We’ve all heard the saying “Everyone has a book in them,” yet the most difficult obstacle would be authors have is actually finding the time to sit down and write the murder mystery, romantic drama, science-fiction fantasy, spy novel or non fiction memoir without having to worry about the gas and electric bills, providing three meals and the numerous everyday necessary responsibilities causing distractions from that creative zone to freely express thoughts and ideas to be shared with the world.
I don’t have that problem, waking up at 5:30 am after seven hours rest, enjoying my first strong hot black coffee while checking e-mail messages at the computer followed by a two-hour work out session. After a nice sweat, I take a steaming hot shower, get dressed in some comfortable gray sweatpants and matching tee shirt, then I mix a banana with a scoop of peanut butter and small carton of milk, like they gave us in elementary school to go with my bran flakes, nuts, and granola cereal. By 9:15 am, it’s time for my second cup of coffee that cools on the table behind me while I lay my notebook out on the bed that I use as my writers’ desk.
If there are no pen marks on the light tan cotton blanket it’s a sign of writer’s block, but that doesn’t happen much because I’m surrounded by an overabundance of true-life stories with main characters anxious to reveal details of everything from murderous gangland plots, wall street money schemes, credit card scams, embezzlers, gun traffickers and even Isis terrorist. I don’t have to solicit their stories or pry for details, actually, I just sit back and listen, finding myself saying “I don’t want to know about that!” far too often.
If there’s one person that knows the power our government yields with the broad scope of a conspiracy it is I, have been fighting my draconian sentence for such a charge since 2004. It’s taken me over 12 years, but I’m finally back in New York at M.D.C. Brooklyn on a 2255 motion for ineffective assistance of counsel. Most of the guys in my unit are here on pre-trial or transferring to another prison. This facility is a lot different from where I’ve spent my previous 8 years at USP Canaan, where there were stabbings every week and we could count on a murder or two a year.
I was shell-shocked for the first few months I came here. There’s a big difference between being in a jail and a penitentiary. Jail is like the rides at a local carnival, the penitentiary is like the rides at a Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park.
Some of these guys look like juveniles and coming here I realized the gang epidemic is spreading through New York like in the West Coast L.A. back in the 80’s. A young Puerto Rican Crip calling himself French is just 18 years old, he was six when I got locked up!! He only weighs about 130 pounds with black low hair cut like a member of the Beetles and an angry babyface who has no idea what’s waiting for him once he reaches the real compound of the Penitentiary.
I see him on the visiting floor every week with his mother, who’s about my age but looking older by the week due to the stress brought on by the light of her life.
It breaks my heart to see, considering I’m being visited by my mother, who’s been giving unyielding support to me on my numerous prison trips since I was his age. I know what lies ahead for this young kids mom since when I tried to talk to French about changing the way he lives he wasn’t trying to hear me.
“I’m a Crip for life! That’s what’s cracking O.G.” he said, calling me a title of respect since I’ve been down so many years due to my previous gangster way of life.
At first, I took offense when all the younger guys called me O.G. (which stands for Original Gangster), not upset with them but with myself. I came in on this sentence when I was 32 and I’m about to turn 45 now asking myself “Were all those years wasted?”
Most would probably think “Yes” but I can attest to the fact that after a year into this sentence, I had the desire to change the way I live and that choice to change saved my life. Spiritually, I built a relationship with my higher power, God and I had some issues to work on but we’ve been good for some time. Physically, I was about 50 pounds overweight so I changed my diet, stuck to a work out routine, lost all the excess weight, started practicing Yoga and I’m as fit as ever. Mentally, I had to learn how to think, not from a gangster mentality but from a spiritual point of view by understanding the power of my thoughts, words, and actions.
I had to think about a new career so I began to write and discovered that when I pick up my blue Bic ballpoint pen, open my wireless notebook with the steaming aroma of my black coffee setting the ambiance to unlock the mental doors of my creative imagination, I am once again free. Not only am I free but I’m at peace, I’m happy and I’m blessed.
I’m not delusional, I realize that being in prison isn’t the ideal situation, but honestly, it can be a writers paradise.
I have an unlimited amount of resources to tap into, real characters that crime writing authors would love to sit with for an hour or two for a question and answer session. I live an F.B.I. profilers dream, to interview these individuals that come seeking guidance from the Gangster Turned Guru.
Most of them want me to write their books, after having read my first published book “Voice For the Silent Fathers”, but I advise them to start to write for themselves because if anything, writing is therapeutic and if they stick to it (which most don’t) hopefully they will discover the gift of freedom that writing offers.
I intend to share some of these stories in the future because I just can’t let this material go to waste. Even in this moment of writing, my new celli who’s been here for a little over two weeks is laying on the top bunk, staring out the window, shaking his head wondering how he ended up here. He’s one of the MS-13 gang leaders which are responsible for over 20 killings in the last two years on the east end of Long Island. The reality hasn’t set in on him yet, he’s only 23 and was about to be deported when the Feds charged him in a new indictment. His other three fellow gang members on the unit are charged with taking part in murdering two teenage girls and four young teenage boys in Brentwood as an initiation rite to join the gang, and he’s still wondering why he’s here! I’ve seen this movie before and know where it’s going. But his story will have to wait until it plays itself out.
Earlier this afternoon, I spent about an hour in a theological discussion with a young man who’s charged with promoting terrorism as an Isis recruiter. El Chapo’s right-hand man and best friend was asking me for physical training advice this morning when I finished my work out. These three interactions are just from today and I’ve been here for 18 months hearing and witnessing episodes that can keep a writer like myself running out of ink.
I use my interaction as an opportunity to shed light on the conditions we all find ourselves in and most that listen are receptive to my guidance because I’ve walked a similar path and speak in a non-judgmental tone. But I still give the raw and uncut truth about the situation we’re in and why.
When many of these guys, most young gang members, come to ask me for legal advice I don’t like being the bearer of bad news when I have to tell them “Tell your lawyer to get you a plea deal for 20 years!” They look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve had the toughest of street thugs unable to hold back tears, that if he had learned to cry years earlier probably would have helped him avoid this situation, but that’s neither here nor there. I take the time to explain that being in your early twenties, you can come home from a twenty year bid and live a productive life, which is something you currently can’t do with a life sentence that Federal Judges have no problem giving out, especially if you dare to exercise your constitutional right to a trial.
In pointing out that we’re all currently in this prison situation as a logical result of things that we’ve either thought, said or done, I emphasize that the exact same method of creation is what will change our condition. Although physically it may not change overnight, I advise learning to use this time for the more important transformation from within, will bring a greater change with life in general.
I attempt to keep a spiritual content with my writings, whether it’s my political thoughts, a fictional novel or autobiography. I just want to let my readers know that I’m currently in the ultimate writers retreat, so have no fear for there will be no lack of The Gangster Turned Guru’s reading material.