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16. "There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena" - Nietzsche OR: "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too." - Mitch Hedberg


I think I became addicted to drugs by accident.  I'm not sure anymore it's been so long.  I was 14 or 15 by the time I was on my way.  The drug use of my youth was sloppy at best and very unrefined.  There was the usual pot smoking and beer drinking, you dig, the kid shit.  I wasn't even clear on what addiction was.  Well, addiction at it's most polished, anyhow.

Now I want you to know right off the bat that this isn't going to be some "drugs are bad for you and now i'm righteous, motherfucker."  That's not what this is, but I feel I probably need to foreshadow some to get to the place I'm headed.  I warn you, though, I'm going to wherever the opposite of a beautiful tree-covered lane opening onto a wide, beautiful field goes.  The polar fucking opposite.

Like I said, I wasn't sure what an addiction really was, but i knew in my soul that drug use at it's base was at least romantic.  I really thought this and I still kinda do.  I've always been drawn to filth, to degeneracy.  I've always thought that this, people at their most mad, was the place where we do our purest living.

I felt the most comfortable in basements full of speed freaks and hookers.  I loved to get high and watch their movements, how they hustled and glided and interacted with one another.  It was like watching hyenas and lions fight over a zebra carcass.  I was mesmerized when it seemed like they were biting at each other's faces like dogs who try to eat out of the same bowl.  I felt at peace in the middle of all that chaos, and I admit that sometimes I can't get comfortable still.  I am rarely comfortable.

When I was 15 I started to take morphine.  I was in it's liquid form and very strong.  Some friends of my mother were prescribed the drug and we took the shit out of it.  I was a warmth that I had been looking desperately for at the time.  I didn't feel constantly nervous.  My muscles weren't constantly tense.  I didn't hate, and lash, and punch.  I felt at peace and all the filth that came with it, well that was a bonus.  The liquid became the pills and there was so much of it that it never occurred to us to stop taking it. And when we did it didn't occur to us that those flu-like symptoms were withdrawal.

Withdrawal.  Motherfucking withdrawal.  I wish I could explain my love-hate relationship with this thing, this creeping, holding thing.  I really don't want to get poetic about it, which is what I seem to automatically lean toward.  It's the unexplainable-ness of the thing.  I guess in one way it must be like giving birth.  It hurts like a bitch but once it's done you forget about it enough to do what caused it again?  That's entirely too simple, but fuck, isn't that the thing?  There's no big payoff in the after.  There's nothing and you're  never really better.  Not really.  I think it's a reminder of how tough you really are.  If I'm going to get right at it, dig righ into the sore, that's the truth of it to me.

Withdrawal is the love of the thing.  It lets you know it still hurts, that everything's still real, and pain is a slinking, spidery beast that wants to scream and beat it's chest at you.  Your job is to not flinch too much.  That might make it charge.  You lay on a jailhouse floor or sweat through a mattress and curse gods and children.  You curse every breath and movement and drip of sweat that streams like an electric eel sliding down your torso.  Shower water is like small, hot needles worming their way to your core like an Albert Fish X-ray.  The same if you try to drink.  You can't move but you have to keep moving.  Have to keep squirming.  You can't talk much but you don't need to, the conversations in your head are the arguments of the gods.  A great tug-of-war, the push-pull of guilt vs. salvation.  Salvation never wins out.  It never has in thousands of years.  We will continue to indulge our every pleasure.

Your face doesn't feel attached.  It feels almost too loose on your skull.  Any pressure to it or any part of your body is like a small, steady current.  You can't hardly touch your dick - pissing is torture and if you do luck into some minutes of drool-laden sleep, you're sure to wake up having cum all over yourself.  Only this is no solace, no ray of light in the storm.  It's cold and sad and it's like a wet dishrag left in a corner with all the small bits of food stuck in it to stink.  It's the whore shivering in the couch.  There's no end to it.  You tell yourself only four days.  That's the worst of it, four days.  You;re only deep into day one now.  Besides that, you think about your drug.  You pine and shiver for it.  You don't tell yourself you'll never do this again.  You tell yourself this is payment, this is a sort of toll.  Nothing is free.  The greatest pleasures to your mind and body must be paid for.  Ain't shit free.

The thing needs to be paid, it will be paid.  You never end up owing.  You see this in the movements of junkies and whores.  The imperceptible jerks of the eye to look at and focus on the tab.

Once you've completed this you can get high again.  Withdrawal happens for a couple of reasons.  Either you can't pay for your dope or you're trying (or forced) to quit.  Both are inevitable.  It will happen and the withdrawal is never any easier.  It's only when the sickness outweighs THE SICKNESS can you contemplate stopping.  You'll think about it and talk about it and try to convince your loved ones that you have a plan.  It's all smoke.

