Discover more from Compass Star Wordsmith
"Believe what I believe and I believe you will be better" a tyrant would say
Welcome to the first post in a new section. Thanks for being here today. I enjoy our time together. As I explained in my Wednesday post, this is a new direction for Compass Star Wordsmith.
I sincerely hope you will give it some thoughtful reflection. My initial theme here is to share some of the life-lessons I learned while serving time in prison. The memories are still raw over a dozen years later.
I am not proud of the actions that put me in prison. I am ashamed and embarrassed. But I accepted responsibility and was held accountable. Drunk-driving is not a mistake. I screwed up and was somehow rehabilitated. Thanks to God.
I have too many supporters to make a list, but everyone who supported me knows in their heart they helped a good man. Thank you. First of all was my ex-wife and kids. My parents. My employers at the time. All of my family.
I lived in shame for many years. Not telling anyone. Becoming mortified when someone did find out. What a horrible way to live. Not anymore.
Your support now is equally as valuable. Sharing, liking, and commenting are currencies in the realm here, and your participation would be not only welcomed, but valued. Cold hard cash is still king.
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On the first night I spent in jail on the way to 240 days of incarceration, I met a man who became my best friend and mentor for the next 48 hours. I never knew his name or saw him again. He probably saved my life and doesn’t even know it.
We were in a holding cell of about 200 dudes. Straight off the bus, collected and contained in a large room with no toilet or benches. Just four walls and a floor. After a few hours, the drain hole in the middle of the room made its purpose known. The drunks sobering up had to piss somewhere.
After shift-change at some point in the never-ending daynight, lights flashed and a disembodied hard-ass screamed to get our shit together or get fucked-up. Chin-to-chest and nuts-to-butts. Now!
Lost, dazed and confused, I stumbled into a female cop. She screamed and shoved the fuck out of me. My new best friend grabbed me and kept me from falling into the piss-hole. Do I count that as a random act of kindness? Still waiting to pay that one forward.
Hi-Ho, nuts-to-butts we go! The next stretch of hours was the most degrading period of time in my life. Literally toeing the line at risk of flash-light therapy. Now naked, nuts-to-butts has new meaning.
Busted, booked, and broken
For new readers or even some veterans that may not know my backstory, I thought this the right moment. Actually, I didn’t think anything and how the hell do I know right from anything else? This just feels like the time and place to share.
I went to prison at 45 years of age. I hit 57 last August. Yeah. For drunk driving. After a round of Saturday morning golf on a Labor Day weekend. Busted, booked, and broken by 2 pm.
I hit a van with nine people inside of it. After crashing over onto its side, not one occupant emerged with a physical injury. Mentally, I’m not so sure. But by the Grace of God go I. They were employees of King Taco on their way to a taco party. I fucked that party up.
For years, I thought God was saving me by saving them. Little did I realize that He saved them to let me save myself. God does know exactly how much it takes to break a man. Broken I was.
Never knowing it allows a perverse freedom of entitlement and rationalization. High-functioning is a passable substitute for normal, I guess.
Breaking us into naked tribes of skin color, a new and fun type of flash-light therapy presented itself in the form of body-cavity checks. Yeah. Bend over and spread’em. How does one get that job?
Still naked, but now in smaller rooms of about a dozen same-colored men, my new BFF48 just started chatting me up. Obviously not his first time down. At first, I was like shut the fuck up. Can’t you see how bad this is? What the fuck is your problem?
Then he said something that changed my life forever.
Don’t play politix.
Familiar with the word but not this new context. Intellectual curiosity knows no inappropriate moment to satisfy itself. So I engaged. The mental image of two grown-ass naked men having a philosophical disputation amongst a cadre of other grown-ass naked men in a 10x10 holding cell is rich. Crossed-legged and beard-stroking, just needing an espresso and cigarillo.
BFF48 spent the next few hours schooling me on prison life. People on the outside are completely naïve and totally clueless about life inside. I was. Not our fault. Common knowledge of prison is mostly supplied by Hollywood. It’s all fake. Just like everything else in Hollywood.
Right off the top, nobody gets raped in prison if they don’t want it. I’m not talking about sex-rape, but punishment-rape. (rape in a prison context - not normalizing it in anyway) Granted, my time down was short, and my institutional passport has just six location stamps, but I stand by my contention.
