Sticky of San Diego
I have been incarcerated for well over nine years and in that time have met many people. Most enter into my life as acquaintances and leave just as fast as they came, while others take the time to get to know me (or I them) and we, eventually, become friends. This process does not happen overnight. Perhaps I am a difficult person to like. I really don't know, it is something those others must answer. I am here to do my time, not let the time do me. Nevertheless, a small percentage of those guys have become very good friends.
Should it matter that I didn't meet my valued & trusted friends in a professional office setting, on a job-related construction site, a college campus, but on a prison yard? Sure, for the past 9+ years, every one of the respected friendships I have made has one thing in common: they are all felons. Does this make them any more or less men? One thing is for certain. The gentlemen in my inner circle are all trustworthy, sober, would give me the shirts off their backs, and will be my friends until I leave this earth, long after prison.
Very recently, some friend I made along the way sent a letter to me at my father's house. No doubt, it was a person I met at another joint and gave dad's address so he could stay in touch. One thing people learn about me is that the anonymity of my family is sacred. I do not simply just hand out the address to just anyone, only friends — good friends. Unknowingly, my dad put the letter into an envelope and sent it to me where the authorities promptly intercepted it and returned it to him with a note explaining the rules and "dangers" about contact between inmates. There was no way my dad could have known not to send it. This all happened months ago. Recently, on the phone, he enlightened me to all this info.
Not knowing who this person is or was, I asked him. Surprisingly, he became quite evasive. First, he told me he didn't know the name, then he'd have to go look for the letter. Eventually, I realized I will never know which friend is trying to stay in touch.
It saddens me because it's now quite clear that my own flesh & blood has put me and my judgment into the same class as society deems for every felon. Am I thought of as an irretrievable, poor judgment, piece of shit with that dreaded black cloud of malefactor looming over my head for the rest of my life? The answer is yes. They may not say it but my extensive strides toward rehabilitation will never amount to squat in their eyes. Do these people really think all letters between convicts are plans for crime or kill-kites among prisoners? Seriously? We are inmates, surely we must be up to no good. Right?
Could it possibly be that I met a down-to-earth, stand-up guy, we became friends and would simply like to pass along a friendly hello? How are the wife & kids? Is business good? Are you still ...?
Obviously not. I can not even get the name of my friend. Why even tell me about it in the first place? I would have never known.
I am hurt. I am baffled. I am a criminal and will be viewed by most people as shit for the rest of my life.
God Bless All.
Letters to the Editor
Thank you for dignifying Mockingbirds Are Endangered [September, page 2], and being a faithful grammatical janitor; cleaning up my literary messes.
Upon reading your article Maybe [September, page 1], I thought to myself, "Where is he going with this?" Then, WOW, your allegory came out, SPOT ON! There are none so blind than those who will not see.
Kudos to your efforts, and strength that all heroes need, in trying to remove the morality blinders most of society walks around with. I remain,
In admiration and appreciation,
—Robert H. Outman
I don't consider myself to be a genius, but while sitting here in my little prison in [location withheld] thinking, I just figured out the best fair solution to picking our next new president and vice president, and if you have ever saw that TV game show "Jeopardy" then you will understand just how smart those people must be by their quickly answering all of those really tough rapid fire questions. And you see I figured that anyone who is actually smart enough to win on that TV game show is no doubt the smartest person on the planet and they should win the right to be our president. And whoever is smart enough to win 2nd place, is no doubt the 2nd smartest person on the planet and they should win the right to be our vice president. What ya think?
If a man and his wife are both arrested for committing a crime together then this married couple must both be put into the same prison cell together, because prior to their arrest, they both took legal binding marriage vows, that for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, that they are now both legally bound under oath to remain together forever 'til death do they part. And now for these legal reasons it is the duty of our state and federal governments to honor their marriage license, and their holy sacred marriage vows by designing and building a "safe married couples only prison" to help accommodate all of their special needs and requirements
Will you please put [identity withheld] on your mailing list?
On page 2 of the November 1994 issue, I published an article called Miss Management. In that article, I suggested that the president could be selected in a Mr. President contest, similar to the Miss America contest. It still seems like a good idea to me. Your idea's okay, too.
I don't start a subscription for somebody unless he requests it himself. I don't like to send unsolicited material.
Dear Sam Milam,
or whom ever is in charge of your subscription department.
Please send me the Frontiersman. I like that you post letters from inmates. Your 'zine in a way is an outlet for us inmates to have a voice against the prison industrial complex.
I'm unable to pay, but am doing 22 years. I am hoping to shorten that through appeal. When I get out I would be happy to donate some of my income to what you do. You are a god send.
Have a blessed day.
— a prisoner
I am writing to let you know that I have moved and am now in a much better place. The new prison used to be one of California's women's prisons. They kicked the bitches out and, a few years ago, made it a men's prison.
I had quite the collection of FRONTIERSMANS from over the years but, to keep under my allowed 6 cubic feet of personal property, sadly, I had to send them all home.
I realize, having been at this new place all of five days, I should have made the request for change long ago. Why did I stay in the last hell hole that long? Well, one never knows if the new place will be as nice, really. Turns out it is ... and then some. Now, I feel foolish.
I have always enjoyed and looked forward to your newsletter. Hope it continues.
With respect Sir,
—Sticky of San DiegoLarry's Observation
Sam Aurelius Milam III
Back during the 1970s, while I was working as an engineer at the Nuclear Energy Division of the General Electric Company, I worked with a man named Larry. He told me a story of something that happened when he first left his rural home, to go to college.
Larry and his father had loaded his stuff into the car, and were ready to leave. His mother had been fluttering around, nervously watching. Such departures can be difficult for mothers.
Just as Larry was about to get into the car, his mother anxiously called him over to where she was standing. Larry's father wisely waited at the wheel while Larry walked over to see what his mother wanted.
Nervously, and in a sort of conspiratorial tone, she warned him, "Larry, I want you to be careful at college. There are some bad girls in the big city."
Larry told me that his mother was more than a little startled when he smiled and said, "Don't worry, Mom. There's bad girls in the country, too."
Sam Aurelius Milam III
A member of my family was married a while back. I don't usually attend ceremonial things and I wasn't invited to that one anyway. So, I stayed at home, instead, and started writing this article. I didn't intend, by my absence, to imply any ill-will toward the bride. Indeed, I wish her well. I hope that her marriage will be a happy one.
For the record, I'll note that I've been married twice and that I've had several romantic relationships outside of marriage. That gives me some credibility in such matters. The marriages and other relationships are well behind me now, sufficiently so that I've been able to develop some perspective. So, here are some thoughts about marriage from the point of view of a man with both credibility and perspective.
Why get married at all? Love? In my experience, a man can love a woman just as well, maybe better, without being married to her. Sex? I expect that everybody already knows this, but I'll mention it anyway. Sex is just as available outside of marriage as it is inside of marriage and, usually, with fewer strings attached. The available women are often married anyway, and have some real advantages over single women. Some of my best girlfriends were married women. Commitment? I haven't noticed any correlation between commitment and marriage. Most of my girlfriends hung around longer than my second wife did. Children? It's less expensive for a man to make child support payments than it is for him to be married, and the standard arrangement for visits on holidays and weekends works very well for a father. He gets to spend the good times with his children. The mother has to deal with their problems. Insurance? Tax benefits? Bank accounts? Those aren't reasons for getting married. They're reasons for starting a business partnership. All things considered, marriage seems like a dubious proposition.
Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that marriage is a good idea, then there are still problems. One of them is the requirement of monogamy. People are not monogamous. The forsaking all others vow is a recipe for failure. Another problem with conventional marriage is duration. Most people eventually realize that they don't want to stay with the same person forever. So, the until death do us part vow is a mistake. There are alternatives. I knew two people who were married for a term of years, by a written contract, with an expiration date and a renewal option. When the contract expired, she declined to renew it. A divorce wasn't necessary. The marriage just expired. The for better or for worse clause hasn't worked out very well, either, nor has the in sickness and in health promise. The whole arrangement seems to be intended to create misery and encourage failure.
Another problem with conventional marriage is the license. Applying for a marriage license is the same thing as asking the government for permission to get married. The license causes the marriage to be a licensed institution, like a business. It gives the government a jurisdiction over the marriage, allowing the government to regulate the marriage like a business. The government's jurisdiction is legitimate because the people voluntarily applied for the license. Subsequently, they're required to comply with all applicable rules and regulations. If they comply, then they get the associated privileges. If they don't comply, then they get punished. A licensed marriage can't even be terminated without the approval of the government. The parties must request a divorce, which ends the marriage but not the jurisdiction. After a divorce, the parties must continue to comply with the terms and conditions of the divorce, just as they were required to comply with the terms and conditions of the marriage.
There isn't any reason why every marriage has to be a government institution. People should consider carefully before they decide whether or not to ask the government for permission, before they get married. Also, there isn't any reason why everybody should be expected to do everything the same way, such as being saddled with a conventional, Christian style marriage. There are a lot of possible alternatives. There are group marriages, polygamous marriages, contractual marriages, temporary marriages, common-law marriages, and any other arrangement that ingenuity can devise. People need to remove the religious dogma from the legislation and the religious brainwashing from their minds. They need to start thinking for themselves. With a little imagination, they might find arrangements that they like a lot better than the traditional Christian deal. Occasionally, some young rascal might decide to unbend his knees and not get married at all. Maybe an old rascal, too.
My thanks to the following: SantaClara Bob; Betty; and Robert, of San Diego, California.
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— Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor