Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wheels Up at 1:30am, Feet wet at 3:30 am, A strange day Tuesday and finally home, Thank God

My stomach hurts. After Lee picked me up this morning, we went to MacDonald's to get something for me to eat and then to Dunkin Donuts to get my mom some muffins. I ate the egg mcmuffin and hash browns I bought and fell asleep on the couch with the military channel on and the fan going. It felt good. I woke up at various times just feeling waxed and fell back asleep again. I think my stomach must have shrunk from my self-imposed 'diet' of not eating any of the food in the 'Hanoi Hilton'. I know my weight has dropped from 160 lbs down to 149 which is closer to my standard weight of 145 lbs. The seroquel that I take at night makes me hungry after I take it even when I have eaten a full meal. I certainly don't look like Chris Farley, but I can definitely feel the weight gain. So, I am hoping that as the night and the days go on, I can get back to my nominal weight.

Phase one is over, thank God. I went "wheels up", meaning I was released, at 1:30am, finally going "feet wet", which means Lee picked me up at 4:15 am, God Bless him. He had my cell phone laying next to him and I wasn't going to wake him up at first. The local taxis there make money by waiting outside of Lower Buckeye Jail or LBJ as it's called, to take released inmates home. I inquired about a taxi to my home in Mesa and was told, $50.00. I told the guy he was nuts and went and called Lee. He finally arrived at 4:15 with some really good coffee and some cigarettes, which tasted really good. I was planning on flying the one-finger salute as we left the parking lot, but I was just too happy to leave that place behind like a bad biker bar.

I had gotten back at 1:30am Mon night/Tues morning after Lee dropped me off. I pretty much expected to stay in there all day Tuesday, which I did. I slept most of the day, knowing that any
time they would come to get me to "kick me out". I read a novel that was abandoned by someone who got kicked out and slept off and on Tuesday until around 1pm when "SRT", the Special Response Team for the Maricopa Sheriff's office, a SWAT Team if you will, came in with full assault gear and one cowboy with a shotgun. Seems that one of the workers who was helping to change the tents over to the new framing had misplaced or lost, or maybe they were even stolen, a pair of Tin Snips.

So, SRT or as I called them the "Stooge Response Tackleberry's" decided to roust everyone out of their tents and do a thorough search to find the errant tool. They proceeded to take all the 'inmates' and after searching them, make us sit face to the wall of the main building complex while they tore all the tents up looking for contraband, of which they found some, and the missing tin snips, which I don't think they ever did find. What many of us couldn't understand was, why since we were voluntary surrenders, who showed up to do our sentence, voluntarily, want to take something that would absolutely do us no good and would end up causing whomever, to go into stripes if not charged with a new offense? Either way, your stay at the Hanoi Hilton would be extended and you certainly wouldn't be doing work release. Did they think that one of us would take the offending tool? I mean, really, to a man in there, I
don't think I heard one of them ever say they would try and 'escape' if they could. We were by far the most benign members of the inmates in the "Hanoi Hilton". The SR Tackleberry's also liked taunting the inmates, telling them at various times to shut up and one time when I turned around to see what the source of the banging and clanging was in one tent, Mr Shotgun Tackleberry said, "Hey Hippie, keep your eyes to the wall." I both got a laugh out of that and was a bit annoyed as I am not a hippie. He probably assumed since I had long hair and was wearing jeans & my black suede boots, that I was some kind of throwback to the 60's and 70's or something. The guys in the picture above are not the actual SRT, but that's what they look like. This is actually the Flagstaff SRT. Swat Teams all look alike, except the MCSO guys are by and large, overweight and look like a ragtag bunch. I guess Mr Shotgun Tackleberry figured he needed to have a shotgun to protect them from all the inmates laughing at them in the whole ludicrous affair. He probably figured should one insult get too close, he might have to shoot someone, jeez.

I don't think they ever found the tin snips and they kept us sitting out in the sun for almost 3 hours while they tore apart the yard, tents and trash cans, looking for the dangerous tool. They also confiscated some contraband, mostly cigarettes, including one Rocket Scientist's stash of "Rollies", hand rolled cigarettes that numbered about 100 which to them and us I guess, indicated that the person responsible was planning on selling them for profit. He was not present in the yard as he was out on work release and well, he probably had quite the surprise when he
got back and was confronted with the evidence. Chances are, he was 'rolled up' and thrown into stripes and frog-marched over to the "N" yard, where the striped prisoners are held. It's one thing to get busted smoking or possessing cigarettes, they usually make you do trash detail and other work related stuff but it's quite another when it's obvious that you are planning on making a little cash while serving your time. They don't like that at all. If you bought anything out of the canteen and then tried to resell it to fellow inmates at a profit and the tackleberry's found out, you were as good as 'rolled up'. It was more prevalent on the female side of the yard, as they don't have 24 hour access to the canteen. Normally, during the headcount, especially at 1pm, they would let the women come over to get whatever was left in the vending machines, locking down the males for obvious reasons.

