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MARCH 2016

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15th March 2016

Hello From The Other Side

I can't believe that she got so touchy over her pants. This was my first conscious thought as I emerged like a Phoenix after spending three long months in one of Chateau Edgefield's oubliettes. I shuffled along in my leg irons leading a caravan of other unrepentants as we travelled through the front door of the institution. We passed through a posse of possum-faced, well-fed correctional officers on our way towards the open door of an awaiting bus that would take us to the holdover unit at USP Atlanta. It was time to transfer.

A federal prison bus is like a large jail cell on wheels. I won't describe exactly what they look like, but they're roughly the size of a tour bus and hold about 40 convicts and a few cops. The C.O. who was standing at the open door of the bus was short and trim with a bad haircut, and Slavic-like, angular facial features. He was sporting a small, black, Hitleresque mustache, and to complete the look, he'd stretched the cord of the radio that was clipped to the left hand side of his belt, to the epaulette on his left shoulder. He was standing ramrod straight with his heels together, toes apart, and his hands were firmly clasped behind his back. As I steeped onto the bus, I almost said, "Does this bus make a stop in Auschwitz?"

Sitting on a seat to my left as I stepped onto the bus was an attractive blonde C.O. wearing the standard Blue Federal Bureau of Prisons uniform. His physical stature was somewhat fluffy. Her head was bowed as she furiously texted on her phone, and I noticed that she had stubby thumbs, or what I sometimes refer to as "Midget thumbs." Oblivious to my presence, she giggled at something that flashed across her phone. I was the first prisoner on the bus and I shuffled down the isle and slid into a seat on my right that was about two seats in front of the Officer's cage, that was opposite the doorless bathroom at the back of the bus. I was happy that I'd snagged a window seat. My Inner Smart Ass said, "The Bureau of Prisons really is too good to me."

Sitting in the black wire-mesh cage in the back of the bus was a large, dark-skinned C.O. who wore a thick beard and a thick gold chain with a cross on the end. It dangled above the .12 Gauge pump that he held securely in his tattooed hands. He looked like the rapper Rick Ross. He also wore gold-rimmed glasses that had a dark tint and was bald, but wore a Navy Blue knit cap with the emblem of the FBOP embroidered on the front. As I slid into my seat, I nodded my head as if to say, "Yo, sup?" and he returned the nod with one of his own, as if to say, "Sit your monkey ass down. That's whaz up."

Prisoners began boarding the bus and the seats began to fill. I looked back from the window just time to see a tall, lanky, white boy with a high forehead shuffling his way towards me. His hair was Black and he had a pronounced Appalachian-like eyebrow ridge. The EXACT same kind that Herman Munster used to sport. As I looked at him, I thought to myself, "I'd shoot this creep if he ever got near my daughter." Which will most likely not happen seeing that I'm prohibited from ever owning firearms again in this lifetime. Add to this the fact that I don't even have a daughter, and this guy is probably safe from me. As if on cue, this guy sat down in the seat next to me. I thought to myself, "Why me?" which was followed by an answer from my Inner Smart Ass that said, "Because you're like a bug light for psychos. That's why." I heard the hiss of the airbrakes release, and our convoy of crooks pulled out. Next stop: Atlanta, Georgia.

The Reichsdriver turned on the radio and Taylor Swift singing Wildest Dreams started coming through the bus's sound system. After a short while, we were keeping up with traffic on the interstate. I looked out the window next to me and noticed that a Maroon Dodge Caravan was keeping pace with us. Strapped into the passenger seat was a small Caucasian boy who looked to be about seven. He wore and Atlanta Braves baseball cap and was looking up at me. I shimmied my waist chain up and rapped my handcuffs against the window towards him, and in my best Tony Montana voice (ala Scarface), said, "Say goodnight to da bad guy. 'Cause choo ain't never gonna see a bad guy like dis again." The little boy busted out crying and the minivan sped off. C.O. Rick Ross rapped on his cage, and said, "Knock it off." I submissively raised my cuffs and said, "Hands up! Don't shoot!" Herman Munster laughed, and then in a way that was very Munsteresque, he twitched his lips and moved them to the side in a smile-kinda-thing. I shrugged, and said, "That kid will probably grow up to be a prosecutor."

Having scared my quota of Braves fans, I took the plunge and asked Inmate Munster, "Where are you from?" He answered, "Altoona, PA...you?" "Chicago, Illinois." Then I asked, "How much time are you doing?" He answered, "Forty six months...you?" "Twenty years." He shook his head like I'd just told him that I had terminal cancer, and said, "Damn." I wanted to say, "No! They caught it early and I'm gonna be okay!" but that thought came out of my mouth as, "Yeah, tell me about it." He finally said, "My name's Bruno." I shook my head, and said, "Of course it is."

