Creative Commons License
Super Friends by Whitney Holwadel Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at whit-superfriends.blogspot.com. Super Friends: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Payback

I've been a bad boy. Seriously, I've done some really messed up shit in my time. A lot of it was senseless acts committed against innocent victims. While it could be argued that being locked up is an adequate repayment of my moral debts, to me this seems nowhere near a sufficient way of making amends. Perhaps I could turn to Baby Jesus to cleanse my conscience. But, not being religious, a couple of Our Fathers and a few dozen Hail Marys just won't cut it.

What are the alternatives? I can simply wait until I'm released and go spend time in an animal shelter or something, but why should I have to wait? Doesn't it seem ironic that, in a facility designed for the correction of anti-social behavior, there are no programs or options for inmates to serve the society they all hope to rejoin? No ways of donating their time to a charitable cause?

OK, it's not like I can reasonably expect officials to start busing in wayward youths for weekly big brother bonding sessions. And it's not like it's in any way logical to have a bunch of inmates wielding hammers and jigsaws building an orphanage somewhere. But surely there's a form of volunteer work which meets the rigid security requirements of U.S.P. Terre Haute. Stuffing envelopes soliciting donations for flood victims; writing letters to orphans. I don't know. All I know is that if the administration here doesn't want to take the initiative to encourage community service, I'll do it myself.

Problem is, I've got the passion, just no ideas. Does anyone have any ideas for a long-term project which could be implemented behind bars? Possibly an organization I could contact?


Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Convict Christmas (written Dec. 23)

Brian and I have spent this night before Christmas Eve consuming vast amounts of processed sugar and balls of cheesy fried cornmeal, and bouncing from topic to topic in conversation. My blog has come up as he asked whether I was writing anything about Christmas. I told him I wasn't sure yet. If there is going to be a Christmas entry, he will undoubtedly find out whether I tell him or not, because a couple of weeks ago I foolishly gave him the Web address which he promptly mailed to his sister, who will keep him informed. Because of this I now must present him in the best light, keeping secret certain facts like his habit of washing his bedsheets on a seasonal basis rather than a weekly one. Oops, I mean about his habit of being meticulously organized and sanitary. At an O.C.D. level, really.

We talked a little about what Christmases were like for us growing up, what traditions our families observed. Brad asked me if my family put milk and cookies out for Santa. Of course we did, I told him.

"Well, I felt I needed to ask," he said. "After all, you don't eat stuffing." [See the "Happy Thanksgiving" post.]

You know, I'll be more than a little sad when Christmas has passed. Obviously it's tough to be stuck with only memories of the past and hopes for holidays in the future. And the unceasing profusion of grotesquely jolly and maudlin Christmas songs on the radio is enough to drive a person insane. But it is precisely those elements of the season which pull the Christmas spirit past the razor wire, through the bars and into the thoughts of all of us locked away. Even here in the hole there is an emotional charge in the air, a jovial and vaguely exhilarating energy in the atmosphere which is inescapable. For the couple of weeks before every Christmas just a trace of goodwill and compassion emanates from even the most hardened gangster and down-trodden prison bitch. The Crips and Bloods won't exactly be singing carols hand-in-hand, but perhaps instead of stabbing each other they'll solve their differences with a heated rock-paper-scissors competition. Of maybe a dance-off.

Unfortunately, the day after usually brings with it a general state of something akin to anticlimax. Or maybe it's better described as a sobering reminder of reality, leaving us all just a tad surlier than when we were before the first time that awful "Jingle Bells" was played on the radio.

But while it lasts I am savoring every Merry Christmas I am wished and every courteous act which is performed in the name of the holiday season.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Wrath of Sling Blade

Early this morning, just before breakfast, I was jarred awake by the yells of an eerily familiar voice. It was the grainy, guttural bark which will be forever burned into my memory.
"Sir... Excuse me, sir! My name is Glutton Nickerson! I need a towel, sir!"
Sling Blade was back.

