Chapter 20

It was a hot, sticky, New York July. For the first time in my entire life, there was no one at my parents house except me. In the history of my family, I had never once had the house to myself. Everyone was away for the summer and my parents had gone upstate to visit my little sister at camp. They were staying overnight at a hotel to avoid visiting day traffic. I took advantage of this rare, wanted and cherished alone time and filled up an alligator kiddie pool my mother had bought for the grand kids to play in. I sat in two inches of water in the backyard, basking in the sunshine on that hot July day. For the smallest moment, I was at ease. It was just fresh air and myself. No loud prison visiting rooms, dusty dirty city streets. I almost felt human again.

Dan had been in prison for 11 months. I found a date calculator online... only 1195 days left. Unless we were able to get him home early. Because he had come to MCC on a US Attorney's legal writ, he was still technically designated to Lompoc. Which meant that if the Prosecutor decided to close the writ, Dan would get shipped back to Lompoc. Or some other Medium Security prison. Because he had been kicked out of a camp, he had a Management Variable attached to his file. Kind of like a red flag, preventing him from being placed in a Low or Camp again until it was removed. So, we set about getting him re designated to MCC in the Cadre unit.

Cadre is a special unit that each MDC or MCC has. It is comprised of inmates who clean and run the facility. Most MCC/MDC facilities are transit hubs- inmates stay there until they finish in court and get designated. It is also where they are held after they have been arrested but before they get out on bond to await trial. It is not typical for anyone to serve their time in one of these places because they are overcrowded and once the legalities are settled, they get designated and shipped out. Dan was hoping to get designated to MCC so he could stay in New York and continue to work on getting home early. To do that, he needed to get assigned to the Cadre unit. It was going to be near impossible to do, but he was determined to try.

Cadre had a few extra bonuses that Dan really wanted. Extra phone time, and two days of visiting were the two main perks. I was frustrated that he wanted to stay in New York, since I felt so uncomfortable there. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate living with my parents again, I just felt so lost and alone. I hid from everyone I knew, because no one knew what was going on. When I did see my friends or if someone saw me on the street, it was always that awkward conversation where I smiled and said we were just visiting for the summer...and pretended Dan was in the city or visiting his Dad back in California. I wasn't sure I could handle this facade for another 1195 days.

Dan knew I was struggling, and we agreed to wait until September to make any decisions. By then we hoped to have a tenant in our house, his early release settled, and (he wanted) a re-designation. As free as I was, I had placed myself in a prison of my own making. When I really thought about it, all I wanted to do was go home. Except, I had no home. Not really. My parents house was still THEIR house, I was always a visitor there. Perhaps an extended stay visitor, but a guest nonetheless. Being in the house with them, they saw the toll this whole ordeal was taking on me daily. It made everything harder for them to cope with, because it was much more real now. When I had been in LA, while they knew I was dealing with it, they didn't see it happening day in and day out. My home in Manhattan was empty and the mortgage was so much it needed to be rented to cover itself or we were going to lose it. I had spent my wedding night on the floor of that house. We had just started construction and torn out all the walls and the only livable floor was the top level. So we took an air mattress and slept there and the next morning there were workers hammering and sawing away. No, living there without Dan was not something I was willing to consider.

Dan tried to cheer me up in his letters. For instance, he wrote about a funny scandal involving Doritos and microwave use.
"The Doritos Scandal Affects My Microwave Usage Positively"
Commissary did not deliver Nacho Chips, Velveeta Cheese or a number of other items last week. (Including batteries, typewriter ribbons and bowls!). Since Nachos are so loved by prisoners, this has caused a shortage of Doritos chips and cheese of epic proportions. The microwaves are typically used for hours for 1) Nachos and 2) Burritos. Oh yea, Tortillas were out of stock too! A bag of Doritos is now worth $ is $1.45 at commissary. Cheese is now $ is $3.10 at commissary. Using the microwave whenever I damn well please to steam my vegetables without a waiting line...Priceless. So, small wins can bring great joy.