I'm having a hard time here.  This is really so hard to explain, to get right at.  I want to tell you how it really is, put the rock right up against the roll, but at what cost?  I understand now why everything I've ever read by an ex-addict who is now sober sounded like utter bullshit.  It was.  So to avoid lying I'm going to sort of move on to where I'm trying to go.  I'm sober now.  I have to stay that way.  I could let the spider eat me, I just can't throw certain people into the web.  I can't, so I have to let that be my drive.  I have to keep telling myself that, even now, because I still want to go back.  I can't though.  I need to keep my children out of the web.

When I was 18 or so, I moved to Detroit to pursue my career as a drug addict.  I was living off of State fair on the East side because it was close to Tony.  I went to school with her and her mom died of M.S. leaving her a two-family flat in Ferndale.  Tony had been getting high for as long as me but she was smarter.  She had looks as well and started selling ass.  Her operation was this: get seven girls of good quality, move them into the house and charge a percentage of the ass that they sell in exchange for room and board.

These were top-class girls, not the wild-haired, Garfield shirt wearing, two different shoes on, type street girl.  I started going to her place to get my dope.  Tony, who was familiar with my propensity for violence, asked if I wanted a job.  I would drive the girls to their dates and wait outside with a burner until they were finished and bring them home safe and sound.  I got $20 a trip.  This was a mostly 24/7 gig, so I made excellent money, sometimes clearing $500 or more in a 24-hour period.  roughly $400 went to dope.  This, my friend, was where it was at, as far as I was concerned.  Tony was a fucking hustler.  She was a sexy pit of despair sitting on a toilet seat, blood running down to and dripping off of her knuckles with a belt tied around her arm.

She was slicker than owl shit.  She would take a trick behind the water heater downstairs in the basement.  She would kneel down in front of him and as she started to unzip his pants she'd start to cry, I mean really turn on the water works.  She'd claim this was her first time, that she didn't know if she could do it.  Half the time the guy would run off embarrassed leaving her with the money.  The other half she'd just get slapped and have to work.  Either way, she cried, but 50% is good odds.  Workable odds.

These girls got to be like sisters.  I know it sounds like too much, but I got protective.  I never slept with any of the girls.  For me it wasn't about that.  It's like working at McDonald's and never wanting to see a french fry again.  Well, almost.  It was an inescapable circle of dirty, lusting madness.  The men who came around amazed me.  Their demeanor captivated me.  These men were either infants again or large, imposing, hurtful fathers.  Some had wicked smiles that never left their faces.  I kept a close eye on these ones.  Some had almost no expression at all and they were the most worrisome.  I filled my days and nights trying to keep these girls safe and I never succeeded.

I walked in on a guy prodding Tony all over while she was passed out.  She was spread eagle on the bed and this guy was kneeling in between her legs just poking and prodding like some filthy doctor.  It seemed like a degeneracy I'd never encountered.  It stirred emotions I had stopped having.  It seemed like an affront, but I didn't know to what.  My first reaction was to shoot him, then I moved to pistol whip him, but that would have led me to shooting him.  Instead I just got to beating him.  I beat the man until it woke Tony and she freaked out on me.  By this time the other girls were in the doorway, but they looked restless, they just looked tired.  This made me sad, that and Tony yelling at me for beating this guy because, as she put it, he was an honest man, that he would have paid.  I looked at him where he laid in between the wall and the bed and he was fucking nodding in agreement like a beat child.  I was furious.  I was enraged.  I was sad and sick and shivery.  If she got paid that means that i would have gotten paid.  I stopped working there not long after.  It all went to shit.  i left those girls to be poked and prodded and I just hope that they were honest men.

XOXO,

Ryan

15. Prison Glossary

John gave me an idea for a prison glossary.  I think this is an excellent idea.  One of my favorite things about prison, about the world in general, is slang.  I just can't blow my wad at once, so to speak.  John suggested adding just a couple per entry.  So here goes.

Jacking rack - v. - Anything that can cause you to fuck up the good thing you have going. i.e. parole, being at a good joint, etc.  Example, ". . .I know he only got me for one soup, I should just let it go but I swear to God if he even talks to me I'll jack rack beating the brakes off that cat."
I'm not sure on the etymology of the word, but I'd assume it would be pertaining to jacking off your rack, just like out on the streets if you did something stupid you'd say, "I really jacked that off."  Or maybe you wouldn't, depending on how classy you is.  The "rack" would pertain to the thing you perceive as valuable.  Your "rack" is your bed.

