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26th May 2014

Don't ever rob a bank, or if you do, at least have the decency to give your future defense attorney a fighting chance by disguising yourself. Better yet, though, just don't rob a bank. The risks are just too great. I'm not speaking of the risk of being chased down and shot to death by Federal agents. I'm talking about the risk of being sent up the river, and being bored to death.

If you're one of the select few of earth's population who possess the requisite wisdom to read my blog every week, you know that I am presently the man in the box. I'm in lock-up. I have been hermetically sealed in an 8x12 concrete cell, where three times daily, the palace guard comes high-stepping it down the tier, opens the slot in my door, and drops in a block of salt lick. For the rest of the day, I'm left to my own devices. An idle mind is the convict's workshop.

My cellmate is a highly medicated stoic who spends an inordinate amount of time staring at things that don't need to be. The only time I speak to him, is to admonish him. As I was emotionally preparing to write this blog, I noticed he was sitting on the edge of his bunk, hunched over staring at his toes, as if he'd discovered the Hope Diamond. I told him, "Stop it. Those piggies are not going to market". Without saying a word, he climbed into his bunk, and rolled on his side facing the wall. So since I am not getting any decent conversation at home these days, I am forced to go to outside sources.

I live on a range of 10 cells on each side of the tier that face one another. The cell doors are made of three inch thick steel with a food/ handcuff slot that's locked from the outside. There is a rectangular window in the top of the door, that's made of bullet proof glass, and that's about two feet tall and six inches wide. I communicate with other people on the tier by yelling through the door; people I usually never see but who I form an opinion of how they look, based on the sound of their voice, and the way that they speak. Sometimes I meet these people out in the recreation cage, and I'm usually spot-on with how I thought they'd look but occasionally I'm wrong.

I talked to one guy named Ted, who was well-spoken with wonderful diction, and just the slightest hint of a New England accent. I pictured him as around 50, white, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and a sort of folksy look. Then one day, I was cuffed behind my back, being escorted to a medical appointment, when a gargantuan dark-skinned, young black guy, who had a floaty eye, started nagging on his cell door as I passed. He yelled, "Hey! It's me...Red!" I came to a stop as the cop who was escorting me gripped my bicep, and I just looked at him, and said, "You tricked me, Ted. How 'bout Blacking things up a little when we talk, please?" Ted smiled at me with his good eye, and gave a folksy chuckle.

But the truth is, I am not here in lock-up to make friends, nor am I pressed for a conversation that usually includes tales of smoking crack, cheap whores, and which ends with the phrase, "You feel me, dawg?" However, there is one person I can't seem to shake. This is the guy in the cell directly across from me. Every. Single. Time. I go to my door and look out, he's standing there looking at me, and he gives me one of four faces. He never speaks...Just faces. These faces are:


For this reason, I have named him Emoticon Ron.

So today, after consuming a cold cup of Contraband Coffee as I watched my cellmate stare at his toothbrush, I decided to test Emoticon Ron's gangsta. I walked up to my cell door and looked through the window, and of course, he was standing in his window directly across the tier staring back at me. I yelled through my cell door, "I'm doing 20 years in prison", to which he did this :-(. Then I added, "For robbing seven banks", which earned me this :-0. I paused for a second, then yelled, "I feel like this time we've spent together in separate cells has brought us closer, and I'd like to do something nice for you". Apparently, I was speaking Emoticon's language because I got a big :-)

I continued, "I've never told anybody before but I left a large sum of money out there with a friend who, coincidentally, works at a bank. I'm going to send you over a note to take to her, when you get out, which authorizes the bank to release the money, and she'll be more than happy to give the funds to you." Don't read the note, though...just hand it to her." By this time, the entire tier was howling with laughter, and Emoticon Ron now breaks out his new, fifth face >:-[

I finally tell him, "The money is all yours. All you have to do is give her the note". Then I wait a second and go ;-).

Apparently, the thought of potentially coming into a fortune and then immediately losing it, was too much for Emoticon Ron to take because he screamed, "F**K YOU!!!" and walked away from his door. Hasta la Vista, Emoticon Ron.

I robbed seven banks for this? Yeah, I'd recommend you don't quit your day job just yet. This lifestyle is excessively risky.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

20th May 2014

When is the last time you remember being completely alone for any extended period of time? Alternatively, when is the last time you remember nobody bugging you or waiting to talk to you, or ask your opinion on something? With the planet being jam-packed with 7 billion or so people, unless you live in a cave, this is most likely not going to happen because most of us are reliant on somebody. All of you reading this blog have responsibilities, and some place to be at least once a day, if not more. I don't.

I am presently in solitary confinement (again). I have been here for the last month now, behind a bunch of prison drama (see B.S.) that I unfortunately do not have the luxury of ignoring in this phase of my life. I am being told I will be here several months. Several months of being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day (I get one hour outside in a recreational cage 5 days a week); several months with nobody wanting my opinion, nowhere to be, and nobody wanting to talk to me.

I recently read an article by the famed MIT linguist and social activist, Noam Chomsky, where he spoke of the effects of long-term solitary confinement, and how most European countries don't practice it because they consider it to be cruel and unusual punishment. Ditto for Pope Francis and the Vatican. Nevertheless, I can tell you with certainty, the United States of America has no problem sticking somebody in a cage for a long period of time, and forgetting about them.

The first week in solitary is psychologically brutal for me. I communicate with family, friends, and the people I love, using the telephone and e-mail, and when this cord is abruptly cut, I go into a deep depression. One of the reasons I become depressed, is there are a couple people I care about, where the level of friendship is contingent on the effort I put into the relationship, and when I get sent to solitary, I don't hear from them, because they don't take the time to write. I call them "fair custody friends". They know who they are.

