Author Archive for



24
Sep
14

way over yonder in the minor key

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One of my favorite songs. I’m surprised I haven’t posted it until now…

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Billy Bragg & Wilco performing “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key”

23
Sep
14

friends of a different sort

1. alex

by Alex King

I have a rather lonely background. In my earlier years, I moved a lot. Too much to ever develop any friends. In prison, I learned to stay to myself, for reasons relating to survival. When I got out, I found I couldn’t connect well with others. I had led such an odd life, my views had become so unusual, that I always found myself to be an outsider. In lieu of actual, physical companions, I found friends within the press of written pages.

I recall clearly the onset of this shift. When I was very young, I would read things like Goosebumps and Animorphs. Those books were great, but left me dissatisfied. This persisted until, during our reading hour in class, I watched as a fellow classmate dove eyes-first into a thick tome. I sat and wondered what was inside the book. This desire to find out grew overnight into a nearly overwhelming longing.

The next day, I went to the library. Looking around, a title jumped out at me. Alice in Wonderland. I checked it out, and began a new life swimming in words, pages and ink. I began to read voraciously. Fantasy was my favorite. I read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Young Wizard series, and, a true masterpiece (in my opinion), The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. As I grew, though, fantasy wasn’t enough. My appetite began to grow past what fantasy could sate.

While behind bars, I happened along Plato’s works and fell instantly in love with logic. Desperation seized me. I needed more. Knowledge of this sort, modes of reasoning, was like a drug for me. Unfortunately, the place where I was at the time made getting this type of literature very difficult. I had to make do with light reading, random articles and other near-useless tidbits. It drove me insane, but I took what I could get.

Eventually, no amount reading was enough for me. I realized that I had stories of my own. Plots, characters and settings spun in my head. Feeling they deserved a voice of their own, I wrote. At first, it was just something to do when I had nothing else. Writing quickly built into an obsession unto itself. I wrote stories, poems, even lyrics. For a long time, I just couldn’t stop.

Driven by circumstantial loneliness and a natural curiosity, I discovered life within death. I found that books, motionless and silent, are teeming with vitality. Worlds within worlds, populated with people I called “friend”. They were a balm when I was in pain. They soothed my loneliness. They were my constant companions in an otherwise empty world.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Metallica performing “Turn The Page”

22
Sep
14

autumnal equinox

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The autumnal equinox occurs tonight, September 22nd, at 9:29 pm central time.

I usually write on the theme of “balance” on the two equinoxes which occur each year, but this time I want to give this post a little twist to acknowledge Alex King being here. This is the first time—and the first time, certainly, since the stroke—that I have had any help here at Estrella Vista that by any stretch of the imagination even begins to approach the description of “equal.”

Now when I say “equal,” I don’t want to create the impression of “equal” as an accountant would define it. We do not apportion household tasks to one side or the other of a ledger, taking care that contributions are exactly balanced. It is much more casual than that. But I am impressed by how unfailingly generous and helpful—thoughtful and anticipatory of my needs—this young man is. He has been here only a couple weeks and there may be some who would say he is still on his best behavior… but I don’t think so. I think I am seeing the real Alex King at his most relaxed and natural self.

He says he has issues, but I honestly don’t see any. People from time assume he’s using Estrella Vista as a place for “healing,” but I honestly don’t see that, either. In a state of total personal freedom and with the absence of any sources of stress whatsoever, there seem to be no “issues” with which to deal. Maybe he should be saying that he has issues in high-stress environments like prison, but he seems perfectly happy and contented here. May it continue forever—or at least as long as he’s here.

But I see that I’ve strayed from my original point that life at Estrella Vista seems to be very equitable. I have just one more thing to add: the more Alex is helpful to me, the more inclined I am to be inclined to be helpful to him. Generosity—and balance—are infectious.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Clannad performing an ode to the Autumn Equinox (Mabon), “She Is Dying”

21
Sep
14

extinction of the dinosaur

dinosaur-computer

I realize now that I have been gradually turned into a Luddite, albeit not an active one, but by default. There was a day when I had one of the early word processors (a dual tape affair with a big Selectric typewriter) and one of the first fax machines (it was the size of a small refrigerator). I had one of the first IBM personal computers when the screens had electronic green letters. I kept updating regularly and had finally graduated to a succession of Macs.  I was an innovator, or an early adopter, at the very least.

But the move to this desert changed all that. Through a series of electrical burn-outs, my technological edge was eroded. I ended up with a laptop that quickly turned into a dinosaur that easily consumed at least an hour’s wait time each day as it struggled to process even the simplest of tasks. Alex took one look and, at less than 1 GB of RAM, immediately diagnosed the problem: the computer was working beyond its capacity.

