Thursday, January 28, 2021

Tumor Time

I have three Federal death sentences, in addition to life without parole sentences in at least two different states (Idaho and California). But it seems now that The Universe has other plans for me.

About two months ago, I started experiencing numbness in my arm, leg, and torso, and head; on the left side of my body. I even pushed the "emergency call button" in my cell at one point because I knew something was "wrong" with me, medically; not that it did any good to push the button... after five or ten minutes a guard showed up at my cell door and asked, "What is your emergency?" I told him about the numbness and "spacy" feeling in my head, then he left and never came back; I spoke to a lieutenant that was just walking past my cell a half-hour later, but he didn't do anything to help me either (at least not that I know of).

So, I waited a few days and started keeping a written record of each time I felt similar numbness symptoms. Then, about two weeks later, I suddenly had an extremely painful headache that hurt so bad that the pain alone made me puke. So I pushed the emergency button again, and this time the guard could see I was sick, so he called medical staff, and after I told them how I felt (and about the numbness, etc.), he said he'd schedule a doctor's appointment. But instead, the next day, they came and took me to the local hospital emergency room. They ended up doing a CAT-scan, and then told me that they found a large "tumor indicative mass" in my brain. But they found no "experts" on such thing locally, so they transported me via ambulance to a brain trauma center (called "Espinazi" in Indianapolis). There, they did an MRI on my head, in addition to a full body CAT-scan (to look for any tumors elsewhere that could have been the source of the tumor in my head (they found none).

After that, a neuro-surgeon specialist came to talk to me and essentially told me they had to do "urgent" surgery to reduce the mass of the tumor (but the neurosurgeon said they'd know more after surgery when specialists would run tests on tissue samples from the tumor).

It turned out to be a "glial blastoma", the size of a man's fist, growing mostly in the right temporal cortex, and intruding into the prefrontal cortex. The neurosurgeon was called "Miracle" (not "Dr. Miracle", but just "Miracle", though sometimes I heard the nurses and other doctors refer to him as, "Dr. Miracle"). When I asked him the reason for his name, he said that he was called "Miracle" because he and his mother both nearly died when he was born (no details, other than that). He must have made his mother (who I assume is still alive) very proud, by becoming a prominent neurosurgeon.

I initially refused "treatment" (i.e. surgery) because I wanted to talk to my fiancée first, which I told them over and over. The B.O.P. refused to let me talk to anyone (not even my attorneys, or my mother, for "security" reasons). So I thought if I refused treatment (surgery), they'd return me to Terre Haute (prison) and I could at least call my fiancée, and let her know what was happening.

That night, in Espenazi, I imagined I was holding her, and I told her what was happening, and how important she was to me, especially in that moment of crisis. And then I remembered a phone conversation with her that we had had just the week before, where we discussed each other's death, and loss (of each other). It was like we both somehow "knew".

The next day, when Miracle asked me if I wanted to proceed with the surgery or not, I told him that my fiancée already "understood", and I was ready to proceed (with the surgery) and within hours, I was taken to the surgical theatre, and before I went under (anesthesia), I looked around and saw lots of monitors, computers, and other "high-tech" equipment... This was no ordinary surgery. (I was told later that it cost three quarter of a million dollars - for the surgery alone!) 

The next thing I knew there were people bustling all around me and my head hurt really bad, and I couldn't figure out what was happening (confusion). Someone, a female voice, kept saying in a consoling tone, "You are okay. You just came from surgery, the surgery went well..", and I kept saying, "It hurts... Please stop, it hurts really bad...", and, "I don't know where I am...", and the consoling voice said again, "You are okay, the pain is normal, you just had brain surgery..."

