The World, A Prison Out There
"If anyone were to read my Olson files and learnt about all the things I done in my life, they’d think to themselves no wonder this guy sticks to himself, who in their right mind would wanna hang around with him. And for anyone who doesn’t know that is, Olson files are a secret stack of files in a government database related to each individual person who has ever done time in the penitentiary system named after the court case that established the right of people to view their non-confidential prison records. (That last part my daughter looked up [Prison Law Hand Book]. We weren’t much informed on a lot of stuff about our rights back in those days). I learnt a lot while I was in there prison system, over and about in and out of 14 California prisons and jails to be exact over a time period of 25 years. This would start when I was in booked in the juvenile system, continue through to California Youth Authority Correctional Facility, graduating to Jails and finally to prisons where often you would be moved about mid sentence depending on what you did and how much room there was for you. The first prison I went to was after I was booked on a felony for sales of narcotics in the form of the drug hashish. They start you for two months in reception, I was in Chino on the East Yard booked on the 13th floor in dorm 9 on bunk 43, and then I was moved to CRC, the mainline prison for my first time. I was 26 years old.
How come I was never a person who never had a job in the outside world? Never in my life did I do that before had a regular job, wake up in the morning and go to work 9-5. There simply was no way to carry on with all four things; a drug habit, gambling and selling whatever I could, and buying dates to be tied to a full on job. I couldn’t stand the thought of it - it didn’t make no sense to me, I’d rather go throw myself in jail first before living in the prison of that life.
When I was twelve I used to sniff gasoline for a high but after a while it was making me feel out of control and not myself getting me lost walking around the city and unable to control my body similar to psychiatric medications so eventually I looked for another better high and quit doing that. It’s really important here to understand that I quit because I wanted to quit not because someone tried to help me quit or because they told me or forced to stop. An addict will change drugs from one drug to another or find another thing to do when and because they want to. If they are ever in a position where they are forced to stop because they absolutely have to there’s a good certain chance that at some point later they will start up again. The only way an addict who is truly an addict for whatever the reason in their brain will only stop is if they actually want to. See if a person a is drug addict they are one because of one of three reasons. One is someone introduced drugs to them sometime in their life and after they took it they actually liked it and so from then on they go carrying on with getting high because they enjoy it. Reason number two would be if someone got spiked, slipped a drug they didn’t know much about by someone one to physically and chemically addict the person first which leads them to needing more without them even realizing it, like a doctor or a pusher who is willing to risk the felony, to create the habit. The third one is if you are outright born that way where the need to get high is already part of your brain and you brought that need into the world with you. Also there are two types of addicts, one who likes being one and one who doesn’t but they cannot quit because they are physically hooked. Now the second type would be a good recipient for a half way house, recovery home, or even jail as a means to get loose from using and then AA programs would apply to staying off. But if you have a person that likes getting high and doesn’t mind having a drug habit, then such a person would not benefit from AA because they aren’t interest in the first place. You can’t force help on someone that don’t want to be helped. Now the thing is even when or if an addict stops one thing - the drug or a particular one, they will go and find something else to fill that empty physical or emotional feeling. It could be anything, even caring for a non addict, and then they would stop using to have the relationship since they can’t have both. But if there is nothing else in the world to substitute it, the habit will always come first.
I was 16 was the first time that I used heroin. It happened one day in Fullerton when I went to go buy a dime bag of weed and the connection needed the $10 I had so he could score a $25 balloon of heroin with it. Once I realized that, I told him, “well I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you the $10 to go with your $15 you got to go get the bag of heroin, but instead of giving me the dime of weed I wanted a third of the bag instead” because I was looking for every drug I could get. I already had done just about all the other kind of drugs you could think of, uppers, downers, alcohol, marijuana, lsd, speed, and there were only two drugs left I had not gotten a hold of yet, were heroin and cocaine. Of these two drugs, heroin would come first.
Somehow my friend Kent agreed to give me part of the balloon and cooked it all up with a needle and spoon then he produced two hypodermic syringes. He filled one of them top to about 50 units and the other to about 25 units showing me he had there correct splits for us. To this I agreed to continue the deal so I offered my right arm, tied a bandana around it, and Kent plunged the needle in my vein and injected the drug into my arm and it was an extremely incredible high. So much so that I would continue using $10 shots every other day for the next two months, that grew into a habit that would sometimes cost up to $150 a day for a thirty year period of time.
