The 4 Seasons Rikers Island: A Summer Diary Sunday July 6th 2014

Saturday July 5th 2014 continued…

After about 15 minutes of Diablo searching through buckets for his radio, someone says they found the radio on Pit Bull’s bed which is directly next to Diablo. Pit Bull is high out of his mind on heroin and must have accidentally covered the radio with a sheet. Diablo then vent’s his frustration on Pit Bull. “You ain’t all there, what the fduck (Diablo speak)you doing Pit Bull” The seriousness of the incident flies past Pit Bull, a white chubby Puerto Rican about 6 foot tall who resembles a Pit Bull and has tattoos of pit bulls on both forearms. Pit Bull once revealed that on his first bid he was a minor and may have had his tender bottoms touched up. Pit Bull is known for his imitation pit bull barks when not high on heroin. Besides this incident, the day ends peacefully.

Sunday July 6th 2014 continued…

Slept hard until feeding at 5 a.m., my favorite breakfast, unfrosted mini-wheat, bananas and blueberry muffin, which means the black market trade in muffins will be brisk. I put away my milk, bananas, sugar and mini-wheats; As I write Black comes over to offer me several pens for sale. I try each one I notice that they don’t roll as smoothly as my current pen which is a big deal in prison, but I decide to buy them anyway as I will run out of ink and can salvage my pen’s ball with the ink from these pen. I’ve already ran through countless pen inks and had Georgetown Buckwheat rebuild the pen using the nib of a good pen with the ink from a commissary pen, which is only about half the length and diameter of a regular pen. Which the prison intentionally makes it difficult to write. During all the pen rebuilding I also notice that not only do commissary pens don’t have a smooth roller ball, the ink is not as smooth and dark which makes writing very difficult. The current pen I was writing with was a TD Bank pen, which is a freebie on the outside. That is the nature of Rikers Island, to keep prisoners in the stone age so that everything has value and is tradeable, which may also explains why there are so many restrictive laws in America. Restriction drives up the value of goods and services, whether it’s drugs, sex or other contraband.

I nap until I am awaken to another breathtakingly beautiful sunrise in a cloudless sky. There was something about the brightness and intensity as if the sun was closer than usual. After the sun had sufficiently risen into daylight, rather than read, I decide to go back to sleep owing to having watched the sunrise daily at twilight bible hour for several weeks continuously. I had noticed when I lived in Berlin and did a series of photographs where I captured the sunrise and sunsets for a whole year; how the beautiful the sky would become at sunrise and sunset even during overcast weather. The sky would clear up as if giving a show, even in the depths of Winter. A side effect that I noticed was that routine ritual made the days go by incredibly fast. As I sat each morning or evening I thought “sunrise again” it seems as if the 12 hours had flown by. This was the feeling I now had on Rikers Island, the days accelerated and the only thing I could attribute it to was watching the sunrise and sunsets. It somehow reminded one of our mortality and that we humans have only about 40,000 sunsets on the planet. As much as I love watching sunrise and sunsets, I will only watch them occasionally when I leave Rikers.

I fall back asleep and dreamt that DA Vance offered me 30 years which shocked me, I was trying to reach my attorney but didn’t have his cell phone number. I started panicking in the dream then woke up relieved it was only a dream. I sat up on my bed facing the Eastern sun filled windows in my boxers when I hear someone walking in and saying in a loud voice “FACE THE WINDOW” it’s the search team, that never finds contraband- except pens. I was the only one awake, within seconds the search team officers piled into the dorm. A mixture of women and men, black, white and hispanic yelling commands and had us all on our cots facing the eastern wall. This search was light, no anal cavity search, maybe owing to Sunday morning, just pat downs and random searches for the first time. Luckily, I wasn’t chosen so got to keep my oatmeal, bananas, and mini-wheat. They seemed to be searching for tupperware and water bottles. It was the lightest search yet I had experienced, but most puzzling, early on a Sunday, after a holiday which caught everyone off guard. After the search, we go back to our cots, the prisoners who were violated look at their ransacked possessions not knowing where to start.

There was something about Rikers Island that makes one attuned to certain situations; like the tension before a fight breaks out. Within seconds; one of the the greatest fight I have ever seen breaks out. Its between two gladiator type prisoners; one gladiator, a Portuguese-Italian-American who resembled a conquistador and who had ran the house and Chinita game (Chinita is the street name for an artificial opiate Suboxone, to help heroin addicts quit, Chinita is the Spanish word for orange which is the color of the pills, most prisoners used strips which are easier to smuggle, dissolved into water and dropped into the eyeballs) with an iron fist from before I arrived. The other gladiator was ½ African American and ½ Cameroonian, so a hybrid Negro. He was about 6 foot four and and one of the most musclebound and chiseled people I had ever seen and strong as an ox to boot. What I would later find out was this fight was over control of the house and the lucrative Chinita trade. They had exchanged words in the day room so I watched both out the corner of my eyes. Then like a flash they were at it with heavy blows being thrown and landed which sounded like sound effects from a Hollywood blockbuster fight movie. Prisoners started rushing over when someone gives the command “Don’t make it hot” which is Rikers speak to keep prisoners from bunching up which would alert the guards to a fight. “Don’t make it hot” is repeated. Just writing these words gives me goose bumps from the intensity of the violence. As good as the fight was, I was actually cool with both fighters. The conquistador was my milk and fruit supplier and we chatted a lot about intellectuals stories, books, and writers. I had worked out in the yard with the African hybrid, who we’ll call Maximus Africanus.

As they battled, I hoped for a conclusion with a decisive blow and that’s what we got. In the end Maximus Africanus was victorious. The conquistador was bloodied beyond recognition, blood spewed from the side of his face, his head and left eye. He looked like he had been mauled by a jaguar. Pieces of skin was missing that dripped blood. It was like the law of the jungle but with humans. I later saw the conquistador in the bathroom with Johnnie Mendez one of the jailhouse snitches who pretended to be an Italian Jew. Johnnie was cleaning his wounds which was ironic for a few weeks earlier, the conquistador had given Johnnie a similar beating like the one the Conquistador just received. What was also a twist of irony was Perlmanstein, a real hasidic jew mentioned that before the fight, Mendez had seen what was happening but didn’t mention it too conquistador. He actually gave some handsigns to some of his friends to be quiet and not do nothing. So maybe he was complicit in a plot to dethrone the conquistador, but outward had to show solidarity with his white brothers. I fist bumped the conquistador as I wondered where my milk and fruits were going to come from. “You’re a real conquistador” I say to him. He looks at me with bloodied face that looked like it had been turned inside out says “Thank You.” Even though he lost the fight, I had respect for him for challenging such an overwhelming and invincible opponent. With this fight, I did notice that fighters when they know they are about to fight, put on gardening gloves with abrasive leather to tear the face of their opponents.

Later I decide to not go to the yard since it would be way too crowded on a nice Sunday. I wanted to do squats but knew the weights would be in demand. Los, the kid who looks and sounds like the rapper Nas see’s that I’m going back inside from the hallway and says “Tell the tall kid to come outside.”

The tall kid turns out to be none other than Maximus Africanus. I was honestly scared shitless to bother him with trivial messages. Since Los was almost equally menacing I reluctantly accepted the task. What I witnessed next was the most pricelessly jarring contrast; Maximus Africanus, who I found in the dayroom was deeply engaged in a game of chess, scholar-like. The sharp juxtaposition to the hand-to-hand combat from earlier was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Left a little longer, Maximus Africanus would have killed the conquistador with his bear hands and now he played peacefully as if a member of the chess club. It turns the message was important and he thanked me for it. Later that evening, the conquistador came over to my cot, with wounds starting to crust over with dry blood. He asks me to trade a soup for a bag of coffee. I try to conserve by say “I am running low on coffee.” He says “but I just lost a heavyweight bout” which is convincing enough to do the trade.

At sunset I try watching the sun’s descent in the Western Sky and noticed how far south the sun had moved from the solitary confinement building. Its as if the sun is speeding up and several days had passed since yesterday. A giant hourglass cloud formation thick in the sky, but thin in the center and thick towards the horizon blocks the sunset. I watch as much as I can of the deep purple sky tonight.

After the sunset I watch Minister who had already given away most of his possesions and now waiting to go up state, high off Chinita. He is making weird heckling sounds like a hyena. I wonder to myself, if some strange animal spirit possesses the soul of a drug addict and the more drugs they consume the more animal-like they become. The sugar trade is exploding and must be corresponding to the explosion in Chinita, before it was 50 sugars for a 15 minute call now its 10 sugars. Interest rate to borrow sugar is %100 or 2bags returned for 1 borrowed, and payable next day. The evening is quiet as I fall asleep.