Beating the Brakes Off - phrase - This is a term used when describing how bad you're going to kick the shit out of someone.  I have no idea what it really means but I love this one.  I use it all the time even on the streets. Maybe it has to do with how hard you have to beat old drum brakes to get them to break loose.

Press Your Bunk - phrase - Something you would direct the person that your are going to beat the brakes off of to do.  You're essentially telling him to go lay down somewhere and shut up.  Example, "You better press your bunk before I come over there and beat the brakes off you."  Usually followed with "bitch ass" and a cool walk-away walk.

14. You Can Label Just About Any Horror Under "organic" or "for prisoner consumption" And Get A Pass From The FDA.

The food here S-U-C-K-S.  It's a sad state of affairs.  I'm conflicted on this, though, because  - I'm in prison.  What should I expect?  I saw a show on National Geographic about a prison in Peru where armed guards stood next to a putrid pot of porridge and the inmates literally fight to get half of a scoop.  (As an aside, Putrid Pot of Porridge could be a sweet band name.  Any of you feel free to use it.  My personal favorite for a band name is THE UNDERWATER HANDJOBS.  You may not use that one.)  The prisoners there are on another level.  Here we have Block Reps who are convicts and are fucking elected to discuss with the warden our rights, such as being able to have our shirts un-tucked (which we now can as per policy) and bringing to their attention that the suckiest movie, REAL STEEL, has been playing on a loop for two weeks.  Just when I get to thinking this place is the worst, some third-world country has to fuck it up for me.  Since I don't live in a third-world country, I'm going to continue bitching.  It's my fucking right.

If you're not a vegetarian, you've probably never had to suffer soy.  If your girlfriend or wife is a vegetarian (which makes you a vegetarian) you most likely have.  It is next to impossible to make soy something it's not.  What soy is NOT is good.  As in - soy is not good.  Fuck.  You get it.  It tastes like earthy nothing and shame. You know, it tastes like how I'd imagine the soil in the far corner under high school bleachers would taste.  The corner with the condom wrappers, a ripped letterman sweater, two beer cans (one Black Label, one Milwaukee's Beast), and a mildewy social sciences text book.  If you're thinking - "Eww.", you've hit the nail on the head.  That's what it is - EWW.  Now, mix this with cabbage, random veggies, and a side of beans every meal and you have your basic dish.  Sometimes we have a meal of fake poultry chunks and that's a delight.  Same shit, minus the soy.  If it's a really good day, we get some breaded bread with a vague fish or chicken flavor.  For sides it's always either salad, carrot sticks, or cole slaw.  There's dessert of cake or a fruit which is usually a bait-pile apple.

I want to interject again.  I'm listening to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album and I think it might possibly be one of the best things recorded.  Really.  It's being piped into my head as we speak, or read, or whatever.  It was left to me by another convict leaving, which is it's own subject that I'll be writing about.  I remember reading something about it being one of Duane Allman's favorite albums.  He said Miles and Coltrane were about all he listened to for a couple of years.  I believe it.  He's the rare "rock" guitarist who could one-chord solo with such melody.  Anyways, based on that I jumped at the chance to grab the album.  I also got Tom Waits' Heart Attack and Vine, one of my favorite Waits albums. these two albums have been keeping me company.  Also, if you're curious, they are cassette tapes.  While they are old and somewhat nostalgic, the sound quality blows.  If you happen to be rocking the Sony Walkman cassette player to be ironically cool, we all know you're a wet spot and could give a shit about hearing the subtleties in the rhythm guitar on that Smashmouth album you're rocking.  Dick.  In conclusion - purchase Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and immediately rock the B side.

Food.  So, we've established that the food is gross.  There are enough calories there to sustain you but it's the regularness that kills you.  There is a two week menu.  X for lunch, Y for dinner.  (Breakfast is a moot point here.  It's always grits and toast or oatmeal and toast.)  Then when two weeks is up, Y becomes lunch and X becomes dinner, repeat ad infinitum.  Now there are some old 1 and 2 numbers here who like to talk about the good old days when the menu was much better, but given their state one can hardly rely on this information.  (By the way - "1 and 2 numbers" denote older convicts.  The older your prison number, i.e. a 123xxx to 299xxx number, the more times, or the longer you've "been down,"  therefore, more knowledgeable in general bullshit and rumor.  Ridiculous, but that's the way it is.)

Now to counteract that, we have a prison store that you can order from every other week.  It has your basic candy and chips but it does have some decent survival food.  Tuna is one.  Mackerel is another.  There's assorted freeze-dried beans and, of course, Ramen noodles.

You know what?  I'm going to save my wrist and send a copy of the store list for your viewing pleasure.  Notice the inflated prices.


