INCARCERATION AND ART
I try to look it up, but can’t find it anywhere… A proverb. There are three paths to wisdom; Imitation, which is the easiest. Introspection, which is the noblest. Experience, which is the bitterest.
Imagine, if you can, sitting in a grungy segregation cell with half your forehead peeled and a chunk of hair missing. Blood pooling. You’ve just woken up on the floor surrounded by guards after having toilet water thrown on you. The sink didn’t work in the cell and there’s your breakfast, vomited all over your chest.
Picture yourself left down there in just boxers with the AC on high and no meals being fed to you. No mattress or blanket. Twenty-four hours of light.
Imagine being threatened by a ruddy-faced asshole with his porn star moustache and fat gut yelling obscenities at you every shift he worked.
The thought of a cute little black lieutenant who looks like she should be bouncing a grandchild on her knee slapping you while you are cuffed and kneeling.
Imagine being taken up in front of a judge and you lawyer days later still covered in puke and blood and no one cares.
Sounds like a cheesy pulp novel doesn’t it…
The weight of an impending dangerous offender motion before the courts against you. That means buried in the courtyard of a prison, pretty much, if they succeed.
You’re also sick for days, which is how you find yourself in the segregation block.
You say you couldn’t do it but you’d be amazed at the strength you find, at what you’ll become to survive.
From that moment every day would shine by contrast.
Ryan had been sick for three days and received no response to his requests for health care when a captain came onto the cellblock. Its always the us against them mentality but this wasn’t one of ‘the screws who stands on your throat while you’re down’ is the metaphor I used to use. It takes a certain quality of man to kick you when you’re down but OPSEU has no shortage, I assure you. He asked about any outstanding issues, so Ryan told him he needed to see a doctor, most of them are under qualified to be vets, but in there... How there’d been no response to three days of requests. He responded to the inmate by name, he had already been in for a dog’s age waiting for a trial and most of the coppers knew him. ‘Clark, I will get you down there tonight or tomorrow’. His shoulders slumped in the disgusting peach orange jumpsuit they all wore, more waiting.
Have you ever called a government office, been left on hold, and then disconnected. You call back and they tell you it’s the wrong number and give you the next one. You call that one and get the same allover only to find out the first number was the right one. Then they’re rude about it.
That is a sliver of your entire world as an inmate.
Imagine being at the mercy of unionized government employees with a top-secret inscrutable program hidden from public view.
Need I say more?
Tomorrow came and the escorts take him and his herd down to the health unit and lock them in the cage to wait. The dirty crowded institutional green cattle pen, guys using the toilet right in front of you. The doctor had seen everyone else and he was the sitting alone when the female guard at the desk says ’You’re the wrong Clark’.
‘I am not the wrong Clark’ he stood thinking ‘ah crap, bureaucratic shit again.’
She looks over her shoulder and with a derisive sneer, ‘sit down’.
With deserved indignation, ensconced in a cage he replies ‘or what’…
The catalyst erupts.
She calls the segregation guards from across the hall, somehow ‘or what’ was a threat. ‘He threatened me’ she says, the cell door opens and the beating begins. His last sight is a rough unfinished concrete wall coming at his face as four enraged men attack, holding his arms behind his back. Probably in the neighborhood of a thousand pounds crashes forehead first into it.
Now they’ve hurt him, so one of the guards cries the ever unprovable soft tissue damage, he hit me and 30 days buried in the hole to keep the secret, charged with assaulting a guard. One of these four men took me aside months after and apologized saying he knew the whole story now, one of the female guards who was exceptionally warm to me also stopped to tell me she was sorry it was happening to me, that I didn’t deserve it. The rest continued with their shit.
I read the bible 8 times and did thousands of push ups during those days.
Imagine if during that same sentence you are injured.
Imagine you are black and blue from your shoulder blade to your nipple.
Imagine the nurse telling you on day 5 she will not submit another request for you, and she will have you charged.
Imagine calling your lawyer, the Ombudsman, and your mother pleading for help.
Imagine thirteen days later finally seeing a doctor and being told there’s nothing they can do.
Imagine finding out later that just a sling could have saved you from a life as a handicap.
If you survived this Darkness shouldn’t everyday shine by comparison.
Four years of my life that I fought for my food.
Four years of strip searches.
Four years defending yourself from gang attacks because of the color of your skin. There’s not much back up as most of the whites are scared, but I learned that even losing a jumping leaves people wary of you if you fight hard.
