Absolutely nobody bothered to check the San Diego County Jail. I'm out now, but it was a damned close run thing. It was a lost weekend that lasted from 8:30 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Thursday.
Fortunately, I have my Get Out Of Jail Free card. White privilege? I never leave home without it. What does not kill me seems to make me stronger. They let me out at 4 a.m. and liberty smells sweet in every way.
I owe some serious apologies to Sanns Dixon, because my incarceration prevented me from acting in the movie he had planned to shoot yesterday (Wednesday).
All last week, my stepdaughter told me she would buy groceries on Friday. Look at what she bought. Five boxes of Cheezits? Seriously? And my son-in-law's riposte was, "You don't have to eat it." Can you imagine a stupider remark? I was annoyed. But is that any reason to spend a week in jail? Who needs family like that? I've got to get out of here.
I never actually slapped anybody. Her husband (who has won cups for karate) twisted my pinky, causing a serious sprain. And, when I pulled it away, my fingers made the gentlest contact with her cheek. This was the "battery" that sent me to jail.
Those who expected me to remain in custody should be aware of the nickname bestowed upon me in 1992 by the national organizer of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Committee): The Teflon Bolshevik. Seriously, if I didn't have this white skin and a middle-class education, I'd be dead meat, by now.
Memorize the phone number of a reliable friend, just in case you ever find yourself in the lock up with no money and no chance of bail. They allow free phone calls, during the intake phase. But each call costs $5 once you're "housed." If you have no money on you, when you're arrested, your only hope is for an outsider to go to the jail website at sdsheriff.net and put some money on your "book."
During Friday night or the early hours of Saturday morning, I met a gentleman who had been arrested and taken to jail barefoot and wearing a hospital gown. His only crime was getting into an argument with his brother about an overdue debt. "So, he went for his shit and I went for my shit," was the way he put it. In other words, they attempted to settle the dispute with AR-15s. The brother didn't get off any rounds at all. About four shots were fired into a corner of their mother's home, which the prisoner assures me was completely harmless.
I also made the acquaintance of a young man who was arrested on Friday night after a high-speed police chase across the Coronado Bridge, while drunk and naked with a young woman sucking his wing-wang. That's a trick I mean to put on my bucket list.
One of the most interesting men I met in the jail was ***** ****, who is 11 years older than me. He was a student at NYU, back in the 1960s, when his study partner showed him a mayonnaise jar full of smart pills that he'd got from his professor Timothy Leary. With the exam two days away, they decided to try the pills. Fink says he thought taking two pills would make him twice as smart. So they dropped the acid and very soon they were wrestling with paisley-patterned hallucinations. Neither of them made it to the exam hall. As soon as I was released, I made a couple of calls so that ***** got out on bail by 6 p.m. How he's going to get into his apartment is entirely his problem. The police who arrested him locked his keys in there when they slammed the front door shut.
So many times I have overheard one side of a telephone conversation that suddenly goes into:
"You're my boo and the reason I love you so much is because you're having my baby…"
I think I heard the same prisoner say those words in three different phone calls, probably to three different women.
Sometimes it goes like:
"I know we broke up and I know things were never right between us, but please be there for me while I'm in here. I really need someone."
Probably the most impressive character I met during the first 24 hours of incarceration was a drug dealer who bore an uncanny resemblance to Antonio Banderas. They pulled him over in North Park with a pound of meth in his car. Everybody in the tank looked to him for advice and guidance, because... Charisma? Intellect? At least we got each other's jokes. Heavy hitters like that get housed on the 5th floor of the jail. I was on the 4th with the punks and junkies.
Fifth-floor prisoners get access to the commissary, where you can buy food that is not sub-standard bologna and such luxuries as instant coffee. Down on the 4th floor, there are no luxuries. And they don't offer any hot drinks at all. It's the tap water in the cell, six ounces of apple juice per day, 12 ounces of milk. The nurse gave me Ibuprofen to help with the caffeine withdrawal. After a couple of days, I started passing my Ibuprofens to my celly, who was suffering severe pain from scoliosis.
Jail routine is bizarre.
4 a.m. Breakfast (oatmeal or grits with waffles in a plastic-wrapped tv-dinner tray.
Noon Lunch is four slices of wheat bread, two slabs of the worst bologna imaginable, a slice of pretend cheese, a small sachet of coleslaw dressing. This comes in a plastic sack and they throw it at you three times a day, during the 24 hours it takes to be processed into the modules. Once housed, you get two sugar cookies, 6 ounces of orange juice and 6 ounces of fat-free milk with lunch. There's also soup that they ladel into your cardboard tray once you've scooped the sandwich makings out of it. Those cardboard trays come in handy, in the cell, for stashing the odd cookie for the long periods of lockdown.
4 p.m. Dinner, which is something hot in a tv-dinner-style box. Last night was maceroni with hamburger helper and quite tasty. I got a double helping, because, on that day, I was one of those entrusted to hand them out. There was also a small bag of chopped lettuce and a sachet of Italian dressing with that.
Lockdown. Sometimes, when this lockdown ends, I wake up from a deep sleep and think it's tomorrow. But it's only 8:30 p.m. the same day.
8:30 p.m. Potential free association with the television on. But you don't get to choose the channel and you might get locked down in the middle of an episode of... Friends? I laughed at a line in Friends, three days ago. I call that my Papillon moment.
10 p.m. Final lockdown.
2 a.m. Medication. They finally got around to finding me some HIV drugs, which are supposed to be taken with food. I took the option to hold onto them until breakfast rather than accept another gratuitous bag of bread and bologna. All that sodium is going to kill me.
The deputies brighten up an otherwise dull lockdown by dropping by and demanding to check identity wristbands. I hadn't planned a tunnel, because it would only lead me to the 3rd floor.
Nothing like incarceration to bring me back to reading The San Diego Union-Tribune, every section. The whole module agreed that George Varga's pre-gig interview with Bill Maher was lame as fuck. Everybody agrees with me Nick Canepa is the finest writer in the county. Last night, I completed both crosswords!
Deputy: So what brings you here?
Burgess: At 58 years old, I embarked upon a life of crime.
Kingsman was what they used to call me in jail. That's not all they called me. Sometimes it was "OG," sometimes "English." When they call me "English," I think of Col. Stok talking to Michael Caine in Funeral in Berlin (1966).
At 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, they put two young junkies in my cell. Immediately, one of them asked me to give him my top bunk. Fuck no! They both banged around in the lower bunks for a while, but neither of them seemed able to cope with the confinement. The one who wanted my bunk ended up laying his bedding on the floor and sleeping next to the toilet. They both remained in the cell during breakfast (served every morning at 4 a.m.) and I happened to notice the cheeky bastard had climbed up into my bunk and was resting his head on my "pillow" (my sheet and blanket rolled up to serve as a bolster). My cartel-member buddy and I stormed into the cell to explain the facts of life to him, but he wouldn't move. So, on the advice of "Mafia For Life," I pulled my mattress out from under him and he fell like a rock onto the hard floor. He was like a zombie. Blank eyes. Didn't utter a sound. Just climbed back onto my bunk. So I appealed to the screws. Next thing I know, we're all on lockdown again. I moved my bedding into a nearby cell. The zombie must have made a wrong move. Something like 30 deputies turned up from nowhere and pinned him to the floor. Some were laughing. One was writing notes in a little book. One was punching the poor sod in the face. They took him out on a stretcher and I never saw him again. It was quite shocking. A man could easily die like that.
I was supposed to read the newspaper article about her to Mafia For Life, because he likes Amy Schumer. Well, that newspaper got tossed and, after the next lockdown, other things were going on in the module, so that never happened.
And there was a homeless man who told me he never pan handles or dumpster dives, because he's got eight hustles he can hook you up to. His favorite is to hang out in Starbucks and wait for you to go to the bathroom. Then he scoops up your phone, your iPad and your laptop and runs out the door before anybody gets out the second "Hey!" in "Hey! Hey! Hey!"
But the one who had two broken ribs from being wrestled to the floor by "loss prevention," was the Scotsman (Permanent Resident Alien Permit, lovely cross of St. Andrew deconstructed as a tattoo on his forearm. All he stole was a large bar of Hershey chocolate with almonds. So we, in the module, referred to him as the Hershey Bandit. Nobody in this country has heard of the Milky Bar Kid.
When my cell door opened and they called for me to roll up my bedding and walk to the gate, I could have screamed for joy.
Can you believe they still didn't wash the pan and throw away the teriyaki sauce from the chicken legs I barbecued for the kids last Friday night? So it's been sitting here a week with stuff dropping in off the trees. I would have washed it up, myself, but I was unavoidably detained.