Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Visit with J.J. from The MOM


Visiting a prison is an experience; count yourself blessed if you have never done so.  For…if you have…it is likely because someone very dear to you is there. That makes it difficult, to say the least.  I try to visit my son twice a year, but sometimes it is longer than that between visits.  I was fortunate to be able to see him recently for a weekend and wanted to share what it was like.

Visiting hours at his prison are from 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday.  I arrived the day before and secured lodging.  Visitors are taken on a first come first served basis.  The people start lining up just off prison property before 6 AM.  I got there at 6:30 AM and was the 11th car in line.  Cars continued to arrive and a long caravan was formed.  At 7:30 AM the cars began to enter the complex and find parking. 

There is a covered area with benches on each side with seating for about 40 people.  Within fifteen minutes all the seats were taken and there were at least an additional 40 people standing around.

Let me backtrack for a moment and mention all the rules involved in entering a prison.  There is a dress code that you can read online.  The purpose is to not dress in any manner that would cause the inmates to “struggle”.  That means the rules primarily apply to women.  When I dressed that day I put great thought into my attire so that I would not be refused entry.  Now, I’m an elderly woman so modesty is natural for me; I was dressed extremely modest.  However, I wanted my son to know that I consider it a privilege to visit with him so I was dressed nicely.  Kind of “business professional”.

At 8:30 AM an officer comes to the gate and yells, “first five”.  The first five people in line go inside.  You have to go through a metal detector, empty your pockets, take off jewelry, kind of like security at the airport.  It takes 10 to 20 minutes for each group of five to go through the initial security.  You have to show ID and punch in a number that you were given the first time you visited and then press your hand print into a machine.  This generates a computer print out with a photo of you and the inmate you have been approved to visit.

I was in the second group of five.  As soon as I entered the first room to go through initial security the guard said I could not come in wearing what I had on.  The objection was to the shirt and sweater I was wearing.  The sweater was extremely light weight and you could see my arms through it.  Now, understand, you can wear very short sleeved stuff, as long as there is a cap sleeve it is approved.  But apparently seeing an arm through a loosely crocheted sweater is too sexy!  The officer told me there was a Dollar General some miles away where I could purchase something appropriate.

I left the entrance and returned to the area where the other visitors were waiting on the benches.  I was crushed.  I rarely get to visit my son and now I will lose at least an hour while driving to buy something else to wear.  When I got outside people asked me what happened.  I was almost in tears and explained my blouse and sweater were not approved.  Now my car was parked some distance away and the thought came to me….I just asked to the group, “Does anyone have a shirt I could borrow?”

One lady jumped up from the bench and said she had something in her car that would probably work.  We both ran out to the parking lot and she pulled out a long sleeved white t-shirt.  I was worried because white is almost always rejected as the prison feels that you can see a bra strap or something through white so I continued to be anxious.  I put it on (sitting in the car in the parking lot).  I was worried they would not approve this so I took my crocheted sweater and put it on top of the long sleeved shirt. 

The others waiting were kind enough to allow me in with the next five people.  The officer looked at me and said, “I told you that you cannot wear that sweater because you can see through it.”  I was stunned….what you could see were the sleeves of the shirt!  I asked him if the shirt was alright and he said yes but the sweater had to go.  I stepped outside and the group waiting groaned in unison.  I explained that I couldn’t wear the sweater.  One woman reached for it; I took it off and tossed it to her.  (I would have lost ten minutes more taking it to my car.)  I hurried back inside again as I did not have to go out the gate this time.  The officer said, “What did you do with it?”  I said I gave it to a person waiting.  He said, “You have to get rid of it, it is contraband.”

By this time I am ready to collapse with anxiety.  All I want to do is have this day with my son.  I am not a rule breaker and try very hard to do what is right.  I exited the building again.  I took the sweater from the woman and threw it in the garbage outside the building.  When I entered the building again the officer asked me what I did with it and I told him I threw it away.  Now he is really upset!  He said, “I told you that is contraband”.  “You left it where an inmate could get it when he empties the garbage!”  “Take it to your car.”

Now I am crying.  I left yet again and opened the garbage (which is outside the prison by the way), took my sweater to my car and returned.  Again the group waiting were kind enough to let me go in with the next group.  My heart was pounding and it was all I could do not to cry.  All I could think about was having driven over 1300 miles to visit with my son and every minute of this foolishness is subtracted from my time with him.

I made it through initial security.  Then you meet with another officer who writes down what jewelry you are wearing and glasses you have with you.  Then you go to a private room to be “frisked” by a female guard.  There were 3 other woman in this room with me.  Of course they had all seen what I had gone through.  One lovely woman looked at me and began to pray that Jesus would give me peace and that I would have an amazing visit with my son. 

