Archives for posts with tag: House Mouse

Since I was released from The Men‘s Country Jail earlier this month I have noticed changes, changes in myself, changes in others.  Even though I have been occasionally combative and resolute when writing here…this may not be the whole story.

The story is revealing itself, the narrative unfolding in ways I did not expect.

There was an occasion in the jail when, after I heard that the immigration lawyers I hired previous to the wonderful Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project had fucked up.  I felt really desperate and powerless.  Carlton, the 24-year-old House Mouse. sat on my bunk and, seeing that I was beginning to flounder, took me in hand and firmly reminded me that The Country Jail was no place for desperation.  He reminded me that if I gave into weakness I would either go mad or die.

He said, “There are too many personalities in here.”  I knew what he meant.  I had lived in Los Angeles for a long, long time.

The other inmates understood that I had a greater purpose for being there and yesterday that purpose became apparent.

Crawling back into life has been challenging.  I feel tender, as if my whole body is bruised. I feel my age.  I am quieter, less prone to irritation, grateful for everything, trying to be kinder.  Becoming vulnerable for all to see, not just those who are the closest to me…everyone.

I had lunch at SH the day before yesterday, saw friends from London who are here for Oscar week.  I saw local friends who knew what had happened but were either too polite or worried to ask details.  If they asked where I had been I blurted out, “I’ve been in jail for three months.”  Then I tell them to read the piece in The Independent.

I sat down with those who needed to know and explained the whole story.

I am not spending every day on the mountain, I am making the effort to live.  I am not making the same mistakes.

Last night we went to a charitable art event in Beverly Hills.  I bumped into Paul Haggis, explained where I had been, the experience of jail.  I told him about Carlton and the men I’d met there.  I’ve no idea why, perhaps because he is a director, I told him things I had not previously mentioned. I painted a more complete picture.

Paul said, “There must have been a reason.”

My jail friend Steve reminded me daily that I was in jail for a purpose, he knew that someone like me doesn’t end up in a place like that without a reason.  That reason is being made clear both on a micro and macro level.

Steve told me, “You can help these people.”  So, it looks like I may very well be able to help.

That purpose will be made clear to you soon.

When I have my ducks in a row.

What is it to be vulnerable, kinder?  What will I lose?  What will I gain?

The boys are here, living here.  Three of them, taking their responsibilities seriously.  Occasionally they clear up without being asked.  Yet, their mess that would have previously pissed me off, scarcely affects me.  Who cares if there are socks all over the place, piles of towels in the bathroom?

What does that matter when I am so grateful they are here.

The life I lived before I was arrested seems like another time, like another place, like a different me.  I am wondering who he was, what interested him, what in hells name I was doing?

I was wondering how he could have got himself into such a mess?  Then I remembered that I left that Duncan back in the jail, the Duncan who was scared of being seen, the Duncan that made unhealthy choices, the Duncan who knew Jake.

When I write about death and suicide, I am really trying to articulate what it is to cast off something already dead. I am not interested in dying.  I have things, suddenly and without warning, that need to be achieved.  Things that before I was arrested never occurred to me.

Am I killing that part of myself that has bedeviled me for so many years?  Can you understand that?  Can you see what I’m talking about now?

Don’t fret my darling friends.  I am emerging from this experience with a different set of principals, new standards of living and unusual priorities.

What was previously important is now worthless.  Clothes, possessions, jewelry, power and prestige.

In jail I learned to get used to the idea of nothing and in nothing I found something I never guessed existed: that very thing after which I had been hankering a whole lifetime.

In nothing I found a peace of mind.

Unusual and wholly unexpected events witnessed at the Men’s County Jail included two weddings held in the gay dorm.

The first within days of my arriving at dorm 5300.

Madeleine and Oscar were married before first count one Saturday evening.  A popular couple.  There was a great deal of excitement in the dorm from both the incarcerated and the deputies.

