Posts Tagged ‘song’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It’s 6:46 pm on Tuesday, June 21st.  Tomorrow, probably in the morning, I will be freed.  I gave away some of my canteen to others and am trying to find boxes to pack my stuff since they took mine when I went to the hole and never returned them.  Guard Art Cole has returned after an extended absence to deal with “personal demons”.  He’s reinstated the shower list which has displease many.  I find myself watching the dayroom with a mixture of happiness and fear.  Happiness in the sense that I no longer will be dealing with this environment and fear in the sense that I know I have many struggles and battles ahead of me.  But ready or not here I go.  Today wasn’t a good day for 3 guys in my ERP group.  John Lloyd has learned the judge won’t look at his release paperwork for 3 weeks.  I can’t imagine what he must be going through.  He has spent the day talking on the phone to those he loves in angry, frustrated tones.  Larry Sands and Scott Bunker’s situation remains unchanged from yesterday.  They are handling it much better than I would have I think.  Augie Prescott left as expected today.  I missed him leaving but I’m told he was smiling.  The others beside these listed found out they will be leaving Tuesday.  Of course, nobody found out anything until our ERP social worker Ms. Grey showed up about 3 pm.  She dismissed Lloyd’s concerns, telling him brusquely the judge had 30 business days to answer.  She just doesn’t belong in this line of work.  Don’t do that in front of people when a man is desperate for anything at that point.  I tried to cheer him up to no avail.  She also didn’t do anything for Sands or Bunker either.  But I’m not going to be here to see how this turns out.  I’m watching the weather.  If you’ve been following this blog from the first day in prison to my hospital trips it seems like I always have bad weather for traveling days.  Today is thunderstorms, yesterday had flooding and tomorrow has its challenges.  But I’m not worried.  There is no weather that will keep me here!  But I’ll be ok.  After all of this, I will be unstoppable!  Just like the song said, I’ve made mistakes and not always done my best.  But with God’s help, I’m going to make it!  


