the sweetest jailbird…

These are the moments I drink in, swirl around on my tongue and savor. These are the moments I close my eyes, turn my face up to the sun, open my heart and almost shed tears in the sheer beauty of everything. Every moment is.

 

I find myself this morning at Fort Funston, a sanctuary in my van, driving wherever I wish to savor the view when I awake from the previous evening. This particular morning the sea stretches out from the cliffs, Ravens dance in the wind and countless dogs play in their freedom. This is where the Ravens play.

I used to bring Bean here frequently when we were with each other, but haven’t been back since she left. Perhaps I was afraid…perhaps, most certainly. This was our place, our playground, and I fell in love with my beautiful pup over and over here. Again and again. This was our place. This place, and everywhere. One of the first thoughts I had of my van was of how much Bean would have loved it… I watch the other dogs play, roam, sniff, jump around… and I can’t express the sorrow that I still feel in her absence. I am here because of her. Fort Funston. My Bean, the best friend I have ever had. I take the lessons that she taught me and smile. She always smiled. In the worst circumstances, when I felt that the world was falling down on me, I looked at her and knew that everything would be better. I looked at her, brought her to me and things made sense again. Even under the crush of life, all I needed to do was look at my beautiful pup, see her look at me with such a brilliant simplicity – and everything made sense. The pain was erased, she taught me to smile with her, and we went on. She knew the Now, and that everything was perfect, everything is as it should be.

I wear her smile around my neck, in my heart… She is always with me. The best damn dawggy in the whole wide world, Ever. My Bean. My girl.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

I’m out now – I’m here, still alive. Still breathing, climbing, relishing the succulence of an exquisite life, a life gloriously full of everything it can fit – and damn, it keeps on fitting more.

 

Yesterday I was released from 12 days in the Alameda county Jail, Santa Rita Prison, somewhere in Dublin.  This is how it happened…

 

I fell asleep in my van after I turned on the motor to re-charge the battery, as the battery on Clotho (my lappytop compooper) lasts for about the duration of a cigarette so I need to constantly have power going to it, therefore I need to run my power converter off the van battery, but it drains the van battery. Run the motor, drink some bourbon and smoke some cigarettes, patience and a day in the life of. I was tired, a bit of bourbon and delicious comfort in my van –  I fell asleep…

 All hail neighborhood watch, as someone decided to call the police and have them check out the van that has been sitting there for a couple of hours with the engine running. I woke up to two uniformed cops, Officers Baca & Lopez, gently and incredibly kindly calling me back into consciousness. I guess I left the side door unlocked. I woke up to their faces peeking in my van . Nothing against them, but hell – waking up to police isn’t really preferred. It was then that I encountered a couple of the most friendly police officers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and it was shortly after that I was in handcuffs. Monday, April 9th, around 3:00pm. I had no idea at that time what was in store for me…

 

First, they parked my van a bit better so I wasn’t blocking a driveway, then took me with apologies (“Sorry, we’re just doing our job.”) to the station on Valencia & 18th. The sergeant asked if I was compliant – “Oh, totally.” Unprofessional answer, but  damn, some cops are good, and I was fortunate to get some really kind ones locking the steel bracelets in front of my back. I need to remember them, send them a note of thanks for their kindness. Yeah, strange – but hell, the Mission District will be my home, wherever I park, and alliances are important. A good cop can be incredibly valuable…

Time passed, some other cop brought in a crazy cracked out woman, then after a bit of paperwork, released her. I couldn’t help but mention that the crazy crack lady got released and I didn’t. Me, nice guy, not whacked out on drugs, Not hurting anyone… Something is wrong in our judicial system. Surprise, surprise.

 

Enough of this drivel. Fast forward to 850 Briant St, San Francisco. It’s Monday, April 9th, around four in the afternoon.

 

I’m in Jail.

 

Apparently there is a “No Bond” hold on my warrant from Oakland. No Bail, no cite out, they want me, face to face.

Sometimes it’s not so nice to be wanted. This, most certainly, is one of those times.

