Happy Gratitude Day!
I’ve decided to start calling Thanksgiving Gratitude Day and to focus on expressing gratitude rather than some national creation myth about pilgrims.
Here are a few of the things I am grateful for:
McK being in my life
My parents love and support
All my friends that continue to support me (especially Colin for maintaining my blog *hug*)
That I’ve been moved to LCC (Yes, I moved. More later)
That I have started the program I need before I can be paroled
That most people not only seem to like me, but eventually to respect me (I don’t know why)
That I now am sleeping on a bed with springs rather than a metal plate
That I am healthy
There’s so much more but I’ll keep it brief so I can get to other stuff.
– Friday –
On Monday, the Unit Manager came to my cell during breakfast at 7AM and told me to pack up. They would be there to pick me up at 9AM. I had 2 hours notice to pack and get ready. *sigh* Of course, I was happy to finally be moving but I wish they had just approved my transfer in Sept. so I would have known it was coming rather than spring it on my with just 2 hours notice.
I packed as quickly, and lightly, as possible. I gave Jeff, my old cellie, a bunch of my canteen, like chips, that I didn’t want to try and carry with me. He also got my sweat pants because they were in the laundry so I couldn’t pack them. I left my personal shirt for McKenzie as it wasn’t on my property list so I wouldn’t be able to take it with me anyway. The biggest bummer was having to leave all my beading supplies. I knew I was going to LCC but that I would be moving to OCC sometime soon and they don’t allow beading as a hobby in OCC. So rather than carry all my beading supplies with me to LCC for 1 or 2 more months of beading, I just left them for Raul, someone I had taught to bead. At least I know they’ll be put to good use. I am glad that I had just finished enough beaded Christmas stars for everyone who has continued to correspond with me. Even after giving away so much I still had 3 garbage bags full of property. Luckily, I never had to carry them as the CO got a cart for me.
I was the only person being transported out of TSCI on Monday and because none of the TSCI staff knew where I was going I knew that it was a last minute order that came down from Olivia Moser. She is the person who keeps the waitlist for the sex-offender programs and it was her that I contacted when the central office denied my transfer. She seems to have overcome whatever objection they had to my move and got me moved within about a week of contacting her. That is amazingly efficient for NDCS. I should express my gratitude for her help. *smile*
There were 2 COs to transport just me and they drove cross-country through Sterling, Firth, and Princeton to get to Lincoln. It was a pleasant drive. I enjoyed the scenery since I hadn’t seen any new scenery in 2.5 years. While we were driving, I Am Free by the Who played on the radio. I commented on how ironic a choice of music it was but I don’t think either of the COs really got the joke. LOL!
I got to LCC during count time so they stuck me in a very dirty holding cell with no toilet or sink. I don’t think the walls had been cleaned since the last time the cell had been painted. There was what looked like food, boogers, and possibly even blood on the walls. I patiently sat lotus on the very corner of a cement seat because they had taken my shoes too and I didn’t want my socks on the floor any more than necessary, plus it was cold. While I was there CO Lyons, who had transferred to LCC from TSCI and knew me kept coming by to check in on me. Transferring to a new prison is always stressful so it was nice to see a familiar face. He assured me that LCC was much better than TSCI and that I would like it. That was good to hear.
When they finally took me to my new cell, my new cellie was out and both beds were made up with sheets so I had to figure out which bunk was mine. Oddly, with close inspection, I realized that the lower bunk was empty. You rarely move into a new cell and get the lower bunk but my new cellie likes the upper bunk. His name is Richie Munoz (or Chuco) and he was one of the legal aids in TSCI so I had met him before. He had been at TSCI for 17 years and was involved in gangs before that but he’s found God since then and is chill now. We’re getting along pretty well. He’s never had a gay (or at least openly gay) cellie so he’s been asking a lot of questions.
There are a few other guys I know from TSCI or D&E. Almost immediately, I ran into Dugger from TSCI. I knew he was here and in the program. The good news is that he has finished the program and did it in under a year.
Even though the publicly released graduation data shows that it takes 2.25 yrs, they are apparently increasing the intensity and getting it done more quickly. I think Dugger said he actually got it done in 9 months. WOOHOO!
I have settled in pretty well and am getting along with everyone, including my cellie, so things are good. The freedom of movement is an especially nice change. Our doors open at about 6:30 AM, we go to the chow hall for breakfast around 7, then our “mini-compound” (an open air area in front of each unit) is open when we get back. The big compound between all the units is open alternating mornings/evenings, and afternoons between E unit, where I am, and B unit, which is the trouble-makers unit. One day we have the big compound in the morning and evening, and B unit has afternoons. Then we switch the next day. So there is plenty of opportunity to get out of the unit and get fresh air, which is good since the cells are VERY small for 2 people.
