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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The First Week of September -- September 6, 2014

I have kept calendars with notes for several years. They were meant to assist me in writing posts and also to remind me that my life in prison has not been completely empty. However, this week I destroyed them all. I care not to remember my miserable and meaningless time within the penitentiary. The only calendar I kept is a tiny card which I have taped to a gusset of the upper bunk simply for quick reference to the day and date. It is one of those card calendars sent out by the Salvation Army and on the opposite side it has the story "Footsteps". Looking back in time, neither Jesus nor anyone has carried me. Throughout most of these decades I have walked alone. However, I continue to post here so that people can trace the footprints I have left in the sand before they are washed away by the tide. In this story, readers can follow my path during the first week of September 2014.

Sunday morning I was let out of my cage for a health care pass. At the bottom of the stairs I noticed the lieutenant dribbling a basketball. Before I stole the ball away from him, he pretended to go up to make a shot. He then inquired if I had a visitor. It was uncommon for me to be out of the cell unless it was in a chow line or to be escorted to the visiting room. No, I told him. I had an appointment with the psychiatrist. He asked if I was hearing voices whereupon I said, "All the time and they will never shut up."

The psychiatrist I see is a little East Indian woman who despite being in the U.S. for many years has a slight accent. The small office she has was completely rearranged and for some reason this bothered me immensely. Her job was to prescribe or adjust medications as needed by her patients but I was more interested in knowing why all these changes were made. Eventually she ascertained there was no need to modify the melatonin or Klonopin I was taking before going to sleep. I returned to the cell house with a loud group of prisoners coming back from Islam services. Like those in Iraq I thought they may be ostentatious, but there was little to be feared.

My cellmate was in a cheerful mood. He does not regularly receive visitors, but his sister and niece came to see him. I inquired if the visiting room was as crowded and noisy as it has been for me the last couple of weeks. He said on the contrary, it was almost vacant. Prisoners are only permitted 5 visits a month and only 2 of them can be on the weekend at Stateville. I assumed that this was the reason why his visit was much more pleasant.

In the evening, Anthony was excited to see a segment on 60 Minutes regarding former Serbian soldiers who had been nicknamed Pink Panthers after a series of brazen burglaries across Europe. The news program showed a clip from the movie The Pink Panther which I had been imitating a couple of months ago. It was where the actor Peter Sellers asks a man, "Does your dog bite?" and when he says "no," Sellers reaches down to pet the dog only to be mauled. He then calmly says, "I thought you said your dog does not bite" and he is amusingly told that the dog was not his. Anthony never saw any of the Pink Panther movies and was perplexed by my French voice imitation that Peter Sellers uses as well as the humor to the scene until finally seeing it for himself. Hopefully, he will someday get to see the movie Dr. Strangelove where the actor plays a German scientist the U.S. co-ops with after WWII.

On Labor Day, the penitentiary was placed on lockdown. Initially guards claimed it was due to security reasons and a pipe was found in X House. However, it was apparent operations were restricted for the holiday. Prisoners were kept in their cells except for some workers. Bucky, who is cell house help, stopped at my bars to give me bleach and the cardboard case that Boost drink boxes came in. I used the bleach with laundry detergent to scrub my gym shoes which often become dirty and stained by rust. The weight lifting equipment on the yards is corroded and the iron easily gets on clothing including footwear. The biker also sent the cardboard case because he knows how meticulous I am about trying to keep my property box in order. Prisoners' state issued property boxes do not come with any dividers or compartments. They are just thick plastic containers with a sliding lid. While seeing how I could use the cardboard to order my belongings more effectively, I thought about the declining condition of Bone. Bone is dying of liver failure and all health care staff would do for him was treat the symptoms including his great amount of weight loss.

Lunch was passed out to prisoners in Styrofoam trays. Towards noon, I ate the baked chicken with a slight glaze of barbecue sauce. A black inmate who lives a few cells from me was shouting loudly and to block him out I put on my headphones and listened to Rush Limbaugh. On Friday he was ridiculing Barack Obama for having no strategy in the Middle East and that his spokespeople were in full damage control. The liberal media were very accommodating to the excuses. On Monday they also tried to slant polling numbers to emphasize the low approval ratings of Congress instead of the President's. Obama's approval rating has dropped to its lowest level ever during his tenure, but Americans had an even lower opinion of the legislature. Hopefully, this will result in Republicans taking control of the Senate.

