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--- BEATRICE ---
28th July 2013

I was telling a friend of mine that I sometimes worry that my blog posts are too cerebral or abstract given the fact that I'm in prison and that this is The Bank Robber's Blog. I would imagine that you people would prefer to read about me staying one step ahead of the FBI (although that was certainly short-lived) or about the flamboyant homosexuals back here who paint their lips with M&Ms. And sometimes in the still of the night when I'm alone in my cell and travelling my halls of self-doubt, I'll think about what a shame it is that I had to rob seven banks in order for anybody to want to hear what I have to say at all. If I had herded goats in Afghanistan prior to coming to prison would you still want to read my stuff? Would you click onto The Goat Herder's Blog? I doubt it. So when I blog, I try to give you what you came for, but a lot of times when I write these posts I'll start out at one place and then end up where I never expected to be. I just began writing about 18 months ago and in that time I've learned that when I shift into my "Publication Gear" for you guys and I start cruising, a lot of times I never know where the ride will take us. I've also learned that writing is a lot like making sauce in that you throw in a bunch of ingredients and keep stirring and hope that it turns out well and that the people that you're cooking for enjoy your creation. Hopefully, you guys enjoy my sauce these days, but if not, please be patient with me because I'm still learning to cook. Now, since I've shifted gears and I'm cruising, and since the topic I'd like to share with you guys isn't that different than a making a good sauce, allow me to go into the abstract again and get a touch cerebral and blog about something that we can all relate to.


Over the next few paragraphs I'd like to tell you about a cool love story from hundreds of years ago that's still relative today and that is still played out in cities across the world, as well as in cyberspace. A love story from a Bank Robber? Go figure. It sure beats hearing about goats though, doesn't it? Here we go...

Very deep in Italy nestled within the heart of the city of Florence, there rests a place called the Chiesa di Santa Margherita de Cherchi. It's a tiny chapel that's dedicated to Margaret The Virgin, also known as St. Margherita. Coincidentally, I have a close friend named Margherita who spells her name the same way and works in Vestal, New York (but who I wouldn't necessarily describe as a vestal virgin). The city of Florence has no shortage of beautiful churches, but architecturally speaking, the church of St. Margherita probably isn't considered one of them. It's a small church that's located on a non-descript street, and if you weren't looking for it you'd probably miss it because the facade of it is fairly unremarkable. But what makes the church of St. Margherita unique, as well as special, is the sepulcher inside of it that contains its most famous resident, Beatrice Portinari, a woman that people with lovesick hearts still seek out for help some 700 years after her death.

Everybody, or at least most, have heard of the 14th century Italian poet named Dante Alighieri. His birth name was Durante degli Alighieri and he was born in Florence in 1265 and died in Ravenna in 1321. He lived in Florence for the majority of his life (until he was exiled for political reasons) and authored many brilliant works. However, his most prominent piece of work is the epic poem titled The Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy contains three parts: Inferno, Purgatoria, and Paradiso and is still revered to this day. Some of the inspiration for this piece, as well as many other works of Dante, was Beatrice Portinari. Dante first glimpsed Beatrice in the church of St. Margherita on a warm spring day and when he saw her he instantly fell in love with her. Sometimes in life when we meet someone, it feels like a key sliding into a lock and we feel that spiritually, emotionally, and physically, that this person is The One. The one who completes us. Our soul mate.

Young Dante Alighieri had just this feeling when he first saw Beatrice in the church of St. Margherita. Beatrice was young and nubile and she was at the church to worship with her family. She had beautiful dark brown eyes and wore a violet dress that her mother had made for her and she had flowers braided into her long, thick black hair. When Dante first saw her he became enamored and found it hard to breathe. He got "That Feeling." Science has all kinds of fancy chemical definitions for it, but the simple truth is that there's only one word that adequately describes this overpowering, all consuming Feeling: Love. But Dante soon learned that Beatrice didn't feel the same way for him that he did for her...and unfortunately, never did. But as it says in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13: 4, "Love is patient; Love is kind" and Dante didn't let the fact that Beatrice didn't love back him deter him from continuing to love her. Over the course of our lives I think that most of us have experienced a situation that's similar to Dante's. Somebody who didn't love us back, or someone that we loved and/or wanted to be with but couldn't because there were just too many obstacles that prevented it. Some of us might've even loved someone so much that we prayed to God and asked Him to "Please make a way for this love to be." Dante said this very prayer for years. The feeling of unrequited love has the potential to make a person feel stupid or pathetic, and to eventually just give up hope on the individual and move on. However, Dante wasn't one of these people. Even after Beatrice married someone else, and even after Dante went onto marry a woman named Gemma Donnati, and even after Beatrice died at the young age of 24, Dante Alighieri never stopped loving Beatrice Portinari. Is true love strong enough to survive death? It was for Dante. It's now some seven centuries later since this story played out in the streets of Florence, but the strength of Dante's love for Beatrice is still reflected in his works and through one other very special way. Beatrice Portinari was buried in the Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cherchi on the very spot that Dante first laid eyes on her. Sitting on the ground at the foot of her tomb is a simple basket that lovesick people come to and drop notes in asking Beatrice to ask God to please just "Make a way for their love to be." By some accounts, some of these prayers are answered.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to visit the church of St. Margherita right now. However, there's still a person that I think about as I lay in my bunk at night and wonder how things might've been if only we'd had the chance. A girl who has the ability to get all up in my chest. I'm not able to go to Italy for a while, but if I could I'd go to the heart of Florence and go to the church of St. Margherita and pay my respects to the saint and to Dante, and I'd say a prayer for the soul of Beatrice and drop a note in her basket for the girl I still think of and for the love that just can't be. If you'd like to know what the note would say, take the first letter of the eight paragraphs of this post and write them down on a piece of paper. As poetry would have it, I would imagine that this might be what Dante would still say to his Beatrice after all these years.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

23rd July 2013

For as long as I can remember, my life has been about comedy and tragedy.
Dramatic theater in its purest form.
Le Maschere.
Here's a dramatic story from the theater of my life.

Becoming acclimated to a new prison is a process. While most of the United States Penitentiaries in the Federal Bureau of Prisons were built in a uniform layout, each joint has it's own groove that's based on the men inside of it and also on the warden and the captain of that particular institution. Some prisons have an easy going groove...while others, not so much. And sometimes no matter what the groove is, a prison just explodes. That's what happened here last Thursday on July 11, 2013. What started out as a beautiful, clear, warm summer day, ended in a haze of tear gas with blood all over the place and one person dead.

USP Hazelton has a reputation for being volatile. In the federal system when you hear about Hazelton there's usually some violent connotation attached to the comment. When I was in lockup in Lewisburg my case manager was barely able to contain his glee when he came up to tell me that I'd been designated to Hazelton. With a cheese-eating grin on his face, he looked through the thick glass on my cell door and sarcastically said to me, "I'm not sure if they'll issue you a knife when you get there Frye or if you'll have to buy one off the yard." Then he burst out laughing and skipped off. I could just picture him fantasizing with the other poorly dressed meatheads in his office about the possibility of me being killed during a riot, or better yet, having my writing hand chopped off.
Fat chance, Mr. Skippy.
To me, all pens are violent; some just require a higher level of awareness than others. So when I got here I took into account the reputation of this place and adjusted my groove accordingly. It didn't take long for this place to live up to its reputation though.

When I arrived here I was greeted by some friends of mine that had been here for a minute and they promptly introduced me to their tailor so that I could have my pants hemmed, a pillow sown, have a curtain made for the end of my bunk, and have some long-sleeve tee shirts made. They also cleared a cell for me so I could have a bottom bunk, and I promptly took in as a cell mate a 5'2 redneck from Bulls Gap, Tennessee named Lil Joe. But the one connection I hadn't made was a spice and vegetable guy. This is someone who works in the kitchen and can obtain (see liberate) fresh vegetables and essential spices for cooking meals and making sauce.
I'm not trying to do 20 years without onions, bell peppers and oregano.
So one of my boys from another cell block asked me to meet him out on the yard so he could introduce me to his vegetable guy. My buddy's nickname is Big Tuna, or "Tuna" for short and he's from the New England area. He's a big guy who looks a little like Luca Brasi in The Godfather and he talks like a typical wiseguy. Like when he invited me out to the yard to introduce me to his kitchen guy he made it sound like somebody was going to get whacked instead of just order an onion. He jabbed a meaty finger at me and said, "Look, I'm gonna put you with his guy from Philly. He's with us and he'll do the right thing. You just tell him what you need."