It has been a while since Glutton and I have spoken. The last time, in fact, was when I wished him godspeed and good riddance as he left my cell to go live with some other unlucky convict.

Since that time the legend of Sling Blade has circulated quite a bit across the prison, and more of Nickerson's story has made it back to me, giving a little more clarity to the kid's situation.

As it turns out, Glutton's version of events in which he fought his cellmate (see my earlier post "Sling Blade") to end up in the hole was only partly accurate. There were quite a few elements of the story which were conveniently left out during our lengthy conversations.

Filtering out all of the obvious bullshit and exaggerations, this is the story of Sling Blade:

21 years old and having never been incarcerated before, except in a mental institution, Glutton had no idea what it meant to be in a maximum security prison. It falls upon a new inmate's homeboys (inmates from the same state or gang) to educate a green convict on The Code and what's appropriate behavior and what isn't appropriate.

From what I understand, Nickerson's homeboys did their best to perform their duty, only to find that Sling Blade's interest in how to behave was limited to masturbation etiquette. The rest of their advice was met with a blank, menacing stare and non-committal grunts. Hey, they tried. There was nothing left to do but let the kid dig his own grave.

Sling Blade made it less than a month.

Fighting is a way of life in prison, obviously. And normally a little scuffle between two men with no gang affiliation would pass with about as much fuss as there is for being first in line at the chow hall on gizzard day.

Living in close quarters such as these, it is common courtesy to hang a bed sheet from hooks wall-to-wall while using the bathroom, creating at least the illusion of privacy. Glutton, apparently, was unaware of this policy and, when his roommate encouraged him to modify his pooping habits, Nickerson clearly mistook the advice as an attempt to bully his 6'3" 230 lb. self.

Glutton fought the roommate. The roommate lost.

Under most circumstances, the handling of a dispute, as I said, would be no big deal. But there are exceptions. And the fact that 21-year old Glutton's roommate happened to be 65 years old just happened to be one of those exceptions. Unless they're snitches or child molesters, older men are not to be touched. Perhaps his homeboys forgot to tell him.

Glutton hadn't been in Terre Haute long enough to get a second chance, and he was too much of a weirdo for anyone to be willing to stick their own necks out by speaking up for him. So the next morning a small group of convicts moseyed into a clueless Nickerson's cell and informed him that he had to check in.

To check in is the most cowardly and disgraceful act an inmate can do; it results in a forfeiture of all rights as a convict. Checking in means a prisoner tells a guard he is in fear for his safety and needs protection. The inmate then signs a protective custody order which puts him in the hole for 3-6 months until a transfer to another institution is arranged. But even then the check-in label will follow and will result in being shunned by everyone.

Sling Blade might be nuttier than squirrel turds, but apparently he's not too stupid, because he checked in without hesitation. It wasn't the only option. There was something else he could have done which would have preserved his honor. He could have refused. He would have still gone to the hole and ultimately been transferred. But instead of as a check-in, it would have been as an assault victim. What does it matter if he had to spend a night or two in the hospital; he would have maintained his honor, right? As you can see, life in prison is one long continuous state of between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place.

It was the act of signing the protective custody order that brought Glutton to the hole and into my cell for that short but magical period of our lives. His path subsequent to being removed from my cell has not been an easy one, chock-full of bizarre situations which I cannot detail due to the fact that all of a prisoner's outgoing mail is read and photocopied. But chances are good that his path since birth has been a challenge, so I doubt this is much of a deviation from what he's accustomed to. Poor guy.

At the moment it sounds like he's having a pretty intense argument with his roommate. Which is a little strange, since he's in a cell by himself. Imagine that.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Oral History of My Future

Not long ago I finished reading "The Story of Joe Gould." The Story of Joe Gould as told by Joseph Mitchell, a columnist and staff writer at The New Yorker magazine from the 1930's until the mid-60's.

Mr. Joe Gould was quite the enigma. Sometimes monikered "Professor," sometimes "Professor Sea Gull" due to his self-professed mastering of the mightily elusive seagull language.

