Wednesday, September 23, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (27)

Dear No One,

People are starting to get their players back. They all put in requests well after mine, but unjust progress is better than no progress at all, or something along those lines. I miss music, and I miss not having a time limit on typing these things up. At least it probably sounds more authentic, given that there is no drafting or editing involved, just fifteen to twenty minutes of my inadequate typing.

So there are a couple of points of interest I thought I would mention. The Unit manager of this building has gone on a crusade against property boxes being left out from under the bunks. He cites the ACA standards on unencumbered space as his rationale. Funny thing, the ACA standards have nothing whatsoever to do with inmate behavior. They are federal guidelines given to the states relating what they are supposed to provide prisoners with. As it stands, all the cells in this place were built according to a single occupant standard, and like every other prison built in that fashion, they were subsequently double bunked. There is literally nothing you could do to make our cells in compliance with the ACA without knocking out a wall.

Moreover, the presence or absence of a property box on the floor has nothing to do with "encumbered" space, because that refers to fixtures, not objects like trash cans or shoes or property boxes. Amusingly, the way to get around having the box totally under the bunk is by using it as a step. This is allowed, in a complicated bureaucratic fashion, because the ladders attached to the bunks have non regulation rungs. They start too high. So, being on the top bunk, I am allowed to leave my box out no more than twelve inches from under the bed to act as an ersatz step.

The actual text of the ACA standards also reads that the boxes have to be in operation position at all times, so putting them under the bunks is a no go. They can't be opened under there. Not that there would be any room to walk in the cell if both boxes were totally out at all times, but the point is that neither the standards or the people pretending to enforce them make any sense.
They handed out nearly fifty charges in our building before people realized this wasn't a joke. I emphasize, "in our building", because our unit manager is the only one who does this. It is his personal hobby horse, and when he switches buildings the horse goes with him. He was working this building two years ago and tried the same nonsense, then he moved and it went away. Now he has returned, to everyone's consternation.

Think about this. It is not an institutional rule. The warden doesn't care, no other unit managers are doing it, and it relates to no known statute or standard. For some reason, this man has taken and intense personal interest in the positioning of our property boxes. He has used a totally irrelevant set of rules to justify it. How does this sort of thing come about? I am actually curious, WTF? Anyways, it's just one more silly thing, like having to wear our IDs with the faces visible, or tucking in our shirts on the boulevard, or separating rec periods between the buildings, or taking away grey sweatshirts because they might give the officers something similar in the future, or counting our books, or outlawing pictures with boobs in them...


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (26)

Dear No One,

The crossfit tournament was interesting. We began with six competitors, after the second day we were down to two. One said he was too sore from the first day to continue with the events. The other "got into his feelings" because of what he felt was unfair refing from one of his friends with another one of his friends. He isn't a person who handles losing well. Did I tell you all the events? I hope not, because here they are, in order:

Murphy-1 mile, 100 pull ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 more mile- everything completed consecutively, no mixing up exercises. Our fastest guy did it in just over 50 minutes. Grace-Thirty clean and presses with the 135. Our fastest guy did it in under four minutes. This was the evening event, with the Murph in the morning. DeadPress-Something I put together. deadlift the 315 5 times, then C+P 135 once, repeat, with the clean and press progressing thus; 155-185-205, each one time. They handled the deadlifts well, but no one could hit the 205, not quite. So we ranked them by how fast they arrived at it.  

One did so in a little over two minutes. Blew everyone else away. This was Sunday afternoon. Monday morning, Labor Day, we did another made up exercise I called the Oddball. Forty bench presses with the 185, then thirty muscle ups, in that order. Fifteen minute time limit. Someone got to 28 muscle ups, no one else got close. He wasn't nearly the fastest bencher though. After a short break we finished up with a mile run for time. 6:52 was the fastest, which isn't amazing but considering the other crap we had already put them through it was pretty good. The prize was about ten dollars in commissary, and the winner ended up splitting it with the other three who finished the competition. Now the guy who quit because of sour grapes is putting his own thing together for next month. I did his pamphlets for him, but probably won't be on this side of the yard by then. My destination, C-building. I can't do any of that stuff BTW. My murphy time is 70 minutes at the moment. Not impressive.