Then I felt someone rubbing my right shoulder and I had a vision of an old man's hand inside of an ordinary shoe-box, and for some reason I thought the hand was a symbol of something "normal", or "ordinary" that my mind could "hold on to" in order to find my way out of the confusion. I could still feel someone rubbing my shoulder at the same time, so I told them, "Thank you for rubbing my shoulder, it helps...", and then a different voice told me, "You are rubbing your own shoulder..." Then I realized it was my left hand that was rubbing my shoulder, seemingly with a mind of its own. Weird, but things only got weirder, and more confusing after that. The pain only added to my confusion because it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I couldn't tell where it came from. I just knew it hurt.

They put me in a "private" ICU room and five well-armed BOP-guards never let me out of their sight. They even "scrubbed" and put on sterile gowns so they could watch me during the surgery.

I was in ICU for several days after the surgery. It wasn't incontinent, per se, but I did end up pissing the bed a few times just because I got confused and could not control or even feel my left hand (so I spilled the urinal - plastic bottle - accidentally without even realizing it until I felt the wet sheets). The nurses were extremely nice about cleaning me up, which I deeply appreciated. I never felt so helpless (or hopeless) in my life and that made me realize (and wish) how I could have been (like the nurses) a better person than I was, simply by caring for others. My mind today is still "foggy", so I can't begin to find the words to express what I wish I could here, about how much I appreciated the nurses, and how that made me realize... the difference between a "good" person, and a "bad" person. I don't mean to say, or imply, what a "bad" person is (like, someone who doesn't care, or something). I'm just saying that I realized a little kindness goes a long way! Really, for everyone!

I was also allowed to have ice cream, apple sauce, and /or graham crackers just by asking, anytime I wanted, which was another deeply appreciated "kindness". 

They (the nurses) gave me "meds", some in my I.V., others in pill-form. I got pain pills (I don't know what, but they worked, thank goodness!), anti-seizure pills and some other pills, like Dexamethasone (to reduce swelling in the brain). I took all the pills they gave me.

For the most part the guards were polite and respectful, even with me. They spent most of the time in the room with me watching (Netflix?) on their phones, and/or talking about what they were going to do with all the money they were making (with so much overtime on this special detail (watching me)). Sometimes I felt like they were deliberately keeping me awake, by talking right next to my bed, and making other noises to wake me up if they thought I was asleep, but I honestly don't know if they were, or if my mind was just playing tricks on me. So, I decided, consciously, that it was my mind playing tricks, and not the guards, but I still don't know either way.

I do know that the guards did some very kind and considerate things for me, like adjusting my blanket (when they saw me trying (and failing) to adjust it myself to keep warm), which was inconsistent with my life's experience, and consequently ended up adding to my confusion.

I got confused a lot. Everything and everyone seemed "alien" to me. Nothing seemed "ordinary" or "normal", especially after I started hallucinating (small creepy little hands waving at me from behind stuff, and weird wavy patterns that floated in the air, sometimes with flashing bright colors, a lot like what I imagine LSD hallucinations must be like). The hallucinations didn't bother me though, because I was still rational enough to realize they weren't real, per se.

About a week after the operation, they transported me in a van by strapping me in a wheelchair in the back with full "box-cuff" restraints (that was more painful than my head!) to a special BOP hospital ward nicknamed "The Big Room" at a local hospital (here in Terre Haute). I thought of it as "the cuckoo's nest" after my first day there because of how "insane" it was circumstantially. There was only one or two other patients there who I spoke to (mostly because I was lonely) and more than ten guards, unarmed though, who occupied one entire end of the room, where they talked and played with their phones while ignoring the inmate patients (most of the time). It was a gang of bullies (mean guards) and they were exceptionally mean to me, in spite of my terminal cancer (tumor), and they made it very clear that they enjoyed seeing me in pain and suffering.

The head nurse was a real-life nurse Ratched - very pretty, and superficially nice, with a vindictive and hateful mean streak that she made little effort to conceal (she seemed to enjoy the control she had over other people's (inmate/patients) misery (by controlling their pain meds - not just me, I saw her treat other inmates the same way), and even control over when they could urinate, according to her "schedule", which was determined by her "needs", not the patients').

