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With Robin Rage on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Justin Rowell-Savage on lead and backing vocals (ie, Hannibal Lector,) Matt Moscillo on drums and backing vocals (“I’m not that hungry, Mrs. Steele!”) Tim “Quiet Thunder” Hawkins on bass.  Produced and recorded by Jim Svensen and Guitardoors.org, a non-profit which records incarcerated musicians.

Thanks, Jim.

Rage

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Advise from Murderers and Lifers imprisoned in the State of Maine!

True Believers:

Again, we sent all of the prisoners we communicate with three requests for advice gathered from various advice columns.  We received advice back from Daniel ‘Prince’ Fortune (M.S.P./serving two life sentences for home invasion,) Michael ‘Dirty’ McQuade (M.S.P./ serving 12 years for murder,) and Arline Lawless (M.C.C./serving 35 years for murder.)

As a counterpoint, we also requested and received advice from two of our law-abiding citizens, Maine writer and social activist Prius Maelstrom, and Maine mystic and holistic life coach Peaceful (Peaceful also comments on the responses from our inmates.)

Ready?  Here we go:

Problem 1: “Person I’m interested in was abusive to his spouses.”

I have become sadly aware that a person that I’m interested in was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to both of his spouses, one of whom just separated from and divorced him. I got this information independently from each of the women involved and without their knowledge of the other’s report.

I have had a warm but not close social relationship with him, including one or two dinners over the previous five years. But after this all became clear and undeniable, he approached me at a party and attempted to make conversation. I was only able to utter “hi” and turn away, and it was difficult to not share my thoughts with him about his behaviors.

Is this the right response? I will likely see him again in the future at similar events. I also wonder if I should inform the hosts of my certainty about his character. I am unclear on my ethical responsibilities in this matter.

Sincerely, Aware.


Killer Advice:

Danny:

Dear Aware,

Before I answer about your ethical responsibilities I must first ask if you are still interested in this man. I am not asking to be funny or judge I am genuinely curious. It seems to me that this man has some underlying issues with women that clearly need to be resolved. Abuse is NEVER okay and it is my hope that you are aware that this man ha demonstrated a pattern of such behavior. It is extremely unlikely that he would behave differently with you.

I believe that it was difficult for you not to share your thoughts with him that you set up a meeting with him (somewhere public) in which you can have a conversation between the two of you. Is your desire to have a conversation where you tell him what you know about his behaviors and give him the space and opportunity to share his thoughts and feeling about what you have said? It is my belief that this should not be n assault on his character or lack thereof but simply a clearing of he air. It is not your place to judge him for his actions but it might be a good time to tell him why you no longer wish to communicate with him (if that is how you feel.) Remember though, it is not your place to judge (“Let he who without sin cast the first stone.”) We all have done things that we are not proud of and would not like to be questioned about, however if you give him the opportunity you might learn that he knows what he has done is wrong and maybe just maybe he is in counseling or something to correct his behavior.

I do not believe that it is your “ethical responsibility” to tell the hosts of his wrong-doings. First, it is not your story to tell; he has not treated you with anything but respect (and while this does not excuse his horrendously bad decisions in regard to the abuse of his wives) It is not your place to “spread the word.” Also do you know if his ex-wives (his victims) want their horror stories talked about? It would be different if he was dating a women and then I would be the first to suggest letting her know his history, but the host of the party is something different.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Yeah, I’d pretty much agree with that.”)

Michael:

Dear Aware,

Be glad you dodged that bullet. If it were just one ex-spouse’s claims then it might’ve been an exaggeration. But two of them unknowingly confirming the other’s story? There’s definitely something to their stories. I don’t think open confrontation is a good idea. I guarantee he’ll have an elaborate story. Probably about how his ex’s are crazy and he’s the victim. Don’t believe it. These guys can be very convincing.

As far as your ethical responsibilities I advise you exercise caution. Accusing him openly will put you in a conflict of your word against his. So far, as you know, he’s no real threat to anyone outside of a relationship. I at some point you observe him in a new relationship you may want top warn that woman about his potential to be abusive. Maybe go so far as to refer her to the ex-spouses. After that it’s up to her.

As far as social interaction with him, I would say and do as little as possible. Alienate him. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie, “the Departed:”

“Treat assholes like mushrooms. Feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark.”

(Comment by Peaceful: “Well, I agree with the last part, but why assume somebody’s gonna lie?”)

Arline:

Aware,

As someone who has been on the receiving end of the same situation with pretty much every relationship I have ever been in, yes, you are doing the right thing by turning away from him. But, if you still wish to share your thoughts with him about his behaviors (which, me being the person I am now, I would definitely call him on his shit.) I would make sure that I had a male friend with me just in cast he tried any of his shit. Yes, you should definitely inform the hosts of your certainty about his character so the can’t try to pick up on some other poor defenseless woman. The hosts could not invite said “dickhead” in the future. Anyway, you would know that you have saved some woman from a predator.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Gee.. would you mind repeating that?”)


Prius and Peaceful

Prius Maelstrom:

Dear Aware:

Unfortunately, domestic abuse remains a pretty wide-spread problem, and it obviously strikes a nerve with you. There are things that you can do to attack the problem as a whole, by getting involved with one or more groups currently advocating for change (see https://greatist.com/happiness/stop-domestic-violence-organizations for a good list.) In the above case, it seems as though this person is already leaving quite a documented trail of his past deeds. If the abuse is what provoked the separation and divorce you described, I’m sure that it was brought up and recorded during the proceedings. As far as you know (and you don’t) he’s never been arrested for an assault, or been served with a protection from abuse order.

You also don’t know whether he’s received treatment, had a life-changing event or was visited by three ghosts.