 

Endless hours spent in holding, steel doors, cinderblock walls, echoing voices – we do what we can to pass the time and pretend we’re comfortable. Some try to sleep – I did. Toilet paper pillows and cement benches don’t cut it. About 12 of us in holding, waiting to be processed – we wait, and wait, and wait.

There’s nothing you can do but talk with people if you’re so inclined, and people want to talk. I met some interesting people…

 

Jack – white guy, blond and balding, twitching. Fat gut and friendly, he tells me of his life with little encouragement. I want to know, I want to write about these people.

Jack is based in the Tenderloin, his weaknesses, Heroin and Crack. He’s in here for a $2.50 rock that he got caught with. Jack has been on the streets for around 20 years, looks beaten but is still chipper. He steals to support his habit – A Starbucks theft is his pride – they didn’t lock the window or set the alarm. He went back four times, robbed them silly, and was able to sell his take of coffee makers an everything else for four grand. I ask him why he didn’t find a home with that, or other large thefts he’s gotten money for. He looks me in the eye and tells me that he would rather spend the money on dope than pay someone for a home. Jack looks old, beaten, weathered. Balding, distended gut, proud of saying that he eats four or five McGriddles in the morning when he can, proud of saying that he keeps regular hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Proud of his gut because most crackheads don’t have one.

I am surprised when I find out later that Jack is a year younger than I am, and though he’s so animated, so full of life – in a sense, he’s already dead. His only goal is the next high. I used to be that, used to be him. I remember, I know…

 

3:am Tuesday. Finally processed out of the holding cells, our on clothes taken and now dressed in S.F. county orange, we – the people I am in the holding cell with –  are escorted up a few floors to the “F Pod” –  semi-circular setup on two tiers, with the deputy sheriffs station in the middle so they can see everything. Each space has three walls and is open towards the center on the absent one, two bunks, four “beds” and people each. We are given thin sheets and worn cotton blankets, no pillows. On the back wall of my cell is a
slit of a window, 5”x 24”, which looks out onto I-80. I stare out of it constantly, as there is nothing else to do here. In this place there are no books, nothing to read, nothing to do. This is the place where we wait to see what happens. All there is to do is sleep, or talk. The absence of the fourth wall is only a mirage – if you step onto the carpet, the border of all of the cells, you are quickly noticed and told to get off. There are phones available and if you ask, you can use them – but even if I remembered anyone’s number, who would I call, and why? The only number I know is my parents – and I’ll be damned if I call them. No reason to. They don’t need the worry or the interruption in their pristine lives, and even if they could do something, I wouldn’t want to burden them. They’re wonderful people, this is my deal and they don’t need to know about it. I’m doing great for the most part, I adore my life and this jail time is just a little hiccup that will be cleared up in a couple days and no more – or so I thought.

 

Oakland, or, more accurately, Alameda County had a hold on me, so I was just waiting for them to come pick me up. If you’re wanted in another county, I learned that they have five days to come get you. If they don’t, you’re released. They always do, I heard. Fortunately, I was only there two days before they came to get me. More people to talk with, get to know. A strange study on the inside of the jail system. I took it for what I could, listened, asked, learned – and saw so incredibly much in those few days. Kids, just barely 18, whose lives revolved around the getting and selling of drugs. Kids who have factored in jail time as part of their life, expect it and are fine with it, as if it’s nothing more than going to school. It seems that some even wore jail time as a symbol of pride, adolescent gangsters wanting to be big. A strange sub-subculture. I don’t belong here.

 

The next day there is a new person on the top bunk across from me. Silent at first, we all are – but somehow he and I start talking. His name is James if I remember correctly – James Soria – , a professional dancer, and pretty damn gorgous. He’s in because he got in a fight with his boyfriend, his first fight ever, where he just lost it and blackened both of his boyfriends eyes and kicked him when he was down. Beat the shit out of his boy, who turned him in. Domestic Violence is a huge rap, I’ve come to understand.