Alex counseled me that now was the time to replace the dinosaur, and for less than $200 we bought a new Dell tower, and I am now preparing this post on a new machine that is not always notifying me that it is hung up on one script or another or that a program is nonresponsive as the computer’s overtaxed processors are laboring to complete their tasks.

I now understand three things. One is a computer consultant’s amazement that my old laptop was still in use. Second is a contributor’s willingness to buy me a new computer—I had no idea the damned things could be had so cheaply. Third is Moore’s Law, which says that over the history of computing hardware, the processing power of a given investment doubles every two years. Given the age of my old laptop, it should have died years ago.

Oh, and there is a fourth thing: I am a damned fool for having put up with so much aggravation for so long to save less than $200. Thank god that Alex has shown up and told me what anyone under the age of 30 knows as second nature.

۞

Groove of the Day

 Listen to “The Dinosaurs Song”

20
Sep
14

behind the scenes: the beginning

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This is a short series of posts I’m writing in response to a recurring question I’ve gotten over the years. Many people have wanted to know what things were like for me. Instead of repeating oft told “prison stories”, I’ve decided that a better answer would involve impressionism. So, these are my impressions of events…

.

by Alex King

Prison starts at the verdict. Once all the jokes, fears and horror stories of hell on Earth become an imminent reality, the psychological effects begin. A dark gulf yawns before you and you start to feel the weight of chains constraining your entire being. Depression and despair settle in for the long haul, continually threatening a devastating hopelessness. Shock can sometimes delay this effect, but not for long. This immutable reality will soon take you, and try with all its might to crush you, utterly.

This is just the onset of the tempest. It seems like the worst part only because of the contrast. Soon after comes sentencing. For some, the sentence gives a light at the tunnel’s end. For others, a light only exists beyond the vanishing point, or not at all. To be set on a path of torment, knowing it will not end for an incomprehensible length of time, can easily shatter all but the most fortified spirits. The longer the trek through that gulf, the easier it is to become lost.

Waiting for transport is torture. Nervous anxiety builds. It becomes harder and harder to smile. You begin to forget what it’s like to laugh. Many pace. Others fidget. When sleep comes, it’s restless and fitful, providing none but the smallest relief. Pity from those around you, from those you are in contact with, poisons you, corroding your composure. Each day, you hope it will end, and each day, you dread the end’s approach. Then, finally, the hammer falls. Your name is called. You are told to pack.

Transport and intake alike are a nerve-wracking mixture of whirlwinds blended with tense calm. “Hurry, hurry!” “Move, inmate!” “Wait there!” The clock runs, hours pass like weeks. Orders come to perform tasks. Orders come to wait for the next order to move. You hop to when called, so as not to attract notice. Those who are too slow are harassed. Those who are noncompliant are taken away. Certain atrocities committed in these places are carefully kept out of the view of the camera.

Relief and anxiety create a bitter blend as intake finalizes. An entire day of high stress with no hint of comfort, whether physical, mental, or emotional, leaves you exhausted. Your life has been drastically redefined, and this is only the beginning.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to The Eagles performing “Hotel California”

19
Sep
14

don’t go breaking my heart

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۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Elton John and Kiki Dee performing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

18
Sep
14

a message from above

starry night

by Alex King

There are many types of pollution in the world today, but one of the most detrimental to Astronomers is light pollution. Light generated by cities blanks the night skies. Only the brightest stars can be seen in these places. Out here, in the desert of West Texas, however, cities are nonexistent, and the veil shrouding the stars is very thin.

My first experience with the change occurred the night before last. I found myself outside at night when the sky was clear and , as is my habit, I looked up. Holy hell. Absolute beauty glimmered down upon me from countless points of light on a backdrop black as pitch. Seeming to be just out of reach, these tiny diamonds gave testament to eons passed, representing an imposing permanence. Taking my all-important life and comparing it, I was humbled.

In the far and wide, we are an egocentric race, living our entire lives stuck in our own personal universes, naive and blind. Many never live to know the magnitude of their own obscurity. Placing my life next to that of these glorious celestial bodies, it passes as the flicker of an eye, barley noticed and wholly insignificant. Having lived consumed with my own success or failure, the message I was receiving, to put it in layman’s, was that I needed to get my head out of my ass.

Leafing through historical literature, I’ve found that the individual vanishes behind legacy. A single person is impermanent and frail, soon forgotten. Only those who have impacted the human race have been immortalized. Even so, the only immortal aspect is the impact. As a person, I will die and face, quickly buried under the inexorable sands of time. My only significance is the legacy I leave behind.

Put simply, I gazed upon a breath-taking canvass and saw in it a question. In the end, will I have added my own small brushstroke, or simply watched from afar?

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Don McLean performing “Vincent” (Starry Starry Night)




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