LCC was built in the 70s and the architecture is very 70s. The units are 2 stories of cells with a sunken dayroom 1/2 level lower and the guards’ station is on a level half way between the 2 levels of cells. There are only small windows facing out but they have 2 stories of windows in the dayroom facing the mini-compound and a wall of windows across the floor with the guard station also facing the mini-compound so there is a lot of sunlight.
When McK came to visiting he commented that the visiting room, which is a right triangle, looked like an airport waiting area because of the rows of seats all facing the same way. There’s also a wall of windows in the visiting room but, as it was an evening visit, it was dark out so I didn’t check out the view. The visiting room is on a higher level than the housing units so I expect it looks out towards downtown Lincoln. One interesting change to visiting from TSCI was that the incarcerated person is allowed to go up to look at the vending machines. In TSCI, once you sit down you don’t get up which means your visitors have to check out what is in the vending machines, come back and tell you, and then go back and buy what you want. Here you can just go with them and tell them what to get. There are far fewer vending machines here though and less space so there can be fewer visitors. McK and I sat in the back row of seats so we could watch the whole room but I don’t think that will work when my parents come because the draft off the windows will bother my mom. Hopefully, it won’t usually be as busy as it was on Thanksgiving.
Being in GP now, visiting was with everyone, so I got to see a few other people that I had known at TSCI. One Hispanic kid who was on F in TSCI, Rico, had gone to the hole in TSCI and was jumped there and is now here and in GP too.
– Monday –
I’m settling in and developing a routine now. I get up before they pop the doors, around 6:15 AM, and listen to NPR on my TV. Once the doors open I take my little radio and continue to listen to NPR while waiting for them to call chow. We’re usually back by 7:30 at which point I walk in the mini-compound for 30 min to an hour. Then I get my spare blanket, belt, and watch and go to the lower level dayroom and do my 1.5-2 hours of yoga. I finish up with just enough time to jump in the shower before lockdown at 10:30 for count. That’s my morning routine now. Afternoons and evenings are more variable depending on what’s scheduled for that day. Afternoons I have been reading and writing mostly, though today I may try and do taiji as it’s going to be 40 degrees out. In the evenings I’ve been going to the Law Library pretty regularly. Someone who goes by Jedi (he says he is a real Jedi *shrug*) signed me up to go 5 days a week for 2 weeks so I’ve been doing a lot of detailed research in preparation for filing my law suit over 191 good time.
One thing that really helps with getting along in prison (and in life in general) is being adaptable. I change up my routine to work with the new facility and its schedule and I am very accommodating to whomever is my new cellie. People in prison tend be very stuck in their ways and their routines which makes getting a new cellie or especially moving to a new facility very stressful. I am trying to go with the flow and adapt as necessary. After all, in prison you can’t do much to change your environment so you had better adapt. *chuckle*
McK came to visit on Thanksgiving but because it was a holiday it didn’t count against out weekly visit so mom, dad, and McK came to visit on Sunday. They had just gotten back from Thanksgiving in TX with our family friend, Humberto, and his family. Apparently, the clothing restrictions for visitors here at LCC is much more lenient than it was in TSCI. Mom could wear a sweater if she wanted so she wouldn’t get cold and McK was able to wear the “wizard” necklace I had made for him. It was nice to see it on. *smile* Dad had a little trouble hearing because all the seats are set up side by side. In TSCI you can sit across from each other and then he can watch you speak which helps him to understand what you’re saying. Here it is a bit harder for him, though he was able to angle his seat a bit to be able to see me as I spoke so it wasn’t too bad. Once I move to OCC they will have visited me at all 5 of the mens’ prisons: D&E, NSP (once), TSCI, LCC, and then OCC. I hope they’ll be able to visit me at work release in Lincoln (CCCL) in a year or so. *cross my fingers*
– Wednesday –
Being at LCC is FAR more comfortable in almost every way than life at TSCI. The only draw back are the smaller cells but just about everything else is better. The housing units have more light. We have more freedom of movement and get to go outside more, even though the “big yard” is closed we still have the “big compound” (the yard, or ball-field, is outside of the buildings to the NW but the compound is a big open area inside of the ring of buildings).