Born a true Yankee just outside of Boston in 1889, the inadequate son to a successful physician father, Gould constantly felt like an outcast at home, so after graduation from Harvard he left Massachusetts for New York City where he ultimately settled into the life of a bohemian. Of course this was back when Bohemianism could be loosely considered a profession.

Living solely off his friends' contributions to "The Joe Gould Fund," Gould spent his days an eccentric, drinking and interacting with the city's pop society of the time, inviting himself to parties or shocking people with his poetry readings, some of which had been translated into seagull.

But the main focus of his life was a book he was writing called "An Oral History of Our Time," which was said at the time to be the longest unpublished work in existence. Over the years Gould could consistently be found scribbling away in his grammar school composition books which were invariably greasy and coffee stained from his "rugged" lifestyle. He would carry a few with him at all times, while others were stashed in the closets of various friends' apartments. But the bulk of the material was said to be stored in a farmhouse cellar in upstate New York. This stockpile allegedly contained a stack of notebooks 7 feet high. Containing first six, then seven, then eight, then nine million words.

The Oral History was Joe Gould's meal ticket. It was a collection of random essays and commentary on conversations overheard or participated in by Gould and thought by him to be indicative of the state of our country at the period of the Second World War; a piece of literature rivalling Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." In reality, several publishers who had read samples from the hundreds of nickel composition books described Gould's writing as "grotesque" or "childish" or simply "illegible." But Gould himself was thoroughly convinced that in posterity his Oral History, the collection of eavesdropped conversations between diner patrons, ambulance drivers, Bellevue asylum interns and Greenwich Village poets, would be regarded as the principal textbook of American culture. He often proclaimed that his will bequeathed 1/3 of the Oral History to the Smithsonian Institution and the other 2/3 to the Harvard Library. To be measured by weight.

And Joe wasn't the only one with faith in his tome. There were dozens of men and women who supported his long career as a bohemian and who all (or most) had faith that this epic piece of writing would more than justify the years of weekly contributions to the Joe Gould Fund.

So upon news of his death in a mental institution in 1957 at the age of 68, there was a mad scramble among his friends and acquaintances to find these composition books. But where were they? Apart from the ten or so scattered among a few artists' closets, nobody had any idea where the actual collection "a dozen times longer than the Bible" was. It was common knowledge that they were supposed to be hidden away in the farmhouse basement, but Gould had always been vague and cryptic when answering any questions about the location of this farmhouse or the name of its owner. The stash was never found, and never will be. The Oral History does not exist. For lack of a better word, the Oral History was a scam.

Joseph Mitchell had done a lengthy profile of Joe Gould for The New Yorker ; this is the piece I just finished reading in an anthology of Mitchell's contributions to the magazine. Even after the profile was completed and printed, their relationship continued for years. During that period Mitchell had opportunity to read quite a few chapters of the Oral History, except that he found each was only one of 5 different chapters, all rewrites of each other; different formats but clearly the same topics. A sculptor friend of Gould who often stored some of the notebooks told Mitchell that in all the years he had been keeping the chapters, they had all been on the same subjects, only hundreds of different drafts.

It was this oddity and an incident with a publisher Mitchell had tried to set Gould up with that provoked the outburst which consequently revealed that the nine million words simply did not exist. The upstate New York farmhouse was a lie. The Oral History of Our Time was nothing more than a delusion of grandeur.

Not wanting to break the spirit of an old man whose almost entire existence revolved around a myth, Mitchell kept Gould's secret until well after the latter's death, even assisting in the grand wild goose chase for the missing notebooks.

Joe Gould spent decades of his life preaching to anyone who would listen that he was the author of an epic work of historical literature which never existed. It's anyone's guess why he never got past those initial 5 chapters. He may have intended his whole life to eventually get around to writing down the conversation he quoted from memory. But at some point he surely convinced even himself that somewhere there really was a cellar with two meters of stained and dog-eared notebooks stored there. And real or not, the Oral History as a concept sustained him.

