You are reading a rare, detailed account of everyday life in Stateville Prison.

Click to read Paul's blog quoted on:
To contact Paul, please email: paulmodrowski@gmail.com
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Valentine's Day Roast -- February 15, 2012

The morning of Valentine's Day was dreary and cold with a slight drizzle. I thought this was appropriate for a man who was condemned to dungeons for the rest of his life and whose only romance was in the distant past. Before my cellmate awakened and the cell house became a loud obnoxious zoo, I thought about those girls I once knew. A significant part of my bitterness while incarcerated is the unjust tyranny which has torn from me my true love. Although I have never loved, nor was even dating at the time of my arrest, I imagine an idealized soul mate who is waiting for me just like in the movie "Sleeping Beauty." However, unlike the classic fairy tale where the prince is able to escape to slay the dragon and take his bride, I am doomed to slowly languish in prison. Even if the evil sorceress was to set me free one day, as a decrepit old man the girl of my dreams will not awaken by my kiss.

The cell house slowly became louder until it was a roar of animals demanding their recreation. Movement lines were delayed yesterday by a late institutional count. While I waited, I did a number of stretches until I was limber and then sat down at the front desk to brood more about my earlier thoughts. My cellmate was awake and planned to play basketball at the gym. He attempted to engage me in meaningless chatter but I did not care to listen to him. I was in my own world thinking about the dream girl who could never be mine.

I was almost startled when a nurse said "Modrowski" while I was waiting at the bars. The new medical director prescribed Ultram for me, to be taken twice a day for back pain. Because it had an ingredient which is somewhat similar to a narcotic, it was hand delivered by nurses. Possibly, the medical director thought an inmate may try to get high taking a handful of Ultram at one time, although I tend to believe it would only give the prisoner a stomach ache. Many prisoners are drug addicts or former ones, so I understand the precaution.

The nurse was a pleasant surprise to see. She is probably one of the most attractive females who works here. Prisoners often comment she looks like the actress Julia Stiles, and I tend to agree. The nurse seemed like she was in a hurry, but I had to stop her before she ran off to the next cell. There were hundreds of cells she probably had to stop at to dispense mostly psychotropic medications. I asked her if she had changed shifts because I had not seen her in a long time, and almost never during the day. She told me just for today, and disappeared before I could say anything witty or flirtatious. When she left, I figured she was working the day shift to go out on a special Valentine's date in the evening. I felt foolish to think I could interest her in a man who was condemned to prison for life, and I was glad to not bother wasting my time talking to her.

Many of the prisoners will try to talk and flirt with the female staff who work here. However, I will rarely ever unless I am in a particularly good mood and the woman is particularly attractive, which is almost never. When the nurse who looks like Julia Stiles first began to work at Stateville, she struck my interest more. However, because she is attractive and I assumed she received a lot of attention here, I usually just gave her a hard time or made fun of her. There was no point heaping more flattery on her. Plus, I am much wittier "roasting" people than I am at being charming.

The doors to prisoners' cells were finally keyed open on the first and second floors for gym at a quarter past 9 a.m. Standing next to Steve on the gallery waiting to leave the cell house, I asked him if he made a Valentine for Franky. Franky was a little black homosexual who is fond of white men. I told him if he had forgotten about the special day, it was not too late. I had some red construction paper he could make into a heart shaped card. Steve retorted the queer would much rather receive a card from me, and reminded me of all the sweets he continues to send down to my cell. Unfortunately, I had to concede that Franky would definitely rather have a Valentine from me, despite how I ignore him unless I am throwing insults his way. I told Steve that as a prank we should make him one, and sign it from "your secret admirer." We could toss it on his bunk while he was at the law library. The queer would go nuts trying to figure out who had sent it.

In line outside of the cell house, I gave Mertz some candy my cellmate had given to me earlier when I was trying to ignore him. As I gave him the candy, I said "Happy Valentine's Day." Although men observing thought this was funny, Mertz was his cool usual self and just said "Thanks." Steve, feigning jealousy, asked where his candy was. "I have nothing for you," I said. "You sent me an IDOC breakfast tray of soy and potatoes this morning, minus the only items of value: bread and jelly. I was greatly insulted. On the other hand, last night Mertz sent me a vintage Slayer cassette tape I have been wanting to hear for years." To this Mertz added, "I am also younger and better looking with no hair plugs." This again greatly amused the bystanders crowded in the prisoner lines.

