Russian, “Horoshow, Horoshow,” which to my 2 year old level of Russian meant good. What was it about me, my tiny, small persistent personality? I always feel for men in uniform, and Igorovich met me in the open air market (a euphemism for shock of beef on hooks, wedding gowns next aisle over, potatoes which looked abused, and I was asking for Smetana, and Sleevki, one or the other, they are dairy products, don’t have my smetanas and sleevki’s down. That’s three year old language level.

It was love at first sight, and I called him Sleevki Igor, and now cheeses and abundances of the dairy kind led me to a serendipitous moment of great impact, almost as great as meeting my beloved Sleevki Igor, but not quite – nothing could replace the smell of raw beef, a handsome young man bending over my tiny form, sweat on his neck, a delightful clean smell of sweat, and muscled arms, oh a girl could go far in those muscled arms.

There inside the Wisconsin Famous for Its Cheeses door, the air conditioning pushing cow ears back, was someone in an enormous cow uniform. The cow had human legs in the front, and cardboard legs resting on a cheese barrel with lots of miniature sculpted baby cows around his tale, as if to say, “I’m prolific,” and “All us cows do our dairy best,” and so while Igor ambled around more cheese shelves than he had seen in his life, and was blasted away by the “how may we lay our lives down in service for you employees,” I sauntered up to the Cow.

How is it, there’s a figure in there. Who are you. Well the cow must have been embarrassed, so a small voice laced trills and bass notes, said I’m today’s new Cheese Representative, and todays, my first day on the job. What’s good, I said, slowing myself into what was going to be a rolling dialogue/monologue, repartee, Camembert or Cheddar ?

The cow’s voice dropped several octaves, almost like the sounds on the planet we can’t hear and said, “Look lady, I’m a writer, and an umployed one at that. For cheese’s sake, don’t push me.”

You are a writer, you in the cow suit, by this time I gathered he was a man.

Yes, and because he was in a cow suit and was a writer, I shouted behond the pickles and ham slices rolled up drolley besides the Swiss cheese, and called, “Igorovitch, Igorovitch, Ididi, my word for go which meant to Sleevki Igor, come here, as it was the only motion word I knew.

Well Igor and I love people in suits, or uniforms, and a man in a cow uniform on his first day at work, and on our first time in a famous Cheese Factory was the beginning of a propitious relationship.

It turned out, this writer and many others whom he knew would turn out bon mots of the laugh and lie down with your belly to the floor, and I learned through this man, “Steve,” whom Sleevki Igor called “Steevovitch Seritskee” became a life time friend, and in the future we would venture to lands like Kansas, and Boston, my family loved cheese, and then in our later years, we would find a small pool house, which fit our immigrant hearts, and to our delight, we would discover Steevovitch Seritskee was now a famous writer, but he lived still in his modest family home in temple City and we were horoshow (good).

Available free on request at annaing@centrum.is

Dear Family of Friends,
Welcome to another issue of our quarterly newsletter. Your feedback regarding additon of other writers to introduce additional perspectives, has been upbeat and positive. We have continued to request submissions by other prisoners and hope to keep providing new writers in each issue.
In the years that we‘ve published this newsletter, we have only ever once dedicated an entire issue to a single person. That was to Deborah Peagler, AKA TRIPP. Well, that‘s about to change. This issue is being dedicated to Molly Kilgore. Yes, that‘s right Molly! This one is for you!
When Molly received her 7 years-to-life sentence, I was in the eigth grade. She had no idea she would need to witness seven Presidential terms, two wars, and a parade of governors before hope would be rewarded. She stood tall through it all. If you look up the word perseverance in the dictionary it should list names like Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, and now … Molly Kilgore. You have no idea what it has been like for her. I‘ve only been locked up 22 years compared to her 33 years, and I can only imagine.
Another think that I can only imagine is the elation that filled her as she was reunited with her family on June 20th. I can only imagine what was going through her mind as they drove her off State property to freedom. Yes. Friends, Molly Kilgore is finally free on parole! It took 33 years, a world of hope, a heart of faith, the support of good family and friends, and most of all, the mercy of God.
On Molly‘s behalf, I would like to thank each and every one of you who wrote those letters to the Parole Board and the Governor. Thank you for signing her petition on the web site that was set up to aid in her plight. Every last letter and signature made a difference. Not only the night before, but the morning of her release, Molly gave me far too much credit. She credits our featuring her in the newsletter as a vital turning point in her battle. While we stood together united to support and plead for her release, it is Molly who served the sentence. It was Molly who never put down her shield and kept facing the dragon in battle. I guess it just made it easier when she had a small army behind her. It inspires and reinforces hope. That‘s a terrible thing to lose, hope is. But she gave us too much credit. It is she who persevered.
So, I say to each of you – thank you for helping us, help Molly. Thank you for being a spoke in the wheel of change. God bless each of you for your prayers and assistance in helping the freedom fight of our Friend Molly Kilgore.
And Molly? Yes, I‘m talking to you, girl. You simply amaze me. There are short timers here sniveling about a parole violation and a lousy ten months to serve. Girl, they aint got nothin‘ on you! I‘m so glad you never gave up. I‘m so happy your family was here to embrace you at the gate. It has been our honor and privilege to help you. It has been a true blessing to call you a Friend. We believe in you. You have so much potential, so much to accomplish yet. Take it one day at a time and don‘t let things overwhelm you. Girl, you already beat the dragon. Now is the time to celebrate your life. Congratulations!
Love, Light, Prayers & Hope T.C & Mama P

