Friday, December 31, 2004

Year-End Reflection

I am counting on this holiday season as my last one in prison.

Despite my incarceration, I had a great year. I can't express how lucky I feel sometimes. Yes, time is difficult in prison. I miss my family, friends, and the things that regular folks do in the free world. Sometimes, I don't know what I miss about the streets. I only know how to survive and take care of myself in prison. This is where I grew up. Knowing that, I find comfort in my well-being and transformation.

So, I received 512 letters; I wrote 508 letters; I had 48 visits; and I made 113 collect calls this year. That's pretty amazing to me.

I'm excited about the challenges in 2005.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bill Wong was on APEX Express tonight to promote his new book. I couldn't catch the title because there was static in the reception. The book is about Oakland Chinatown, where Bill was born & lived.

If I'm not mistaken, the last book Bill wrote was Yellow Journalist. It was when I read his book that I found out that Nellie Wong was his sister. I guess literary talent runs in the family. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to read their awesome writings. They're making a difference in Asian American culture.

For more information on Bill Wong's new book and old book, please email

Novels by William Wong:
Oakland's Chinatown (2004)
Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian America (2001)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My Fear

Kelly was crying on the yard while two of his friends stood by silently. Tiny knew that it must have been bad news. He found out later that Kelly's mom died on Christmas day. She was supposed to come visit him on that day but didn't make it.

As my co-worker Tiny was telling me what happened, I felt fear in my heart along with sadness. My biggest fear in life is the possibility of losing my mom while I'm in prison. Whenever I hear someone losing a loved one in prison, I feel an uncomfortable sense of fear.

That's why I don't want to take my mom's incredible presence for granted.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Legal Representation

I was surprised to receive a letter from a law firm in San Francisco. In the course of reviewing public court records, the law firm learned that I had filed a proper lawsuit challenging the practicies of the California Department of Corrections. It's considering filing a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act on behalf of inmates with psychiatric disabilities. The law firm asked me for documentation that may help its litigation.

I would be glad to help them. However, my case did not deal with disabilities. It's good to know that there are law firms interested in helping prisoners with mental illness. There are plenty of prisoners with disabilities in the prison system. They're often defenseless against discrimination and abuse.

There's a dire need for attorneys and law firms to do more pro bono representation.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Memorize a Poem

I came across a poem that I want to memorize. It's by Langston Hughes.

Tell Me

Why should it my loneliness,
Why should it be my song,
Why should it be my dream

I believe we should at least memorize one poem written by other people. That way we can be set free by that poem in times of struggle.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Visiting Blues

Because I have about 90 people on my visiting list, I often don't know who comes unless someone told me he or she is coming ahead of time.

I'm blessed to have so many people on my visiting list. I love having visitors.

However, it's a hassle and a test of patience to visit me. You have to abide by a set of rules and regulations that may not seem logical to you. You also have to go through a series of checkpoints for identity and security purposes. Sometimes it can take two or three hours of waiting to finally see me. I'm well-protected as you can see...from you. Sometimes you would wait for two or three hours, still unable to see me for various reasons.

I appreciate all the people who come to see me whenever they can. I'm grateful for your patience and love. You make my life more bearable in prison.

For whoever came to visit me today but couldn't get in, I'm sorry. Thank you for coming. I hope I don't have to make anyone go through the visiting process too much longer.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Where's the Sauce?

Where's A1 Steak Sauce when you need it? Yep. Call it a miracle: we had steak for dinner tonight. No one would believe it when they heard the rumor. Prisoners who had been locked up for ten years could tell you that the prison hasn't served steak since the early nineties. Those were the days when prison population was relatively low. The food was a little better. Those days are long gone.

Though the steak was dry and tasteless, the prisoners gladly devoured the meat. Who knows when the next miracle will come around?

Friday, December 24, 2004

Why Ask Why?

The fog blanketed the prison without warning. I was hoping to have a few hours off from work since there was no movement until the fog cleared. No such luck - my supervisor came by the building to pick me up for work. THen we went to the other buildings to pick up my coworkers.

As I was waiting for my coworkers to get ready in their building, Jimmy approached me. He was a 60-year-old African American life prisoner. He told me that the governor denied his parole again. The Board of Prison Terms granted Jimmy parole four times. However, the governor rejected his release each time. Now he has to wait for a new parole hearing. I didn't know what to say to him.

