Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fall Backward

Somehow, time slipped by me so fast that I missed the changing of time. Though I don't have a watch or clock to set the time back, I would have liked to know that change of seasons. That goes to show you how much I'm conscious of my time in here. If I didn't read the two-day-old newspaper, I would have probably forgotten daylight savings.

It's no treat to be stuck in time.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My Way or the Highway

Spending time with family and friends is important for everyone. For those who are confined in institutions, visiting time with family and friends is precious.

A couple of visitors drove over 150 miles to come see me last night. However, we only had 40 minutes to visit out of the one-hour scheduled time. Though they arrived on time, the deputy did not process them in on time nor took me to the visiting area on time. Yet, when the visiting time reached an hour, the deputy rushed us to end the visit.

I can understand if that's an isolated incident, but it's not. The truth is, the law makes the rules and the law can break the rules.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Quote of the Week (95)

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among these fibers, as sympathetic threads, out actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."

- Herman Melville

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Missing My Nephews

It's been almost two years since I saw my nephews. They came to visit me while I was in prison. I always enjoy those occasional and rare visits from them. They knew their uncle was in prison because he did bad things. However, they never judged me.

The reality is, I don't have a relationship with my nephews. When I saw a picture of them today, it reminded me of how much I want to be with them and be a part of their lives in person.

It's going to happen.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Play Hard

When I play sports, I play hard. I may not have the skills, but I'll play hard to make up for it. The other team may need one point to win and my team needs ten; I'll play hard and believe that we can come back and win. I do not give up easily. As long as I play hard and do my best, even if I lose, I'll be satisfied.

In life, it's the same way: I do my best.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No English - Cry

The Chinese guy from Fujian, China, couldn't understand why he could hear his wife's voice over the phone but couldn't talk to her. He had been trying to call home with a phone card for days. Other detainees in his tank did all they could to help him, but he didn't speak English. Crying was all he could do.

A deputy heard about the situation, so he came to me to see if I could help. I listened to the Chinese guy's dilemma and explained to him that his wife had to push "1" to accept the pre-paid call. He told me that his wife didn't understand English. I told him to write a letter home to give her the instruction to accept his call, which costed him $20 for 8 minutes. He said it was urgent that he talk to her and that the letter would take too long.

There was nothing more I could have done for him.
I felt helpless.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Still Here

I was in GED class today and found the book 101 Great American Poems. The teacher bought it in his favorite bookstore - the Salvation Army.

The poem by Langston Hughes "Still Here" spoke to me and expressed some of my feelings. Though the historical context is different, the spirit is the same:

I've been scarred and battered -
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me
Looks like between 'em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop living' -
But I don't care!
I'm still here!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Temporarily Hearing Impaired

Everyone has different textures of wax in their ears to protect their eardrums; mine is oily. Therefore, it's easy for my ears to build up wax.

When I woke up this morning and couldn't hear out of my right ear, I knew it was time to have my ears cleaned. But walking around and not being able to hear out of my right ear made me appreciate being able to hear. At the same time, it was also good not to hear some of the cacophony.

Of course, I choose to have good hearing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Where are the Chinese?

As I was sitting in the GED class this afternoon, I realized that I haven't seen any Chinese detainees from China for a few months. I miss being able to teach them English.

Either the new Chinese arrivals are in other detention centers or they have stopped coming. For awhile, the bail to get out has been up to fifty thousand dollars. The other reason would be that it costs too much to pay the snakehead to come to the U.S.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quotation of the Week (94)

"And Mister President is a natural ass, he out treating niggaz worse than they treat the trash...And if you poor, you black, I laugh and laugh, you better off on crack, dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq."

- Mos Def

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Go With?

Just text messaging.
It's obvi that I'm new at this.
But whatevs.
The sitch is all bad.
But once it's all good, I mos def will get better.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Once It's Emptied, It'll Be Filled Up

Okay. That's not exactly like the quote "If you build them, they'll come" in the movie The Field of Dreams. However, it'll work to describe the governor's decision to send California prisoners to other states to relieve overcrowding in prisons.

For years, prison population has forced prison administrations to modify gyms into dorms and add triple bunks to warehouse prisoners. Sometimes you can even find prisoners sleeping on broadways on the first tier.

Nothing has worked in lowering the steadily rising prison population. Sending prisoners to toher states will not do it either. That's because, for the past two decades, California has become a prison-building, lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key, get-tough-on-crime-and-get-elected state.

Nothing is going to change unless the governor starts focusing on rehabilitation in action by providing more self-help and educational programs and re-entry programs. The taxpayers and voters have to vote for changes in laws to focus more on education for our youth rather than building more prisons.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Tribe Has Spoken

When there's a conflict bewteen the guy's working in the kitchen, I encourage them to communicate their feelings rather than escalate to violence. However, when that doens't work, we'll take a vote to see whether the person who creates disharmony should leave or stay in the kitchen.

It's been a good practice so far.

Once the tribe has spoken, you got to go.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Never Miss an Opportunity to Teach

When I attend GED classes wtih county inmates, sometimes they mistake me for a teacher or free staff because I wear a blue shirt and khaki pants. The county inmates wear orange uniforms and immigration detainees wear read. My uniform is different because I work in the kitchen.

Because I've been in the jail 19 months, some of the repeat offenders are surprised that I'm still in custody. They don't know why I'm locked up for so long. They're curious about my situation. When they do strike up a conversation about my case, they're usually shocked and amazed that I've been locked up for 20 years.

That's when I take advantage of the opportunity to share with them the importance of not taking their freedom for granted and staying out of trouble.

After my sharing, they express their appreciation by wishing me luck, saying that they'll pray for me and shake my hand.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eddy's Coming

Once in a while I have to call a meeting among the kitchen workers to talk about self-respect. For whatever reason, most of the guys have no respect for rules unless you constantly remind them of the consequences of breaking them.

That's why I have become the designated babysitter for keep them in line. Believe me, it's like a full-time job.

The first thing I have to do as a babysitter is to lead by example. I follow the in-house rules and have respect for everyone until they disrespect themselves.

Almost every night I have to ask the guys to keep their voices down and turn the TV down before 10 o'clock. I've been doing the reminding so much that it came to a point that whenever they saw me, they would say, "Eddy's coming." Then they'd tone it down.

I appreciate the respect that they give me, but I told them that I don't wan to treat them like kids. I want them to learn self-respect and take responsibility for their actions.
That way, they don't have to worry about "Eddy's coming."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Snickers Cut

I had a haircut today and it cost me a Snickers Bar. It took 30 minutes for the guy to give me a fade on the sides and back. Though it's not a supercut, I look clean.

Back in prison, I had my personal barber for about nin years. Becuase he was a life prisoner and knew how to cut my hair, I didn't go to anyone else enless he was not available. I appreciated his skills.

These days, I'll get a haircut from anyone who can make me look presentable.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Quote of the Week (93)

Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.

- Khalil Gibran

Saturday, October 14, 2006

People's History

If you haven't heard, the show "Voices of a People's History of the United States" is coming to Berkeley Community Center on November 9th. According to "Date Lines" of the S.F. Chronicle, the show created by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove will feature stars like Alice Walker, Aya de Leon, Sandra Oh, and others reading and singing from excerpts of Zinn's book. The show is a benefit for the Middle East Children's Alliance and Speak Out. I would definitely be there if I were on the streets.

Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States is the first history book I've read. It had awakened and challenged my mind. Everyone should read that book.

Friday, October 13, 2006

TAB Check

So far, the only New Years resolution I'm able to keep is starting a traveling affirmation book (TAB). Although I still have an opportunity to follow through with the rest of the resolutions since the year's not over, time is ticking away.

The last time I checked, the TAB is in New York. I just want to ask the friend who has it to pass it on and shoot it to the Bay Area. If you don't know who to send it to, look at the instructions on the front page. Thank you.

Happy writing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


The campaign for seats to the San Francisco School Board has been in full swing. I read a couple of articles on my friend Jane Kim in the Sing Tao Newspaper lately. I'm glad to see that many people in the Chinese community are supporting her. After all, she's been working in Chinatown with its youth, parents and all people of color for six years. She knows what's best for the youth and the community when it comes to education. Most importantly, Jane will fight for you.

November election is getting close. Please vote for Jane Kim for the school board. Please help her to help the youth in San Francisco to get a better education.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

U.S. Veteran Deported

As the Iraq War rages on and U.S. soldiers continue to die, recruitment by the U.S. military for youth people to fight for their country increases. It doesn't matter where you're from; as long as you're a U.S. citizen or a Permanent Legal Resident and over 18, the U.S. military wants you.

With the government's promise of many benefits after military service and the propaganda of patriotism, many young people are meeting the recruitment quotas.

However, for those Permanent Legal Residents who are promised U.S. citizenship for seving in the military, you better make sure it is in writing. Or else, you could be deported after your military service

Exhibit one who knows how many:

Hector G. Lopez, a 42-year-old Mexican national, has been living int he United States for 37 years as a Permanent Legal Resident. Mr. Lopez served 6 years in the United States Army National Guard and was honorably discharged. During the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the Pentagon activated Mr. Lopez to defend the stars and stripes. Military personnel had promised him U.S. citizenship who Mr. Lopez enlisted. After all, Mr. Lopez was willing to die for his country - the U.S.A.

Had Mr. Lopez died during his active duty, the U.S. government would have buried him as an American with its flag draped on his coffin. But he was honorably discharged. That's when his dream of being an American were shattered.

Years after Mr. Lopez was honorably discharged, he'd been convicted and served time for felonies of non-violent crimes. He was shocked when Immigration agents picked him up after he served his time in state prison and detained him for deportation because he was not a U.S. citizen.

With all his citizen family members living in the U.S., Mexico is foreign to Mr. Lopez as the battlefield of Grenada.

What's haunting Mr. Lopez's mind as he faces deportation is why there is no distinction of his citizenship when he is fighting on the battlefield, but when he commits crimes, the government says he is not a U.S. citizen?

Mr. Lopez is not proud of the mistakes he had made to commit those non-violent crimes. He is only asking for another chance to be a productive member of society in this country that he is willing to die for.

How many veterans have been deported and how many more face deportation and don't even know it?

To those Permanent Legal Residents who believe that you will be U.S. citizens automatically because you're in the military, please double check your paperwork and reasons for service.

To those veterans who had committed any type of felony, be ready, you may be the next ones being deported.

All veterans organizations should raise awareness on the deportation issue for non-U.S. citizens.

Those who would like to help Mr. Lopez or want to know more about his case can contact him directly:

Hector G. Lopez
225 E. 14th Street
Madera, CA 93638

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Sheltered Life

When I work in the kitchen, food is often the subject of conversations between supervisors and workers. The supervisors were surprised when I told them that I've never eaten an apple dipped in caramel. They said, "Wow, what a sheltered life you've lived."

I wished that was the case. The truth is that I've been locked up since I was 16 years old. There are many things I haven't experienced and many foods I haven't tasted. That's why In many ways I haven't been contaminated. It's also why I don't miss many things since I've never experienced them before.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Self Entertainment

One of the important survival skills in prison is being able to entertain yourself. I don't care if you talk to yourself, play with sound, clap your hands, or walk backwards, you have to know how to entertain yourself. If not, you'll have some difficult times to endure. After all, loneliness is a prisoner's constant companion. Though you can be surrounded by people daily, it doesn't mean they're your friends. Therefore, it's necessary for you to be comfortable with being by yourself and spending your time productively. So, if you don't know how to entertain yourself in your prison, start learning.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quote of the Week (92)

"We were attacked not by a nation, and as a result of the attack and the killing of nearly 3,000 innocent people, we invaded two countries and killed innocent people in their countries...Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam. In a country like America, where you have separation of church and state, we're a democracy."

- Rosie O'Donnell

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kami Akan Teruskan Jejak Langkahmu

We will continue fighting in your footsteps.

I just read that Indonesian writer and activist Pramoedya Ananta Toer died at the age of 81 on April 30th. Mr. Toer wrote four books which are known as the Buru Quartet depicting stories of Indonesians fighting against Dutch colonialism and military dictatorship.

I've had the please of reading This Earth of Mankind, the first book of the Buru Quartet. It's my first introduction into the lives, history, and culture of the country of Indonesia. I look forward to reading the rest of the Buru Quartet one day.

Mr. Toer's presence and voice will be greatly missed by those who believe in freedom and self-determination.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Flying Car

Many years ago, some friends and I were joking that by the time we get out of prison, cars will be flying. Well, just this morning, I heard on the radio that someone has created a flying car and is waiting for approval to test fly it. Imagine that: for many of the life prisoners who are eligible for parole one, cars will be flying by the time they get out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

World Can't Wait

It's October 5th. A day of mass resistance against the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration is expected to take place in San Francisco and many cities across the nation. This is the second protest organized by the World Can't Wait Organization. The previous one was in November 2005.

People are tired of the war in Iraq with no end in sight. The U.S. soldiers who died have match those who were killed on 9/11, if not more. That's not counting all the innocent people who had nothing to do with any terrorism. People will continue to die if the war is not stopped.

The world can't wait to restore peace. Keep speaking out and stop the killinsg.

Meida Control

Among the many bills the governor vetoed, increase media access to rpsion was one of them. Ever since a law was passed to limit media access to prisons in the early '90s, many attempts to increase media access continue to fail. Why do lawmakers want to limit media access to prisons? What do they have to hide?

One of the main reasons to limit media access to prisons was the government didn't want prisoners reaping benefits from their crimes. When prisoners can glorify their crimes, it adds insult to the victims. I agree with that. However, when media access is controlled by prison administrators, abuse of prisoners and human rights violations often go unreported. Prison administrations are free to manipulate the media to cater to its agendas.

The public has a right to know what's going on inside of prisons, good or bad, when prisons get to controls the media, it's able to control public opinion.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It's difficult to find an understanding friend to talk to inside detention. Because the majority of detainees don't stay in one place for a long time, there's no time to build meaningful friendships. Unlike prison, there is more diversity of people and a bigger population for interactions. Therefore, when a friend told me that it's difficult for him to find the same connection with people after he got out of prison, I understood how he felt.

It gets lonely when you can't find someone to connect with and talk to when you're in a confined space for a stretch of time.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Please, I'm Dreaming...

It's 3:30 in the afternoon and my neighbor is still sleeping. I go into his cell to wake him up. He holds onto his blanket and pleads, "Please, let me sleep just a little longer." When I insist that he get up, he cries out, "Please I was dreaming that I was on the outside. Please, please, I want to sleep just a little longer. Thank you. Thank you." I let him go back to his dreaming.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quote of the Week (91)

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful."

- Buddha