Monday, May 17, 2010

Friends in Low Places: What Makes a Woman?

Friends in Low Places: What Makes a Woman?

What Makes a Woman?

When Catlin came into the dorm I knew it was a mistake. She looked every bit the woman. Her long blonde hair was beautifully arranged in a high style that screamed Madison Avenue stylist. Her make-up was an art. Catlin wore a tan cashmere sweater, a brown tweed skirt and over the knee dark brown suede boots. I took her back to my office at once. Catlin began to cry. "This a a mistake. I was accused of shoplifting. It is not true. I have plenty of money to pay for anything I want. Please, let me call my friend. Once he knows where I am, he will bail me out immediately."

Catlin used my phone and reached her friend who said that he would go to the closest police station and bail her out at once. Unfortunately, 'at once' can be 24 hours. I didn't know how I was going to protect her now.

Catlin told me that she had gone through most of the treatment to complete her sex change. Her body certainly made that clear. However, she had one more operation to be completed. According to the Department of Corrections, as long as the penis is attached, the person was considered male.

After some thought, I asked Paul to come into my office and asked Catlin to wait outside to stay very close by. Although Paul is a small man, not very strong, and a paraplegic, he ran the dorm. Rumor had it that he was a very important drug dealer and was very well connected. There was no one who would disrespect him. Whatever he was on the street, his reputation followed him and he was the man in charge.

I asked Paul if he would protect Catlin while she was in the dorm and he agreed to place her in his charge. I brought Catlin back in and introduced them. Paul was a perfect gentleman. He treated her with courtesy and kindness. I knew she would be safe. She was safe and she was released the next day.

A few weeks later, Paul came into my office ans showed me some pictures. They were pictures of Catlin as a model. There were pictures of her in an evening dress, a pants suit, and pictures of her in a tiny bikini. Catlin was a beautiful woman and even in a bathing suit there was no evidence that she was anything else. Paul and I were very pleased.

When I come home to the upper east side of New York, I feel as if I am on another planet...a white bread planet. I miss the energy of jail. I am easily bored by talk of fashion, new restaurants, or choice of another vacation. I can't talk to these people about my job because they can't relate to it. They think that the people in jail are worthless. It is their fear that makes them anxious but their disdain makes me angry. I am not a bleeding heart liberal. I don't see my job as saving or serving the under privileged. My job is great because the beautiful the people I work with are great. The Correction Officers, the medical staff, the other civilians but it is mostly the residents. It is their greatness of heart, their generosity of spirit, and their wonderful sense of humor that makes me love this job. It makes me happy to go to work on Monday. It makes me excited to pass through the gates. It makes me feel special because they make me feel special. I would rather have their respect and affection than most of the people on Planet White bread.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Lfe

Leo's stomach took up all of his lap. His hair, what was left of it was just a rim around the back of his head. It looked like the smile on a happy face. His tired eyes signed more poignantly than the sound that came out of his mouth.

"When I was nineteen, I came to New York from the south. I had never been in a big city before but I knew I could make it. I didn't use drugs and it look too dangerous to sell them. Besides, there was too much competition. I didn't think I wanted to fight it. I knew that the one thing I did know about was the ladies. I knew how to love them. You wouldn't believe it but I was one of the most successful pimps in New York. I has seventeen beautiful women on the street and each one of them loved me. I took good care of my ladies and they took good care of me. I used to go to the barber shop every day to get my hair trimmed.. I was down to my shoulders and I was very particular the way it looked. It was my trade mark.

Every two years or so, I would take all of my ladies to the Players Continenal Ball. Pimps from all of over the world came to the ball. Each on eof us would dress our ladies in the finest clothes, furs, and jewels. The men would have all their clothes tailor made by the best. Everybody tried to outshine everybody else. It was a great time. I had it all.

Then one day a new lady came to work for me. This beautiful young woman came from Philadelphia. She had lovely long red hair. Her eyes were green and she could see into my heart. Fool that I was, I opened my heart to her. My mistake. My downfall. No one can fool a lady. They know when your heart goes wandering. None of my ladies were jealous when they knew I loved them all but they all got jealous when they knew I loved just one.

My beautiful Maie knew that she had me and soon she was showing off to all the other ladies. It didn't take too much time before the ladies began to drift off. I was too much of a gentleman to threaten them or hurt them so I let them leave.

For awhile, I thought that I might settle down with my beautiful Marie. I had some money set aside. I even thought we might get married and have a baby or two. I was seriously in love. I started to talk to Marie about our future. By that time all my other ladies had found other careers or other people to love. When Marie saw that they were all gone and it was just us, she was very surprised. Hey Leo, she said, "I really liked being that best of all your ladies but I don't like to be your only lady. I guess I'll be moving out too."

With her gone, I was never the same again. I guess I can't take rejection. I just let myself fall apart. I went from one hustle to another, from one slide bid to another. I really thought I knew the ladies but I guess no one does."

Leo left the office. As he left, his bald head had just a little rim of hair. I looked like the grin on a smiley face. I saw him now and again and we would talk for awhile. Whenever I hear a real deep sigh, I remember Leo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Whatever Makes It Happen For You

"Heroin made me walk again. You don't believe it? Let me tell you a story." Sidney was new to the support group. He was a stocky man in his late forties. His hair was beginning to turn grey but his voice was strong and clear. "I had a stroke a few years back. I was lying flat on my back in the hospital. I couldn't move the right side of my body. I couldn't speak very well. As I started to get my speech back, I kept asking for my wife. It was several days before she could understand what I was trying to tell her. Finally she got my message. I want some heroin, I told her. Now you have to understand, my wife is a churchwoman. She doesn't do drugs, she doesn't drink, and she doesn't tolerate people who do. She is my wife but she hates my addictions. I think she loves me but she doesn't like the way I live. She is a fine woman and I respect her. However, no one else came to visit me. She was the only one. I began to plead with her to get me some heroin. I begged her. I threatened her as much as a man paralyzed can do. Nothing helped. No matter how much I tried, she refused.

When she would leave the hospital, I would spend the rest of the day trying to move just one toe. it took me nearly two weeks but finally, I could move one toe. Little by little, I practiced moving that one toe, and finally, I got another toe to wiggle. By the end of three weeks, I could move my whole foot. From there and in a month, I could move my leg and then my arm. In the second month I was released from the hospital. My wife took care of me at home. Every day she was gone to her job, I forced myself to do a little more. Eventually, I could walk to the kitchen. Once I could walk to the kitchen, I could walk out the door. It was a short walk to cop some dope. I got my heroin.

I know that if it weren't for heroin, I would still be paralyzed. Of course I got arrested shortly after that but as you can plainly see, I can walk just fine. It was the heroin that made me walk. I didn't walk too far but I proved one thing. If you want to do something...anything bad enough, you can do whatever you need to do to get it."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baseball, The Great American Sport

Yancey's hand has a huge bandage. His small face, large dark eyes, and slim body all seemed minimized by the bandage. "I lost three fingers in the dough mixing machine. I was working in the bakery. I was my first real job. I was pushing dough in the machine because it was going so slow. It ripped off three of my fingers. When I went to the hospital, the cops arrested me for a drug sale. Can you imagine? I was in the hospital screaming about my fingers when they came in."

That was two days ago and Yancey was recuperating from the accident. A few days later, Yancey asked me if there was a GED class in the building. "I'm twenty years old and I was studying for my test before I got arrested. I will get out of here soon and I want to pass the test so that I can apply to college. You see, I am a very good baseball player. I want to get a college scholarship so I can play. Then I will get seen by a baseball scout and I will play in the major leagues. I know that I an good enough. I was studying for the test before the accident and I am not going to stop now just because I got hurt. You know, there is a baseball player with only one arm. If he can do that, I can play with three less fingers."

If you ever hear about a baseball player who plays with three missing fingers, it will be Yancey. He is so determined. I hope he makes it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It Is Always a Woman

Leo is very upset about being in jail. He cries copious tears and has a very difficult time controlling himself well enough to be understood. This is particularly unsettling coming from a 6'5", two hundred and fifty pound man who would honor a football team, at least in size.

Between sobs, I was able to learn that Leo had spent the last year, and the first year of being out of prison as a model citizen. He fully intended to stay out of trouble and stay on the streets. However, as may be expected, a woman was the cause of his problem. Actually, it was the woman's cousin who really caused the problem.

Troy, Leo's fiance's cousin asked him to drive him to New York to pick up his daughter. Leo had been living in New Jersey and came to New York as infrequently as possible. Leo said that he wanted to avoid trouble. Troy, newly arrived from Atlanta, had never been to New York but his ex-wife lived there with his five year old daughter. Marie, Leo's fiancee, asked for this favor. Leo was reluctant but was finally persuaded to go to New York to pick up Troy's daughter. Marie and Leo waited in the car while Troy went into the house to get Jesse, his daughter. About fifteen minutes later, Troy returned without Jesse. Troy said that Jesse went to visit her grandmother and the trip was wasted.

As the three started back to New Jersey, a patrol car signaled them to stop. Leo, always afraid of the police and worried about being in New York, a violation of his parole to leave the state, panicked and tried to out run the police. He was driving too fast and hit a parked car. The police pulled them over. Leo was arrested to hitting the parked car and refusing to obey the officer's order to stop.

Somehow a package of drugs was found under the car when the officer stopped the car. Although it would be hard to prove that the drugs had been in the car, it was hard to prove that Leo had not violated his parole by being in New York. It was also hard to prove that Leo has not obeyed the officer's order to stop the car.

The damage to the parked car was not in debate. Leo's tears of sadness were also not in debate.

When I asked Leo why he had been upstate, he said that it was a drug sale conviction. I wondered why Leo was so devastated by the news that Troy was buying drugs, because surely, having been in the drug business himself, he might have been suspicious of Troy's eagerness to go to New York. Leo's explanation made sense. "I thought Troy was too new to New York to have made any connection That's why I believed him." Leo continue to cry and nothing anyone can say seems to help.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Subways Are For...

Greg was a very neat, small man. He was immaculately groomed. I don't know how he managed to iron his clothes but his pants always had a knife crease and his shirt were perfectly pressed. Since there are no such services in jail and residents don't have closets, he was unique.

"I am an expert on the New York subways system. I have always lived for the subways since I was a young child. I read everything that was ever printed about them. I know the history of every line. I can tell you when it was built, how it was built, and why it was built. I can tell you the architect, the engineer, and the company that built the cars. I would rather talk about the subways than anything else in the world. Even when I am home, I would rather read about the subway than make love to my wife. Would you say that I was obsessed by subways?

All I wanted to do when I grew up was to work as a subway conductor. I am an expert. I have even written a book about the subway and it is published. You can buy it in stores. I have the best collection of memorabilia in the country. I spent all my money buying information about the New York subway. There are somethings that are not for sale. Unfortunately, I felt that I had to have them anyway. That is why I am in jail."

Greg is still in jail because the district attorney is trying to make a case for grand larceny. By law there must be a law library in every jail to help residents look for ways to help themselves and their public defenders. I asked Grey if there was any precident for materials stolen from non-circulating libraries. Surely this is not the first incident of stolen books and I wonder how many people had been jailed for eight months without going to trial.

Greg returned the books, refurbished them and has offered to pay restitution. So far, the district attorney had refused and apparently has decided to take the case to trial. I wonder if the expense of keeping Greg in jail for these many months and the cost of the impending trial was a good use of tax payer money.