14 July, 2022

Strange But True

Spending decades in prison lets a person say all kinds of slightly bizarre things that also happen to be true. Consider the following statements.

You can make glue from coffee creamer and water.

My annual job salary is $1,020. The last time I threw up was in February of 2001. These are three facts I can state, which also happen to be true. The first is something I learned by accident. The second is an unfortunate symptom of the carceral environment. The third seems like an unlikely bit of luck, combined with a fairly consistent diet of institutional food. I wash laundry in the shower. I have to get naked to see my friends.
Somewhere between the central joke of a "Seinfeld" episode and a throwaway line from a Chuck Palahniuk novel, these statements are also factual. If I thought harder about it, I could come up with a sizeable list of facts about my life that would seem strange to the average person all made possible by my being in prison.

Being here can definitely feel like some kind of freaky alternate dimension. Many prisoners make pizza crust from pulverized ramen noodles, stab each other over cellphones, and store illicit narcotics in their rectums. More than once, I've declared in a loud voice, "It's a madhouse!" without sounding even a little bit melodramatic.

However, it's possible to remedy one's sense of the otherworldly by taking a walk around the yard during a recreation period. I liken this to strolling through a park in a neighborhood that, although not the safest, lets you see people playing Frisbee, strumming guitars, shooting hoops, sunbathing, lifting weights, jogging, and hanging out with friends. The most normal moments here are often the ones spent outside the prison cells that have come to define us.
An interesting thought experiment: take the prisoner out of prison what do they become?


  1. A good read. It's wild that all those things are true.

  2. I stop by often and appreciate your writing. Best wishes!


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.