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26th October 2014

One of my readers died yesterday. His name was Carlton Brookshire. He keeled over with a massive heart attack at 6:30 am as he was sitting in a chair at Medical waiting to get his medications refilled. He was 63 years old.

Mr. B, as he was known back here, had been in prison for the last 21 years, and was due to be released in less than 24 months. He was serving a 30 year sentence for bank robbery. He was a Vietnam veteran who was subjected to Agent Orange when he was stationed in Southeast Asia back in the seventies. Subsequently, had medical issues as a result of this. Mr. B was socially introverted, and only left his cell to go to the chow hall or to Medical when he had an appointment. Otherwise, he stayed in his cell. This is not an uncommon trait for people who have done a lot of time. After living so many years in an environment of negativity and hatred, it becomes easy to transform a small, sterile, ugly, concrete cell into a sanctuary. Because this sanctuary offers two commodities that are hard to find in prison: Silence and privacy.

Mr. B's main social interaction was that he sewed for people. This was his hustle, and if you had a shirt that needed mending, or a pillow that needed to be sown because it had ripped open and the stuffing was coming out, Mr. B was the man to see. While I was in transit on my way here from California and my property was being stored in various BOP warehouses across the United States, mice made their way into my duffel bags and chewed a hole in my sweatpants. I brought them to Mr. B and he sewed a patch on them, and only charged me three Ramen noodle soups to do it...which is .90 cents. A new pair of sweatpants is $20.00, so I was grateful for the money he saved me. This was how I met him.

When he brought the sweats back to my cell, he saw the bulletin board above my locker where I have color slicks of my website posted. I also post different blogs on the bulletin so people who are visiting my cell can read them. Mr. B stood there and read a blog I recently did called TO THE MOON AND BACK about a special little boy in Tennessee who lost his dad. After he read the blog, he took off his glasses and hung his head as he composed himself...and wiped the tears from his eyes.

After a lengthy conversation about life and prison, and about writing, I went into my locker and pulled out the large manila envelope where I keep copies of previously published blogs. I sent him back to his house with three blogs, and this became a nightly ritual where he'd bring the blogs back that I'd given him, then pick up a few more. On the night before he died, when he brought the blogs back, thanked me, and he told me that my writing made him laugh and cry, and that I articulated feelings that he had inside of him that he didn't know how to express. It was the single nicest compliment that I have received since becoming a writer.
One of the other things that we I talked about that night was music. People in prison listen to music an inordinate amount of their day. He liked country music, and one of his favorite singers was Vince Gill. There's a song by him called GO REST HIGH ON THAT MOUNTAIN. The opening stanza of the song is:
I know your life on earth was troubled
Only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

As I write this blog, this song is playing through my ear buds, and although it's a sad song, and a song about death, I don't feel sad right now for Mr. B.

Death for a prisoner has a facet that you people who are reading this blog in the free world will never be able to truly feel. Death for a prisoner is a double-edged sword. Carlton Brookshire was at the tail end of paying his debt to society and like all of us back here, he was waiting to be free. But at 6:30 am on October 16, 2014, that debt was paid in full and he was released; released not only from the negative and violent realm of prison where he'd lived for the last 21 years, but he was also released from the judgments and labels that the world had placed on him.

On October 16, 2014, Mr. B was truly free at last. I don't know where he is right now, but I pray that he's at peace and that he's with his family and friends. I wish him well on his journey. Go rest high on that mountain Mr. B. Your work on earth is done.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

19th October 2014

Do you think that love is strong enough to change the world? Do you think that it's possible to love someone so much that your love for them is capable of lighting up the world to where it can be seen from space? A six year old boy believed this, and his belief, coupled with the love in his heart, recently made this very thing happen.

Have you ever loved someone so much that it hurt? So much so that you felt that love in your stomach? This feeling could have come from making love with, or even just holding hands with somebody. Or maybe you got this feeling as you held your newborn child for the first time, and the awesome awareness of what a little miracle they were completely overwhelmed you. Or maybe you experienced this feeling of love when you prayed to, or worshiped God. All of these situations that I've just described are very different, but the one common denominator they possess is the unmistakable feeling of love. Because it doesn't matter if you're holding your child, in the arms of your lover, or on your knees to your creator...love, is love, is love. It's the same emotion, no matter the circumstance, and no matter what your race, beliefs, or socio-economic status may be.

But the same thing that makes you laugh can make you cry.

Have you ever lost someone that you love and felt broken and lost behind your grief? It may have been a parent or sibling, or it may have been a child. Or it may have been a pet, which sometimes brings about grief that's unequalled to the loss of a human. The love that brought you joy and euphoria is the same love that brings you pain, anger, and despondency...emotions that are capable of leading to darkness and self-destruction if you let them.

But sometimes pain and suffering has the ability to produce joy if you'll allow it to take this course. Love is capable of such a thing.

There is no love like the love of a child. It's a love that's pure and untarnished by the opinions and dogma of the world. It's a love that forgives and holds no grudges; a love that always hopes and keeps the faith. It was this kind of love that six year old Darren Baysore had for his father, Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Baysore, Jr. The two of them used to spend hours together, and at night they would sit outside and look at the moon while they talked. Sgt. Baysore would put his arm around his son as they sat on the porch of their home in Clarksville, Tennessee, and he would tell him, "I love you to the moon and back."

Staff Sgt. Baysore was assigned to 1st Battalion, 506 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Before he left for his 3rd tour in Afghanistan, he was sitting outside with his son the night before he left, and he pointed up at the moon and told him, "You can talk to the moon as if it were me and I will get the message." Unfortunately, this would be the last time that he would get to sit with his son. On September 26, 2013, while in the Patktya Province of Afghanistan, he was shot and killed by an enemy combatant.

On the day that his father died, Darren's mother, Jamie, told him that his father would split his time between Heaven and the moon. On the night that he died, Darren asked his mother if they could leave their porch light on so his dad could see it.

Last week, to commemorate the death of his dad, six year old Darren Baysore used his love to light up the world. Through social media, he asked the people in Clarksville, and others all over the world, to turn on their lights that night so, "Daddy could see that I love him." People from Clarksville to Afghanistan honored his wish, then posted pictures of it on Facebook. Pictures of people saluting the camera ranged from children in the United States, to active duty service men and women in Afghanistan. They did this to honor the love that one little boy has for his father. A love that survived even death. A love that for one night, lit up the world. To The Moon and back.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

12th October 2014

They were serving chicken wraps and chocolate cake in the chow hall yesterday, and Don Corleone and I were standing in line mooing our way up to the trough. It was a beautiful day outside, and after lunch we planned to go out on the yard and scheme in the warm sun. Standing on a crate behind the serving line, and making sure that nobody got an extra wrap, was a female guard. She was about 35, with steel-blonde hair, and she had a backwoods Georgia complexion that could've either come from a tanning bed or from dirt. She wore a Blue uniform and Blue baseball cap that had the Federal Bureau of Prisons logo in the center of it. Her eyes looked hard, and her top lip was screwed up into a single-wide sneer that said, "Mess with me and you mess with the whole trailer park."
Don Corleone greeted her warmly, then whispered to me out of the corner of his mouth, "How'd ya like to bring your paycheck home to THAT every week?"
I replied, "No thanks. I'm okay right here. It's only 20 years."

We sat down at a table with This Fucking Guy. I saw Don Corleone give a wink to a short Mexican kitchen worker wearing a tan uniform, clear White hair net, and Maroon apron. He caught The Don's wink and came over to our table. He glanced once behind him to make sure that the coast was clear, then he lifted his apron and dug deep into the front of his pants and came out with a Ziploc baggie filled with diced Green peppers. The Don reached into the top pocket of his Khaki shirt, and fished out five stamps. He pressed them into the guy's palm, and said, "Make sure you get something nice for little Lupe and Maria with this." The guy clicked his heels, then flashed a big smile, and said, "Si senor!" Then he peeled off.

The Don placed the bag in the center of the table, and said to This Fucking Guy, "Here, try one of these Fromunda peppers." This Fucking Guy used his fork to dig a few out of the bag, and then he mixed them into his chicken wrap. After a minute, he said, "I don't think that I'm familiar with the Fromunda brand. What's the origin of the name?" I decided to fill in the blank for him, and I said, "He calls em that because they came 'from under' the guy's nuts." This Fucking Guy stopped chewing, and just stared down at his wrap.

The Don said to me, "Damn! Look at the ass on that girl!" I turned around to look and found myself staring dead into the plump ass of one of the resident homosexuals here that we call Big Booty Rudy." I turned back around, and said, "Okay, you got me." Then I looked down at my tray and noticed that my cake was missing. The Don said, "His ass looks like one of those genetically altered or specially grown tomatoes that you see in the grocery store."
This Fucking Guy said, "It's actually called 'Aquaponic Farming' and I'm quite familiar with it. It's very Green."
With his mouth full, The Don said, "Aqua what?"
"Aquaponics" This Fucking Guy said. Then he continued, "It's a method of farming whereby you raise fish in a closed environment. You use a natural ammonia-based fertilizer by circulating the fish waste thru a filter, then into float trays where you grow the vegetables. The fish are actually byproducts that most Aquaponic farmers choose sell off for fillets."
I thought to myself, How does he know this stuff??? Then, once again, I thought, Can you believe This Fucking Guy?