In just a few months I will be "celebrating" the milestone of having spent 7 of my 24 years as a prisoner. For 7 years I have done my best to convince whomever will listen that the future of Whitney Holwadel Smith is a bet worth wagering. I've prophesied the college degrees, the good jobs, the on-time mortgage payments and tax refunds. In my rhetoric to family and friends who have all in their own way contributed to the "Whitney Smith Fund," I present a character in a vaguely written play who is unremarkable as a citizen and remarkable as a concept of myself, the two-time felon.

With more than half of my current sentence done and a little over 3 years to go, I should be giddy about the prospect of proving my words to be more than just empty rhetoric. But the mundane nature of my life in the hole has all but deadened my hope and anticipation. I have begun to wonder if all those things I claimed to my "contributors" are real or just a series of fictions which I have even convinced myself of.
I am teetering on the edge of becoming institutionalized.

After spending 3 years in a medium security Ohio prison, a friend of mine once asked me if the time spent there had institutionalized me. At the time my idea of what it meant to be institutionalized consisted of simply forming habits specific to life in prison. So I answered that yes, I had become institutionalized to a certain extent.

But I was wrong. It is impossible to truly know what it is to be institutionalized without actually experiencing it. To be institutionalized means to adapt your mind completely to life enclosed by walls and razor wire. It is the transformation of the outside world from a real place and a goal to simply a novelty; a queer thing that's written about in the newspapers but with about as much significance as Los Angeles has to a poor Ethiopian villager. Institutionalization occurs somewhere around the time when a prisoner says "I can't wait to get home" and is referring to his cell.

I've spent 7 years trying to convince those I care about that I am worthy of their contributions. But are they empty promises? Will the time come to pass that, like Gould's five raggedy installments, I cannot see past the chapters of my life spent in a cage? Will this be the only world I truly know? As my mind becomes slowly wrapped in the wet blanket of institutionalization, I am fearing so.

But my promises and hope are all I have left; I cannot abandon them.

These are the thoughts which consume a prisoner on a daily basis. This prisoner, at least.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vroooom!

That's right, my buddy Vroom is back here in the hole with me. Just came in last night for "possession of homemade intoxicants." In other words, for hooch. Wine. Toilet whiskey.

"Damn, bro, they got me," he said, explaining what had happened. "My batches [of wine] were going to be done the next day! That cop Eastep went cell-to-cell doing searches for people's Christmas wine and he found mine under the bed."

I offer my condolences and, after catching up on everything that's happened with the two of us in the seven months since we saw each other last, I return to my bunk to reflect on the glory that is my buddy "The Vroomster."

Everybody is unique in their own way, but very few are as unique as Jason Vroom.

I vividly remember the first time we met. He had just stepped off the bus from his county jail. One of the friendliest guys in the world, he introduced himself to me immediately and his face absolutely lit up when he found out that we are both from Ohio.

"My name's Vroom, homie," were his first words and, obviously accustomed to people checking to make sure they heard him right, he added "You know, vroom vroom, like a motorcycle," imitating the throttling of a bike.

"Oh, I see."

This introduction would turn out to be the first of many encounters with the chronic halitosis which is one of the Vroomster's countless trademarks.

Vroom: The man, the myth, the legend is undeniably an odd sight to behold. A lean 5'10" with brown hair and eyes, he is a remarkably well-preserved 38-year old despite a significant history of crack smoking. He is a workout machine. Not a big fan of sports and certainly not of reading, much of his free time is spent exercising, and it is visually obvious that he does. Often 3 one-hour sessions a day. Yet his highly-toned physique is by no means his most distinguishing feature. Not even close.

Due to a childhood ailment with a name I've forgotten, Vroom is unable to see out of his left eye or hear with his left ear. His face is unfortunately not unlike that of a stroke victim. But this unfortunate condition is heavily obscured by the bulky government issue plastic glasses with their ridiculously thick lenses.