Madeleine, trans, 23 years old, white skinned, full-lipped, long dark hair, sexy voice marrying Oscar, a madly jealous, beefy Mexican boy with a huge bull-dog under bite.

Hedi Slimane…this is the sort of thing you should be photographing.

Madeleine wore a long white dress and veil made for her that week by a gaggle of excited trannies.  It was fashioned from two shredded tee-shirts.  It looked like a Vivienne Westwood gown.  Madeleine held a bouquet of toilet paper flowers as she walked between the bunks toward her nervous groom.  The rings were woven for them, their names inscribed on both. Oscar had re-purposed his pale blue jail uniform to look like a prom outfit from the 1970’s…complete with bow tie.

The ceremony was very moving, the deputies videoed it and then took pictures of the happy couple through the bars of the observation booth.

The House Mouse officiated.

Later, I discovered that Oscar had married 4 other boys whilst he had been in dorm 5300.  On the streets he’d also married two real girls and had several real children none of whom he was allowed to see.  This was Madeleine’s first time.

After they married they fought all the time.  Domestic violence.  “We fight hard and we love hard.”  Madeleine told me.  They sure loved hard…you could hear them all over the dorm huffing and panting.

The second wedding, held a month or so later in dorm 5200, was very different.  A double wedding for 4 black boys, Juan and ‘Baby Boy’, Reggie and Steve.   The service was very moving.  Ex Marine Juan and ‘Baby Boy’ really loved each other.  Reggie and Steve…not so much.

Juan and ‘Baby Boy’ made their vows and cried.  Juan read an extravagant love poem. “Baby Boy’ cried some more.  A huge cheer erupted as they were pronounced husband and husband.

After the short ceremony we ate a huge nacho spread on an abandoned top bunk.  I was the only white guest.

That night bunks are pushed together creating comfortable double beds, illegal ‘tents’ made of old sheets are hung around the bottom bunk for privacy and voila, the happy home is complete.

Reggie and Steve separated after a violent clash.  Bleeding noses, being torn apart by opposing groups of friends, then separated for ever into different dorms.

‘Baby Boy’ was released, leaving poor Juan to mope about the dorm until he found another boy to bunk with.

As I mentioned before, the bond that exists between these jail house gay boys/trannies can lead to unexpected consequences.  Unable to leave their loved ones behind couples reunite by forcing an unnecessary arrest.  Occasionally, however, by the time the released returns…their boy friend, the love of their life, has found someone else.

There sure was a great deal of fucking in the dorm.  The craziest couple, Kenyatta and Andrew, could not keep their hands off each other.  They fucked all day and all night.  She was a fun, feminine black trans accused of hit and run, he was a masculine latino boy with no personality.  She fucked him.  He couldn’t say no.

Coffee in Venice yesterday.  Lunch with lawyer.  Cooked dinner, boiled brisket, Brussels sprouts, snap peas and quinoa.

Ate a cup cake at midnight…bad mistake…up all night vomiting.  Can’t eat rich food yet.

Every dorm in the Men’s County Jail is represented by one elected inmate, that inmate is the dorm’s House Mouse.

Originally called the House Mouth his role is to liaise between the dorm and the police.   He fixes problems, discovers when holds are lifted, dates of release, learns when the police are likely to come into the dorm for unusual reasons and generally makes life easier.

If there is a fight in the dorm it is up to him to get the truth of the fight and make appropriate punishment decisions.

A fight may result in the loss of ‘Programme': TV, vending machine, late night privileges, even access to the commissary or when things really get out of hand…and the police raid the dorm and rip everything up…we end up without blankets or mats sleeping on ‘steel’ which never happened when I was there but we sure came close.

The House Mouse is a tough job, he has to command total respect from both the inmates and the police.  He needs to understand who he can ask for favours and who he needs to leave alone.

The first dorm I lived in was a mess.  The 5300 Mouse was disrespected.  When he called for silence during the time set aside for dorm business nobody took a blind bit of notice.  When silence in the dorm is required he would call ‘Radio!’ I’ve no idea why but that’s what they do in jail.   It means, shut the fuck up.

In the second dorm 5200 our House Mouse Carlton, a young, great looking black man.  An ex gang member, all he needed to do was call ‘Radio!’ once and there was silence in the dorm.

I made friends with Carlton when he learned how good I was at playing Spades.  After a couple of weeks he moved me into the bunk next to him.  Intelligent, wise and stylish he really shouldn’t have been in jail.  If he’d been white he wouldn’t have been.

The language of jail has to be learned quickly.  If, for instance, we were walking outside the dorm and found ourselves approaching a deputy we would be obliged to call out, ‘Walking!’  which alerted the deputy that an inmate was behind him.  Once, I was being escorted to the attorney room and told that I should always be more than five foot from a deputy.

Many of the the younger deputies came to California to pursue other dreams but those dreams had to be set aside because of the recession…here they were marshaling men who simply hated them.   Marshaling the disenfranchised, feeble-minded, surly, mental patients…I mean…there were so many people in the jail with severe mental health issues.  They needed nursing…not policing.

Many inmates were just nuisances rather than criminals.  It’s an expensive way to look after the mental health of the state of California.

Some of the cops, of course, are unapologetic sadists.  Yet, even though I witnessed unsavory behaviour I had sympathy for those men and women.  They are, after all, in jail too.

We were allowed out of dorm 5200 a great deal.  School of course, outside on the roof once a week for three hours, church on Sundays and AA.  The AA meetings were not like any AA meetings I had ever been to in my life.  Imagine 300 trannies from 4 gay dorms catching up on gossip, not giving a damn about the ‘experience, strength and hope’ of who ever was brave enough to come into the jail and share it.

Some of those tranny hookers were really convincing.  Like really high-end chicks with dicks.  Some of them were just really ugly men with make up and long hair and over weight, crafting some sort of cleavage out of their fat pecs.

The tranny hooker market is so huge that most of them put very little effort into looking like real girls.

When Rosemary walked into the dorm the less attractive, more masculine tranny hookers looked very perplexed.

Rosemary was 5 foot tall, well cut hair, perfect tits, hips…a really pretty girl.  Even the deputies looked at her askance.  Obviously intrigued.  She commanded a huge amount of attention.  Good and bad.  She was caught telling another tranny in Spanish what she thought of a particularly fine-looking deputy.  Unfortunately he understood her, pulled her off the line, bawled at her, frisked her and threw her against a wall.

A big man throwing a small, delicate girl against a wall is not a very heartening sight.

The gay dorm in the County jail is unique, I have no idea if beyond California these dorms exist.  I know that they don’t exist in prison.  Which, by the way, was where everyone wanted to be.  Prison rather than jail.  Prison condition are a million times better.  Nobody wanted to do their time in jail.  There are three kinds of prison, the jail (run by the police) the state prison (greater freedoms) and the federal prison which by all accounts is like a country club.

The problem with the Los Angeles County Jail is that is it falling apart, it is over crowded and technically condemned.  There is no money to replace it and no political inclination.  During the boom time the jails were a luxury used to lure voters to vote for those who promised to fill them.  Now the prisons and jails are a huge financial burden and nobody has the guts or political gall to face this crippling problem head on.

The two biggest unions in California are the police officers and the gaolers.  Even if crime numbers fall the police make sure that the jails remains filled.  Consequently, There are a huge number of parole violators and drug offenders inside the jail squandering precious tax dollars.

Even more galling?  Whilst the police arrest and the judiciary hand down custodial sentences the LA schools are falling apart.

There is a correlation between these two facts.

A fearful tax payer would rather pay for more police and prisons rather than educate their kids.

Just look at the draconian Californian three strike law that keeps many, many men inside who really shouldn’t be there.

It is a totally broken system with too many vested interests.

The twins are living here with me in Malibu once again.  They are dancing downstairs.  Their friend Kevin has moved in too.  It’s raining.  I have to see my lawyer today.  Blah, blah, blah.

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