In short, you don’t have enough information about this person, good or bad, to cause you to feel responsible for taking an action. If you still feel the need to do something, then try contacting one of the groups I mentioned previously. It might also be helpful to ask yourself why this situation has triggered such intense feelings within you, and what can you do about that?

Peaceful:

Dear Aware,

I don’t see the point in doing any of that because anyone can change for the better. You don’t put them in a permanent box of being a problem. The guy might possibly be in the process of getting help right now. Who knows?


Problem 2. “One of our guests wet themselves on our sofa.”

We need some advice. Recently we hosted our annual holiday party and invited all of our neighbors and friends. Our invitation stated that the party would run between 5 and 11:30 so our guests could also attend other parties that might be going on at the same time.

As our party was winding down, it was noticed that one of our guests (who had been at a previous party) had wet themselves on our sofa and covered the spot up with throw pillows. We served wine, punch, etc. at our party, but this couple arrived pretty tipsy already. In the future, should we just not invite these neighbors? We are very distressed about this. What do you suggest?

Signed “Oops.”


Killer Advice

Danny:

Dear Oops,

I am not sure why you are so distressed about the incident. While it is definitely disrespectful for them to try to cover up the accident with throw pillows, I do not believe that this rises to the level of not inviting them to any future parties. Since you seem to know which couple made the stain, why don’t you just talk to them? From the way that you have written your question, it is my belief that this is the first time that this has happened. If this is correct then I would advocate giving them a second chance. The fact that they covered it up leads me to believe that they were embarrassed about what happened and that it would not be something that will happen again. However if you are upset simply have a conversation with them. Let them know that you are aware of and upset by their behavior at the partly last year and if it happens again they will not be allowed at your house in the future. I believe that this conversation is not necessary, but if you feel it is, go for it.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Well, if you’re gonna talk about that issue with somebody, you approach them with love and gentleness, and ask them what you can do to help?”)

Michael:

Dear Oops,

I’m a recovering alcoholic myself. And as embarrassing as this is I’ve been the drunk idiot who wet himself on a neighbor’s couch. On behalf of drunken morons everywhere, let me apologize. Some of us have no control over alcohol and in turn we tend to lose control of out other faculties. This is no excuse though..

As for my future comrade in A.A. I would limit their invites to non-drinking events. It’s situations like this that alcoholics share in meetings that express how powerless over alcohol we were.

“My neighbor’s afraid to invite me over because I wet myself on their couch.”

Still, it could’ve been worse. I’ve seen some real nightmare scenarios (watch MTV’s “Ridiculousness” sometime.) I would be a bit more exclusive with my invites for drinking engagements.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Oh yeah, that makes sense.”)

Arline:

Oops,

Now this is just an all-around fucked up situation. First thing I wouldn’t have stated on my invitation that guest who plan on attending your party could also attend other parties where there was going to be drinking, since it was a holiday party to begin with. If people showed up shit-faced or tipsy to begin with I would’ve gone over and talked to them, saying I was worrying about alcohol poisoning or them driving or something, to get them not to drink. Say, let’s go into the kitchen and I’ll make you some coffee or something. It that didn’t work and they continue to drink and end up wetting themselves and then covering it up with a throw pillow and you find it later I would tell them that they need to pay for dry-cleaning and whatever else needs to be done to fix their mistake since they didn’t listen to your advice. And yes, definitely don’t invite them to your parties in the future if they are going to be so immature about something like this then that is not something you need.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Well, that’s a bit of a narrow response, I think.”)


Prius and Peaceful

Prius Maelstrom:

Dear Oops,

Is this a one-time incident, or the most recent of a long line of poor behaviors? Are these good friends? Both of these have a bearing on my answer. If this was just a one-time mishap, and they were tipsy, I can see how in their embarrassment they might go for the pillow trick. If these are your friends, you could easily, even humorously confront them about this. If they are just acquaintances, then why worry about needing to invite them back or confront them. If it’s the last in a long line of screw-ups, and this is your friend, well, your friend has a problem, and you should definitely talk to them about it, perhaps with another common friend. If these are just acquaintances, and you’ve tolerated other things in the realm of couch-pissing previously, well, you need to do some boundary work here.

A friend, with explanations and apologies can get away with soiling the couch once, and acquaintance? Sorry; you only get one shot at the sofa.

:Peaceful:

Dear Oops,

I suggest inviting them over when they are not going to be there for an extended period of time, because maybe they wanted to go to the bathroom and there was two people waiting in line. Some men and women have on-going problems in that area. I mean, what are you gonna do? Go out in the front yard and pee? Especially if you have only one bathroom.

Problem 3. “A sex-only arrangement with an ex?”

What are your thoughts about having a sex-only arrangement with an ex? Most of the women I’ve dated have contacted me after the relationship was over hoping to have “no-strings-attached” sex on a regular basis. I have always refused because I figured it would make it more difficult to move on and to meet someone new.

That said, I’m an attractive guy in my early 30s, and I’d hate to continue to waste my prime sexual years. I’d love to be married and have a family, but I’m struggling to find a woman who is honest, loyal, a good communicator and independent. That leaves me with either having no sex while hoping for a miracle, or a lot of sex with women I don’t really like.

Signed “Confused.”

 


Killer Advice

Danny:

Dear Confused,

The first question that you have to ask yourself is do you really want to have sex with women that you don’t like? If you are an attractive guy in your early 30s then why don’t you just tell some woman from the start that you don’t want to date them, that you’re just looking for sex? Also I wonder where you are meeting these women? Sometimes (when people respond to you in a certain way and the responses/results are the same) it is time to look at the energy reactions that you are putting out. What about you is attracting these women? What vibe are you putting ou that makes women think it’s okay to lie to you? I feel that you are putting too much time and pressure on yourself to “find” this perfect woman, but appears that you are not sure of what you really want. How important is sex to you? Do you want sex with a lot of women you don’t like, or no sex while you wait to find a good woman?