I had just gotten a fresh haircut and had a dab of gel in my hair to give it an extra gloss and to make it ack right, and I was wearing khaki pants with a matching khaki belt with a black plastic buckle. I had on a crisp, white, short-sleeve tee shirt with my gold necklace and crucifix hanging on the outside of my shirt so that Jesus could get some fresh air.
I had on new white tube socks and I slid my feet into a pair of tan Timberland boots and tied them on tightly and slid a pair of black Oakley sunglasses down onto my face and headed to the yard.
Slung across my chest like a bandolier of M60 cartridges was the strap of a see-thru gray mesh bag that I was bringing to the yard. Inside of the bag was a clean white towel, my black MP3 player, a tan bottle of Coppertone sun block (SP 40), and a writing tablet with a blue cover that contained a finished letter to a friend of mine in Virginia with red hair that I call Country Girl.
When I passed thru the metal detector going out onto the recreation yard I spotted Tuna and two young zips (Sicilians) from New Jersey waiting for me on the gravel area underneath the gun tower. The prison is basically built in one large rectangle with cell blocks on opposing sides of the compound. The commissary, chow hall, and laundry are at one end, and education, the chapel, and indoor recreation are at the other end. In the middle of the joint shaped in a smaller rectangle with a ten foot fence topped with razor wire, and with a gun tower dead in the middle of it, is the rec yard. It is comprised of two sides, one of which is a softball field and the other being an oval 1/4 mile track with a soccer field in the middle of it. When you go out there you have to pick a side to go to and then you pass thru a turnstile and you're locked into it until the end of rec.
Every time my friends and I meet out there we meet on the gravel area under the gun tower and go through this criminal re-bonding process where we shake hands, hug, and kiss each other on the cheek. It feels like being at a friggin' Italian wedding and I hate it. I'm always happy when I go out there and there's only one or two guys, as opposed to the whole wedding party. I may not know much, but I do know that I did not rob seven Banks to come to prison and have some hairy guy named Big Tuna kissing all over me.

On this day, after we'd finished mauling each other we went thru the turnstile on the back side of the yard and started walking a lap. The sun was warm and there was a breeze coming down out of the mountains. I was walking next to Tuna and he was wearing a sweat suit that thru some laundry accident had turned a light green color. Unfortunately, It had the effect of making him look like a pool table. The zips from Jersey were walking about 20 yards behind us.
Standing on the soccer field was a flamboyant homosexual who goes by the name of Honey Boo Boo. Honey Boo Boo is white and doughy with rosy cheeks, and poufy blonde hair, and wears pink tennis shoes and gray sweats that are tighter than yoga pants. But the highlight of his gender-bent ensemble is a shiny tiara that he's fashioned out of the inside of potato chip bags and wears atop his head with all the pride of Queen Elizabeth.
As we walked by, he was holding a red Solo cup above his mouth that had a leak larger than the NSA and he was catching the water from the leak. When he saw us he slung the water from the cup into the grass and sweetly said to Tuna, "Honey, I don't know how you do it, but you look absolutely ADORABLE in that color. Green isn't meant for everybody, but child, you pull it off!" As he was talking, my eyes inadvertently travelled to the front of Honey Boo Boo's yoga pants and I glimpsed what had to be the most heinous camel toe known to man.
It looked like he'd been split with an axe.
The Jersey boys laughed and Tuna said, "Honey Boo Boo, the child support check's gonna be late this month, baby." Honey Boo Boo threw a hip out and waved his hand in the air and said, "Sweetie, I'm not worried. I know your money's longer than that Italian sausage you won't let me get near" and he sashayed off.
All of a sudden I hear one of the zips worriedly yell, "Tuna!!!" and Tuna looked out onto the yard and said, "Jesus! He looks like The Rock on meth!" I turned to see what they were talking about and I saw that it was none other than the humongous biker named Stinky that I'd met in the holding cell when I got here, and he's got two other muscled-up bikers with him and they're heading straight for us. In Stinky's hand he's holding a few sheets of paper that turn out to be the blog post RUNNING WITH THE BULLS that Mrs. Stinky has downloaded (for free) and mailed to him. The Jersey guys are postured for trouble, but I tell them, "It's okay; he's my friend." By doing this I avoid a potential bloodbath between my boys and Stinky's. But even though it won't involve us, there's still a bloodbath to come.

Stinky's smiling when he walks up, and without looking at Tuna he says, "What's up, Tuna?" and he snatches me up and hugs me so hard that I spit out the peppermint that's in my mouth. His hug is like a reverse Heimlich Maneuver. While still giving me a massive bro-brace he tells Tuna, "I love this dude, bro! He put me in his book!" As the last bit of air leaves my lungs, I think, Book!? It was a dishonorable mention in a blog post!
Oh well, that's showbiz.
Stinky finally puts me down and tells me he wants to talk to me, so all of us move to the grass on the soccer field in the middle of the track. As our boys form a loose circle around us Stinky confides to me that he's decided to stop blowing people up and become a writer. Glory be. However, we don't get a chance to finish the conversation because the prison explodes.