Mail Delays
Thank you for your patience and understanding regarding the delay in our responses to your incoming mail. The mailroom is understaffed and slow as molasses in January. A 602 was filed to resolve the problem. We hope for the best.

My Friend Molly Kilgore – Respectfully submitted by: La Donna Robinson

Congratulations Molly, I keep hearing people say, „I want to be like Molly!“ Well, I‘m not one of those people. I don‘t want to be like Molly. I don‘t want to give the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 32 years, 6 months, and 5 days, of my life. Does anyone remember the phrase „Cruel and Unusual“? Well, it is still cruel, that hasn‘t changed at all. But it certainly isn‘t unusual. It has become habitual and routine in the state of California to hold prisoners who are sentenced to an inderterminate sentence, to 20, 30, even more that 40 years in some circumstances. Some of these inmates were sentenced to only 2 years to life, 5 years to life, 7 and 15 years to life long before the mandate of completing the base term even came into effect. In Molly‘s case, she was sentenced to 7 to life, but served the time of someone who was sentenced to two first degree murders. Her prior grants for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings were subsequently overturned by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Molly will forever be loved and remembered by me and will live in my heart for the rest of my days. As the saying goes, „Bye Molly! See ya…but most definitely do not want to be ya.“

Making Amends submitted by Angel Meza
Sometimes, we as humans lose ourselves on the highways of life. We fall short of our direction of just who we truly are, or the values our mother, father, grandmother, and others taught us as we were growing up. So, today let‘s make a difference by making amends.
For years I have struggled with trying to atone for the harm that my actions have caused others. This goes for those that I have harmed both directly, as well as indirectly, through my poor example.
I have a gnawing guilt for those that I misguided through my actions, and whose futures I feel I have robbed by way of my example. Whenever I see or hear about a youngster coming to prison, I am reminded of the painful fact that my own actions contributed to the negative culture that influenced that individual. This awarness …. insight if you will … provides the fuel for my desire to atone.
Over the years I have come to understand that making amends is not an act, but rather a way of life. It is a spark that ignites within you (remorse) and empowers those around you.
As the saying goes, „You can give without loving (an act), but you cannot love without giving (a way of life).“ Making amends is exactly that. You can make amends without being remorseful, but you cannot be remorseful without making amends. Writing a letter to your victim is an act of amending; having the nature of character that seeks to contribute to others is a way of life. One is fleeting, while the other is lasting.

In making amends I cannot undo what has been done, but I can do better than I did. In other words, while I cannot change the past, I can affect the future. By improving on my self, I can positively impact those around me as opposed to the negative results of my previous behaviour. I can be ever mindful of my ability to influence those around me in a more positive manner. Especially the incorrigible youth offenders coming to prison nowadays. It gives me the opportunity to honor my ability to encourage change. Not when I get out, but now. Nothing like the here and now.
We may not be able to fix all of our past mistakes, but we can address the ones we can. I cannot express enough how making the smallest amends can make the biggest difference. Anything doen from the heart is always worth the effort.
Always.

