Monday – September 11, 2006: When football was on, it was the first time I really sat still in the dayroom for more than a few minutes. Usually if the cell doors were open, I was in the dayroom walking laps around the perimeter. I must have had too much time to think, or I was trying to avoid thinking too much about the worst case scenarios, but whatever it was, I found myself obsessing over the sort of things I never did before. As I walked the perimeter I started counting my strides, to see how many strides a lap required. Then five laps, to get an average number, figuring that would be more accurate for reasons I can’t explain. I tried to maintain a steady stride, right around three feet. Eventually this would lead to me figuring out it was about 42.5 laps around to reach a mile. Then I began seeing how many laps I could walk each dayroom, and trying to top it next time. So when the football games came on yesterday, it might have been just in the nick of time, because I’m not sure where that was going if I did not get interrupted.
It was a weekend when both tiers were let out together and I met some of the guys who were down stairs. I only knew them from seeing their figures moping in the dayroom when I looked out the little cell door window. I did not do much of that since window monitor was Gangsters position, and I did not want to be blocking his pacing path. There was only one cell with white guys downstairs, and two upstairs; nine of us out of 90. Two of the guys sat and watched for six hours straight, as I did. Lenny was a large guy, two years younger than myself and looking at his fourth term. My first cellie, Tim, referred to Lenny as the “Silverback”, not to his face of course. The other white guy joining the football watchers was named Darren. A 23 year old, fair skinned freckled faced kid charged with 14 armed robberies. Lenny called him “Honey Bun” because he bought more and more honey bun pastries on Tuesday’s and could not make them last a week, so he upped his order each week until he was at about 35 now and still done with them before Sunday’s games. Darren was also known as “The Big [drink] Bandit” due to his inclusion of a big soft drink cup in his hand at every heist. He would drive his pick-up with his bike in the rear bed to a preselected location about two blocks from his intended target. He liked video stores and subway sub shops and pizza huts. He would ride his bike from where he parked to the store, empty cup in hand. Walk in, and if at a food place, order something to eat. When the food would arrive and it was time to square up he would calmly put the cup on the counter, open his jacket or lift his shirt to show the cashier his gun and say; “put all the bills in the register into the cup”. They would accommodate him, and out the door with his meatball sub in one hand and a 42 ounce soda cup stuffed with bills in the other he would go. A quick bike ride to the getaway truck and 14 times it worked without a hitch. Eventually he made the evening newscasts and someone he went to high school with recognized him and notified the authorities. As he finished the story, Lenny added; “That’s why you gotta drop out of school by 9th grade, so not that many people know what you look like,” which I thought showed incredible foresight on his part.
Monday morning brought with it another cellie for us in cell 24. A 39 year old fella who said he drove a tow truck, and apparently, housed and sold stolen property much of which was acquired on the first job. We were all dumber than we thought we were, or at least not as smart as we were certain we were. Either way, this new guy, Tom, was going for the number one ranking. Gangster took about a minute to feel the guy out before he started throwing mental haymakers at him, asking question after question. He was using his false sincerity voice, feigning interest in anything Tom wished to expound on. Tom sat on his lowest bunk and Gangster paced as he shot the questions. Tom was unable to say “I don’t know” and Gangster liked that he had a fountain of information, a veritable authority on any chosen subject from which to gain wisdom. Every so often, either Gangster’s question (done deliberately) or Tom’s answer (done in Zen-idiot fashion) was so preposterous, Gangster would glance up at me with a big grin to make sure I was following the proceedings, as if ignoring this was a possibility. This ended only when the cell doors clicked open and as I walked out with Gangster he said; “I’m gonna let this guy stay Gilly. This kind of stupid doesn’t come along every day.”