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28th September 2014

They were serving tacos for dinner in the chow hall the other night, and I'd made arrangements to meet Don Corleone up there. He was bringing a bottle of hot sauce and some cayenne pepper so we could put a little lipstick on the pig. He told me, "If you get there before I do, have the maitre de show you to my regular table. They know me there."

Before I left, I was washing my White boxers and tee shirts by hand in the sink, and I was hanging them on a ghettofied clothesline that I'd made out of a strip of sheet and stretched from one end of my cell to the other. As I was dunking a tee shirt in the soapy water, I heard the distinct sound of HIPS DON'T LIE by Shakira come pumping through the vent above the sink. I rinsed the tee shirt, wrung it out, then popped it and put it on the clothesline, and peeled off to go find Shakira.

The sound was coming from my next-door neighbor's cell. His name is Juan, but he goes by the nickname "Poncho." He's from Matamoros, Mexico and is doing six years for a third offense of Illegal Entry into the United States. I asked him one time, "What does Poncho mean in Spanish." He dryly replied, "It means a garment that you wear." I told him, "I know what a damn poncho is..." Then to make me feel even stupider, he said, "Sometimes a poncho is just a poncho, senor." I remember thinking, "Great. I'm living next to Sigmund Hernandez."

When I walked into Poncho's house, he had Shakira pumping through a set of headphones hooked up to his MP3 that he had attached to an empty cardboard container of oatmeal. For Quaker Oats, it was pretty decent acoustics. I looked at the pictures that he had taped to his bulletin board. They were pictures of his family, and there was one of him standing next to a dark-haired beauty with mischevious eyes. They were standing in front of a pickup truck. He introduced me to everybody, but he seemed to talk more about his truck than he did about his girl. He finally got around to telling me that his girl's name was Consuela and that she'd left him for a guy named Felipe...who he planned to kill one day. Apparently, Consuela had found herself a nicer truck to ride in...and a warmer poncho. But I kept that thought to myself.

I was wearing a White baseball cap turned backwards, and I had my MP3 clipped upside down to the band of my hat (on the side) with my ear buds in my ears. I unclipped my MP3 and offered it to Poncho and told him, "Let's swap MP3s for a while. I'd like a Latin soundtrack for Taco Night." He excitedly said, "Hokay" and we swapped players.

I went to the chow hall wearing Gray sweats, sunglasses, and I was blowing up a song called BENENO (Poison) by a band called Aventura. It sounded good and made me feel very Latin and even more full of machismo than I normally do. I filed thru the serving line and took my Beige food tray that consisted of a Beige plastic spoon that had a napkin wrapped around the end of it, a pile of cooked hamburger meat, a scoop of rice, and two taco shells. I walked over to the hot bar and scooped some Black beans and corn onto my tray and then went and found a seat. I had a bare-bones pig sitting on the table in front of me...now all I needed was some lipstick. But it wasn't meant to be. I sat there for five minutes looking for Don Corleone, before I finally gave away my tray. Then I went hunting for him. The first place I planned to look was the rec yard.

When I'd cleared the metal detector on the yard, I saw that there was a soccer match going on. No less than 100 Hispanic guys were on the sidelines hollering and cheering for their team. This was no surprise though, as there's approximately 60,000 Hispanic people in federal prison, with more than 20,000 of them being illegals. I strapped Poncho's MP3 back on, hit Shuffle, and caught the song DARTE UN BESO (Please Kiss Me) by Prince Royce. As I stepped onto the track, a young Mexican guy with a Black pair of Nikes hanging around his neck came up to me and pointed to the shoes and said, "Seben books, senor" (Seven books of stamps equals about $35.00 or so). I politely declined, telling him, "No tienes pesos, senor" (I'm broke, dude). I headed down to the pavilion.

I found The Don sitting at the poker table with a White guy, two Black dudes, and a Mexican. When he saw me, he said, " There you are!!! I'm down 200 clams here. Can you help me out?" I shook my head, and said, "I'm allergic to clams" then I added, "But you can have this" and I dug into my right pocket. I came out with my middle finger, and told him, "That's for leaving me in the chow hall looking like a douche bag in front of a plate of unseasoned Mexican food."
He said, "You know why Mexicans don't like to barbeque?"
I replied, "No, Why?"
He said, "Because the beans fall through the grill."
Without smiling, I said, "Not bad, but you've come stronger. If that joke were peppers it would be labeled "Mild." Then I asked him, "What do you call two Mexicans playing basketball?"
He shrugged, and said, "I dunno. What?"
I replied, "Juan on Juan."
The guys at the card table busted out laughing...even the Mexican. I decided to leave Don Calamari on that note, and I headed back to the block.