The first thing that I see is two men administering kicks that Wayne Rooney would be proud of, but unfortunately they're to an individual whose laying on the ground and trying to roll away, but he can't because they have him up against the fence and there's nowhere for him to roll. One of the guys grabs the fence for traction and propels himself in the air and then he jumps down on the guy's head like some kind of wrestling move. When he does this, blood splatters through the fence and out onto the sidewalk.
About this time I hear the jingle of keys and the unmistakably urgent sound of several people running down the sidewalk and to a gate that will give them access onto the yard. I know that the deuces have gone off. "The Deuces" is slang back here for a cop's body alarm. It's attached to the radio that they wear on their belt and when they activate it, all hell breaks loose. When they hit this button, every single available prison employee makes a mad dash for the location where the body alarm was activated. When a cop hits the deuces it could signify anything from a fight to a killing to them being assaulted. However, when the deuces are hit because of an incident on the recreation yard an extra element of urgency is added when the gun tower activates an air raid siren and a pre-recorded message plays over the outdoor PA system instructing everyone to lay flat on the ground. When the deuces are hit on the yard because of a fight, the tower routinely throws down concussion grenades in an attempt to control the melee and if they can't get it under control, they shoot the aggressor or aggressors. Live rounds. This is one of the reasons that they play the message telling people to lay flat on the ground...so they'll have a clear shot at their target.
Do I ever worry about becoming collateral damage from a tobacco-chewing federal employee in the gun tower whose whole training centers around shooting convicts? Yes, I do. But I also consider it to be one of what I consider to one of the "Natural causes of death" for a Bank Robber. "Gunshot wound from the opposing team" is right up there with "Injuries sustained during a riot" and "Knife wound" on my natural causes list.

So after the deuces were hit and they'd activated the Blitzkrieg siren, all of us just stood there watching the dramatic theater that's called prison. The bottom of the guys' pants who were doing the stomping were soaked in blood and all of a sudden the yard flooded with cops holding what looked like assault rifles, but were actually tear gas guns. I'll give the other side this much: They have great props.

Mayhem ensued.

The tear gas that they were spraying on the guys was thick and it created a mist that rolled across the yard like a morning fog rolling off the Thames. The cops fanned out and were screaming at everyone, "LAY ON THE GROUND...NOW!!!" But before we had a chance to react, the tower tossed a stun grenade near us and the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground next to Stinky and my ears were ringing. When I looked up I saw cops in stab-proof vests doing their best to wrestle to the ground and handcuff the guys who were fighting.
Then when it seemed like things might get under control a bit, the deuces went off again and a good portion of the cops in front of us went running towards the indoor recreation area on the other side of the compound. Stinky said, "The fight we're watching is just the diversion, bro."
Sometimes when guys back here want to hit somebody they'll have guys from their crew start a fight at the opposite end of the prison and when the cops run to that area to respond, they'll hit their primary target in a completely different area of the compound from where the cops have ran to. And sometimes they'll do two diversions just to make sure that the cops are tired from running all over the place and that they'll have plenty of time to get their man.
In the midst of the chaos Stinky says, "SunTzu said to 'Strike your enemy when and where he least expects it.'" I turn my head and just stare at him.
A 6'8 biker named Stinky who quotes Sun Tzu during the middle of a riot while we're face-down in the dirt?

Le Maschere indeed.
I finally respond by saying, "Like blowing people up as they climb onto their motorcycles outside of a Wal-Mart?" He doesn't respond, but when I look at his face he has a glow and I can tell that he feels a new kinship with me because I've connected some of his incendiary dots. Big Tuna is laying on the ground about four feet from me blending in with the grass and the boys from New Jersey are coughing from the tear gas. He calls me by my nickname and asks, "_________ , you okay over there?" I respond by yelling back, "I think I have a touch of gas Tuna, but I'm okay. Thanks for checking on me though."

The action finally ended and we were all patted down and marched back to our cell blocks thru a gauntlet of cops and placed on an institutional lockdown. A silver lining to the cloud of tear gas was that I didn't have to kiss Tuna and the zips goodbye. We later learned that there were three separate incidents involving two different gangs and that multiple people were hurt and/or stabbed and ended up in the hospital. Twenty eight people were locked up behind the incident and placed on buses to take their show on the road to other federal pens across the United States. And while all of what I've just described is bad, it isn't the worst of what happened that day.

We learned that while most of the compound was exploding, one man in a completely separate area of the prison imploded. He was a quiet white guy around 30 years old who had a lot of time and had just lost his appeal, and subsequently lost hope. He chose a near instant death to a prolonged life in prison. When the cop who was working his block walked by his cell and looked in, he found him hanging from his bunk in a noose he'd fashioned out of cloth belts and he hit his body alarm. But he was too late; the guy was already dead. That was the last deuces of the day.

Happiness and sadness; pleasure and pain.
Darkness and light; hope and despair.
Love and hate; laughter and tears
Paradiso and inferno.

All of life is comedy and tragedy.
All of life is dramatic theater.

All of life is Le Maschere.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

--- THE STORY OF JOSHUA (Part 3 of 3) ---
21st July 2013

On a stormy morning about two days before Halloween, I learned that Joshua would live.

I was out in the harbor at work and the General Beauregard was being tossed around from the swells created by the storm coming in off the ocean when my phone rang. It was Joshua's mom telling me that a suitable kidney had been located from an individual who'd just perished in an automobile accident. She said that one adult kidney would be used to transplant two new kidneys into Josh and that he was being prepped for surgery as the kidney was being flown to Charleston. She told me what time the surgery was scheduled for and told me that Joshua had requested that I be there when he came out of the operating room.