I got jumped by an entire cell block my first day there for not upping money. I got up seeing white out of one eye from abruised retina, with two eight inch splits in the back of my skull from newspaper bats and retaliated. They ran for their lives. I stayed.
I got stabbed in the face another time. Thought he had carved out my eye but had just filled with blood.
Losing is OK as long as you fight hard, they move on to easier prey then.
Four years of anguish.
I am a man who frightens you. I have been convicted of umpteen assaults, so many even I have lost count and served somewhere in the neighborhood of fourteen years. I am over six foot, tattooed, and have a boxers nose. I even have all cops are bastards tattooed across my knuckles.
Admit it, most of you would shit…
But you all made me.
As a child my parents were nominated as foster parents of the year.
I attended French immersion.
I was shy, introverted.
I was bullied.
Grade nine I was enrolled in a gifted program. My world sucked.
My entire outfit wasn’t worth one pair of shoes at Leaside.
I came from a poor neighborhood and was scared.
It must have shown.
Then I met the Police… Not the nice guys my parents had told me about. I was attacked by a store owner for being a shoplifter, after I showed him my money.
I waited for the police.
I pointed out that he’d hit me first, unprovoked.
The judge convicted.
Then came the assault police that changed my life completely.
It was a beautiful summer night and like every other, a group of us were hanging out. I cannot comment on the veracity but I heard years later they were after a flasher.
The two abusive slobs climbed out of their banana yellow cruiser started coming on to a little guy named Dave Zimmerman, and I was incensed. Next thing I knew I was being arrested for obstruct justice, they never charged Dave. Indignant I wouldn’t let them cuff me. I was already 6 foot and about 170 lbs. and the doughnut eaters were struggling with me, fine physical specimens that they weren’t. My friend Joey says ‘Ryan, its only obstruct, relax’
I listened. I shouldn’t have, my freedom was worth more than I knew.
From the back of the cruiser I watch them grab Joe by the hair and repeatedly smash his face off the back of the cruiser…blood spraying onto the window.
I lost my mind. My young friend, homeless, because his abusive stepfather had his golden gloves. My friend, whom I used to sneak into my house so he could sleep under my bed. A kid who had helped them, they turned on him…
They dropped his assault charges later. I think he had photos of his face.
The same cop kicks me in the nuts as they take my cuffs off at the station and I bodily slam him through a door. Only in a poorer neighborhood would they ever act like that, preying on the people who can’t protect themselves in court due to financial limitations, because they know it will never involve a hard working lawyer.
I look back over my shoulder and all I see are the legs and arms of officers restraining me.
I am off to jail for the first time, and this isn’t a heroic tale from here, it’s a horror story.
I walk onto a range for the first time and its empty…I didn’t know anything then but they were out at the yard, twenty minutes a day, weather and staff permitting. The clang of the key that I would learn so well and the door swings open, complaining loudly.
In walk about thirty young men.
I will tell you now that the level of brutality in the young offender system is intense, and I have lived everywhere by now and know this as fact.
A guy who had attacked me with his friend downtown was on my block and he recognized me right away. I’d backed down and fled after he spit on me and he called me out again. This time there was no running away.
I experienced my first trip to the bathroom for a fight and I fought, and lost badly to him and his friend.
Twenty minutes later the next two call me in, I fought again, and lost bad…I was now a victim, a target for the predators, of which there was no shortage.
Terrified, I sat by myself, waiting to be saved from a nightmare. Shaking, almost in tears, wondering when the guards were going to stop it. They didn’t. Wondering when I was going to get saved from this injustice. I never did.
There went my fairy tale view of life about right and wrong. Who the hell were the good guys? Into the bathroom for round three, I’d been there maybe two hours.
Round four they didn’t even invite me into the bathroom, just jumped me watching TV. My jaw was cracked and my face swollen. I was cornered, scared and helpless.
I gave up my desserts, was tortured, abused, ridiculed…
It went on for days.
Then somebody tried to stab me.
Something broke in my head. Like a physical snap.
There were three of us in that cell, and the third guy was mewling in terror as I beat his friend.
Then we got shipped out, and one of the guys who’d cracked my jaw, he got beaten and donated his meals to me.
One got it at his release party when it turned out he knew my girlfriend and bragged to her about getting me.