In early May a few years later, I got out of YA and realized right away that I was gonna need money for my drug habit and the girls I was running around with at the time and this money was gonna have to come from somewhere, where it came from was gambling casinos. It just so happened Commerce, Bell, and Cudahy were just finished building one down the street called the California Bell Club, and later they opened the Commerce Club, the Bicycle Club, and the Normandy Club. Everybody in my family knew how to gamble in every game you could think of, so I picked up on it and right away learned how to win. My main games were poker high ball, poker lowball, craps, black jack, and roulette. My routine would be to make hashish out sage and sell it for cash then head to the connection to buy heroin and later also cocaine, saving a small amount, about a quarter or so, for gambling at the casino. With my wins I said for females and food while living out of the Miller Hotel. On the streets the girls were doing their thing, and I was doing mine, so eventually we worked together in order to protect each other’s business. My hustle was selling hashish, their hustle was selling sex. So what we did was we went out together at the same time so that we could put our money together that we made and buy harder drugs and split the costs of the weekly motel. I wasn’t the type of person that would carry on a love affair due to knowing I was going to go to jail. I didn’t want to have a problem of them waiting for me on the outside world so I would tell the girls “when I get busted you are free to go your own way and find someone else” because it was too much of a heart ache and too much of a problem to carry on with a relationship with me being in jail and her being on the streets.
Throughout my twenties inside of every twelves months an honest precision of two thirds of my time, which is about eight months, was served in LA county jail; Biscailuz Center and Wayside Honor Rancho spent behind bars that didn’t yet involve a state prison. Pretty soon I would start seeing the same people I did time in Juvenile Hall with. After the first time I was booked into State Prison, D17670, it would go from that point on for seven to eight years on and off for windows of time as short as two weeks and as long as sixteen months-2-3 on drugs cases alone. In between these stints, I started to get released under orders to report to the probation officer located in Huntington Park, about a three mile bus ride from from my motel, for anti-narcotic drug testing weekly and was directed to get a job. Due to being in the criminal system I was limited to certain types of jobs in assigned places though, farmed back into Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall to work there as a cook until found out that I myself had once been a convict in there so they had to transfer me out because you can’t mix and mingle with the people you did time with inside there. The same thing happened to me those three months later when I was then assigned to Metropolitan State Hospital in the laundromat because I had also already spent lots of time there with my dad and Marylou when they lived there. I had the same problem and ended up losing both of those jobs. See, people in prison and mental hospitals are not allowed to have contact with anyone working there from the outside world either because then you would know the people. I just kept losing jobs and it was too much to make every meeting with probation all the time, and besides anyway, I had my drug habit to take care of. And for that reason I made drugs and hashish and sold the stuff to finance my gambling and drug habit.
My Home Outside
By the end of my twenties living in homeless hideouts where I built my own dugouts near freeway off ramps or hidden around railroad tracks closest to casinos was the most ideal place to live because it costed less money than paying motel bills plus I couldn’t tell the probation officers where I lived because they were always looking for me to arrest me. I had access to an address connected to my mom every time she would move, which was a lot because she didn’t have that reliable of an income and would get evicted a lot, but I liked it actually better in my homeless hideouts outdoors. My Uncle Don would throw in the first and last month's rent for each place leading up to one called the King Aquia Apartments in Santa Ana after she had already lived in three other places in that city after having left Bell Gardens having moving from six different houses before that. This would only be in a five year period, while my dad and Mary Lou would live at The Apprentice Hotel on 7th street and San Julian in downtown LA. From there she would continue this pattern living in Fullerton, Anaheim, and back to Bell Gardens within the next five or so years. Eventually my uncle would buy a small pad in Long Beach for my mom to stop. All the moves but most of that place got sectioned off, filled with stuff to the ceilings, local transient people and the gangs that needed a place too.