(Comment by Peaceful: “Yeah, I mean, in order to have good sex you have to love the person you’re doing it with.”)

Michael:

Dear confused,

Let me just get this out of the way. From a majority of men who’ve read about your plight let me just say, “OMG!! You poor baby! Your ex’s are calling you for “No-strings-attached” sex? We all wish we had your problems.

That said I understand you’re a traditional romantic. That’s very commendable. Any woman would be lucky to have you. That’s probably what your ex’s realize. They may not be as over you as they’ve convinced themselves they are.

If you’re not in a committed relationship then there is nothing wrong with a booty call. Hone your skills, my friend. If not for yourself then for the rest of us true unfortunates; you owe it to us.

“I got problems.” Sheesh!

As far as a real relationship and children be patient. You’re young, kid. True love will creep up on you when you least expect it and from he weirdest places. Maybe from an ex who claims not to be interested. I’d say good luck but I save that for people with real problems. (Ha, ha!) You’ll be fine, kid.

(Comment by Peaceful: “I have no comment on all that.”)

Arline:

Confused,

Well if you don’t want to have anything to do with your exes as far as a “no-strings-attached” sexual relationship for fear if would be more difficult to move on, I get it. Bit if you look at it this way (or at least I would) they are saying or thinking, “Man I still think your awesome and by having the no-strings-attached rule maybe, just maybe you might want to take them back. You have said you’re an attractive guy in your 30s; then I wouldn’t worry about it. Just know that there is someone that will give you everything you deserve and more. Believer me on this for I know this happens and everyone deserves happiness. You deserve a woman who wants kids and getting married and everything else you have said, but you should also add that someone who will love you with all of your idiosyncrasies and not expect you to change.

(Comment by Peaceful: “Yeah, I kinda like that. People have to have faith that they’re gonna meet the right person. That’s really important, because if you have faith that something’s going to happen, it’s much more likely to.”)


Prius and Peaceful

Prius:

Dear Confused,

For a moment I thought that this might be one of those situations where you brag in the form of asking for advice. But I’m sure I was mistaken.

First, there’s a reason, of course, that these are ex-girlfriends and not current girlfriends, right? And, are there still more women than men in our population, or had there been some sort of girl-killing flu that I’m unaware of?

If you’re the attractive man that you say you are, the only reason to find yourself in such a conundrum is that you’re on some sort of “Gilligan’s Island,” where you can’t leave and there are only so many women, or you’re just lazy.

Peaceful:

Dear Confused,

I’ve never really heard of anyone that was in a really good state of harmony who had multiple partners and multiple commitments. If you want to deal with having uneasiness most of the time, then keep doing what you’re doing.

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[Killer Advice logos by Alyssa Joy Bartlett, 2019]

Kenneth McDonald

I met Kenny McDonald while in Kennebec County for a probation violation (drinking).  Kenny was a sweet guy, child-like in many ways.  We were cellmates for a while and despite a head injury that always allowed me a bottom bunk, I took the top; Kenny had trouble getting up there.  I shared food with him, games of brick-house.

Kenny stabbed his 80 year old mother to death in 2009.  I assumed they’d send him to the State mental hospital, but you know how the insanity defense rides here in the union.

Kenny got sentenced to 30 years.


download (7)I met Micheal ‘Dirty’ McQuade when, after my first trip to Windham Prison, my dear sister placed me in the cheapest, grottiest rooming house in town at the time, Larry “Slum Lord” Fleury’s Edward’s House.  Real sweet guy when I knew him back in ’06, intelligent fellow who seemed to have a big heart.  I lost touch with him when I went back to jail later on that year (probation violation: drinking,) and only heard about his descent into darkness after moving into ‘the Vatikan,’ in the ghetto of East Bayside P-town.

Dirty was addicted to heroin and he and a couple of other fellows decided that the best way to get more heroin was by robbing another addict of his heroin.  The man ended up getting murdered during the caper; Dirty gave evidence against the fellow that supposedly did the actual killing.

Dirty received 12 years.  


download (13).jpgI met Michael ‘Madman’ Pedini at the same time, and in the same cell-block as I met Kenny (as well as Danny Fortune.)  Madman, an enforcer for the Outlaws motorcycle gang killed a member of the rival Hell’s Angels.  He never wrote for the blog.

Pedini did five years and then entered the witness protection program.


arline-lawless-2.jpgI’ve never met Arline Lawless in person, although she’s been trading letters with the Project for a few years now.  Arline (who came from “Beans of Egypt Maine” surroundings murdered her boyfriend, a working fisherman, with a gun, apparently when he told her of his intention of breaking up with her.

Arline was sentenced to thirty-five years.


danny.2014

Finally, I met Daniel ‘Prince’ Fortune at the same time and in the same cell-block as Kenny and Pedini.  Daniel was a good kid; the first time I’d bumped into him we were all going to court and I was cuffed to him.  Danny told the cop to cuff me to someone else and then explained to me, “there are gonna be cameras out there and you don’t want to be on television next to me.”

Danny was a former sports star (Gardiner Highschool), born in Haiti, adopted into white central Maine.  He suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident and after that, things got darker.  Drugs.  Danny had stolen a safe from a former State Senator’s home; he’d partied there a lot with the Senator’s son.  The son ended up owing Danny’s foster brother Leo some money for drugs and one night they went to collect.  As it turned out, the son wasn’t home. While Danny waited outside (he was already jammed up due to the safe robbery) Leo ended up attacking the Senator and his young daughter with a machete.

After the pair were arrested, Danny kept quiet.  Leo, sang like addicts usually sing in such situations, blaming Danny to a large degree; he later recanted and took full responsibility for the vicious attack.

