Noah here. Update on living life in prison during COVID-19, lockdown.
I am still adjusting to the reduced hours of sleep, as it’s only day two of going into work at the 5:50 am move time. I used to go in around 6:45 and the extra hour made a world of difference. The other unit is completely locked down, so that leaves Durand (my unit) to cook, serve, and clean for the entire compound. About 30 of us have been selected to prepare and serve 1,500 meals while working a 12-hour shift. The first is something I have never done and the second is something I haven’t done in the better half of a decade.
We line up each morning to get our temperatures checked, and after a few jokes about doing them anally, we are escorted over to foodservice. The first thing you notice when you enter the building and make your way back to the food prepping area is all the dead or sleeping cockroaches that are scattered throughout the floors, the number is close to a hundred.
The first time I saw this sight I was shocked, and since it had been 4 years since I was the first one in the building, I forgot that this is what inmates arrive to each day. Carbajal, the pots and pans guy says to his co-worker, “Hey June Bug, it looks like one of your family reunions.”
After a couple of hours of work and the breakfast meals are prepared and loaded up, I decided to indulge in the variety of donuts we recently stocked up on because of the lock-down. First, I went for the standard yeast ring with homemade maple frosting, made by our king baker, who goes by “Killer.”
It’s a name that my group of friends coined because of his passive demeanor that appears to possibly have something cynical brewing beneath the surface. Then you get to know him and you find out what caused the number of scars on the back of his head, which at first glance appear that someone ran over him with a lawnmower. He says most of them are from a rollover car accident on his way to Disneyland and another is from a .22 caliber pistol.
Yes, he was shot in the head during a home invasion and now it’s starting to all make sense. Apparently it was his gun, which had been stolen days prior when they first broke into his house, and now the intruders were back to finish the job. This took place back in 1998 and the guy who pulled the trigger happens to get out this year. However, Killer didn’t die and now he is in federal prison making delicious desserts that I love to junk out on from time to time.
After the maple donuts, I move onto the donut holes, some covered in powdered sugar and others in glaze. As the sugar is coursing through my veins and my temple starts pulsing, I realize it’s going to be one of those days. I grab a cup and a spoon as I recall seeing some type of crisp in the cooler earlier this morning.
As inmates in food service, we eat out of plastic cups, partly to conceal whatever food we aren’t supposed to be eating, and because it’s a convenient way to eat. Another habit I will have to break when I get out, as my mom probably won’t appreciate finding particles of oatmeal, that made it through the wash, floating in her glass of water. I found the crisp, fished out 12 ounces with an ice cream scoop, and found a corner to sneak eat and get high off of the sugar.
After that, I needed some fresh air, so I went out on the back dock and sat on the steps. I took in a mixture of fresh air and garbage as the trash compactor is only a few feet away from me, but I realize it’s better than anything we are getting back in the unit, with no fresh air.
About 15 feet away two birds are taking turns devouring a donut hole, and I wonder if the sugar has them as jacked up as myself, and I become curious about what lucky baby bird will be the recipient of the delicious regurgitated vomit?
My last thought is about my gratitude and how it has slipped away as of late. I will remember this moment when we are no longer able to come to make the food and we are stuck in the unit with the rest of them, or confined to the ranges or rooms. I realize it’s time to get lunch ready and I head inside.
Once meals are loaded in the carts and out the door, I take a seat with my buddy June Bug. He’s a 60-year-old black man from Memphis and for that reason I can’t understand half the shit he says.
“Hey Burglon, think we gettin’ out?”(That’s how he says “Bergland,” my last name).
It seems this is all anyone is talking about, even June Bug, who has 5 years left on his sentence. I tell him I’m not holding my breath, but I hope we do. I don’t know if it’s fear of the disease or anxiety of doing time, but I feel his pain because I want to go home too. He tells me to go check the news and see if there is anything good on there for us, and I tell him I’ll let him know what I find later.
I head to the officer’s mess (O.M.) and on the TV is my childhood hero, Tiger Woods, and they are documenting his road to his last major win, the 2019 Masters. Tiger is still my favorite golfer, and even if you don’t like him, you have to appreciate the attention he brings to the game. The scandal that he endured, along with numerous back surgeries, gave the impression he might never win another major tournament. It knocked him off the grueling pace that appeared would take the record away from The Bear, before Tiger’s 40th birthday, but that’s not what happened. Now, Tiger’s life has become a comeback story and who doesn’t love a comeback. He proved that everybody is human, it doesn’t matter how good you have it, we can all screw up and we can all bounce back. Which is what I intend to do here in a few months.
The day was getting close to winding down and the dinner sacks were complete, I was sitting in the basement reading a book, hanging out with my warehouse crew, and suddenly we heard some commotion coming from upstairs, but couldn’t make out what it was.
Then an inmate came down shouting, “Dude, some dumbass just came from the unit and is trying to fight the whole kitchen.” He ripped his shirt off and started yelling, “Fuck you, you fucking ni**er piasa’s,” over and over, right out in the middle of the dining room.
“Who is it,” I asked?
He responds, “It’s that Lil Wayne looking Islander that’s running all the time with his pants hanging halfway down his ass.”
KGB, who had just come down the steps as well interrupted, “I thought he was playing around.”
I asked rhetorically, “you thought he was playing around? Which part, coming across the compound during lock-down procedures, ripping his shirt off, or when he started yelling racial slurs to half the kitchen?”
KGB, holding his hands out defensively, responds, “I just thought he was from safety because he does come to drop off chemicals sometimes.”
“Well, nobody is dropping off chemicals right now, the kids not right in the head, we’ve known that for a while, I mean he has tattoo’s on his face for God’s sake.”
Just as the conversation about Lil Wayne was wrapping up, an officer came down and informed us, “You guys need to all come upstairs. Are you the only ones down here?”
“Yes sir,” I responded. Then directed to the guys, “Upper body checks, time to show off that hard work.”
When we got up there, to our disappointment there was no scene, the inmate had already been hauled off, and there was no blood to be cleaned up, just every cop on the compound wondering the same thing we were thinking, what the hell is wrong with that kid?
No upper body checks were needed because nobody actually fought. It’s apparently just one guy, six days into lock-down, that simply snapped. It seemed to be a classic check-in move, yell a bunch of craziness in front of the cops, make a scene, go to the hole, and you’re shipped off to the next compound. Who he owed or what he did, we might never know…
This is just the typical day in the life within these prison walls. And we’re waiting for the next guy that snaps.
From the inside,