Nothin‘ Like Friends In Low Places
When I first arrived at C.C.W.F., I was warned that you don‘t have friends in prison. I was told that people will use me and take any kindness for weakness. I have been there many-a-time both in the free world and this concrete paradise. I know I‘m not alone, you probably have been used, manipulated, and had your heart broken too. With each relationship, regardless of being platonic or more intimate, I have gained knowledge moreso about myself than other people. Each circumstance was a life lesson that was part of my personal blueprint. Each scenario resulted in a personal inventory.
To this day I still hear that you don‘t have friends in prison. They prefer to say that you have associates. Yes, while I have many associates, I still have friends that are at home in my heart. If you were to ask me what I thought of or feel for Dee Dee, Pops, Niki, Belinda, Tanisha or Molly, i lwould tell you that they are my friends, and I love them. Ah, there is that L-word that is thrown around all too loosely in prison. I hear „I love you“ so much that I now joke, „oh, so much love in prison!“ I‘m telling you, if there was half as much love in the middle east as there is in prison, we never would have gone into Afghanistan or Iraq.
What is love anyway? My definition includes being when you care more about someone else than you do your own self. It is unselfish and kind, it is given without expectation of reward. It can be in the smallest actions or compassionate deeds. It is when Dee Dee needs to talk, and no matter how dog-dead-tired I may be, I‘m right there. That‘s what I mean by putting someone before yourself. It‘s when Pops missed Huera when she paroled, and needed a shoulder to lean on, so I volunteered on weekends to work even when it was windy as Chicago and cold as Alaska. It was when Niki needed help with her case to see if she could get a reduction in her ridiculously lengthy sentence. I didn‘t really know a lick about legal research or where to even begin, bu I‘ve learned to navigate my way around the law library and find case law that may be of relevance in her freedom fight. What else would a true friend do? Yes, you do have friends in prison. I have friends in prison, and I love them. Yep, the L-word.
No matter where you are in life … free society or prison, people are people. They are like pebbles on the shore, each unique in their own way. It doesn‘t matter what their ethnicity or background is. Some of the nicest people can be found in prison. There are many people in society that probably shouldn‘t be, so it makes no matter where you are. All that really matters is who the person in the mirror truly is.
To open myself up to another person invites the reality of vulnerability. It requires that I open the door and let them in. While I have my own trust issues due to my own childhood and personal relationships that scarred my heart, I still find and believe that there‘s something good in everyone. When I look back on my life once it is over, I would hope to see what looks like a road map. I want to see my own path having crossed many more in this life‘s journey. With each crossing comes insight, growth and wisdom. There may be hearthbreak along the way, but even an airplane is safer on the ground than in the air, but that is not what it was created for. You have to be willing to take the risk, otherwise you‘ll never know what you are missing. The same is true of love and friendships.
So, whenever I hear someone tell me that you don‘t have friends in prison, I just gotta smile, because they are wrong. I know that I have friends, I have friends in prison. And I honestly believe that they know that they have a friend in me. Just goes to show that you shouldn‘t believe everything that you hear. There‘s always going to be a Dee Dee, Pops, Niki, Belinda, Tanisha, Molly or lil ol‘ me to prove them wroing. Why?? Well, don‘tchu know? There is so much love in prison!

*August 7, 2011 is National Friendship Day
So, if you received this in the e-mail or saw your name in print, please know that I am your Friend … and I hope I‘m the kind of someone you‘re glad to call a Friend, and not just an associate. I‘m here for you … and I always will be.

