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xmag.com : May 2002: Zen Dolls

The restraint exercised by the deputies
is remarkable given the caravan of
whiners in here. When they bark out
an order in the face of petty bullshit, the inmates--out of earshot--call them "haters." Most of the pod men are in their twenties, but with all the moaning and bitching going on, I feel as if I'm in a fifth-grade classroom. Along with checkers and dominoes, F-pod should have Play-Doh and a Lego bucket.

An egregious write-up is coming down right now. Deputy Hater, always on top of the beat, has called all of us together in a pod meeting to ferret out the guy who removed from the wall a daily list with the names of all those scheduled for classes, court appointments, and medical calls. "Who took that list down?" Deputy Hater asks from the railing of the guard tower. "I've been very kind to you gentlemen, but don't play me. Who did it? Step out. Step out now."

Nobody steps forward.

The Deputy stares down at the ranks, waits a while longer, then sends us his bill: "So that's how it's gonna be, huh? Okay, I'm writing up everybody in here."

Lots of grumbling, guys yelling at Deputy Hater. Suddenly, a tall, dignified black man of around fifty steps forward and says, "I did it."

I've gotten to know this man since I've been here. We're both OGs and we both served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. After we blew home on the Freedom Bird, he joined the Black Panthers and I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He has also told me why he is in jail. His fifteen-year-old son was shot to death in a gang-related dispute. The shooter got away. After his
son's funeral the old Panther, seeking revenge, tracked down the shooter and confronted him. The shooter started running. The old Panther took three shots and missed. The police arrested him as he was walking back home with gun in hand.

I hear the words, "I did it" and I see the old Panther standing there willing to take the rap, and I wish I had the guts to do that. Deputy Hater hand-waves the old Panther away and says, "No, you didn't."

"No matter how badly I fuck up,
women always go easy on me."


The Deputy reconsiders, dumps the total write-up, and takes away two hours of our "free time," meaning we have to stay in our bunk areas and no Play-Doh. I glance over at the old Panther. You can't cry in jail 'cause that's a sign of weakness, but it's hard to hold back the tears after witnessing such courage and pride in an orange uniform by a man still grieving over the loss of his son.

I've had several meetings with Marty Steinberg in one of those little TV cop-drama rooms--one small table, two chairs, paranoid visions of Three Strikes. He has yet to give me any hint on how my case might turn out. To calm me down, Steinberg will shift the conversation in a bookish direction. One time we talked about the snowy night on a New York subway platform when Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt buried the hatchet and became best friends after some kind of long-running feud over the banality of evil, which is fine, but Christ, Marty, does the Prosecutor Against the Penis think I'm evil?

Today, on my twenty-third day in jail, Steinberg's long, usually melancholy face is graced with a smile. He's worked out a deal. I plead guilty to one felony count of pimping. I will get sentenced to three years' probation; I will be released in a few hours. The drug charges will be dropped.

I withdraw all my earlier remarks about Wonder Woman 2 and the prosecutor. I should know by now that in the hands of women, nothing can impede the
triumph of justice. With exquisite calmness and gravity, these women weigh
the matter of the pimp adventuring too far in a drunken folly. Their delicacy of feeling, combined with coolness of judgment, just as nature prompted, reminds me of my Mom, all the women who have passed through my life, and the Zen dolls. No matter how badly I fuck up, women always go easy on me.








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