Thursday, September 30, 2004

California Dept. of Corrections: Facts & Figures

Budget: $5.7 billion
Average yearly cost: per inmate, $30,929; per parolee, $3,364
Staff: 49,276 currently employed including 42,628 in Institutions and 3,137 in Parole
Total offenders under CDC jurisdiction: 3000,085 One year change: -1,552 (-0.5%)

32 state prisons ranging from minimum to maximum custody; 37 camps located in wilderness areas where inmates are trained as wildland firefighters; 12 community correctional facilities (CCFs), and 5 prisoner mother facilities.

All institutions: 162,120
Prisons: 152,228
Camps: 4,050
Facilities: 5,711
Outside CDC: 2,2059
Escaped 289

Males: 94%
Females: 6%
Parole violators: 12%
29% white
29% black
36% Hispanic
6% other
48% persons
22% property
Lifers: 26,933
Condemned (death row): 632
Avg reading level: 7th grade
Employed: 53.6%
Avg sentence: 41.4 months
Avg time served: 26.5 months

Pay Day

It's the first of the month, which means I get paid. For the month of September I made $44.32. I worked 138.5 hours at the pay rate of $0.32 an hour.

When I get paid, I don't get to see the cash of a paycheck. My supervisor gives me a copy of the "Inmate Work Supervisor's Time Log," which documents the total hours and days that I worked. The original time log goes to the institution's trust office where it keeps an account for each prisoner. The trust office enters the amount of money I made into my account which is my California Department of Corrections Number D42387.

Each inmate must sign a power of attorney form to give the CDC authority to process his money during the duration of his incarceration. Can you calculate how much money is in the CDC account with approximately 165,000 prisoners in its custody? Better yet, can you calculate how much interest the CDC is collecting?

Aside from the paychecks, all money sent in from family or friends in the form of money orders or checks go into the prisoner's account. When a prisoner needs to withdraw money to buy food items from the prison canteen or purchase things from an approved vendor, he will sign a trust withdrawal form.

I consider myself lucky to have a job that pays. Some prisoners have to work without pay. However, there is a small percent of prisoners who work for minimum wage. The catch is that they have to pay room and board, taxes, and the victims' fund. Either way I look at it, it's all slave wages. A prisoner cannot refuse to work. If he does, he will be punished by having his privileges taken away or adding more time to his original sentence. Hence the term "modern-day slave plantation."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Night and Day

I wasn't feeling myself during the day. My energy level was low and I didn't feel like doing anything. I don't feel like that often. Instead of exercising after work as I normally do, I took an afternoon nap. I learn to listen to my body these days.

At nights I was able to talk to a female friend on the phone. It was a super-pleasant surprise since it's been difficult to catch up with her in the past few months. She's been occupied with work. Each time I talk to her my heart lights up and I feel like I'm on the top of the world. I love that rare feeling. We had a wonderful time communicating. It's extremely satisfying to be able to share a connection with someone who can enflame your heart.

We all have ups and downs in our daily lives. However, we all have the gift to sprinkle a little joy on people. So go pick up the phone, turn on the computer, pick up a pen and some paper, call, type, write a friend to say hi. Spread joy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Moon Festival

I walked out of the building to go to breakfast at 6:15. A full moon and cool breeze welcomes my presence. My eyes glued to the moon until it disappeared from my view. What a way to start a day.

I called my mom and she reminded me that today is August 15th on the lunar calendar, which means that the moon is full. The Chinese and a few other Asian countries celebrate this Mid-Autumn Day Festival. Mom said too bad that she couldn't send me some moon cakes. Moon cake is made with lotus seeds or beans with sugar grinded into paste. There're variety of moon cakes amde with different ingredients. My favorite since I was a kid was "double yolk (egg yolk) lotus paste."

My family always celebrated the moon festival when we were in China. We would bring some tables and chairs and set them up on the roof of our four-story building. Then we would eat moon cake, boiled peanuts and chestnuts, drink tea, talk and enjoy the full moon all night.