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It was another odd Tuesday. I went out in the dayroom to await the beginning of our ERP group but hours went by before we learned our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, was not coming in that morning.  We did this song and dance again in the afternoon until about 2 pm until we learned there would be no group at all.  We don’t know why at this point.  The news for me on Tuesday involved my swamper job.  Counting trays, ketchups, mustards, cereals  and milk are a critical part of the job to get right.  I had told my fellow swamper David Sussex not to talk to me when I was counting.  He of course did anyway.  I was annoyed but I didn’t say anything.  The look on my face must have communicated my feelings however as he told me he was through with me if that was going to get me angry.  And of course, my count was then off.  I tried to explain to him I was not angry but he wouldn’t even discuss it.  I’m thinking to myself, whatever, I don’t really care.  I’m then told he discussed it in his ERP group.  Apparently at supper I missed cleaning a table afterwards and one of his group members came to my cell to tell me about it.  Normally,  one would see this, grab a towel and clean the table. A gain I didn’t say anything but my facial expression must have told the story.  I would observe them both later on conferring with each other, and they normally don’t.  But my big mistake was showing signs that they had succeeded in getting to me.  I resolved not to allow that to happen anymore.  I used to be really good at that.  Have my people skills been degraded that much since I’ve been locked up?  On another note, Tuesday was the final day for cellie Corey Ball prior to release.  He clearly is nervous about the uphill struggle that awaits him upon release.  He found a place to go with a relative in Pewaukee.  He insists he’ll be in a bar Wednesday night partying and he’ll be in touch.  Regardless, I wish him well.  He had a lot of trouble sleeping as one might expect that night.  The next morning Sussex said he wanted to sit down and talk at some point.  I said sure that’ll be fine.  What else am I going to say?  I really have no desire to talk to him.  Right in the middle of breakfast, guard Roscoe Peters told Ball to pack up, give him his cell key and they were coming to get him right then.  As I finished cleaning the tables he was by the door.  He looked as stiff as could be.  I told him to breathe and its all going to work out.  He smiled and said I hope so.  Then that was it.  He was gone.  Since it’s Wednesday, there were no ERP groups.  I wrote my Phase 3 goals and objectives essay on patience which probably will be published here later, not because it’s good but because it shows how at a loss I am to explain my attitude as of late.  Later that day Sussex decided he was going to take an extra banana from the leftovers from supper.  I just threw the bananas and said whatever.  Sussex said I was crazy.  He might be right.  Normally, I’d never react like that.  Later on, I’d go apologize to him for my reaction as well as to the inmate who pointed out the dirty tables.  I felt much better after doing that, like  a load lifted off of me.  Even if they did wrong, I had no right to react like that.  The night ended with our cell getting tossed because cellie Brian Whalen left his oranges from lunch in plain view of the passing guard.  He then tossed the cell next door, where 2 recent ERP graduates, including former cellie Malik Pearl, resides.  The guard got his key stuck in the door.  One of them offered to get his key out if he didn’t toss their cell.  This just served to infuriate the guard.  Pearl and an inmate who shares my table at meals, Todd Knight, got conduct report for altered property.  Knight had altered his headphones to share them with Pearl. when he watched TV which is a rule violation.  Pearl isn’t upset at all as he’s leaving soon.  Knight, on the other hand, has got 4 months left, and will suffer the consequences for trying to help Pearl.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Do you know the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando?  It’s a nice song that tells a nice story about an inmate who gets release from prison and wonders if his love will take him back.  If she will, she’s supposed to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in front of their house. Well he gets there on a bus and he finds, with everyone cheering around him, there are a hundred yellow ribbons on the oak tree. Like I said, it’s a nice story.  Happy endings in prison are so rare I have found.  But when one comes along you can’t help but cheer along with the inmate.  I’ve told you how ERP group member Scott Bunker endured a potentially serious medical condition over the last few days.  Saturday came and hadn’t improved.  In fact, I’m told it had gotten worse.  It must be true, for the guards took him on a weekend , which is quite rare, back to the hospital again.  He again returned, this time having been fitted with a catheter.  It kind of reminds me too that even us inmates are capable of setting aside the pettiness, racial tension and self obsession that seems to consume us here when a person among us falls sick.  Seeing Bunker sick made us united in the hope for his recovery and conveying that to him.  Still we are men.  There of course were the jokes about him being “on his period.”  Tasteless yes but juvenile humor is often how men will cope and as a group deal with a tough situation.  When I was diagnosed with cancer while at Waukesha county Jail awaiting transfer to WPS, an inmate yelled so everyone could hear, “Hey Martin you gonna die or what?”  We all laughed.  I was grateful for the break in the tension.  Anyway, the goodwill generated by Bunker’s situation seemed to last all day.  Then that night, according to him, without them knowing what had happened, his second wife and step-daughter showed up for a visit after not having communicated at all for the past 2 years.  What occurred was just amazing!  She told him she wanted him to come home to them after all and that they still loved him.  He had sent his victim impact letter to her so perhaps this got the ball rolling.  After he got off his visit he went around the dayroom telling everyone that would listen, trying to act indifferent about it but the smile on his face betrayed him.  I’m just very happy for him.  I’m not the type to always describe to God every good or bad thing that happens.  But how could you not in this case?  On Sunday, it was time for my weekly call to my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  I’ve seen them once since I was in prison and recently started talking to me via phone.  They’re consumed by retirement planning as Charles is retiring as a pastor  shortly after my anticipated release.  They are moving to a place in WI which is where I’m thinking I’ll end up initially after release.  Their first concern was to talk to my parole officer (PO) up there to try to get alcohol allowed at the house.  No go there!  Their second was the retirement party at the hotel on the Saturday prior to the retirement service and whether alcohol could be present.  I told them I’d be talking to the PO about it this week.  Truth is though I’m dreading the whole thing.  After a rough start in life, I’d became an IT Professional, homeowner, and family man.  I had earned respect of others.  Now I’ll see all these people I’ve known over the years alone, penniless and no job.  I have no clue how to deal with that.  I’m sure I’m not the first guy to have to go there after prison.  I wrote a letter to my adoptive parents asking them to allow me to duck out on Saturday after making an appearance but then to participate in all the hoopla, pictures and tributes at his retirement service on Sunday.  But I’ve got to trust God to look after me the same way he looked after Scott Bunker.  It may not be as dramatic but I’ve learned God will always get me through.  The retirement party is in July and its April.  A lot can happen between now and then.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It should have been a good day.  The Green Bay Packers beat the New York Jets and it’s always a good day regardless when the Minnesota Vikings lose of course.  I however was going on little sleep after the previous evening and wasn’t in a great place in my head as it was.  The day started with conversations with a couple members of the now defunct praise choir questioning the motives and talent of the guy left to sing.  Hey, the guy could have been the best praise leader on earth and it wouldn’t have mattered to me.  All it did was remind me I didn’t know the music, the chords, had never played with the guitar player and this feud between all of them still grated on me.  Oh, and the service was only hours away.  At count time after lunch, I’m in the aisle expressing my frustrations to a chapel service when Percy came up and asked me where my bunk was.  I showed him to my right grabbing the bar.  He had this look on his face that said smug satisfaction.  Those around me thought he might give me a warning for not being by my bunk since I’d never gotten a ticket or warning for anything since my arrival  in WPS.  A warning would tarnish my record but not permanently.  The fact it came from Percy annoyed me but what are you going to do?  Around 4 I went for practice and setup for chapel.  Of course, the leader wants to have special sound settings for each song and brings out another keyboard than the one I’d used on Friday.  I am having to do everything I can to keep from walking out at this point.  The actual practice showed, well, we need more practice, myself included, but all of us together especially.  We didn’t know how to start or end the songs and the guitar and I weren’t playing together.  So chapel, music wise, was a disaster.  The head volunteer suggested we play hymns, if that gives you an idea.  The message was about Daniel 9:20-27, and how the preacher felt the end of the world would occur.  I enjoyed studying such things years ago but that knowledge was only useful then to win a Bible Trivia game.  The stakes are much higher now. 