When I got back into the cell block, I was getting hungry. I swung by Poncho's cell and swapped MP3s back. I was ready to return to The Isle of White and my eclectic, bi-polar music catalog that contained everything from Led Zeppelin and The Black Keys to Taylor Swift and George Jones. As I was standing in Poncho's house, a small Mexican man wearing a straw hat came into his cell. He had a Gray mesh satchel strapped across his chest, and he came out with a clear plastic bag filled with tamales that he was selling for three stamps a piece. Poncho introduced him as "Pollero." I asked, "What does Pollero translate to in Spanish?" Poncho said, "It means a garment that you wear." I said, "Shut up" then he laughed and said, "It means "One who brings the chickens"."

He went on to explain to me that Pollero was doing time for human trafficking and illegal entry. He used to work for a Coyote down in Tijuana and got caught smuggling Mexicans into the country. When he got arrested, he had a .45 caliber handgun on him. He got nine years (four for Illegal Entry and five consecutive for the gun).

After hearing his sentence, I thought to myself, I should've smuggled aliens. And worn a mask.

After a short conversation (in Spanish) between them, Poncho told me, "He'll sell you two tamales for five stamps if you want them." Then after another rapid fire discussion in Spanish, Poncho told me, "He has one very special tamale that has the image of the Virgin Mary imprinted into the side of the tortilla." I had to see this. Pollero went into his satchel and came out with a one gallon, Ziploc bag that contained one single tamale. I took it from him and went over underneath the light and looked at it. Sure enough, it looked like the Virgin Mary right there on the side of the tortilla. I asked him, "How much for The Blessed Mother?" He held up all 10 of his stubby little fingers, and said, "10 stamps, senor." I asked, " Do you offer a discount for Catholics?" He nodded, then said, "Si. 10 stamps, senor." I'd hate to see what he goosed the Pentecostals for. I replied, That's a little too pricey, and I pointed to the other bag of tamales laying on Poncho's table and told him, "You'd better just give me one of the twelve disciples." He said, Peek weech eber one choo wan, senor." I told him just to pick one for me. Then I added, "If you've seen Juan tamale, you've seen them all."

I took my tamale and went back to my house.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

21st September 2014

I recently had to go see the prison eye doctor to get some new specs. In the feds, anytime you want to leave your housing unit and go somewhere, you're only allowed to travel from one place to the next for 10 minutes at the top of every hour. This is called "Controlled Movement," and no matter if you go to the rec yard, the library, the barbershop, or to medical, once you go there you're stuck in that space until the next move. I usually bring a book with me to read while I wait, but it never seems to fail that I get sucked into conversations that I had no intention or desire to have.

A couple of years ago, I used to blog about a person that I call This Fucking Guy. I bestowed this moniker upon him because he's the consummate know it all. He's the one that has done and been everything. If you owned a ranch, he participated in a cattle breeding program for the United States Department of Agriculture; if you were a carpenter, he designed an AutoCAD program that produced blueprints for environmentally-friendly houses; and if you had the flu, This Fucking Guy knows how to type strains of influenza because he has a degree in Holistic Medicine from a university in India. He's not only That Guy, he's This Fucking Guy. Every time that I see this individual, he is offering some audacious opinion on a plethora of topics, and I'll say to whoever I'm with, "Can you believe This Fucking Guy?" When I was transferred from Lewisburg, I thought that I'd shed him, but through some perverse twist of fate, he came here on the bus with me.

In preparation of going to see the eye doctor, I shed my normal attire of gray shorts and a gray tee shirt, and I got all spiffed up in a freshly-ironed set of institutional khakis. When I got up to medical, the waiting room was chock full of felons. I estimated that about 60 percent of them were the usual hypochondriacs that sign up for sick call every single day, and surrender the $2.00 co pay just to get some attention. The other people in the waiting room were up there to see the eye doctor like I was. One of these people was This Fucking Guy.