The doctors prescribed pain meds for me, so I could "rest and recuperate" after the surgery and before I started radiation and chemo-therapy; which I was allowed to have on request once every six hours; but, between nurse Ratched and the guards, I felt lucky to get the pain medicine at all. I was often happy just to get ordinary Tylenol. 

One time, just for example, when I asked a guard to ask the nurse if I could have some pain meds, because my head was throbbing and keeping me awake (which happened a lot), the guard told me, "You don't deserve pain meds after what you did to that family" (apparently in direct reference to my crimes), and then just stood there looking at me (seemingly to enjoy watching me suffer),

Another time one of the guards told me that, "A lot of people will be very happy if you die...", with emphasis on "a lot of people". 

Once after a guard kicked my bed to wake me up, then stood around my bed with several other guards talking (so I could not go back to sleep). I saw one of the guards with a ball-cap that had a Christian cross penned on the front of it. I asked hopefully, "Are you a chaplain?" The other guards chuckled and he said, "No." Then I asked, "Then are you are fake Christian [in reference to the cross on his hat] or something?" And he said, "No, I'm not a fake Christian [implying with emphasis that he was a real Christian]". I don't remember now what I said next, but I said something he didn't like, because I remember clearly him saying, "Normally I'm an easy-going guy, but if you don't watch your mouth, I'm going to beat your ass right here!" Which was a threat I took seriously, because I had already observed the way the beds were arranged with curtains between them that would make it very easy to conceal them from the numerous cameras (I counted at least six) in the room. And he made this threat not only in front of the other guards (four or five at the time, all standing around my bed for no apparent reason, other than to harass me), and in front of "nurse Ratched" (who said nothing, of course). So, I started screaming, as loud as I could, and waving my arms over my head (hoping someone watching the cameras would see me, even if they couldn't hear me), "Help! Help! I'm being threatened! Help!" The gang of bullies didn't move, but just kept standing there watching me scream for help. After a moment or so, another guard came over from someplace unseen by me (another room or area out of my view) and asked me why I was yelling, so I told him I had just been threatened (and was afraid for my life, because one blow to my head could easily kill me, so soon after major brain surgery). He told me, "You need to calm down, or you're going to end up in four point restraints". I replied by telling him, "Go ahead, I'm sure you've probably already filled out the paperwork, the same way they did for George Floyd."

(After reflecting on this incident carefully in hindsight, I've come to realize that I may well have had a dangerously close encounter with modern clansmen (as in KKK). The man with the cross on his "hood" was possibly some sort of clan "wizard", or other ranking member of the clan, judging by the way the other "bullies" deferred to him with the same sort of shallow (unearned) respect that "gang leaders" often relish, which I have learned to recognize after more than 40 years in prison. It's the kind of shallow respect that comes with rank, regardless of character. And it explains how such bullies can thrive without fear of reprisal in a system that supposedly safeguards (grievance protocols) against such behavior (i.e. threats, and violence). The bullies feel "safe", because they know the "clan" (or perhaps "union"?) will protect them from reprisals. The only thing I've been uncertain about in the past was where their sense of "protection" (from reprisal) was coming from. I used to think it was their BOP "Union", but now I think it may well be some modern organized racist clan instead, especially after one of the other nurses (who was close to nurse Ratched) made a comment to me regarding the BLM movement where she strongly implied that "blacks" should be happy that they aren't slaves anymore, and stop complaining about systematic racism (which in her stated opinion is not a "real" problem).

After all this, and after the c/o who came from "nowhere" threatened to chain me up ("four-point restraint"), yet another nurse, who seemed "neutral" (i.e. not so filled with hate as the guards), but not as genuinely kind either (as the nurses in Espenazi were), came and asked me if I needed anything, then helped me adjust my bedding (to be more comfortable) and then she asked me to calm down and be quiet for a while, to which I replied that I would, "for her" (because she asked respectful, and because she always treated me "fairly" (if not kindly). Shortly after she arrived, so did my lunch, which I accepted (from the guard who brought it, who was also more "neutral" than the rest, by saying "thank you" as I usually do, no matter how hostile the guards are (either in jail, prison, or now in the prison hospitals because I still struggle to understand, and accept, their hostility, as I wish they could understand (and accept) my own hostility (something not likely to happen anytime soon).

