It was a mediocre Thursday night in the fair city of Burbank. Scott, Surgeon and myself were in the middle of an intense game on Dominoes at Surgeon’s man pad. Each of us took seven Bones and held them away from the other sneaky eyed hugger muggers around the table.
“Yo, tell him where you been.” Surgeon my chubby, Glasses clad friend hollered.
He was talking to Scott his skinny, ghostly, crew cut wearing childhood friend. His buddy peeked up shyly from his hand as he slapped down a double six,
“I was at Camp in Orange County.”
“Camp?” I came back. Surgeon chimed in sweetly, “jail dude.”
Scott’s passion for narcotics created a rotating routine of visits to the states penal system.
“Yeah dude. I was in county first and they moved me to camp after a few months. I violated my parole so they gave me the rest of my time to serve.”
After playing another round, Scott proved to be a master with the numbers. He counted quickly inside his wrinkled melon, while I struggled to tally points on my fingers.
Through subtle conversation that was interrupted by shots of the liquid potatoes, I discovered he was a dentist’s son that experimented with every type of drug created and dispensed on the planet Earth. He was a walking war on drugs poster and had more narcotics in him than a small, South American country.
Surgeon asked his friend questions I thought he should already have known. I figured if the pudgy drunk had done time in the California Penal system (as he bragged) the former Garden Grove Tres Loco should’ve already known the ins and outs.
“Yo, so what happened?” Surgeon slurred, pushing his spectacles back onto his chubby, wet nose.
“Dude. It was crazy. County was insane but the camp was cool.” Scoot replied.
“Were they on that race shit?” Surgeon inquired.
Scott paused and collected his scattered thoughts,
I had never heard first hand accounts from white dudes who had been locked up. I had accidentally run into two Aryan Low riders at a bar in Pedro one night, then there was John, Surgeon’s other friend, an athletic guy, who worked as a chef in the Valley’s best eateries. He was a Nazi (not by choice) in the Pen as well. Mike was Surgeon’s other buddy he befriended while in an NA meeting that was half El Salvadorian and Polish (an uncanny but amusing combination) former heroine addict but owned a last name ending with Ski enabling him access to the Woods without complication.
The universal word heard throughout the streets, no matter what the race of the speaker was: the white gangs were the craziest and the most vicious on the Main Line. I mistakenly thought it might have been the Brothers or Mexicans however I was wrong. The Aryan brotherhood, Nazi Lowriders, Woods, Skinheads and various Caucasian motorcycle gangs fell under the White Power salute.
I was told: they were usually the biggest, had the easiest access to weapons and were the designated Trustees. They had no beef with the Aztecs, just the African blood.
I remembered while writing this, years after talking to Scott meeting a fellow named Slim at the Bixby Park in Long Beach, while doing pull ups. A six foot three, mahogany skinned ex con ripped with muscles, yet older and humbled by the crime and dime life.
He stated when it was the Woods turn for kitchen duty no one ate. I asked him why and he informed me, “they spit and pissed in the food.” I would have died of starvation in the pen or flourished on the flesh of the weaker ones.
“So did you get into any trouble in there?”
He rolled his bloodshot eyes as if he had told this question a thousand times.
“I was on bunk restriction”, Scott said slightly shamed.
“What the hell is that?” I asked.
“If you break any of the codes you get dealt with.”
“What do you mean?” I shrugged fully entertained.
“You’re only suppose to use the white phone, toilet, showers and sit at the whites only table. You’re not supposed to talk to any other races either. It’s the politics man!” Scott babbled.
“Prison Politics!” Surgeon ejaculated as if some sort of expert on the geopolitical rules that governed the interior of correctional facilities.
Prison had rules that the prisoners made? If they were so good at rules why were they in jail? So the inmates make rules to go along with the rules already made?
I couldn’t digest the political aspect of jail and needed Scott to go deeper and make more sense of a senseless situation. He peaked at his Dominos and spoke,
“Okay one time this dude played cards with a Brother. The white guy won and the black guy owed him money. The black man wouldn’t pay, so now the Wood had to go back to the Aryan brother’s shot caller and tell him. He in return traveled over to the Brother’s shot caller and reported the offense: their man owed his man money. The Blacks either came up with the money or they settled it on the yard with a race war. So the Brothers paid the debt, and handled their own since they both broke the code.”
Thou shall not talk with another racial demographic.
Scott again informed me, the prison gangs always and without haste disciplined their race. They had to carry out these repercussions so the other races wouldn’t find them soft and beatable. Being beatable in the House of Pain was death on pause.
The black inmate had ten seconds on the wall, during which the biggest men on the Brother’s side beat the foolish violator with close fists.
The Whites had Torpedoes: the toughest, youngest and most vicious inmates: who hunted a Maverick down and beat them to oatmeal.
“What happens if they can’t?”
“Then you become a torpedo.”
That was when it trickled out what Scott did while inside. He was a human weapon of destruction sent to execute lawless, prison justice on wayward Anglo Saxons. You can’t reason with a torpedo. They are just sent to cause death and mayhem. Two. Double the vanilla trouble, yet if you beat them you became a Nordic King.
“There’s also bunk restriction, chow restriction and cell restriction,” he blurted out tired and slightly hung over.
It was mind blowing how the prison politics created even more fears and phobias. Besides the anal raping, gang wars, and racial divide, I would have to worry about breaking codes, which Scott informed happened all the time. It turned out most time people didn’t know that they were breaking the inmate mandated laws. Prison politics until that point were a mystery.
The dentist’s boy won another game on top of the other victories already secured. He didn’t lose the entire night even with Surgeon’s cheating and drunken exploits of distraction.
He passed Surgeon a little, clear packet filled with white powder. I shook his hand and he was off in a flash. I wobbled to the sofa and knocked out: drugs, vodka and Torpedoes were enough for one night. I closed my eyes as the cat rubbed against my legs.
David Michael Joseph is an Alternative writer, poet, and filmmaker from the great state (tongue in check) of New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles hoping to breath a breath of fresh air into the literary world. He has made four short films including Festival selections and winners Shadows of Sepulveda and C.A.k.E.