It was November 2, 2015 when the Federal government decided they had supported me long enough. The Feds released me from prison. No parting gifts. No long goodbyes. Just get out to make room for the next poor bastard.
A few days before my release I got relieved of my job as dishwasher. I got a few days off. A vacation spent in prison. Yippie! The officer who ran the kitchen wished me well. He had read my blog and wanted to make sure I got his name right when I blogged about him after I got out. He said he didn’t want me to reveal his real name. He said his nickname was “Linc,” short for the car Lincoln Continental. I told him I thought it was short for “the missing link.” He didn’t find my joke funny. He said in the medium they called him “Continental.” I told him I would think about it, but there were no guarantees.
The Linc almost lost his watch when I worked in the kitchen. He took his watch off and attached it to one of the pipes on the wall. He dunked his hands in the sink to show me how to properly soak and wash pots and pans. He forgot about his watch.
When the Linc came into the kitchen some time later to get his watch it was gone. Imagine that? The Linc threatened to tear apart the entire camp if his watch didn’t turn up. He called in some blueboyz from the medium to start ripping apart cubicles. He then announced that if the watch was returned, no questions asked, he would call off the bluedogs. Miraculously the watch reappeared within a few minutes.
I suspect it was either Shea or Smiley who stole the watch. They both hated Linc and would of had a good laugh at him going nuts looking for his watch.
A week before I left prison the Jewish inmates were visited by a big Hasidic rabbi from New York. He was the Belzer Rebbe. He came with an entourage of guys with black top hats and long black frocks. He only spoke Yiddish, but he came with a translator.
The Belzer Rebbe said that Abraham was told by Gd to leave his homeland of Ur and travel to the land of Canaan so that he would know what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign land. The Belzer Rebbe said the Rebbe of Chernobyl helped to get Jewish prisoners released from jail in Russia. But one day the Chernobyl Rebbe got arrested and sent to jail. The Chernobyl Rebbe was sent to prison in order to experience what it was like to be in jail, which would help him do his job better, much like Abraham was sent away from his land to experience what it was like to be a foreigner in a strange land.
Was I sent to jail in order to make people aware of what goes on in the prison industrial complex? Possibly.
Before the Belzer Rebbe departed, the Jewish inmates were treated to chocolate cake, which was baked by the kosher kitchen inmates. The Belzer Rebbe handed out a slice of cake to each inmate. He gave each guy a blessing for good health, an early release, and better days. In prison a little slice of freshly baked chocolate cake is like a bar of gold. It is savored. You don’t forget it.
In my parting speech to the Jewish inmates I also mentioned the story of Abraham. I said that Abraham told the local Canaanites that he was a stranger and at the same time a resident of the land of Canaan. Abraham said he was a stranger on earth and his earthly residence was only temporary. His permanent residence waited for him in the next world. In the Selichos prayers it says, “even my soul did not know that I am but a stranger and resident in this world, when my day comes I will awaken from this dream and return to my place.”
In my parting speech I said that I too felt like a stranger and resident of prison, looking forward to the day when I get released. Just as Abraham tried to live in peace with the local Canaanites, I too tried to live in peace with my fellow prisoners. This was not easy. I lived in a cramped housing project that would be condemned anywhere else in the civilized world. How does one live in cramped living conditions with guys suffering tremendous amounts of stress? Not to mention being treated like dirt by the blueboyz.
It was very hard for me to make sense of how I ended up in this dysfunctional institution. The only way I was able to make sense of it was to think back to the day I was indicted. I was indicted on the eve of Purim, the Jewish holiday where everything is turned upside down.
You learn from Purim that life is out of your control and can change at any minute. Today may be your last. And you have no choice in the matter. What better place to learn such a lesson but in prison? In prison I felt I was in an ongoing Purim shpiel (play). I heard inmate Ben Turner practice Megillah Esther everyday with inmate Useless. That was before Ben was sent to the SHU when he was caught with his illegal DVD player.
