In light of this new phone freedom, Dan decided we needed to call the bank and get our mortgage modified. Rates were changing in our favor and if we could refi it would save us thousands and thousands of dollars. I printed up everything I could find about our mortgage and mailed it to Dan. I sent him statements and then I looked up all the phone numbers for the departments we would need to speak with. He would call me, I would conference in the bank so Dan could speak to the representatives while I typed notes and then I would fax in documents to them after he mailed them back to me signed. It became an obsession for us both. Almost a challenge to see if we could get this impossible task accomplished under the most ridiculous of circumstances. I was thrilled he had a project to occupy his days and even happier that it was no longer this insurmountable task I was trying to achieve on my own. Truth be told, I had made very little headway with this refi on my own anyway. Plus, every time I had called without him to talk to someone about it, it was a whole conversation to explain that I had Power of Attorney and could make changes to the account.
There was a downside. Geo was a no contact facility. That meant every visit, although frequent, took place behind glass. No hand holding. No hello and goodbye hug and kiss. Glass and concrete separating us.To get in for a visit, I would park on the street and then wait at the front door (rain or shine) with all the other visitors until they opened the front door to let us in. When the officer would open the door, they would let in a group of ten of us and we would each have to pass through the metal detector then sign in and sit down to wait. It wasn't a difficult process compared to some places. Because the guards were employees of a private company they were usually easier to deal with, even if some were a bit grumpy.
I waited until they called my name and then was led to a room with a little hallway. Along the short hallway were glass windows and a chair in front of each one. The officer would indicate where each of us should sit and then we would wait. Usually five to ten minutes later the inmates would be brought in to the matching hallway on the other side of the glass and find their visitor and take a seat. There were tiny holes in the glass so we could talk. It would get loud and there were some seats that were better than others, but at least I could visit four times a week. Usually I got an hour for each visit but sometimes I would get an extra thirty minutes if no one else was waiting to get in. The trick, as with any prison, was to be in the first group but not first or second in line. That way, if there were a lot of visitors waiting and they started terminating visits early, you weren't the first to get booted out.
Dan was in a unit that had 46 beds and 41 inmates. The unit had 3 TVs, 4 phones, 6 toilets and a shower. Well, really there were four showers but it was locker room style so they all just waited until whoever was showering was done and used it one at a time. The facility had eight units in total ranging from 16-46 per unit. It made count pretty easy, although even just counting 41 inmates, the two officers sometimes had to recount when they came up with different numbers. There was a law library that Dan was allowed to use once a day for an hour, and he would type his letters to me on a computer and print them to mail to me. Mail at Geo was also better- he sealed his own letter's to me and they only opened his mail in front of Dan to check for contraband, no one read our letters.
A Dorm, where Dan was, sounded like a frat house. Although lights out was at midnight, the guys would play cards and draw out tattoos and generally be rowdy until 2am. Dan didn't mind too much because that meant during the day when everyone was sleeping he had unlimited use of the phones. He was also cleared to attend prayer services so twice a day he was escorted to another unit to pray with the six other Jews in Geo. One of the men was a rabbi from Kiryat Joel and Dan would look out for him a little bit. The kosher meals were amazing- provided by Diplomat Catering from the Five Towns (thanks guys!). Dan would stick the labels from his meals on my letters and it was weird to see Vaad of the Five Towns on them.
I finally brought my parents and one of my brothers to see Dan. They hadn't been able to visit before so they hadn't seen him in over a year except from pictures we had taken at various prisons. It was nice for Dan to see them too. Just coming into a prison is an experience, and it meant a lot to him that they did it for him. It helped a lot that the location was so close to their home, it made the trip less stressful. We were all pretty quiet on the ten minute drive home. I knew the three of them were processing what they had just seen. It couldn't have been easy for my parents to walk into that building and look at Dan behind a plexiglass barrier. My brother appeared less affected externally, but I think everyone was kind of deep in thought about it. I was glad they had come and seen Dan, it made me feel better, like they knew he was okay and he knew they loved him just as much as before and came to see him.
Amazingly it was already December, somehow. Dan made a beautiful 3D popup card for me for our upcoming anniversary. He had nothing else to do during the day, unless he joined in the board games, and he could only stand letting himself get beaten at Monopoly so many times.
Another Anniversary for us in prison, and then another birthday for Dan. We pretended we weren't sad about the glass separating us in visiting on those two days, but it was tough. Dan's brother came to see him at Geo and he brought his son who had been born soon after the fateful Taft visit. It was awesome for Dan to meet his infant nephew, even if it was through a window. We all silently hoped that next year we would be in much better circumstances.