Leo got fifty years.  Danny got two concurrent life sentences.


 

“The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this:
Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes.”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

Get it?

Robin Rage

 

“When people make the choice to attend an Inipi Ceremony, they must be willing to suffer and be prepared to give all of their strength, prayers, and songs to the Creator. It is the only way they can expect to receive a blessing and benefit from the experience. It is said by the Old Ones that the purer a man becomes, the closer to the Creator he is. This is one of the first rules taught to those who choose to walk the Red Road, and it is also the first basic tenet of the Inipi Ceremony. It is the starting point on the spiritual trail, a way of life for those who choose it… or if the spirit chooses you.”

– Erwin Bartlett, “Sweating in Perspective”

~

We’ve printed articles before on the sweat lodge ceremony, as practiced once a year by the Four Winds Native-American Spirituality Circle. I haven’t read any of them, myself. Of course, I’ve seen the picture taken by Sergeant Farin of the red-tail hawk which perched on the sweat lodge last year, and I’ve talked to practitioners who’ve participated in previous sweats; this years Inipi (the Lakota word for the ritual) was my first. As my release date is set to spring time next year, unless fortune dictates otherwise, this was also my last sweat here at M.C.C. Windham.

I know that many misconceptions surround the practice of the Inipi, or sweat lodge, as practiced here an elsewhere, some of which I, admittedly, carried with me previous to the October sweat. Hopefully, in this brief article, I can share some of my own education – a mental, physical and spiritual education – with you.

Traditionally, four members of Four Winds are chosen to assist in preparing the lodge structure, in the yard adjoining A-Pod’s rec. yard for the sweat ceremony. For this years sweat, the four were chosen on the basis of time remaining. Others would have the opportunity at future sweats, or had already had the honor in previous years. Falling into the former category, I had the honor of participating in this year’s preparation. We gathered together on the day prior to the sweat, passing through M.P.U to access the yard where the lodge skeleton rests.

“First, you identify the principle, and then you practice it. Gradually, you understand the principle, that is, you become one with it. When you become one with it, it responds to your will. If anything matters, everything matters.” – Rolling Thunder

Sweats are not unique to Native-American Spirituality. Sauna and sweat lodges are, and historically have been, practiced all over the world – Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, the Middle East, Africa, Ireland, as well as in the Americas. On a physical, more obvious level, sweating rids the body of wastes, but at a more powerful, rapid pace. In a culture of pollution and toxic consumption with not much exercise and far too much time indoors, a sweat bath unplugs deeply clogged pours and re-establishes the natural detoxifying flow of perspiration. The kidneys benefit enormously, with heavy metal excretion (removing from the body such toxic metals as copper, lead, zinc and mercury) happening in fifteen minutes as opposed to what would take a full twenty-four hours under normal conditions. Saunas are actually recommended now as a supplement to kidney dialysis. Also removed are excessive salts (a cause of mild hypotension) and urea (a metabolic bi-product which can cause a hung-over feeling) and lactic acid (causes stiff muscles and general fatigue). The sweat increases blood flow to the skin, opens clogged respiratory passages and promotes a general detox of our cells and vital organs; we are 75% water, right?

“Stone is to earth, as flesh is to bone.”

– Cree Adage

In previous sweats at M.C.C. Windham, the primary Lodge-Keeper has been “Buck”, a friend of Four Winds for many years. However, due to a recent death in his family, tradition dictated the Buck (also a pipe-carrier) put away his pipe for a year and remove himself from officiating at sweats for that period. In his place, acting as the primary Lodge-Keeper he brought a volunteer from the Maliseet Nation of New Brunswick, “Diamond” Nichols. Buck, a Passamaquoddy was still there to assist with the preparation of the lodge and with him came his apprentice, Newell, also Passamaquoddy. In addition we had the assistance of a fourth Native-American Spirituality volunteer, Michael Fralich, who practices in the Lakota tradition and runs his own lodge in New Glouster; Michael volunteers as a teacher at Four Winds once a month.

The naked lodge structure itself (built originally under Buck’s direction) is constructed of 16 wooden branches.

“What sort of branches are these,” I asked Buck. “Or, does it matter?”

“Everything matters.” Buck countered. “There are 16 poles. That’s eight species of wood, joined in pairs of eight, and joined at the peak as one.”

“In the sacred hoop we will multiply. You will notice that everything the Indian does is in a circle. Everything that they do is the power from the sacred hoop, but you see today that this house is not in a circle. It is a square. It is not the way we should live. The Great Spirit assigned us a certain religion and the power won’t work in anything but circles. Everything now is too square.”

– Black Elk

We covered the structure with blankets, then blue tarps. We left an opening in the tarp, facing to the east. Six or seven feet from the door way, at Diamond’s direction, we began building the fire pit, which he referred to as “the alter”. He explained that he’d brought the rocks we would use from a gravel pit – lava rock, as he preferred. (An untested rock, a river rock for example, could actually crack or explode in the intense heat). He called the stones “Grandfathers” and “Grandmothers”

“They have been in the Earth for so long.” He explained.

Diamond laid down the foundation for the alter with four stones, one for each direction but also for each of Maine’s four tribal nations: the Passamaquoddy, the Maliseet, the Penobscot, and the Micmac. Before laying the stones in place, he held each one up to the sky and prayed with each while facing a different direction, beginning in the East. After laying down the stones, we placed two logs of firewood, end to end, on the south and north side of the alter. In the space between we placed a generous amount of birch bark. Atop this we placed the rest of the lava stones, surrounding and covering those with, surrounding and covering these with more wood and kindling. A final prayer was said and preparation was complete.

Diamond described the lodge as a womb, the path between the alter and the lodge as the umbilical cord. Of course, the lodge is circular and its low door, while preventing heat from escaping, also necessitates crawling to get inside, a position of supplicant humility.