I stayed up to watch Colbert on the Late Show last night. I was duly disappointed. He was just another host doing bad dance moves for applause. He has an excellent deadpan. Years of the Colbert Report will do that to you.

One of his guests was Stephen King. He was like a giant skull attached to a tiny mannequin. Listening to him was interesting, because the cadence of his speech matched that of his books. The phrases he used; he is a master pattern matcher. Not that this is a bad skill to have as a writer, but it would be nice if he had other skills as well. His last word was "baby", as in, "you know you want me, baby." He kept using stock phrases.

It isn't that his books are terrible. I have read six or seven so I can hardly say that I hate him. I think he catches most of his flak from people who are reacting against just how very popular he is. His productivity can't be quibbled with, at least. They stacked up all his books to six and a half feet.

At least he's not James Patterson.


William Myrl; Letters to No One (25)

Dear No One,

My celly is odd. I can't recall if I have described him to you before. He is nearly seventy, and in appearance follows perfectly along with the caricature of "old man". His posture is slightly hunched, his belly a cauldron pulling down his midsection. He has no teeth, none, and his gray hair has thinned on the top to the point where a handful of long strands have been dragooned into the job of covering his whole pate. When he sits on his bunk to write he becomes like a snowman; head, belly legs. And when he gets out of bed in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening, whenever really; he has the bedraggled air of a man waking after having been beaten and left in a back alley. His comb-over/comb-back doesn't survive a nap.

Enough about his looks. The man has an L-note, as they say, and yet about once every other day I hear him say something along the lines of, "when I go home," or "if I go home." That's a common habit among lifers, I observe, despite the abolishment of parole. He did some bad things he has never admitted to me but everyone knows about. All our crimes are available on the internet to anyone with the family to call. This is where he lives now, so it doesn't matter so much who he was twelve years ago.

He works in the library, when there is a library, and it gives him a feeling of completion. He was a hoarder in the real world, and now he is a hoarder of information. His property box is full of folders, full of them, where he has copied from books and magazines. He writes things down for hours and hours. It's actually quite impressive how dogged he can be. He tells me, as he tells anyone who will give him the time, that he has written over one thousand poems. He has, I have seen the paper piles. They are not good, but you need to have better taste than whatever form of badness you are looking at to know that it is not good itself. He is rewriting a novel his old celly wrote, expanding it five times over. The whole process makes me wonder whether someone much better at writing than I am will look at my novels and think, "Poor fellow, he really tries."

He is generous with his family and a sheister with everyone else. He wants the cell to feel like a home, sensible enough, so he has a policy of sharing and sharing alike. I would rather he didn't, for the most part, because I dislike the messy obligations that such arrangements necessarily create.

He is happy, most of the time, but he is a sad sort of creature. To me his hobbies seem like a desperate attempt to mine meaning out of a meaningless existence. To him they doubtless seem pleasant. He is a collector, and a scribe, and that is enough for him.


William Myrl; Letters to No One (24)

Dear No One,

I have completed my first full week as an assistant clerk at the tailor shop. There are three of us; the inventory guy, the "manager's clerk" who does the actual clerking, and myself. I am learning to fill out the daily metrics, do the payroll bookkeeping and the purchase orders, as well as keeping track of the myriad checklists and forms that are filed away never to be known again. There isn't really enough work for three people most days. So I organized a mess of files that hadn't been looked through in five to ten years and helped update the Safety Data Sheets for the various semi-hazardous chemicals that sit around the shop. I'm supposed to learn both their jobs so I can take over if either of them leaves or is fired. I was only brought on because the manager's clerk has so little time that he could be shipped off to a lower level at a moment’s notice.

It's a strange job. We have computer to use, with Microsoft applications and naught else. The CD drive was glued closed after a CD burning fiasco a few clerks back. It's not connected to the internet, of course, and any printing we do comes out of the office copier and is saved for possible review. The chief worry of the supervisor and the manager is that equipment be stolen or misused, because they do place a certain level of trust in us that isn't common in most person/prisoner contexts. I don't intend to rob them of their office supplies. It wouldn't be terribly difficult, but surely in bad taste. This is the best paying position available on the compound, starting at .55 cents an hour. It is amazing to me what people will endanger for a roll of tape. I suppose we do not become criminals because of our facility for long range planning and consequentialism. Too bad.