Otisville prison was a Purim shpiel and a sitcom rolled up in one. Some of the characters in this dark comedy included the following guys: Getto and the Dictator who ran the kosher kitchen * Lev the Israeli slave (Ivri eved) of the kosher kitchen * Rappaport, who was not guilty and not in prison but on a business trip, or at least that’s what he told his family, and himself for that matter * Ken Starr, can I offer you rights in a film script for $10K * Yiddel ‘papa Smurf’ Taubach * Biotech Blech, the inventor of kosher cialis * Jack the knock-off Lubavitcher who got busted for selling knock-off Sponge Bob square pants clothing and knock-off Rayban sunglasses * Breaking bad pharmacist Sweet who had a garlic meth lab in his cube * three Jewish guys named Stein * Rabbi Useless who taught the outgoing Russian inmates, who now are either in yeshivas or enjoying shrimp in white garlic sauce at Tatiana’s in Coney Island * kosher kitchen guy Uri whose very life force depended on Dr. Moss * Robert Lis, after he got locked up the casinos reported record profits * Ben Turner, who liked to daven to the tunes of Wizard of Oz and Fiddler on the Roof which he programmed on his illegal mp3 player that got him thrown in the SHU * Pinkerstein aka Quasimoto * Taratovsky aka Dracula Vlad * Josh the kosher kitchen Taliban bearded laundryman * Lenny Kalish the most uppopular guy in the camp * Moschiacist Shpielman yechi * Zaidy, everyone who messed with him ended up in the SHU, except for Ozer * Grobarz, who had the fanciest Hugh Hefner bathrobe and slippers * Ari the disgrassed gabbai * Neighborhood Mitch with his famous lines, “Pay attention” and “why settle for hamburger when you have steak (Bunny) at home” * Super hyper Mike Beich * street thug pharmacist Randy who still can’t put on tefillin by himself * Mendy Katz from Aleph the man most hated by the Russians * Spanish stereotypes who worked in the prison car repair shop, Lou, Angel, Edwin and Juanito, sorry I lost my job at the warehouse and couldn’t smuggle anymore muffins and bananas * Spitzer a Satmar gone bad * that little chubby guy with a gray beard from Aleph who likes to dance * Pencil who trained me on the dishwasher * Charlie Chan aka Meow who I trained on the dishwasher * Gary Bucci, the drug dealer from the ‘Cut who helped me scrub the pans from the medium * Abdul, who cooks soul food fried chicken in prison vegetable oil that was used a hundred times * Andy my co-defendant, I should have known our conspiracy was doomed from the start * Lesser my other co-Defendant, another poor choice I made in co-conspirators, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight * My homies Smiley, Rich and Montero from the ‘Cut * Tom Turry, also from the Cut, whose favorite tv show was The Goldbergs * Dan Greenberg, who caused Zaidy to throw chopped bananas at him while he played the guitar * Uri and Boros, the Russian star students of Rabbi Pinter * Zayonts and Mr. Bean who started the no smoking policy in the SHU * Ed Whitney, the African American personal trainer for the Jewish inmates * Barbarino and Kitchen Dave, star students of my Haftorah class * Shabbos goys Curtis and Willi * Yoga master Ponte whose inner peace was shattered every time he entered the Jewish chapel * Lawyer Levitis from Moscow, who wasn’t Ukranian * Shuster and Alex, who were unable to control the Red Army who ganged up on Chaz * The Irish guy who had 100 tatoos who spent most of his time in front of the mirror * Chaim Meyer a man of few words and many relatives, whom he had to rent a bus to drive them all to prison for a visit * Shea the root of the word shaygetz * Ed Stein, the anger mismanagement teacher and his co-teacher George Motes * Georgito who tried to kill me but ended up being my friend, although he set me up with Blueboy Travers * Kirshner who kashered his hat in the dishwasher * Double A * Fox the best side curl stylist West of Jerusalem * The Haitian witch doctor * Hassan Nemazee, friend of the Clintons, with a Clinton sized ego * Brooklyn politician Kruger who tried to fix the gabbai vote * Walter Forbes, the reclusive billionaire who mopped the floors * Sam, the sole proprietor of the now defunct Sam’s Club * Dr. Goldberg, a Chabad fan whose Judaism was hampered by Pinter and Ozer * Gematria man Earl David * Uncle Harry, the most popular guy in the dorm with the permanent suntan * Vizel, who tried to corner the vegetable market * Penguin Vlad * Jew fro and bug eyed Michael Weiss * Street thug Russell flanked by Jewmark and Butler * Lowenshtyn enough said * Baddush, who showered with garlic soap * Ginty the Kohen, who conspired with Baddush and a baa-aaa-aad goat * Vadeem, the Russian foot doc with an attitude problem * Mark Cucciola, who walked around the camp 100 times a day * Attorney Juggernut, who almost got thrown in the SHU the day before he left for purchasing stolen eggs from Willi * Brazil, who drove Ari crazy and called him Liliput Pinteras * Big Mike, the half Greek, who got busted for driving his brother to the airport * Ralphie & Eddie, the Spanish soccer stars * Attorney Cheddy * Tishler, the most annoying guy in the camp * Neil Selzer, who did two tours of Otisville, and his law partner Mike Rapan, who only did one tour * Junkyard Al * Binman, who was so annoying that he didn’t even show up for his own going away party * Charles and his sister Amy, whom Dr. Moss was in love with * Largest Loser Jerry, who went from a 58″ waist to a 40″ waist in 6 months * Roman Empire, enough said * Yosef Gadol ben Rocco * Harold, the accountant for the Pagans who never took a shower * Slava, who set up Matt Ryan with a failed fiance * Rabbi Ben Chaim, who was always looking for a free tomato * Schlider, who smuggled in a $500 kiddush cup, and claimed to own 50 of them * Big Sal and Big Pete, the Dons of the Dorm * Halle & Sonny, BFF, LMAO * Flash, who did 2 years but was asleep most of the time so his real sentence was only about two months * Crazy Eddie’s nephew Antar * Lipa, who reminded you of Woody the Woodpecker * Dominican Jeff * Jean, the Haitian soccer machine * KGB, who got caught with a garlic still in his cube and blamed Sam’s Club and Pinkerstein for it * the Newman brothers, where do I start? * Ozer, who had a warm Williamsburg Satmar family reunion with his dear friend Zaidy