Afterwards, the politics began all over again with lots of opinions.  I was just glad to get out of there.  I escaped to my bunk.  I put the closed captioning on the football game, put my headphones in the radio while listening to eighties music, trying to keep my mind occupied by these distractions from my current world.  About 2 hours later I was paged to go to the guard desk.  There was Percy, paper in hand.  He informed me I was being written up and was going to get 3 days bunk confinement for not being by my bunk at count. I replied that he had to be kidding, no warning or anything?  He replied sarcastically, that oh sure he was.  His demeanor indicated he was really enjoying this.  Then he told me my bunk restriction would begin immediately unless I appealed to Lt. Brodie.  Great, I thought.  Hardly someone in my corner.  I wasn’t as composed as I had been with Brodie as I said I would appeal.  I returned to my bunk.  Guys around me let me know I’d also lose my electronics, which had been keeping me sane and since I appealed, my punishment would probably double.  I tried to sleep again but gave up at 1 am and got up and did laundry.  It just feels like I’ve been on a bit of a losing streak lately, like everything I touch is turning to stone.  I tried to talk myself down, that at least for now I haven’t lost my ERP program at Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) yet.  I’m not in the hole, and I shouldn’t be surprised, its Percy we’re talking about.  He acted as expected.  I should have been more careful.  I wish I could tell you I was good after that but that would be a lie.  But let’s see what happens.  Maybe Brodie will surprise me.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). I was asked on Sunday to play keyboard for the choir for the Protestant church service.  After the incident with Charlie, I was glad to turn my attention elsewhere.  I had heard previously there had been quite a bit of drama associated with this particular group but I figured really, how bad could it be?  The guy leaving the group had only been in charge a week and told me to meet the other singers by the basketball court for practice.  Service was 3 hours away but no one knew the song arrangements.  Most of the time was spent on a litany of complaints and backstabbing those not there.  Many made a point of telling me their issues, perhaps because I was new and they wanted me to sway to their way of thinking.  The refrain was basically that we were under attack from the enemy (Satan), thus the problems we were having.  I was told because of guard complaints about the noise, they had taken away the drums and electric guitars.  They claimed the institution didn’t allow sufficient practice time.  Finally as further evidence of the “enemy’s” infiltration, solos had been stepped on and choir members were angered.  I just rolled my eyes.  My focus was solely to get the music down so I didn’t embarrass myself.  The leader tried to get these complicated arrangements put in place with the other vocals.  There just isn’t time.  Finally, we practiced for a half hour at the multi-purpose building and then did the service.  Simply put, it was awful.  Most of the time when you stink as a band in a church environment, people tell you it was good anyway.  Not this time.  Many in attendance let me know how awful it sounded.  My attitude was basically I get to play in a church band again so I want to take advantage.   The following day I was told by the leader that Captain Kramer and Lt. Brodie wanted to see the choir.  Kramer, an attractive middle-aged woman, is Brodie’s boss.  I know if she was there, this wasn’t good.  After we all got there, Kramer got right to the point.  Apparently, inmates in the choir from Unit 10 had been in Unit 9 areas to practice vocals which is a major offense.  Then she told us that due to this and the repeated problems incurred with this choir, that have caused her and Brodie to have to spend time on these issues every week, the choir was to be disbanded.  The only exceptions were the leader, guitar and keyboard player, being sure to point out to the leader that the chaplain had specifically asked for him.  In some ways, if intentional, it was a clever move on their part.  Appeal to the leader’s ego, cause division within the group and confuse who they should be mad at.  The problem with this is in this environment by Kramer singling out who was wanted, those people will feel pressure to not cooperate or be viewed as friendly to staff which you really don’t want here.  So now the band leader was talking like none of use would stay, that they wouldn’t tell us how to run the choir.  While he was off talking to each now former choir member, others started filling me in.  While it was true they weren’t given adequate practice time (a half hour isn’t adequate to get all this ready), the guitar players and drummers had been repeatedly about the volume level and volunteers and staff complained.  Choir members themselves had been going to the chaplain and Brodie complaining about each other.  At the end of the day, it was just easier to shut it all down.  It wasn’t Satan that was responsible for the group’s demise, it was largely the choir’s own fault.  What’s going to happen now I don’t know.  But sometimes I rather like being the quiet one! 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We have an old man here who is from Idaho.  He had been on parole back in the eighties and had tired of the restrictions on him so he absconded (left without permission) to Idaho.  He lived there for years with no issues.  Then when he applied for social security, they wouldn’t give him his benefits after a couple checks because of the warrant from Wisconsin.  Eventually, he found himself back in the WPS.  I might have told you about him previously.  If so, I apologize.  Anyway, he is almost universally liked here.  If you want sports betting tips, this is the guy to go to.  Thus, for our purposes, he is dubbed the “Gambler”, after the Kenny Rogers song.  The Gambler had one place though where he was not appreciated by all, especially Paul, and that was at the horseshoe pits.  Outside our units front door inside the track are 2 horseshoe pits and a volleyball sand pit.  While the basketball courts to the left are popular with the black guys, the horseshoe pits are popular with the white guys.  There are exceptions but generally that’s the way it is. As usual, with group activities, I stay on the sidelines and watch.  Paul and the Gambler would often get into heated arguments about how things got scored.  The Gambler and Paul are both stubborn people so that didn’t surprise me.  A few days ago, the Gambler came in from horseshoes complaining of a backache.  It didn’t surprise me.  Horseshoes is how he spends a lot of his day.  He laid down for awhile but was up soon thereafter asking the guards to contact Health Services.  The van came and got him soon thereafter.  The following day, word spread around the unit that the Gambler was dead.  Quite a few of us were shocked and saddened.  No one like the Gambler should die in prison, far from family and friends.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to myself as well, vowing I will never die in prison and hopefully not die alone.  A sympathy card that can be ordered off canteen was being distributed around the unit though I never saw it.  Strange enough, though no inmates had turned into vultures on his possessions like they have a habit of doing.  I thought perhaps conscience would stand in the way with these circumstances this time.  Also, I noticed the guards had left his bunk undisturbed, not coming to pack up his belongings.  But I try to mind my own business and just observe, my modus operandi.  Perhaps the guards didn’t come because they hadn’t gotten word to do so yet.  The following day, a new story began to circulate, that an inmate had started the rumor that the Gambler had died.  My first thought was to wonder why anyone would do such a thing. Then I remembered, for many here to do something like that wouldn’t be a stretch at all.  Consciences are like knives.  If you allow them to get dull, they are not as effective as they could be.  They both stay sharp with daily use and maintenance.  But sure enough, later that night, the Gambler appeared.  He, in fact, had had a scare with his heart and was no on Plavix.  I was happy to see him upright and mobile.  I do hope and pray he does get to join his family before his time really does come someday.  Nobody should die alone.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It was quite the day.  Pops went to the hole after the put off inspection took place.  No one is quite sure how or why they happened to pick him to have his bunk inspected.  But as it turned out he had every kind of contraband he could get his hands on – hooch, tobacco, etc.  when they tore apart his bunk.  In fact, 3 hours after inspection the guards were still going through his things and getting them boxed up.  Everyone has long known he was engaged in things but we turned a blind eye.  I did get called to see the doctor today and I asked them to make sure he had blankets.  When I was in chemotherapy I remembered how cold I got.  They were noncommittal.  I thought if these are the compassionate ones he’s in trouble.  But in all fairness to them, it sounds like his problems predate my arrival by a considerable amount.

