Notes From There


The Rose Garden at Julia Davis Park in Boise, Idaho. (Egads! They’ve dyed the water blue now!)

“Joy is not in things, it’s in us.”  Richard Wagner (German Composer)

I saved up for months for a big encyclopedia once and remember how anxious I was waiting for it to arrive.  It was as if I’d refused to be satisfied until it came–I was so obsessed.  Well, when the order was cancelled because of being a few cents shy on the money order I was pretty bummed out.  Chow even tasted extra lousy.  Fortunately, though, I happened to see a special on TV asking for fifty dollar donations to give wheelchairs to the legless folks in Africa.  I couldn’t bear my misery any longer.  I ended up sending them my fifty dollars and I skipped the book.  The heavens parted and, believe it or not, my pouting was replace with the joy of doing a good deed.  Which, by the way, I’ve milked ever since inside of myself.


“Never insult an alligator until you’ve crossed the river.”  Cordell Hull (father of the United Nations)

Many times here in prison I’ve held back from telling someone what I thought of them.  And this is especially when doing so could cost me a lot of trouble here.  One example when I failed to hold back, though, was when I got sassy with the parole board at a hearing.  That’s easily the dumbest thing I’ve ever done next to my crime.  It was truly about as dumb as splashing at an alligator while crossing the river.

Notes From There


A beautiful Memorial Day at Ann Morrison Park, Boise, Idaho.

“People are just about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”  Abraham Lincoln

I knew this one taciturn grumpy type who, at least to me, seemed to almost enjoy being unfriendly.  But then once we got to know each other–and I earned his trust–he let his guard down.  After that he’d let me know when and why he was bummed out by walking the track with me.  Those were the times he’d want someone around who preferred to choose to be happy–rather than someone he could so easily bum out and run off.


“Knowledge is power.”  Sir Francis Bacon

“I think, therefore, I am” is a quote Rene Descartes also said.  And, therefore, it follows that when you think, you gain knowledge and the power to exist.  The other day I was “pulled up” in front of the guys by a TC member who I felt had been looking forward to embarrassing me.  And, at that moment, I must admit I suddenly felt I no longer existed–at least in the others’ eyes.  But when I noticed the smirk on his face and realized he just wanted to get under my skin, I knew if I calmly thanked him it’d really piss him off.  And it did.


“it is not good enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”  Rene Descartes

Before I committed my crime I considered myself a pretty smart and aware guy. Well, we all know where that got me.  Now I cling to the hope that if I can help others realize they’re not as smart and aware as they might think they are then I may finally have used my mind well.

Notes From There


Awesomely cute drawing by my niece, Lisa Jones.

“As far as your self control goes, as far goes your freedom.”  Marie Von Edner-Eschenbach

Mac Bledsoe in Parenting With Dignity says that rules give you freedom.  I agree.  Rules provide a structure whereby you can practice your freedoms and appreciate them. They give responsibility and self-control which allows the trust needed to do bigger and better things.  In prison this is how I get beyond its walls.  More privileges are afforded me; I have more personal space; and, most of all, I’m able to appreciate and enjoy the freedom I do have–instead of being out there always complaining about it.


“When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we don’t see the one which has opened for us.”  Alexander Graham Bell

When the door closed on my life outside with my family all I could do was to stare through that keyhole for the longest time.  But then a door beside that door opened–slapping me up against my backside.  It was the door to the rest of my life.  And there, behind it, was my family waiting for me.


“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”. H. Jackson Brown

I try to have good habits because I know they’re the best way to be prepared.   Yesterday I did my very best to get to sleep early–in spite of all the racket all around me.  Then low and behold, I woke up today refreshed and ready to roll–at 3:30 in the morning.

Notes From There


“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”  Richard Bach

I remember I used to drive so close to empty my gas gage would sit at the bottom even when there was lots of gas left.  One time I was hurrying to get my daughter to an important appointment when the truck sputtered and died.  As we got out to walk to the nearest bus stop she changed her ten year old mind and refused to leave the truck.  Well, I got back in to try to coax her out, and then finally–exasperated from arguing–tried the starter just to demonstrate that the truck would not go!  And, of course, it started right up.  There was plenty of gas and the motor had just stalled.  And I can still see the big grin that would appear on her face whenever I tried to argue after that.


“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”  Robert Shuler

Aside from trying flying to the moon, or inventing ways to make myself invisible whenever I want–or putting a stop to all the poverty in the world–I think I’d just like to try to help my family have a good life when I leave here.


“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.  The last of our freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude.”  Victor Frankel

One of the things that used to irk me about my TC program was that you had to act “as is” to keep your attitude up.  They’d say the only two things we really have any control over is our attitude and effort–and, of course, that a bad attitude just infects others.  Well, I know now that I still have the freedom to have a lousy attitude and respond to everyone lousily–and to enjoy it–or I can make some effort, put on a half way polite face, and try not to bum people out with my lousy mood.  And I prefer the latter.  I think trying to treat others with respect (no matter how I truly feel at the time) is what allows me the ability and freedom to choose my attitude and not let it choose me–by respecting myself for respecting others.

Notes From There


“We are creatures of habit.”

I am a creature of habit.  Due to my bunk spot being in the noisiest area of the unit I usually make up my lack of sleep at night with an afternoon nap.  Today our no-napping rule is being implemented and my body has conveniently retaliated with a chest cold and aches and pains–of course to justify an argument for a nap.  Just amazing how powerful the habit of a nap can be!  When I think of worse habits even more addictive…well, I just want to lie down and take a nap!


“Education is something they can’t take from you.”  A. Bermensolo

A good education is a lucky thing.  After I was laid off at the rail yard, I was able to go to college on a JTPA retraining grant–whereupon I got my degree.  It’s unfortunate that I became incarcerated shortly thereafter, but my education has served me and others well, nevertheless.  Not only am I able to obtain work as a tutor and be a help to the guys, but I’m also treated with a level of respect here, too.  Education has given me safety in a dangerous place, plus it’s made prison a place of study rather than a place of punishment for me.  It’s been like luck they couldn’t take from me.


“You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

I’m not usually a procrastinator, but I do have my weak moments.  Last week our unit received a new rule forbidding any napping during the day.  Naturally my eyeballs continued to evade their responsibility of following this particular rule.  And, try as the rest of me did to catch them at it, the responsibility to obey all the rules continues to hunt my eyeballs down every afternoon–only to be told they’ll try harder tomorrow.

Notes From There



“The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.”  Bum Phillips

When we were children, my mother had a unique method for dealing with our petty squabbles: she would have us shake hands, hug, and then say, “I’m sorry,”–in that order.  Until she came up with this there was no way she gould get us to discipline ourselves any longer than it took for her to leave the room.  After that horrible rule and the horrible prospect of actually showing love for each other, we learned the craft of self-discipline.


“Failure is the opportunity to begin again.”  Henry Ford

Free markets are fond of catastrophes because they can move into an area on a clean slate and rebuild without any of those pesky regulations or people organized to object.  When the Twin Towers fell, though, no one has yet to move in to rebuild.  Maybe that’s because of all the fire and safety regulations that will have to be followed–and we know there’s certainly no money in that!  Now it looks like they want to preserve the site as a place where the opportunity to rebuild will always be there…while holding out for top dollar.


“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it was the same problem you had last.”

I am still in prison.  It’s a tough problem.  My still being here is a mistake–at least in my opinion.  But I just can’t seem to get that parole commission to correct the problem!  I think the measure of their success, at least as long as I’m measuring it, is rather poor.


“The good or ill of man lies within his own will.”  Epictetus

Yesterday when I chose to be miserable over my lousy potatoes at chow, I left really bummed out.  But when I thought about it, and chose to be grateful they weren’t beans–Prang!–I suddenly became a really lucky guy!


‘I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  Ghandi

The other evening I had to listen to some guttermouth’s bragging while in the bathroom.  When it came time that he expected someone to laugh in support of his story I flushed the toilet–which are very loud here.  Actually I flushed it twice–and everyone left.

Notes From There



“There is no way of writing well and writing easily.” Anthony Trollope

When I write letters home from prison it takes me at least six rewrites.  I wish I could write better so that I could write easier–and do it in half the rewrites.  Butt then it would only be half as good.


“Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave.”

My mother was a Dr. Spock mom who believed in education and communication with us kids.  It was pretty easy to lead us with reason, but when she’d try to drive us to do something, I think we tended to drive her a little nuts.  Oh sure, we wanted to do the right thing, and we were a pretty good bunch of kids by and large.  But there was no way to keep us from sneaking out of the window on a warm summer’s night.


“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it for themselves.”  James Barrie

I find when I’m cheerful around others, pretty soon I convince myself that I’m also feeling rather pleasant myself.  Then for some reason the whole world seems to be smiling and I find I am, too!


“If a man does his best, then what else is there?”  General George Patton

I was raised in a highly religious home and, I must say, I was rather offended that we were so easily condemned to eternal hell for some personal failure.  When I told my mom I’m on this earth to try to do by best–and not to be condemned for it–she said that I’d forgotten just one thing: her opinion.


Look at this man’s hands.  Of course, 1940 was a time of manual labor; your skill set had to include your strength and your health.  But now that technology

Homesteader feeding his daughter at a New Mexico barbecue feed, 1940.
Photograph by James Russell

has supplanted labor with its machines and systems those hands have been changed as well.  They’re now uplifted and open–pleading to the owners of the machines and systems for work.  Hands love to work.  Hands love to feed their children.  But the jobs the hands did are not coming back, and the owners know it and we know it.  And, what’s worse, there is a political system being upgraded whereby we will be told to find work or starve.  It’s called fascism, and it’s owners are having a tea party.  This homesteader?  It’s likely he went to war to fight fascism.  Yes, he is very grateful isn’t he?  And you can bet he proved it!