After the talk radio show, I read while listening to music until the television show "Running Wild" with Bear Grylls was telecast. I enjoy watching the former British Special Ops soldier innovate to survive in some of the world's least hospitable places. However, I am disappointed how this TV show is meant for the least capable survivalists and focuses attention on various semi-famous people who I could care less about. During this episode, Tamron Hall accompanied Bear Grylls in Utah. They did some mild repelling and ate a dead squirrel. Hall was fearful of the loose rocks they climbed down and disgusted to eat a squirrel. I wondered what her fear would be locked in a maximum security prison and how she would enjoy the slop generally fed inmates.

The following day I went to the large prison yard to lift weights. My cellmate played basketball and left me in the company of several black convicts. I thought it was amusing Big Jr. gave me advice on how to increase my bench press. The black man has an impressive bench, but I have been lifting weights since I was in middle school. I was fully aware of techniques to increase strength and was more intent on my overall fitness. Later, Keon joined us after attending his GED class. Keon and I both had LWOP and were arrested around the same time. Fortunately for him he was 17 rather than 18 and should be re-sentenced to a term of years between 20 and 60. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that natural life without parole for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional and the black man with a gold tooth was already making plans for life outside these prison walls. Initially, he intends to be squeaky clean and work hard as a truck driver. Eventually he aspired to save enough money to buy his own tractor trailer when he may become a smuggler. I have no idea what he planned to smuggle and I did not inquire.

After exercising, I was exhausted. During these workouts, I ignore back pain and push myself to the limit. In the cell, I took a little nap. When I woke my cellmate asked me if I heard the ruckus. No, I had used earplugs thick enough to muffle the noise of jackhammers and I was very tired. Apparently while I slept two convicts fought each other in a cell on a gallery above us. The commotion was followed by screams of the defeated. Cell fights can be extremely brutal and at a maximum security prison a man is fortunate to have a cellmate he gets along with. I asked Anthony if the guards or any medical staff responded. He said the incident occurred during a shift change and went unnoticed.

My neighbor who is a pedophile has surprisingly not been beaten. In prison, child molesters are regularly the target of violence. Occasionally even I contemplate striking him, but instead display my repugnance in other ways. In the evening I heard his squeaky voice ask my cellmate or me to pass a bag of potato chips. I went to the bars and grabbed the bag he held out in front of our cell. Then I asked him whose chips they were. When he told me they were his, I crushed them up and tossed them on the ground in front of his cell. I told the pedophile to get a cell house worker to pass things and to never bother me again.

After the incident, I jestingly asked my cellmate if our neighbor could be innocent. Based on his prior record, what I knew of his current conviction and his overall demeanor in prison, it was a big stretch. However, recently, he has been telling guards he is going home. Guards seem to indulge the intellectually challenged man and I overheard one say, "Don't come back". I assume he still has appeals to go through and has unwarranted optimism. Later in the week, I asked my jail house lawyer to look into the matter. He is always sniffing in the law books. He will be able to tell me where the pedophile is in his appeals and the issues raised unless the case was unpublished due to protecting the identity of the minor or have yet to be ruled upon.

Prisoners were fed a very paltry meal for dinner but later I made a tuna sandwich on rye bread to eat. Stateville occasionally receives donated bread and when served I will bring it back to my cell to make sandwiches. I thought it was unfortunate that I could not make a Reuben sandwich while I watched a PBS documentary on Fidel Castro, and that John F. Kennedy did not have Castro overthrown from power or assassinated. The Cuban communist dictator was a menace to the U.S. for decades and I was perturbed by the way he was nicely portrayed. The government run television station, financed with public money and contributions, generally is heavily slanted to the left. Occasionally, it almost seems like a propaganda outlet for liberals.

The following morning I delayed my cell work out to watch the president give a speech from Estonia which was meant to reassure East NATO countries that the U.S. was fully committed to their defense. Russian forces have moved into Ukraine and Vladimir Putin was talking about creating a new country in the areas his military occupies. The speech was not very comforting to Poland and the Baltic states in my opinion considering Obama's failure to respond to other foreign crises. In fact, despite the U.S. having a treaty to protect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, the president said there was no military solution. If this was the case, there would be no military solution to Russia pushing its military to cold war boundaries.