There were so many little emergencies that came up, and every time I thought I had handled something, another one would arise. For instance, the bank called to ask if we had ever paid for "hospice" care. No, definitely not. There were twenty three separate charges all in various amounts totaling $2700 and the bank had to let them go through before they could refund them to us. It was going to be a lot of paperwork- something called a Reg E form had to be filled out for EACH charge. I argued that they should just cancel the charges but was told that was not how it worked. I had to run to the branch with my Power of Attorney because OF COURSE it was fraud on Dan's account, and spend hours getting that all remedied. Usually, that would be the end of it, but we had auto pays and bill pays set up on that account and it was all in Dan's name... it took so much time and effort and convincing the branch manager to get it corrected and after all of that, a new card had to be issued. I contacted the lawyer who had done the Power of Attorney with Dan and asked him to talk to the manager to confirm it was valid as well, since Dan was not able to communicate with the bank himself. You know, since he was in prison. In regular life, on a regular day, these are stressful issues that regular people sometimes have to deal with. In this situation, this was almost enough to push me over the edge. But somehow I kept the hurricane of panic at bay within my chest and handled the situation and only broke down crying in the privacy of the shower after it was all fixed. Nacho cheese and microwaves indeed. Cute but I had real life stuff to focus on.

Dan was moved from 11 North to 7 North. He was glad to be in a smaller unit, but it meant that visiting changed from Friday to Wednesday. Not a bad thing but the timing sucked because he moved on a Wednesday morning. We would have missed the Wednesday visit and had to wait till the next week, except by a stroke of luck he had a legal visit that morning too, and the lawyer called me and let me know. So I jumped up and drove into the city to see him. He told me he was ok with the move, except that he had hidden his radio in his shoes when he packed up his bag before the move. When he got his bag in the new unit, the shoes and radio were missing. He thought his old bunkie had stolen them, since he had watched Dan pack up. Dan asked the Captain to go to his old unit and find his shoes and radio. I figured he would have to buy new stuff to replace the stolen items. For once, I was wrong and when Dan returned to his new cell after the visit, he saw the shoes and radio on his bed. The Captain had actually kept his word and gone back to the other unit and found them.

One of the Co's in the new unit had been a runner in the stock market, so he and Dan usually had interesting conversations about the markets and financial news. There was a lawyer in the unit, Marc Dreier. I had seen him a few years earlier at a charity function he had helped host with Michael Strahan. It had been a fun night, Diana Ross performed and I had met Ja Rule. It was bizarre to see his name in Dan's letters.

Dan had a cool new bunkie named Ofacio. He had been a boxer before prison. Dan asked me to google him and print everything I could find and mail it so Ofacio could show it to the judge on his case, to prove he had a career in boxing. I was glad he had a good bunkie who could defend himself and maybe Dan if it ever came to it. Dan also got the job of visiting room orderly in the new unit. This was a great win for us both- it meant that he got the entire three hour visit with me as a perk of the job, unless the room got too full. Before that, we had one or two hour visits at most. He had to make sure the room was clean after visiting ended, not a hard job and worth it for the extra time we got together.

Dan also tutored other inmates for the GED prep courses. That was his official job. He made a lot of spreadsheets and forms for his supervisor too. In true Dan style, he filled out a GED prep form for me. He called it "Marriage 101". This is one of those pictures I include that you just need to click on and read, because there's no real way for me to convey the funny. You just need to read it for yourself. Enjoy.
There was a Rabbi that had been helping me for a few months. He worked for an organization that helped the families of inmates, and he had been an amazing source of knowledge and support for me and for Dan. He kept pushing me to go visit the Ohel,since I was in New York. For anyone who does not know, the Ohel is where the Lubavitcher Rebbe is buried. Actually he is buried there and so is his father in law, who was the 6th Rebbe. People go and write their prayers on a piece of paper, then pray by the tombstones. I had never done anything like that and was sort of nervous to go. When it comes to anything on the supernatural side, I tend to feel that if you do not acknowledge it exists, then it in fact does not exist, and cannot harm you.

Quick side bar here: When I was much younger I read a book that was on my father's shelf about a Jewish ghost. There's a word for it- but in mystical Judaism, even saying the name of this spirit can have power. Much like in Harry Potter regarding "he who must not be named". After I read the book, I was terrified that these spirits would get me. There was a weird superstition to put flour on the floor around your bed and if you woke up the next day and there were chicken prints in the flour, you knew a spirit had been in your room. I had carpet on my bedroom floor but I tried it anyway. There were no prints in the flour the next morning but I still don't say the spirit name because I refuse to give it power. I also get nervous when I see the book in my parents house. Back to the Ohel.