„Da Brain! Da Brain!“

Let‘s talk about the human brain. You know? That thing that weighs about 3 pounds and has about 100 billion neurons with another one trillion supporting cells. The brain has several sections, or structures, all with their own purpose. My focus is on the frontal lobe.
The frontal lobe is where the prefrontal cortex is located. This is where judgment, rational decision making, reasoning, and the logic and understanding of consequences originates from. It governs one‘s capacity for abstract thought, aggression, goal setting, and impulse control. Sounds pretty important, doesn‘t it? It is the power house and command center for cognitive flexibility, however, it is not fully developed until about the age of twenty-five. It is one of the last areas of the brain to mature.
Now, let‘s discuss the temporal lobes. Please, just bear with me, I do intend to make a point. This area contains the limbic-reward system, which includes the amygdala, which regulates emotions that are essential to one‘s survival. This can include fear, pleasure and anger.
The brain is composed of axons, which are like little messengers that communicate across a synapse to a dendrite of a neuron. What T.C.?! In simpler terms, there is a constant circuitry of impulses with a bunch of actions and reactions taking place making it possible for you to read this right now. The axon has a coating on it called the myelin layer, which is like insulation that permits all cognitive funtions. Myelination is a continous process as well, that begins before birth and takes place gradually until adult age.
Okay, so now that you know all of that, let me explain why I presented a biology lesson. You see, there is scientific empirical evidence that the above is all true. We now know that the adoloscent brain is not maturely developed until age 25, with special emphasis on the prefrontal cortex. We are aware that juveniles react emotionally centered (amygdala) because they lack a mature prefrontal cortex that would better regulate emotions in given stressful situation. In realistic terms, a 17 year old is not capable of thinking like an adult, so why is it that our collective society allows retributive justice to be carried outon juvenile offenders, equal to that of more mature adults? The Supreme Court ruled in Roper V. Simmons to ban the death penalty in all juvenile offender cases due to, in their own words, „The court observed that juvenile‘s lack of maturity and comparatively underdeveloped sense of responsibility ofen result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions. Juveniles are more susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, and that the character and personality traits of juveniles are more transitory and less well-formed.“
We live in a society that has heard the evidence, yet lacks the will to help reverse the error in law that they voted into existence. With new emerging science that clearly shows that youth rely upon their emotional center of the brain, which in turn can result in negative consequences, I have to wonder how you can read this and not get mad. I mean, what if were your kid, right? Did you know that between 1992 and 1999, every state except Nebraska passed laws making it easier to try juveniles as adults? Twenty-three states have no minimum age, and last I heard, Kansas and Vermont can try 10-years-olds as adults. Are we still calling ourselves civilized? Is that not barbaric by any measure?
Back to the brain, people. If a 15, 16, or 17-year-old doesn‘t have the biological mental capacity to rationalize a situation in a matter of minutes, let alone the blink of an eye, how can we call them adults? After all, if you sentence them as an adult, you‘re calling them an adult. Want to make a difference? Get involved. Burying our heads in the sand will not fix the problem. Only action on your part will. Go to http://www.fairsentencingforyouth.org or write to them at:

Human Rights Watch
11500 W. Olympic Blvd. #441
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Q & A with T.C.

Q: Did that story about the trip to Yosemite really happen?
A: Yes, it did. I had the time of my life!
Q: What is all the hoopla over releasing prisoners early?
A: On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that overcrowding conditions in California‘s 33 state prisons is a violation of our Eighth Amendment rights in regards to cruel and unusual punisment. It had mostly to do with the prison system‘s failure to provide minimal care to prisoners with serious medical conditions. A three-judge panel in a lower court had stated that „it was an uncontested fact that an inmate in one of California‘s prisons needlessly dies six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.“ The U.S.S.C. has given Governor Brown until May 2013 to reduce the prison population down from 144.000 inmates to 110.000. The prison were built to house only 80.000 people. Only non-violent feons will either be released or transferred to county jails. There are already about 10.000 inmates who have been shipped out-of-state over recent years, but more can fit into such a proposed plan. So in a nutshell, NO they are not releasing murderes, child molester‘s or savage beasts that are in custody for violent crimes. Those news reel bites are mostly of over zealous tough on crime advocates that think every prisoner is another Charles Manson or Richard Ramirez. Without proper data and hard cold facts, people can create the worse scenarios in their heads.

Q: You forgot to list the medical hotline info in last issue.
A: Ooops. To contact the California Prison Health Care Services people in Sacramento regarding your concerns about an inmate‘s inadequate health care, phone (916) 324-1403.

Q: Why are you overcharged so much at your special sales?
A: The fundraiser is a privilege for us to taste or obtain select items that as a prisoner, we would otherwise not receive. We recently had a KFC and Costco bulk item sale, which raised over $9k for charity. Any charge over the actual item price goes to a charitable organization. So if you think about it, a fundraiser/special sale is a win-win for both us and the organization receiving theproceeds. Right soon we are expecting two more sales by or before October. One is Little Caesar‘s Pizza … and who doesn‘t love pizza? The other is another Costco bulk items sale.

Q: What is going on with Marsy‘s Law?
A: Marsy‘s Law, which was ignorantly voter approved using scare tactics, permits the Parole Board to deny a lifer seeking a release date, far up to 15 years until their next possible parole hearing. An inmate named Michael Vicks (not the Pit Bull fighting football player) filed a writ when the BPH denied him parole using Marsy‘s Law as their justificationfor a lengthy denial. Because Vicks was in the system before the passage of the „Let‘s screw over lifers“ law, the BPH should not have applied it to Vicks. The court agreed when they heard his case. Marsy‘s Law only can legally apply to prisoners sentenced to life terms after the law was enacted. In more simpler terms – it does not apply to any lifer given a life term prior to the law‘s passage, January 2009.

