191 | Are You Someone I Know?

September 15, 2011
Thursday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #191: Are You Someone I Know?


Dear Family,

I’m looking out my window at a massive duck-shaped cloud formation that is morphing into a brontosaurus—wait, no, it’s now just a long arm punching through the lower cloud layer. We have a vast skyline here in Arizona, with no tall buildings to obscure the view and no big-city smog to gray the sky. The temperature, which usually cools down to 103 degrees Fahrenheit by 10:00 p.m., makes this state an ideal example of why Hell would be so unpleasant. Besides, from what I’ve read, there will be no duck-dino-fist clouds to view there either.

I’m grateful for air conditioning (can I get an “Amen!” from you Southerners?) and a room with a view, albeit a 6-inch-wide view. (No, there are no bars on my window. I believe the thought is that if you can get through a 6-inch-wide window, you deserve to escape.)

I go to our yard one morning a week now. We have two courts for handball and a full-court basketball area and some weight-lifting equipment. It’s like the YMCA without the swimming pool or treadmills. My best friend, Phillip, and I take on a couple of other guys at two-on-two basketball, so it really puts my cardio training to the test.

This past week, my cardio did past the test, but my hoop skills cost us a match against a couple of old guys. Needless to say, I was the talk of the yard for a few days. Rematch: tomorrow.

This past Sunday’s service was outstanding! With all of our new sound equipment, a dedicated sound technician, and opportunity every Wednesday to practice with the worship team, everything really came together nicely. Angelo, a guy who really loves God wholeheartedly and is on the worship team, led the worship through the music portion of the service for the first time ever. I had him choose the songs and do everything the leader should do. He paroles in only a few years, and he knows God has called him to music ministry, so I’m helping develop his confidence and musical skill set as quickly as possible.

For the first time in the past 2½ months, we had many positive comments on how blessed guys were by the worship time. Besides my cellie, Rudy, joining the worship team—he says only so that I wouldn’t prove to be a liar when I mentioned a couple of weeks ago to you all that he was going to join—we’ve had two other guys join in the past two weeks. I’m grateful for the opportunity it gives me to equip even more men for ministry.

I had a bit of a scare this week when the compound librarian thought she recognized me from somewhere. She immediately confirmed what I already knew—that if we’d had any association prior to prison, I would be immediately placed in “the hole,” or Administrative Segregation, pending imminent transfer. Since there are no other Arizona facilities with a California contract, it would mean I’d go further east to Mississippi, Oklahoma, or Tennessee or be sent back to any California prison.

The California prisons have only gotten worse since I transferred here 1½ years ago, many of them reduced to just two or three days of one-hour yard programs and cut education. I’d had a chapel volunteer in Soledad recognize me as her former church pianist in Monterey, but we kept quiet about it.

Not recognizing this librarian, I started listing off possible places she’d seen me—I have played piano for five churches, done concerts all over the United States, sung at malls and department stores, etc. After each thing I’d mention, she’d say a slow, “Nooo … ” and then follow up with a question of her own, each relating to areas I hadn’t addressed for obvious reasons.

“Did we work together?” Uh, definitely not. I had worked from my home, worked with my brothers, or (for a short time) worked in a nearly all-male office.

“Did you go to college?” She looks maybe to be 30 years old, and I attended college 23 years ago, so, it was a safe bet, since I was the youngest in my college classes, to assume we’d never met in college. She might as well have asked if we’d ever dated. No, I clearly remember you NOT being one of those three people (okay, maybe it was four).

I said I have an identical twin, thinking that would trigger her memory. “Nice try,” she shot back. “That’s a good one.” Sheesh! It turns out she’s been in lots of churches, has attended dozens of Christian concerts, and the kicker … ? She, too, was homeschooled!

Gratefully, Dr. Delsorte, the principal, came to my aid and told her to just drop it unless she could remember me juggling torches. You should have seen the puzzled look on her face. Trust me, lady, you don’t know the half of it.  🙂