The gym is on the other side of the penitentiary grounds, and it took the double line of prisoners almost 20 minutes to reach the building. The time could have been cut in half if guards did not regularly stop the line to maintain order. During the walk, many men were talking and the lines lost their configurations. Prisoners at Stateville have less ability to stay in line than first graders. The weather forecast I heard in the morning was correct, and it was cold with a light rain.

In front of Steve and I was our neighbor. He was a big black man with very poor hygiene. Prisoners will regularly comment about how he and his cell stink, and I was glad there was no wind and the rain kept the dust and body odor cloud around "Pig Pen" at bay. Even guards will notice the rank emanating from his cell, and earlier this week they "Febreezed" his cell. Febreezed is a verb I made up, to the great amusement of my cellie. It was funny that the guards sprayed his cell while he was gone, and I have not seen that done before. Not only does the man stink, wear dirty clothes, and have lint in his unkempt Afro, but he is rumored to be a homosexual. The large 300 lb., 6'4" black man oddly goes by the name "La la". The name purportedly originates from his singing ability, but I also think it is connected to "The Smurfs" cartoon. On the walk to the gym, I asked Steve if he thought the gorilla in front of us had a boyfriend or girlfriend before his arrest. Steve said, "Smelling like that? Neither." However, I said, "But is there not someone for everyone? Somewhere, deep in the sub Saharan jungles of Africa was a primate just for La la. I just do not know what sex it is." Steve speculated that he was bi-sexual.

After moving through the line to get away from La la, Steve asked me why I stayed in the day before. I told him I was in grieving because Whitney Houston had died, and I was terribly sad. Steve knew I was being sarcastic, even though I said it in a flat serious tone. Although I cared less about the celebrity's drug overdose, I was bothered by a song the media continued to replay called, "I Will Always Love You." It was a song a girl in high school gave me when I ceased to date her. At the time, I did not appreciate the girl and did not even bother to listen to the song she gave me, let alone pay attention to the lyrics. However, now that I am old and in prison, I think about her.

In the gym, Steve exercised a little with Mertz and me, mostly to prove he was not a "softy." The day before I embarrassed him at the chow table making fun of his sensitivities and calling him "Pudding." Steve is regularly complaining about the austere conditions in prison as well as minor pains, health issues, and discomforts. I tend to believe he had a very pampered life before his incarceration and I would not doubt if he was a nerd and a mommy's boy when younger. He has allergies, wears eyeglasses, was in the school band, and has a lack of athleticism. I notice he regularly gives himself manicures, and shaves his face and head smooth, despite his body being as furry as Chewbacca from Star Wars. At chow, I gave him the pudding off my tray as I always do. All Steve ate, in fact, was pudding, and as he stuffed his face he said how the dessert was his favorite. I said it was no surprise considering the litany of soft qualities he has been exhibiting. I told the convicts at the table, "We should all begin to call him 'Pudding" from now on."

While I used the peck deck, I leaned against a couple of boards which have been nailed together, to give my chest muscles a greater stretch. The piece of wood I had taken came from underneath a side of the exercise machine which was off balance. The wood was rough and had splinters as well as nails sticking out of it. Although Mertz, Chase, and I used the board, Steve took it down to do his set. This gave me another opportunity to call him "Pudding," which he did not like. In fact, before we left the gym, he asked me if I would cease to call him the dessert in front of other inmates. I agreed because although it was much fun to razz him, I did not want to reduce his reputation or respect within the prison.

While working out, I asked Mertz if he had watched "The Bachelor" the night before. Mertz watches a great amount of television and most of the shows he watches are solely because of the women. He will watch a program despite how stupid or bad it is if there are attractive females in it. Often I will overhear him talk about various females on TV with other inmates with great zeal. Mertz will not bother me with the subject matter because he knows I have no interest. Women on TV are not real to me. They are phony actresses and personalities I do not know. I also suspect they are shallow, superficial people with values and politics disagreeable to me. Contrarily, I speculate that Mertz fantasizes about them. I tell him in a jesting fashion that he is a "celebrity stalker," although this could have some truth.

