Part III is not that exciting… it can’t be. It’s of the loneliest and darkest part of my Life. Not because of my own personal feeling(s) per se regarding the time/situation, but more so because of my surroundings. There hadn’t been a time in my Life where I identified so much with “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” as while I was incarcerated. Though some of the greatest Blessings I received were being able to avoid the darkest of men’s hearts during this time, I was constantly aware that my situation could have gone from bad to worse in a moment’s time, without warning. There is little happiness behind those concertina wire lined fences, concrete walls and asphalt. And one who is perpetually happy with the fact of being alive could have made a very easy target.
This part in particular is more of an overview of my activity(ies), while the next will be more of the emotion(s), the events, the personal trauma(s), and so one. Brace yourselves, the ride’s going to be bumpy! LOL
Ready to go down ‘the Rabbit Hole’??
Herein is where Life takes a turn I did not see coming. For several months at this point, I had been befriending a guy not far from where I’d been camping, a long-time Friend of the guy whom I’d shared a room and being “kicked out” together.
To spare the legalities, we’ll call the former roommate/Friend Bob, and the one I was getting to know Joe (The “facts” are a matter of public record, but to avoid unnecessary problems and potential grief, pseudo-names suffice).
Bob was spending much of his free time at Joe’s, and Joe would occasionally invite me over (through Bob) to spend the day/afternoon. We seemed to be hitting it off! In fact, Joe and I had much in common (or so I perceived it to be… in hindsight, I’m not sure how much, if any of our “relationship” was real), and were quite like minded in serious philosophical/metaphysical matters. Our Friendship (again, from my perspective) grew rapidly, and I came to respect him for his knowledge, insight, and Life experience(s).
Joe was deathly ill. Every day, the pain he suffered got worse. He required more and more assistance in taking care of “simple” things, like getting off the bed, getting in to/out of his chair. He felt he had no quality of Life, and even that was diminishing.
One evening, I was at Joe’s apartment, preparing to write his biography. We’d agreed he had an amazing story to tell, and, being the “up-and-coming” wordsmith, he was happy to let me write it. We had only just begun, and he -quite literally- out of the blue, asked me to help him end his suffering. I was in shock, and “the world” blurred around us. In my numbness at what he’d asked, I attempted to comply.
I paid the price for (what I consider(ed) to be an act of compassion) it. 6 years, 9 months, and 11 days of imprisonment. It does not make sense to me (as a sentient, empathetic human-being) that we can show such mercy to a horse who broke its leg, or our dogs and cats, and other farm animals, for great deal less suffering on their behalf. But when a fellow human-being is suffering unfathomably, and begs for mercy, the law says we must not only allow them to continue to suffer, but prolong their suffering as long as pharmaceutical and insurance companies and doctors stand to make a profit!!
That time was a living hell for me. I have no doubt some will think it just. I reserve my opinion on what it was for another blog…
Yet while for me personally it was hell, having next to nothing in common with those around me, little to add to their dialogue(s) of belittling and degrading women, I continued to be Blessed daily!
While at San Quentin I also participated in the Insight Garden Program, another wonderful program, designed to teach gardening as a metaphor, as a method of self-improvement as well as a “real world” skill set, which also has a high success rate of preventing recidivism!
Of the programs I attended, one of the best (they were all good, and I very much liked them all) was attending Patten University via P.U.P. (Prison University Project)! What made (makes) this program -offered at present, solely at San Quentin- so great, was the learning environment. 98 percent of those attending (a guesstimate, so please don’t quote me) actually wanted to learn, and the instructors were all volunteers from surrounding/nearby Universities! On top of this, there was a minimum of 2 instructors per course, so you had a classroom (capped at 25 students) of people who wanted to learn, teachers, who by the very nature of the fact they were volunteering were passionate about education/learning, and you have an environment unlike any other for the betterment and enrichment of your Life through higher education! It was (is) phenomenal!
Then there was Yoga! Offered through what’s called the Prison Yoga Project, this program offers inmates and inmates who are Vet’s a time and place to practice the Art of Yoga! When I first arrived at S. Q., I was able to do both the Veterans Healing Veterans Yoga as well as the Hatha Yoga down in/on the H-unit yard, which was awesome (Once I got a job though I could only attend the latter, as the VHV Yoga was [is] in the mornings… so only for about the first 6 months)! The primary instructor down on the H-Unit yard was Zain SYED, and with him we practiced the Iyengar style of Hatha Yoga, and it was (is), a fantastic practice! I still prefer this style, though I’ve not yet found a local guru such as Zain with whom I may continue my own practice. I’m still working on making the time also…
Last but certainly not least, was my Creative Writing class Finding Your Voice on the Page, by authors Keith and Kent Zimmerman. Twins, and successful co-authors of more than 20 books (and counting), they brought to us an outlet that I was much in need of, a place where I could write, and express myself, even if only in short bursts of written text. Shortly before I arrived at S.Q., they actually published a book titled H-Unit, a compilation of pieces written by the students of the class.
These programs (during the last 4 years [approximately] of my incarceration) helped me to maintain my sanity. The “me” I couldn’t be when in the dorm, surrounded by upwards of 80 other guys, was able to come out and stretch for brief moments of those longest years, months, and days of my Life.