 The argument initially was about James leaving the country to tour with his troupe, and his boyfriend – a concert pianist prodigy who performed with symphonies when he was eleven, felt jealous. He reluctantly gave up the performance world to go to college, and at 22 is maintaining a far above average grade at Stanford and working for an institution that’s responsible for telling billionaires how to invest and donate their money, and making tons of money doing it. He was insanely jealous of James’s possible tour, had just recently lost his job (this information came out later) and there was a huge fight. James ended up in jail on a DV charge. James took a liking to me. I have no idea what is happening with him right now…

 

By Wednesday  I was concerned. I wasn’t out yet, and – and I was supposed to have dinner with Kevin on Monday, then pick up my arm stilts from Anastasia and meet with Frank Garvey of Omnicircus on Tuesday, not to mention the people I wanted to pay the day before. I don’t know any numbers, I can’t call. I wondered what people were thinking. I step back frequently, but never disappear so efficiently. Just gone, baby. Gone. Vanished…

 

Thursday finds my name called, and I am escorted to a bus heading to Oakland. Again in the holding tanks doing it all over on the concrete benches, toilet paper roll pillows and finding the most absurd ways to pretend to remember I’m human, I’m good, and fighting the idea that keeps permeating my mind that inmates are treated like cheap cattle. Try to sleep, try to go away from this horrible reality. A fetal position on cold concrete as we all wait. Wait, wait for hours. The stench of the unwashed is almost unbearable, packed into this concrete and steel cell we find places to escape into dreams, or if there are no dreams, just simply escape in our minds. The voices of those who can’t stop talking echo relentlessly in the cell. There is no small sound here. We adjust. I adjust. The human mind is beautiful in the way that it can escape…

 

Processing – again with the photographs and fingerprinting, names turned into numbers. I don’t exist anymore, I am called by the deputies a “body”. They move bodies from cell to cell in the process, until the final goal. I have no idea what takes so much time as we wait, wait, wait, concrete and steel.

 

Processing. Blue painted fingernails. Porter, I’m called out. The placement officer asks me if I’m sure I want to go into general population, or as they call it – “Mainline”.  I tell him I’m fine – then his face shows concern. (Human emotions? Oh MY!) He thinks that because of my fingernails I should go into protective custody – “PC” – “Is that what you think? Hell, this is your house, I’ve never been here. You know better than I… He says that my nails might cause “static”. Another deputy confirms. Whatever. Ignorant fucks… I’m now in Protective Custody, in my own cell, gloriously alone because I happen to paint my fingernails.  “Are you sure you’re not gay?” Yeah, he really asked that. Everything inside wanted to say “Hey, ignorant fucko, when was the last time you saw a gay boy with painted nails? None that I know – they’re just simply normal human beings with an edge on fashion and an occasional tendency for drama – but I’ve never known *any* of them to paint their nails, ya stereotypical ignorant fuck. If you’re going to profile someone, you better get your shit straight, asshole. The most unfortunate thing is that he was a really nice guy, and was just looking out for me – but damn, that frustrated me. A Red state unto himself, only a few miles from San Francisco and millions from the real world. This is why Bush is in office. Love this country, loathe the people in it…

 

I gotta say, as far as being an inmate goes, protective custody isn’t so bad. I was put into my own cell, just me and me alone, no stinky people, no incessant chatter. In the wait, I think I actually got a good nap on the concrete bench.. but a couple hours after I was placed with another PC in the next cell. Inevitably, we talked.

 

His name is Mike. I know his last but won’t say it here. Black guy, really nice with a lot of info and helpful suggestions. Turns out in conversation that he is in PC because he quit his gang eight years ago (Mr. Deputy confirmed his former gang affiliation in a short conversation that I heard) and has since been working the straight life. He told me about how he got his “stripes” in the gang at 17 by stabbing some white supremist in the neck with a pencil on the prison yard. Stabbing him over and over. I have now met someone who spent time on death row in San Quentin. His single cell was right by the shower, so he saw everyone that walked by – he watched Charles Manson walk by his cell to take a shower… I don’t think he has any reason to bullshit, especially to me. As he took his shirt off, I made not of the scars on his body – just a couple, almost perfectly round on his abdomen. Bullet holes.

 

St
ill at Fort Funston – everyone is gone except for me – I should probably move on, find a place that I can park and pirate a wireless connection. A place where this beautiful van stands out a bit less, a place to sleep. Silence, solitude. Much more later – I took notes.

 

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