Since Bruno Munster seemed chatty, I asked, "What'd you get the four years for?" "Bank robbery." Of course. I shook my head again, and said, "One?" to which he replied, "No, three. You?" I said, "Technically, I'm doing seven concurrent 20 year sentences for bank robbery." That got him to turn his head and look at me, and before he could say it, I said it for him. "Damn, right?" He nodded, and I shrugged again, and said, "Whaddya gonna do, ya know? It happens." I let a few seconds pass, then said, "If you only got 46 months you must not've used a gun. What did you use, a note?" He slouched his shoulders and said, "Yeah, something like that," then he shuffled his feet in an embarrassed manner. Something about his answer wasn't passing the criminal smell test, so I said, "Did you go behind the counter?" He sunk a little further down into his seat, then said, "No, I never actually went into any of the banks. I went thru the drive thru." Come again?

I turned sideways and looked at him for a minute. His forehead looked like a ski slope with his eyebrows being the jump. I finally said, "You mean to tell me that you call yourself a Bank Robber and you never even went in the bank???"He kept staring at his feet, and said, "No, I was too scared. What if somebody had tried to stop me or yelled at me?" I shook my head in a disgusted manner, and said, "If you wanna make an omelet, Bruno, you've gotta break a few eggs." He said, "You must have had a gun in your banks, huh?" I replied, "No. But I do have a release date." He defensively said, "What kinda Bank Robber doesn't have a gun?" I shot back, "The kind who goes in the damn bank!" He did that lip-twitching thing again and smirked. I looked at him and thought to myself that he either had to be a criminal genius, or he had a serious testosterone deficiency. Turns out, it was a little bit of both.

His story went like this: He would pull up to the drive thru window that send in a note that said, "THIS IS A ROBBERY. DO NOT LOOK AT MY PARTNER BEHIND YOU!!! PUT ALL OF THE LARGE BILLS INTO THE CAPSULE AND SEND IT OUT THE TUBE." Kinda lazy if you ask me, but to each their own. It sure worked for him three times though. Until it didn't. He told me that the last time he tried it, an old Black woman was the teller. She read the note, turned and looked behind her and saw that there was no partner, then came on the speaker and said, "Oh hell no!" So Herman drove off. Robbing a bank through the drive thru? As my grandma Pauline Newman might've said, "Well I just never."

The United States Penitentiary in Atlanta is built right in the hood. Or maybe the hood is built around it, but either way, it's part of an urban landscape. We took a left at a chicken joint, then as we rolled through the projects I saw a young Black kid sitting on a bike watching the bus pass. So I cleared my throat, and tried my best to sound like that little tubby from Tottenham as I raised up my cuffs and shook them at the boy, and sang, "Hallow from the other side!" The kid looked back at me, paused for a second, then he gave me the finger. This time, instead of rapping, Rick Ross just laughed. I shook my head and told Munster, "That kid will probably grow up to be a federal judge."

Once I was securely behind the 30 foot wall and locked into a cold cell that was up on the fourth floor of the Holdover unit, I laid in my rack and depressurized. In the distance I heard the whistle of a train blow and I thought back to the first time I'd been in Atlanta and heard that train. It was 1995.

After laying there in the dark and thinking about this, I replayed my day. I thought about the bus ride with Adolph and Eva; then I thought about kicking it with Herman Munster-The Drive Thru Robber-under the stoic gaze of Rick Ross. Finally, I thought about the kid on the bike flipping me off and I busted out laughing.

After another hour or so, I finally fell asleep.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

2nd March 2016

Ignore Your Teeth

...and they'll eventually go away." That's what my mom used to tell me when I was little and she was trying to get me to brush my teeth. It's also the first thing I thought of as I bent down and scooped up a hat off the ground that was next to a puddle of blood that had a tooth resting in it. This was after they locked us down and let our cell block out for lunch. We filed through the tunnel of fencing, and the puddle of blood was right in front of the Lt.'s office. The tooth belonged to a whiteboy who went up there today to check-in to PC, but the guys on the yard ran over and got to him before the cops could. He'd been here for about two months and had never produced his paperwork. He just kept telling everybody, "You think I got a 27 yr sentence after ratting on somebody?" Turns out, that's EXACTLY what happened. He ratted his way down from LIFE. Somebody went to the court website and got his paperwork and found out and they got him at lunch. Apparently if you use your teeth to testify against somebody they might go away too. I bet my mom didn't know THAT.

As I bent down to grab the hat, I looked at the tooth for a minute, and for what it's worth, it looks like he had fairly good oral hygiene. I hung onto the hat, but when I got back I showed it to my neighbor. He's this squat, little, old Mexican guy (speaking of missing teeth) named Tito and he told me that it was bad luck to wear a guy's hat whose just had his teeth knocked out. Who woulda known? So I gave the hat away. Then I went and brushed my teeth.

What a day. But we're off lockdown.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog