One more for the dead pool
Now that America’s most famous celebrity jailbird is out of the hoosegow ‘n’ rehab combo she got sentenced to earlier in the summer, or so the tabs are reporting, and she’s whoring herself out to the highest bidder for product placement, the first one being Rockstar energy drinks, a company founded by the son of right-wing hate-radio star Michael Savage, whose wife is the company’s chief financial officer, perhaps it’s time for me to tell my little jail story. Actually, I have a whole bunch of them, because I was kind of a bad boy back in the day, but most of those were hammer-headed rousts that resulted in overnight stays in the tank followed by a kickout at dawn, which really don’t count. But I did do three weeks’ straight time some 30 years ago, when I was still somewhat of a lad, a wee bit of days that meant I was “shorter than a skeeter’s dick” in the parlance of some of my juzgado-confined contemporaries. Although being locked up made enough of an impression on me that I managed to get sober 12 and a half years later, and I’m still sober nearly 18 years after that. But as usual I digress.
Not that I give much of a fuck about the spoiled-rotten case of celebrity entitlement syndrome named Lindsay Lohan, who’s less than a year older than my daughter Ellie, or her celebrity entitlement syndrome-afflicted family, either. But Lohan is, I’m guessing, an addict, contrary to celebrity doctor opinion, and I had figured that a little jail time might be good for her. It was for me in 1980, when Judge William Giffen of the San Joaquin County Superior Court took a long, rambling letter I’d written him about how I was not an alcoholic, even though I’d racked up three DUIs, one in 1976 in which I took a swing at the arresting cop, and two in 1979, and the judge laughed openly at my words and mocked me in court in front of all the other ne’er-do-wells there that day, and then he ripped up my long-winded letter before sentencing me to 30 days in the French Camp Motel, which was a barracks-like farm next to the main county jail on Mathews Road. And as I had zero celebrity status to fall back on, I did the time.
Jail actually did me some good. I went to AA meetings, idiotic smoke-filled jackoff fests run by this 400-pound hog of a man who’d rolled up in a blue beater Plymouth Duster with an “Easy Does It” bumper sticker on the back, who yelled at all us incarcerated losers to sit down and shut the fuck up and we might learn something. We jeered his fat sweaty light-cigarette-smoking ass, and we jeered the trustys who tried to find his porcine little dick to suck it so they might get out a little earlier, too. Going to AA meetings got you out of work detail.
Not that work detail was all that bad. I got assigned to the laundry, and this cop named Officer Stambaugh took a shine to me and this black cat named Cleotis who had 10 years on me in age, and he’d drive us downtown in a Sheriff’s pickup truck to the courthouse where we could move file cabinets around in our jailhouse blues and check out the rumpage on the courthouse secretarial pool. Aside from that, we separated clothes in on the jailhouse laundry floor and washed ’em and folded ’em. Not rocket science.
Some people got hoeing-weeds detail, which sucked if it was during the interminable San Joaquin Valley summer heat, but it was only April so it wasn’t so goddamn dessicating. I think I had to how weeds during one of my other stints at the Motel, the previous October, but not this time. Kitchen detail was all right, too, but the cops seemed to favor putting all the Mexicans in the kitchen. So what those Mexicans did was corner the captive market for “pruno,” which was some kind of illicit jailhouse toilet hooch fermented in a loo with a bunch of rotting vegetables and some sugar and yeast. One of my first nights there, two dumb Okies got all drunked up on pruno and then went down to flip off the Sheriff’s deputies, and the Sheriffs just laughed at them for a while before rolling them up and shlepping them off to the main jail. Then some pint-sized old Mexican gangsta-style dude got all flipped out and ranted an impromptu apocalyptic speech in our barracks. “What the fuck is he on about?” I asked one guy. “Them dumbfuck Okies,” he said. “They’re gonna fuck up this whole sweet deal here.”
Oh. Yeah. The whole sweet deal.
Well, fuck sweet deals. It was jail, even if it wasn’t in the main monkey cage. It sucked bad enough on a daily basis to make me think that it might not be my style on a forward-looking basis. Up in the morning: “Count time on the compound! All inmates on the compound!” Which meant go stand in line and wait for the Sheriffs to finish their walkaround, which could take minutes or the better part of an hour, and you’d have to stand there until they were done. If I remember correctly (it’s been over 30 years now), we had count time several times a day, and one asshole in the bunch could fuck everything up if one of the cops got pissed off. Which happened about every other time. So, you just stood there, toes on the line, waiting for the cops to let everyone chill.