“Much like a fetus in the womb, participants can be equally vulnerable to negative influences during sweat.”

– Grizzly Bear Lake

Like the womb, the lodge is dark, warm, wet, secure and nurturing. Much like maintaining a healthy womb is necessary for a healthy fetus, such consideration is similar regarding what enters the lodge. Participants are encouraged to fast before participating, a pre-cleansing or detoxification if you will. Participants are likewise instructed to refrain from intoxicants, any form of sexual activity, to practice positive mindfulness, and to set aside negativity as a whole. Good intent is of extreme importance. Participants are encouraged to practice an honest self-examination and to voluntarily refrain from entering the lodge if they don’t feel ready – emotionally, spiritually, or physically. If all were 100% pure, we wouldn’t need purification, but an attempt is made to keep out the major, more obvious negativities, which can and will infect the very mood of the ritual. The lodge keeper has the traditional right to deny anyone entrance to the sweat, without explanation.

“The place where crying begins…”

– From an Arapaho Ghost-Dance song about the Inipi

On the morning of the sweat, we all passed through M.P.U. and back into the yard where the lodge stood. Quite a crowd had already assembled there on this overcast, cool morning, and it took me a moment to recognize Diamond as he spoke with petitioners, one at a time. Many of the participants had brought medicine tools with them (prayer feathers, medicine bags, blankets) for Diamond to bless. Extra wood had been brought earlier by Michael Fralich; a fire was blazing.

After stripping down to our shorts we spoke with someone on-site from medical upon our arrival and signed consent forms. Some of us were dissuaded from actually entering the lodge itself due to medical conditions, usually involving the heart. However, as it was explained to us, entering the actual lodge was not necessary to consider oneself a participant; the ritual was the event itself. Long before entering the lodge, I could feel it – the good energy abounding. Standing near the fire were close friends who I hadn’t even known a year ago. Now they were brothers, and you could feel the brotherhood.

It’s little wonder that many arms of the men’s movement have turned to Native-American practices as an example. As men, there comes a point in our lives where we are expected to become emotionally isolated. We become wage-earners and soldiers and leaders or followers and our isolation on any other than a cursory level deepens and deepens. Men don’t share. Men are drones, worker bees, and if we fail at this culturally ingrained mission we drink or drug or self-annihilate. There’s a healing energy in the spiritual practices here at M.C.C. where men come together in fellowship. What a shame that when we leave here, so many of us have to leave the fellowship behind as well. Perhaps it’s sadder that we had to come here to find it in the first place. So many of us leave here and return to manly isolation, and it’s no wonder that so many of us return. When you aren’t a part of a fellowship, I suppose it’s safer to laugh at it.

“The internalization of a different cognitive system always began by drawing the initiate’s total attention to the realization that we are all beings on our way to dying.”

– Carlos Casteneda

Diamond explained what would happen in the actual sweat. He told us that there would be four rounds, each lasting fifteen minutes and each with a separate purpose. He urged us to listen to our bodies and to leave if we needed to. For each round five rocks would be used: one for each direction and a fifth for ourselves. The rocks and the steam, he said, would carry our prayers. Turning, pausing to face each direction, he entered the lodge. We all followed, until the lodge was packed to capacity. Behind us came the first five rocks, carried through the entrance from the outside via pitchfork.

During the first round, we were told to offer prayers for anyone, anything. We went around the circle, as Diamond splashed water on the sweat-hot rocks, each splash eliciting another wild hiss, and increasing the cloud of steam in the lodge. One after another, from left to right (east to west) we voiced our prayers. We prayed for each other, for families, for guards and for the dead. It was beautiful and powerful and book-ended by Diamond chanting in the native tongue, to connect, he explained, with his ancestors.

The lodge was uncomfortably cramped, but after the first round, no one left for a break. More rocks came in and deer antlers were used to arrange them. During this round, we prayed for womankind. Women gave birth to us, were our nurturers, our daughters, our sister, our girlfriends or wives, often times our victims. Unlike the first round, we prayed silently this time. Like the first round it was powerful, but hotter and deeper. I heard more than one man weeping softly, missing someone, mourning something. This round was personally touching to me because of the powerful women in my own life: my oldest daughter who has always guarded my coffin, my adopted mother who always loved me as her own, my biological mother, who died before I could reach her.

Following that round, a few of the participants exited, some returned, some decided to practice outside. During this round, we were told to pray for victims of abuse and for victims; we’ve all played both roles at times in our lives, haven’t we? At this point Newell produced a drum and a flute was brought in for one of us. This round, with five new stones, with more hissing, splashing steam was the hottest yet. At times I wondered how I could breathe such a thick, wet air, but I stayed and prayed. Again, I could hear tears and pain leaving bodies as easily as the perspiration. It was a purge, cleansing and purifying.

The final round left us with fewer participants within, some choosing to finish the ritual outside. This time we prayed for our own forgiveness, for self-forgiveness, and celebrated ourselves with chanting and song. We sang through the intense heat and the darkness, enveloped by a hot cloud we were unable to see.

It was beautiful. Cherry plush.

“An unborn baby doesn’t leave the womb when it gets too hot. Neither do I.”

– Diamond Nichols

When Diamond ended the sweat, he remained inside to pray, to finish the ritual. A handful of us remained with him. “When you leave here,” he said, “Hug your brothers.” Having remained in the lodge for the duration of the sweat, final exiting did indeed feel like rebirth. We’d sweated or cried or sang or prayed out of ourselves what felt like a heavy amount of excess baggage. The cool of the outdoors no longer felt biting, but refreshing. I was greeted with hugs around the fire and circulated to shake hands, trade words or blessings with everyone there, for this truly had been an experience on two levels – individual and group. Not only did I feel cleansed as an individual, but I sensed that the group itself, which (like all groups) had had some recent internal problems, had likewise been cleansed.

