Monday, May 25, 2015

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-5-20)

Dear No One,
W&L University has created a short course for their students about poverty and how it relates to incarceration. The twist being that they would take the course alongside real life inmates. The memo went up months ago, a paragraph was to be submitted explaining why you wanted to be in the class, no mention was made of the students who would be participating. I knew several people who applied, and but a single one succeeded. I duly produced a paragraph, and in true Myrlian fashion, it was done in rhyme. It flew about as far as my 10th grade writing test. Why is it that fusty administrators and proctors do not appreciate my sense of humor and facility with flippancy? Do they sense my derision? Surely not, when it is so well hidden. In any case, I was quite put out when I found out there would be girls there. REAL LIFE GIRLS! I would have done any amount of dissembling for the DCE principal, who was handling the applications, if I had known that. My buddy, who was more earnest than I, would have a 50-50 spread on there being two X chromosomes across the table from him. We will call him Jark from here on out.
Jark and I understood from the outset that the only actual reason we could have for wanting to be in the class was on the off chance we could inveigle a pen pal out of the thing. Sadly, the experience would be vicarious for me. There were several anticipatory weeks before the class began. There was also another short essay to submit. When the day finally arrived for them to be assigned partners, Jark got a nice boy named after an archangel. It was a start.

I heard about some of what was spoken in the class, read some of the material, as well as his journal entries. The paired students, apodictic and inmate, wrote about topics of the class and there impressions, shared them with each other. The final project was a speech. I helped Jark edit his.
The experiment was a mere four weeks of class when it began for true. A few months ago Jark and I worked together on a poster to hang in the J4 hallway, where the GED classes are held. I helped for two reasons, the first; that I like Jark and it was his project, second; a Hail Mary attempt at getting a job. I have been applying for tutor positions for two years, more now, and cannot get one. I have experience from another institution. For whatever reason it isn't working for me. As a result of Jark's support, and the poster effort, I was told I was hired as soon as a position opened. That teacher announced her retirement at the end of the month. Another teacher left two years ago, she hasn't been replaced yet. And then there were three.
Saturday, Jark came to my door and said, "You know, we should have done a poster for them to take back with them." I was drawing at the time, and I threw my pencil to the end of my bunk, looked at my watch and said, "Damn it, how much time do we have?" Six days, as it turned out, until the class is over. We brainstormed that night, began a rough draft the next day. He had smuggled out ample poster sized paper before his teacher retired. When we started, his portion wasn't coming out very prettily. Also, I think the vision of madness and despair I was spewing out over the top half of the paper at an alarming rate was not in line with what he wanted for the project. He gave up, or seemed to, for a day or so. I continued to work in true maniacal spirit, morning to night until it was finished on Monday. By this time he had gathered himself for another effort, Escher inspired, all straight lines and precision, not my thing. I was ready to help with that one after he signed his name to the first, along with another buddy of ours. Tomorrow the class ends, but there was more time than we thought. The professor is coming back without the students to give inmates who took the class their grades and possibly a stirring talk. Then he will strike. Not one but two posters of opposing style, my deliberately cheesy feel good poetry on each, tying them into the theme of the class. The idea being that she might post one or both of them in her real classroom and that maybe a girl would see our names and write one of us. The tangled webs we weave. Of course, I will be putting my website on there. My true purpose. Jark’s poster is impressive, he put a day in a half into outlining a visual illusion. Our styles neatly contrast, I will be shading only on his. We have time again. Letterman goes away tonight, I am not impressed. The drawing was done to Lincoln Park, A Thousand Suns. Update: Jark went to his last day in class and delivered his speech. It was moving, people teared up. That's my boy. I am actually glad I didn't get into the class with him. Jark is the cleverest young person I know in this place. In the class, he was like a diamond in the rough. If there were two diamonds the value of each would be diminished. If they run it again next year I will conquer. Jark says more than one student promised to keep in touch, unlikely, but still. I am happy it went so well, it was a good experience for him, he wants to go to college when he's free. Jark is one of those inmates I wish I could help, but know I cannot. After all, I will be here, or somewhere like it, when he has been home for years. Whenever I tell people how many I have left they always appear slightly incredulous and say "months?" No, not months. Anyways...
William Myrl (15-5-20)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-5-13)

Dear No One,

I have broached but little of the absurdity to which I am daily exposed, I shall grant you a dollop. My dnd group is composed of five players; Eor, Earthworm Jim, Huey, Duey, and Louie. Eor wants to quit for the tenth time, or else he wants Duey and Louie to be moved to my other group. They have been picking on him in game, he feels, and not associating with him out of game. He is particularly sensitive to this now because someone new has come to the pod that he believes will influence the others against him. 