As I sat down and prepared to read the Greg Isles book that I'd brought along for the wait (Natchez Burning), I noticed him standing underneath a light, and a big fat black guy with dred locks was standing in front of him with his head tilted back as This Fucking Guy got right up in his face and looked down into his right eye. He made a grave clucking noise with his mouth, and then shook his head and said, "Yep, I see a slight astigmatism in the corneal quadrant." Then he shook his head again, and added, "And I see a small cataract too." I sat there amazed, as he asked the guy with dred locks, "Do you have a history of diabetes in your family, Quondell?" Quondell replied, "Shit, all my peoples got sugar." This Fucking Optometrist wasn't finished with his triage though, and he asked, "Do you have Type II diabetes, Quondell?" Quodell gave him a puzzled look, and said, "What that is?"

This Fucking guy fished a pen and a small pad out of the top pocket of his shirt, and began to write something as he said, "I'm going to recommend some low-sodium foods and an exercise regimen that will assist in foregoing any further optical regression." Quondell took the piece of paper, bumped knuckles with This Fucking Guy, and said, "Good looking out, dawg." I turned to the guy sitting next to me, and said, "Can you believe This Fucking Guy?" No sooner had I said it than he spotted me and walked over to where I was. With a look of concern on his face, he asked, "What seems to be the problem today, Jeffrey?" I replied, "Get thee behind me Satan."

When I was first arrested on this case several years ago, I'd been running from the police for a while. Olympic sprinters don't run like I did. My capture ended badly, but I guess that's why they call it a capture. The FBI finally trapped me like a raccoon and I ended up having a stand-off with them because I couldn't think of one good reason to flush my dope, pour out my beer, and rush into a waiting room to watch This Fucking Guy diagnose crack dealers. The jail that I was dragged into promptly stuffed me into a room by myself to dry out. After a few weeks, I was dryer than a 4th Circuit Federal Judge.

One day around this time, I was called to the visitation booth and sitting there on the other side of the glass was a man who identified himself as my lawyer. He had prematurely gray hair that looked as if it had recently received a trim, and he wore a Navy Blue suit, light Blue shirt, and a Yellow tie that I found to be rather bold considering that it was January. In a deflated manner, he introduced himself, and told me that his name was Bob, and that he was my attorney.

From working in law, I knew who Bob was, and I knew him to be competent and very smart. But here's a tip for all of you would-be Bank Robbers out there (pay attention here Ujjwal): When you rob seven banks and don't have the decency to wear a mask, you don't need a smart lawyer to make your charges disappear...you need an illusionist.

Whenever Bob would come to see me he would look like a deflated tire, and he would always look down at the ground instead of looking me in the eye. One day I asked him, "What gives here, Bob?" and he replied, "They're just so mad at you, Jeff; I don't know what to do to help you." Bob was a nice, kind, caring individual (that I eventually sued for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel), and I told him, "You didn't rob any banks, Bob, so chin up. We're going to get through this." But sitting in a cell day after day for 1 1/2 years while you wait for what you presume will be a Life sentence, can wear on you pretty heavily. One day Bob showed up and asked, "Is there anything at all that I can get for you, Jeff?" I replied, "Yeah, Bob, there is. You can bring me a pair of glasses." He said, "Why do you need glasses, Jeff" and I replied, "Because I can't see doing all of this time that you're fixing to get me, Bob." He laughed, and actually wrote that one down. Then he got me 20 years.

After my eye-exam at the doctor, and a conversation with This Fucking Guy that felt like an ISIS kidnapping, I caught the move and fled back to my pod. Once there, I changed back into my shorts and tee shirt and caught the outgoing move out to the rec yard to go play some bocce with Don Corleone. When I got there, he was sitting on the stainless steel bench in front of the bocce courts, and he was wearing his khaki pants and a white tee shirt with a sauce stain on the front of it. The Don has slicked back silver hair, and he wears the large, old-school Gangster Glasses that are tinted so dark that you can't see his eyes. When I walked up, he said, "Where have you been?" Then he looked at me tee shirt and said, "Why the hell would you wear a tee shirt out here with spots all over it? People're gonna think that we're pigs!" I looked down at me shirt and it was spot free. When I looked at him a little closer I noticed that he had little dots of tomato sauce all over his glasses. I told him, "Get a hold of yourself, man. I'm going to get the bocce balls, and when I'm gone I want you to go over to the water cooler and wash your damn glasses. It looks like you've been playing in tomato sauce." I went and got the bag of bocce balls, and when I came back I noticed that he'd cleaned his glasses. He looked at me and said, "I see you went and cleaned your tee shirt. What would you do without me?"