The Advancement of Charges
In 1990, I got discharged from prison and went home to Bell Gardens and found a note the door sayin my mom didn’t live here anymore and her forward address was located somewhere in Long Beach on Ximeno Street but there was on house street address written so I walked around the neighborhood and ran into my middle brother Michael fixing his moped in the driveway. My older brother Jimmy had a similar history as I in the systems and and wouldn’t get out himself to join us until three weeks later.
For most all of life, I was hanging around and partying with my older brother Jimmy. It was the best relationship relationship anyone could ever hope to have because he was my partner in most everything we did. We got high together, we made out with the same girls together, hung around with the same gang member together, we were bandmates together, and committed petty theft crimes like stealing pop bottles, then bicycles, then tools, clothing, shoes, then pickpocketing together. We even had nicknames for one another. His name was Wizard and mine was Star Leader for the band we had made together. I also called myself Manhattan Don when I got out the last time I was in because New York was where I wanted to head and a guy on the yard said I looked like a Manhattan Don, and I likded, cuz that place was always a dream of mine. By this time Jimmy had about six months left of time to serve but the same day of his release we met up, scored a balloon of heroin and got high together. This would go on and get more involved for many more years but so would the crimes as well. We even stoled a car together once and went all the way to Las Vegas to gamble. We made out with about $7800 and even saved a pregnant cat before we were to get caught and flown back to LA to be booked on charges for absconding, possession of heroin, sales, and smuggling.
One night in October around 1991, while we were carrying on with our lives as drug addict, Jimmy, with one of his prostitute girl friends who had been recently stiffed on a date, went down the street to talk to the guy who refused to pay. Jimmy and the girl rushed back to get me to go with them to try to help get her money with the idea to rob the guy also which we actually went back with intention to do, but we never had the chance because after knocking on the door that was already slightly open while walking in, he produced a pistol and shot Jimmy. The bullet went in Jimmy’s abdomen out his back and right into my ass. We ran back out into the street where a buddy of ours gave us a ride to hospital. When we got released from the hospital from the gunshot wounds, we went back to his apartment with our prescriptions in handwritten from the doctor at the hospital for our gunshot wounds that he caused to get him to pay for the narcotics. The landlady answered the door saying he wasn’t there and offered us $4 so we took it and we left. But tis would lead to our arrest of which the charges would now be suspicion of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon based on her version of the story and since we couldn’t afford a lawyer we got a public defender and lost our case, getting six years for a bunch of crimes we didn’t actually even do in the penitentiary.
But I just kept thinkin of all the stuff that I did do to chalk this one off.
Playing Guitar and Recording In Prison
While I was set up in prison, and this time for the long haul, the regular odd jobs I was assigned to in the kitchen as an OD cook for the cops, wouldn't be allowed this time. The warden here told a bunch of us that in order to get any kind of job in this particular prison that we would have to go to school, and they cut off all of our long hair which really a messed up trip because it was the first time in my life to have short hair and mine never grew back. So now I had no choice but to do everything they said, for the prisons had changed a whole lot. I was forced to go to school, and even though I couldn't spell or write too good, I ended up getting my GED while I was in there. Also the drug trade in prison was all dried up and monitored now so I was stuck with whatever I could get ni trade. Meanwhile, while on the Solono minimum yard, I saw some band equipment in the dormitory band room and told the guys that were playing their instruments that I knew how to play too because I didn’t have any other job I could get. It turned out, I knew how to play better than they thought and I was granted a pass to play blues, rock and roll, oldies, and salsa jazz with all the different bands put together by the different races, the only man on the yard allowed to do this. We would play huge concerts for the convicts often me setting up stages and wiring the equipment. Miss Bagley, the lead sergeant of Entertainment on the yard, ended up giving me my own jail cell, my own amplifier, my own guitar, access to the recording studio called Skully’s recording studio, and all of that went on for 19 months. The deal was to make a cassette tape for her which I did. Later, when I would repeatedly get busted again for other under the influence of drugs cases while running from probation, she would let me back in to continue making the music I made. Sometimes, I would even get busted on purpose for a bed, some food, and to play music there.
