Yes, happy campers, I made it out of prison. Oh, the tales I have to tell you! But first, this is what I came home to.
Yes indeedy... yarny goodness. I think the Yarn Fairy is back from vacation. Most of the packages were stuffed in the mailbox; there was a box tucked behind one of the plants on the porch. Standing upright in the back are Drooling Over Yarn in "Whimsy" and "Water Slide", and on the Monster's lap from left to right are Crash into Ewe in "Fallin for Ewe", Enchanted Knoll Farm in "Wood Elves", and The Painted Tiger in "Water" from their Elements Series. All gorgeous, all incredibly soft, all begging to go on vacation with me. I'll have to select one; it's going to be hard.
On another front, I read "that person's" blog (the one who wrote me that lovely letter about using bandwidth) to see if she had commented on our little altercation. She did indeed, painting herself as a helpful soul who was just trying to to save me from the wicked, crazed bloggers who resented this type of thing, and portraying me as a crazy person. She also said she was expecting an onslaught of retarded comments from Wiccans. Wow... this woman is either delusional or thinks she's important enough for me to waste my time gathering all my witch friends to put curses on her. I could do that myself; I don't need any help. I wish I had her command of the English language - retarded? Wow. The other thing she said that amazed me was that she considered replacing her button with a picture of a pile of shit or gay porn. Now there's a mature woman for you. If you're at all interested, I'll be happy to tell you (in private) what her blog name is so you can see a picture of this lovely creature for yourselves. I'd need an awful lot of candles and herbs to put a spell on that thing.
On to happy news. I went to prison today - the real deal - a max where a huge number of the inmates are lifers. But the saga begins last night when we went to our hotel. Hubster went up to the desk to register us - I had to pee like a racehorse and was dying to get up to our room - and then we were going to In-n-Out for burgers (it was one of the few places open at that time of night). He came storming out a minute later, telling me that their smoking floor was under renovation (it was a La Quinta - this particular one was formerly a Holiday Inn), and that the dude at the desk had no record of our registration. So we spent the next half-hour driving around Folsom looking for a hotel room. Most of them were full; the ones that weren't were smoke-free. The dude at La Quinta said that he would upgrade us to a room with a balcony so we could smoke, so back we went. After checking in, we headed right over to hamburger heaven, ate, and came back to our room. It was nice enough - not like the five-star hotel we stayed at in San Francisco (I'm spoiled for any other hotel in the City now), and I tried to knit, but the light was for shit. Besides, I had to be at the gate at 7:30 a.m. and it was already 2:30 a.m. So I got undressed, laid down, and was out like a light.
When the call came for us to get up, I just didn't want to get out of bed. I was warm and comfortable, but get up I had to. So we got ready and headed out to the prison.
Those of you who have seen Folsom Prison on TV have probably seen the old prison. It's gothic looking and older than dirt. They've built a new prison next to it (part of the new prison uses the old wall), but the old one is still used for activities and such. They also have a museum right next to it. The new one doesn't look much like a prison, but it is indeed. Not only that, it's a maximum-security facility. Hubster helped me carry my flute quivers up to the main gate where we met Chaplain Bill. My gate pass was ready for me, and then I had to take out every flute in the quivers so the guard could look at them and the sleeves they were in. What a pain in the ass - I had them very carefully packed. But they had to make sure that I wasn't carrying in contraband, so I did as they asked. That done, Bill and I got on a van driven around the facility by an inmate to get where we were going. Turned out that we couldn't enter the gate at C Facility (they have A, B, and C) and had to go back to A. So we hopped back on the van, got a golf cart at the main gate, and trundled back to A (this place is HUGE). You really don't realize it's a prison until you see things like razor wire, bunkers, metal detectors, and guards. Everywhere. I was fascinated. The cell blocks have long, narrow windows and are huge concrete rectangles placed around a central yard for each facility.
At Gate A, I had to sign in, show my pass and ID, and then pass through a metal detector. I set it off before I even walked through. The guard had me take off my shoes, but I still set it off. So he had to use the wand on me. It went off right in the middle of my back. Yep... it was the hooks on my bra that set it off (this thing is sensitive). He told me that most women who had any kind of boobs set the thing off. Since I'm top-heavy, it was no surprise. We finally cleared that entry point and entered the secured area.