Then Tim, a 39-year-old Caucasian life prisoner, came up to me with a big grin on his face. He told me that the governor approved his parole. He got the news yesterday. It was Tim's first time to get recommended by the BPT. Tim is going home on Monday. I shared his happiness.

Somebody is feeling sad. Somebody is feeling happy. Who knows what the governor is feeling when he plays God with people's lives!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Fallen Star

Have you ever The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang? If not, you should read it in your lifetime. It's a must-read book. When I read it a few years ago it changed my prejudice against the Japanese people.

My blood boiled when I read about the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese people in Nanking during its invasion. After reading it, I had a better understanding of the cause of the Japanese Imperial Army's callous disregard for human suffering. I was able to let go of some of the anger and prejudice I had held since I was a kid.

Recently, I heard a rumor that Iris Chang committed suicide. I didn't believe it until it was confirmed by friend. I don't understand why Iris would be pushed to commit suicide. However, it's definitely a tremendous loss to the progressive and literary world. The world lost of critical voice.

With me, Iris Chang lives on.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Parole Blues

When a prisoner paroles, he must wear his personal clothes. The prison will not provide any clothes to a prisoner. Any state-issued clothing must be returned before the prisoner gets released.

There are three ways a prisoner can get his own clothing. One, he can wear the personal clothes he had. Two, someone on the outside can send in parole clothes. Three, a prisoner can buy beige khaki clothes from the state. Anyway to make money.

Today a prisoner was waiting to go home. He had some clothes sent in. When the prison guard gave him the clothes, he found two small plastic bags of marijuana in the jacket pocket. The guy didn't make it home.

Is that crazy or what? How stupid can that guy be to have marijuana sent in on the day he goes home? Good question.

The better question is "Could that prisoner have been set up?" Someone might not want him to get out. Anything is possible.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


My sister Lili is a superwoman. No time zone can faze her. She can be in three different countries in a week without any break. Her job demands her to travel from country to country, city to city, meeting to meeting, and seminar to seminar. She hardly has any extra time to relax or be with her family.

However, for the past month, she has spent any little extra time she can squeeze in to help me with my parole and immigration issues. Yesterday, she only had two hours of sleep because she was working on my issues.

Knowing that my big sister is pulling out all her resources and making sacrifices to ensure my freedome reminds me how fortunate I am.

I love my big sister!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Advice from Taiwan

"When you get out, not all of your plans will come true, not all the people will treat you like you expect; it is going to take time to learn the value of money (remember that you didn't spend it for the last twenty years). Also, you have to learn how to build relationships with everyone including your family members. Just because they visit you every month, you think you will get along with them - you might need to be patient with everybody for the first six months. After that, you are tired of some poeple or someone who mistreats you. Howevery, you have learn life experience your own way."

That's the advice of my friend Lucky from Taiwan after he heard that I was granted parole. Any advice coming from Lucky is good. After all, he was a life prisoner in California's Dept. of Correction. He served fourteen years and was deported back to Taiwan about four years ago. He felt so lucky that he changed his name. Since then, he's married, has a beautiful daughter, and runs hiw own business. Lucky appreciates life.

I look forward to visiting him in Taiwan one day.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Just Lagging

The fog engulfed the prison for two days and nights. There were only a few hours of clearing during the afternoon. There wasn't that much fog last year. Does pollution or global warming have anything to do with the increase of fog? Just wondering.

I lounged in my bed area all day. I listened to about ten different CDs and wrote ten letters. Aside from going to breakfast, I stayed in the building all day. I felt cozy and relaxed in my litte sanctuary. I know how to entertain myself.

Time just slipped by.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Chinese saying "Rat crossing the street, everyone yells to hit" happened tonight.

My neighbor opened his box of property to retrieve some documents and found shreds of paper spread around the box like confetti. He knew that the rat had been there again.

He cursed the rat while he leafed through the papers. All of a sudden, he let out a scream. The rat was jumping to get out of the box. At least five people in the dorm rushed to the box with shoe in hand ready to destroy the tiny intruder. A guy slammed a boot at the rat to stop its escape. I grabbed a bucket and another guy got a plastic bag to catch the rat. Everyone was elated after the rat was in the bag and started to suggest ways to destroy it. Almost everyone agreed to kill it because we were victimized by it. While everyone was still talking about it, one guy took the rat outside and released it. We laughed & said that the rat will come back again.