I miss those good old days. I wish I could have some moon cakes right now and be able to kick it with my family. Maybe next year.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


The yard was closed this afternoon due to some construction work being done on a handball court. It interfered wtih my workout schedule. I decided to exercise in the building.

My bunkie Lazy was getting ready to do some burpees with two other guys. I told him that I would join them.

Burpees is a popular form of exercise in prison, especially in the Security Housing Units (SHU) and Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg). Because prisoners in SHU and Ad Seg are locked in their cells on an average of 23 hours a day, doing burpees is the best way to keep in shape physically and mentally. Some prisoners can often do up to a thousand burpees each workout. Of course, this requires training and discipline of the mind.

A burpee starts from a standing position eith legs closed. Go down to a squat position (1 count), kick your legs out to a push-up position (2 count), drop down (3 count), push up (4 count), kick your legs back to squat position (5 count), and stand up (6 count). That's a total of six counts, each motion is a count. That is one push up and one kick. If you do two push ups and two kicks that would add the motion to ten counts.

Since we have four people doing burpees, we decided to do it seesaw. Two people would go down first. After they stand up, the other two go down and so forth.

We started out with 20 times 22 counts of burpees. That's doing 5 pushups with 5 kicks, which add up to 100 pushups and 100 kicks. Then we descended to 4 push ups, 20 times 18 counts, then 20 times 14 counts, 20 times 10 counts, and we finished the exercise with 10 times 44 counts, which is another 100 push ups and 100 kicks. By the time we finished we did 390 push ups and 390 kicks.

My whole body was covered in sweat and left a puddle of water on the ground. That was just a light workout. I felt like I was lighter.

Ther're a variety of combination burpees that can be done. It's an excellent way to build endurance, tone, muscle, and burn calories.

I'll teach those of you who want to learn how to do burpees one day.

Lili Zheng

Happy Birthday, Sis!!!

Thank you for being my big sister and best friend.

You are awesome!

I love you!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Video Marathon

Every Prison in the sate of California has its own closed circuit channel to show weekly videos and broadcast announcements.

Each week the prison shows two movies to the prison population. However, the movies are G- or PG-rated only. No R-rated movies are allowed. The administrators want to protect prisoners from exposure to too much violence and sexually explicit scenes. If it had its way, the administration would have a security sensor program on each TV that prisoners own to it could choose what the prisoners could watch. It's obvious that the programs shown on TV have more violence and sexually explicity than the videos prisoners are allowed to watch. It can't and won't take away TVs since TVs are a tool to pacify and control the prisoners. How can anyone not give the CDC two thumbs up for its concern for prisoners?

The money used to rent the videos are from the Inmate Welfare Fund. It doesn't cost the taxpayer a cent.

This week the Lord of the Rings trilogy is on, plus a movie called Uptown Girl. Since I work all weekdays, I can't watch any of the movies. Today I decided to catch up on all the videos. It's out of the ordinary that it's showing four videos this week. Everyone was wondering what's wrong.

Anyway, I made me a cup of raspberry tea with honey and watched ten and a half hours of videos. I didn't like the Fellowship of the Ring. Too slow and no action. The other two were dope. I had a relaxing day.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Picking a Bone with Yuri

I finally received Yuri's memoir Passing It On from UCLA this afternoon. I was so excited and happy. It's like I just hit the lottery.

My friend Ben has photocopied the chapter from the memoir where Yuri wrote about me. I felt honored that Yuri wanted to include my poem in her memoir.

I started to read the memoir right away. I had to read many of the articles about Yuri in magazines and books. However, I didn't have much knowledge of her immediate and extended family. As I was reading the chapters about Yuri's children and grandchildren, the waves of inspiration sweat through me continuously. They're such extraordinary human beings and they exemplify the true revolutionary. When I read about the tragic death of Yuri's son Billy and daughter Aichi, my heart ached and eyes filled with tears. Why do so many good people always die young?! The beautiful thing is that their legacy lives on.

So I couldn't help myself by flipping to chapter 12 to read my autobiography at 33 poem again. As I was reading it, I noticed something's missing from the poem. After a second reading, I realized that the two places where Yuri's name was mentioned were missing. Yuri has taken her name out of my poem. I couldn't believe it.

Yuri is so selfless and humble that she didn't want her name to be praised. That's why I have a bone to pick with Yuri. By taking her name away from my poem, it altered the significance of the poem and its history.

Below are the places where Yuri took out her name:

- "My shero Yuri Kochiyama and a young sister named Monica, who is very pretty, wanted to come visit me."
- "They didn't know I've been introduced to Che, Yuri Kochiyama, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, etc..."

I don't feel that I'm worthy to be included in Yuri's memoir. However, it is Yuri's memoir. It says more about Yuri's character to embrace me.

I have only love and respect for you, Yuri.

You are my shero!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Sick Call

Whenever a prisoner is sick he has to fill out a request form and explain why he needs to see a doctor. Unless you're passed out on the ground or dying or bleeding, you'll have to wait a few days to get an appointment.

I had an appointment for sick call at 10:30 this morning. I received a ducat last night information of the time and place of the appointment.

About 6 months ago I played in the prison basketball league and jammed my right index finger. It swelled up pretty bad. I didn't bother to see the doctor and chose to let it heal naturally. A couple of months later I jammed my left index finger playing a pick-up game of basketball. Then my Achilles tendon started to act up. I was feeling pain just from walking. After years of pounding my feet on the concrete basketball court, it was finally catching up with me. So I laid off all sports to allow my joints to heal. I didn't want them to become permanent injuries.

I went to see the doctor twice about my joints in the last four months. The pain was bothering me. The doctor gave me a 30-day supply of Ibuprofen and told me to just give it time to heal. I took the pills and they didn't help. I was still feeling constant pain so I asked to see the doctor again. I went to my appointment at 10:30. There were 10 people already waiting in the doctor's office. The medical assistant called me to check my weight, temperature, and blood pressure. She wrote down my reason to see the doctor and asked me to wait. I knew it always took a long time to see the doctor so I brought a book with me to read.

I read the book North Korea South Korea U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis by John Feffer until the doctor called me in at 11:45. After I explained my problem to the doctor I asked him to give me an x-ray of my joints to see if there were any fractures or tears. He looked at my fingers and felt my Achilles for a minute. THen he told me that I was just paranoid. It's just a bad case of tendonitis. He said he'd prescribe me a 30-day supply of Ibuprofen and for me to give it time to heal. I insisted that I wanted my fingers to be x-rayed. He finally said he'd order an x-ray on my right index finger only. He said that if I still felt pain a month later, he'd see me again. That's all he was willing to do for me.

I was done by 12:00 and went back to work.

I want to take care of my joints, especially my Achilles tendon.
I plan to fun a marathon one day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Because of your birth, I'm blessed with your friendship.
Because of your friendship, I'm know what unconditional love means.
Because of your unconditional love, I have hope for freedom.
Because of who you are, I'm a better person.

My heart bows to you!

Happy Birthday, Anmol!!!

Brother for life...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


I wasn't able to call my mom until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon because I had an attorney visit. Of course, Mom forgot about it was expecting my call at 2 o'clock. She was woirried and wondered why I didn't call. I gave up trying to tell her not to wait for my call. Whenever I call home I almost always end up talking to Mom the entire 15 minutes of my phone time while Dad is in the background throwing in a comment or two. On rare occasions, I get to talk to Dad for the last two minutes. What can I say, Mom loves to confide in me.

Today, my sister was at home conducting teleconference meetings in her office. I was able to monopolize 5 minutes of her time. Then I made it a point to call Dad so I could talk to him. We had a good conversation. However, Mom managed to squeeze 5 minutes out of Dad to talk to me. I'm a mama's boy.

I found out that my parole hearing is scheduled for Noevember 10, 2004, at 12:15. That was a load off my mind. I was only delayed for a month. That's better than most of the life prisoners whose hearing may be delayed for 6 months to a year.

I'm waiting for a psychologist to do an evaluation on my state of mind and my potential level of violence if released from prison.

I received a long awaited letter from a friend who had an opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama. I want to meet the Dalai Lama. I know we would have an interesting conversation.

A friend separated from his partner after being together for 7 years. One day they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together, the next day they went their separate ways. Love and happiness come in seconds and minutes. we should never take the ones we love for granted. That's why whether in happiness of sadness, we should always embrace and let go.

Why would somone want to let go of happiness? Because once you let go of happiness you can embrace more happiness. And when you embrace sadness and let go of it, you don't have to dwell on it. Every time sadness shows up, you can count on happiness coming right around the corner.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Days of My Life

Times flies for me because I have a routine for myself. Sometimes I have so much to do that day that I run out of time. I'm never bored. The following schedule is what I do from Monday to Friday. On weekends, I don't have a schedule so I do whatever I feel like doing. I usually sleep into about 7:30. Then I read, go to the yard, sometimes I may get a visit, wash laundry, kick it with some friends or just relax. I usually stay up on Friday and Saturday nights to catch up on the two videos the prison shows every week, if they're any good. Thursday night is the last night mail goes out until Sunday night, so I write letters on Sunday nights. I don't like to sit at the table and write. There're 348 people in the building. In a dorm setting people are always roaming around. Therefore, I spend most of my time in my bed area. It's my sanctuary.

0500 get up and wash up
0510 yoga or Pilates (rotates weekly)
0545 drink a cup of lukewarm water, meditate, and chant the Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra
0600 get dressed, wait for early worker breakfast
0610 breakfast
0625 go to work
1330 get off work
1430 exercise
1530 shower
1600 listen to KPFA "HARD KNOCK RADIO," reading or writing letters
1700 listen to "FLASHPOINT," reading or writing letters
1830 dinner
1900 reading or writing while listening to jazz or soft rock, listen to APEX Express Thursday nights
2145 wash up and get ready for bed, turn on TV to check out whatever may be interesting
2200 writer journal
2230 no later than 2300, lights out, sleep

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rainbow of a Different Color

When you see a rainbow in the free world, you appreciate its beauty. When a prisoner sees a rainbow, it softens her heart and chases away all her blues. In the duration of the rainbow's stay, the prisoner is completely free.

There was a rainbow tonight so big that it made all the electric fences surrounding the prison disappear.

The promise of rain excited me as I did my yoga on the yard this morning. Though the sun was obscured by the thick and fluffy off-white cotton-ball clouds, the ten rounds of sun salutation were enough to warm up my body.

Just two days ago the overhearing heat was keeping me tossing & turning at night. Today it was raining and hailing. I love the cleansing smell of rain.

The sudden change of weather made me lazy. I took a shower after the morning workout and laid down on my bed and finished reading Life of Pi. Then I slept for two undisturbed hours.

I'm ready to embrace the change of season.

Friday, September 17, 2004


"Focus on the victory and freedom and strengthen your mind, will, spirit, and body by right training, right meditation, and attitude."

Those are words from my Jewish brother Stephen in San Quentin. Stephen was one of the brothers who had signed the proposal asking for Asian studies classes. Since then, the prison administration separated us by sending us to different prisons. Our collective effort to exercise our constitutional rights was a threat to an oppressive and corrupt system. The prison administration wanted to isolate us to break us down. However, it didn't work. It only made us stronger and closer to one another.

We were able to get permission to correspond with one another because of our legal issues pending in the courts. We all filed a civil rights lawsuit against San Quentin Prison for its violation of our constitutional rights. The wait for justice seems neverending. Yet we are able to learn patience and the the importance of fighting together.

I'm always encouraged by the wisdom of Stephen.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Yes on Prop 66

"Three strikes and your're out," a slogan that is associated with the game of baseball, has plagued thousands of people who had committed non-violent crimes and created the largest and costliest convalescent home in the state of California.

Riding on the momentum of public outrage in the afternath of the Polly Klaas tragedy, politicians were able to grant the voters a quick fix bandaid by passing the law to dish out a 25-years-to-life sentence to those who were convicted of a third degree felony regardless of its severity.