When we got back to C, I had to sign in, show my ID again, and then we proceeded into the cell block itself. Now I felt like I was in prison. I signed in (again) at the booth inside the building (each one also houses medical facilities) and we walked outside. Right into the yard. No fences. No walls. I was right in the middle of a thousand inmates who all stopped what they were doing and STARED at me. It was kind of cool - I felt like I still had it (nevermind that any woman on the yard is cause for celebration - I could weigh 400 pounds and have tits that dragged on the ground, and they still would have stopped and stared). It was still an ego booster. I remembered from my prison shows (see? I knew they were educational) that to show fear was anathema to death, so I held up my head and marched along next to Bill. Nobody tried to come up to me or even talk to me. And then I found out why.
Right in front of the chapel (where the class was to be held) was a group of very large, very menacing inmates who were waiting for me. It turns out that they were extremely excited about this class and had been waiting for it with bated breath, as it were. One of them (Rick, Bill's clerk) came right up to me and extended his hand. I shook it in the prison handshake (you grab the other person around the middle of the forearm and they do the same to you), and both he and Bill walked me in. All the other men followed.
I have to say that none of them looked like what you might think an inmate looks like. Had I seen any of these guys on the street, I wouldn't have thought twice about saying hello. But inmates they were, and halfway through the class, the man sitting next to me (Buck) didn't want to participate anymore. Rick said he was pouting, and a verbal fight instantly erupted. I didn't know what to do, so I just sat there looking at the floor. It was over in a minute, and Buck got up and left. The rest of the class proceeded along just fine. These guys were totally into learning how to enhance their playing; I gave them homework; they gave me respect. I knew I was accepted when I told Rick that if a fight did erupt to shove me out of the way and not hit me; he told me that they would fight to the death to protect me. Intense. Then he and two other men formed a little triangle around me and walked me back to Bill's office (you never feel as protected as you do when three large inmates are surrounding you and walking you somewhere, and nobody else even dares to look at you). Rick gave me my papers for my permanent pass, all the men shook my hand and thanked me, asking when I was coming back, and Bill took me back out on the yard.
An inmate approached us and asked Bill a question. Bill had to go back in the chapel to get something and clearly didn't know whether to leave me alone on the yard or drag me back inside. He figured I'd be okay for a minute and went in. Said inmate immediately shook my hand and began talking to me. I was a bit afraid that they might think I was a white supremacist (due to being bald), but they all realized that I was ill right off the bat. These guys survive by reading people instantly. The man who approached me on the yard was black and obviously didn't think I was into Hitler. He told me his name was Isiah and asked if they would all have the pleasure of seeing me again. I told him yes, that I'd be back. He beamed at me, said good-bye, and after Bill answered his question, off we went again. A couple of inmates sitting on the lawn yelled at Bill and asked him what my quiver was. Bill told them, they said they thought it was for a papoose, and I told them that my baby days were over... unless the baby was a boy and of a certain age. Then I winked at them. The one asking the question busted out laughing and punched his friend. Then they both nodded at me. Respect. It's all these men have and is everything inside.
I found out on the way back to the main gate that the men in my group were all lifers, and I do mean life - life without parole. They were all murderers. It was surreal to realize I had been sitting there with men who had killed and were living in that concrete box for the rest of their lives, and that they were trying to make something of what lives they had left. It was also amazing to realize that I had earned their respect by being willing to come into their midst, treat them like humans, and not judge them. I even got to joke around with them a little. I think that as time goes by, they'll loosen up and begin to relax. They were clearly on their best behavior today, knowing that if they did anything, their privileges would be taken away and their program revoked. They also wanted my respect. It all worked out. But what I have to remember is that these guys are indeed dangerous; things erupt on the yard in a flash; bad things happen on a daily basis. I can't just stroll in (especially when I get my brown card, which allows me to move around the facility without an escort) and not pay attention.
So now I'm home, safe and sound, having had a couple cuppas and getting ready to knit. But I had to tell you about my adventures. This will be my last post until next Friday - we're leaving on vacation Wednesday, and tomorrow will be taken up with getting ready to go. I'll be thinking of you and will come home with pictures and stories to regale you with.
Until then... knit on, good friends.