16 October, 2018

The Ice Brigade

Desperate men do desperate things. Men in prison seem to live in desperation, make a tenuous home there, furnish it sparsely, and, on occasion, enjoy a nice, cool beverage there.

In my wing, where cell doors come open at 6:40 AM and the inhabitants are free to move about until almost 11:00, the line forms early. It runs up the center of the wing: thirty-some Coleman six-pack coolers and Rubbermaid pitchers and insulated mugs — a perfect row of multicolored plastics set on the polished concrete, in preparation for the big moment. The men whose containers these are want what’s coming.

A low-grade viciousness possesses the assembled, behind masks of bonhomie. One prisoner nonchalantly sets his cooler on the floor in front of someone else’s in the queue. Eyes everywhere watch to see who’ll be the one to call him out. The cricket in one of the shower stalls is chirring, and an alarm clock beeps from behind someone’s closed door. No one speaks.

Some of the men take up space on stools by the phones, some lounge on the stairs, others lean on the desk that stores the wing’s meager board-game collection, still more slouch at the four little tables anchored to the floor several yards away. They have their eyes closed, braving the morning for the coming scarcity; or they’re alert and indifferent to the rule against wearing headphones in the wing, and their heads nod in time with beats bumping from hidden CD players. Real subtle, guys, I think, yet none of the guards in the control module notice or care.

Then comes the double sneeze of the door’s pneumatic lock. Shouts go up — “Ice! Ice!” — and everyone’s on his feet, moving for his container. The porter wheels in an insulated brown cart the size of a newspaper box. He parks it along the front wall, then gets the hell out of the way. The throng surges forward. Boy band fans jockeying for a glimpse as their heartthrob exits the tour bus would be only slightly more avid. Feet nearly touching, they stop, assembled in a staggered line, lost in anticipation. One by one, but barely, they step up.

Each man takes his turn with the red ice scoop. Because the rolling Cambro cooler’s small, shoveling more than one container’s worth of ice from it meets with round scorn and loud derision — double-dippers have to return after the rest of the line’s shuffled away. There’s mild jostling. Surprisingly, though, no one is ever outright belligerent. The ice brigade carries off its chilly plunder without incident.

Relief! The wing’s sodas, burgers, pizza rolls, no-bake cheesecakes, chicken sandwiches, stolen kitchen food, and sundry leftover prison-burrito fixings will keep for another twelve hours. By that point the day’s second bin will be wheeled in for plundering. And the cycle continues.

04 October, 2018

A Seasonal Stew of Spooky Cinema

For the first time in sixteen years' imprisonment, October will be chockablock with shocks, thanks to my move to a new prison with a superior cable package. This Halloween aficionado and movie buff was pleased, after coming through one TV programming guide, to find so many of the suspenseful, horrific, and just plain eerie films that I love filling the weeks leading up to the thirty-first. I'm excited. Not counting the classics that'll show up all month long on the in-house movie channel — stuff like Carnival of Souls and Black Dragons — here's my must-watch list:
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • The Lady Vanishes
  • The Thing from Another World
  • Nosferatu
  • The Seventh Victim
  • The Night Digger
  • Faust
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Return of the Living Dead
  • 28 Days Later
  • The Old Dark House
  • Isle of the Dead
  • Bedlam
  • The Dead Zone
  • The Witches of Eastwick
  • Fright Night (1985)
  • White Zombie
  • Mark of the Vampire
  • Hellraiser
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (three different productions!)
  • Curse of the Cat People
  • The Bad Seed (1985)
  • Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
  • Island of Lost Souls
  • Mad Love
  • Spirits of the Dead
  • Black Sabbath
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
There's also a PBS miniseries, The Woman in White, and my trashy FX pleasure, American Horror Story, to follow. No way could my little stash of movie snacks hold out through all of these. I wouldn’t want it to. Eating too much junk too early would spoil me on that epic junk-fest that is Octoberfeast. (Stay tuned for the fifth of my "Halloween in the Hoosegow" posts, by the way, coming in four short weeks!)