And I did have an amazing visit!  To hug him and be hugged back!  To plan for the future and give thanks for today!  Michael went to the lady who gave me the shirt and thanked her.  Later he went to the woman who prayed with me and thanked her.

The visiting park began to fill up.  At about 11:30 AM the guards began to call off the names of the first visitors who arrived and they had to leave to make room for others who were waiting outside!  Over 15 visitors had to leave before noon that day.  If I had gotten in with the first 3 groups I would have been ordered to leave early as well.  Someone was watching out over me that day!  God knew how much that visit meant to both me and my son and He allowed us to have that day and the next together.

I don’t know the two ladies who assisted me or if they will ever read this.  But I do pray blessings on them and their loved ones.  The world, even the prison world, is full of remarkable people.

The MOM 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lines

Shits crazy.  Dude asked me the other day how long I've been making art.  I told him only a couple of years.  He asked me what I did before that. 

Before that I was leveling dirt piles with a front-end loader and smoking crack.  The only art I drew were lines across a mirror, then I snorted them.  I still draw lines, just a very different type.  Sure, there's the art, but I draw many lines.  I draw line between me and people I don't like.  There's a nice thick line between me and drugs and the lines just as thick between me and my ex-wife. 

I live in a place full of worthless people.  I'm in the bottom of a septic tank of stink.  It would probably blow my mind had I not been surrounded by much the same even before prison.  Watching people melt dope in a spoon, then pull it into a needle.  Find a vein and plunge themselves into bliss.  If that's what you call it.  A world where your children and the people who truly love you no longer exist.  I sit in a life behind bars and somehow manage to make myself better.  I feel for those who are still chasing an escape from a life they feel has betrayed them.  Mr. T use to say "I pity the fool."  I was once that fool.

Today, I live, eat and sleep around people who spend every cent their hard-working families send to them on drugs.   The prison system is full of that K-2 synthetic marijuana stuff.  It's a chemical mixed up in sprayers and then sprayed over a mixture of herbs or parsley.  Once dried, it's then rolled up and smoked like weed.  Except it's far from a natural high.  You're inhaling a chemical that smells like burning tires.  This is a newly designed drug that fucks people up and nobody know the long-term effects of yet.  Like the idiots they are, these guys line up and smoke it up.  Addicts on the street come to prison and live the same way here.  Their families have no idea their loved one spends all their money on dope.  They think their loved one is treating himself to a hot sandwich or a cold ice cream.  Instead, that 50 bucks Johnny gets is paid to the dope man.  When that money runs out, old Johnny then begins to rob others to support this habit. 

So a guy doing time has to watch his back for guys like Johnny.  He's either trying to take your shit, or he's high and unpredictable.  He may just punch you in your shit.  That's the life I navigate each day.

Today, I draw a lot of lines.  Some are drawn on papers and let me express myself in the form of art.  Other lines have been drawn separating me from people in my past who held me back.  I make decisions and walk a line between good and bad.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Still, I don't want to act like the guys I live with, so there are lines to draw here. 

When I'm released from prison, I will have given them 10 years of my life.   A lot of shit happens in 10 years.  I grew up here.  I got free from drugs here.  My daughter came back into my life here.  I reconnected with my childhood friend here, who now helps me do this project and my time.  I picked up a talent here and it's my art that will support my family when I come home. 

Life is what you choose to make of it.  This place don't own me, I run this shit. 

  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rust Bucket

The fair just came to town.  Bringing with it the drunk and drugged carnies shouting taunts to passerbys.  "Step right up and throw this 8 inch basketball through this 6 inch hoop."  If you could actually do that you wouldn't be a the fair trying to win a pink teddy bear and a gold fish.  Your name would be David Blane and you would have your own TV series.   

Ironically the fair came to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Can someone make an ice ball and hit that jackass carnie in the face?  That would no doubt be easier than tossing a ring in to the top of a fishbowl that's half a mile away.  All the while your trying to concentrate the carnie is talking shit to you. 

When I heard the fair was in town I was surprised.  There's still icicles hanging on the power lines.  Perhaps the fair coming to town spells HOPE the residents of Michigan. 

God sent a dove with a branch to Noah to let him know land was near.  Then he gave a rainbow to show he would never again flood the earth.  Now we have earthquakes and landslides instead.  Still, these iconic messages have spelled out hope for a brighter day.  If you throw your dog a bone, then I guess you throw Michigan a fair.  Seems like a sick joke to me.