Then this morning I saw something I’ll probably never see again.  I got up at 4:50 am and as I approached the desk I saw an officer… and an inmate…. singing together!  They were trying to figure out a song title and first she (the officer) would sing, then the inmate, then the two together.  I grinned from ear to ear.  I’ve never seen such a sight!  They must have seen me grinning, because the guard commented that she never sees me sing.  She is correct.  As others will attest, when I sing in the shower the water goes the other way!  They don’t want to hear me sing.  But I said nothing.  I don’t really want, well really its that my default position is to not pursue personal relationships, in general, not just with blue shirts (guards).  So that’s probably a defect in my personality.

Then tonight I got some great news!  They are finally going to let me have my property!  Which includes my electronics like my TV!  Finally!  I’ll be able to NOT watch Maury Povich and Jerry Springer if I choose!  And I’ll get to listen to NPR when I want.

Finally, I got to get canteen after awhile.  Can you imagine the reaction of a  man dying of thirst given lots of water  That’s right, yours truly is on a bit of a sugar buzz!  It’s just because I haven’t had any sweets for a long time.  I’ll settle down tomorrow.  But for now, it’s good to be me. 

Like I said, an eventful day it has been.  I’m going to go bounce off the walls and actually be sociable for awhile.  Now that’s a mood that rarely strikes me here! 

If your wondering about the title to this entry, there was a scene in the production of “West Side Story” that had a cop and a character singing together.  Which after this mornings duet inspired me to name it so.