Towards noon I was told by the sergeant that I had a visitor. His office is below my cell and rather than get on the loudspeaker he will occasionally just tell me in person. I was not just ready to leave and told him I needed 5 minutes. About 10 minutes passed before a guard unlocked my door and then I spent a half hour in the holding cage waiting for an escort. When I did finally make it to the visiting room I noticed my mother patiently waiting alone at a table. I cannot imagine what it is like for her to visit her son in prison for two decades. It was probably made worse for her that the people at Stateville are so radically different than those she interacts with in her sheltered upper-middle class neighborhood. Everyone in the visiting room was either black or Mexican. Many of them were from the inner city of Chicago and wore the most bizarre clothing. One woman wore a bright red shirt, had ruby red lips, and bright green hair. If she was not black, I would have thought she was the Joker's sister.

After jokingly asking my mother if she thought that was the woman's natural hair color, we spoke about a new petition drive. The online petition is old and addressed to the former governor, Rod Blagojevich. Many people seem to believe because it is addressed to him that Governor Pat Quinn will not receive the signatures or be moved by them. It is extremely important the current governor knows there is a great amount of public support for my request for executive clemency. Granting pardons or even commutations of sentences is highly political and most governors will not even contemplate releasing a prisoner unless he is leaving office or not seeking another term. Furthermore, Governor Quinn has been inundated with thousands of requests and I not only need my case to be uniquely deserving but one that will catch his attention. My mother spoke to me about a petition website called "change.org." She believes it is the best way to gain the largest number of signatures, however, we disagreed about what it should say, as well as the wording. Hopefully, by the time this post is printed, it will be up and running. Quinn may lose the election to his challenger, Bruce Rauner.

On Tuesday, I received a bundle of letters including two from lawyers. I did not have time to read or respond to all of them immediately. With the cell house being very noisy I looked through my collection of cassette tapes to listen to as I wrote. I have owned these tapes for a long time and I sought something different. I asked my cellmate if he had anything other than "Insane Clown Posse". He listed a few and I told him to give me Bob Seger's Greatest Hits. There were some classic rock ballads on the tape and I listened to them until I fell asleep.

Thursday I was looking forward to prisoners going out to yard and having a couple hours of quiet time in my cell. However, Rec was cancelled for all the upper galleries to give these men commissary they did not receive on Labor Day. For nearly the entire day, prisoners were let out of their cells to collect their bagged purchases downstairs in front of the sergeant's office. The lieutenant supervised the slow process and seemed to grow increasingly irritated. He was not the only one to be annoyed and I was disappointed not to have the least bit of peace while my cellmate was at the gym.

Prisoners were angry they lost their yard time and early the next morning they began throwing a fit. They screamed from their cells, threw some garbage off the galleries, and rattled their doors. The sliding barred doors to cells can be shaken and the reverberations could be felt throughout the quarter unit. Prisoners demanded that the Rec period they missed be made available to them. Eventually, a major walked in the building and he was not greeted with any reverence. Contrarily, I was told he almost was struck with a milk carton. To prevent inmates from protesting in the chow hall, lunch trays were brought to the cell house. The prison was also placed on a low level lockdown due to a fight erupting in one of the dining rooms when men from the Roundhouse were being fed.

Despite the lockdown, visits were still being permitted and I was surprised to receive another visitor in the same week. While being escorted, I met Wild Bill who was going to the Health Care Unit. Bill asked me if I had a blog and after I told him I did, he told me some convicts were accusing me of writing about "all their secrets". I told Bill that I do not publish anything Internal Affairs is not already fully aware of. Some inmates have a perception that security personnel at the prison are deaf and dumb. On the contrary, Internal Affairs is similar to the NSA.

I was not certain if Cindy would continue to visit me, but there she was again. As we did before, we spoke about junior high and classmates we knew. I finally recalled the Jason she met earlier in the year and his elf-like appearance. I saved my most disparaging remarks for her first quasi-boyfriend. I was easily amused telling her stories about Ryan and making fun of him as well as her for liking him at least at the time. Our light hearted conversations about our school years, however, eventually were overcome by sadness. I had been wrongfully convicted and will spend the rest of my life in prison.

Last night I woke up having a dream I could not easily pass from my thoughts. In the dream I was in junior high school and was happy to be there. I remembered many of my former classmates nostalgically, including Cynthia. However, all of a sudden, they were taken away from me. In fact, everything I once had was taken away. I did not know the reason why I was arrested but it was for some horrific crime I knew nothing about. This did not matter to the police and with dread I thought I would be condemned to prison forever. When I awakened, I was of course in a cell at Stateville and, yes, I did have a sentence of natural life without parole. The dream had blended fact with fiction. The only significant difference was that I was only 13 years old, not 18.