After I hung up the phone I went to the port side of the boat and hung onto the railing as I stared out towards Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island and I silently thanked God for answering my prayer.

Joshua's surgery took several hours and was a success. He'd asked him mom to be in the operating room and to take pictures of his worthless kidneys after they were removed. She complied with his request and ran down to a drug store near the hospital to have them developed while he was still unconscious in the recovery room. He woke up and was groggy for a little while but he quickly morphed back into his old self and started cracking jokes and asking him mom if he could go trick-or-treating dressed up as a kidney.

He spent another 10 days or so in the hospital while his transplant team monitored his progress to see if his body would accept the new organs. It did.
When he was discharged from the hospital he went to convalesce in a place across the street from the hospital called The Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House is a large house with several bedrooms large enough for children and their parents to sleep in during their stay. It's a beautiful home that's specially designed to provide a happy environment for terminal, as well as convalescing children. The house had several televisions and a game room and piano as well as a communal kitchen for families to prepare their own meals in. Joshua stayed there for a couple of weeks and I continued my routine of stopping by after work and hanging out with him as I watched him get strong and recover.

And then one day as it always does, life took an unexpected turn. That turn took me down a road away from Joshua. I've come to believe that some people come into your life for a reason, while others come just for a season. Joshua came for both.

It's now several years later as I write this and the boat rides in the harbor and the dolphins and the pool tables and pianos are long gone. Because of the choices I made, I now live in the shadow of a gun tower and walk continuous circles around a track that's on a piece of dirt that I very well may die on. I now refer to a tiny prison cell as "My house" and my net worth consists of what's inside of a gray metal locker that's bolted to the wall. Everything else has been taken from me. I try not to let it bother me though because they'll never be able to take the things that I truly treasure. The things that I truly treasure are memories that I keep deep within my heart. In the dark of the night when the silence of my cell threatens to crush me, I take these memories out and re-live and feel them one at a time; feel the love and joy that they brought me throughout different times in my life. One of these treasures is the story of Joshua. I'll never see him again, and I have no idea where he is now, but wherever he is I wish him a long happy life and I thank him for the lessons he taught me and the time I got to spend with him during the season that he was in my life.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

14th July 2013

Your favourite felon is in lockdown again. He's already emailed the third part of "JOSHUA" and lockdown shouldn't last too long. This is when there's been a violent action in the prison and they get everyone secured.
But it's got me thinking... don't we need to start the Free Frye Fund? Of course, freedom has a lot of meanings. Maybe it's just the freedom to eat nice pizza. Or pay to get Workie Workie to bus in from Lewisburg to help with Jeff's housekeeping.

More soon.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

--- THE STORY OF JOSHUA (Part 2 of 3) ---
12th July 2013

Donating an organ is an involved process. It's not like donating clothes to the Salvation Army or like you can just go down to the hospital and say, "Yo, here's a kidney." I called the number for Joshua's transplant coordinator the next day from the pier out at Fort Sumter while the tourists were inside. The girl on the phone ran me through some questions after I told her why I was calling and told her my blood type and a few other things about myself and my history. She gave me an appointment for the next day to come in and undergo some tests. The treatment team was located in a place called Rutledge Towers and the next day when I went in I was given a lengthy questionnaire and then given a psych eval that, surprisingly, I passed. They drew some blood, and after being there about three hours, they determined that I was a match. I was given a follow up appointment to meet with the doctor that would be performing the surgery, and if everything went well, I would donate one of my kidneys the following week.

That afternoon I went back down to the bench in the smoking area in front of MUSC, and sure enough, Joshua was sitting there waiting for me. When he saw me he came running and I snatched him up and gave him a hug like I hadn't seen him in years. It had been 24 hours since we'd met.
We went upstairs and played pool and he actually won a game; then we went and sat at the piano as I played a couple of songs while he sang my praises to the crowd and acted like he'd personally taught me to play. I left after a couple of hours and told him I'd be back the next day. I didn't mention my decision to him or his mom.