[J.D. November 2020]

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Killer Parade

Every Thursday (like today), for some bizarre reason that has never been explained to me, the "administrative staff" of this prison (the heads and directors of the various departments, from the warden's office down to unit staff) come walking through the unit, up and down all the ranges (halls of cells) looking in each and every window one after another. It is a parade of all the people here who are actively engaged in an open conspiracy to kill the prisoners who the System has given them permission (or "orders") to kill. So, I call it "the Parade of Killers", while they still call it simply the "administrative walk-through". It is supposed to give the prisoners a chance to address any concerns or grievances directly with the "person in charge", but the few (very few) times I have ever attempted to talk to any of them as they paraded past my cell in their fancy suits, they just kept on walking and pretending not to hear my request for address. I've seen them do the same thing with other prisoners, so I know it isn't personal. They simply loathe doing their job, and want to get it over with as quickly as possible. If I happen to be asleep, or just lying on the bunk with my eyes closed, then several of them will make it their job to demand I sit up and acknowledge their presence at the cell door window. Literally, that's all they do! They say, "Duncan! Are you okay?" and then before I even have a chance to collect my thoughts, much less answer them, they are gone. So much for addressing any grievances. If all looks good on camera and on paper though. They can officially say that they personally "spoke to" each and every prisoner, and made sure they were "okay". 

It is indeed nothing more than a parade, and no less than a parade of the worst sort of "cold-blooded" killers of all! The ones who "the people" (taxpayers) pay to kill for them.

So, in the time it took me to write the last few sentences above, they all have just walked past my cell, each peering in at me in turn, but because I was up and "alert" (sitting on my bunk, writing), not one bothered to say anything to me. So much for the parade today.

[J.D. Sept. 17, 2020]

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Day-To-Day On Federal Death Row (For Me)

I exist inside a roughly seven-foot by fourteen-foot concrete cell with a solid metal door on a "range" (hallway) of 24 cells facing each other altogether. In every cell there is a stainless-steel shower stall, toilet/sink combo, metal desk/stool, bunk, and metal locker. The locker stands about 40 inches tall, so there is room on top to put stuff like a T.V. (a clear plastic 12'' LCD-HD issued by the prison) and DVD player (issued by the education department, but used mostly to view religious and non-religious DVDs from the chapel library). There is a metal mirror (usually warped and scratched) above the sink, and a narrow window on the back (outside) wall that is screened (which makes it difficult-to-impossible to see anything outside) so only light can come in, as mandated by Federal guidelines.

Everyone also gets two plastic open-top foot lockers for storing stuff under the bunk. We are allowed to purchase personal shoes and some clothing items on commissary (sweat shirts/pants, socks, underwear, sneakers, etc.), but I prefer to settle mostly for just the state issue items when I can (e.g. I've never bought shoes here and just wear the cheep deck shoes I was issued when I first arrived anytime I need to leave the cell).

We normally get "rec" five days a week, and can choose to go "outside" (to one of the walled-in monkey cages that barely let you see the sky directly above) or one of the inside "rec rooms" where they have some treadmills and exercise bikes that some prisoners here use (like caged rats as far as I'm concerned). I rarely go to "rec" (I've only been "outside" maybe three times in the last ten years), and when I do it is only to one of the "rec" rooms with a computer so I can print mailing labels (which are required on all outgoing mail) and re-validate my MP3-player (which must be connected to the prison computer system, "TRLINCS", every fourteen days or it stops working).

Mostly I'm quite content to exist in my cell, receiving meals three times a day passed in through a slot in the door, and mail (five days a week). I avoid talking to other prisoners since they always seem too focused, even obsessed at times, with their cases (legal matters) and whatever is on T.V. (which is mostly a bunch of gobbledygook as far as I'm concerned).