The food is much better quality and as we go to the chow hall it is actually hot (or at least warm). I can go to the Law Library 5 times a week with just a couple of days notice. I do miss some of the guys back at TSCI, like my old cellie Jeff and McKenzie, but E unit, at least, is pretty laid back, probably because everyone in E 1 is in iHelp, waiting to get in, or just graduated. I guess B unit is pretty political but we have minimal interaction with them. I’m pretty happy to be here.
I just hope OCC will be as good or better then here. It is a minimum security facility so there is more freedom of movement and I hear the food is even better. The 2 concerns I have are that the “cells” are 8-man dorms so you have to live with 7 other guys as opposed to just one here, and that there has been a lot of politics at OCC in the recent past. Supposedly, a white gang, the Peckerwoods, were running the yard and either forcing sex-offenders off the yard or charging them “rent” to not get beaten up. In preparation for moving iHelp there, the admin. has been cracking down on anyone who causes any problems and clearing them out so I hope it will be safe by the time we get there. We’ll see come January. *crosses his fingers*
In the past month I’ve watched two episodes of Great Performances on PBS. The first was Much Ado About Nothing, a Shakespeare play, with an all black cast and staring Danielle Brooks from Orange Is The New Black. The basic premiss of Much Ado is that this man and woman who start absolutely opposed to marriage end up falling in love and getting engaged. Having an all black cast added an attitude and edge to their characters that I enjoyed. It was quite a different impression from Keven Branagh’s (sp?) version from the 90s (I think), but different in an enlightening way. I also enjoyed the added singing and dancing. Culturally appropriate, I would say.
The second episode was Kinky Boots, a music created by Harvey Firestien and Cindy Lauper. I gather Cindy won a Grammy for the score but I have to say I wasn’t all that impressed. Most of the music was very Cindy Lauper and you’d swear that she wrote one of the parts to be played by her, but there were no truly catchy songs, no earworms. I did like the basic premiss of acceptance and inclusivity but I found the characters’ psychological motivation to be thin. A major plot twist happens because the main character demands conformity for a major fashion show. He snaps under stress, and changes his accepting personality that has been developing throughout the story. The change is way too sudden and shocking, without a clear psychological explanation. Yes, he’s under stress preparing for the show but that needed to be developed more to explain why, all of a sudden, he turns his back on the ideas of acceptance and inclusivity which are at the core of his attempt to save his business. Like I said, a little psychologically thin. The final number was the best music of the show and I did like the slow-motion boxing match between a burly factory worker and Lola, the drag queen. *chuckle*
While I’m on stories, I’ve been thinking about Icarus recently. What would you say the moral of Icarus is? Something like “don’t fly too close to the sun or you’ll get burnt?” Isn’t that demotivating? Basically, it sounds like the moral tells you not to try things that everyone knows will fail, or maybe things that are risky. But isn’t trying things that convention says can’t be done the way we make progress? Supposedly, Columbus was told the world was flat, so why try sailing west to India. People believed that if God has meant for us to fly he would have given us wings, but the Wright brothers didn’t listen. I think Icarus should be hailed as a hero. He was willing to sacrifice himself to reach new heights that others believed were impossible. When we tell the Icarus story to our children I think we should focus on how striving against convention can be risky, but for a moment he went higher than anyone had ever gone before.
Even if you think the moral is “obey your father” it is emphasizing conformity rather than pushing limits. I am currently reading a book, The Righteous Mind, and one of the basic points it makes is that there are two majors groups that societies fall into: sociocentric where decisions, including morality, are based on the community, and individualistic where individual “rights” take primacy. Perhaps ancient Greek culture was far more sociocentric than the American culture I was raised in so the story focuses on conformity with societal norms: rule following, obedience to parents. A modern Western (post-Enlightenment) interpretation would focus more on the individual of Icarus and his achievement. A diamond viewed from different angles or in different light can appear different colors. A story interpreted by different cultures gives different messages. I choose to view Icarus through the post-Enlightenment individualistic lens and see him as a hero. *smile*
Something else I’ve been pondering recently is cerebral organoids. For a while now, scientists have been able to use pluri-potent cells (like stem cells) to grow simulated organs, called organoids. This allows them to do things like test the effect of some drug on the liver. They can also grow a replacement heart for transplant. All very good medical advances. However, I recently heard about cerebral organoids, a cluster of brain cells. Some of these, when sufficiently large and old enough, start to show patterned electrical activity, much like an infants brain. As a matter of fact, AI programs trained to recognize brain scans couldn’t distinguish the cerebral organoids from fetal brain activity. This bothers me greatly because at what point does a bunch of brain cells reach some level of consciousness? Should experimentation on cerebral organoids be allowed? If you’re against animal experimentation I would think you’d object to cerebral organoids too.