Those stamps, by the way, include Twin Towers, 5700 Block of Old County, Wayside, and Lancaster State Prison. But the best was saved for last. I spent the final three months at Folsom State Prison. As Youngster told me after granting permission to enter his cell the first time
This is a grown-ass man’s prison.
Yeah. If a 10-hour bus trip in shackles was my first clue, watching a dude “fall” from the 5th floor of fish-row just three days in sealed the deal.
Better Have Your Papers Everywhere You Go
When the brain cannot wrap itself around the reality before its eyes on the inside, it’s called living on the outside.
My first question to BFF48 was dumb. Probably the second and third ones too.
You mean, politics like voting?
Pretty stupid, huh? Either he was patient or had nothing else to do. No, like don’t give a fuck about what others do or did. Don’t be a snitch, bitch, or punk. Don’t mix races to eat or recreate. Mixing is only for business.
I got lined-up on the run-down. Who to trust and who not to. Don’t talk about wives or kids. Defend the white race or get stabbed. Find a hustle for rent. Never back down.
Obviously, most of these are insane edicts to live by. But as the mostly rare occurrences of full-blown prison riots attest to, these types of rules somehow manage to keep a simmering cauldron of homicidal maniacs, drug-addled psychopaths, dumb-ass drunk-drivers, tech-grifting tweakers and the rest of society’s cast-aways from boiling over.
Every person behind prison walls is a human being. Most are redeemable and work hard on redemption. Some are pure evil. I was a person behind bars. I was redeemed. I am not calling everyone behind prison walls a monster. I am merely describing my lived experience.
The first one about not giving a fuck about what others did or do and the one about not backing down are the only ones that make any sense on the outside.
Hustling to pay rent is what Substack was invented for, right?
Sounds like the Bill of Rights, huh? Freedom of speech, religion, and all that other stuff as our president would say. I mean, it is pretty hypocritical to judge others while one is also incarcerated.
The description of this new section will probably evolve, as has this platform. As I hope I have and will continue to do. Here is my first take on it
Sounds like the word, but it's not. The posts in this section relate to the real nature of politics: tribal and class differences and how they make us similar. I learned of POLITIX in prison, and it taught me to see the true nature of human beings as they are. Yes, their skin color; and the rest of the person as well, good and bad.
I am going to write about things in the political realm, but not as a partisan. Full Disclosure: I voted for Trump both times. But then again, I voted for Obama both times. I personally believe that creates an equality.
For the record, I never voted for W Bush, McCain or Romney. Reagan yes, but I was an Alex P. Keaton clone, so I have an excuse. Bush 41 lost me with the whole grocery scanner thing, so I voted for Perot. Clinton once for some reason.
How’s that for a checkered voting history? It seems odd that to enter into this public space of political discourse, we need to vet our thought-histories to prove that we are not an other?
Our current mandates are eerily similar to the last piece of advice my BFF48 gave to me. He said because I was an old-fuck-white-guy, I will be asked for my papers everywhere I go.
I’ll give you a guess as to why? Yup. To prove that I am not a convicted child molester. Lovingly referred to a a Chomo.
You are more than free to opt out of this section, I totally get it. But in this Now, we need to get beyond opting out of political discourse. We keep being asked “Can’t we start a conversation?” I’m starting it.
Over the course of the past year, I have faithfully refrained from any type of political writing. I know, I have skirted the edges.
But you know me. You have read my words. You know where my heart is.
When the recall of the three members of the school board of San Francisco by more than 70% of the voters (SF a 6% Republican voter registration), it simply cannot be attributed to white supremacy.
But yet . . .
Calling 70% of San Francisco City voters white supremacists is not only intellectual dishonesty and willful ignorance, it is morally repugnant and outright racist.
How on earth does calling Asian-Americans white supremacists advance “racial justice”? Most parents just want a good education for their children. This is not going to turn out well for some.
Many of the posts in this section will be on the everyday people. Parents. Restaurant owners. Truckers. Front-Liners. Many of these people are scared. Scared for their kids, the future, the unknown.
But mostly, they are scared to speak up or speak out. They got a lot to lose. But when kids and livelihoods are threatened for no good reason, people start fighting back.
Well, there it is. did I piss anyone off? Enough to leave? Before you do, please let me ask that you tell me why. If you want to. If you do, I can possibly learn something of value in my life that is missing.
If you leave without telling me why, you take that lesson with you and keep it to yourself. Knowledge is power. Please share your power. I am vey interested in hearing your story.