I have been spending a few hours each week in the "leisure room" lately with my "rec partner", "Steve", who is an older gentleman whom I am allowed to be in the same room with (which is considered a "privilege" that must be earned with "good behavior", etc.). We play chess and talk about things other than our cases or what's on T.V. Like me, Steve is more interested in the philosophical aspects of our existence, and though we don't always agree (philosophically) we do get along okay conversationally. But, I don't trust him with private or personal matters, or anyone else in this place for that matter. (Trust is a fool's gambit in any prison.)

So, other than the polite conversations I have over a friendly game of chess with my "rec partner" I really don't socialize here at all. The other prisoners treat me respectfully in matters that require interacting with them (such as asking to use the phone next, or trading store items for stamps, etc.). In fact, the only harassment I have experienced in all the years I've been here has come from a handful of guards who don't seem to realize they aren't in high school anymore, so they bully me because of my crimes the same way I'm sure they bullied "weaklings" when they were in school. Fortunately there are no guards here now (that I'm aware of) who are so immature (though there are a few who seem to harbor some resentment toward me, probably because they were "molested" as a child, or have some other dark secrets of their own that my crimes remind them of).

I usually sleep most of the day and stay awake at night while it is quiet. After so many years in prison (literally most of my life) I've learned to sleep through almost anything, and wake up automatically for things like meal or mail (unless I have earplugs in. But, I only wear earplugs when the noise is exceptionally bad, which is actually more often than I like lately since I've moved to this "phase II" range (with "leisure room" privileges for good behavior) where there are several "lonely" prisoners who like to yell conversations from one end of the range to the other, which I find quite annoying, but tolerate because they are such pathetically lonely souls (i.e. I feel sorry for them).

When I'm awake I like to read (non-fiction books or pages of material from the Internet that my people on the streets find and print for me), write (letters, and blog stuff, like this), listen to music (I have over 500 personally selected songs on my MP3-player that I listen to nearly every day to relax, or sometimes just to block out the loud conversations from outside of the cell; everything from 70's rock, 80's pop, contemporary pop, and classical, with several "meditation" tracks as well), or watch a little T.V. (actually, probably more T.V. than I like to admit, but most of the time the T.V. in my cell, which I keep tied to the side of the locker facing my bunk so it doesn't take up space, is turned off). I enjoy thought provoking dramas, like "Breaking Bad" and "Killing Eve", or a good documentary on PBS or History Channel; but I honestly can't stand better than 99% of what they call "entertainment" these days, and probably despise as much as 80% of it, especially all the "pig fiction" and "faux reality" crap (my terms for things like "Law and Order", "Criminal Minds", and "The Kardashians", which makes me want to "gag" intellectually if I ever try to watch it). Even the so-called "news" ends up disgusting me most of the time. It's not even news anymore, it's all commentary and little else, no real information at all! Which makes me miss the Internet even more, where I can set up a filter directly on the A.P. wire and get my "news" directly, then investigate anything I find interesting for myself.

I usually masturbate at least once a day, and frequently two or even three times a day still, which I am very happy and almost proud to announce at my age (57, last I checked). I believe it is good for my body, mind, and soul. I still like to imagine having sex with children, even rape and such, but more often than not I just like the fantasy of being with my beautiful young soulmate (and fiancèe) and satisfying her, on all the levels and in all the ways one might satisfy the person they care more about in life than anyone else.

I call my girl as often as I can, though the 15 minute time limit on all personal calls makes it impossible to have anything resembling a full conversation. We manage at least to touch bases on the numerous philosophical and theological topics we discuss in depth in our letters. This helps clarify our discussions, but it'd be really nice if we could take our time and really think more about what we are trying to say on the phone so we might actually have a chance to "connect" the way people like me are so often accused of not being able to (it's like "they" don't want prisoners to "connect" with their loved ones, because that might go against their whole "sociopathic" theory or something.)

For the most past I am comfortable, and have no real complaints at this point in my life. I sometimes wonder if there is still something left for me to do in my life, like write a book, or discover some great secret (become enlightened?). But for now I am very content if my only purpose is loving my fiancée, and showing her my love in any, and every, way I can. That's far far more than I could have ever hoped for on this ride that I call my life.

[J.D. May 13, 2020]

Other details:

I have a small paper trash can that I keep wrapped in an extra sheet so the two-scoops of ice we get each day will keep cold and I can store a few items, like milk from breakfast, or meat from lunch to make a late night snack with, etc..

I have a homemade HD-TV antenna that lets me get about 15 extra channels, which is nice because they are all much clearer (digital, and some HD) than the prison channels we get (which are all fuzzy analogue channels).

I crochet and draw too, but not very often. I made a nice hat for my mom, and some warm booty-socks for myself most recently. I am allowed to purchase a very limited selection of materials, such as yarn, pencils, and paper, via special purchase order (SPO) that I must pay for with a 30% make-up.

I can also purchase limited "religious items" by SPO as well. For example, I have a "religious medallion" and a beautiful deck of tarot cards with Jung-inspired artwork that I bought via SPO. (The medallion is a pewter pentagram/wolf that I wear in honor of my commitment to my fiancèe in lieu of an engagement ring, which I'm not allowed to have.)

We can order commissary once a week. I usually order coffee, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and salt (i.e. things that make the meals here a little more palatable). I sometimes buy "treats" for myself, like cookies, chips, or candy, but I try not to make it a habit. The selection is very limited. We must also buy our own hygiene and stationary items, also very limited in choice (e.g. no dental floss, unperfumed soap, and only one kind of pen with black ink --- no other pens are allowed, not even via SPO).

I also buy tweezers, and use them to heat water for my coffee by clipping two pairs to the tongs of my T.V. plug then holding a cup of salted water up to immerse the tweezers which then heat the water to a boil in about 30 or 40 seconds. I then use the heated water, which is tainted with iron oxide in the process, to heat clean water in a separate bottle that I immerse in the tainted water. This all takes about four minutes, but the effort is worth it for a drinkably hot cup of instant coffee. The tweezers end up rusting away and must be replaced every other month or so, because of the salt (without salt it takes too long to heat the water). Some of the other prisoners have more elaborate "stingers" for heating water in their cells that use cords and sometimes even an insulated cup to make a kind of double boiler. But, I prefer the much simpler tweezer method.

Currently, due to the corona-virus scare, we are only allowed out of our cells if we sign up a day in  advance to use one of the TRULINCS computers. There is no "rec" or "leisure room", and all our meals are either in snacks or Styrofoam trays. Most of the guards have been wearing masks (usually bandannas for some reason) and all prisoners are required to wear washable cloth masks (that were made and issued by the prison itself) anytime we leave our cell (I've only worn mine twice since they were issued over a month ago, which goes to show how rarely I leave my cell). So, I've been washing my hands frequently, and wiping down the phone with disinfectant every time I use it to be safe. No one in this unit has gotten sick yet, but I expect they will sooner or later.

Overall, the "pandemic" has actually improved my life considerably. Too bad it won't last (though, like many, I believe this "pandemic" is only the beginning of something that will get much worse, and soon). The meals are better (probably because they are made more simply), I have fewer reasons to leave my cell, and I get more phone time with the love of my life. I don't think it will ever get much better than this, which is okay too.    

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Turkey Day On Death Row

Today is "turkey day" in the U.S., which means I should get lots to eat. Sometimes it feels like a "day" for me is a year long, or rather, a "year" is only a day long. What I mean is that I look forward every day of the year to the good food we get once a year, so when that day - or, those days, Thanksgiving and Christmas - come and go it seems to me like only another "day" has passed, not an entire year. In other words, nothing else ever happens around here, so I have only the extra food I get once a year to "mark the passage of time", if that makes sense.