I seem to have been plagued with many rodent stories throughout the years Dan was locked up. Case in point, I got a frantic call from our tenant, she screamed that there was a mouse in the kitchen. She kind of freaked out at me over the phone and yelled about how horrible I was for there being a mouse. I was not super patient with her, and made Dan talk to her when he called (I conferenced her in). He calmed her down and explained that we usually can't call an exterminator for ONE mouse, but that we would buy traps and put them out. Fantastic. Now I was headed to Home Depot to buy traps and poison. When I got to the house, I saw that the tenants kept dog food for the dogs in the garage, next to the trash. That explained the mouse right away. In New York City, you cannot leave food out. It doesn't matter how clean YOU are, the walls adjoin other people so even if WE didn't technically have mice (or rats!) the reality was someone nearby definitely did. Blech.
A day later, I had to go back to oversee the installation of a sump pump in the basement. It was complicated and I was not confident the workers were doing it right. Dan and I had agreed that he would call me when they started the install, but the phone never rang. I just had to wing it on my own- and I was really upset he had missed the call. The tenant hovered the entire time too, so that was fun. I found out afterwards that Dan had been in the law library typing me a letter and then there had been a s surprise unit search, so he had been stuck in the library for a few hours. He wouldn't have been allowed to use the phone during the search anyway, but it still sucked. We had to redo some drywall in the basement after the sump pump install and I went to Home Depot myself with my brother to get supplies for it. Drywall and compound, my favorites! Dan wrote how envious he was of my construction filled days. I rolled my eyes. He loved this sort of thing, and it was very high on my list of things I despised doing. Dan and I started a Tenant Countdown Clock- trying to see how many days could go by without a new complaint. For a while, our longest record was four days.
The law library at Geo had three computers. I was allowed to drop off a re-writable CD for Dan that had all of our accounting on it from Quicken, so he could get our books organized for our accountant. It was a much preferred method than the one we had been using up to this point- me keeping Quicken organized and printing reports for Dan, which he would review, correct and mail back to me, which I then submitted to the accountant. I made dumb mistakes and he could always find them and fix them easily. Now, he was able to use one of the three computers to review our accounting and save it on the disc. He would get frustrated though, when he would come into the library and see other inmates monopolizing the computers. They would get porn sent to them on USB drives and watch it for hours. It wasn't worth getting into trouble with them over it, but it was annoying to have to wait while the guys watched their contraband.
We were also still focused on getting the refi from the bank. Dan kept hitting road blocks, but we continued to try. We cleaned up inquiries off his credit report (HOURS spent talking to credit unions on the phones). We corrected a few errors in reporting info for current accounts. It was tedious but I was okay with it because it really did help Dan get through the days.
My family went away for a week during winter break. I obviously couldn't join them and one of my brothers had just started college and couldn't miss class, so the two of us stayed home. They were celebrating my youngest brother's birthday, and it sucked that the two of us were missing it. We decided to surprise them all, and drove the two hours to the house they were renting, with a cake. It was awesome- they didn't know who was at the front door knocking. It was a fun spontaneous road trip and everyone enjoyed it, even though we only stayed for a short time and drove back the same night. The whole way home we passed a lot of deer on the roads. It started to get to the point of ridiculous and as siblings do, we turned it into a 'thing'. Every time we saw a deer, we would sing out "D'oh! A Deer!". If you are not familiar with the Sound of Music, it has a song called "Doe, A Deer". Now that I've explained it, it sounds less funny, but at the time it kept us extremely entertained for the duration of the drive home.
|I posted my "D'oh! A deer!" joke on Facebook and printed it so Dan could see it too.|
One fun fact that Dan and I discovered by accident: When you are in prison and paying quarterly restitution, and it is supposed to auto deduct from money the court already has collected, if you don't monitor it and no one does the auto deductions, you start to get nasty notices. Dan and I freaked out for a moment and then I rationally wrote four checks for the four missed payments and mailed them in with a note explaining it had been on auto-pay. We resolved to just pay it directly going forward to avoid any future nasty.
I was worried about a few other issues as well. Dan had shipped to MCC on a writ from Lompoc, and now that writ was expired. Unless he got designated to a place nearby, there was the chance that he could disappear and be shipped back to Lompoc without warning. There was also a chance he could end up anywhere else, but he would have to be re-designated for that and somehow we couldn't get anyone to make that happen. I wasn't certain what the next few months would bring. All I knew at this point was that I had survived a freezing cold January in New York and that my tenants, while paying rent, were finding new ways to make me dislike them every few days. Dan told me to be grateful we had them at all. I was, truly I was, I just really resented my new role as building manager/mouse catcher. Dan was good at finding cartoons in the newspaper to make me laugh about whatever was going on: