Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Order / Hierarchy versus Conviviality Stories / Jail /
Jesup 1997, Nicknames, Labels
At Jesup FSL I was assigned to the middle bunk in a tier of three, sandwiched between M’et on top and Ant below. These dudes challenged me, decided I passed and was welcome in their ‘Hood. Then they decided they didn’t want me anyway. Who wants what doesn’t typically matter much. The counselor, unbid, whispered he’d try to find me a bottom bunk in a cell with a white, English-speaking cellie. No: he moved me to another triple in another black-dominated ‘hood. There my starting cellies were James and Burke (from East New York, Brooklyn: my father’s childhood neighborhood, much changed of course: rising middle class degenerated to DMZ).
I talked plenty with M’et and Ant, still did. (M’et was a friend, a fan even; Ant became and remained an enemy.) But I never said more than two words to James or to Burke. Burke however had a friend who visited our cell all the time. I never conversed with him: the occasion never arose. But I did answer questions directed at me, and I guess this fellow liked my answers because he began chanting things like “the great-est philo-so-phuh” and “my fav-or-ite philo-so-phuh” … at the opening to the cell.
PS: I spell M’et as I do for a reason: M’et’s given name was Demetrius: but the knickname was also supposed to suggest “meat”: like he’s a meat-eater, a predator, an alpha hunting male … I stick an apostrophe in in hope of suggesting that there’s something more to the name than shows.
While I’m at it I may as well add a couple of quick James and Burke stories:
I didn’t talk to them, they didn’t talk to me, but it was hard to ignore them when they were recounting East New York war stories to each other. Wham! Blang! Take that, motherfucker. Bang Bang! supplying sound effects for their accounts of their gang wars.
My stay at Jesup ended with me in solitary thanks to one of those guys pouring boiling water on me. When there’s any kind of a tussle guards, like cops everywhere, are instructed to put everyone concerned, including the victim, in stir, while the judges sort out what happened. I’m a gadfly, therefore the judges cannot judge me to be anything but a trouble-maker. For their convenience they left me in solitary till my stay expired. But of course solitary (Special Housing said the euphemism) wasn’t literally solitary: there were always two or three guys in a cell.
My first cellie in my last chapter at Jesup was my friend Terry. Terry was always returned to solitary after a day or two in the general dorm. He never killed anyone in jail, but he regularly beat people almost to death. Terry always bragged about how he’d gotten away with murder in Boca Raton: he’d run over a drug dealter, a competitor who’d pissed him. The jury absolutely refused to incarcerate Terry for the murder: no, Boca waited till he’d stupidly set fire to his indoor canabis farm, burned his own house down. I loved the bastard but didn’t want to be trapped with him. I told the jailor that Terry was about to kill me: I think he was. Terry would try to kill anybody he was caged with.
Last Terry comment: Terry applauded me as a great teacher, he’d heard me read Isak Dineson aloud. But trapped with him in solitary, Terry said to me, “You’re not too bright, are you, Old Man?”
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