You see, Eor has that kind of charge, and people with that kind of charge are often mistreated because they have that kind of charge. He has been shunned before, by people he
thought of as friends. The new person is a member of one of those kinds of groups, and people belonging to those kinds of groups won't associate with someone who has that kind of charge, except when they plan on making it a rather unpleasant kind of association.

Eor and I have a long conversation, with him you are lucky to escape in under fifteen minutes, this one stretched into an hour. He explained his position, again and again, even going so far as to say that if he were the DM [dungeon master] he probably wouldn't accommodate someone with his request. I tell him I was planning on winding down the game anyway in the next month or so. I tell him I don't spend much time with these people out of game either, and I don't think it is because they are shunning me.

I don't give a definitive answer to his request, though by not doing so I imply I won't be pushing them into the other group. Eor has never not had negative impressions about at least one of the other players since the game began. There is always something. They call lock down and I say "see you Monday night" , which is the play date. Later that night Jim comes to me about making a new character for my other game, so that H+D+L can play with their friend who shuns Jim as well. Later later Eor comes to my door and says he will tell everyone I'm going on break for two or three weeks due to burnout. I ask him what that will solve and he replies that it will ease the tension.
He was the only one who was feeling the tension. He walks away because it is lock-down time again. 

The next morning he tells me he spread the word, because I smiled and he took that as a yes. So that game is finished, I briefly considered rescinding his lie and playing without him but that would be a weird thing to do for spite. I'm tired of the game, so I will take the out that's offered. H+L+D approached me along with their judgmental friend about making a game for them and I made
agreeable noises but that isn't going to happen. It wouldn't be horrible but I am increasingly done. 

You wouldn't think that people in prison had interpersonal problems but they do. Jim probably won't be able to join the other game because one of my players there will refuse to play with him for unrelated reasons. I sometimes feel as if they are competing for who can be the smallest man. Why is the most stressful thing in my incarcerated life Dungeons and Dragons? It feels wrong somehow.

On to something more interesting. They made wine today, some of my more industrious neighbors. They delivered it to their clients in Apple Jacks cereal bags, pink fluid sloshing in clear plastic displays. It would be more accurate to say they poured it today, it had been fermenting a few days at least. At 8:30 lock there was an argument, they yelled at each other from behind their doors. They were tipsy. The COs appeared to take them away in cuffs. There was speculation that they 
would not return, though they did so soon after, and somehow the authorities did not find out about the alcohol. It's an amusing process over all, from sneaking oranges back from the chow hall in their socks to the inevitable inebriated shenanigans. We take what joys from life that we can find, and I would not fault them for theirs. 

I have partaken only once, five years ago. The wine was sweet, which meant it wasn't well made, the alcohol content was too low. The boys in this pod are professionals by comparison. I haven't been drunk often in my life. The first time, I was eighteen, and living with my girlfriend. We had recently moved in to our first apartment, she was old enough to buy alcohol, so we drank until we were both quite sick. It's a fond memory, I was laughing through most of the second half. I miss the things that are now gone. As it turned out, two young adults with mood disorders they mutually refused to address trying to make a life together wasn't advisable over the long term. There was a lot of happiness though, mixed in with the mistakes. I'll probably come back to this another time. For now, that is enough.

William Myrl (15-5-13)

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-5-7)

Dear No One,

I saw the psychiatrist today; they were doing parole hearings in his room so he was using one of the psychologist's offices instead. With him were two male students, it is unusual to have an all male cast; I imagine young women are more likely to sign up for this sort of thing than men are. It is certainly what I observe.

The office put me in the mind of a elementary school guidance counselor. There was a mural of a tony the tiger figure, missing his head, the paint and brush laid at his feet like an offering at a Shinto shrine. We chatted for a bit, and I gave the students some background on my life and illness and other extraneous bits. I was holding a copy of a manga a friend had loaned me, something to read while waiting to go in, so their was a brief moment of bonding over Bleach with one of the students. It always strikes me how normal these people seem to me, they are close to my age, and I could have gone to school with them if we had lived in the same area codes.

I wonder what it would be like to be in there place, to see someone like myself on the other side of the metaphorical fence. I make a point of remembering names, there is no reason for it. I like to imagine that I am making some kind of connection to the real world. At some point I started keeping a list. If I stay in this place long enough they will grow younger to me, we will no longer be of an age, and perhaps the odd sort of closeness I feel for them now will mature into a distance beyond reckoning.

