Hi everyone, sorry it’s been a while since my last blog post, I’ve been busy writing my book! I know some of you are very curious how a convicted murderer adjusts back into society, so thought I’d share some tidbits with you. Continue reading
I woke up on a Thursday morning remembering that Dad’s parole hearing was taking place at that moment. We’d all been preparing for the last couple of years – hiring Dad’s parole attorneys (he was now on his fifth), gathering countless boxes of legal paperwork, organizing letters of support for his release, coaching him on the IRR’s (insight, responsibility and remorse.) Based on what I’d heard about parole hearings, I didn’t expect Dad to be released first time around, just like in Shawshank Redemption when the inmates keep getting denied. Man I loved that movie.
1. The term used when a prisoner hides contraband up inside his person – Keystering – and thank you Dad for that detailed description.
2. Inmates can ferment fruit and packets of bbq sauce into wine, taste at own risk.
3. Inmates can make a sharp knife out of toilet paper, kind of like paper mache style.
4. Prison guards steal any mail they may want, e.g. magazine subscriptions, packages of food, electronics.
4. Contrary to prison life in movies, inmates don’t have computers or access to the Internet, unless you’re Martha Stewart.
5. Inmates don’t ask other inmates what they are in for unless they offer you their sentencing papers.
6. The prison pecking order starting from lowest to highest is: sex offenders, including pedafiles and rapists, law enforcement, informants, drug dealers, murderers (but not of children).
7. If your Dad’s appellate attorney is the same as Phil Spector’s, be careful what you may write about Phil Spector.
8. MCI is a racket and has the toe-hold on the collect calls. Rumor has it sometimes they purposely drop calls so you have to pay for the first minute again.
9. Stamps are considered a form of currency.
10. If you are in a prison fight, even if you’re the one being beaten and not beating, they’ll put you in the hole.
I find every year to be full of so many events, I really need start writing them all down. Some funny, some sad, many shameful but never any regrets. I started off the year strong, my 2011 resolution was to get back into shape after eating and boozing my way through the Big Apple these last few years.
So in January off I went to Park City, Utah with friends for a ski trip. My second run of the second day I skied past the Glory Hole run with my friend Tim, who said he was “gonna hit that.” He made me laugh hard and took off ahead of me. I turned to the right, still laughing, caught an edge and fell hard down the hill. Why I always fall underneath the busiest ski lift I’ll never understand, so I had quite an audience.
As I tumbled, I could feel my left ski turning one way and my left leg turning the other until I heard a loud snap, like the world’s largest rubber band. I was lovingly taken care of by hottie ski patrolmen–one was named Tinker, no really. In the end I tore my ACL completely but the experience led me to discover my new favorite drink, the pickle back. We went to the Sundance Lodge, I had to hobble in my crutches and knee brace. Tim ordered us a round of pickle backs – a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice. Initially disgusted, I was quickly proven wrong. Tell me what you think. Continue reading
Thanks both to Gemma Dempsey and Bob Carlson, I was featured on Bob’s radio show UnFictional yesterday, airing Tuesdays at 2:30pm pst and Fridays at 7:30pm pst on KCRW.com/ 89.9FM in Los Angeles. It was an awesome piece and the folks at KCRW are just fantastic. I got teary-eyed listening to myself talk about my story.
You can listen to it here:
Seeing my dad in prison is like seeing a different person. My once powerful father that I looked up to for everything, now dressed in double denim, sometimes shackled and occasionally strip searched. Our visits and phone calls center around his case, the trial, the appeal. Our last family photo of him in his own clothing was taken in early 2000. He has aged significantly since then; we all have. Where there was once a family unit, there’s now four disparate individuals related by blood. I feel like an adult orphan and I blame my father for this. He knows I’m angry with him–for my family’s tenuous situation, his selfishness, and the countless hours spent in jail and prison–but he dismisses my feelings, calling them, in his words, “bitterness.”
However, having now lived through his eleventh year of incarceration, I realize the importance of remembering and preserving the good times and memories I have with my father before his arrest. Amid the feelings of loss and a lack of control over my life, I do still have a father, and the fact that he’s serving a life sentence doesn’t alter that truth. When I see him now, it’s like seeing a shell of his former self with a new personality; as if he was body snatched and replaced with a clone. In these times of frustration, there’s an ever-present yearning to escape–through travel, through isolation, or by acting on self-destructive impulses. So as a means of self-preservation, it’s essential to occasionally honor and give life to the brighter childhood memories, and remind myself that I’m a daughter, a daughter with a father who loves me.
I remember when I was young, and my parents would get their jury summons in the mail. “Oh man, this is the last thing I need,” Mom would say. Dad got out of it, being an ex-cop. Growing up, I realized most people avoided their civic responsibility. Wasn’t this illegal? It sounded like fun to me, sitting in the court room with all that excitement, seeing all the evidence, aiding in the decision of the defendant’s verdict.
I got summoned for jury duty in Ventura County when I was 18. I was excited. I was serving my country, or at least my county. Dad told me to bring a book, “you’ll be doing a lot of sitting around.” I sat on a cold wooden pew, gazing out the window, reading my book. At 4pm, a woman came out, “Thank you for your participation, you are now released.” Wow, just like that.
I escaped jury duty for another 14 years, until I got another summons in September 2000 – a murder trial in Marin County. The defendant was right there at the table, 5 feet away from me. He didn’t look like the murdering type, yet I looked at him as if he was already guilty.
I filled out a jury questionnaire form. The trial was set to begin on October 11th. Phew, I had travel plans to New York City then. They excused me.
A month later, my father was arrested for the murder of his strip club business partner. The tables had turned. My mom, sister and I sat through the jury selection for his trial. These strangers were going to hear intimate details about my family and decide the fate of my father’s life. His current sentence was the death penalty. Dad’s million dollar attorneys hired a jury specialist. “Believe us, it’s money well spent, she has a great track record,” they assured us.
These days, Dad’s wardrobe consists solely of double denim and flimsy white tennis shoes, but in 1984, after watching Jack Nicholson in Prizzi’s Honor, he sported pink and yellow blazers. Dad had a museum of cowboy boots – about 20 pairs ranging in color and animal hide, and he liked big gold rings and chains, and wore a gold bull around his neck.
But behind the curtain of Dad’s eccentricity, was a loving father, the evolution of a man who grew up in Hoboken projects, unattended by his mother, while his father spent his life in a sanitarium. He was one of nine children, but only kept in touch with one sister and a long-lost brother his mother had sold to neighbors.
Family meant everything to Dad. He enrolled my sister and me in an expensive Catholic school to ensure a good education, and went to church with Mom every Sunday, not because he was religious, but because it made Mom happy.
Dad ran a tight ship at home, and there were severe consequences for bad behavior. Once when I was sixteen, I snuck out of the house wearing a leopard-print tank top and leather miniskirt and hit a night club in Santa Monica, where I drank, danced and smoked cigarettes.
The next morning, Dad approached me, “Did you wear that outfit after your mother and I told you not to?” I loved him too much to lie. He walked away with disappointment in his eyes. It turned out his adult entertainment attorney had spotted me at the club. Two days later Dad sold my car and grounded me for six months.
In contrast to my flashy father was his business partner Mac whose steroidal frame stood 6’7″. Mac and Dad met while on the California Highway Patrol. Dad quit the force after a nasty motorcycle accident, and Mac was fired for accepting bribes. Later on, Mac brought Dad in as a partner to run his strip clubs in Los Angeles.
The alarm went off at 4:45am on December 25th, 2009, but I had long been awake. My flight from JFK to LAX touched down nine hours earlier. I was tired, jet lagged, and anxious about the day ahead. I had that “first day of school” feeling. Mom fed the cat while my younger sister packed a cooler of refreshments for the day.
We took off in Mom’s car a little after 5:30am.
Usually, the family spent Christmases on the beach in Maui. Now we visited Dad in prison. Prison? How did this happen?
The trip to the maximum security Corcoran Prison clocked in at 3 hours. Having been turned away before, we called the prison visitor center hotline to make sure the inmates weren’t on lock-down.
Mom turned on the radio “To listen to traffic,” but it was really to drown out the silence. We drove by Magic Mountain and I remembered the Free Fall ride from my high school trip, dropping 50 stories in half a second and leaving my stomach back at the top. That’s how it felt driving to prison.
We made a pit stop at the county line in Bakersfield for one last restroom break: prison restrooms, even at the visitor center, typically had no toilet paper or soap. I’d seen Himalayan out houses that were cleaner.
The only things visitors were allowed to bring in were money, an ID, car key and an unopened pack of tissues. Sometimes I smuggled gum in my bra. Dressing for prison was a constant costume conflict, and I had to come prepared with a suitcase of clothes in the car. I liked to dress for the holidays. Years prior, I rented an Easter Bunny costume and wore it to visit Dad in jail. Oh jail. Life was so simple then.