Weird shit happened, too. I know I’ve written about this before, but some of the things people used to say were pretty funny. Like this weathered old hillbilly I used to smoke cigarettes with on the picnic tables on the gravel outside the barracks. “Son, if you want to be a convict, you got to look at things the way a convect looks at things,” he’d hector me in his Johnny Cash-like stentorian drawl. “You got to learn to roll a cigarette the way a convict rolls a cigarette. You got to … ” I’d cut him off: “Fuck that shit, man. I’m gettin’ outta here soon, and I’m done with doing jail time.” He’d fix me with the evil eye and correct me: “That’s bullshit, son,” he’d wail. “You ain’t foolin’ me. I know your type. You’re county-born, state-raised and penitentiary-bound.”
The other big laugh I had was at Easter dinner, when they stepped up the usual hogsfeed the kitchen trustys scooped on our big stamped stainless-steel trays by giving us a Suothern-style chicken dinner complete with dessert. “Damn!” one poor kid blubbered as he burst into tears. “That peach cobbler’s as good as mama used to make.” Me and Cleo fell out laughing over that shit.
Just like Lohan got her mama, White Oprah, to visit her, we got visitors too. My parents didn’t visit, out of embarrassment, perhaps, but mostly because my dad was dying of cancer, and he’d be gone five months later, and my mom had her hands full taking care of him. I did get a visit from a platonic friend named Nicole, who was rather well built, with an hourglass figure enhanced by the kind of inappropriately slutty outfit that caused spontaneous tents to be pitched among inmates and Sheriff’s deputies alike. After her visit ended, this Mexican guy came up to me in the yard: “Who was that bitch you was talkin’ to in there?” he asked. A friend, I told him. “Man, I’d like to fuck her in the ass,” he volunteered, adding some very graphic and violent details. “You might consider shutting the fuck up now,” I told him. He glared at me like he was going to kill me, nostrils flaring. I stood there. I was 25, stupid and jinked out on testosterone and ready to mix it up over my friend’s honor.
Bad idea, two other Mexican guys expressed to me rather urgently. “Don’t be messing with Mikey, man,” one of them conveyed with utter sincerity. “He’s like all fucked up on the K-J,” K-J being street slang for PCP, or elephant tranquilizer. I got the message. I backed off. The rest of my time there Mikey, or Michael Morales, as I later learned he was named, eyed me like he was going to come kill me in my sleep. One week into the next year, Morales hunched in the back seat of a car while his cousin, a gay teen from Lodi who was in a relationship with a high-school football player, drove with the girlfriend of the football player, a girl named Terri Winchell, to go shopping.
Then Morales strangled her, before dragging her across the road into a vineyard where he raped her and then stabbed her to death. Charming fellow. He was scheduled to die in 2006 at San Quentin, but the court stayed his execution until they could figure out if execution is cruel and unusual punishment. If they start executing prisoners again, he’s next. And I have to say that even though I’m vehemently against the death penalty, in his case, my feelings are rather ambivalent.
Again, I digress. The only other thing I have to report about jail was that on the night I was getting a “midnight kickout,” I went to take a shower. There was this one nelly weekender, a black guy made up like a girl, who earlier had been mincing about the yard, and now he was in the big open bathroom, blowing one guy while getting butt-rammed by another, while a few other guys waited their turn. None of the other guys seemed gay, and I’d hung out with a few of them while doing time, but I figured they were just situational homosexuals behind bars. At any rate, I decided on the spot to forego the shower before getting released.
Aside from a few drunk-in-publics from Mabuhay Gardens days in San Francisco, I stayed out of jail after that. Just was done with it. And although it took me another dozen years to get sober and stay that way, I think that getting stripped of all my imagined entitlements and shoved into general population with a bunch of common criminals just like me was a really good thing in the long run.
But who knows with Lohan? My parents and friends didn’t make excuses for me. It was like, you fucked up, now chill out and think about it. Not so with the movie star. She’s out, she’ll be back to her old haunts and her old running partners, and my guess is that we’ll be getting exclusive dispatches from TMZ from outside the mortuary at Forest Lawn or Pierce Brothers Westwood by the end of the year, along with plenty of White Oprah and that equally skanky Mesh-Shirted Wifebeater blathering and boohoo-hooing on Larry King’s show about how the big bad cruel world killed Lindsay Lohan, and we all played a part in it so we should atone for our sins by supporting the rest of Clan Lohan until the end of time or till spaceships land with giant carnivorous bugs that make short shrift of the world’s vertebrate population, whichever comes first.
Too bad the dumb bint will never learn. So what day did you pick in her dead pool? —Jackson Griffith