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xmag.com : December 2001: Zen Dolls

On day #5 I'm moved from the cell into a pod, a dormitory-like facility in the new section of the jail which houses about a hundred "gentlemen," as the Deputies call us. The jail has five pods. F-pod, about the size and eeriness of a crop circle, is two levels with a circular guard tower in the center elevated about six feet above ground, allowing the Deputies to observe the goings-on of the inmates. We are in "housing units," open four-man cubicles with bunk beds on the exterior of the circle. No bars in F-pod, just a steel door.

We can move around the pod freely most of the day. A chin-up bar and treadmill for workouts. A ping-pong table. Lots of chess games, dominoes, checkers, Monopoly. The food isn't great, but you can't expect sushi in the slammer. We're all outfitted in orange pants, orange sweatshirts, orange socks, orange undies, walking around and around in circles like zombies.

As I circle around I ponder the word 'pod.' I recall a 1950's sci-fi flick about pod people. I've forgotten if the pod people were the good guys or the bad guys. Was that film Night of the Living Dead?

Feels like many nights with the living dead in here. All of us are in various states of depression, if not outright pathological. Take Maggothead, for example. He's in the restroom with a rolled-up towel awaiting the arrival of ferocious maggots assembled under the shower drain. From this submerged army an occasional maggot slips up through the drain, only to fall victim to the swatting of a vigilant orange towel.

I've never seen a maggot in the shower, but Maggothead assures me this is the case, and furthermore he will file a complaint at the state health department in order to override city health officials who have cut a deal with the jailers to keep F-pod infested with an exotic assortment of bacteria.

"In jail, I'm struck by an obvious truth: life has meaning."


Maggothead, around 25, stocky, thinning hair, has small brown eyes in dark pouches which see a sick-making conspiracy directed at all people in jail. I don't know if he's crazy or just angry. But all of us in orange are wigged out. My mind turns to jelly not knowing how deep the prosecutor in the D.A.'s office is going to jam me. She's got me by the balls, and I knew it would be a she, and so is the judge, and if that isn't retribution against a pimp I don't know what is.

I'm convinced this ball-busting prosecutor is the San Francisco chairperson of the progressive/feminist organization Against the Penis and a devoted fan of Andrea Dworkin. Oh man, she's going to build up her case with a pile of damning facts so high, Alcatraz will be reopened solely for the pimp in the pod. And the judge, Wonder Woman 2 in a black cape, will override every motion, plea and objection from my lawyer, Marty Steinberg, then smash that gavel down and send me off to the rock.

I'm confident Steinberg will put up a good defense--I picked him out of the phone book on the basis he does not run an advertisement for himself--but at this moment he's not very encouraging: "Doing some time now will help. Be patient. Wait and see."

Be patient. How? I've never tried heroin, but right now I'd like a bucko shot of smack. Let that warm bath of China White wash over me, send me down, down, down into the calm, serene void where emptiness reigns and the only thing I want out of life is to float in an endless sea of blood, pumping away into this pimp's bag of flesh.

Since I can't do that, my mind swings in the opposite direction. In jail, I'm struck by an obvious truth: life has meaning. For those of us who live on the edge, who concluded long ago we are but specks of sand in some cosmic non-plan, the loss of freedom jettisons existential nausea, and life on the outside with all its tortured angst looks very good.

Illustration: Trevor Brown




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