The King’s Rook
Back in the year of 2010, every convict had to go through a psychiatric session for two weeks and the only way out was to prove to the counselor that you were not crazy. See, at that time one quarter of the population of the California Prisons equaling 33 prisons, were mental patients that were not supposed to be in there but they were there because the mental hospitals had been closed down due to over population. Well you can not put mental patients and down syndrome on the mainline with everybody else because the mainline convicts will start a riot. So what the authorities did in order to get rid of these mental patients is they locked up everyone in prison for two weeks and prove you weren’t crazy yourself. So what I did was brought my chess set, a deck of cards, a pair of dice, and a drawing of a roulette wheel, and played the games in front of the counselor of which I won in all the games and said “Can any stupid person who is either crazy or down syndrome do what you just watched me do?” He realized I wasn’t crazy or down syndrome so he let me go. This hadn’t been the first time chess had saved my life.
Checks the Balance
Many years later, on a Wednesday in the afternoon while I was out on parole for possession of narcotics because I got caught high again, I went back to one of my hideouts in the alley near my mom. A guy hanging around came up to me there and asked me if I was Manhattan Don claiming he knew me from around. I thought he had been a guy I had gotten high with so I let him sit down. He said hey man, “I’ve gotta problem here, I got a check with no Id with no way to cash this thing, can you help me?” So I said, “As a matter of fact I can, I have an Id.” But you gotta know I never had a bank account to my name in my life and never actually before set foot inside one. Then he said, “Here go cash this for me, and I’ll give you have the money” so that’s exactly what I did believing it was a real check. If I had of known it was a bunk check I never would of gone inside. But when I walked in the bank to try and cash it for him the cops pulled up and took me in. Later, my mom told me that after I took the hit for that, he went back to my area with a pick up truck and a couple of guys and took everything he could get while I got booked into prison for another three years.
When the judge saw me for this he took a look at the write up and told me to my face that he knew that I didn’t commit this crime, he had booked that guy in for setting other people up before and recognized him. I didn’t even know how to commit that kind of crime or that I was breakin the law. While I was sitting in the bullpen looking at 14 years waitin for the judge to decide, when he realized I didn’t even do it, instead cuz he had to give me somethin, he me my shorter sentence.
The law thinks that if you are criminal you will commit any crime, but they are wrong about that, even criminals have a line that they won’t cross, crimes they won’t commit. Half the time people plead guilty to all the charges against them because public already believes you did it and they realize they are gonna be found guilty anyway. You might as well have as much fun as you can until they come and get you; there is actually nothing you can do to keep yourself out unless you’re lucky. The one thing that kept me sane while I was in prison serving all that time was realizing that I wasn’t the only person in there for nothin. Doesn’t matter if you did it or not if they wanna lock you up they are gonna do it. There’s a lot of screwballs out there and we gotta share this world with them. If drugs had been legal I would of never of been a criminal in the first place.
Crack Revolution Sustained
In 1994 strikes were to come into existence and it would be drawn to my attention that I was on strike two, three strikes and you are in for life. Gangs moved heavily into our area and had already began taking over the garage of the house my mom lived in, now in Long Beach, cooking up crack and other drugs while running a prostitution racket for money. Now, back in the late 80’s crack became just another drug on our list. My teeth started to get loose and all messed up so I pulled them out one by one by myself, the prison doctors finished the job, and got me some dentures but they were too big so I ended top throwing them out. And by 1995 we all would be doing crack now and often we joined up with with Mary Lou who was still around, as she was already into it for ten long years herself, already having been introduced to it back then by different gang. But one early morning in April, that year after everyone all night had been doing their thing, she took a walk outside in between hits, and her heart would suddenly give out and she would die. This scared me so bad and it was a really terrible experience that I left that area for a long while. My life after that mostly consisted of gambling and shooting up while living in the bushes away from the gangs and the police. Though I would infrequently return for my mail and to say hello to the remaining family that lived there, nothing really ever went back to being the same. My drug habit and problems with the gang members there only grew deeper each time I returned.
Until the day I went back to see my remaining living brother Jimmy to say hello and for some money when he told me the news"
He said, “How ya doin Manhattan Don? Your daughter came round here looking for you.”
Homeless the Soundtrack - The Subjects
IV. I'LL BE YOUR HEROIN(E)
Since I came to arrive at this stage in life with a special skill set to handle Don's challenges it seemed the perfect time to put those past experiences and tools to the test. But I was never out to save anybody....