 In theory, this is to go to our "inmate fund" which pays to have REAL STEEL play on loop.  If I haven't mentioned it, it's a REAL TURD.  Just a couple of months ago, the movie The Green Lantern was stuck on the menu screen for a week.  Another suck movie.  February was a joy, too.  It was a random documentary from the 70's on Apartheid in South Africa.  WTF.  At least hit us with The Color Purple or something.  Isn't that the one with the retarded pregnant chick?  the Oprah loses her shit when she sees the white dude on the carriage.  He knocked her up?  I dunno.  So anyways, the way you can receive this store is to have some solid people on the outside.  (Alison keeps money in my account which is something she's always done while I've been locked up.  Thanks, Al.)  You can also buy store from your state draw, which is the paycheck you receive once a month if you've got a job.  Now this is kind of a trick.  The most you make is $3 a day.  that's what I make.  I work five days a week, so it comes out to about 60 bucks a month.  The trick is if you owe any court fines, they take half.  So I get 30 bucks a month. RE-TARD-ED.  If I owed restitution as well, they would take it all.  So if you don't have somebody out there putting a few bucks in your account to supplement this, you're fucked.  You basically need to resort to finding a hustle to get by.  This could be anything from making greeting cards, to gambling, to fucking.  There is no end to hustles.  It's just one more stress to stack onto all of the others.  But like I said in the beginning, this place is no Peruvian prison.  Guys in there have M-F'ing hand grenades!

Love, Peace, and Hair Grease,

Ryan.

13. Meghan's Amendment

I need to make an amendment to my last post or, more specifically, just explain it a little better.  I forget that there are people who read this blog who are more expert than I so my explanations can sound incorrect because of my inclination toward brevity.  FYI - I made that sentence deliberately hard.

My cousin, Meghan, is an EMT in Rhode Island and will, hopefully, be a member of the Providence, RI Fire Department one day soon.  She sent me an email through J-Pay explaining that when she goes on calls to prisons that passage from the prison is expedited because there is a guard that rides in to the prison with the ambulance, making the time spent in the outgoing sally port shorter as the need to search the ambulance is negated.  She also states that  they would continue to work on the man after he "coded" (died) all the way to the hospital unless there was a "catastrophic failure to the head."  (That's a term I made up for 'decapitation.'  You can use it, Meghan.)

Now this is a positive representation of the Providence, RI medical teams.  They seem to be caring, well-managed, and thorough.  I'm not hip to the variety of standards from state to state, but Michigan does not give a shit about it's inmates.  I'm sure the paramedics do and are probably driven apeshit every time they have to come here.  Most of these guards have a shit-assed superiority complex and if you need something done fast, the guards will do anything in their power to throw a stick in your spokes, even if a paramedic is rushing to get to a dying man.  The guards' behavior fits with the slave / master analogy --  t states that the most negative effect of slavery wasn't on the slaves but on the slave owners.  These men became accustomed to treated people as something less than human.

They encountered a culture that they didn't understand and out of fear and confusion treated them like animals.

Guards are just as much inmates as the men they are assigned to guard.  They spend a great portion of their lives working here.  They adapt to a convict's surroundings and they learn how to play the game.  Guards aren't like your typical TV or movie guard.  Some come just for the paycheck and they're perfectly agreeable people.  They talk to you like a person and aren't always in your ass.  They are also less likely to be stabbed in the face and receive the most respect from the convicts.

Then there's you "BAD GUY" guard.  The person who was probably a bully in high school or couldn't stop eating TV dinners alone long enough to pass the police physical.  These men and women are just as, or more, dangerous than the convicts.  They make already tense situations boil over.  They are the person who thinks it's their job to punish you, to make your life miserable, because they place themselves higher than all other people.  Prison is the punishment; nobody told them they're just the babysitters.

Anyways, it's these assholes more times than not who will be manning desks and sally ports.  The assholes who think it's their job to make everyone's lives miserable, their wives, their children, and any civilian who is unlucky enough to cross their path.  Guards are a whole subject unto themselves.

While I can't speak for the paramedics who I'm sure were doing all they could, I can tell you what I heard.  I heard the guards radio claim the man was dead and that, in effect, slowed the searching guard down.  They sat in that sally port for 20 minutes.  When the gate opened, the ambulance wasn't in a hurry.  The lights stayed off.  Does this enrage me?  No.  Just like the infallible Pink sang, "Sometimes it be's like that."

Meghan enjoys Saul Williams, tattoos, good beer, and gently carrying obese people down 17 flights of stairs.  How do they get up there to begin with?  Tell G I said 'hi' and I'll send John her story to publish. - My favorite G has asked me to write her a story about a mouse who lives in prison.  Coming soon.  Leave your tib-fib unbroke, girl.

-Ryan Martin