The guy who started it all got head butted outside a bar in Scarborough and took a back seat in the Don years later.
I wound up pleading guilty for time served. I was young and just wanted out so when they said plead guilty and we’ll let you go today, I did....not realizing the long-term consequences of that choice. Imagine they run your name and see that for the rest of your life. Thanks legal aid for a keif lawyer who didn’t care enough to do his job.
I also have to say, every time I read about racial profiling I wonder…They used to pull me over two or three times a week too, and I am white?
I had changed and you were right to be afraid of me, because I was afraid of you.
You all made me.
When I was a child there were no imaginary monsters and no one talked about sexual abuse. You helped keep them from the light, to keep their secrets.
As a teenager, I used to call survivors groups to be told there were none for males.
I used to laugh about it.
I finally put myself under the care of a great woman, Kirsten Bulmar. She had loved a bad man and wanted to save us all. She saved me. That night, hours after the first day I spoke from my heart, I lay on a street corner downtown held by Nicole as I cried. Not the pretty shit from the movies and there was nothing manly about it. I was fetal and wracked, snot pouring from my nose and tears from my eyes. Three hours prompted by nothing more than a touch I ruptured, spilling out of the armor I had hidden inside of for years.
All of these are true stories; I could fluff them up and say I always won like a lot of men would. Or lie and say I was never scared, but I was. I fought cause I was scared that anything else would leave me vulnerable. I got tattoos to keep you away like a caterpillar has eyes on its ass. I understood jail, and found the belonging that young men seek in a place where I understood the rules. It was sick but I cried on more than one release date because I had naught waiting for me.
Where else do two men fight for a cookie?
And you wonder why I took so long to recover.
I became a man in there, was educated in there, and lost my virginity after I had been there.
These are what made me, but they also taught me patience and wisdom as only pain can. Ergo the proverb at the start.
Don’t get it wrong, one day during introspection I wondered as many do, how different my life could have been.
Unbelievably I decided I wouldn’t change it because I like the man I became, even if I took a hard road.
I realized that without the pain or the time I never would have become an artist, and that is what I am.
I save peoples lives with my words; I soothe pain with my touch now. I know pain myself and so I shine because every day is better than those days that made me.
Hopefully I will never have to face the impunity of police abuse of authority again, or the injustice of the justice system.
I also now recognize the bullies for what they were, dogs looking for placement in the pack at the expense of me. Be those bullies Cops, Judges, Peers or Family I know their face now and their weaknesses.
I have been hugged and kissed by a homeless lady who probably hadn’t smiled in years.
One of my best friends is mentally disabled and I find his world refreshing.
I stop to pet every dog I can.
But don’t you dare think I will ever forget you and what you did to me though. I abhor society and its corruption, and I still work out and train to be ready. I am still afraid of you…
Of what you will do to me next, but I want to be there to save the ones who are like me…
Who need to be saved, who need to be heard.
I am your nightmare, and I am afraid of you.
The smell of her sex permeated even the darkest corners of the room, making her desire tangible. Even palateable. The lighting, casting dark shadows in contrast to orange highlights on the feminine curves of her body as he looked down on her. The curl of her hair, short, stiff and blonde, squeezed out from between his fingers. The electricity passed from her lips down the length of his shaft as he pushed his cock into her mouth again. Her fingers pressing circles around her clitoris and the thought of him fucking her mouth caused her to let loose a moan that bordered on a yelp. His voice, from above, intoned a 'good girl'. The rumble of his voice when he called her that made her feel sexy. She could feel his cock get harder in her mouth, as impossible as that sounded. Her body rewarded her straining efforts as she felt her own wamth running down her leg. His hand reached and pulled her up to him, his tongue sliding between her teeth. She could taste his last cigarette, and the salt on his skin. He smelled like a man. As she felt the warmth of the kiss these thoughts ebbed through her mind like background noise. Gently he lowered her to the carpet and pushed her knees apart with his hands. Speculatively, his tongue passed over her clit, already erect and exposed. The softness of his lips passing over her cunt made her back arch and pressed her hard against his face. His jaw and his lips ground her clit against her body, and she felt him spreading her ass cheeks. The first few times that he'd done that to her, she'd felt awkward about it but now she found herself looking forward to it. The tips of his finger pushing, forcing themselves into her tight asshole. They'd been working on her training for weeks, and she found herself enjoying complete domination. The realization, again racing through her mind made her feel so dirty she started to cum. He looked at her watching, a smile playing fleetingly over his features. Her muscles started to clench and unclench. As she came he just licked harder and put a third finger into her ass. Dirty, wrong, uncivilized, beautiful, her brain erupted. He rolled her onto her belly and she could feel the head of his cock pressing greedily against her asshole. Her excitement apparent, he growled into her ear 'grab the lube, baby girl'. Groping on the nightstand she feels the cold hard plastic as her fingers grasped it. She passes it back to him. The sound of him fumbling with the bottled sounded so loud, the anticipation heightening. The lights flashing behind her closed eyelids gave the moment a surreal quality guaranteed to be trapped in her mind forever, probably haunting her for the rest of her life. the coolness of the lube pooled around her asshole as his hand continued to press on her clit. She reaches around behind herself, her palm sliding across her ass cheek. She saw herself as he must see her, and felt exposed, vulnerable and beautiful....