The next day I took off work and went back to Rutledge Towers and met with the doctor who would be performing Joshua's operation. I spent some time with him and we talked as he examined me. We both agreed that Joshua was an exceptional little boy. When he'd finished, he sat in front of me and put down his clipboard and pen and crossed his legs and then folded his hands over his knee and looked me directly in the eyes and asked, "Is there anything at all about your health that you haven't disclosed or told me about this morning?" I thought about it for a minute and said, "Yes sir, I have high blood pressure and was prescribed medicine for it, but I don't take it, and never have because it makes me feel funny." His shoulders seemed to visibly slump and he shook his head and bluntly said, "You can't donate a kidney if you have high blood pressure." He went on to explain that the kidneys are essential to regulating blood pressure and that people with high blood pressure aren't eligible donors when it comes to donating a kidney. When he'd finished talking, the room became still and I sat there feeling incredibly sad. I finally asked him, "Well, what's going to happen to Joshua then?" He kind of shrugged and replied, "He can only undergo dialysis for so long, and both of his kidneys are shot" and left the sentence open with a tone that told me that Joshua was fighting a battle with time...and he was losing the battle. I left the doctor's office and went and sat in a park across the street that has an artesian well and said a silent prayer for my little buddy as I watched people walk up and fill empty plastic gallon jugs with water from the spicket attached to the well. I never mentioned to Joshua or his mother what I tried to do.

I continued to stop by and hang out with Joshua. On days when he underwent dialysis and was too weak to go to The Atrium I'd sit in the chair next to his bed and watch movies with him. One day he was downstairs with me while I was smoking and I told him about this pizza place around the corner called Norm's that had pool tables and cold beer that I sometimes hung out at. He said, "I sure wish that I could go there with you, but the doctors barely let me come down here in front of the hospital." I thought about it for a minute and said, "They can only yell at us if they find us." At this point in my life I'd broken more laws than the Nixon administration, but I'd never helped a nine year old escape from custody. I wasn't really sure how this one would look on my rap sheet (or go over with everybody), but I've made a legacy out of worrying about the consequences of impulsive decisions after the fact, so I jumped up and took Joshua's hand and said, "Let's go eat some pizza and play a game or two; let's blow this pop stand" and we sneaked off to Norm's to play pool and have a pie. No, I didn't buy him a beer...but I did let him take a sip of mine. What kind of escaped con doesn't have a beer?

Unlike most of the crimes I've committed in my life, I actually got away with this one. This inspired me to talk to Joshua's mom and his doctor to get permission to take him on a boat trip out in the harbor. I talked to the captain of the boat that I worked on, which was coincidentally named General Beauregard, and told him about Joshua and asked him if he could give him the VIP treatment when I brought him out for the day. On the morning of the trip the doctor asked to speak to me in a room alone. Once we were in there he asked me to please not let Joshua exert himself too much and to bring him back soon because he was getting worse.

The captain rolled out the red carpet and gave Joshua the dime tour of The General Beauregard. After we were underway he turned over the helm to his assistant and he took Joshua down into the engine room and showed him how the diesel engines that powered the boat worked. Then he took him to the fantail of the boat, then up on the open-air deck where the tourists sit in chairs on the way out to the fort and back. As we were all standing there looking into the water we saw a school of dolphins swim by in a box formation with the adult dolphins forming the four corners of a square to protect the baby dolphins in the middle. After that, he took Joshua up to the pilot house and let him steer the boat. It was a warm sunny day and the windows of the pilot house were open and the warm salty breeze blew over him as he held onto the wooden pegs of the helm as he steered and smiled and laughed and said, "Look Mom!" to his mother who was standing right next to him and who was also smiling for a change.

By the time we got to the fort Joshua was too tired to walk and had to be pushed inside while sitting in a wheelchair that the National Park Service kept on the dock for people that needed assistance. I could tell that he was doing his best not to appear sick, but in spite of his efforts, I could tell that he was going downhill fast.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

--- THE STORY OF JOSHUA (Part 1 of 3) ---
6th July 2013

Sometimes in life, lessons come from the most unexpected of places. I re-learned this a few years ago during a spring that started out like all others. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina at the time and the Mimosas and Crepe Myrtles were in full bloom as the weather heated up and violent spring thunderstorms rolled in off the ocean every afternoon around 3 p.m. I was between incarcerations, but still under the supervision of a low-level, gun-wearing civil servant who's instructed me that I could not work in the field of law. So I went online one day to a database of local companies that were hiring and I found a job. The place that I chose was a tour company that did boat tours to Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter is an old three-story brick structure that was built on a stone mole on an island artificially created by sinking ballast stone in the shallow water off of James Island. It sits at the mouth of the Charleston harbor and was the recipient of the first shot of the American Civil War on April 12, 1861. Confederate General Pierre Gustav Tu'tant Beauregard held most of the major forts in Charleston at the time and fired upon his arch nemesis and former instructor at West Point, Major Robert Anderson. Major Anderson commanded the Yankees in Charleston and was dug in with a garrison at Fort Sumter when the order was given by a Rebel Captain named James to Lt. Henry S. Farley to fire a 10" mortar at the fort. The rest is literal history."

