Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book News, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Xmas Antics and More Nonsense From Germany

It's the two-year anniversary of my release, and I've been in Germany for over a week. I just received the best possible Xmas present from my literary agent. His email began: "The good news is that you will be a published writer." Not only has he found a publisher for my jail memoir, the publisher belongs to the biggest publishing company in the world, which is, incidentally, owned by Germans.

With this publisher behind me, I can really rip the roof off Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail system. It also opens the door for the stories of the prisoners I write about. I'd like to do them as seperate books.

My agent said the earliest my jail memoir will be in the bookstores is September.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is up to his usual Xmas antics. He's forcing 8000 inmates in the Maricopa County jail system to listen to Xmas songs all day long for the duration of the holiday season. Arpaio claims to have chosen music from all faiths, and for agnostics he has selected songs by the Chipmunks.
Citing the music as cruel and unusual punishment, inmates have filed six lawsuits against it. A reporter for the Phoenix New Times pointed out that the practice of forcing people to listen to "crappy music" is used by the military for interrogation purposes. "For example, the U.S. military blared Metallica music at detainees in Guantanamo Bay with the intention of breaking them down psychologically."

Yet another pregnant woman has suffered abuse by Arpaio's guards. The woman was arrested while nine months pregnant. She gave birth while shackled to a bed, and wasn't allowed to hold her baby. She was told that if no one came to collect the child within 72 hours, the baby would be turned over to state custody.

Before I get into my adventure in Germany, I'd like to post a quote from Iron Man's latest letter that I found inspirational: "I am glad to hear about the progress you are making on all fronts. Perseverence and single-minded determination will carry the day. Remember that all great battles are won in the general's tent. So stick to your plan, dwell deeply in the present moment, and live life in every breath."

I wrote the nonsense that follows especially for those of you in a cold part of the world this Xmas.

20th December 09

I'm sat next to Kathi on the Deutsche Bahn train back to Halle. We just spent the weekend at her parents' house in a 1075-year-old village in the state of Thüringen, population 5500, where no English people have dared to tread since World War II. The village is in a mountainous region, and the temperature low was minus 18°C. Kathi is wearing five pairs of socks. A sense of feeling is returning to my feet, but I still can't feel my toes.
Kathi is sipping Holunderlikör – a liquor brewed by her friend, Netti, who shares a house in the village with numerous ferrits. Kathi's recommending I take a drink to put some warmth back into my body. Mmmm, it tastes sweet.

Upon arrival, I demanded to take a good look around the village. Venturing out in my Russian hat and thermals, the cold sent my exposed facial skin into shock. It took about ten minutes to lose all feeling in my feet, and a bit longer for my gloved hands to start to go. So we ended up hiding from the cold in the house occupied by Netti and her ferrits, with names such as Maya and Katis, who repeatedly tried to sneak up the inside of my jeans, no doubt aiming to steal that last store of heat between my legs.

Unlike most Germans I've met, Kathi's dad, Eberhard, actually smiles a lot. Her mum, Jördis, cooked some wonderful food. They live in a hundred-year-old building formerly occupied by priests. There is a Catholic church to one side, and a Protestant church to the other whose bell rang every fifteen minutes, including all night long.

Many years ago, one church was occupied by monks and the other by nuns. Village folklore has it that a tunnel running under Kathi's parents' house joins the two. That a nun and a priest, Lioba and Bertram to be precise, used the tunnel to consummate their love until a rival for Lioba, Urban, caught them in the act and stabbed them to death. Fleeing the crime scene, Urban fell off a mountain and perished. And deservedly so. Now the threesome haunt a local forest at midnight, Lioba and Bertram making all kinds of ghostly wails as Urban continues to keep them apart.

Kathi's parents speak only German, so our conversations were mostly translated by Kathi's brother, Jürgen – a 27-year-old computer genius who shows no signs of facial hair and resembles a 15-year-old Bill Gates: a youthful appearance that will undoubtedly come in handy when he's older but is presently preventing him from losing his virginity. The parents took good care of me, ensured my vegetarian needs were catered for, and Eberhard kindly insisted on us venturing out into the white yonder so he could buy Kathi and me additional layers of clothes from the outlet in the neighbouring village.
The evening meal was a dry one. Cheese with big holes in it like you see in cartoons. Brown bread, and I mean dark-brown bread that takes a serious amount of time to chew, real bread, bread for real men, bread liable to put hairs on the chest of a food softie like me. Chewing the bread, meditating on its taste, gave me flashbacks to the brewers yeast tablets I loved as a child. Tablets that no other children liked. The German mouth must be well adapted to this bread, as I was still masticating long after the others had stopped. Almost twice as long. Or perhaps it just felt like that.

The German foodstuffs combined with Karamalz Malzbier (a tasty non-alcoholic malt beer) had a strange and immediate effect on my digestive system. I found myself in the awkward position of having to hold a fart in for the duration of the first meal. The toilet was right next to the dining room, so close to where we were sat in fact that I didn't dare go in to remedy the situation as I feared the fart would be heard. For the entire after-dinner chatting that stretched to over an hour, my ability to clench the muscle between my legs was constantly tested by rising internal pressure. When it got to the point where I actually thought I could feel my midsection inflating, I had to risk slipping some out before I had an accident. Thankfully, it emerged when Eberhard was saying something particulary guttural - as Germans are prone to do - and at a volume that only I perceived.

Last night, I had my first sleep walking experience. Apparently, I got up around 3am and started searching my tiny bed and the floor. When the commotion woke Kathi up on her seperate tiny bed, I demanded the flashlight from her, yanked up my mattress, and illuminated below it.
"What are you doing?" Kathi asked, rubbing her eyes.
"I dropped my email."
"I must find my email."
"Are you dreaming?"
"Do you have my email?" I yelled in such a nasty voice Kathi was afraid.
"Shaun, you dream."
On the floor I found a piece of wood the size of an ID card, scrutinized it for a few seconds, turned to Kathi and said, "Is this my email?"
"No, Shaun. It is a little wood."
"Why did you give me this shit!" I yelled in an even nastier voice than earlier. "You have my email!"
"You are dreaming, Shaun. Wake up."
"I must go the toilet."
"Please leave the door open," Kathi said, fearing I'd invade her parents' bedroom on my quest for the email.
Sat on the toilet – Kathi had previously instructed me to never stand and pee into this particular toilet, to sit only, or as she put it: "You pee like that is no nice for my mum. You sit or clean the toilet with your tongue!" – I realised who and where I was. I came back, apologised, and Kathi went and reheated my hot-water bottle.
My behaviour in the night armed Kathi with enough material to regale her family members with the story several times. They all had a good laugh at it, and seemed to overlook that their daughter's boyfriend is starting to show signs of the onset of insanity.

My final meal in the village was a Sunday dinner that stretched my stomach well beyond capacity. We ate potatoes grown in the garden I couldn't see due to all of the snow. They were a golden colour, and served with parsley on them. Absolutely delicious, and a credit to the boiling skills of Jördis. There was a veg medley heavy on peas (my favourite). And veggie burgers Kathi brought from Halle that raised a few eyebrows from the devourers of meatballs and bratwurst. But saying that, I must give them their due: Jürgen and Eberhard did actually try the veggie burgers, and when questioned as to whether they liked them, they nodded in that expressionless way unique to Germans that comes in handy at the poker table.

Anyway, bye for now. I can finally feel my toes again. I'm wondering whether the heater in the carriage or the Holunderlikor got there first.
"The likor has given me warm feets," Kathi just said, resting my mind.

Merry Xmas from Halle, Leipzig (where Xmas begins on the 24th and is the day presents are exchanged)! Thank you for supporting our friends inside! I wish you all a wonderful New Year! With the book coming out, it certainly should be an interesting year for Jon's Jail Journal.  

Click here for The Christmas Spirit of Two Tonys

Click here to read about my last Christmas in prison

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Shaun P. Attwood

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