I see some crazy stuff around this joint. And even though it's years later, some nights after lockdown, when I close my eyes I still see Bob in that Yellow tie. Sometimes, I also see every single bank and relive the adrenaline rush. On those nights, I don't sleep. I'll tell you what I don't see though. Another bank. I see me in a McDonald's uniform asking somebody, "Would you like to Supersize that today, sir?" before I ever see any of the things that brought me here. A wise man once said, "It's better to be poor and free, than rich and in prison." I don't know if it was King Solomon or Confucius that said this. Maybe I oughta go ask This Fucking Guy. I'll bet he knows.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

--- SO FAR AWAY ---
11th September 2014

The walls of my cell were closing in on me yesterday, and I was going stir crazy. I was tired of seeing the same worthless dudes run their mouths about the same worthless stuff, so I decided to head outside and walk a few miles around the track on the rec yard. I put on my Gray shorts, a crisp White tee shirt, my Black and Gray New Balance kicks, then I made an icy bottle of Blue Raspberry Hawaiian punch, grabbed my sunglasses and MP3 player, put a Green towel around my neck, and caught the move out to the yard.

As soon as I'd passed through the barred gate and cleared the metal detector located at the entrance of the rec yard, I strapped on my Skull Candy ear buds and caught the song DROP THE WORLD by Lil Wayne. It was overcast outside and the clouds hung low and raced across the sky, but I kept my sunglasses on to keep people from seeing my eyes and possibly trying to engage me in conversation. I wanted to be left alone; I had no rap for anyone. But Lil Wayne had some for me. As I stepped onto the track, he spit:

I've got ice in my veins
Blood in my eyes
Hate in my heart
Love in my mind

I felt the lyrics. It summed up how I felt at that exact moment. Then he came with:

I seen nights full of pain
Days are the same
Who keeps the sunshine
Save me the rain

I search but never find
Hurt but never cry
Work and forever try
But I'm cursed...so never mind

What a perfect soundtrack for my imperfect life. Angry and raw; aggressive. Honest prose in a sea of dishonest cons.

As I walked the track, I saw members of the same Mexican gang on the basketball court with their shirts off, their tattooed bodies glistening with sweat as they worked out together. On the court next to them, were several Black guys from a different set who were doing the same thing. Another Black guy sat on a bench nearby, as a guy stood behind him and braided his hair.

As I walked along a little further, I looked at the trees swaying in the breeze beyond the fence, and I looked up at the gun tower, and I thought about a particular girl that I wish I could touch right now. A girl that I dream about. The song SAVIN' ME by Nickleback came through my ear buds, as Chad Kroger sang:

Prison gates won't open up for me
On these hands and knees I'm crawling...

I passed the bocce courts, with their concrete surfaces painted Green, and I stopped at an Orange water cooler that sat atop a concrete pedestal. I bent down sideways to get a drink, as the song continued:

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing,
Teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be;
And say it for me, say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me...
Say it if it's worth saving me

I felt emotions trying to come out that I don't have the luxury of feeling, so I caught them, then stuffed them back into the box I keep feelings like that caged in. I passed the pavilion, and saw groups of people sitting at metal picnic tables that are bolted to the ground, as they played dominoes, chess and poker. A group of about four Jamaicans with their dreds tucked into Black, Yellow, and Red crocheted hats jogged by me, as I completed another lap around the track.

A while later, I passed a group of Cubans standing in a circle near the softball field as they volleyed a soccer ball to each other using just their feet. I then made my way past the handball courts where White boys with swastikas and lightning bolts tattooed all over them played a doubles match against a concrete wall.

After about two hours, I had sweat pouring off me...but I still felt restless; I still felt caged. Like a bull in a pen that paces all day, I yearned to be free. I decided to head back into the block and take a shower, and then sit down and try to write a blog to let all of you around the world know how I felt, and to give you my eyes...if only for a couple of hours.

I walked back through the barred iron gate as I left the yard, and I set my MP3 and ear buds on the stand next to the metal detector as I cleared it. When I'd passed through, I reached back and picked them up and put them back on. This song was playing; it was written by a talented musician named Aaron Lewis whose the lead singer for the band Staind. The song is titled SO FAR AWAY, and when I heard the opening lyrics, I knew that I didn't have to worry about telling all of your out there how I feel behind these fences back here. These are the lyrics:

This is my life
It's not what it was before
All of these feelings I've shared
And these are my dreams...

Now that we're here, so far away.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog