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DECEMBER 2017

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--- AN ANSWERED PRAYER ---
24th December 2017

The older that I get the less I believe in coincidence. I can't necessarily explain how things that appear to be random are anything but, but I do believe in Providence. I also believe in fate. And sometimes, on a planet filled with 7 billion people, you can miss certain people who cross your path that were put there for a reason to tell or show you something vital. It's happened to me a couple of times, even happening on the worst day of my life when I met a bright-eyed cop named Rosie (see Angel With A Dirty Face in The Savage Kick #8). Like I said, I believe in Providence, and I believe that God is still quite capable of parting an ocean or talking to us through a burning bush. But I've learned that He mostly speaks to us by using his most precious creation. Us. Each other. However, I didn't always feel this way. You're about to read a story about a time in my life that I was so self-absorbed and self-destructive that it would've taken the Almighty Himself sending me a nun in a sea of millions of people just to get me to believe that He was real. And that's exactly what he did back in 1989, shortly before Christmas. He sent me an angel named Sister Margo Rey. This is the story of how we met. This is a story of friendship and God's grace.

The Bible teaches us that God's virtues aren't to be found in "Worldly" things such as money or possessions. But the world teaches us the exact opposite. Just turn on the TV. As a child growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I was raised in a two-parent household where there was plenty of love and no abuse of any kind. I was baptized shortly after birth and brought to church every week. I participated in Youth Group and even taught a Sunday School class one year. But in spite of being taught right, I still hung a left.

Standing in the lobby of a bank doesn't make you rich. Anymore than dressing up and sitting in the pew of a church once a week makes you holy. The world taught me that the amount of money and possessions that I had were relative to what kind of person I was. To some degree, it taught me to judge a book by its cover. It took me meeting Sister Margo and beginning to understand God though to eventually realize that what we have or what we drive is not who we are. Before this epiphany, I ended up spending several years as a loser in a Polo shirt. A well-dressed scumbag.

What makes two people who drink the same glass of alcohol or take the same pill react so differently? What makes one person be able to have one beer and stop, while the other person can't stop drinking until it's all gone? What makes one person turn out to be an alcoholic or addict, yet spares another one, sometimes even in the same family? Is it nature or nurture? I'm not a scientist, but I think it all comes down to a person's genes; genetic predisposition. I do know that much. And I know that once a person triggers this genetic anomaly that makes them an alcoholic or an addict, there is no going back to being the way that they were before. It's akin to taking a cucumber and turning it into a pickle. All of the hoping, wishing, and praying in the world won't turn it back into a cucumber. But that doesn't mean that a person can't be a nice, kind, God-fearing pickle though.

I pickled myself at a young age. About 13. It was during my formative years when I cared about being cool and cared about being liked and accepted by the people around me. I ended up taking these good intentions and making some very bad decisions with them. Introducing drugs and alcohol to my young system was like throwing a match on a pile of dry straw. The fire that it ignited was explosive. It became my sole focus and the determining factor for everything in my life. Drugs also created a moral flexibility inside of me that inverted what I normally viewed as right and wrong. I became like water in that I had no stable shape of my own. Water always shapes itself to the container or the environment where its placed. That's how drugs made my morals.

All people who become addicted to hard narcotics and revert to one of three behaviors to support their habit. They, 1) Steal, 2) Deal, or, 3) Sell their body. Initially, I chose to sell drugs. This was in spite of the fact that I had two loving parents who had done most everything right; and in spite of the fact that I'd been baptized and went to church once a week.

It was during this period in my life that I became a hardcore drug user, and eventually began to do heroin. I'd had a heart attack from cocaine use and met somebody in an outpatient rehab that told me that I could get high for hours on only twenty bucks. What they failed to tell me though was that heroin was a beautifully unique kind of evil and that it would not only end up costing me everything I owned and my freedom, but that it would also eventually cost me every single person that I loved.

But in spite of the heart attack scare, back in 1989, I was still in what I refer to as the Honeymoon Stage of my addiction. Through running the streets, I'd made a connection to buy heroin from a retired detective from the Chicago Police Department, who also happened to be a high-ranking gang member (who died years ago). He owned a garage on the Southside of the city, but during the day he held court in an apartment on the fifth floor of a particular building in the infamous housing project called Cabrini Green. I would go see him there, but only during the daylight hours, and the ritual was always the same. I would park my car in the parking lot and go knock on the door that led to a stairwell. The door would be opened by two of the gang's soldiers that were holding Mac 10 machine guns. I would throw-up the gang's sign with my hands, and then stretch my arms in the air out to my side while they frisked me for weapons. Once cleared, I would climb five flights of stairs where the process would be repeated by two more sentries. After I made it by them, I was allowed to proceed down the dark hallway and go see my man.

The stairwells in Cabrini Green were filthy. It was Ground Zero for inner-city poverty and was somewhere that people worked and strived to get away from. But, like water seeking its lowest mark, I gravitated towards them. The stairwells smelled like urine and had trash all over the floors. Everything from dirty diapers and syringes and food, to the occasional pile of excrement. The week before I met Sister Margo I came into the stairwell to buy drugs one day and noticed a man laying on his back on the floor of the stairwell. His head was laying on a burgundy-colored pillow and his mouth was open. Bent over him was another man who was looking into his mouth. When I came back down the stairs, they were in the same position. It was odd, to say the least.

I minded my own business when I went to Cabrini Green and I tried to get in and out of the project as fast as I could. There were snipers on the roof back then that would indiscriminately shoot people down on the street. I was a customer of the gang and not to be messed with, but I always knew that I was never safe when I went there. Despite the fact that I kept tunnel vision, I decided to ask my connection about the guys that I'd seen in the stairwell.

My connection was an older black guy with a gold tooth in the front who was dark-skinned and had a shiny bald head that gleamed. It was so shiny that it looked like he waxed it. He wore the same outfit everyday. A black leather ball cap and a Royal Blue warm-up suit. We were from completely different worlds but comfortable in our own skin, and we got along well. He nicknamed me Mighty Whitey because of my willingness to come into the project to see him. When I asked him about the guys in the stairwell, he cocked his head sideways and took a long look at me. He asked me, "How long have you been doing dog food, Mighty Whitey?" I replied, "Heroin? Not long. Maybe three months or so." He shook his head and gave a little laugh-less laugh, and said, "You ain't seen nothing yet. That was a dead junkie you seen and they were getting the gold outta his mouth. He sure didn't need it no more." Then, almost as an afterthought, he said something that I still think about all of these years later. He said, "The dead get lucky and the living go on dying, Mighty Whitey." That one line pretty much sums up heroin addiction.

Despite the fact that I was in the throes of addiction back then, materially speaking, I was at the high end of low living. I wore nice clothes and occasionally bought a suit at The Men's Store in Marshall Field's on State street. I had my hair cut and shoes shined in the basement of the Palmer House, one of Chicago's premier hotels. But underneath my Joseph Aboud suit and all of my polish were arms that were filled with track marks, and a hole inside of me large enough to drive a truck through.

There is a special kind of misery in pursuing with zeal a way of life that you know to be morally wrong. Narcotics went a long way to tamp down any shame or to assuage the guilt, but for every high there's a low. And it was during these lows that I would think of killing myself and ask God to let me die. But there was always a little voice deep down inside that said, "Don't do it. Things will get better. Just don't give up." It took me meeting Sister Margo to come to the conclusion that that little voice deep down inside of me was God.

Christmas time in 1989 was a tumultuous time for me. I was selling cocaine and pretending to be something that I wasn't, on several different levels. I had purchased gifts for my family for Christmas and put them into the trunk of the car that I was driving at that time. In the trunk with the gifts was a red nylon bag with the word "Marlboro" printed on the side of it. It contained over $10,000 in cash.

Prior to heading down to my parents house in the suburb of Joliet to celebrate Christmas with them and with my sister Tracy and her family, I stopped by Cabrini Green to get enough dope to tide me over through the holidays. Everything went as usual when I got there and went upstairs, that is until I came back outside and rounded the corner of the building. My car was gone. Along with all the presents in the trunk. Along with the bag full of money. I ran back inside and blew by the sentries and went straight to see my connection. I went through a lot of changes up in the project that day, but after all of my ranting and threatening, I ended up with nothing but a promise from my connection that he would get my car back as soon as possible. It was snowing outside that day and the wind was blowing in off of Lake Michigan. I had a pocketful of dope, but absolutely no cash. Not even enough to catch a train down to Joliet. My man asked me if I wanted a ride someplace, and I just shrugged and said, "I guess you can take me to Union Train station." Two of his goons dropped me off there about 10 minutes later.

Even though it's been all these years ago now, I can still remember the feeling of dissonance that I felt sitting on that large wooden bench in the train station that day. Christmas music was playing and there was a festive atmosphere all about. As I sat there and watched happy children rush by as they held their parent's hands, I felt utterly miserable and I felt hopeless. I felt like all of the people that I was watching were living a life that I wasn't part of. A life I'd been excluded from because I was strung-out and faking at being a decent human being. On the surface, I looked successful, even prosperous. But, deep down, I knew the truth. I knew that there was absolutely no way that I could sell drugs and be a party to poising other people's lives, yet expect my little corner of the world to remain clean. I knew that karma denoted that what you put out into the world is exactly what comes back to you. Sometimes fast...sometimes slow. But it always comes. But I sat there and did what I always did. I stuck my chest out, put on my poker face, and silently prayed to die.

Sister Margo was the answer to that prayer.

She was wearing her habit and carrying a worn brown suitcase that day. She was under five foot tall and couldn't find her train, so I helped her. She had just come from burying her mom and was taking the train back to Sacred Heart Villa in St. Louis, Missouri where she lived and taught kindergarten. Her eyes carried a light in them that I found strange, yet attractive. We struck-up a conversation and for the first time in my life, I admitted that I was in trouble spiritually, and that I wanted to die. She had the audacity to smile after I told her this and told her the way that I was living, and she gave me a kind look and told me that it didn't matter what I'd done, that God loved me no matter what. She made me aware that day that what we do in life is often not representative of who we really are. None of us are the sum-total of our mistakes.

We spent about an hour together that day just talking. Then we went our separate ways. However, after that day, we stayed in touch and became close friends. Knowing the truth won't set you free if you don't so something with it, and I wasn't ready yet. I kept on doing what I was doing. But through all of the peaks and valleys of my life, I always kept in touch with Sister Margo and her love never wavered; God's love never wavered.

I hadn't seen Sister Margo since that snowy day in Chicago back in 1989, but in 2011 I found myself doing time at USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, while Sister Margo worked with developmentally disabled people at a place called Clelian Heights outside of Pittsburgh. She obtained permission from the Mother Superior of her convent to come and see me. On a warm Spring day in 2011, her and her friend Sister Charlene came to see me at Lewisburg and we spent a few hours laughing and eating bad vending food. She got a chance to meet some of my buddies in the visitation room that day and her and Sister Charlene drew quite a bit of attention. It's not every day that you see nuns behind the wall of a maximum security penitentiary.

Without even meaning to, Sister Margo taught me a lot of things. Proverbs 27:19 says "As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person." She taught me that. Through her unconditional love and friendship, I came to understand some other things too. It's our strengths, abilities, and talents that make us useful...but it's our weaknesses that make us usable. And while success is great, it's ultimately our failures and shortcomings that remind us that we need God in our life.

It's now Christmas time of 2017 and I'm getting ready to begin the 10th year of a 20 year sentence that I received for seven bank robberies. I currently live in a federal prison down in Texas while Sister Margo lives in a convent in Hamden, Connecticut. I think of her everyday as I pray the Rosary and say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy during the 3 o'clock hour, just like she taught me to do, and we write each other once a month or so. I probably won't see her again, at least not here on earth, but I carry her with me wherever I go; the memory of the special angel that God put in my life almost 30 years ago to let me know that, just as Sister Margo is in my heart...I am in His.

Merry Christmas.

*You can see a picture of Sister Margo in the picture section of my first book BANK BLOGGER that's available on Amazon or murderslim.com. I also believe that there's a picture of her archived on my blog on 5/18/2013 on murderslim.com.

*This story was recently submitted for publication to the Catholic magazine 'The Word Among Us' (wau.org). I included with the submission, a picture of us in the visiting room at USP Lewisburg in 2011.

Jeffrey P. Frye
murderslim.com
Bank Robber's Blog
bankblogger.weebly.com
@bankblogger2

--- A YEAR IN REVIEW: 2017 ---
31st December 2017

I apologize to all of my readers for being so scarce in the blogosphere this past year. Some of it was due the administration in the prison at the time, and some of it was due to my abject incarceration (I spent about 5 months in the hole this last year). I started the year out down in Southeast Texas at a joint called Beaumont. I went through a riot on the rec yard there that brought in C.O.s and cops from the street because it involved about 400 people. It was between the blacks and Hispanics, and all I can say is that it was a good day to be a gringo. I applied for a faith-based, residential, program called Life Connections at USP Leavenworth (that lasts 18 months) and was transferred there. I last about five.

When you come into a new prison, there is an intake process done by the administration right when you get off the bus, prior to hitting the compound. You meet with medical, your new case manager, and SIS (the Gestapo). They basically vet you to see if you're doing time for a crime that might get you killed if they let you into general population. The SIS people usually ask you what gang or set you ride with, and they take pictures of your tattoos for documentation purposes. In my world, tattoos tell the story of your life. It doesn't matter if you're a Crip from Los Angeles or an Outlaw from Florida; your ink tells on you. When I came into Leavenworth, the only thing that SIS said to me coming in, was, "So you're the writer; the blogger. Well, we don't so any of that shit here." When I tried to politely explain that it was my right to write (according to the courts), the guy just shook his head and said, "Yeah, yeah, we get all of that. But like I said, You ain't gonna be doing any of that shit while you're here. Because if you do, we're gonna find something to write you up for and send you back to a USP." It was just another reminder that in addition to prison not being a democracy, there is also no guaranteed first amendment right to free expression. I agreed with the nice SIS man, but like I said, I only made it five months.

On July 11, 2014, I dropped into the mailbox in my cell block a guest column for a local rag down in Southern, Illinois called disclosureonline. It was a reworking of a blog I did called MY CRIMINAL FOOTPRINT. Three days later, I was called to the SIS office (which is in the basement at Leavenworth) and given a write-up for "Attempting To Introduce a Controlled Substance." They cooked this charge up based on a conversation that I had on email with a friend of mine on synthetic marijuana and how it's made. Never mind that I never asked for any. They took 41 days of Good Time Credits, fined me $152.00, and suspended my email and commissary privileges for three months. All behind nothing. Then, true to their word, they locked me up that day and then sent to the SHU. I remained there for four months before being transferred to a USP down in Louisiana. I lasted there three days.

But, while I was in transit in Oklahoma City on my way to Louisiana, something happened in my cell block there that had an effect on me. I still think about it and pray about it to this day.

On October 27, 2017, a guy killed himself in the cell underneath me at midnight. I just happened to be up reading and when I heard a bunch of keys running into the cell block. The guy's name was Darius Ghrary and he was about 40 years old and hadn't even been to court to get his time yet (he was in a pre-trial status on the way to court). Coincidentally, right before lockdown, I was on the phone next to him and heard him say to somebody on the other end of his call, "No, it's okay. I understand perfectly. It's alright." When I looked at him, he had tears in his eyes. I think that I felt his spirit break. Four hours later he was dead. If anybody whose done prison time tells you that they've never thought about killing themselves, they're telling you a lie. It takes a lot out of a person, and although life goes on for everybody else in the free world, we remember the world how it was on the last day that we were dragged out of it, and it's hard to watch life go on for your friends and family and to not be able to contribute or have any control about things. Not everybody can handle it. I don't know Darius Ghary's story, but I hope and pray that his soul is resting in peace.

Now back to USP Pollock.

I give you an informed opinion when I tell you that USP Pollock in Louisiana is without a doubt the asshole of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I had no friends there, no "Boys," and nobody whose last name ends in a vowel for hundreds of miles. There were only five white dudes in my cell block and they were all strung-out and spent their days scheming and tattooing their heads. On my third day there as I was walking across the yard to chow, three people jumped on me. Two of them started punching me in my face, while the other one dove on my legs to bring me to the ground. Once this was accomplished, all three of them went to acting like Wayne Rooney and went to kicking and stomping on my head. I heard the gun tower toss a concussion grenade, and then heard them take a shot at one of the guys who was kicking me. I was balled up on the ground, and when I heard the gunshot, I remember thinking to myself, Shit, I hope this guy goes to the range and can hit a target. It probably lasted three minutes total, before the cops flooded the yard and dove on us and separated us. Handcuffed behind my back, I got a chance to spit some blood on one of the guys who jumped me, and I told him, "You hit like a fucking girl!!!" Because he did. Unfortunately, he also kicked like a mule and I got a concussion and the left side of my head swelled up pretty big. So why did I get jumped? There's two possible reasons, but the best is that it was retribution for some beef I had with somebody back at USP Hazelton back in 2013. It was more embarrassing than anything. But I will say that it's somewhat refreshing to know that I can still take a good ass-whipping at 53 without much damage. Just saying.

My next stop is a federal pen in sunny Florida, and it's right on time. This cracka could use a tan.

So what is my takeaway from 2017? It's a lot like my takeaway from the year before, except more pronounced. My takeaway is that this life is filled with hatred, anger, sadness, and violence and death. No matter who you are or where you live. But a person, no matter where they live, has to have the courage to push through these things. You have to have the courage to hope and laugh, and to slow down and take the time to see the beauty and goodness that is in the world and in those around you. Because it's all right there side by side with the hatred, anger, violence and death. Life all comes down to what you focus on, and your subsequent perspective of the world. In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, one of the characters talks about it and says that you either need to, "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

This next year I plan to live and laugh, hope and dream, and I plan to laugh my bank-blogging ass off as I blog and write a book or two. I plan to focus on and be grateful for what I DO have, and not continually stress about what I DON'T. In 2018, I plan to get busy living. So keep clicking onto The Bank Robber's Blog at murderslim.com. I'll keep you posted on how things go.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Jeffrey P. Frye
murderslim.com
Bank Robber's Blog
bankblogger.weebly.com
@bankblogger2

--- A YEAR OF REST: 2018 ---
31st December 2017

My own apology... 2018 will be a year of rest for the Bank Robbers' Blog.

We'll still be selling books and I'll still be in touch with Jeff throughout 2018. But the new blogs and books - and Jeff has a number on the way - will come in 2019.

Those of you who talk to me via email will know the reasons. But MSP will return. And, as for Jeff... well, you can't keep a good man down. Even if sometimes it's because he's suffering from SED.

See you in 2019, and buy some of Jeff's books to keep you going.

Steve Hussy
murderslim.com