Ten years later, the Prison Industrial Complex is overcrowded, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars to warehouse people under inhumane conditions, the street is not safer than before, and people of color continue to suffer from this unconstitutional law at a greater rate.

Proposition 66 gives the non-violent offenders who were sentenced to 25-years-to-to-life a chance for resentencing so the time would fit the crime.

Have people in society become so callous that it will want to see someone spend the rest of his life in prison for stealing a pizza?

Please vote yes on Prop 66 come November.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Terminator

I walked into the building after a busy day at work. I was going to relax for 15 minutes before going outside to exercise. An African American life prisoner called me to his table in the dayroom. With a smile on his face, he told me that the governor rejected his parole date.

He has been waiting for about two months to hear whether the governor will confirm his date after the Board of Prison Terms granted him parole. He said the governor only gave one reason to deny his parole: his crime. The governor did not like his crime and said that he shouldn't have done it.

With a scribble of his men, Arnold the Terminator terminated a man's hope for a second chance at life.

Why have a Board of Prison Terms when the governor does not allow it to do its job according to the law? How can it be logical for two commissioners to grant someone parole, but the governor does not agree with their decision?

I knew that Brother was sad and frustrated knowing that he was so close to freedom. It's like winning the lottery but couldn't collect the money. I know how he felt because the same thing happened to me a few years ago.

There're so many lifers who were granted parole three times and were rejected by the governor. It's no longer about whether the person is a threat to society if released. It's all about politics.

All I could offer that Brother was telling him to stay cool and seek relief in the courts. There is nothing he can do to change the crime. He has the keep hope alive and continue to embrace his challenger.

My friend Rico Remeidio was denied one year when he appeared in front fo the parole board last month. His spirit is still high and he continues to have faith in his God. He was also granted parole twice and fell victim to the Terminator. Thank you for your prayers and good vibes for Rico.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Hooded Men

There was an attack on an African American this morning during breakfast time. All programs were cancelled for the day while the administration investigated the incident.

The word on the yard was three African Americans wore homemade masks to cover their faces as they attacked one prisoner while going to the chowhall. The victim didn't know who had assaulted him since the attackers were wearing hoods covering their faces.

In the old days, such attack was unheard of. No one had to worry about someone snitching on him. Today, people will rush to tell on you and get involved in others' business. Therefore, it produced the hooded men.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Somebody's Watching You

There is an area in the middle of the dayroom designated for Mexican nationals, aka Border Brothers, to watch Spanish programs only on TV. There are eight four-seated metal tables for them to congregate. It's another segregated area just like the Blacks and Whites have their area.

I was sitting at the Border Brothers' table watching a soap oprea when an older African American walked by me. I said hi to him as he passed by me. Then he doubled back and said, "Eddy, I don't know how what you're feeling or thinking, but I like what're doing. You might not know this, but you're a model for the men in here. You've been very consistent in how you carry yourself. When you're less expecting, somebody is watching you. You're a good man."

I acknowledged his compliment and thanked him.

He was referring to the fact that I was sitting with the Border Brothers and watching a Spanish program. I might not understand 90% of the language, but I know I'm welcomed by the Border Brothers. There is no segregated area for me. I always make it a point to reach out to people of all ethnicities.

I pride myself for being able to respect myself and others consistently. As Bob Marley sang, "You can fool some people sometime, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

Sunday, September 12, 2004


This morning I picked up two books from Eastwind Books of Berkeley. A friend sent me the books to keep my mind sharp. I got the book by John Feffer North Korea South Korea U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis. The other book was a memoir of a Cambodian woman is for a fellow prisoner who wants to learn more about his country. I'll read it after he's finished.

Aside from photos and letters, books are my prized possessions. I still have about a hundred books with me. I continue to accumulate them. People in my building know that they can always borrow books from me whenever they want to feed their mind and souls.

Happy birthday Anna and Kourtney!!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Axis of Evil

It's the third anniversary of the tragic 9-11 incident. Aside from a few guys watching the report about the commemoration of the anniversary on TV, it's just another day on the plantation.