Along with my dream, a cold front had moved through overnight. It was a chilly 60 degrees and my vacant cell felt like a tomb. I noticed the sun is rising much later now and is farther to the south. Very little of its angled rays now shine through the opaque windows. It is only the first week of September, but already the warm weather of summer seems to have abruptly ended, similar to how my brief life was snuffed out long ago.

24 comments:

  1. Don't forget Paul's 40th birthday on November 30.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Simply awful to think he's been "on the inside" since a few months after his 18th birthday. Such a gross injustice and so far no action to right this wrong against him.

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    2. Happy birthday Paul.

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    3. Lordy Lordy
      Feliz Cumpleaños, Paul.

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    4. Happy Birthday Paul

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    5. been reading for a while...November 12, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      Hope this reaches you in time, happy birthday Mr Modrowski.

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    6. Q: What's the easiest way to remember your wife's birthday? A: Forget it once!

      Q: What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Christopher Columbus all have in common? A: They were all born on holidays.

      Q: What goes up and never comes down? A: Your age!

      Q: What did one candle say to the other? A: "Don't birthdays burn you up?"

      Q: "Were any famous men born on your birthday?" A: "No, only little babies."

      Q: Why did the boy feel warm on his birthday? A: Because people kept toasting him!

      Q: What do they serve at birthday parties in heaven? A: Angel food cake, of course!

      Q: What’s the best way to get a man to remember your anniversary? A: Get married on his birthday.

      Q: What has wings, a long tail, and wears a bow? A: A birthday pheasant!

      Q: How does Moby Dick celebrate his birthday? A: He has a whale of a party!

      Q: What did one candle say to the other? A: "Don't birthdays burn you up?"

      Q: What was the average age of a cave man? A: Stone Age!

      Q: Why couldn't prehistoric man send birthday cards? A: The stamps kept falling off the rocks!

      Q: Why was the birthday cake as hard as a rock? A: Because it was marble cake!

      Q: What does a clam do on his birthday? A: He shellabrates!

      Q: What party game do rabbits like to play? A: Musical Hares!

      Q: What does a cat like to eat on his birthday? A: Mice cream and cake!

      source: http://www.jokes4us.com/holidayjokes/birthdayjokes.html

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    7. My 40th birthday was not a day of celebration, but sorrow. Please don't remind me of how old I am or how many years I have lost in prison.

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    8. I'm sorry Paul. I care about you, as I'm sure the other commenters do.

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    9. That collection of "birthday" jokes is hilarious!

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  2. You gotta walk that lonesome valley
    You gotta walk it by yourself
    Oh nobody else can walk it for you
    You gotta walk it by youself

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  3. I believe Jesus IS carrying you.

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    Replies
    1. Agree ! Jesus believes in you, Paul, although you claim to have no faith anymore. The greatly revered Apostle Paul was also thrown into prison. God watched over him until the path was made for his freedom!

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  4. Aww your life has not been a waste

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    Replies
    1. Now you listen here, Paul. Your life has not been meaningless.

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  5. "radically different than those she interacts with in her sheltered upper-middle class neighborhood. Everyone in the visiting room was either black or Mexican"

    Radically different? No, just different colors. People are people. They share a common sadness with your mother--having a son in prison. :(

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    Replies
    1. Maybe they weren't Mexican but Puerto Rican or other Hispanic.

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    2. People of the world can be separated by thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years in evolutionary development. Race is not just a skin color, but millions of genetic codes within every single cell. Having said this, though, I was referring to much more than just race which you chose to ignore.

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    3. It is not possible to determine social class by simply looking at a person's outward features. They could have been middle-class families, but of a different race.

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    4. There is a great commonality among visitors as pointed out above! Age and race has little bearing on the emotions/concerns of those who visit inmates. Paul, your experiences "on the inside" are very unique but (sadly) you have been isolated from society far too long.

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  6. Don't forget to sign the clemency petition!!!!

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  7. New to this blog. Praying. Will write to governor.

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  8. Yer life hasent been meaningless.

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  9. doesn't know anyone else in prison so I only ask youOctober 8, 2016 at 9:26 PM

    “the cardboard case that Boost drink boxes came in.„

    How does one fit the cardboard case through the jail bars?

    ReplyDelete

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