I told a friend the other day my relationship with my lady was build Ford tough...my friend lives in Michigan where the salt on the roads has ate half the rear fender and the bottoms off all four doors.

So immediately after I made that statement to him I had to point out I was referring to a Ford truck from Florida.

As my lady read this she will no doubt be preparing to question why she's been referred to as a Ford pickup.  A good truck boils down to the rear end and the towing package.  I want a 4X4 that can get the job done.

I believe the life expectancy of the long-distance relationship is probably comparable to the time it will take me to orgasm after 10 years without sex.  Still, my lady and I keep truckin' along.  She's probably happy with the arrangement.  I get to tell her nice things, listen to all she has to say and be moral support.  All without me poking her in the butt with morning wood, trying to get a quickie and kissing on her with morning breath.  I in turn know I have a shiny new Ford parked in the storage waiting for me to drive.  Come on baby, you did know that was part of the deal...."didn't you?!?"

We live in a world where relationships fail every day.  With that in mind, I would like to salute all those women who faithfully stand by your man.  "To have and to hold until death do us part."  Some of us don't have that luxary.  Hold your partner a little closer if you do. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Keeping it Real with Rabbi

It's funny that in life you can run into so many that claim to "keep it real" but it's usually just that...a claim.  Nothing more.  Words that vanish into thin air as soon as they leave the lips.  Then....a diamond in the rough.  Someone you never thought of surprises you by keeping it real.

Let me share with you a story that need to be told.  A story of recognition, love, trust and undying loyalty.

Live can be difficult enough being a Jew, but event more so when you are an incarcerated one...like me.   See, being a Jew (a "practicing" Jew) is hard work in prison.  Lots of institutional rules and regulations have to be followed.  So, of course, one stands out like a sore thumb (that's me!).  Anyhow, eating kosher in prison is not the easiest thing to accomplish.  Especially in Florida.  So it's extremal sensitive during the High Holidays: Purim, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah.  These are just to name a few where special needs and foods are required.  It can be frustrating and, at times, be a real juggling act considering how many people we must depend on to "keep it real". 

A month before Passover we (the 8 or so Jews) are in a mad dash to have all necessary items for the first Seder (meal) of Passover...how do we accomplish this feat?  Well, first we must receive permission/approval from the Chaplin.  Then the Warden.  And then, it's our (Jewish Community) responsibility to find someone to donate the foods along with someone who will donate their time.  Finding someone to donate their time can be the hardest part.  This person needs to be willing to use their time to deliver donated items on a specific day or risk having it being rejected.  That is a major headache and very stressful for whomever this falls on.

The shlepping (driving around) this year happens to be my girl, Jennifer (pictured below with me).


As Rabbi, I speak with the weight and voice of the whole Jewish Community when I say...."THANK YOU!"  Thank you for all that you do for me and all of my brothers.  You honor me, Jennifer, and I appreciate you more than words can ever describe on paper.  Through all this, baby girl, you still find the time to doll yourself up and come see my sorry ass every weekend.  There is something to be said about that. 

Do you have a diamond in the rough?  If so, pick up that pen, or phone, or mouse and you keep it real for a change.

~ The Rabbi ~ 

P.S. Today's Mitzvot: "A Psalm" in Hebrew means "To Remind".  So, remind the ones who stand by your side how much they mean to you!  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hooligan Art

It's been some time since I drew a piece I feel is truly a gem.  A piece that clearly exhibits my talent.  Showcases my ability as an artist.  There are times I draw another person's vision.  draw just to flex my talent and keep my hand limber and my eye up to par. 

What makes my art is the shading and how it's placed in contrasts around the lines that are my sketch.  Here is a piece I became involved with.  It became a real gem.  At some point the simple lines began to speak to me and there was icing put on the cake.

The more art you create, the faster the finished picture declares itself in the artists' mind.  I draw a lot to keep my minds' eye keen to see shading that makes great art.  I see this to be one of my most passionate pieces.  This is the type of thing I love to draw.

I would have this airbrushed on the saddle bag of my motorcycle.  The piece screams bad-ass but in an everyday way rather in a mean, nasty kind of way.

One day my shop will be open in Michigan.  A shop that will be bad-ass just like this art.  Different than all the others.  And I can't wait to give people bad-ass, lasting images.  Keep your eye out for the Tattoo'd Hooligan! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goodbye

This blog was created by sister Ester.  She opened it so her and I could stay in touch.  Three years later and the time flew.  Time for me to once again find something to carry me through these next three years and bring me home.  Thank you for your love and support.  This will close the Judicious Jailbird blog.