I stayed in my bed area and read most of the day. Reading is one of many things I do to relax.

I'm reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It's about the odyssey of a boy after the ship he was on sank and the only companions he had in the open sea were a hyena, and orangutan, a wounded sebra, and a 450-lb Begal tiger.

As I was reading I came across a passage that reminded me of the need for people of the world to embrace to rid all evil:
"For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public area but the small clearing in each heart."

I thought about the people who are promoting peace in the Power to the Peaceful festival. There is always hope for peace.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Fish or Fish?

I don't know who in the Food Department is in charge of preparing the menu, but Fridays are designated as fish day.

The menu for Fridays' dinner is:
Coleslaw 4oz
Breaded Fish 4oz
O'Brien potatoes 4oz
Seasoned carrots 4oz
Cocktail sauce 1 oz
Bread, wheat 2 slices
Cake with icing 1 piece
Chilled punch 8oz

Most of the Asians in my building don't go to the chowhall and eat fish. Now, if the Asians don't go eat fish, you can imagine how untasty the breaded fish is.

Every Friday, the Asians cook their own dinner. Food items vary from canned jack mackerel, fish steaks, kipper snacks, chili beans, chicken, roast beef, Top Ramen, minute rice, cookies, and tortillas. However, the most economical canned good is jack mackerel. A 16oz. can of mackerel has four pieces of fish. It costs $1.10.

This evening, ten people decided to eat together. Everyone chipped in a total of 14 cans of mackerel, 5 bags of minute rice, and 7 Top Ramen. For about $21, ten people got full.

There is a division of labor when so many people eat together. A couple of guys clear the fishes, another two cook them in different flavors. One guy cooks the rice and Top Ramen. One guy mops the floor and the rest wash the dishes after dinner.

My dorm is in the corner of the building so it's away from the officers' station in the center and away from traffic. It becomes the cooking and dining area whever we eat.

We sat on the floor in a circle and appreciated the food and each other's company.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


I received a package of goodies today. My brother-in-law ordered some food items through a prison-approved vendor for me. I'm allowed to have one care package a quarter. It's a treat to have some goodies that I normally can't buy from the prison canteen.

However, having a package of goodies can be a headache. I have to share them with my friends in the building. Now, if I only had one friend, that would be fine. But I'm a person with many friends. It's difficult for me to decide who to share the goodies with because they share with me when they get their packages. I don't want to leave anyone out. I know that I don't have enough to go around. That's why I ordered some hard candies and candy bars to share with my friends.

I had twelve Almond Joy candy bars, six packs of M&M's, a 10-oz. bag of classic strawberry-filled hard candy, and four udon noodles. By bed time, I'm left with three Almond Joys, one pack of M&M's, and a handful of hard candies.

It felt good to share my goodies with people and watch their appreciative faces. A little sweetness goes a long way.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Heat Alert

When I'm sitting on my bed, It's like being on front of an oven that's pre-heated to 465 degrees. The heat is evenly distributed.

If you crack open an egg and put it on the pull-up bar, it'll be well done in about three monutes. I wrapped my hands around the metal pull-up bar and it burned a piece of skin off the side of my left thumb.

It's as if the wall next to my bed has a mouth that never closes. It breathes out all the heat it has soaked up from the sun.

The keat kept me up all night. It's like waking up from a nightmare every hour. My body was drenched in sweat.

I took a shower to cool down, but came out seating like being in a sauna. The water temperature of the shower - always hot. There is no cold water.

The heat gots to go.

Monday, September 06, 2004


As soon as I sat down to eat my special Labor Day dinner, an African American man interrupted me.
"Is your name Eddy?" He asked with a grin on his face.
"Yes." I drew a blank as I looked at the stranger.
"Do you remember me? We were San Quentin together. You were a youngster then."
"I remember your face, but I don't remember your name." He started to look familiar as I searched his face for a name.
"I'm Nate."
Then I remembered. We used to play basketball and hang out occasionally in San Quentin 16 years ago. I was just a kid then.
"I recognized you when you entered the chowhall," Nate said enthusiastically. "Go ahead and eat your dinner. I'll catch up with you later."
"Please do that. It's nice to see you." I shook his hand and was amazed that he recognized me and remembered my name after all these years. I must not have changed too much in appearance. However, Nate did.

Nate has less hair, greying on the sides, more wrinkles, shorter because I was still growing back in those days. I didn't remember him because I was seeing an old man. Nate is a life prisoner like myself. We were transferred to different prisons throughout the years. 16 years later we meet up in a different prison but still in the same system.

I'm glad that I aged well.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Inserting Masculinity

The heat can be unbearable after noon in this heat wave we have been experiencing in Vacaville. I like to do my exercises early whenever I can.

This morning I went out to the yard at 9 o'clock and found me a shaded area by the building to do my exercise. I took my white cotton t-shirt off and laid it on the concrete ground as a mat for my hands. There were a couple of older African American men working out about 10 feet from me. They had rap music blasting from their boombox. After doing two hundred push-ups and four hundred mountain climbers (hands on the ground kicking alternately), I was feeling a little pumped. I noticed eyes were on me as I walked to get a couple of swallows of water. On my way back I walked bast the two men who were checking me out. One of them asked,
"Do you do pull-ups?"
I said, "Yes."
"Did you just finish doing some?" the other one asked.
"No," I said, and I kept on walking to finish my exercise.

After I went back inside the building, an African American I knew came up to me and commented on my physique. He said the two older men were impressed with who "cut up" my body was. He said,
"Eddy, you're just all sliced up. Somebody must've used a knife to shred you."
I accepted his compliment.

Without the presence of women to make men feel masculine, physical appearance is one way to demonstrate strength and power. Many people work out in prison to look good, but not necessarily for their health. They exercise consistently but smoke cigarettes and eat an unhealthy diet. They don't care about their internal health, only how their body looks.

Other ways men assert their masculinity in the absence of women are showing off how much money they have, how many "bitches and whores" they have or have been with, what kind of cars they have, what gangs they run with, how much drugs they were selling or are pushing, and how many homeboys they have.

Such is the reality in warehouses full of testoterone without estrogen.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Around this time last year I was selected in Kearny Street Workshop's 5th annual APAture. It was such an honor to know that my zine was accepted. A couple of friends set up a table to sell my zine. I wish I could have been there in person.

Today I received a postcard announding KSW's 6th annual APAture. Time just flew by. As I glanced through the featured artists I recognized Shailja Patel's name. I had the rarest honor to meet Shailja in San Quentin State Prison about three years ago. She was a performer in the poetry slam that I helped organize. It was at that even that I had the pleasure of tasting her raw and tell-it-to-your-face poetry. She's an awesome poet.

Please don't take my word for it. Go to the literary and performance night on September 24th and enjoy her poetry.

There're many other talented artists featured throughout the APAture event. They're all young Asian Pacific Americans expressing their souls to us. You will not be able to watch them on any mainstream TV programs. Why not watch them live and get a chance to interact with a community of like-minded people?

Please support Kearny Street Workshop and all Asian Pacific American artists. For more information on the featured events, please email

I hope that I can make it to the 7th annual APAture.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Ghost (poem)

If you go out at night
you will see a ghost one day

The warning and wisdom of a mother
a prophecy unheeded

I lay under the covered of a fluffy bed
fully dressed awaiting for the sleepy bugs
to close my parents' tiring eyes

It's almost midnight
I tiptoe to the rhythm
of my parents' breathing like a burglar
and enter the bathroom

As I open the window
I flush the toilet to disguise the sound and crawl out
standing on the ledge of the second floor apartment building
I wonder how I will get down to the ground

Fear is no in the vocabulary
of an invincible 15-year-old

I slide down the black drainage pipe
only to face a 10-foot fence blocking my way

The alluring darkness hypnotizes me
turning back is not an option
I climb over the fence and disappear
in darkness

As I lay under the covers of a stiff double bunk bed
on this modern-day slave plantation called the Prison Industrial Complex
the ghost sleeps with me