By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It's been a couple of months since I was arrested and thrown into jail. And it's almost time for my case to come to trial.
Court line again. First thing in the morning, and my public defender comes with a deal. We both know I'm looking at time. He tells me I can get a county lid: one year in county. I can do the last part in rehab, some place called Warm Springs.
I have to think about this. Under the three-strikes law, the state of California is giving time away like candy. You fight and lose, and they will wash you up. Hang you out to dry. All through Super Max are guys with light-green wristbands, which means they got a million-dollar bail on a possession charge and are probably facing life for a nickel rock of coke or a dime of smack. Then you got guys with the light-purple wristbands, facing 25-to-life for heinous crimes like shoplifting.
Guess what? Three strikes scares the guts right out of me -- the idea of getting struck out for what I did over 20 years ago. I tell my public defender to rush the time -- to make the deal -- and he does.
LATE DECEMBER, MERRY CHRISTMAS
Now I got a goal. Get this bullet done and get out. See if I have a life left. One thing I can tell you: Anything beats doing all day behind the walls.
So I'm looking ahead to Warm Springs rehab.
But right now, I'm in a work dorm. Some guys will tell you ODR (Officers Dining Room) is what's up, the best job in the joint. But if you work there, cooking for and waiting on the cops, they are gonna fuck with you a lot. You do get to eat their food, which counts for something, because mainline food is inedible. But the added aggravation isn't worth a decent hamburger. So the best job â overall is dorm porter -- work a couple of hours a day, kick back the rest. Gamble, read, tell lies. Mind your own business, and it's not too bad.
I'm the dorm porter for 527. Mouse is in here, got transferred just before I did. This is a small world. This dorm is kick-back. If you're playing poker, or gambling, there's a truce in force. No color lines. And we got some old-timers who know what's up -- that the only ones getting hurt is us when we're waging war. So the games are decent-size and the betting good. In other words, my income is high and stress level relatively low.
Got a huge bag of commissary, since all commerce, gambling, etc., is done by items: There is no cash, but some guys have accounts from money they had when arrested or money someone sent. You order items at the inflated prices charged by the jail commissary. A cup-of-soup costs 75 cents. The money is deducted from your account.
There's also the unofficial store. A hand-rolled cigarette will cost about three items (a cup-of-soup, a candy bar, potato chips or jalapeños). A real cigarette costs as much as 10 items. A chunk of ice -- the most prevalent drug -- the size of a match head will cost 10 to 20 items, depending on how connected you are. A match of ice will keep a clean person awake for 24 hours. For a speed freak, a match is nothing. A nickel bag of heroin -- you're looking at 20 to 40 items.
Because the game of poker is grand, I got a huge bag of commissary items. That means me and my dogs don't have to eat the crap they call chow; my diet is almost nothing but candy bars and cup-of-soups -- straight gourmet.
All I have to do is keep a low profile, and on March 5 I'm on my way to Warm Springs. The rumor is they have real eggs there -- yolks and everything.
But today, even here, the food's not so bad: Christmas Day, turkey for lunch. Had a spread later and made it gourmet. What's a spread? You take those cup-of-soups, whatever meat-type product is available, add Doritos, corn chips, jalapeños, hot sauce, mayonnaise -- mix it all up in a garbage bag, and you and the fellas dig in. Spread. Mmmm-mmmm good. Me, Mr. Mouse, Danny W. -- the world-famous tattoo artist -- Possum and a couple of other dudes have our Yuletide celebration.
JANUARY 2000. HAPPY NEW YEAR
Got a guy in here known as Ricky the Rat. He's from Pico Rivera, claims S.S. status and works as deck trustee. Basically a deck trustee is a gofer for the cops. He owes me money (commissary items).
The protocol is simple. In order to collect a debt, you get clearance from the head of whatever car the debtor belongs to. I go through the correct channels and then explain to Ricky that he's got to pay. He says, "No problem, homes. Yeah, man. No problems, man."
Chow time. The same day. Sitting down to the daily noon meal of compressed mystery meat, I look up and there's Ricky pointing me out to the guard. Ten minutes later, they call me to roll it up. Roll your blanket and personal belongings into a bundle and get ready for transfer to another dorm. No reason why, no explanation. Out of the work dorm and back to the war zone. Motherfucker.