However, even this is small potatoes in the entire "Vroom" package. Anyone who knows him will tell you that Vroom's choice in tattoos could break the ice at an Israeli-Palestinian tupperware party. His most recent addition is a portrait of Clint Eastwood, which I admit is only really funny if you actually know Jason.

But how many people do you know with a giant vagina permanently etched into their bodies? Yes, I'm completely serious.

As a tattoo with an artistic value no doubt rivaling Courbet's
L’Origine du monde **, Vroom's vagina is strategically placed around his belly button, with the word "Wicked" emblazoned above the masterpiece.

Then, above "Wicked," a graffiti version of the words "Under Surveillance" are draped across his chest.

But it is not the Eastwood or the vagina or Under Surveillance which define Vroom the most. The piece de resistance is the depiction of Geico's gecko character holding a crack pipe about 8" high down his left side. You know, the cute little green reptile with a British accent. Clutching a still-smoldering glass stem.

Jason has got to be one of the most dedicated crack proponents in existence. His mouth waters just at the thought of what his first hit after being released is going to be like. For Vroom, crack is more than a drug. It is a lifestyle. A philosophy. A religion.

I recall a time when Vroom and I were talking to a reformed crackhead friend of ours named John. The conversation eventually turned to drugs and, as soon as the word crack was mentioned, Jason went off into his own little world, no doubt fantasizing about the fist-sized boulders of rocked cocaine he would be smoking one day.

While John went on and on about the evils of this particular drug, Vroom was paying absolutely no attention to the conversation. This became obvious somewhere around the time when, as John detailed the drug's reputation for rotting the teeth from a person's skull, Vroom whispered to me, or perhaps just to himself, "Man, I love that stuff."

Some might think that I've given my friend a hard time in the preceding paragraphs. But if there's anyone who enjoys poking fun at Vroom, it's Vroom himself. And it is also worth pointing out that his good qualities far outweigh his strange ones. A person really couldn't ask for a better friend. 100% genuine (which seems to be an exceedingly rare quality these days), generous to a fault and unwaveringly loyal. I am honored to be able to call the Vroomster my friend.

The hole is filled to capacity right now, so there's no room to keep petty vintners locked up for more than a day or two. Vroom will probably go back to general population today or tomorrow. I'll miss him. He's excited about leaving because he's just getting ready to start his next tattoo... a dolphin smoking a bong.

** Thanks, Pimp!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Global warming (?)

Global warming: What a scam! For years this region of the country hasn't experienced steady winter temperatures until, well, winter. Sure, there'd be a nightly frost and even a flurry or two before Old Man Winter finally made himself official on 12/21. But generally a person could conceivably walk around in a T-shirt well past Thanksgiving without immediately seizing up in convulsive shivers from the bitter cold.

What's the deal this year? It's been so god damn freezing outside that the one hour a day I'm allowed to leave my cell for fresh air 5 days a week suddenly seems not-so-appealing. Of course if I had some more seasonable clothes to wear out there instead of my issued orange shorts and slip-on "shoes" (which are really more closely related to paper slippers than cloth shoes), perhaps the 19 degree chill might be a tad more bearable.

But I go most days. One of the only truly productive results of the drama in Attica was the creation of a federal law mandating that every inmate in segregation be allowed out of their cell for at least 5 hours a week. So if I have a constitutional right to go out there and freeze my ass off, you better believe I'm taking every second I can get, paper slippers or not.

There are some who don't share my passion for exploiting one's civil rights in inclement weather. A short survey of inmates in my wing of the hole concerning who's going out to recreation will generally yield responses ranging from "It's too damn cold out there" to "We don't have weather like this in Mexico, you white boys are crazy."

A little frostbite doesn't stop the likes of Brian Doliboa and Whit Smith though. We laugh in the face of pneumonia. And so do a few other brave souls as well.

The recreation area is ... um ... it's a little hard to explain. Imagine an empty room of a warehouse with the top half of one of the walls cut away to allow fresh air in. Now imagine ten 20 ft. x 20 ft. empty chicken pens lined up inside. That's pretty much what the recreation area is. As I said, the concept is difficult to explain, but if the image in your mind is excessively bare and depressing, then you've got the right idea.