[J.D. November 28, 2019]

Monday, August 26, 2019

Time To Die; Or Not?

If you watch the news then you know that five Federal prisoners here in the Terre Haute USP/SCU ("Death Row") have been selected to be killed by the government upon order of the U.S. attorney general. I am acquainted with four of the five, though call none my friend (I was on the same range of cells with them, so we were neighbors for years). It seems more will be selected soon, and like these first five (first in some 16 years, that is) they will be moved to the higher security cells on "A-range", which have sat empty 'til now. You could say A-range is the real "Death Row", since that is where they hold prisoners with an actual "execution" date, and it is a row of cells rather than a hall like this range I am on ("B-range", both "B" and "C" ranges are halls with cells on both sides facing each other, but A-range has all its cells on just one side).

When I first heard this news I felt relieved. I've been a little worried that the Federal government might actually stop killing its prisoners before they got around to killing me. I don't want to grow old and die of "natural causes" in here. I read a book once, "How We Die", by Sherwin B. Noland, see: 5NBooks) about how the body dies "naturally". Let's just say it is almost never "pretty", and certainly not pleasant. Being "put to sleep" is clearly a much better way to exit this "ride" we call life. So my hope has long been that the Federal government would adopt the single-drug protocol (which is the "cleanest" way to kill someone if you must do it in my opinion) and kill me before my health --- or worse, my mind! --- starts to fail and I begin the long, slow and painful process of dying "naturally", which is made many times worse by being in prison and having to rely on people who care little to nothing about me (and some who literally wish me ill!) to provide my needs, just to keep me "alive", forget about being kept "comfortable"! They don't do "comfortable" in prison health care.

But my hope may yet be dashed. My lawyers think this recent move by the U.S.A.G. is a political distraction, ordered by the president (Trump) to keep people's attention off him while he flounders in the news, again. There is also a rather well-known and strong "wind of (social) change" that this move by the A.G. goes against. It seems people in the U.S. are starting to wake up to the insanity (and injustice) of a government killing its prisoners (who present no real danger as they are rendered defenseless against the will of the state). That's actually the reason I've been a bit worried in the first place that they might never get around to killing me before this "wind" blows out the so-called "death penalty" flame once and for all.

So, I hope my lawyers are mistaken. Or, if they are right, then I hope the powers-that-be decide to "distract" everyone by actually killing us again! Like I said, I am acquainted with most of the five who have already been selected (and given "dates" for their "executions"), as well as with most of the rest of the other prisoners waiting here with me for their "dates", and there is not one prisoner here (that I am aware of) who I think would be better off without being "put to sleep". Obviously most of them feel differently, but then they don't seem to know what I know... in fact, most of them seem to desperately avoid such knowledge. And I believe that's the reason "death" scares them so much (judging by the way they talk about it and "fight" against it so much).

But, not me. I welcome a peaceful death, or even a violent one! It's only dying "naturally" in prison that concerns me a little. And I'm not suicidal either. I don't want to die at all. I just don't see any reason to fear it. So I don't mind knowing when and how I might die; in fact, I prefer knowing to not knowing! Why wouldn't I?

[J.D. August 5, 2019]

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Learning How To Shave @ 56

I shaved my face for the first time in prison. So I didn't have a father around or the Internet to help me figure out how. And not long after the first time I shaved my face I was shaving my legs, and yet still had to figure it all out by myself. And now that I'm 56, and in prison for the rest of my life, I'm still figuring out how to shave.

I thought I had it down pat. When I lived in Fargo, I figured out the best way to appear "clean-shaven" on a daily bases was to shave "down" (with the hair grain) each morning on weekdays (workdays), and then only shave "up" (against the grain) on Friday, so I'd be extra smooth for the weekend "fun". I did it like this because if I tried to shave against the grain every day I'd get irritated skin and razor burn. So I thought I had it all figured out.

