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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon


This morning on the farm in D.C. our forwarded mail arrived to bring a packet from the Virginia Department of Corrections.  Inside were 30 some handwritten pages of tattoo drawings, diagrams, prison tales, poems, and secrets.  Ashley, her mom, and I have been sitting around the table all morning in sheer wonderment at the contents of this packet. 

Ashley has cousins in Virginia that from time to time get in trouble.  When everyone comes in for the holidays at some point someone calls the jail and we pass the phone around to say hi to our loved ones unable to make it.  My boxing opponent from the story I told you is back in.  So is his sister.

Another cousin on the hill that day watching me get drummed was Josh.  That was six years ago, and the only time I would see him on the outside.  We visit Josh at the Pochahontas State Prison when we get the chance.  Having been in boys homes, juveniles, bootcamps and prison since he was 13, the government has studied him extensively.  His intelligence is in the top .2% of the population yet he has been formally uneducated and institutionalized nearly his entire life.  

His face is wise and happy that you came.  His body is completely covered with handmade tattoos you couldn’t beat anywhere.  We are the same age.  I told him I wanted to share in a blog whatever story he wanted to tell.  We’ve been back and forth in our letters about the idea, here’s the first line of his most recent letter:

“Just to let everyone know, I’m entering this new world of the internet with blinds on.  This is my first time ever writing a blog and I have never sent a text, seen a myspace or a facebook.  So let me tell you about the world I live in which is not new to me, its the one that I know all to well!  I have been locked up pretty much my whole life from the age of 13.”

Josh spread the word about the blog.  Now poems, unimaginable stories, and drawings from other inmates with plenty of time on their hands and no fear of holding back are sitting on the kitchen table.  Josh wants to call the blog something like fear and loathing in prison, if the title isn’t already taken.  I’m going to try and build it while I have some time here on the farm.  

I’m not wanting to share this purely for entertainment.  There are lot of reasons.  First, we should listen to one another. Some had support and benefits, some didn’t, but most of us have gotten breaks more than we’ve gotten busted.  Most importantly I’d like Josh to have somewhere to start when he gets out in the Summer of 2010.  When people don’t listen and choose to see only a blemished record, you often go back to what you know.


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