There are a few faces that don't approve of mine. Other inmates who wanted the job or at least wanted the job to go to someone who wasn't me. It comes to nothing in the end. We eat lunch in the shop. There is a stair into a loft cage with chairs and tables. A cozy, cramped cafeteria. People have claim on their spots, some of them have been sitting in them for years. Silly, but understandable. One of the many small ways we attain some fragment of control and normalcy; being around the same people in the same ways. No one likes change. Those who have spoken to me have all been friendly, however, and I don't anticipate any issue from that quarter. Months will pass, and I will become an accepted part of the system rather than someone who appeared one day out of nowhere and won the most coveted of positions.

I will write again soon. I had news that I wasn't likely to have my player again for some while yet. Fiddlesticks.


William Myrl; Letters to No One (23)

Dear No One,

     We are putting together an officially unofficial crossfit competetion. If you are not familiar with crossfit, it is the sport where five years from now you will be hearing how bad it is for the bodies of those who participate on a professional level. I'm not athletic enough to do the things they are going to do, but I am the only one with the weird explosive motivation necessary to put stuff together. They say, "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this?" and I say, "BAM! Done." It's the posters all over again. Actually, all I did was pick most of the events and do up some pamphlets and talk with the guys about how to officiate. That is, what counts as an overhead lock in cleans ect.. ect..

Speaking of clean and presses, I am not good at them. It is the sort of thing you have to practice. I'm a bit better than when I started, because I can get the one-thirty-five over my head now once or twice correctly, but they are going to be doing grace with it. Grace is thirty clean and presses as quickly as possible, in this case with the one-thirty-five. So William is not there yet. Very sad.

There was a bit of drama and feelings over what events were to be included and what should be made up and what should be not made up, but overall everyone seems to have a good attitude. There are going to be seven competitors and two or three officials including myself. About seven dollars has been donated to go into the pot for the winner. Normally, there are weight lifting competitions for the annual "cook out", but as the rec supervisor quit and has not been replaced, this will have to do as a substitute.

The guy I have tutoring me in the power of song is funny. He thinks there is no use for growling and that it can only harm your throat however you do it. It's like he's a stereotype of someone who went to college for singing. He sings everything really straight and precise, and he knows all the terms and the exercises and the band he's in still relegated him to backups because he's not as powerful or engaging as the talented but unschooled fellow they used as the lead. Still, very useful to have him help shore up my deficiencies and  acclimate me to singing in front of other people. We sit on one of the picnic tables outside to do our little practices. Kind of awkward. I am grateful to him though.

After I start working in the tailor shop, which will be a few days more, I will be moved to another building. There are two yards, and you don't see people from the other side very often. So I will lose the people I have been accustomed to. It is a part of the experience. Prison relationships are founded on an understanding and an expectation of geographical whimsy. Tomorrow we could be somewhere else, and never see one another again. The state does what it feels like with us. I know that's true of real life as well, but to a far lesser degree.

My time is running out on the kiosk, there are but a few of my twenty minutes left. Signing off, sorry for the ramble. Captains log...


William Myrl; Letters to No One (22)

Dear No One,

I went to my first interview with the tailor shop last Thursday. They had a little room that was mostly table, it stood on its own like a plastic playhouse, and they had me sit. It was an interview, but it was also clear that as long as I wasn't an assjack I would be in. I'm not a champion interviewer; this is probably the fourth of my lifetime. When they asked me what teamwork meant to me, I said, "A group of people working together to achieve a common goal." That was not what they meant. I was given a thorough talking to about theft and misuse of facility resources that was what the last clerk had been lost over. Everything that goes through the printer and the copier is saved on a server and eventually looked over. Good to know.
I had to do a mock-up payroll sheet on Excel, not super difficult. The mouse was backwards, and I was out of practice, but I finished substantially faster than the other applicants had. Monday I went back to do a few things on word. I had to type a memo and was instructed I would be graded on grammar and form, not on content. So naturally I began with "I was surprised to find that our maternity jeans are made from the skins of baby seals", and later, "I wondered at how prominently gerbils figured in the manufacturing process."
No one called me on it.
They had me in the big office to tell me I was hired, again warning how people would try to get me to use the position to steal office supplies or what have you. I would have a target on my back, were his words. I would probably start this coming week, or whenever the unit manager got around to adding me to the list. There will be no formal notification, so I am going to saunter over there next Monday and see what happens. It won't be the first time I have gone out with the people who have early chow, and at least I will have an excuse.
Overall I'm pleased. I will be rolling in the riches of .55 cents an hour. The shops pay more than regular prison jobs, which cap out at .45 cents. Amazing.
Hope you’re having as much fun as I am.
Secular Secularum... I guess.


William Myrl; Letters to No One (21)

Dear No One,
I was working on a portrait when he brought the mop bucket over. Jark was eating Ramen noodles on my left, and Squatpostle was working on another drawing project on my right. The man rolled up the mop bucket and sat on the fourth stool. The three of us exchanged glances as he produced a bar of soap and began shaving it on the edge of the table so that the flakes fell in the mop bucket. Squatpostle was a bit offended because his drawing surface was shaking because of it. Jark and I were giggling and making motions of amazement.
Once the man had finished mincing his soap he began soaking his clothes in the resulting slosh. The booth officer called him for a palaver and kindly explained that such was just not done. While they debated the finer points of pod laundering, the man's celly appeared and dumped more clothes into the bucket. Eventually they were forced to pretend to comply with the officer's directives by bringing the bucket into the cell with them to do the actual scrubbing. Given that some people wash their clothes in the toilet, this isn't terribly strange. But I had never seen the like before.
Our pod is situated above the segregation units, so we can hear their shenanigans. For the past few days someone has been using the vents as a phone system. It isn't very effective. But it is less annoying than when they kick the doors.
So, I've sent home all my entries for the PEN prison writing contest. I can't help but feel confident, given my mastery of the alphabet. If only my being the best always translated into the judges recognizing that I am the best. Last year the poetry winners were all free verse. You know how I feel about free verse.
I will soon be forced to return to my larger calling. Mythopoeia beckons. The first half of the novel is always the balkiest, after that the machine can pretty much just run as it will. 

William Myrl (21)

PS: My player has not been replaced yet. Very sad face. 

William Myrl; Letters to No One (20)

Dear No One,

Jark has discovered a writing contest for prisoners. I am enthused. They have categories for poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and drama. Naturally, we have things in cache for these kinds of eventualities. I called up my mammy and asked her to dig out this essay I wrote for a Creative Non-Fiction entry a year or so ago as well as a short story that I never knew what to do with. Hard to find a niche for "Mel Works for Satan."
The poetry portion has been the most fun. I've scoured my notebook for the most likely candidates. I write exclusively metered verse, that is to say, not free. Whenever I flip through a New Yorker I grind my teeth a little. If you write a pretty prose paragraph, don't feel compelled to press enter at random intervals and call the result a poem. There are a limited number of rhymes in the English language, this I know. Not everything should rhyme, especially longer works. Meter is indispensable. It doesn't have to be iambs, but it has to be something. Poetry is one of those very loosely defined words. I won't say that free verse isn't poetry. I will say that is it poetry's lowest form. Absolutely anything you can say in a free verse poem can be said more powerfully in a legitimate form, if you're willing to put the work in.
Poe said poetry shouldn't mean anything, it should exist for its own sake, an exercise in loveliness. I agree that poems shouldn't have to communicate anything in particular, however, it is quite nice when they do. There are complaints that most rhyming poetry is terrible, doggerel, etc. I agree. I would say the same thing about most forms of art, certainly movies and books and non-rhyming poetry. Extraordinary things are, by definition, unlikely. For every Raven there is a whole drift of pieces whose names I don't recall. By my count, Edgar Allen Poe has four amazing poems and the rest is dross. And that's okay. If he hadn't written the bad stuff, because it was bad, he would never have gotten around to writing the amazing things. If you don't write rhyming poetry because rhyming poetry is silly or cheap, then you are a person who will never write a good or moving rhyming poem.
That is all.
William Myrl (20)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (19)

Dear No One,

I’m writing you a letter because there’s nothing else I feel like doing. I wasted the morning playing Earthworm’s DnD game. Once I stopped running mine, he and Eor took it upon themselves to keep the legacy alive. They guilted me into making a character and I regret it already. It isn’t a terribly constructive way to spend my time.