Five men can be in a cage a time so, in theory, 50 people could be out each session. But individual cages are segregated primarily by race and then further segregated by gang affiliation. It's not an easy task for the guards, figuring out who can be put in a cage with whom. Every so often a mistake is made which results in some poor outnumbered guy having a really bad day.

Anyway, Brian and I went out this morning. There were probably only 15 or 20 guys in the other pens; a light crowd. They paced or exercised or did whatever it is that grown men in chicken pens can do. Things are always rowdy and boisterous. Today, for example, a black guy in the cage to the left of ours got into a shouting match with another black guy a few cages down to our right, leaving the two of us right in the line of fire.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch either of their names, but the guy on the left was by far a superior shit-talker. Righty basically just echoed Lefty.

Not all of Lefty's taunts were gems. Some were obviously inspired by the stock of 5th grade yo-momma jokes. "That's why yo black-ass, crackhead momma sleep in Section 8, bitch!" was a prime example.

But when Lefty told Righty that "Lincoln must have been crazy to go against Congress for your black ass, nig-guh," I was stunned. I've heard some wild things said in the heat of vituperation, but never anything remotely like that. If there isn't yet an award for creativity in slander, there should be. And Lefty deserves the honor.

Apart from one black guy telling another black guy his very existence calls into question the judiciousness of the Emancipation Proclamation, the recreation period was uneventful. An hour passed quickly and we soon returned to our relatively warm cells where there was coffee to be drunk and leftover bran flakes to be eaten. Tomorrow is Friday, which is always a crowded rec day. Who knows, maybe some more excitement.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gizzardology

When I was a kid my parents didn't have any trouble getting me to eat my vegetables. Or any of my food, really. Of course, like every other kid, there were a few exceptions. It was a lost cause putting lima beans on my plate. And any type of stroganoff dish required a little coaxing before I would even taste it. Although lima beans and stroganoff were served on an at least semi-regular basis, another dish that wasn't served regularly which would have certainly been on lima bean status was gizzards. I mean, does any family actually sit down to a meal of gizzards in the 21st century? In the days of the neighborhood butcher this may have been standard fare. But surely in our era of Tyson and Stouffer's lasagna, gizzards are a thing of the past on American dinner tables.

"You know what that is, don't you?" a guard named Hoffman asked me last night as he was passing out the dinner meal, indicating the tray he'd just handed me.

Opening the lid and beholding a pile of dubious breaded meat pellets, I informed Hoffman that I did not.

"Chicken gizzards," he told me. "Real chicken gizzards."

I was a little unsure of how to react to this unsolicited information. These same supposed gizzards had just been served the week before and, although I wasn't happy about it, I ate the mystery meat.

It then occurred to me that I didn't even know precisely what a gizzard is. A gizzard doesn't sound like something exceptionally appetizing, but we've all been warned about judging a book by its cover.

giz·zard \ˈgi-zərd\, n. : The muscular second stomach of a bird.

Perhaps I'm being closed-minded. Perhaps I'm being childish in my tastes. Whatever the case may be, when it comes to my meat consumption habits, I tend to draw the line at anything involved in the digestive or reproductive processes. On "Whitney Smith's Inedibility Scale," gizzards rank somewhere just below tripe yet still quite a bit above Rocky Mountain oysters. Escargot is somewhere right around there too. By the way, can anyone tell me if there's any difference between escargot and snails other than a language barrier?

Sitting down in my usual dining space (the toilet seat), I quietly lamented what I had unknowingly ingested the week before when I had assumed the mystery meat was only some sort of chunked chicken-fried steak. Overcome with grief and a barely controllable urge to vomit, I once again held my tray out to Brad, offering him my gizzards. His own having already been scarfed down.

The poor kid's mom must have whipped him with an extension cord anytime he tried to give food away as a child, because once again I was fixed with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

"Just take them," I said.

