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xmag.com : Febuary 2002: Zen Dolls

I'm adjusting to F-pod. Unlike the first few days in the 16-man cell, plenty of paper and pens here. Goodies from the commissary delivered to the pod once a week. A $40 limit on candy and snacks, including Snickers, Butterfingers, Hershey bars, Tootsie Twins, Oreos, Sour Balls, Chee-tos, potato chips, Moon Pies, and best of all, Cup-o-Noodles, which can be cooked in F-pod's microwave. Also available: deodorant, shampoo, Noxzema, Afro Pik, Rolaids, and some stunning orange sneakers ($10.50) to match our wardrobe.

I pass on the tennies, since my Serious Tactical Boots bought last year at Stompers have proved a hit in the pod. Fashion is paramount everywhere these days, even in jail. With orange everybody's permanent uniform, only two fashion statements are available: footwear and haircuts. My boots receive many compliments. Locked up, shoes are like flags for a country. They say who you are. Cool shoes, you are cool.

No haircut for me, but the inmates buzz each other nightly with two sets of shears. F-pod style leaves the top uncut with the sides skinned all around about two inches above the ear. Thus the head looks like a clenched fist popping out of the neck topped off with a mushroom.

"Fashion is paramount everywhere these days, even in jail."

Something else making life easier in the pod: Two book shelves filled with a lot of donated junk also yield Tender is the Night, even better the second time around, and Romeo and Juliet, a great improvement over the Classic Comic book version I skated by with in high school. Only behind bars would I crack Anthony Trollope's The Vicar of Bullhampton and Jane Austen's Emma, books not in the least pernicious, a wonderful word both authors favor and appropriate to my crime of moral turpitude.

Another winner, Propaganda and the American Revolution, by Philip Davidson, explores the role of ideas disseminated through pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers in determining the outcome of the revolution. The book examines propaganda from both sides, including this stanza from a poem by Jonathan Odell in support of the Crown:


By George's fam'd shield,

We never will yield,

To the pimps or the

Armies of Louis.


Fan-fucking-tastic! Washington, Jefferson, and Madison were pimps, too, working for the French.

I want out of F-pod, but I gotta admit jail allows lots of time to read. And write. On the outside I do write, but many diversions during any given 24/7, uh, reduce my output. But in here, the words flow off sheets of office pads which float down on my plastic mattress in a lovely pile.

I'm not the only one reading and writing. Turns out the pod is a school with required courses for those doing longer stretches of time. Classes in English as a second language for the Hispanics. A GED course for those who have not completed high school, a huge wedge of F-pod's demographic pie. A computer class. Even an art class to pass the time.

Therapy, too. I feel like a gambler with a dead man's hand when I attend Dr. Kure's Safe Space sessions, but my recent love for speed cries out for action. Dr. Kure has a wild head of hair, and his nose quivers like a rabbit's. A soft-spoken former alcoholic, he marches through the 12 Steps with ease, prods me not to dwell on the past or the future, but concentrate on the present, which is a "joyful space."

You gotta be kidding, Dr. Kure. F-pod joyful? "You like to write, so write down all your resentments," he suggests.

I think about that carefully and can only come up with one. I really hate Bob, the guy who wrote the famous blue book, Alcoholics Anonymous. Millions of copies of that piece of repetitious crap are in print, while my manuscript has yet to find a home with a publisher.





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