Back in the cell by 10:30 I lay down and brooded for the better part of an hour. Either the morning or the game put me in a negative mood. The Doc put in to up my Wellbutrin but that hasn’t gotten through to the pill line yet. I didn’t ask him to, but he was probably on point. He is a very perceptive person. Psychology cannot always be wrong. The names of the last three medical students slipped my mind, and I am annoyed at myself for that.

Limitations are the source of my malaise. Living incarcerated is the art of distracting ourselves from our impotencies. For example, I won’t be able to kiss another girl until I’m in my forties, but I get to watch CNN and nineteen other equally captivating channels until then. The highest salary I can attain is about a half dollar an hour, but I don’t have any bills and I can sleep ANYTIME I WANT.

I can’t be with my family, but I can squat 315 and probably more soon. I have benefits, advantages that other people in this situation do not. Many inmates beg or demand more money from relatives than I do. But only I have chivvied my people into setting up a website and querying agents for me, as far as I know.

I read once that when you buy a lottery ticket what you are actually buying is the right to dream pleasantly. So all that my family does for me, all that I draw and all that I can write may be no more than that; a pleasant dream and a distraction from the reality that I cannot bodily escape. Even if Dragon’s Summer is picked up by an agency and they sell it to a publisher for some great sum, it still won’t send me home.

It would be a vindication of sorts. It would add something onto the end of my biographical byline other than bipolar bank robber and high school dropout. It would be a financial boon for me and mine, and likely a host of other positive things. Yet I would still be here. I wouldn’t get to kiss the girl. And I would have to find another pleasant dream.


William Myrl (19)

William Myrl; Letters to No One (18)

Dear No One,

Sometimes, days are just drawing.

They're moving some dirt around on the rec yard, so we couldn't go outside this morning. I worked on a portrait I intend to use for the cover of one of the Mytho books when and if we self-publish them. It has nothing to do with the book, but I wanted a striking image for advertising purposes and I had to play to my strong suites. There are several artists in this pod, and it’s nice to be able to compare and contrast with each other's work. I’ve been working so intensively over the past few months that I’ve pulled ahead of them in many ways, though I’m still a monochromatic guy. Every couple of weeks I do something that is the best thing I’ve yet done. The prospective Mytho cover is one of those things. Last night I did some editorial stuff for Jark's novel. He’s rewriting at the moment, and he gave me the prologue for review. I wrote two pages of notes. He is good, not William Myrl good, but still.

A friend of his apparently has a friend who works for or is associated with a publishing company or press. His friend gave her one of his letters to read and mentioned his aspirations and she said she would like to see some of what he has done. I’m exited at the possibility enclosed, though it will probably be nothing. I told him we should make a writer’s pact, so that if one succeeds so too does the other. 

Speaking of success, I got a response from an agent. My mom sent out a query along with twenty typescript pages over seven months ago, so we assumed it was deceased. Instead, she gets a reply asking for the first 100 pages. 
I have confidence in my novel, Dragon's Summer, but I have less confidence that any given agent will be as enthused about it as I am. If they like it, we have a global victory condition; and if not, we have gained nothing. I wonder how many months we will wait to hear which way that particular dichotomy is leaning. As my primary audience is myself, it is hard to judge my own work fairly. It’s tailored to my tastes, because my tastes produced it. I wrote DS when I was twenty three, so I feel the young adult first person voice can only be so unreasonable. There is probably something I could do to better my chances, but I don’t know what it is. 

We had raw onions today, which was madness. I stuffed most of my portion in a baggy and shoved that down my pants. My celly did the same, and now we have chopped onions floating in pickle juice. You don’t know how amazing pickles are until you go to prison. They go with everything that is not a dessert, and their juice is our refrigerator. 


William Myrl (18)