"The Bachelor" is a program I like because of the courtship and romance displayed that is missing in my life. Sometimes, I will attempt to pretend to be the bachelor seeking out a mate, but this season the man is a person I cannot identify with. The bachelor was such a wimpy, unromantic, bland person that I was puzzled to understand why the women cared about him. In the words of Mertz, he was a "douche bag," and even the pudding-like Steve thought he was a nerd. During sets, we also cut down the women who seemed desperate and overly emotional in their quest to find love. One of the women fainted, others cried, and a couple became aggressively sexual. Courtney was thought of as the most attractive of the group remaining, but it was uncertain if she was just playing with the bachelor. Her frequent comments of "Winning!" quoting Charlie Sheen, seemed to show that she was just there to compete. Personally, I did not like any of the final chosen women, but tended to think Kasie had the best values to be a wife. Ultimately, I believe the bachelor will be left holding the last rose and will be a two-time loser.

I told Steve that he missed one of the most amusing shows in the former Bachelorette where all the men competed in a comedy roast. The men were supposed to make fun of the Bachelorette, but only one had the courage to attack her. He totally eviscerated the woman until she was in tears. The man definitely has a career in comedy, but his romance on the show was over. Ironic that the woman Emily he said he hoped was the Bachelorette, instead will be in the next program. Possibly, the comedian will also have a second chance, although he will probably not be as entertaining if he wants to stay longer. Women definitely do not appreciate a good roasting like men may.

Steve was too overweight and weak to do dips, so he did leg presses instead. I noticed he selected a light amount of weight and had the seat positioned far back. I told the midget if he was going to only press a hundred pounds at least he should move the seat up. Because he was so short, his legs only moved the platform half a foot. When I called him "Pudding" he mumbled something about disagreement, but I could not hear him over the laughter. I told him if he did not like "Pudding" he could be "Zipper Head", referring to the rows of stitches across the back of his head from his hair transplant surgery.

Steve ceased doing his knee bends and began to walk away. I said, "Good. We need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Go ring the bell for quitters." "Is that not what they do in the military?" I asked Mertz. "With the softies gone that will leave only the ubermensch." Steve laughed at a lot of the roasting, but he apparently wanted to put my feet to the fire. He and Mertz collaborated on a name for me, and after some time they came up with "Sunshine." Apparently because Sunshine was the exact opposite of my disposition, it was greatly funny. Steve went on to say, "You are the type of person who makes flowers wilt when you walk by."

With Pudding gone, I told Mertz that he was now the only one without a nickname. Mertz said, "In the marines, men did not have nicknames and were always called by their last names unless it was too long. For example, you would probably be known as 'Ski.'" Mertz was not going to get away that easily, however, and I told him he can be "The Machine," from the movie "8 mm" that had recently been played on the prison's DVD system. By calling Mertz "The Machine," I was making fun of his conviction for killing a woman. In the film, actor Nicholas Cage played a PI seeking out the truth behind a "snuff" video found in a vault by the widow of a multimillionaire. In the video, a girl is killed by a leather masked man who people only knew of as "The Machine." Mertz said it was not a good comparison because the man behind the mask was actually a pudgy, bald headed old man with glasses like Pudding. Then Mertz tried to turn the tables on me and said, "Did not prisoners call you 'The Machine'?" I said, "Yes, but I was a different type of machine, and it's been a long time since I was thought to have committed the Palatine Massacre, or that I looked like the Terminator."

As most of the prisoners in the gym played basketball, Mertz and I decided to run around the perimeter. Before we began, I walked over to Steve who was playing chess on the stairs. I told him to make himself feel important and hold on to the steel, where upon I handed him one of the pins for the machine weights. Steve did not understand the interplay of words I had used because he has only been in prison a few years. "Steel" was known to be knives in maximum-security prisons in Illinois years ago, and the prisoner who held on to them was typically a lackey of a gang, and at the bottom of their hierarchy. He would hold the knives and other contraband because he was expendable and not of much value for anything else. The person playing chess with Steve began to explain my demeaning words, but I walked away to where Mertz was and said, "I cannot believe there are men who do not know the riddle of steel."