The job on the tour boat only paid $10.00 an hour, but it allowed me to depressurize and start my day peacefully on the water. On those mornings, I would lean over the side of the boat and watch the dolphins play and race the boat at the bow. When I'd get off of work I would catch a bus and get dropped off in the middle of downtown Charleston, then I'd take my time wandering through the city to my next stop. I caught the next bus at a stop in front of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). I would occasionally go inside to the small food court and get a fat greasy slice of pizza at Sbarros that I'd take outside and sit on a bench and eat. When I was finished eating I'd usually fish my cigarettes out of my pocket and sit there and burn a few to kill time as I watched all sorts of different people walk by. People-watching is an under-rated pastime.

One day I was sitting on the bench and this little kid walked up and sat down beside me, and without saying anything he started staring at me. I was dressed in the uniform of the tour company that included a khaki shirt with a name tag and epaulets that had captain's bars on them made of gold thread. The kid looked to be around ten and was chunky with a chipmunk face and chubby cheeks and had brown hair that was slightly long and cut into a bowl shape with bangs that hung down on his forehead. He also looked pale. After watching him stare at me out of the corner of my eye for a few minutes as I took long, deep drags off my cig, I finally said, "You want a smoke, Kid?" His face broke into a smile and he gave a squeaky laugh and said, "I better not, my mom would freak." Then he asked me, "Where are you coming from?" I explained to him that I worked on a tour boat in Charleston harbor that ferried people out to Fort Sumter and back twice a day. He had intelligent eyes and seemed to take in everything I said, and he wasn't flighty like most kids are when grown-ups talk to them. I finally asked him, "So what are you doing here? Do you just go around the city and hang around smoking areas and ask people questions?"
He laughed again and said, "No, this is where I live? and he pointed towards the hospital.
"The hospital?" I asked, and he replied, "Yeah, I live on the seventh floor of the children's hospital." Then he seemed to think about something for a minute and added, "I need a double kidney transplant or I'm going to die, and they can't find a donor."
What do you say to a smart, cute little boy whose just told you something like that? I replied, "Well that sucks." He burst out laughing and said, "Tell me about it." I asked him where his mom was and he replied, "Somewhere completely stressed out smoking one cigarette after another."
I flicked my cigarette over the curb and stuck out my hand and said, "My name's Jeffrey Frye." He shook it and said, "My name is Joshua." Then he asked me, "Would you like to come upstairs and see where I live and play pool with me?"
The bus that I was supposed to catch was due to come in 10 minutes, but I'd made a career out of doing what I wasn't supposed to and said, "Sure, let's go." I stood up and he took my hand and led me into the hospital. Into his world, a world that was filled with sorrow and pain and death and also with unbelievable courage and joy.

The seventh floor of the children's hospital at MUSC is like nothing I've ever seen or experienced before. When we got off the elevator a woman walked past us pulling a red wagon that held a small girl. The child was bald and in a pink hospital gown and had an IV attached to her hand. The woman was making car noises as she pulled the little girl and made her giggle. Still holding Joshua's hand we walked a little further down the hall and had to step back to make room for a little boy that looked to be around five and had prosthetic limbs and was learning to walk as his father moved slowly beside him and gently gave him encouragement. I searched the father's eyes looking for some sign of pain or fear, but all I saw was strength and love. Those two children and their parents that I saw when I first walked off the elevator effected me deeply. In those few moments I learned what true courage is all about. I'd lived my life in such a way that a lot of my definitions, and especially premises, were skewed and rooted in the sub-cultures than I'd travelled in. Up until that day, when I thought about courage I thought about the willingness to pick up a gun or a knife and handle your business or go into a fight that you knew you were going to lose. But that day I learned that those are just abstract definitions of courage. True courage is laughing and joking and tickling and reading to and kissing and loving a child you know will be dead in 30 days. That's courage.

As we walked down the hall I noticed that the walls were decorated with colorful and fun things and that the environment was actually very festive. Joshua was in his element and took me around and introduced me to his doctors and nurses saying, "This is my friend Jeffrey" like we'd known each other our whole lives. You make some friends in life that you just click with, and Joshua was one of these people. He took me to his room and showed me some of the toys he had on his night stand and hopped on the bed and snatched up the remote and showed me all of the stations he watched and acted like the little boy that he was. As I smiled and listened to his monologue I couldn't help but think that this might be the room he died in. I'd lived enough of life to know that in spite of all of our hopes and prayers and good intentions and our money, life sometimes has unhappy endings.

After bouncing on the bed for a few minutes, Joshua hopped off and took me by the hand and said, "Let me show you something cool" and took me down the hall to a place called The Atrium. The Atrium is a huge room in the children's hospital that has 25 foot cathedral ceilings and big Bay windows on one end that look down onto the Charleston Harbor and the Columbus street terminal of the South Carolina Port Authority. The Atrium is comprised of different areas that are all about fun. There's a bank of desktop computers and a room where parents can check out laptops for their kids; there's board games and areas for painting; there's a large blue mat for wrestling and tumbling; there's a piano, and there's a foosball and pool table. It's a place for kids (and parents) to get away from all of the medical issues so they can play and just be kids. Joshua and I walked to the window and watched a huge container ship making its way into port while being escorted by a tug boat. I finally asked him the obvious question that I'd thought about since I'd met him, "Where's your dad?" He stayed quiet for a minute and said, "He's in Myrtle Beach, but I really don't see him. My mom says that he's a prick." That made me laugh and he continued, "He's a match for a donor and he could donate one of his kidneys to me, but he won't do it." I didn't know what to say, but I agreed with his mom's assessment. And I didn't even know who this guy was, but I wanted to give him a serious beating. Here was a beautiful little boy who was dying and being incredibly brave about it and his father had the power to save him, but wouldn't. I finally said, "Let's play some pool. I got a feeling I can whip you." He laughed and ran to the pool table and began to rack the balls as he said, "No way. And don't let me win just because I'm a little kid because I'll know if you do that." After I beat him the first game I told him, "I've played little girls who needed lung transplants who were better than you." He stepped it up and gave me a run for my money in the second game. After we'd finished, we walked over to the piano and I said, "I wonder how this thing works?" and then I sat down and hammered out a song for him. I learned to play the piano as a child by stick-wielding nuns. As I was playing the first song, kids and their parents came and surrounded Joshua and I and he started bragging on me, telling people, "He knows all kinds of songs" and acted like we'd known each other our whole lives. I liked this kid.

After I'd finished playing, this woman walked up and said, "There you are Josh, I was looking for you." She was thin with long blonde hair and had dark circles under her eyes fingernails chewed to the quick and looked stressed to the gills. Her name was Robin and she was Joshua's mom. Joshua excitedly introduced me to her telling her, "This is my new friend Jeffrey Frye" and then asked if I could stay for dinner and eat pizza with them. Robin gave me a weary, uncertain look and said, "He doesn't look hungry to me, Josh." I got it, and I asked her, "Want to go downstairs and smoke a cig?" She said, "Sure, what's one more. I've already smoked two packs today" and we left Joshua in The Atrium and went outside to the smoking area. As we smoked, Robin told me that Joshua had a genetic kidney disorder. She explained that kidneys have small tubes in them that normally open to allow blood to filter through, but that Joshua's tubes wouldn't open and that because of that he had to live in the hospital and undergo dialysis twice a week until a kidney could be found. If a match couldn't be found soon, he would die. She said that the medical procedures that he continually had to go through were very taxing, but that he was good-spirited about it and very brave. She went on to explain that she wasn't a match, but that his father was, but that he was a loser and wouldn't help because he wasn't in Joshua's life. As we smoked our third cigarette she explained the process of donating a kidney and the red-tape and politics associated with being on the national donor list. She explained that it was all the luck of the draw and that the bottom line was that somebody had to die so that Joshua could live. I asked her what blood type Joshua was and she responded, "O positive." My blood type. I asked her some more questions and she explained to me that Joshua had a "Transplant team" and a coordinator that screened potential donors. I asked for that person's name and number and she gave it to me. After talking to her for an hour it had gotten dark and I told her that I needed to go. I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye to Joshua so I went back upstairs with Robin to say goodbye to him. He asked me if I'd come back and I told him to be down on the bench the next day, same bat time same bat channel. As I leaned down to hug him he grabbed me and held on tight and whispered in my ear, "Please come back."

I had trouble sleeping that night. I got up and went outside and smoked cigarettes a couple of times and sometime around 4 a.m. I finally gave up the notion of trying to sleep and I got up and went and found the number to the transplant team that Joshua's mother had given me and I sat on the end of my bed and just stared at it. After sitting there for a few minutes and thinking about things, I decided to try and donate one of my kidneys to Joshua. My first thought was about what a nice little kid Joshua was and how he deserved a chance to live and love and to have a life. I also considered that I'd lived so much of my life as "A taker" that it was about time I kicked something into the karmic pot and did the right thing for the right reason. Then the last thing I thought about was that that God must've wanted me to give up a kidney at some point, otherwise He wouldn't have given me two?

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

3rd July 2013

My new cellie Lil Joe got into a fight at a yard sale. I've done a lot in my life, but that's one I missed. He said that he was at a yard sale with his girlfriend Crystal when she saw this toaster she wanted that was priced at $2.00 but that this other trashy girl named Fran (his words, not mine) grabbed for it first. Well, Crystal and Fran started wrestling over the toaster like two seagulls wrestling over a chicken bone in the KFC parking lot (my words) when Lil Joe decided to jump on Fran's baby daddy (yes, these people are all white). He said, "I whooped him good" but unfortunately they all ended up in jail and somebody else got the toaster (for $2.00). He told me this story after lockdown in the dark. And I thought I had stories.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog