By David Taylor
Let’s you and I take a walk through my “neighborhood," also known as the “hood,” also known as prison. Don't be nervous, you’re with me. They know me here. Let’s call you "New Guy."
See that guy over there with the green guitar? That's my buddy, William. He's a songwriter, a rebel, and sometimes a scoundrel. He's got so many cool stories in his head it would take three life times to write them all down. For now, he's writing protest songs so his head won't explode.
This line over here is the chow line. Watch yourself. Here comes June Bug loaded down like a mine mule with most of the chicken we’re all supposed to be having for dinner. We can buy it back later if you’re still hungry.
Two doors down is our chapel, a place of worship for everyone; Muslims, Rastafarians, Moors, Wiccans, Catholics—twenty-two faiths in all. This is where the free world could take a lesson from us: "Sanctity of sanctuary." In here religion is a respected space. Prisoners will fight over TV, cutting in line, disrespect, even a stupid magazine. But we draw the line at raising fists over my God versus your God. You know better than anyone who answers your prayers. It isn’t anyone else’s business.
Around the corner is the law library. See that guy sitting alone on the bench? They call him Casper. He screams in his sleep. Nobody wants to be that guy. He's broken. Insanity has him by the brain stem. Casper lost his children in a house fire. He was locked-up at the time and could not protect them. Nobody wants to walk an inch in his shoes, carrying around his bone-chilling sorrow.
New Guy, check out those boys leaning against that wall. That's the K-2 Clan. Smoking themselves stupid with that "dummy dust." Lets take a wide berth around them. Donny fell in with those ass clowns and he ain't been right since.
This door leads to the barbershop. It’s like any other—lots of conversations, music, discussions of current events. Except the snippets of talk may not be what you’re used to. Instead of hearing what your friends did on the weekend, you’re treated to things like Who went to the hole? Why? What’d he do? Or Who's the new guy? What’s he in for? Stuff like that. Manny over there is first chair. He's laughing at the thought of Trump as president. A con man knows a con man. There's no one in here who would vote for Trump. What's that tell ya, New Guy?
It’s getting kind of stuffy in here. Let’s hit the track for a lap or two. It’s a quarter mile around the softball field. Do you hear that whistle? That's "the long black train" taking coal to Savannah's power plants. It used to drop prisoners at the railroad siding next to the penitentiary. I can't tell how many times I've dreamt of jumping that train.
That's Lil Tone over there with his fingers clasped through the chain link fence, staring at the projects right across the street, not more 50 feet away. That's his home. He misses it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be locked up with home just across the street, right where I could see it. Smell it. Almost touch it. But I can’t have it. It may be the projects, but home is still home.
Behind the softball field is the volleyball court with its 2,500-square-feet of white sand. That's the domain of the Sand Philosopher. His name is Donald so we call him Don Quixote. He owns a flooring company. He can level that sand within two grains. Don's got a two-foot wide metal rake and uses it to draw huge messages in the sand: Be as you are; God’s inside of you; Start from here. A new message everyday until 4:00 p.m. count, then the court is used for play. No one gave him the duty of leveling the sand court. It’s just that he knows how to flatten out and level ground, and has something good to say. He's never tilted at windmills, but he has made me look down deep a time or two. Thanks, Don.
What's that noise, you ask? That's the gun range over there. One week a month the staff "qualify" with their .223 assault weapons fired at silhouettes that represent you, New Guy. And me, too. All that gunfire kind of freaks you out, right? It’s meant to.
Okay, let’s take a right here, past the weight pile. These are the back dorms. This is where bad boys are up to no good. Yesterday Fat Eddie threatened his wife on his cell phone. (How’d he get a cell phone, you ask? Don’t ask.) She put him on hold and called the captain’s office behind the wall. Eddie was still screaming at his wife for putting him on hold when the police came in on him. Ass clown Eddie falls to his knees: "Please don't take me to the hole sir. Please!" He'll tell them everything he knows and be back in two weeks. Circle of life.
This is the recreation area and basketball court. That middle-aged dude over there with the mean-mug look on his face and violence in his eyes…they say he can make it rain money. But not enough for him to buy peace from his demons. The person sitting next to him, that's Santa Maria. He's a she. I call her Santa Monica. I don't walk on the wild side, but we won’t let folks walk all over her, either. To each their own.
Two-thirty p.m., time to wait in the pill line. There's J.R., the pompous banker, eating ice cream while waiting for his insulin injection. What a dumb ass. Listen to what he's saying: “My son has a new girlfriend in Norway. He's using all my exec-jet miles to visit her most every weekend." Poor, fat, pathetic banker man.
Our last stop is the visiting room. If there's any good this is where it happens, or so I'm told. I'm 2,700 miles away from my family. It’s a long way for them to come, but I don’t really want them to see me in here, anyway.
Look through that window, to the outside. See that mulberry tree? See that nest up towards the top? That's where a female falcon fledged a couple chicks two years ago. They eat the rats around here. You can watch all three soar the thermals over the trees behind the gun range.
God I wish I could fly.
Angelica says: "Learn your lessons well, so you don't find yourself in hell."