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There is hell and then there is hell on earth.
When you’re standing in the middle of the desert of Southern Nevada in 110 degree heat with only as far to go as the double razor wire fences allow you too and even beyong those fences there’s nothing as far as the eye can see, you know you’re in hell.
A wise man once said to me, “you’re only as sick as your secrets”. Well, maybe he wasn’t such a wise man, he was already doing twenty-five to life with parole. But I suppose he had a point. If he is right, well, there’s a lot of sick pricks running around in the world. But from our vantage point, the vantage point at the time in which he shared his wisdom with me, we could see things pretty cleary as to society was really all about. From where we stood there were few secrets left to have and any real wisdom translated into survival tactics.
You see, there are truths in this life and there are lies. The grey in-between is only for people who can afford to live life on maybe’s and what if’s. We at that time in life were not those people. I am not that kind of people today and looking back on my life I doubt I have ever been. There are those who choose to buy into the bullshit they’re sold as truths and then try to sell it to others, then there are those who feel free to let allow themselves to say fuck it and offer up their secrets to be seen by all the world. I like to think I fit into the latter category. I’m not trying to insinuate that it makes me any better, no not at all, in fact, I’m just as, if not more fucked up than most, the difference is I just don’t give a fat fuck who knows and who sees. That’s just who I have to be, who I have always been. I mean whats the better option, to live free and easy caring not whether others judge you or believe your own bullshit so much the lie becomes the truth? As the old saying goes, I would rather be judged by twelve than carried out by six. Like I always say, we all have to decide for ourselves how much sin we can live with.
The wise man who shared this and other amazingly juicy tidbits of wisdom with me was a little old guy named Gene Lewis. He was a one-hundred and one percent hardcore convict, admitted conman, escaped convict, thief, bank robber and a killer for sure. he wasn’t the kind of guys the average bird placed high esteem in. Gene was the kind of guy who you would shit yourself to sit at dinner with if you had any idea who he really was and what he had done in his life yet Gene was more dinner partner more time than I can count. He didn’t have the classic tough guy look nor was he particularly intimidating but in prison it’s always the ones you wouldn’t look at twice that are the most dangerous. He was a regular looking old guy with no real edginess about him, to be honest he looked like Elmer Fudd but spoke like a battle hardened warrior, which he was every bit of. You would have no idea what he had done in his life or what he was capable of doing, nor would you have any idea of why he did what he did and how he got that way. Gene wasn’t always “full of piss and vinegar” as he was fond of saying, he wasn’t always all those things I mentioned above and he wasn’t always a scary guy. Nobody is born scary, nobody is born a killer. He was a jailhouse lawyer, a philosopher, a sharer of truths, a reluctant teacher, a guru of sorts. He was a criminal to some, a danger to society to many and a hero to those of us who knew him. He was also a role model to me in a world few positive role models existed and the guy that taught me the many truths of life I would prescribe to.
It’s a funny thing being viewed as a hero, people who stand outside the law often end up as heroes. You think Robin Hood was a do-gooder, a loveable guy? Think again. He was just another guy trying to get by without getting his head chopped off, an archer and a swordsman, which translates into a thief and a killer. He was constantly on the run and always had an alias like Robin of Sherwood or Robin of Loxley, the heroic outlaw. The regular guy has always had a love-hate relationship with the outlaw mainly because the outlaw will say and do what the regular guy is scared shitless of saying let alone doing. Few people will really live up to what they believe is right, they would rather get on their knees and bob their heads up and down between the legs of authority when they are told to because they’re too afraid of losing what little they’ve got when they never even realized they already lost it. In the joint we reffered to this as ‘sucking the fat babies dick’. That’s why the Sheriff of Nottingham was always viewed as the jagoff, the corrupt oppressor who kept his boot on the necks of the regular guy, the helpless, less fortunate, those unable to defend themselves. Okay, so this guy Robin the Hood or whatever his name was, was a mythical character likely made up to help the little guy believe that there was some sense of justice that existed in a world pretty devoid of it but you get the idea. Gene Lewis would have reminded you more of Friar Tuck than Robin Hood but Gene had the heart of a lion and the soul of Robin the Hood.
Most people hope to be remembered for some kind of good right? I mean only a complete psychopath whack job would not want to be remembered for good. But if truth be told they’re out there for sure, take my word for it. I know a few. But generally speaking, I think most people want to have nice things carved onto their tombstone so we try to make the right choices, relative to the world in which we exist of course, if at all possible in this often morally bankrupt world. I’ve been told that there are rules to making the right choice. The right choice is to follow the rules because the rules are for the greater good of all, even if they inadvertantly cause damage to another. What a bunch of bullshit. I mean, c’mon, let’s just call a spade a sapde. If you willingly and blindly accept something you know to be wrong, dangerous or corrupt you deserve what they get. You’re also an asshole. Making the right choice in life isn’t as easy as it sounds. The stakes are frighteningly high. Every choice we make in this life basically puts up at stake all we have done in life up to that moment and in the joint the moments count more than the hours. When you’re trying to make the right choice, a moment can last forever.
For guys like Gene and I, even four decades apart in age, the only rules that mattered were the unwritten ones, the writing between the lines and surviving the ride with our self-respect and assholes intact. But like I said he was a guru of sorts, a legend and nobody fucks with gurus and legends. Likewise very few people will fuck with a guru’s student. You see it’s not easy getting into one’s good graces in a place where little good actually exists. Trust is a hard thing to earn and easy to fuck up. I had his trust, well, more like I earned his trust. Maybe it was the big black guy wannabe molester that I had to put a shiv into to convince him his hardon wasn’t worth getting his throat slit over or the oversized, brain dead Aryan shithead who I had to wrestle with on the chow line for the last cup of fruit juice in the jug. It wasn’t about the juice, I hate fucking juice now and I hated it then. No, it was about having enough heart, or self-respect to say, “hey fuck you Aryan nobody punks me out”, because once someone does everybody will know it and then there’s no going back from that. Long story short, I earned my respect and Gene and other guys gave it to me. And so Gene taught me the rules of the road. There were no textbooks, tutorials or instructors for these rules, no, it was live and learn or die if you didn’t.
(to be continued.)