"But you ate them last week and they didn't hurt you," he almost pleaded.

In an attempt to convey to him my absolute disgust for this particular dish, I posed to him a hypothetical situation in which Hoffman returns to our door and confesses that as a joke he used his genitals to stir the mashed potatoes Brad had been spooning happily into his mouth. The first few bites he had taken obviously weren't awful tasting, but would he bother finishing the meal after such a revelation?

This seemed to satisfy Brad, because he grabbed the proffered chicken stomach and munched away.

He never finished his mashed potatoes, though.



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Well, by the time this is posted, Turkey Day will be considerably behind us. We're now well down that long, cold, snowy, God damn jolly road to Christmas. But do not let the belatedness of my holiday greetings diminish their sincerity. Their lateness is just an unfortunate byproduct of my incarceration. More specifically, my need to rely on snail mail and a blogger surrogate (thanks Dad).

So while countless families all across America sat down at their respective dinner tables to dine from their plates overflowing with turkey and pumpkin pie, I sat on a steel toilet eating knockoff Butterball out of a Styrofoam tray with Brad just a few feet away.

With the turkey we had the traditional stuffing and mashed potatoes along with the not-so-traditional canned broccoli and chocolate cake. Wasn't too bad, I guess. Especially considering the fact that this is prison and all.

Midway through the meal I hold my tray out to Brad and ask him if he wants my stuffing.

"What, you're not going to eat your stuffing?" he asks, shooting me a nothing short of bewildered look.

"I'm not going to eat that stuffing, no," I assure him.

The expression on his face after this declaration can only be described as a hybrid of shock and disgust with just a hint of soul-rending agony.

"That's just not American," I'm told. And this dude is dead serious. It's bad enough when a few years ago members of our society actually began calling french toast "freedom toast" in some sort of absurd spirit of patriotism. But since when did refusing to eat some stuffing that looks like it came out of a tube equate to suggesting that bin Laden probably isn't a bad guy once you get to know him? Does patriotism really have to be synonymous with simple-mindedness?

"Yeah, OK Karl Rove," I say, standing up. "Look, this crap isn't stuffing, it's Play-Doh. Since you apparently don't want it, I'll feed it to the warden." Feeding the warden is an expression used when flushing something down the toilet.

With a dramatic shaking of his head, Brad returns to his turkey thoroughly convinced he's just witnessed an act of treason. Strange fella.

All in all, not a completely horrible Thanksgiving. Mostly horrible, but not completely.

Of course next up is Christmas. Certainly no chimneys around that Santa can shinny his fat ass down to deliver all the wire cutters and presidential pardons everybody's been pining for. Fortunately the Federal Bureau of Prisons engages in the spirit of giving by handing out quarts of eggnog and boxes of Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve to all the bad little girls and bad little boys.

I'd say that the holidays in the Big House suck except they're not a lot different from any other time of year, just a whole lot colder and snowy-er. So prison pretty much sucks in general, and the holidays have no monopoly on misery. It's not exactly supposed to be summer camp here, I guess. Although I really don't see how a few tire swings and a swimming pool would hurt anything.



Correction

To the vast multitudes of dedicated readers; to the thousands of strangers, hundreds of friends, dozens of family members and at least one internet sleuth who choose to support this blog, I owe you the humblest of apology I can make.

OK, I know virtually nobody is reading my blog, but in my election posting I cited a statistic I heard on NPR detailing how the percentage of eligible black voters who actually bothered to show up at the voting stations was around 13%. Common sense obviously should have screamed to me that this ridiculously low number should have indicated that either the announcer misreported the statistic, or that I completely misinterpreted what was being said. The fact that I actually used this number in a publicly displayed piece of writing is a travesty of accurate reporting rivaling Judith Miller, James Frey or any five minutes of commentary on Fox News.

Please accept my commitment to, from this point forward, give, if not always 100% accurate statistics, at least no more insanely senseless ones.