In my two-part post, “The Sacrifice of the Mass” several months ago, I wrote that life in prison revolves around television. The prison commissary sells a small twelve-inch flat screen TV, and the profits from prisoners’ weekly purchases go toward a recreation fund that pays for basic cable. So prisoner access to television costs taxpayers nothing, and is an essential link to the outside world. In fact, TV in prison actually saves a lot of money. Most prisons would have to double their staffs if not for TV.
There are only four television shows that I never miss. You already know what they are if you looked closely at the title of this post. The problem is, it’s summer, and they’re all gone now. “24” and “LOST” have come to an end and are gone for good. I will never again get to see Jack Bauer accomplish his most mind-boggling feat – driving anywhere he wants to go in Los Angeles or New York in less than a minute.
I’ll also really miss “LOST.” I watched every episode from the beginning, and it was always a work-out for my attention span. If you blinked during “LOST,” you really were lost! Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Sayid, even Locke and Ben, had become a part of my psyche. I tried weekly to bend my mind around the great mystery of what exactly was happening to them. I didn’t have the luxury of viewing the LOST fan websites, but I hear they were very busy.
“The Unit,” the terrific special-ops team headed by actor Dennis Haysbert, is in re-runs only now, but I still like them. I like the fact that the special-ops unit’s wives had a unit of their own, and sometimes they’re a lot more dangerous than their husbands on a field mission.
“Caprica,” a prequel to the best series of all, “BattleStar Gallactica” is on hiatus for several months. It did just what its predecessor did: It got me hooked, set up an impossibly complex plot with all sorts of twists and turns and deeper social meaning, brought viewers to the brink of annihilation, left us on the edge of a precipice ••• then took six months off.
I have given “V” a look. You may know it’s about interstellar visitors arriving here en masse in spaceships orbiting Earth, insisting they want to be friends, but some of us know better. It’s interesting, but I still share some of the pessimism of Emily Dickinson that I described two weeks ago. I think the real proof of intelligent life in the Universe is that they DON’T come here!
I’ve never been much of a fan of commercial television, and I watch very little of it – even in prison. I usually just have a news channel on in the background while I read or write letters. But now, with “24” and “Lost” having come to an end, “The Unit” now only in summer re-runs, and “Caprica” on hiatus, I am left in television limbo. I have four hours per week needing to be filled with mystery, science, danger, and intrigue, but now are just an empty void.
My nieces say that all the shows I watch are “guy shows.” On the telephone, they give me that weird “EEEiiooouuu” squeal when I mention BattleStar Gallactica, LOST, and The Unit. My youngest niece, now 23, suggested I check out “Dancing with the Stars.” I don’t want to sound opinionated, but I’d rather have a root canal than watch “Dancing with the Stars”!
I’m just lost without “Lost.” So if you have suggestions please let me know. Can you suggest anything redeeming on TV worth a few hours a week?
A SUMMER SCHEDULE FOR THESE STONE WALLS
Decades ago during a Sunday Mass in my last parish, I proclaimed the Gospel and then lost my voice. Everyone sat down for my homily, but I could not utter a word. It was some sort of allergic reaction. Nothing more than a squeak would come out. So I choked out a request that everyone stand for the Creed, then the lector prayed the intercessions.
By the time I stood at the altar to lift the bread for the Prayer over the Gifts, my voice started to return. I stood at the altar holding the paten and said, “I apologize that there was no homily. I seem to have lost my voice.” Then the entire congregation said in unison, “Blessed be God forever!”
Hmmm. Catholics on autopilot or some not-so-hidden message? Anyway, along that same line, I have a small change to propose for These Stone Walls. It first came up when I had my annual check-up at the prison Health Services Center two weeks ago. I got on the scale and moved the sliding bar to where it was last fall. Nothing happened. I slid it further to the right. Still nothing. The nurse practitioner had this smug little smile when I suggested the scale wasn’t working. I had to keep sliding that bar to the right before it finally balanced.
I guess I was wrong about my suspicion that a maintenance crew snuck into the prison chow hall one night last month to unbolt all the seats and move them closer to the tables. Winter always leaves me with more than cabin fever.
Every year I’ve been in prison, I put on ten pounds between November and April. If I didn’t lose it in the summer, I’d need a much bigger cell! I know metabolism and genetics are factors, but the biggest factor is that prisoners are trapped inside all winter, and just don’t move enough.
This past winter was worse than most. The one place to get some exercise is the recreation area outside our cells. I used to climb the flights of stairs out there to stay in shape. On some mornings I would climb the stairs to the upper tier 100 times. Now, because of prison overcrowding, there are prisoners living in exposed bunks out in the recreation areas. That curtailed much of my exercise, but it’s far worse for those who have to live out there. There are simply far more prisoners in New Hampshire than cells to put them in. About 100 prisoners live in recreation areas awaiting cell space, and hundreds more are housed in gyms and other spaces converted into dormitories.
I need to move more and the only place to do that is the prison ball field with its quarter-mile walking track. I wrote about the field at the end of last summer in my post, “Field of Dreams.” It’s a park-like setting and I’m convinced I’m sane today because of it. Last summer it rained so much that the field’s schedule was sporadic. Because I work in the prison library, I can only go to the field in the mornings, and it was open only once or twice a week last summer. It closed for the season on October 15th. I can see the door to it in the wall just outside my cell window. I’ve been staring at that closed door all winter.
The ball field opened for the season this week, and it actually stayed open for three out of seven mornings. In the hour and twenty minutes I’m allowed out there, I can get in four to five miles around the track. Hopefully, the stored up stress of winter will diminish, and so will I.
The morning when the ball field is open is also the time in which I do most of my writing. I can type only in my cell, and it has a west facing window which has no shade. By mid-afternoon, this cell can be incredibly hot and humid.
My 14-year-old typewriter’s quirky memory just won’t function on hot, humid days. This means that typing late in the day is often not an option in the summer. More than once last year, I composed six pages of text just to watch it disappear when I push the “print” button.
What I plan to do is continue writing my posts as I have been, but every other week during the summer months. I assume you also have other things to do this summer, so I hope you don’t mind. In the off weeks, I’ll still post something, but it will be shorter and less intense than my usual ranting and raving.
This also gives readers two weeks to read my longer posts, and I’ll try hard to make them worth the effort. I’d like to begin this summer schedule with this post, if you don’t mind. I’ll have something a bit more intelligent to say next week.
I pray for TSW readers every day. May the Lord bless you and keep you.