Archive for November, 2014


walk away


“Walk Away Renée” is a song recorded by the band The Left Banke in July 1966. It was always one of my favorites. I am not alone in my admiration of the song. Rolling Stone placed the song at number 220 in the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”



Groove of the Day

Listen to The Left Banke performing “Walk Away Renee”



someday it will happen


Groove of the Day

Listen to Diana Ross & The Supremes performing “Someday We’ll Be Together”



Yesterday my neighbor Whitebear drove over to fetch Alex and me for a visit at his home. We were there from about noon until the sun began to sink behind the mountains.

He wanted to show me the progress he’d made building his house, an elaborate hacienda-type structure that is the home of his dreams. He flies the flag of the American Indian Movement. He seemed impressed when I told him I had once met with Vernon Bellecourt, one of the leaders of AIM.

He shares the house with his wife Julie and a large number of animals that include dogs and cats, horses, chickens, turkeys, turtles, etc. He has cultivated a bounty of fruit trees and plants that supplement his diet. His property is also home to wild deer, antelope, and large cats of various species. While there, we even saw the tracks of a mountain lion.


This is a little old, but here is a slide show showing his property:


I don’t see Whitebear very often—he keeps most people at a distance—but I consider him one of my closest friends out here. One reason he invited me to his home is that he was placing some ashes from our mutual friend Michael in a small chapel he had built, and he knew I would appreciate being a part of that. I left an offering of a single menthol cigarette, which was a favorite of our departed friend.

Another reason he invited us to his home is he wanted an opportunity to meet Alex. I’m glad Alex had an opportunity to visit Whitebear’s because it gave Alex an opportunity to see what is possible living off the grid. Even for us.

Whitebear has lived in this country longer than I have, and he has had more money to work with, too. The visit demonstrated to Alex that it needn’t be as austere and simple as the lifestyle we have so far achieved.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Robbie Robertson and The Red Road performing “Cherokee Morning Song”




Of course, Alex’s post yesterday was a disappointment to me. His announcement hardens intention. But given my philosophy, there is little for me do do but to accept his plan to leave and support it to the best of my ability.

Readiness refers to how likely a person is to seek out knowledge and participate in behavior change, and Alex is clearly not ready for what this place—and I—have to teach him. In the three months that he has been here, Alex has never explored the property nor (to the best of my knowledge) left the vicinity of the house except to pay a visit to the neighbors’. Whereas we spoke frequently upon his arrival, this ceased around the time that he began to spend hours of time on the phone each day and night with a young girl who has become his exclusive counsel.

Individuals go through various stages in order to adopt or maintain new behaviors. According to a website I consulted, in the pre-contemplative stage, the person is generally not aware of a problem or not ready to act. In the contemplative stage, the person is thinking about a change, but is not yet taking action. In the action stage, the person adopts a behavior change and is practicing it. In the maintenance stage, the person retains the new behavior as a result of reinforcement. In the last stage, the behavior is part of the individual’s lifestyle and is no longer seen as a change that needs attention or reinforcement.

Interventions work best if they match a person’s state of readiness. For example, if a subject is not even aware of a problem or its consequences, teaching should be directed toward raising awareness of the need for behavior change before any other learning can take place.

Readiness implies a degree of concentration and eagerness. Individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to learn, and do not learn well if they see no reason for learning. Getting people ready to learn, creating interest by showing the value of the subject matter, and providing continuous mental or physical challenge, is usually the mentor’s responsibility. If the mentee has a strong purpose, a clear objective, and a definite reason for learning something, he makes more progress than if he lacks motivation. In other words, when learners are ready to learn, they meet the mentor at least halfway.

Alex appears to believe that he already has learned most of what is relevant to his personal situation. He doesn’t yet know what he doesn’t know. Give him time.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Fifth Dimension performing “Go Where You Wanna Go”




by Alex King

I am taking a leave of absence from both Estrella Vista and Wandervogel Diary. Neither is indicative of an ending, but rather a new start. Coming here has allowed me the opportunity to truly take stock of all the damage I’ve caused myself. My life is currently in shambles due to many years’ worth of bad decisions. I’m not writing off the dream, but rather getting myself situated so I can be more helpful in the future.

Beginning with the latter, I have created a web profile of myself as a writer an aspiring author. This site incorporates a blog entitled “Ramblings”. Although most of my efforts are going towards building up my portfolio, there will nonetheless be postings that will intersect with the Diary. These I will happily repost here, but for those who want to keep tabs on me personally, I will be on This site is new, so there isn’t much to see, but with a lot of effort and a little luck, this could change soon.

The item of more immediate interest, I’m sure, is my leaving Estrella Vista. Once more, this is only a new beginning. Since being here, I’ve had the time to closely examine my life. In 25 years, I’ve nothing substantial to show for myself, save 2 prison sentences and some accumulated debt. I’ve always been one to believe a person should take responsibility for themselves and their actions. I can’t expect others to wash out my indiscretions for me. I have to do this myself.

The last time I indulged in city life, prior to my second arrest, jobs were all but inaccessible to me. Without probation and with all the time that has transpired, I’m much better situated to work my way into a legitimate position in the workforce. I will need aid initially, but with a dedicated effort I expect to have something going within 2 months.

I would like to offer my sincere appreciation for the refuge that has been provided for me. I came here with nothing to offer and was received. I appreciate everyone reading this, for giving me my voice and for responding. I look forward to a time in the future when I can be an asset, but I need the time if I’m to no longer be a liability.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to “Disturbed” performing “Prayer”



copacetic 2

As I read through the readers’ comments to yesterday’s post, I have the impression that I left some things unsaid which may have created the impression that the problem was greater or more unresolved than it was.

It is not my style to talk about problems until they are resolved. This one has been definitely fixed to the greatest possible extent at this point in time.

Alex did his dirty dishes and even put them away. He did an excellent, non-half-assed job, and I thanked him for it. In the course of the day, I washed some of his things, and he thanked me for doing so, too. It was as if an oppressive pall had been lifted from our interactions. The old friendliness is restored.

Yesterday my friend Dusty called and expressed interest in what had been going on. He asked me if Alex had seen yesterday’s post, and I replied that he saw it before it was published and had an opportunity to input. Dusty said that he was impressed that Alex was willing for me to air our disagreement, and commented that such practical experiences could be valuable “teaching moments” for young people who grew up the way that Alex did.

He asked me to convey to Alex that most people who read this blog are not interested in judgment or assigning blame, but are supportive and “in it together with him.”

They know that prison is a tough place to learn and practice cooperation.

They know this shouldn’t count against them.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Velocity Girl performing “Copacetic”


que sera, sera


Living with former inmates has its ups and downs. People sometimes tend to romanticize the experience, but I think it is high time for me to burst that bubble.

We have recently been through a “down” which has consumed a lot of energy, and it has been over an issue that most people (I think) should think of as pretty minor: doing the dishes and otherwise cleaning up after yourself after eating. But big doors swing on small hinges.

My own feeling is that a person can best recover from a childhood spent behind bars by exercising personal freedom to do (or not do) everything it takes to survive daily life, but that this freedom must be accompanied by personal responsibility for actions chosen.

Alex used a recent example of “disrespect” (I don’t agree) to justify eating but not cleaning up after himself; however the practice had begun long before the incident of supposed “disrespect.” I had begun to think that Alex would begin to take me for granted as his “bitch” if I continued to clean up after him, so I drew the line one night last week after he had created an especially large number of dirty dishes in the preparation of a stew for his consumption. After first asking him a few times to do his dishes and receiving evasive answers (“I’ll fit it in sometime”), I finally piled his dirty dishes at the base of the ladder to the sleeping loft, so he would literally have to step over them in his frequent comings-and-goings.

He accused me of being “childish” and hardened his resolve not to do his dishes. The dishes remained in place for a couple days until I reminded him that doing one’s dishes is as basic as being responsible for cleaning out one’s own shit bucket, and that his practice prevented me from preparing my meals. I told him that I was not asking him to leave (it is his free choice being here; he is not a prisoner), but that living at Estrella Vista involves making a commitment to a minimal level of pro-social behavior. I said that, unlike him, I do not have a taste for conflict and believe that being in a state of constant conflict does not lead to desirable results. I said that he has got to decide to either “get along or get out.”

Alex agreed that conflict usually results in terrible outcomes, but said that he would never back down (it is not in his nature) and that we had reached an “impasse.” He told me that, given his history, moving constantly was no big deal, and even though he would be leaving with “less than nothing,” he was prepared to return to Pensacola (on my dime), resume going to school, and living with his dysfunctional family.

Even though I’d asked him to take time to think about it before making his decision, I was astonished by his willingness to immediately choose an option which is so clearly not in his self-interests. But he has repeatedly made decisions in his life that he says he knew would turn out badly, almost as if the sub-optimal results were proof that life would always turn out that way.

Now let me be clear: I would prefer that Alex stays at Estrella Vista. I recognize that I am not the most fun person to live with, that Alex has difficulty relating to men, and that life at Estrella Vista can be difficult for anyone. I did not ask him to leave, only to decide that he would make an effort to get along. I didn’t even ask that it be a perfect effort, only that he try.

I gave it a night to think, and I realized that it takes at least two to be in an impasse. My highest value is that however this turns out, it should benefit Alex. I decided that if his remaining here should hinge on my doing his dishes, I would be willing to make the sacrifice. I have no overriding need to “win” a disagreement. So the next morning before he began cooking some eggs, I told him as the older and presumably more mature person in this impasse, I would be willing to do his dishes if he stayed.

However, Alex cut the conversation short and announced that a girl he has been talking to since around the time of his last posting here had convinced him to relent about the dishes—but he was still moving back to Pensacola. As if to prevent me from feeling too magnanimous about my decision, he told me I had her to thank for his change of mind.

We don’t even have the money right now for a bus ticket, so maybe he will or maybe he won’t bail by the time we can afford it. Que sera, sera. Time will tell.

Of the 12 juvenile parricides currently served by the Redemption Project, Derek and Alex are the only ones who received developmentally-appropriate sentences and have been released from the clutches of the System. (Through our involvement, one boy had no charges filed against him and at least two other boys received more lenient sentences, but they are still serving their time.)

My experiences so far have led me to the conclusion that the prison system leaves young people raised in it ill-equipped to deal with even the most basic things that make for a successful life outside the confines. Derek once told me that the rules of survival are all upside-down: what gets you ahead in the outer world can get you killed or injured in prison.

However this incident turns out, it reinforces the need for something like Estrella Vista to ensure that life outside the prison gates can be successful for juvenile parricides.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Doris Day performing “Que Sera Sera (What Will Be, Will Be)”