When the gym period was over, I was exhausted and the pain in my lower back was prominent. I had completed over 40 sets of exercises and ran 20 laps at a fast pace lapping my "wing man" several times. I was looking forward to lunch but was disappointed when sausage and beans were served in the chow hall. Sitting at the table, a prisoner walking by shouted something indiscernible at Chase. Chase asked those at the table if anyone could make out what he was yelling about. I could not tell what the disheveled old convict with missing teeth said, however, I asked Chase if he forgot to give that special someone a Valentine today. Chase began laughing and told me he has been trying to lose that bug since he moved to General Population.

In my cell, after bathing in my sink and washing some clothes, I listened to WLS talk radio while eating a sardine sandwich. Roe & Roeper were unsurprisingly talking about Valentines Day and what to give a woman for a present. They and some other people on the show told the audience what their specific plans were, except for one man who said he and his wife celebrated Valentine's Day every day. I thought these people's plans were lame, and if I were ever released I would never be so unromantic. Possibly, people who have never had their lives taken from them cannot appreciate it. However, even before my arrest I was never as dull and impassionate with the girls I dated.

Dinner lines were run early in C House on Valentine's Day. I was extremely tired from all I did that day, but mostly from the conversation. I am very quiet and introverted, and a day of socializing is enough to wear me out, even if I say little. I would have stayed in my cell, but my reserves of food were running low and the cell house may not receive commissary until the end of the month. While at the chow table, I asked Matt if his cellmate Mertz had any odd peculiarities and if he was a decent person to be with before I may try to take his place when he is transferred. A prisoner sitting with us said, "You're supposed to ask about people when they aren't around." "Not my style," I told him. Matt then said, "Are you kidding? That man has serious problems. At 3 a.m. every night he is on the floor barking at the toilet!" The table of prisoners broke out laughing, and even "Sunshine" cracked a smile.

I went to sleep early on Valentine's Day only to be awakened by a nurse with my medications. She was not the nurse from earlier in the day, but she was also pretty, even if I think it often goes overlooked. If the other nurse looked similar to Julia Stiles, this one had a mild resemblance to Wyonnna Ryder. She is petite, intelligent, and has an appealing soft poise. If I was not half asleep, I may have made some reference to the holiday, or asked if she had read anything interesting lately. The evening before she said coyly to me that she had just found out I had a blog. In a quiet voice, I told her not to tell anyone, and put my finger to my lips. I do not mind if she or other staff read what I write, but I do not want other prisoners to know. Before she left my cell, she said she only accidentally came across it, but that is what all the girls say, I thought.

Yesterday, I noticed not many prisoners used the phone. I also noticed for the week leading up to Valentine's Day, no one passed out any cards, necklaces, roses, or other crafts for the holiday. This was very unusual and in every cell house I have been before, there has always been prisoners hustling goods for Valentines Day. I can only speculate it is because I am among old men who have done years upon years in prison, and they have no wives or girlfriends to cater to. Although I am in my mid-30s, I think I am in the same sinking boat. It was pure folly on my part to think a nurse or any other attractive woman would be interested in a condemned man. I spent Valentine's Day roasting almost everyone, but it is my own life which is roasted.

7 comments:

  1. All right, it is settled: from now on Paul is "sunshine."

    Listen Sunshine, today you said something more striking than usual: "people don't appreciate jack until it is taken away from them." Priceless. Well, your blog is full of amazing insight but today you knowcked it out of the ballpark. I think you will be a great human once released...a much better one than if you were to remain free all this time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You said you gave the nurse a hard time instead of flattering her. What did you say to her?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Danielle quit working as a nurse in the IDOC a couple of years ago. She was pretty and to give her more flattery would have been a waste. Thus, I usually was razzing her while at the same time flirtatious. My cellmate says I am an expert at the "disflirt".

      Delete
    2. Give an example of disflirt?

      Delete
    3. Occasionally the nurse would work double shifts repeatedly and although she was pretty, she looked unkempt and worn out. I would tell her she looked horrible whereupon she would say she needed some sleep. Then I would say she could share my bunk for the night if she liked. Thus, I was being disparaging but flirtatious at the same time.

      Delete
    4. Hahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahah

      Delete
  3. Person who wishes you would resume your site and who reads old posts for nostalgiaFebruary 9, 2016 at 8:11 PM

    You didn't make up the word "febreezed." It has been in use for a while in the free world.

    ReplyDelete

If you choose Name / URL, you can write any name and you don't need a URL. Or you can choose Anonymous. Paul loves getting your Comments. They are all mailed to him.