The rat definitely got away easily. However, it provided some entertainment and brought unity to a diverse group of people. Who said a rat doesn't have a purpose?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Failed Home Remedy

My light bulb broke off a metal thread part. The thread stuck in the portable light. I don't have pliers to screw it out. I think of the TV commercial that shows the remedy of using a carrot to unscrew a broken light bulb. I happen to have a carrot. It doesn't work. I guess it only works when the light bulb breaks off at the right spot.

I can't do without my light. So, I paid someone a dollar to unscrew the broken part. There are plenty of handy and talented people in prison.

Five minutes later, I have a new light.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Now Is the Time

If you're ever going to love me,
Love me now,
While I can know
The sweet tender feelings,
Which from true affections flow.
Love me now,
While I am living,
Do not wait until I am gone,
And then have it chiseled in marble,
Sweet words on ice stone.
If you ever have tender thoughts of me
Please tell me now.
If you wait until I am sleeping,
Never to awaken
There will be death between us,
And I won't hear you then.
So if you love me,
Even a little bit,
Let me know while I am living,
So I can treasure it.

I don't remember who wrote this untitled poem, but I kept it with me for a few years. I would take it out and reflect on those simple yet powerful lines from time to time. A friend wrote and said she'd be so happy to see me after I get out. That's cool. However, my life is so full of uncertainties that I don't even know from one day to the next where I may be. I many never get a chance to see those who're expecting to see me.

I'm reminded not to put off things I can do now until later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

So Many People to Thank - It's Unbelievable

To my family, friends, & supporters:

How do I love and thank thee? It's nearly impossible to count the ways.

"At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolution is guided by a great feeling of love." Although Che Guevara's famous quotation speaks of a different time and in a different context, I can identify with his sentiment.

I believe that any successful revolution must first start from within before I can extend to other areas. That's how I became who I am.

As I find myself being one step closer to the physical freedom that I've been longing for, I'm constantly reminded of that great feeling of love that you've shared with me. It is your great feeling of love that has sustained me, gives me hope and a chance to start a new chapter of my life.

In light of my successful parole hearing and settlement of my civil rights lawsuit, I want to remind all of you that it would not have happened with your continual support. Every support letter you wrote, email you sent, visit and phone call you made, petition you signed, event you attended, fund donated, information shared with others, and prayer said for me made a difference. We did it collectively.

In the midst of the holiday season, I wish your days are filled with peace and joy. There are many people who are less fortunate than us. Let's count our blessings, appreciate our family and friends, and live responsibly.

Thank you for believing in me. I'm continually in awe at your compassion and generosity for me. I look forward to the day when I can thank each and every one of you in person. My heart bows to all of you.

The more I suffer, the stronger I become.

Eddy Zheng

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Birthday Girls

Today is my mom's 69th birthday. I wish I could be by her side to celebrate it with her. I'm counting on being there for her next one. 70 is the big one.

Today is always my friends' Alice & Jeanne's birthday. I'll never forget their birthdays because of my mother's.

I'm so lucky to have three beautiful women in my life who share the same birthdays.

Happy birthday Mom, Alice, & Jeanne!

Monday, December 13, 2004

No Breasts, Please

"Drawing of woman across page depicts frontal nudity/breasts."

That's the reason why the mailroom disapproved my incoming magazine.

It's okay that a woman wears a g-string and exposes her entire buttocks. But showing breasts is unacceptable even if it's art.

Whenever the mailroom disapproves incoming mail or packages, it allows me three ways of disposing it. I can appeal its decision, return the item at my expense, or destroy it.

I always choose to return the item to sender or another person.

That's part of the institution of censorship. Just so you know.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Happy Sunday

I enjoy running in the overcast weather. The cold air cleaning my lungs, the excess calories burning, the sweat dripping down my forehead, and the mind internalizing unresolved issues always refresh me.

I ran for 30 minutes this morning and walked for 15. I've been eating more junk food than usual. I had to burn some calories.

A friend came by to visit. I always enjoy the company of a woman, especially someone who enjoys my presence.

It's my friend Marc's birthday. He doesn't like to celebrate his birthdays while he's in prison. He was hoping that his female friend Jess would come visit him from Hawaii. That wouldn't have been his best birthday present ever. Jess probably couldn't catch a flight out of Hawaii. His friend Chris came by to visit him & that was good enough for him.