The weekends have dnd in them. I've been playing Friday night, Saturday morning and evening, and one other time during the week. Sessions usually last about two hours, some of them running over or under to the dictates of schedule or convenience. I could do without any of it. There is an inherent tension and drama to the game, not the good type of drama, the whiny, needy, tantrum producing sort. This weekend wasn't a bad set of sessions as it goes, it doesn't have to be, someone threatens to quit every week. The Saturday group is better, but I've begun to consider the whole project as a waste of energy. I enjoy thinking about many aspects of the game, playing it is the problem. This is not the recruitment pool of my dreams.

Saturday afternoon I was falling asleep in my bunk so I decided to go outside. I was listening to 1989 (as you may have gathered I am a fan of TaySway), and as I stepped into the sun I felt the barest scrim of giddiness overtake me. It was bright, and a cloud cast down a wedge of shadow in the hills beyond the sparkling bladed fences. On either front of that darkness the deep green of the forest took on a haloed air, a sort of blessed mancy that imbued the whole atmosphere with previously
humbled beauty. The sky, of course, maintains its own kind of magisterial majesty, revealed only to those who want it to be there, the most ridiculous of magicks, that which has power for our belief in it. There is a lane behind the housing buildings that opens onto the yard. As I walked it I felt happy. Probably the pills.

Having written you a few times, it occurs to me that I haven't told you much about my environment. It seems boring to me, how and when we eat, what the facilities look like, the schedules of controlled movement; it is all beside the point. It will slip in here and there, when it relates to
what I'm blathering. I don't know who you might be, where, or how far, and so I send a bit of trust out with these letters, for you are in my confidence. I want to be known.

William Myrl (15-5-7)

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-5-02)

Dear No One,

There is an art contest. This has never happened before. There was a memo posted on the bulletin board in the pod. Submissions were to be at least 8 1/2 by 11 and done in any medium available on commissary.The rec department would not provide materials, and all entries would have to be in by the eleventh. I was immediately excited. Will we get our art back? Is there even a prize? Shall I submit by burning incense and praying to FSM? None of these questions were addressed in the memo, and yet I find myself jumping at the opportunity to make something I can shame others with. I am intensely competitive about two things; writing and portraiture. There is no one here that can make me feel challenged in the first pursuit, which is more a statement about my environment than about my talent. 
Drawing has always been a secondary hobby, one that I value though I may not excel in. It isn't as salable, so it was deliberately placed on the back-burner as long as I was practicing my ability to make the words happen. The advent of my website ( has changed things to an extent, given that my writing has to be typed but my drawings can be scanned immediately. The recent availability of a limited form of email and a very limited form of typing has shifted the dynamic again, hence these letters, but I put more of myself into drawing than was my previous want. Two days I have spent on this thing, I asked a friend a single piece of his oversize sketch pad paper, I normally use printer paper, and this meant I could do something big. I collected reference pictures, composed a scene and a small poem to go with it. It's likely the best thing I have done, I will be disappointed if I never see it again after it is submitted. Keep you posted.
My back is sore from overdoing dead lifts. I have not been consistent the last few months and it shows. Standing was so uncomfortable the day after that I was getting some kind of sympathy pangs from my legs, if that is a real phenomenon. Do you ever wonder about how you can care so much about the feelings of those you don't actually care about? I am aware of some of the mechanics involved, simple operant conditioning, desire for approval and the expanded circle of humanity, these things do their work on a level beneath the conscious. I'll have to write out a bit of a character study for you another time so you'll have some idea of what I'm talking. I often wish that I was less nice, in prison and in life you will have to deal with people that are more interested in you than you are in them. I am not speaking romantically here, they will want your time, your attention, reciprocal signs of an affection you don't feel. 
This has happened to me more than once, and I am terrible at handling it. I find it easier to give a little than to risk conflict or to refuse and risk social disapproval I shouldn't care for in the first place. Over long spans these small trades add up to an expectation I can no longer effectively manage. The thing about prison is that you cannot always avoid people you would rather not see, we all eat and live in the same areas.
It may be a healthy exercise for me to be forced to deal with others directly. I am not the same young man I was six years ago. I have learned to give less for the asking, to care less about what others think and believe. These are useful lessons, and as a simple point of fact I would benefit from developing these abilities much further than I have. I am still nice, and I try to be diplomatic enough that no one comes out hurt. The social situations that arise when sixty people live together in a dorm and have minimal occupation other than that of their own devising are as intricate as any episode of Little Women of LA. A reality show would be interesting, for a time. I have bored you long enough.
Most of this letter happened to Taylor Swift.