Here on death row I don't need to appear clean-shaven at all, but I still don't like the itch and hassle of having a beard, so I've been shaving "against the grain" just once or twice a week, which I can do without the skin irritation, and which gives me the personally pleasing "extra smooth" mug once or twice a week for my own gratification (i.e. it "feels nice").

Then the other day while flipping channels I saw part of a popular sitcom where a man was in the bathroom explaining to his young son how to shave while he himself did so in the mirror. And to my amazement he told the boy to first shave with the grain (down) and THEN shave against the grain! I had never tried this, nor heard of it being done that way before. I always assumed you must shave one way or the other and never considered doing both in proper sequence.

So, I tried it, and it works1 I can now shave extra smooth every day if I like with no skin irritation! I'm 56 years old and have been shaving for at least 36 years, and I'm only now figuring this out? How strange the way we learn, and don't learn, at the whim of life.

[J.D. March 29, 2019]

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Religious "Management"

As anyone who reads this blog should know, I don't profess or subscribe to any organized religious belief system. I believe only in what has been given to me personally to believe, and I hold that belief above all others, not because I think it is the "true" or "right" belief, but because it is MINE, and mine for a reason.

That being said (and hopefully understood), I have engaged the "Religious Services"-program here (USP Terre Haute) in order to get permission to obtain certain so-called "religious items" that are consistent with my PERSONAL beliefs. As a consequence, it seems I have been formally registered by the BOP as "Pagan" and associated with "Wicca" (i.e. people who practice "magic" and call themselves "witches" and such), all because I ordered (through the "Religious Services"-program) a deck of Tarot-cards that are consistent with my "belief" in Jungian synchronicity (i.e. I believe there are no "coincidents" and that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and these "reasons" are connected and related to apparently "random" events, such as the order of cards in a shuffled deck). In fact, the Tarot-deck I ordered uses artwork that was directly inspired by Carl Jung's "archetype"-studies, which Jung himself relates back to synchronicity, which is the reason I ordered them.

Before I ordered the Tarot-cards, I had been "associated" with "Asatru", because of a "religious pendent" I ordered to honor my belief (and also as Jung believed based on his own studies and experience - which he considered "science", and not a belief system) that symbols can represent and influence the "synchronistic" coincidences that we experience. I chose a small pewter pentagram with a howling wolf. The pentagram is a historically very positive symbol that has long represented our "journey" through life (as a cycle that repeats from birth-to-rebirth), and the wolf represents Fenrisulven in the Norwegian tradition.

All this is very consistent with my beliefs, and though it corresponds (synchronistically!) with certain belief systems (such as Wicca, Asatru, not to mention Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and too many others to say) it was the (Christian) "chaplain" in charge of the "religious services"-program here who "associated" me with various religious groups, not me. And in so doing, I was allowed to participate in the Asatru Ceremonial meal" last year (they brought an extra tray of food to my cell that other "non-Asatru"-prisoners did not get), which I genuinely appreciated in a "spiritual" sense because the meal represented a "synchronistic" event that corresponded meaningful with other events in my life at the time.

So, this year I decided that I'd like to participate in the Asatru "celebration" again, and sent an "electronic message" (intra-net e-mail) to the chaplain requesting to be allowed to participate. But, as the attached image (of my request and the chaplain's response), I was rejected essentially because of the Tarot-cards I bought.

I spoke to the chaplain himself when he made his rounds here on death row, and I asked him how he could justify telling me how I am allowed to practice what I believe. He replied by saying he was only doing his job "managing religious services" so they are not abused or otherwise taken advantage of. I started to tell him how hypocritical such "management" was, but realized quickly that I wasn't just challenging his ideology, but the very nature and premise of his chosen profession. So I interrupted myself and told him that I "accepted" his decision with reservations. And then a few days later I attempted to "spell out" my reservations for him in another "e-mail" to Religious Services (see attached image). It has now been several weeks, and the chaplain has yet to either respond to or even acknowledge my e-mail.

[J.D. January 6, 2019]