It's been a relaxing day.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Good Companies

It was a surprise when I saw Ben, Claudia, Josh, and Binh waiting in the visiting area. They just decided to come see me. I'm so lucky to have met them. Ben has benn contacting people in other prisons to contribute to the Asian Pirsoners Revolution Anthology. He said Marilyn Buck is talking to a couple of Asian women prisoners to contribute. Binh has three finals coming. Claudia & Josh have been working on the Third World Forum newspaper on campus. They are students at UC Davis.

Their thirst for knowledge and actions in making a difference against injustices and cylce of violence this U.S. government promotes inspire me.

My sister, her brother, & my brother-in-law came to visit. I was expecting them. Because I am allowed five visitors at one time, my friends decided to leave to accomodate me.

I'm always grateful to see my sister because I don't get to see her often due to her hectic work schedule. Lucky for me she didn't have to travel overseas this month. She's been doing her best to help me get home.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Settlement Hearing

It took 10 minutes to finalize the settlement of my civil rights lawsuit against the officials of San Quentin Prison for violating my right to freedom of speech.

This afternoon I was on the telephone with the judge presiding over the settlement hearing. My attorney Peter Kang was in the courtroom representing me. The Deputy Attorney General represented the defendants. A CDC State Attorney was on the phone representing CDC (California Dept. of Corrections).

My attorney read outloud as list of eleven settlement agreements to the court. All parties agreed to the terms and the lawsuit was settled.

The lawsuit was filed on March 1, 2003. It's finally settled without having to go to trial. I won a small battle against the CDC. There are more battles ahead.

I will share the list of settlements once I receive the court order.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Settlement Conference

The Deputy Attorney General arranged with the prison litigation coordinator a teleconference with my attorneys and me about discussing the terms of settlement in my civil rights lawsuit.

The Deputy AG gave my attorneys an offer to settle the lawsuit & my attorneys thought that it was a generous offer after considering all the circumstances. They recommended that I settle because it would benefit my parole. After some contemplation, I agreed under my attorneys' recommendation. Their focus is to get me out of prison & I can't dispute that.

I was on the phone with my attorneys Peter Kang from the law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood & Victor Hwang from the Asian Pacific Islanders Legal Outreach. They represented me pro bono and have worked on my lawsuit since April 2003. They had my best interest in mind & worked tirelessly in their limited spare time. Due to their professional representation and compassion, I'm able to triumph in my search for justice.

I'm grateful to have Peter & Victor on my side to protect my rights. I can't ask for anything better.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bamboo Girl

I was looking through my boxes and found Issue 10 of Bamboo Girl. A friend gave me the zine in the year of 2000. I love the zine so much that I kept it close to me.

It was in BG that I saw the advertisement of Helen Zia's book Asian American Dream: The Emergence of an Asian American People. I bought the book & enjoyed it. I also bought four other books that were recommended by the zine.

Also, it was the issue of BG that I saw a picture of Ishle Park. I didn't know who she was then.

Somehow, four years later, Helen Zia & Ishle Park are on my visiting list. How dope is that?

I remember wanting to write a letter to Bamboo Girl to promote my zine. Somehow, I didn't do it.

I don't know whether BG is still in operation. A friend was getting me a subscription of the zine. I'm still waiting patiently.

Bamboo Girl rocks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

MCI = Monopoly

I was able to talk to Anmol in New York today. Luckily, his telephone is under MCI. Unfortunately, MCI charges more than 630% for collect calls.

To initiate a collect call to New York, MCI chares $3.89. Then each minute costs $0.89. A 15-minute phone call will cost about $17.

In California, if the family members of the incarcerated don't have MCI, they're disconnected.

No MCI, no calls for you.

Yes MCI, sucking you dry.

For more information on MCI and Department of Corrections' monopoly on families of the incarcerated, go to

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Immigrant Experience

I have a friend who searches through the Internet for articles that are of interest to me. That's one way I stay in touch with current events and connect to the world.

The latest packet of articles included four Asian American and one Haitian American writer. They wrote about their immigrant experience to the Big Apple. Somehow they all happen to be New Yorkers, which leads one to wonder whether there are more talented people living in New York.

Please check out their articles online:

"Facing Poverty with a Rich Girl's Habits" by Suki Kim

"No One Cared If I Kissed Girls" by Staceyann Chin

"New York was Our City on the Hill" by Edwidge Danticat

"I Breathed in the Air of a Million Misfits" by Sanjna N. Singh

"My Name is not Cool Anymore" by Mohammed Naseehu Ali

Feel free to write your immigrant experience and share it with people.

Just Listening

It's rare that I exercise indoor for more than an hour. There was no yard today, so I joined my neighbor John for some indoor exercise.

John is an older Mexican American, 45. Throughout the workout, John never stopped talking. I just listened. The more he talked, the more nonsense came out of of his mouth. I gestured the 70% listening & 30% talking sign on my wall to give him a hint. However, he didn't get it and kept on talking.

We exercised for an hour and a half. I had a good sweat. At the same time, I realized that the less I talk, the more I learn.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

My Guardian Angel

I never realized how short two hours could be.

I had no idea who was coming to visit me when my name was called. I was ecstatic when I saw Anmol standing in the visiting room waiting area. He was supposed to be in New York. I didn't expect to see him. Jane and Alice came with him.

Because Anmol had to leave for the airport at 12:30, we had about two hours to talk. It was all business as soon as we sat down. It was the first time we saw and talked to each other since the end of October. Anmol gave me an update on my parole and immigration situations and I shared the highlights of my parole hearing with him.

As usual, I'm amazed at Anmol's ability and dedication in working tirelessly to secure my freedom. No doubt he is my Guardian Angel.

I didn't get to talk to Jane and Alice too much. However, their presence showered me with love.

My future is still full of uncertainties. However, knowing Anmol is there with me every step of the way, I have no fear.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Day of Peace & Rest

Finally I was able to get a good night's sleep. I went to the yard and worked off some bundled up energy. The cold air made me feel alive and appreciative.

Shelly came by to visit me. I was able to talk to her about my feelings and debrief. I can always count on her to listen. She had good timing. I needed a friend.

Then my Franciscan friend showed up to see me. It's been over two years since we saw each other. It was a pleasant surprise to catch up with him. We didn't skip a beat. He'll be heading to Vietnam for a month. He wanted to see me before his trip. I had a great time.

After my bunky went to solitary confinement due to the altercation, I had to find a new bunky. My friend Marc was the best candidate. He moved in wirh me, so to speak. I'll be a new beginning for the both of us.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Sleepless in Solano

I had two hours of sleep, but I wasn't tired. I did Pilates and meditated. I said a few prayers for the people involved in the altercation. I wished them well in solitary confinement and that they would learn their lesson.

Though my heart was at peace, I couldn't help but stay on guard. Someone could attack me while I'm sleeping. That was the thought in every black & Asian's mind. Most people slept with their boots and clothes on. Yet, they were not sleeping.

Anything could happen in prison. Every action creates a ripple effect. One minute everything seems fine and dandy, the next minute, chaos breaks out without any warning.

Some days we are sound asleep, other days we are sleepless.

Life in prison - prison dictates lives.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

It's All Bad

It's almost 8 o'clock. The Fox TV show O.C. is about to come on. My bunky, my neighbor, and I were in our beds waiting to watch the show (yes, I indulge myself in some TV shows for entertainment).

Then minutes later, the alarm went off in the building. A fight broke out. My bunky, neighbor, and another Asian guy were fighting with one black guy. The guards used pepper spray to stop the fight and ordered everyone to get down ont he ground.

It looked bad. Three young Asians beating up an older black man. The entire black population was outraged. It escalated to a racial confrontation.

Everyone jumped to the conclusion and wanted to retaliate. They didn't know what caused the fight. Their emotions blinded their eyes & reasoning.

An Asian was attacked.

The Asians were outraged. They grouped together to evaluate the situation.

The blacks grouped together and started moving toward the Asian mob mentality.

The guards were sitting in their chairs - doing nothing.

Racial tension was thick in the air. THe blacks and Asians were in a stand off. As the saying goes, "One feather would have broken the camel's back."

I stayed in my bed area observing - heart at peace, but mind racing. It was 11:35pm. Any second could've been the end of my future. I knew what I had to do. My heart was at peace but my mind was racing & crystal clear. I had a responsibility to myself, family, friends, & society.

A trace was called. There was communication. Racial tensions lessened, but still lingered.

The truth was revealed. The black guy, whose mentality unstabled, hit the Asian guy on two occasions. He also had similar run-ins with two other blacks. The building guards were notified of the problem. The guard did nothing. The second time, the Asian was hit, the other two Asians jumped in (not an excuse, only mitigating factor).

There were plenty of ways to deal with the situation non-violently. However, there was no communication. The three Asians were young, dumb, and full of ignorance.

Acting without thinking almost led to a race riot.

The struggle for peace and harmony continues...