However, after about the third week in solitary, I have settled into a routine, and have worked out a way in my head, to at least be OK with it temporarily. Being left alone, and not being asked anything, or having anyone want to talk to you, can be downright attractive when you live in a zoo, where the majority of animals are constantly spitting, biting, and endlessly braying at the top of their lungs.

It should come as no surprise to my readers, that on several occasions, self-control and I have not seen eye to eye. The first instance of the world deeming me buck wild, and felt the need to place me in a cage, wasn't even in this country...or on land. I was stationed on a destroyer in the US Navy, and we were on a six-month cruise, travelling with several other ships in the Indian Ocean, in what is called a Battle Group. Back then the navy had a practice called "Beer on the pier", where we'd cart a table and cases of beer down the gangplank, and were permitted to consume as much beer as we could, in the two hours or so, it took to refuel the ship. I was an excellent consumer.

After one such stop, I came back aboard my ship, engaged in a fight with another consumer, and was charged with assault. As punishment, I was sentenced to three days of bread and water, and was transported by helicopter from the fantail of my ship, to the brig on the aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy, that was travelling in the Battle Group. The brig was called a "Red Line" brig, ran by marines, and while my jarhead jailers were certainly none too pleasant, the thing I remember most is how tiny the cell was, and how hot it was. It was summer in the Indian Ocean, and the brig was located right above the engine room, on the carrier. I remember lying on a thin plastic mat, in nothing but a pair of boxers, with sweat pouring from every pore, thinking, "How did it all come to this?"

My next brush with being tossed in the box, was on a holiday, hanging out and doing my best to consume all the alcohol available, in Torremolinos. Spain. Hemmingway isn't the only lover of a bullfight. After attending one in a picturesque coliseum atop a hill, I began drinking a liquor called Ouzo, wickedly strong, and that allegedly contained opium. My last conscious thought was toasting somebody, while drinking at a table in an outdoor cafe, and yelling, "Ole'!" I later read about it (and was told about it for years by my friends), that I was tackled by the police, as I ran through the streets of Torremolinos, naked, in nothing but a black matador's sombrero. Running with the bulls that day, ultimately landed me in a bullpen.

Then there was the time in Cuba...I think I better stop the story, though. The first time I really remember being in solitary confinement for any length of time, was several years ago in the United States Prison in Atlanta. Some guy who was allegedly a kingpin, and was too much a coward to put in his own work, hired somebody to kill me because of an issue we'd had, and because I wouldn't back down and/or apologize for something that was his fault, and not mine.

I knew trouble was brewing, and I'd made a kidney belt from layers of magazines, to absorb a blade. The centerpiece of the belt was a copy of Time magazine, with Mikhail Gorbachev's mug on the cover. The guy came at me in a tunnel leading to a laundry cage. He had a large knife duct-taped in his hand, with feces on the end, so if the stab wound wasn't fatal, the infection would kill me. He had nasty dreadlocks and yelled some Jamaican bumbaclot war cry, as he swung the knife at me. I caught his wrists and hooked my foot behind his heel, twisted him, and brought him down. I landed on him hard, and began head butting him. Five minutes later (which is an eternity when you're fighting hard), the cops showed up. They looked at the knife taped in the guy's hand, and Mikhail's birthmark peeking from underneath my shirt, and didn't need to consult Horatio Kane and CSI to solve the mystery. The promptly hauled us off to the bucket.

Solitary confinement at that time in USP Atlanta, was a unit called Charlie House (Cell Block C). Built in 1908, it has since been condemned but at the time I was dragged into it, the cells were 6x9, and there was a row of thirty on the bottom range. There were six tiers of thirty cells each, stacked atop the bottom range, that all faced a wall. Like Lewisburg, there was no heat or a/c, and the noise was unbearable from people yelling from one tier to the next, and at night, rats freely roamed. I spent months and months in that box.

However, the cell I remember the most if the first time I was sent to prison. I was sentenced to two years, and sent to the state penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, on Collins Street. Built in 1899, it was Castle Greystoke. A straight dungeon. My first night there, I stayed awake all night listening to somebody screaming, while being raped. That night changed me. It woke me up to the fact that it is all on me, and that nobody is coming to save me, or make things OK. It is up to me to survive...by any means necessary.

While my present stint in solitary, isn't in a Draconian prison built in the 1800's, it still weighs on me. I spend my days doing push-ups, yoga, praying the rosary, and writing, as I listen to a classic rock station out of Los Angeles. I also lay in my bunk for hours at a time, and do nothing but think. When you have my history and emotional wiring, being alone with nothing but your thoughts, isn't necessarily a good thing. However, I stay positive, and once a day, usually around 7 PM, I wait for the mailman to open the food flap in the door, and I look and hope for letters that I know won't come; then I take the newspaper from the hack, to which I subscribe,

No matter what box I am placed into, I will be all right. It will take more than a defecation-laced knife or a naked bullfight to take me out. No matter what cell they place me in, no matter what initials they put in front of it, whether it be USP, FCI, or SHU, the meter still runs on this twenty.

I will keep striving to be better, and to do better, and bring my behavior in line with my heart. I am truly a work in progress. I will dream of the day the whole world is reading my books, and I'll keep using this pen to write for you, and dream of the day I'm free, and doing blogs from a laptop on the back of my boat, and not in solitary confinement. I will continue to have my big dreams as I pass my days in this small cell. I'm the man in the box.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

4th May 2014

You can still check out the spoken word of Jeffrey Frye's DOING TIME by clicking on the link below. I warn you... my voice is dangerously sexy.

Click here to listen or download the track.