I am two days into my walk about, and life feels amazing. I left my apartment for the last time Wednesday night, with the clothes on my back, a backpack, bank card and my obsolete laptop.
Thursday I had my video interview for online with Art Connection Magazine, and had a lot of fucking fun. I was flying high already with my newfound sense of liberty, and think we did really well. We did a bunch of filming downtown, and wound up back at one of the partners from the magazine, Shawn’s place doing the interview part. It’s an apartment right at King and James, the heart of downtown Hamilton, a walk up with a loft for a bedroom. I’d been there before and love this crazy coffee table he has that burns alcohol. Add to that a neat collection of art of course.
I got to see the paper publication of next month’s magazine and it blows my mind…My Zombie Project Layout looks amazing, and blew my mind, Fuck I rock. They laid it out exactly as I’d made it. I am free, celebratory and right across the road from a liquor store. Need I say more? A six pack of corona and two bottles of wine wound up giving birth to a pair of twenty sixers of rye.
It was a good time and by the time the whiskey came I was doing straight shots. Now if you know me, you know I seldom drink and am a light weight. You can only imagine how my night went.
I have happy memories involving a fondling, a cattle prod and a good drunk (I will leave it to your imagination because what really happened was probably a lot more mundane). I woke up this morning doing something that used to be a regular routine for me…praying for God to take me as I hugged the cold white porcelain bowl. Kirks old lady, Michelle was a champ getting ready for work right across the room after she’d partied right along with us.
I had a shower. Actually I sat on the floor of the tub and did more of the above mentioned praying, and went back to bed.
God what a great start to my story, a little ‘Fear and Loathing in Hamilton’ of my own.
Tonight I am in rural Ontario sitting in a house that belongs to a man I have never met. Apparently he is hiding out somewhere from a warrant, and some buddies brought me out.
I am going to hang out here for a couple of weeks, run, lift weights and do yoga. I figure everyone knows how to actually train properly, so I will. Knowing how bad my cardio is I have to do some jogging. My flexibility was developed in my thirties and I really do want to hold onto that, ergo Yoga. Weights? I am a man and no other exercise is so yang.
Tune my body up, so it can match my mind and spirit.
In the next room is a wood burning stove to heat the place and its fucking cold even in two sweat suits. I have satellite TV on the fight network and this place is mine for two weeks.
They’ve told me I can live here rent free if I want as well, if I decide to delay my walk about and save some money for a better one in the summer. My brother wants me to move into the back of his studio space as well.
I don’t think I am going to, but I will stop by to help with the renovations and do a mural. He says I can do anything I want, and I am thinking of a Salvatore Daliesque guitar. Anyway we’ll have to see.
Damian wants to grab a house with me as well, and that one sounds like the most fun, since me and him get along really well and he is the only other artist that I really know well.
I am off to a killer start, was awake by 6:00 am and this satellite TV has a whack of yoga shows on some channel. Did an hour and half of light clumsy yoga…cause that’s all I could do, I am so out of shape.
‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step…’
Well there is good and bad news and it is the same news. I went for my first run in the rain and as I got outside I realized I was in the rolling hills of Ontario’s shield, so I get lots of inclines to run. It will help with jacking my pulse, but I am so out of shape it hurts already. I knew it would be bad but wow, again I am so out of shape. It’s a good thing I have allotted myself two weeks to tune up.
It’s a beautiful place, and I am getting really comfortable but I am having trouble letting go of the other life. I keep thinking about my art work that is on display at the T. Francis Gallery, my interview, and all the other things. Its part of what I am trying to let go of…My Ego? The last step in a pursuit of freedom, even if it’s only temporary. Canadian Tire has pop up tents for 60$, and the warm weather is coming.
I have really cut back on my coffee consumption, and think I am eating really well considering my usual. I slept past noon today which is exceptional for me.
Started day three with an hour of Yoga and a fist full of Tylenol, and still looking smooth. Eleven more days to get into shape and only seeing downsides in the short term excepting a sense of accomplishment. I am sore everywhere which I guess is a good thing.
Looking out the windows there is a thick fog and a drizzle going on and the trees fade with perspective. It’s beautiful outside. The fire is crackling away in the next room and the TV is blowing out background noise…I feel so relaxed. I am also starting to think about where I am going to wander to next, Kingston or Ottawa? Maybe Vancouver but my resources are so limited there, but with big risk come big gains. I guess I will wait and see. Maybe I will use Adam and my old mode of choice; navigate with one finger and closed eyes.
Went for a walk today and found a piece of heaven…none of my pictures do it justice. I walked about six miles, or just over a block out here. Only two trucks passed me in that whole time. I really am in Rural Ontario; sitting nestled in among the rolling hills, trees and farms of the Niagara escarpment. At the bottom of a huge hill, I found a cut beside a creek and followed it. This was the piece of heaven. I didn’t see any animals but I heard a raptor calling, that’s how I wound up there, following his voice. There was something that sounded like a cross between a sheep and a baby. Really fucking creepy the way that made the hair on my neck stand up. Saw some deer tracks too, but that’s it. I heard a couple of gunshots as well, in my usual world that is followed by sirens, but obviously hillbillies live differently.
On the walk back I saw the reddest squirrel (fucking off because he saw me) I have ever seen. Its moments like that where I wish I had the web out here, I’d love to Google it.
The wind and the sound of my footfalls were deafeningly loud with the silence out here, and the air so cold it carried no smells. In spite of the cold burning my fingers, I found the peace I have been seeking today, the calmness of my soul, even if it was only temporary. An all encompassing feeling of wellness that starts in my stomach.
I am also starting to wonder what the next step in my walkabout will lead me, Ottawa, Kingston…I will find out when I find out. My path is undetermined as yet.
A murder of crows also formed, and though I never saw what they killed, hundreds of crows flew in from miles around. It was incredible how many.
The Crackle of the fire keeps me company…I watch the ebb and flow of the reds and oranges as the embers form to the lines in the wood. The yellows dance an eternal dance that we all know, and the heat is a radiation of comfort.
I was woken up early again this morning because it was freezing and got a good fire going. Got wise and sealed up the upstairs and now the place warms up a hell of a lot quicker. By the time yoga started I’d had three coffees already…Did half an hour Yoga and an hour of Pilates after tidying up a bit. Feeling super and figure I have gained about five lbs.
Six days in…
My world had wrapped itself tightly around me,
My words echoed, ‘Run free, not away…’
I am almost free now.
Looking out the window, this morning, watching the loose snow flakes wafting to the ground. Its cold as fuck outside but life is good. Its afternoon and I still haven’t started today’s workout. The dishes are done and I’ve brought in a bit of wood. Since I have been here I find myself breathing deeper into my lungs, I would credit that to a lack of stress.
God I have really let go of time, and its relevance. My sleep cycle is all over the map right now as I have let go of some of the tenets of civilized life. The appointments, and obligations.
Ten days in…I think?
I am currently experiencing a certain degree of stress as I just saw a whack of OPP officers up the hill. It may sound paranoid, but I am in the middle of no where, and that was more people and cars than I have seen since I have been here. Cops, in general, scare the shit out of me…I mean think about it. Weak men fear strong because they are afraid of losing their personal power, and these people, operating in a pack like cooperative fashion can strip you of your personal power with societies consent and actually rise in esteem. No wonder I am in therapy over this shit. The good thing is the OPP are generally a lot more laid back than the shit heads from Toronto, and less likely to escalate.
It was enough to interrupt my Yoga though.
My Consultant has a business package for me in Hamilton. I guess Friday I am going to have to inform him that my entire company is in a storage locker for another month. I also have to go deal with the Art Gallery. It is still looming over my head, and as usual I am starting to feel like the only way I can be sure is to do it myself.