“We either enter heaven arm in arm, or not at all.”

– Mother Theresa

Some of us dressed immediately, others waited, enjoying the air, the natural euphoria, while food was served. We each received pieces of cedar from the floor of the lodge, to add to medicine bags or to press between pages of a book.

When I asked one of my fellow participants what he thought, he aptly replied, “Now isn’t the time for thinking.” Similarly, it’s difficult to find words to adequately describe the beauty of this experience. A prison experience, no less. Who’d a thunk it? Quite a few interesting moments happened for individuals during the sweat. Even if I chose to relate them (which I wouldn’t) the words would doubtlessly fail there, as well.

In closing, I would encourage you, dear reader, to find a spiritual path of your own, if not the one I’ve tried to describe, one of your own choosing. Mother Theresa once said that the greatest plague facing the world today was loneliness. Spiritual fellowship, especially in a ritual as intense as the sweat, is most definitely a cure.

“The day will come when the children of the white man will begin to dress like Indians, when they will begin to wear long hair, beads and headbands. That will be the generation from which would come the first true non-Indian friends.”

– Hopi prophecy

Aho.

download (4).jpgIt’s Thursday night, 4-22-10, at York County Jail; sorry I’m late. I always have so, so much to say, so much spinning about inside my black box, and of course I think that it’s all so important that of course you’ll wanna hear it / read it too! So, I wasn’t sure what to let spill out first – me, or the Revolution. Let’s start with the Revolution & then maybe I’ll let some Rage spill out.

Y’all know I love quotes & here’s one that’s quite apprypos. It’s the first line of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” (something we should all read, at least once), a poem touching upon the themes of both addiction and mental illenss.

This first line reminds me of all of us, those of us still here, & those of us long, long gone:

“I saw the best minds of my generation
destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix.”

We have always been the lowest of the low, the last chosen, the last considered. We are truly seen as “children of a lesser God,” for whatever other situation might be seen as limiting a person, be that race or religion, sexual preference or physical deformity, add mental illness or addiction to that person’s “limiting situation,” and they become beyond the limit, the underclass of an underclass.

Long before Adolph Hitler began murdering Jews, he was ordering the mass executions of the mentally ill – an even easier target than the ever-persecuted Jews. The attempted extermination of our spiritual ancentors with mental illness receives little attention by historians. In a footnote, they may call it “unfortunate,” but not “tragic” in the way it was for the Jews, Gypsies, the J-Witnesses or the Queers – after all, they were mentally ill. Anyway, but the Holocaust of our people began long before the third Reich, & has not ended. We don’t have a descriptive word such as “Holocaust” to describe the age-old socially sanctioned degradation, neglect, rape & murder of our people, although in the bible, our people were seen as demon-possessed. Even in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, founder Bill Wilson in “Bill’s Story” speaks of one of us: “a poor chap committed suicide in our home. He could not or would not accept our way of life.”

Today, They know what we’ve always known – that “poor chap” was one of us, mentally ill. With no alcohol & no proper medication to take its place, his symptons returned with a ferocity he could not live with.

Dual Recovery Anonymous states that we have “two no-fault illnesses,” meaning that we did nothing to intentionally cause our illness, or our addiction, or the situations which follow, from poverty to criminal recividism. Since the advent of the Betty Ford Clinic, & the public recovery of the rich & famous, & then the Big Sur “feel good” recovery surge of the 80s & 90s, addiction has become more understood and, if recovered from successfully, even tolerated. Mental illness, though, from the strictly psychological to the outright behavioral, is still considered by Them, even the most liberal, to be an excuse, a personal weakness and a line on the sand between the worthy humans, & the flawed subhumans.

What follows is the tale of my own big “moment of clarity,” as a person living with both mental illness and addiction, trying to work my way to respectability.

From April of 1997 to December of 1998, I was a participant in the Kennebec County Co-Occurring Disorders Court Program. CODC, of course, is a wonderful alternative to jail time for those of us in the system with the co-occurring disorders of mental illness and chemical addiction. If the money spent on housing our people in the states correctional facilities (the latest I’d heard was $39,000 a year per inmate) was instead channelled into appropriate programs such as CODC, our state would indeed be a healthier (both socially & fiscally) safer place to live.

The standard time int he program, the baseline, so to speak, was one year. I had been in the program for around a year and 1/2. During that time, I had passed every urine screen, every breath test. I had complied with all of the strict conditions of release normally imposed upon CODC clients, and more. I ran two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I had taken over Dual Recovery Anonymous in the area & was so successful that we now had more DRA meetings than any other part of the state. I had co-founded a new recovery practice, the Holistic Recovery Project (http://holistix.atspace.com), Recovery-Through-Wholeness, which had grown to such an extent that we were holding board meetings & working on the paperwork to become a non-profit corporation. Thanks to the rigid structure of the COPC Program, my accomplishments seem to have no end.

We were required to appear before the judge every Monday, although I had been in the program long enough that I was only required to appear every two weeks. I had just written two letters to the Judge & to the CODC team – one (which I’d been invited to submit) my ideas on improve the court program (many which, since my graduation, were in fact implemented). The other letter presented my case for graduating. I went before the Judge one Monday, supremely confident. I felt that I had absolutely exceeded the expectations of the program – I’d certainly exceeded my own. I asked Justice Mills when I would be graduating, and she told me:

“You need to learn some humility.”

Humility? Was that a requirement for graduating from the Program? I was later told by the CODC case manager that the team found me “arrogant.”

I realized at that moment, standing before Justice Mills that neither she, nor the establishment she representative would ever see me, no matter how far I progressed, as anything more than a drunk, an “iller” and a criminal. If it were the old South, she would have called me an “uppity nigger.” I was told later that certain members of teh Court thought that the program was “too easy” for me, that I would have been easier to take if I’d actually had a relapse or two.

So – the establishment found the shuffling, needy “Uncle Toms” of Co-Occurring Disorders easier to stomach than an empowered, “arrogant,” enlightened one.

The problem was, I “didn’t know my place.” I wasn’t acting helpless enough, troubled enough.

Uppity.

Now again – it was the Court Program that allowed me to grow to that level of potential, that re-parented me to success. As I said when I started, there should be more such courts, hospitals, out-patient programs, and community supports.

But – to be really offensive, let’s again use the analogy of the Old South & its treatment of African Americans. Right now in Maine, there’s a movement by the Powers that Be – the white coats (doctors, mental health workers, &c), the black coats (judgese, lawers, politicians, also referring to but not in this particular case undertakers), & the red coats (bleeding hearts) to empower our people. We were released from the tortures of the state hospitals some years back, but that never really worked out, of course due to the money They didn’t want to spend. Now, they want to teach us a pseudo-empowerment, to help us set up a sort of mirror-culture which satires their own. There are lots of consumer councils no one listens to, and the social clubs are peer centers – it’s all a sort of separate but equal.

Of course, you get the connection, true believers, to the Old South. Pseudo-empowered – but not in their neighborhoods, right? Some of us “field hands,” are actually selected to work in the “big house,” so to speak. They give us jobs on these councils or put us in front of TV cameras to show how well They take care of Their illers, &c. In my own case, I was always the kind of holistic soldier / iller-swiller-criminal easier for Them to stomach. I was well educated, well spoken, charming – much akin to the light-skinned black of the Old South. I allowed members of the establishment to be able to say, “Oh, I know one of THEM, he’s not like what you usually think of when you think of THEM. He’s quite enjoyable, actually.”

And when you work in the big house and become a gray-coat (which is the Uncle Tom or Flava Flav of the dually disordered), you can easily convince yourself, as I once did, that they accept you as one of them. That you’ve moved across special borders to become a real Citizen! Yee hee!

Don’t be fooled.

Begging for scraps at the master’s table will only get you scraps. That’s not what They eat.

We deserve more, but they’re not going to give it to us – the poor, the iller, the piller, the swiller.

I am more than just a drunk, the cutter.

More than just an iller, more than

just a criminal.

I AM a patriot, and I am a soldier.

I am worthy, & so are you.

And I could keep going, but Hell – I already have.

Let me leave you with one more thing to Grok on. At Windham – throughout corrections, none of us with mental illness are on our normal regimen of medications. But – most of us have jobs – in the kitchens, cutting lumber, doing upholstery, fixing computers – for just $0.75 an hour – if we’re lucky.

On the outside, we get lots of meds, and we’re told that we can’t work too much or we’ll lose our benefits. We’re taught to be happy getting a check for $700 a month, another $200 in food stamps, and a piece of shit one-bedroom apartment in the shittiest part of town. Thank god we have cable!

Does that make sense?

Okay, my next entry will be more personal – I’ll try to lighten up. I’ll focus on weight-lifting, and sodomy, and trying to bum teabags off of the wealthier inmates.

“Dear ones – it’s here now or it never comes. It’s here now.”
– Bo Lozoff

– Rage

I’m currently incarcerated at the Windham Maine Correctional Center, doing 17 months for violating probation on a conviction of OUI which occurred in 2004. I suffer from a mental illness, addiction and residuals from a traumatic brain injury. Here’s my groove on Corrections in the State of Maine:

While Incarcerated at Kennebec County Correctional Facility in January of 2009, I pulled one of my best friends from a shower where he had committed suicide by hanging. Arthur Brian Traweek was a co-founder of the Holistic Recovery Project, and suffered from a mental illness. We were both successful graduates of the Kennebec county Co-Occurring Disorders Court Program.

Brian was only serving a 6 month sentence, but he’d been threatening suicide since his incarceration in November. While hanging from a sheet in the shower, an officer, Herreva went through our block for a check and actuallyopened the door to the shower room & seemed to look inside. (Apparently not.) After we pulled Brian out of the shower and alerted the guards, it was perhaps 8 minutes before they began performing mouth to mouth resuscitation on Brian. Why? No one could find a “separator:” a 25 cent plastic piece which rests between a victims lips and a rescuers (to prevent infection?) When they arrived, they said that he’d had a pulse. 8 minutes. Now he’s dead.

Brian had tried to commit suicide before, but with his particular illness most successful suicides are actual accidental. Brian counted on the jail to protect him. (To read the full deposition on Brian’s wrongful death, written only hours after the tragedy – click here).

What happened? There was an official police investigation. Nothing came of it. Maine State Civil Liberties Union promised to look into it, but never did.

Carol Caruthers of NAMI did stage a vigil, a candlelight vigil for Brian, right outside our window at the jail. It was attended by people who’d never visited Brian while he was alive. Neither would any of the crowd be visiting any of us who survived. We were treated to a crowd of candle-holding strangers, drinking coffee (which we couldn’t) and smoking cigarettes (which we couldn’t.)

As a fellow inmate said: “Who are these people? Brian never got any visitors when he was alive! Coffee and cigarettes? Why don’t they strippers out there too & call it good?!”

This was while we all faced showering in the same shower my friend had just hung himself in.

I have to throw in a special shout out to Carol Caruthers, who organized the worthless vigil – oh, made the paper, though, didn’t it, Carol? Carol, the executive Director of NAMI, Maine – National Association of Mentally Ill? NAMI did nothing. NAMI didn’t give a fuck. We even asked Carol over & over again to help re-open the investigation! “Please, Carol, Please!! Help us!! Read NAMI’s own reports on those of us with mental illness & addiction, killing ourselves in jail! Help us Carol!”

Carol & NAMI do not care. But they did have that nifty candlelight vigil!

Fuck you, Carol. Fuck you, NAMI.

Brian’s dead.

How many more of us will die, Carol?

Just keep cashing your checks, love.

In the System’s defense – did they ask to become, as Sheriff Randal Liberty so aptly put it recently, “the number one provider of mental health services in Maine?” No, they did not. Jails are for what? Punishment. As Bo Lozoff says, jail is “intended to punish them, pure & simple – to punish, hurt, confuse, emasculate, and eventually break their contrary spirits.” Or, as a friend of mine from Texas said to me before my most recent arrest, “Y’all got only a little over a million people in your whole one-syllable state –  how can your prisons be over-crowded?”

Jails were never designed to treat those of us with serious mental illness or addiction, any more than they were meant to treat cancer or leprosy.

What can we do to change things?

What can you do? Please – get involved. Nothing happens from within, and I guarantee you – all of the powers that be know the truth about Brian’s death, but no one will do anything to change the status quo unless we the people demand it. Call your legislator, your governor – call Carol – at NAMI, Maine. Ask her what time it is. Join the Holistic Recovery Project at http://holistix.atspace.com/wholeness.htm – we have a mailing list there too.

They incarcerate the mentally ill & the addicted, then they release them – untreated – back into your neighborhood.

If the powers that be lived in your neighborhood, perhaps more of us would be sent to rehabs & psychiatric hospitals. Perhaps there’d be money for those programs.

Only you can make it happen.

Please do. Because I guarantee – right now – some twenty-something is sitting in a cell & he’s coming off of opiates & his mental illness is causing him to believe that there’s only one way out.

– Rage

Interesting Collect Calls I've Made From Prison by Rage

Kenneth McDonald

I met Kenny McDonald while in Kennebec County for a probation violation (drinking).  Kenny was a sweet guy, child-like in many ways.  We were cellmates for a while and despite a head injury that always allowed me a bottom bunk, I took the top; Kenny had trouble getting up there.  I shared food with him, games of brick-house.

Kenny stabbed his 80 year old mother to death in 2009.  I assumed they’d send him to the State mental hospital, but you know how the insanity defense rides here in the union.

Kenny got sentenced to 30 years.


download (7)I met Micheal ‘Dirty’ McQuade when, after my first trip to Windham Prison, my dear sister placed me in the cheapest, grottiest rooming house in town at the time, Larry “Slum Lord” Fleury’s Edward’s House.  Real sweet guy when I knew him back in ’06, intelligent fellow who seemed to have a big heart.  I lost touch with him when I went back to jail later on that year (probation violation: drinking,) and only heard about his descent into darkness after moving into ‘the Vatikan,’ in the ghetto of East Bayside P-town.

Dirty was addicted to heroin and he and a couple of other fellows decided that the best way to get more heroin was by robbing another addict of his heroin.  The man ended up getting murdered during the caper; Dirty gave evidence against the fellow that supposedly did the actual killing.

Dirty received 12 years.  


download (13).jpgI met Michael ‘Madman’ Pedini at the same time, and in the same cell-block as I met Kenny (as well as Danny Fortune.)  Madman, an enforcer for the Outlaws motorcycle gang killed a member of the rival Hell’s Angels.  He never wrote for the blog.

Pedini did five years and then entered the witness protection program.


arline-lawless-2.jpgI’ve never met Arline Lawless in person, although she’s been trading letters with the Project for a few years now.  Arline (who came from “Beans of Egypt Maine” surroundings murdered her boyfriend, a working fisherman, with a gun, apparently when he told her of his intention of breaking up with her.

Arline was sentenced to thirty-five years.


danny.2014

Finally, I met Daniel ‘Prince’ Fortune at the same time and in the same cell-block as Kenny and Pedini.  Daniel was a good kid; the first time I’d bumped into him we were all going to court and I was cuffed to him.  Danny told the cop to cuff me to someone else and then explained to me, “there are gonna be cameras out there and you don’t want to be on television next to me.”

Danny was a former sports star (Gardiner Highschool), born in Haiti, adopted into white central Maine.  He suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident and after that, things got darker.  Drugs.  Danny had stolen a safe from a former State Senator’s home; he’d partied there a lot with the Senator’s son.  The son ended up owing Danny’s foster brother Leo some money for drugs and one night they went to collect.  As it turned out, the son wasn’t home. While Danny waited outside (he was already jammed up due to the safe robbery) Leo ended up attacking the Senator and his young daughter with a machete.

After the pair were arrested, Danny kept quiet.  Leo, sang like addicts usually sing in such situations, blaming Danny to a large degree; he later recanted and took full responsibility for the vicious attack.

Leo got fifty years.  Danny got two concurrent life sentences.


 

“The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this:
Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes.”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

Get it?

Robin Rage

 

With Robin Rage on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Justin Rowell-Savage on lead and backing vocals (ie, Hannibal Lector,) Matt Moscillo on drums and backing vocals (“I’m not that hungry, Mrs. Steele!”) Tim “Quiet Thunder” Hawkins on bass.  Produced and recorded by Jim Svensen and Guitardoors.org, a non-profit which records incarcerated musicians.

Thanks, Jim.

Rage

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Write to Dirty via:

Maine State Prison – Michael McQuade – MDOC #82448

807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864=4600

[The article Dirty refers to below is on amphetamine abuse in the United States: https://thebollard.com/2018/12/02/speed-demons/ – transcriber.]

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download (7)

Write to Dirty via:

Maine State Prison – Michael McQuade – MDOC #82448

– 807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

 

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

Only your vigilance on the outside can guarrentee that justice goes on on the inside.

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Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.