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Social Distancing in the Pod

When I worked at the jail, we had a mother and daughter duo who came in separately. First the daughter and then the mother. We had lovers and we had enemies, in the pod at the same time. And unless I’m completely off base, we had a situation where the daughter of one of our counselors came through. She seemed to handle it well, having been a recidivist from way back. She was used to it.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in with your family. This is county jail and sworn staff do what they can to keep certain people away from certain other people, but there are only so many pods. cells, and limits on classifications; sometimes they could help housing family members in the same pod. I would imagine there's more physical and social distancing that can be had in prison, but I've never been to prison so I don't really know what I'm talking about. But I do know the inside of four SF CJ sites and one in Redwood City.

Many of them had been in together before, so they knew the rules regarding keep- aways. I’m not sure if it was easier to follow them when you were in the same dorm or harder. Was there a comforting reassurance that your loved one was safe and within eyeball distance of you? Like, you weren’t wondering what they were doing out there while your ass sits on a Klingon bunk. On the other hand, if they were someone you would just as soon stab as look at, well, in a dorm-style room the size of a tennis court with 26 upstairs and 26 downstairs or 52 on the same floor, it can be hard to get some distance.

“Bitch betta gimme fifty feet!” you’d hear Mary yell every now and then whenever she was feeling particularly cantankerous toward her girlfriend Susan. They mostly got along but when they didn't, the whole pod would settle down with shared bags of microwave popcorn to watch.

Sometimes all you could get was fifty inches. In this time of COVID-19, a fifty-inch radius would not be sufficient for today's physical distancing requirement of seventy-two. You can go isolate in your bunk, but another person is only about thirty-six inches above or below you.

Because of the nature of addiction, even your closest relative can’t always be trusted. It’s not that your mother is truly invested in selling you out, giving you up, or trading you for an 8 ball. It’s that the drive and desire compel her to do so—doesn’t that sound like some…businesswoman who has an idea for a thing and she’s on the fast track to make it happen? The drive and desire. Like it’s a positive, legitimate propulsion.

“Lindsay exhibited a drive and desire to get things done. Her determination is paying off in this industry” or some shit.


Addiction is like.

I read this article about how ants get infected with some kind of bacteria that literally takes over their brains and controls them. The bacteria multiplies so fiercely that the ants grow these little stalks out the tops of their little ant heads! It looks like an antenna. The ants’ eyes glaze over and they become automatons. Then they do shit like climb out to the edge of a tree limb, grasp it with all legs, and never let go. Never. Let. Go. They stay there until they die and then the bacteria poofs out or engulfs them or some other powderizing thing.

“Those poor pooooooor ants!” I proclaimed, making a moue at the article. It didn’t take long to realize that humans are probably subjected to the same thing inside our own minds and bodies.

What we think of as ‘liking’ something might actually just be our bacteria controlling the fuck out of us. And then there’s addiction. It’s a multiplier. Set that down in the middle of a family of addicts, a pair of lovers, or sworn enemies. Of course, whatever issues and feelings people have are only amplified by drugs, even those who don’t use. Now stick that detoxing mess inside a room, for months, with your be-hated within eyeshot practically every minute of the day and twice on Sundays.

You left that lit match in charge of dynamite, didn’t you?

A well-dressed Black butch stands on a stage reading from papers in her hand.  A full drum kit is to her right and a small table is in back of her.  An image of her in jail years before is projecting overhead.
Delivering the keynote speech at the Five Keys Schools and Programs annual art show in L.A.

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