This time, it was The Don who stopped chewing (with his mouth open) and stared down at his wrap. A piece of chicken fell out of his mouth and onto his tray, as he said, "So youse telling me that these peppers were grown in fish turds?!" This Fucking Guy smiled, and said, "Then served 'Fromunda style'." I'd already punished my chicken wrap and was missing my cake at this point, so I reached out and wiped the mayo on my hand onto Don Corleone's forearm. He ignored it, then from his self-absorbed piece of the criminal ether, said, "I like eating broccoli, but it makes my piss stink."
I corrected him, and said, "I think it's asparagus that makes your piss stink."
Loudly, he said, "How do you know what makes my piss stink??? Stop smelling my piss!!!"
The people sitting around us glanced over and looked at me like I was vermin. Piss-smelling vermin.

I was ready to go outside at this point, and I said, "Would you please shove the rest of your fish turd tortilla into your mafia piehole so we can get out of here." He did just that. He still had a ring of mayo around his mouth though, so I handed him a napkin, and said, "For God's sake, would you please wipe your mouth? It looks like you've been sucking on a bottle of mayonnaise." He wiped his mouth, then threw the napkin in the middle of his tray, and said, "C'mon, let's get outta this fucking joint" like it was his idea.

We both rapped our knuckles on the table to signal our departure, and This Fucking Guy rapped his back. As we got up, he said, "Be careful outside. You can still get carcinoma in the Fall sun." The Don said, "Listen to what he said. He used to be an oncologist." This Fucking Oncologist? I just shook my head. I slid my tray into the slot in the front of the dirty tray room, and filed out of the chow hall. As I passed by Big Booty Rudy giving a heinous, high-pitch giggle, I couldn't help but thinking for the thousandth time...I should've worn a mask.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

5th October 2014

Well, I was standing at the gate like a good, docile felon, and I was wearing a freshly pressed Tan uniform and a pair of boots that had the toes shined; I was also holding my fat bottle of mayonnaise with the yellow top that I had planned to take to the chow hall to dip my French fries in. It originally came with a blue top that had a wide mouth on it so you'd use more mayo, but I was going through a bottle of mayo every other Cheeseburger Day. So I took the top off of my plastic jar of honey and screwed it on the bottle of mayo, because the cap for the honey as a small round hole that allows less come out. It's a long 20 years, and I've learned that it pays to be frugal. Yes, I've learned something in prison.

Anyway, I was standing there looking up at an episode of Jerry Springer (Maids Who Clean Trailers Naked), when the cell block flooded with cops who were screaming EVERYBODY OUT TO THE REC YARD! NO RADIOS! NO BOOTS ON!!! They came to shake down the cell block and there were no less than 25 cops all dressed in camo pants that were tucked into their boots, and they wore black tee shirts with acronyms like C.D.H. (Cheeseburger Day Haters). They also wore purple plastic gloves like they were going to perform surgical procedures.

We had to form a line and get patted down and take off our shoes on the way out of the block. They then proceeded to rip our cells apart and take anything that they deemed excessive or to be "Contraband." The definition of "Contraband" varies from one day to the next. I have four different color toothbrushes all in their own plastic holders and they took two of them. I had two semi-fluffy pillows. They took one of them (the fluffier one). All in all though, they didn't hurt me too bad or take anything that I can't get back within 24 hours. The worst part of the raid was that they didn't let me bring my bottle of mayo with me. So this Cheeseburger Day was mayoless.

It could be a lot worse...and has. Recently. Everybody was whining like bad fan belts, but at least the cops didn't have guns on this raid like they did at USP Victorville six months ago when I went through a similar Cheeseburger Day Raid. I wonder why they always have to pick Wednesdays for this?

I finally made it to the chow hall and the cheeseburgers weren't too shabby. And the crinkle-cut fries were fat and straight out of the fryer and were just...fuhgettaboutit.

They couldn't parole me on Cheeseburger Day. Leave all this and have to go get a job and pay for my own burger and fires? No, sir. They're not gonna trick me.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog