May 28, 2008
Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #28: SmurfJacks
Hi ya! I already know you all are doing just ducky—because you’ve all recently written to me! Thank you so much!
Go, Spurs! Argh. My allegiance has cost me dearly. Nearly everyone here is a Lakers fan. Lakers hype had reached—as double-talk artist Durwood would put it—an all-time “level” () when I decided to get pro-Spurs vocal. I was called to “Kid’s” door for a friendly wager: his Lakers vs. my Spurs in the play-offs. I agreed. Seven desserts are on the winning outcome of the series, with something special on a per-game basis. SmurfJacks. Okay, I’m fine with possibly losing 7 desserts for the sake of a little fun, competitive spirit. SmurfJacks? I asked and received a quick demonstration by “Ogre,” Kid’s cellie, who is a large Shrek-like creature.
Picture this (and if you are the man of your household, you must demonstrate for the weaker s … gender (my familyism for this issue: Larry Moll in prayer at a Youth Camp: “Thank you, God, that we can be here with members of the opposite s … gender.”). Crouch down, keeping your knees glued together and elbows pinned to your sides. Doing jumping-jacks in this position, call off 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, SMURF! I agreed to 20 “on demand,” whenever he wanted, but all 20 at once, since I’m a porter, and he’s not … otherwise, he could dink me around for 3 at a time my whole shift.
I accepted the challenge and broke off 20 SmurfJacks after the LA Lakers’ come-from-20-points-behind win for game 1. He caught me getting into the shower with just my boxers on. The beautiful thing was no one else noticed.
I wasn’t so lucky the next time, after the Lakers trounced my Spurs by 25 points in game 2. Kid had jokingly shown me a blue floppy “hat” a lá the white ones worn by Smurfs that he’d made.
“I’ll wear it!” I asserted.
“Nah, you don’t have to!” he said.
I took the hat, ready for whenever he’d ask me to do the 20 SmurfJacks. I knew I was in trouble when C.O. Winters’ first words to me were “You bet against the Lakers??!!! That’s not a good idea!”
Kid had cleared the SmurfJacks activity with Winters. However, the tower cop, Sanford—the guy who hired me—is extremely straight-laced and by-the-book. I can’t have my shirt off while cleaning up (only after my shower), and I can’t do chin-ups or any other “exercise” on his watch, like porters in other buildings often do (though I’ve gotten away with doing a handstand on a chair without him seeing ).
I knew Sanford wouldn’t allow SmurfJacks on his dinner floor. … So I thought until I was passing out condiments on the tables, preparing for dinner …
Sanford’s deep drawl came booming out the P.A. system: “Well, gentlemen, it looks like we’ll be getting live entertainment at dinner tonight! Come prepared to enjoy the show.” Then, “Don’t worry, Christopher; I’m on your side.”
It was as awful as you are picturing. Right in the middle of the bottom tier’s dinner (Kid is on the lower tier), Sanford’s voice penetrated the sounds of conversation at the 4-men tables: “I want to get PAID!! I WANT TO GET PAID!!!!”
I pulled out the floppy Smurf hat, put it on my head, walked out to the middle of the dining room, and counted them off: “1, 2, 3, 4, Smurf …”
I finished to raucous laughter—and wild applause. “Go, Spurs!” I shouted.
The secret was out, and everyone looked forward to hearing who would win the next game. Spurs were playing at home … but I read that teams who have been coached by Phil Jackson who start a play-off series 1–0 have a 40–0 history of eventually winning it in the end. Great. Go, Spurs. Please? …
At dinner, K.J. kept eyeing me, but Winters and Sanford weren’t working. I decided to wait until they were back on duty the next night. Meanwhile, K.J. called me over to his door, trying like crazy to get out of doing the SmurfJacks.
“I can be bought!” I offered.
He tried 2 soups. Nope. “Four soups to get out of it—8 soups for me to do them for you!” Soups are 25 cents each.
He tried a different tactic: “I have back problems and water on the knee!” he claimed. Yeah, yet supposedly he was knows as the “Skateboarding Serial Bank-Robbing Bandit,” making his getaways by skateboard. I reminded him.
I also told him that as long as “you just put on the hat, and touch your hands to your head a few times, the guys will help you out!”
We both knew that after my SmurfJack-defining moment, the dinnerful of felons wouldn’t let him off the hook so easily. “I’m even willing,” I said, smirking, “not to let everyone know that you were trying to get out of your obligation!”
“I hate you, Christopher,” he pouted, sulking back into his cell.
Last night, justice was served. In the middle of dinner, I waltzed down an aisle of tables to the back row, where K.J. was sitting. I made a show of handing him the blue Smurf hat, saying he might need it soon. Sure enough, Sanford’s voice boomed the good news to the eager inmates: “Well, gentlemen, it looks like we’ll be favored with more entertainment tonight! Let’s see it!”
K.J. reluctantly stood at his seat, put the hat on, and commenced the SmurfJacks, but Sanford wasn’t letting him off easily. “No! No! No!” he shouted. “Those do NOT count! Get your butt up here to the front. Come on … that’s right … all the way … now let’s see it.”
A very red-faced K.J. got through the SmurfJacks (without counting them off, though) and shot back to his table. Everyone loved it, as I sang, “La, la, la-la, la la la-la, la, la, la, la, la!” K.J. didn’t realize when he made the bet that I was made to be the Center of Attention—not really his style.
I cranked out 20 more tonight, again to much amusement of all. It looks like I’ll probably have another 20 to do soon. Poor Spurs. Come on, guys!
The huge upside to all this? Positive notoriety. A bunch of guys have talked to me who hadn’t before … and, I’ve come out looking like a good-natured “mascot” or something. Maybe not-so-public bets in the future …
Random thought: Since I always shower with a pair of boxers on—not something I usually did at home—a full 90% of the time, as the water hits my shorts, I get this quick panic—!—Did I forget to take my cell phone out of my pocket? Yeah. I forgot something, alright. Sheesh. What a moron. I’m taking bets on how long that sensation lasts. (Christopher: Pick up your Clue Phone. It’s ringing. Dang voicemail.)
In similar, not-so-fun revelations, though: Every once in a while (sometimes a few times in a day), I get mini panic-attacks (I’m not sure what one feels like, but this is like an anxious feeling—a jolt in my chest), like you might feel if you look down from an unsafe height. It happens as a realization that this isn’t like every other travel, vacation, missionary trip, or moving experience: I’m not going home.
Guaranteed, this is not a feeling you have ever had, with the possible exception of any prolonged moments when you thought you were actually going to die, like Daddy, in 1992. It isn’t pleasant, and if not handled with immediate prayer, could lead to depression, fears, and unreasonable thoughts.
Gratefully, God has been gracious to me! “Be anxious for nothing!” He tells me. Everything in my life is in His control. I need that calm reassurance sometimes. The other experience that happens unpleasantly often is every morning waking up in prison. It’s not fun. Waking up throughout the night (a cellie using the tornado-inspired toilet, speaking/yelling in his sleep [both Gypsy and Jonathan], or the radio/PA/TV on at odd hours) just gives me that many more fun “waking up in prison” moments. Yes, and that many more moments to practice: “In everything give thanks!”
The reality of being here was experienced my first day in county jail last year and again on February 28 of this year. It’s not the “reality sinking in” or whatever. It’s the finality of it, of all the pleasant things in my life coming to an abrupt end, of the harshness of the punishment to my family and closest friends. Pray for continued victory in my mind.
I’m just letting you see a very personal side of what this entails. I don’t want to share something that could be misconstrued by those who may not know me well as being something I’ve had to “endure” or it being a “hardship” here or something. It is NOT tough being here … that is, it is no more difficult than what you each have experienced—separation from someone you love. That’s it, really. Please don’t feel sorry for me! I have many blessings, each one more than I deserve.
Feel sorry for my family and my victims, since the true anguish is amongst those. I love you guys, and I’m so very grateful for your letters and prayers! God is doing an awesome work in my life, and He’s not planning all this time spent on me to go to waste! I’m in awe of His constant love and care for my needs. I love you.