William Myrl (15-5-02)

Friday, May 8, 2015

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-4-26)

Dear No One;
They have started me on Wellbutrin, I am not sure how much. Some might, upon being told they are going to be put on a potentially mind altering medication, ask about it first. I am not that sort. I do not know how much I am taking. One pill can only be so many milligrams, added to my current lithium regimen. As I have no frame of reference for dosage, knowing the number would give the perception of understanding and nothing else. Speaking of false perceptions of understanding; I dislike subjective measures of mood. On a scale of one to ten, one being the lowest and ten being the highest, how are you feeling now? My doctor and I had a conversation eighteen months ago about the limitations of self-reporting mood metrics. He emphasized that it was less about the number itself than the patterns revealed over months or years of recording, which could then be cross checked against themselves. I still think it is as likely to give false positives as true, given the untold discrete influences that inescapably shape any such number generated. I used decimals for a few of my first numbers. It got stale. I produced several alternative
metrics, bringing in the chart where I had recorded numbers for about three weeks of thrice daily questions along with my conclusions from the data. What obscure color do you feel like right now? Stammel? Are there objective measures of mood? Perhaps not. Behavior changes are the next best thing. Since I began taking Wellbutrin I no longer sleep through the mornings. It may have nothing to do with the pills, my sleep patterns have changed before for some or no reason. It is a good change, whatever the case, my mornings are more productive when I am awake for them. There have not been any side effects to note, the lithium has never given me issues either. When I began taking lithium, there was an internal conversation that went like this: Do I feel different? No. Are you sure? Yes. Maybe it's a placebo. It's not a placebo. They could be testing to see whether I reported a cessation of symptoms, and if I did, believe that I'm faking because I never had the real drug. Psychological symptoms are often relieved by placebos, that's the point of them being psychological, it would not prove anything and anyway all the things you said to them were true. BUT THEY DONT KNOW THEY WERE TRUE...and even in cases where inmates have been used in drug studies there was at least semi-informed consent and they were working on treatments for real diseases and they were decades ago... It could still be a placebo, you signed your consent without reading the paper. This is ridiculous. You are ridiculous. I am going to ignore you until you go away. Curses. Being awake all the time means I have gotten my Mythopoeia writing out of the way before lunch and I hardly know what to do with myself. Evangelion fan art looks like the thing.

William Myrl (15-4-26)

PS: This letter was written to the soundtrack of ParallelWorld3 by Yucat.

William Myrl, Letters to No One (15-4-22)

Dear No One,

I have a game tonight. I have been running this one for almost four months now. It's not so bad. I know you think it is easy to find good Dungeons and Dragons players in prison but it is not. Whoever told you that it was is a liar. This pod has more people interested in the game than I have seen before. I had to split the group to accommodate everyone.
Tonight's group is six including myself. There are only four stools to a table so we have to rush out of the cell at the appointed hour to snag chairs as well. After nine o'clock count it is not always busy, weekends are worse. For some reason we all adhere to the weekday workday mindset despite none of us having real jobs.
One guy cleans the showers.
I made a cake. It was not game related; something to split between me and my celly because he whips up meals on a regular basis and I do not. The recipe is simple; three packs of chocolate chip cookies, a can of soda, and a chocolate bar. The cookies are dry and crumble easily, crush them all into a bowl. The soda mixes, and it goes into the microwave, turning every minute or so until it looks solid. The chocolate is a bonus; melt and pour on top with leftover crumbles. It will be very soft fresh out of the microwave, hardening if you let it sit for a few hours.
It is freaking magic.
Either that or the carbonation in the soda makes the cookie flesh rise again.
Dinner was crap, so I can congratulate myself on the cake once more. A few hours until the game. Wish me luck.

PS: Something interesting happened tonight. While we were playing dnd another group was gambling and the backgammon board was confiscated because they played on top of it, a common practice to preserve the fidelity of the cards. Afterword they switched to pinochle and all was
well. An officer returned to the pod to confiscate the cards because they were two different colors, red and blue. An argument ensued, and as they sent in a rookie nothing happened except that someone unrelated to anything became vociferous about the admitted stupidity of the situation. The pinochle cards were the ones issued to the pod for general use, and still relatively new. That's just what they look like, they are not contraband. So the day was won. One caveat, the vociferous
gentleman continued to be opinionated with the officers in the booth,
not about the cards but about his right to be loud and to argue with 
whom he pleases. He did not enjoy having been told to stay out of it.
A sergeant came into the pod to walk him out. I have not seen him 
since. The cards were untouched, no longer an issue. There is something I have noticed held in common by many of my confreres, the incarcerated: pride is more important than its consequences.
Something to think about.

Yours, William Myrl (15-4-22)