Jimmy the Saint called me at work the other day, he thinks that it’d be a good idea if I went with him into the county jail and talked with the guys that are thinking of doing what we did. Well no, not what we did before, shooting dope and getting arrested, what we are doing now. Which is more like what we are not doing, as for one we’re not incarcerated in jail anymore and two, well, you get the picture, no?
Apparently a couple a times a month Jimmy goes in and talks to the hardened criminals as well as the first time offenders and presents them with an alternative to pissing their lives away doin’ a life sentence on the installment plan: six months here and then a one year jolt in the pen with numerous parole violations awaiting you once you get released, followed by a new beef and another longer term of incarceration. And by then you’re so ingrained in the system that you’re never getting out unless you do something drastic, like something totally different and that’s what Jimmy’s offering.
Unfortunately if I wanna go do this with him I gotta fill out this form applying for clearance to go into the jails and it’s kinda weird answering all these questions that they’re asking when it states things like: “List all of your arrests and if you are not thorough in divulging each and every one you can be denied clearance for being dishonest.”
Wow! I think that’s the first and only time that the sheriff’s department has ever told me that I can’t go to jail if I’m dishonest.
“Do you have any relatives currently residing in county jail? Yes/No – Please circle one. If yes please list their full names,” which is followed with 10 blank boxes where you are suppose to fill in your relatives’ names followed by a small notation that if you are in need of more space to use the back of the form!
It’s been quite sometime since I’ve been inside San Francisco’s County Jail, or jails, as SF has like eight or nine of them, each one different and more dysfunctional than the next one. And when I actually stop to think about it I seem to recall that unfortunately I’ve been a guest of at least five of them at one time or another, making the rounds and sampling the somewhat starchy cuisine that they provide. Though it was just last Friday that me and Stephan were riding by the Hall of Justice and of course Stephan was giving me a lift in my old Honda because, well, I won’t get into that trifling matter and bore you anymore than I already have. But anyway, there we were and the subject of being locked down came up and Stephan having been a little more on the cautious side, or maybe he’s just a little more squeamish than I am, who knows? But the point is that he’s never really been incarcerated, so there he was asking some question about being in jail and all of a sudden I found myself with an unexplainable craving for these little weird ass cookies that they hand out every day with the usual inedible bag lunches.
Maybe that’s why when a few minutes later we pulled over into this obscure gas station with a built in Starbucks and a Burger King that instead of going with Stephan for an coffee I wandered over to look in the window of the Burger King and was blown away to see up on the menu marquee that they were now serving a BK VEGGIE® Burger! I had no idea that any fast food restaurants were serving veggie burgers, which sorta made me feel like I’d been away for awhile, kinda like that sensation you get after being in jail for a long stretch and coming out to a world that’s changed a bit, only in all reality, you haven’t.
Yet when I got up the nerve to actually go inside and investigate this gastronomic anomaly a bit further there was a bit of a commotion going on with some really smelly dude with a battered face demanding some sort of “meal deal”, whatever in the hell that means, so obviously life inside of a burger franchise hadn’t changed that much in the last few years since I’d been inside of one. And it’s nice to know that people are still acting out in a state of malnutrition overdrive and this guy was no exception as it appeared that not only was his body odor ripe but also his spittle was assailing the staff even before his words got to them, and this one poor Latina was pleading with her eyes asking if I needed help like I was actually gonna take the spot in front of the deranged wino just to sample an overly processed veggie burger.
But in fact somebody had to do it as there was a crowd of people standing back out of the range of this guy and obviously none of the workers were going to come over the counter to help, like someone being paid minimum wage is really gonna throw their life on the line for the patrons of the king of burgers! And so with a certain blasé like disregard for my personal safety, I stepped forward and ordered a BK VEGGIE® Burger, extra mayo, no pickles, oh, and do add a slice of cheese, for after all what’s a veggie burger without a nice slice of processed American cheese melted all over it, eh?
Meanwhile it seems that the angry meal deal man had decided that this would be the perfect time for a little nap as he slumped to the floor and with a short and rather moist sigh he then curled up in front of the counter and went to sleep. And you’d think that this would outrage some people but the crowd that he had been menacing was thoroughly overjoyed as were the employees and it was back to business as usual and not three minutes after I had ordered my sandwich was I then having it handed over to me and stepping gently over the slumbering guy on the floor and turning to go out the door.
Only standing in my way with a little digital movie camera in, ah, er, her hand was a six foot tall pouting transvestite and as she pointed the camera at me she said “do something really nasty for my film!”
“I already am,” I told her “I’m eating at Burger King!”
Across the parking lot Stephan was waiting triple tall decaf soy latte in hand and as I approached he asked me what that was all about, but I could only mumble some uncommitted response as I was too involved thinking about work today to answer him. There had been a confrontation this afternoon and it was about intimidation and respect and how we all perceive it as some put a lot more on it then others. Mainly those that have done a lot of time locked up in correctional facilities as the overly buffed gentleman I was dealing with had, and when it came time to suss-out an argument that he was having with another client he became very agitated and threatening and so I told him to leave and then he tried to get threatening with me and so I threw him out of the program and in process of doing so he said that he knew where I lived and that he was gonna kick my ass because I was a “punk bitch.” And the truth be told I wasn’t really troubled by his threats as I get those all the time in my line of work; and the fact that he knew where I live? Every dope fiend, scumbag and lowlife in San Francisco knows where I live because they’ve either lived there too or are gonna be moving in soon; as for the “punk bitch”? Well, I am neither so that bit of belligerent business need not even be addressed.
However what was renting space in my brain was the thought that do I really want to deal with that kind of insanity any more? And if I was feeling like this then the prospect of going into the jails would undoubtedly entail nothing other than encountering more of the same bullshit as I would be going into their house and dealing with them, not waiting for them to come to mine. And if I was thinking like this then possibly I needed to start questioning what it was that I was doing for a living and maybe, just maybe, it might be time to add another objective on my to-do list, right up there with finding a new apartment and fixing my car—which would be acquiring a new form of employment.
As we drove away, I unwrapped the BK VEGGIE® Burger and then took a bite. It was tasteless and had a faint odor of rancid hamburger grease, but it sort of satiated my junk food cravings without me totally going nuts and chowing down some mad cow laden cheeseburger. And you know at times attempting to do the right thing can be a tasteless mouthful too, where living on the edge resembles eating at Burger King; you know that most of the menu is going to kill you so you order the almost healthy stuff, yet it’s just that—almost healthy, and like maybe it’s time for me to never have to go to a fast food establishment again, even on a whim. After all, I think I’ve paid my dues and yeah the pay back’s a bitch and all, but I’m not so sure that I need to be doing what I’m doing forever and perhaps the time has come for me to move on in more ways than one.
And I forgot to order fries…