Q: Is it true that more lifers are being released now than before Jerry Brown became Governor?
A: Yes. He has made it clear that if the taxpayers are payiing the BPH decision-makers over $100k a year each in salary, plus all of those ridiculous travel expenses, then he will need to trust that they can do their job. He‘s not treatening them like Wilson & Davis did, nor is he insulting them like Arnold did. He‘s not running for any higher office, so he has no personal agenda that would cause him to trample on a lifer‘s hopes. Ole J.B. was in office in the 1970‘s. Yes, he was Governor when Molly became a lifer prisoner, and he‘s Governor to release her. Do you like apples? How about them apples? Yeah!

One of the Things I‘ve Learned in Prison by Jennifer Hall
I‘ve been incarceratedat CCWF since 1993. Over the years I have particiapted in workshops, self-help groups, and numerous other classes which have enabled me to grow as an individual. By far, the most rewarding and challenging class I have taken, is ASL-101 (American Sign Language).
Not only am I learning another language, but it has opened up the door to an entirely new world for me. It takes patience and tolerance to teach this class. My teacher, Ms, Vonnie, is outstanding – not only as a teacher, but at understanding a group of people and being able to transfer that knowledge over to us. What she has taught me I could never have learned from a textbook.
I am learning more than just sign language. I am learning life lessons that are invaluable and will stay with me forever. The compassion Ms. Vonnie has for the deaf community has had a profound affect on me. I‘m looking forward to completing her Religious Signs class, and am excited in taking her ASL-102 class in the fall.
There are many things one can learn in the prison environment … some negative, some positive. I choose to seek the latter of the two. What I‘m learning in these classes offered to prisoners here, has opened my eyes, mind, and heart in new ways for a better tomorrow.
Ms. Vonnie, you rock!

Best Friends For Life:
To Molly May Kilgore, From Vickie Lee George
Molly, I want to tell you (and the world) how much I love you for being a family member to me while I have been in prison. When I first arrived at CIW (California Institute for Women in Frontera for all readers outside of California), I believed in my heart that I would do my 25 years-to-life alone … but then I moved in with you into your cell, and I felt that I was not alone. And I wasn‘t.
Molly, thank you for helping me learn how to do my time by both sound advice and demonstration. Not every new lifer is so blessed. When I count my blessings, I count you twice.
Now that you have left CCWF for new horizons, frontiers and a better life … a well earned life, it takes some time getting used to the fact that your prayers were truly answered. I look down A-Wing and after a minute I realize allover again that you are no longer there. When I was you go throgh the R&R door and you waved good-bye to me, I turned and said „thank you, Lord, for putting my best friend in my life.“
Molly, I wish you the very best out there. You‘ve worked so hard and waited so long for this freedom you‘ve been allowed to embrace. My Friend, I believe in your true potential. Yes, I miss you, but I wouldn‘t want it any other way. Besides, give me a minute … I‘ll be joining you soon.

Love Always – Your Friend – Vickie George

The Kindred

A new roommate moves into the cell and introduces herself. You discuss the house rules – simple structure of common courtesy and respect. They‘re always happy when I tell them that they don‘t have to remove their shoes before entering. More than happy actually … more like relieved. Once they settle in and realize that I don‘t bite and I most likely have all my shots (well, the ones that count), they ask that one question. You know? THE QUESTION. Sooner or later they ask, „so, when are you going home?“ And half of the time they don‘t comprehend when I reply, „I don‘t know.“
Being a lifer is an experience, not for the weak. We are a strong breed. It may have a little something to do with the road that got us here, but it has a lot to do with how the system has affected us too. If you were to ask me what it is like to be a lifer, it would take more than a simple sentence or minute to explain. To say that you‘d have to be one to understand is an understatement.
As a lifer, I have seen more roommates parole from my cell than I can even guess to number. I‘ve been in this same cell for the last 16 years of my 22 years of incarceration. What can I say? I play well with others. There are times when someone on the walkway will get annoyed that I don‘t remember them. They will try to make me remember their being my cellmate six, ten, twelve years ago. Really?! More people have passed through my cell like water through a seive than I can count. If anyone should be annoyed, it is the lifer who watches the parole violators keep coming back through the revolving door. It is like a slap in the face of freedom.
As a lifer, I know that to get close to anyone in here automatically requires trust. The reality though of getting close to a non-lifer, is that the other prisoner will eventually parole. It‘s gonna happen eventually. Our reality is that we watch many others get a second (third, fourth, and often tenth) chance, when all we want is half a chance. When it happens to someone that we care about, we have mixed emotions. On the one hand we are happy for them that they get to leave this place. On the other, it almost feels like a small part of us has died, as they take that part of our hearts with them. We don‘t want to be selfish, and so we let go. With each good-bye, we let go. It hurts … it hurts like hell. Can you imagine saying so many good-byes over a couple of decades? Unfortunately for the lifer, we need not imagine it. If anything, many avoid it by keeping their hearts guarded. Even hardened. However, like the storm clouds in April, a calm comes over you and life goes on.
Ironically, most of my prison friends are lifers. The ones I‘m closest to at least. They understand what it is like to wake up in here every single day and not know when they‘ll go home. They know what it is like to stress with anxiety the preparations of a parole hearing and to be abused by the panel (emotionally, mentally). They have the same fears of either dying in here or being stuck in here when their loved one dies … and not being able to attend the funeral. They have forgotten the feel of a real bed on Christmas morning and the taste of the home cooked meal that only mom could make. They know all too well what it feels like to be judged, condemned, and misunderstood. They comprehend that to quit is to die, and same question what the hell there is to even live for after all. They understand. They are my kindred. They are just like me, but also different.
So, when are you going home?
I don‘t know.

Umm … huh? I‘m a lifer

Oh, I‘m sorry. Why are you sorry?

I don‘t know. My point, exactly.

From The Heart
In the summer of 1978, I spent two weeks at Mt. Cross, a Christian faith based summer camp tucked in the Santa Cruz mountains. I didn‘t go there alone, but with my best friend Nancy. It had the usual campfire sing-a-longs at night, arts and crafts, and whatnot. The first week we were there, we heard about the hike to the summit, a good two hour hike one-way. We passed on it the first week, but come week two, we were gung-ho about making the trip. The thin was, we didn‘t want to look like wimps if we couldn‘t make the grade, so we decided on taking our own practice run. We thought that if we could hike uphill for about half the run, then we were good to go. So, we make plans, told our cabin counselor, Bear, and set out that late morning.
We headed up the incline path behind our cabin, which was set at a short fire line that separated the woods from the line of cabins. On the way up, we had to climb over a couple of downed trees, and around at least one too large to climb. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, we came to a clearing set aside for night campfire. We had met everyone there the week before. It was large enough for a good fifty people to sit on the logs that encircled the fire pit in the middle. Nancy dicided she wanted to take a break and she headed into the circle. I followed her into the wide open space and sat on a log. That‘s when she pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and I reminded her she wasn‘t supposed to smoke in the woods. Camp rule. She claimed she‘d be careful and lit up anyway. I can‘t stand cigarettes, and anyone who knows me, knows why. So, I stood up and as I did, that is when I felt it. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. My stomach flipped with anxiety and dread. In an instant, I knew we were not alone. We were not safe. My strong sixth sense said, „RUN!“
I stepped directly in front of Nancy and whispered only loud eonugh for her to hear, „You know how I sense things?“ She said she did. I continued, „Don‘t look around. Don‘t do anything unusual. Just put out your cigarette and lets head back to the cabin.“ She just looked at me like I was pulling a joke on her. „Nancy, we‘re not alone. I‘m leaving. You coming or what?“ I headed to the circle‘s entrance and turned back downhill. Nancy was behind me, uncertain of wheter or not to believe me. Finally, she said, „Teresa – I swear, if this is a joke …“ I turned toward her over my shoulder to tell her that it wasn‘t, and that is when I saw him.

Behind Nancy, higher on the incline, but on the path, was a man. He had white clothing on, dirty and torn. He looked like he crawled out from under a rock. But hat wasn‘t the first thing I noticed. No, the first thing I noticed in the three fastest seconds of my life, were his eyes. Almost not even human. All I could do was yell, „RUUUUUUNNNN!!!“

It wasn‘t until later that I found out that Nancy afforded herself a quick glance overher own shoulder before she began to run behind me. I‘m telling you folks, it doesn‘t just happen in the movies. There‘s always that girl who will ask, „Run? But why?“ One look and she was like the wind on my heels.

I wasn‘t sure if he was chasing us, but I wasn‘t about to slow my pace to find out. What if he wasn‘t alone? I could hear Nancy behind me mumbling jibber jabber all the way down the mountain. The mysterious man bought us a little space when we heard him stuble over on of the downed trees, not landing very gracefully. The clean air burnt my lungs, but I kind of liked being alike, so I kept running.
As we neared the cabins, I began to yell the only thing I could think to yell: our cabin counselor‘s name. Nancy began yelling too. The funny thing is that everyone came out of their cabins because we were screaming „BEAR! BEAR!“ They all thought we were being chased by a bear. Our counselor, Bear, stood with them and grateful to see a crowd all I could do was point into the woods behind us. Nancy was ghost white drained of all color. She couldn‘t even yell anymore. Nobody understood what we were trying to tell them, then suddenly their faces all lifted, looking into the forest at my back. Their eyes displayed amazement and fear all at once. I turned and locked eyes with Mystery Man. His were black as far, possibly also the color of his soul. He made a wide panoramic sweep of the crowd left to right, then right to left. And then he locked eyes with me. He got this crazy little smile on his face, and the he turned and walked back into the woods. He never said a word. I don‘t recall anyone else saying anything either, let alone trying to follow him. He just disappeared out of view.
It didn‘t take long before Pastor Crowley had us called into the dining hall to meet some police looking guys. Forest Rangers or State Police? I don‘t know. They had those Smokey the Bear hats on. Nancy and I were shown a few photos. Instantly, we recognized the guy in the ice cream man uniform. Turned out he had recently escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. I really know how to have a good time don‘t I?
The moral of the story is, always listen to your gut instinct. It is like a compass that will always point you to the North. God put it in each of us to help us, protect us, and guide us. It is when I ignored my gut instinct that life dealt me some of the hardest blows.
So, I say from the heart to you … no matter what you may be going through, regardless of what other may think, always follow your gut. It tells you what is best for you. It is allabout you, and well, you‘re kind of a big deal. The world is a far better place with each of you in it. And if you ever feel a little lost or overwhelmed, call a friend, or, just yell at the top of your lungs. „BEAR!“ Trust me, someone will come running to see what is wrong. Worked for me. Namaste -T.C. and Mama P. me.for

T.C. Paulinkonis W45118 514-16-4U. PO Box 1509, Chowchilla, CA 93610

Pauline (Barbara)
W45118 514-16-4L
PO Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610

HAPPY NATIONAL FRIENDSHIP DAY!

III John, verses 13-15

July 21, 2011

CHPerc prompts

“Today should be my wedding day,” said Annie Mae Clare McDougall Habersham as they moved her out of her trailer park, because newspapers in the back entry way were stacked to the ceiling, and I, her 70ish, low on the ish cousin, shirttail cousin at that, was the only lone female within my clan brave enough to enter the sagging trailer on a hot July day, humidity up to sweat and think “Hell,” and to prepare to breathe through the mouth, avoiding unwarranted odors from the decaying tin can of a trailer, collapsing before my very eyes.

I squeeze sideways, even though people call me skinny, I still have to squeeze sideways to make it through the newspaper filled back entryway, which is book marked on the opposite side by those familiar yellow National Geographic’s that people saved thinking, these will be a treasure later.

That’s what it’s all about, saving, hoarding, hoping something for nothing, later, in the dusty future where a ship will come in, a lottery ticket will pay off, Google will reward the younger in our generation for some unknown embryo of an idea, to be planted in everyone’s need section of their brain. We have all become like raw open throated baby birds I think as my nose begins to reject a sour odor, and I move towards what once was an elegantly curved mahogany and soft light green velvet couch, said couch, looking like a Keinholtz replica, with stuffing coming out of its chest instead of Keinholtz’s original piece which portrayed squirrels nesting on a rotted-out breast, to a horrified crowd at the LA Museum on Mid-Wilshire in the mid 60s.

“Today should be my wedding day,” thrums against my brain, quiet cloud like thoughts, pure fluffy white, floating over chaos of broken lamps, hidden treasures of pearl handle knives and a peer or pier mirror tall, tilted against a wall in the corner, ornate gold frame, from floor to ceiling, this mirror abandoned before it was sold to make a lot of money for Annie’s future abundance.

Annie, Annie, Annie. If I were she, I would have changed my last name. What a curse to be named “Habersham,” so Dickensian in its doom, its curse of the unmarried, a curse which makes no sense in these days at the turn of a new century, the 2000s. We don’t worry about being married, not married. We worry about food, prices, greed, and think of the Wall Street Boys bowling with our brains and hearts, and totally removed from what’s really happening here on Hensworth Street in Lake Forest Park.

We are a long way from the real world, and my purpose here is to make sense and get Annie out of her mess. She doesn’t think mess. Annie’s brain is back in the day in 1938 when her to-be husband was cavorting on the sands of Cape Cod, as he ran along side the ocean. He had just turned his head to shout to Annie, a good looking 20 year old with long chestnut hair, long legs, an arched nose, and the moment was truly golden. Golden except for the fact he didn’t see the giant horseshoe crab in front of him and he fell and its long tail pierced his heart.

He was a bleeder, and he didn’t make it through the night. Annie was devastated and simply not right for the rest of her life.

So here I am now, the only practical one in the family whose tree goes back to Habersham and Dickens, and I am here to muck out, and get her into a rest home, and sooth the community association who is afraid that rats are cavorting all over the trailer park.

I see her, slumped over in an old tattered maroon (they don’t use that color any more) Morris chair which is spotted and its wooden slatted frame is scarred from dog scratches. Her dog Pip sits whimpering at her side. Small, runty dog, small slivered woman, and the day we move this shattered bone and mind of an old lady, unnoticed except for the horror of her hoarding, I think, that’s it. She’s the next subject of my next book.

And then, I pull out my cell phone, dial, “We Clean Up Anything,” pick up Pip, who gives a feeble pug cough, tell Annie, “We’ll have you under 800 thread count sheets by tonight,” and call my husband who will drive her to the hospital, and think, “It’s all grist for the mill.”

Did I mention the LA Times had just printed a photo of an old cane chair on top of a junk pile, with its bottom part threaded out, reminiscent of the Pope’s Chair, verifying he was a guy, as mentioned in that lovely book Pope Joan?

Truth is so delightful when turned into fiction. Writer’s block is over.

The wheel of hours was going to be long, and would involve a lot of waiting, just like I’m waiting in this darkened Park Street Subway station, which smells of hot dust and urine, and feels like I am in the vestibule of death, when in reality, I am only on my way to Monday, my first day at a new job.

Reader, can I whine, can I have a plaintive voice. Think of my voice as wine dripping from my mouth and forming letters which complain, and my plaintiveness resembling old tin cup, which when I put my lips on it, curl back and reveal teeth, white, but tired, tired from having to live inside my mouth so long they’ve developed a lacework on their tips. Yeah, the bottom teeth with the dental hygienist said last week, “Oh you have such little teeth. How cute.”

Reader how are 73 year old teeth, the bottom once, which are white, which are precious few, and which are squeezed together as if bunching up in fear, “No don’t take me,” also have had the nerve to show delicate little edges, not smooth lines, and my teeth, I’m afraid are going on to a grey/gray, land of older, older woman, even though I still slash red lipstick on my lips which prune and pout as I ponder the bleak outside world where all the newscasters spewing yellowed print, green print, red print out of their mouths, quickly like blades of steel grass, and they all have opinions. About jobs. It’s about jobs, which is why dear Reader, my life is looking black, purple and I feel a shade coming down, as if it is sundown, and it’s only morning, but I’m off to my new job as photocopier for a law firm.

This law firm is on State Street, where years ago old men wore white spats over their shoes and women in clothe green felt hats, or grey felt, or any kind of felt, color it any way you want, hats, and these hats hid the obedient eyes focused on the rough, knobby cement, glanced at the brick exteriors of old Boston Buildings, spelled the ocean air coming up from the harbor or Harbah if you are a native, and scurried into buildings to be on time for the men they worked for, such as our leisurely white spatted gentlemen circumambulating the Boston Gardens.

This was our out, and it was a good one. Secretaries. Now there’s a word. Reader I once knew practices like Gregg Shorthand even though I took the college courses in high school, I was now and had been a Boston Clerical Girl for years.

Did I mention, at fifty-three I became “temping” later a word exalted to “freelancing,” all words pointing to don’t hire the older woman. Did I mention I wore black a lot, because it was cheap, and slenderizing, a word people don’t use any more. And did I mention I once had a life filled with magentas and yellows and starburst lemon, and grew flowers like the Iris, a delicately laced flower with deep purple hues, and I had dogs that were silky red with long hair, and small little beige squatty little dogs whose curl of tail was beyond creamy, beyond perfection?

But now, I live in the real world. Did I mention when I worked there were no pensions, no this, no that, no insuring one’s end of days with padding of the economic time. I had thought the legal world would protect me, because in the depression of yore legal secretaries found work. Teachers found work. But it is now 2011, and I must work because I could be one step from living in the streets. I will work until I’m 85, or until I can’t see the documents which will come in serried rank, page after page, and I will push, click, staple and fold, and somehow my creaking wheel of hours will end.

check out http://www.bahaiperspectives.com

For those who might be interested. The interview covers my personal beginnings, religious background, follies, foibles of high school years, coming to California in 1962, discovering the Baha’i Faith, prayers of the Faith, life in general, transformation, and writing; hope you enjoy!