They ended up closing down the women's work release & work furlough after the women's bathrooms & shower room were condemned. When I was going back in Monday night at 1:30am, they had all the women, with their stuff, lined up and waiting as the buses' came up to
transfer them to Estrella jail from what I heard. And then Tuesday, when the "Stooge Response Tackleberry's" showed up, I noticed that the jail had 5 port a potties sitting on the inside of the fence in the men's area, the buzz being that they were condemning the men's bathroom (thank God) and shower room. That place was disgusting. As I mentioned in the previous post, the men's latrine was one of the most disgusting places to go into. Urinals overflowing or not working, toilets overflowing and not working, the acrid stench of human waste just burning in your nostrils as you went about your business, whether using the facilities or shaving. It was just so bad. I was glad that I didn't eat anything in there that would have required me to use the toilet as it was horrible, preferring instead to wait until I was out. They needed to condemn that place anyway, there are 7 urinals if I remember right and only 3 worked. The flushing valve usually didn't work on any of them so you had the constant flow of urine that sometimes would flow over the floor and into the drain. All you had to do was walk by the men's latrine and the stench was overpowering. I tried to think of what it must have been like in a WWII concentration camp for the poor people that were there. I am sure what we had to contend with was nothing like that, but I tell you what, they really don't care for the welfare and safety of anyone in the 'Hanoi Hilton' preferring instead to treat all inmates the same, as law-breaking, worthless human beings. Between the Tackleberry's use of intimidation and threats, the horrible 'food' they serve and the living conditions, it was not very fun. Some of the guys made a game out of setting cheese traps to catch the mice that were everywhere and then having some fun with them. Other's would find projectiles and fashion catapult-like devices to shoot at the pigeons that would come diving in like german stuka bombers around feeding times. The top of the tents would have pigeon feces on top of them and some of the floors of the tents had them as well.

I tried to just read the novel that I had found and sleep as much as I could, expecting that at some point, a tackleberry doing head count would tell me I was getting kicked out. That happened at the 1:30am headcount. I was awakened by a female tackleberry doing headcount as she slapped my mattress a couple of times to wake me up and then tell me to give her my i.d., which I did. She then told me that I was a 'kick out' and to grab my bedroll and personal items and head over to the gate and wait with the other kick-outs. I gladly walked over and waited with about 40 other guys that were going. A big MCSO bus had pulled up and they marched us out into the space between the 2 fences and handcuffed us. Thank God, there were no shackles. Usually they march you over to the "N" yard and then put you in the holding tank until you are driven over to LBJ. They didn't do that this time and for reasons unknown, they drove us straight over to LBJ and outprocessed there. 40 of us were put in this holding tank with at least 15 "stripes" that were going to be released. This room was all concrete, with 3 sides of bench, also concrete and a toilet near the back with a half concrete wall for privacy. So, we had at one point around 55 people in a 30 by 10 room, with inmates sitting scrunched up together on the concrete benches and the rest standing up and some sitting down where they could find the space. The heat was overpowering mixed with the smells of guys who hadn't taken a shower and others with body odors. They gave the "stripes" their street clothes and then pulled them out giving the remainder some room to move around only to have the 15 return about 15 minutes later for whatever reason. Finally, a tackleberry with files opened the door and said to step forward when she called the name. I was one of the lucky ones, leaving at least 20 people in the holding tank. Some of the guys they called out were sent back into the tank for whatever reasons and I heard a couple responding with either shouts of 'they wanted out', 'I am supposed to be out' or something. I saw one guy start crying when they put him back in. I think he thought he was out with us and they put him back in for whatever reason. It was sad. We had to line up along the wall and they proceeded to finish the paperwork and ask questions of the outgoing inmates to confirm their identity and check your underwear to make sure that everyone was legit and that they didn't have someone trying to pull a fast one.

Finally it was my turn to be quizzed and processed. I had taken the last bit of seroquel I had at 8pm Tuesday night, so I was groggy somewhat and I just wanted to get it over with. I was quizzed by a female 1st Sergeant as to my full name, my place of residence, my zip code, the last 4 digits of my SS number, etc. I responded to each with the answer she wanted, with no thought of how I said it. She looked at me and said, "you didn't enjoy your stay here then?" I responded "no, I didn't" and I guess the look on my face indicated that I was asking why she would ask such a thing. Of course I didn't like staying there. I don't know too many people who like spending 2 weeks in such deplorable conditions and then say, 'Well gee, the waiters were great, the sleeping facilites were marvelous, par excellance! and the service was to die for!". She said, "your answers have been curt and snotty and short." I said, "What?" and she launched into me saying, "Don't what me." at which at that point, her assistant, a private I think said, " Don't get snotty with her, don't say what to her in that tone of voice, you say, 'pardon me, ma'am'. We can always throw you back in the tank for a few more hours to teach you some manners." I was dumbfounded. I replied matter-of-factly to the questions asked, with no attitude. I was tired, I was hungry and I just wanted out of there. I told both of them, "I meant no offense, I was just trying to answer your questions and I didn't understand that last question." The sergeant replied that "I am trying to get you out of here as fast as possible and I don't need an attitude." To which I said, "yes ma'am" and now I was getting a little annoyed. Finally, they lined me and about 7 other guys up against the wall after I signed a paper absolving the jail of any liability I think, for my stay there, and then the tackleberry called to let the automated door open and we were inside an 'airlock' room where we went outside . Thank God, I walked out and knew I was free for the first time in a little over 2 weeks. I was extremely tired and my body hurt from having to alternately stand and sit in the 'tank' even for the 2 hours. I just was so glad when Lee showed up with his famous blend of 'military' coffee and cigarettes. I didn't even look back, I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible and get home.

So, that ended my stay at the 'Hanoi Hilton'. You might ask, if I am done. Well, no, I have some more stories and observations that I will post. Some of the more detailed things and a few names. But for now, I just want to get away from the "Hanoi Hilton" and concentrate on the next phase and get back into a normal routine. First off, I am going to take a long hot shower and shave and wash off the last remnants of the "Hanoi Hilton" and start working on some long overdue projects that have been put on hold. And tonight, it will be nice to watch "Alfred Hitchcock presents" and listen to Mark Levin & Hugh Hewitt and maybe eat something light. But for now, I will close. Till the next time.

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