Adventures in Writing #342, The Underwear Bandit


A metal table, headphones on listening to the Red Sox, flying through an early chapter of The Ceremony of Innocence, I was oblivious to my surroundings. For a solid ten minutes before two bags of potato chips, a box of Slim Jim’s, and a bag of Tang landed on the edges of my college ruled notebook.

I looked up at a guy named John – white, short, black hair, always sporting a half grin, “I need ya,’ Counselor,” he rasped – he always rasped, the residue(s) of years of cigarettes and pot and crack and …

The_Underpant_BanditsPen down, I surveyed the riches before me – in six months of pre-trial detention (Connecticut’s term of art for keeping men convicted of no crime in 22 1/2 hour a day lockdown) I had lost 40 pounds on the ‘regular’ DOC diet. This stash was impressive, the question was how much time was it…

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Jailhouse Lawyers, Part One


My first contact with a jailhouse lawyer, amazingly, did not occur until a good three months into the netherworld of the DOC. Netherworld being a trip to court. A mainstay of the ‘backstairs justice system’ the court trip is something straight out of hell. My average court trip began at 3 am, lasted through to 8-9 pm – at the earliest. A day of chains, stuffed into vans, buses, the insidious ‘ice-cream truck’, holding cells last cleaned during the Cuban Missle Crisis, and horrible, disgusting things found only in fevered nightmares or David Finch movies.

All this, and more, for what was usually a ten to fifteen second hearing or, even worse, a continuance no one had bothered to tell the DOC about (or had, and … but more on that at a much later date).

Screen-Shot-2012-09-28-at-1.22.17-PM-300x222I found the wannabe Lionel Hutz in the holding tank back at Bridgeport CC

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Prison Bookends


m220217555September 5, 2005, Bridgeport Jail – mid-afternoon, I met my first DOC counselor, a short, overweight, 30ish white woman who projected an air of wanting to be anywhere except in a windowless office in a jail that should have been bulldozed under (and the ground salted) thirty years earlier.

“My clothes were thrown out when I went to the infirmary, I need pretty much everything,” was how I started after she nodded in my general direction and sighed deeply.

“Okay, put in a written request for whatever you need.”

“Great, could I get some paper and a pen?”

“Can’t give you those – do you want some toothpaste?”

“No . . . I need paper and a pen.”

“Just buy some in commissary.”

“I don’t have a commissary account, I just got here.”

“Oh, okay, you need to make out a request and note that you’re indignant.”

“I’m also indigent.”

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Odds and Ends from a Long Week of Bad History, Bad Law, Trolls, and …


“There are in this country, as in all others, a certain proportion of restless and turbulent spirits – poor, unoccupied, ambitious – who must always have something to quarrel about with their neighbors. These people are the authors of religious revivals.” ~ John Quincy Adams

 Some thoughts and impressions from quite the week:

battlefield-earth-02Tell me again why we need Religious Freedom Acts when the First Amendment is unchallenged and Scientology is not only accorded the same rights, privileges, and protections as all other religions, it was not summarily dismantled after the release of Battlefield Earth.

Obviously – to everyone not employed by Fox News, the law was drafted and enacted to allow people to do what Federal, State, and Local governments are estopped by the Constitution and 200 plus years of Supreme Court decisions from doing – use religion to discriminate against others.

This was explained perfectly by someone, somewhere in…

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The Hanlin Titles


Now that The Falcon is out, I’ve been asked a few times about the titles of the Hanlin series. I wasn’t going to answer right now – until I read Drew Gilpin Faust’s article yesterday in The Atlantic.

In Two Wars and the Long Twentieth Century she compares the Civil War and World War I, finding that the Civil War was more than just a precursor. It’s a good article, if you have the time it’s more than worth it.

It also gets deep into the heart of what I’m trying to do with William Hanlin’s Civil War – it’s no coincidence that the prologue starts in April 1917 when Woodrow Wilson went before Congress to declare war on Germany.

The Civil War was the first industrialized war . . .  which came as quite the shock to everyone involved in it with the possible exception of Herman Melville (later). It started…

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That means more inmates. . .


“It’s a business,” he says. “And we’re gonna take all the advantage we can to bring in more business if possible. . . That means more inmates.”    ~ Joe Alexandre, mayoral candidate, Raymondville TX

I don’t know Joe Alexandre, haven’t seen a picture of him, just heard his voice this morning on NPR. He’s running for mayor of Raymondville, Texas and I’d vote for him in a heartbeat because he’s an honest man . . .  I know he’s honest because only an honest man would utter the words above.

WILLACY_2(1)He’s commenting on the fact that the town and county’s number one business/tax-payer/employer closed rather abruptly last month when the for profit Willacy County Correctional Center shut down after the 2800 inmates there went wild and basically tore it apart. They were somewhat unhappy with the conditions.

Now the county’s getting an insurance settlement to fix the o-THE-WALKING-DEAD-PRISON-facebook(extensive) damage and rebuild the prison. Both…

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The Past Isn’t Dead . . .


I wrote a little about the Hanlin Novels, their titles, and WWI a few days ago. Well, it goes both ways with the Civil War – William and the war as tethered to the past as they are precusor to the 20th Century. In April 1862 William and the Army of the Potomac besieged Yorktown – in some cases they used trenches and redobts left from Washington and Rochambeau’s seige of Cornwallis.

From The Falcon

We sat before the redoubts of Yorktown, a modern army occupying the same ground our grandfathers and great grandfathers had eighty-one years before. A modern army armed with rifles and artillery that while recognizable to our forefathers on the banks of the York would have astounded them with their range, accuracy, and lethality.

For all that, though, we were just another of history’s great hosts camped before the walls of our enemy, not all that…

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