I don't like cemeteries, spirits, all of the associated stuff. It makes me anxious. But this Rabbi who had helped me so much had asked me to go, so I went with my parents and one of my brothers. As we were leaving, Dan's most expensive lawyer called me and said he didn't know how or why, but he had gotten an answer that we had desperately been waiting for. His exact words were "It's like lightning striking twice". My father thought this was an amazing example of how "things" tend to happen after people visit the Ohel. I was not convinced- until the Rabbi called me a few moments later and told me he had JUST left a meeting with the Warden. He had not mentioned Dan because she had her entire staff in the meeting and didn't want to ask a favor, but as he was leaving the meeting, she said to him "Oh, and about that re-designation, I know it was rejected, but I will see what I can do to help".

I almost threw up. Somehow, some way, our hopes and prayers had been answered. When I told the Rabbi I had just left the Ohel and then told him the news from the lawyer, he got very excited. Things like this don't happen in prison. But somehow, for us, this time, they did. There was hope.

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Chapter 19

While Dan was on quarantine lock down, and visiting was banned, I decided to help my family by agreeing to drive three of my brothers down to Atlanta from New York. They were going there to work in a summer camp and we had family living there. As a kid, I had spent many summers in Atlanta. My family would pile into the station wagon and drive down. As the oldest, I was always tasked with two babies in the backward back seat. To this day I can't really ride passenger in a car without getting a bit motion sick. I also have rolls upon rolls of disposable camera pictures that I took of the mountains, rocks and vines on the side of the freeway and cars driving behind us, out of the back window. If you've ever done that drive down I-95, you have seen the vines that grow along the power lines- they always looked like animals to me. Elephants and giraffes- I thought they were majestic and captured them on film 24 shots at a time.

I hadn't been back to Atlanta in years and thought it would be fun to say hello to everyone. We packed up the trunk and somehow managed to squash in three fully grown teenage boys plus myself plus a guitar. My family is mostly of the tall variety, and since my accident I had started driving with my seat as far back as possible to allow my knee to remain straight while I drove. One of my brothers got stuck in the passenger seat behind me, but he was a good sport about it. The boys were excited to be spending the summer down south and I was excited to be going on an adventure that wasn't going to end with me in a prison. Hopefully, I mean you never can tell these days.

I had become something of a seasoned driver at this point. Hours and hours of driving didn't phase me, and this journey was no different. We drove straight through the day and night. The story I'm about to tell over has been told before in other places, but it is one of those awesomely funny ones that gets the whole group giggling when I retell it, so I want to share it again here. Sorry in advance if you already know it, but be a good sport and laugh along anyway.

The drive had been fairly uneventful and everyone was in a great mood. As it got later into the evening, the two boys in the back put on headphones and watched movies on portable DVD players while my brother and I talked about random stuff in the front of the car. We passed a military base around 1am. I saw there were a lot of helicopters and tanks displayed along the side of the freeway, all back lit and cool. Even though everyone had nodded off, I tried to wake them up so they could see how awesome it looked at night, in the dark. One of my brother's woke up right away and was so excited he poked the other one so he could enjoy it too...only we didn't realize he had been watching a war movie on his DVD player and woke up with the sounds of combat in his ears and tanks and helicopters displayed all around him, plus us gesturing at him to look. Confused, he leaned forward and screamed "Start Swerving!" thinking we needed evasive tactical maneuvers to escape the enemy. Of course the rest of us busted up laughing and when he realized what was really happening he joined in. By far one of my favorite memories with my brothers. If there ever is an apocalypse or zombie attack, I definitely want my brothers on my team.

We got to Atlanta late in the night and after I took a quick nap, I went with the boys to Target so they could shop for a few items they needed for camp. It was wonderful to eat breakfast with my grandmother and talk to my aunt and cousins. I said I had to get back, although they asked me to stay longer. They did not know about Dan being in prison and I didn't feel it would benefit them to know. I had learned that involving people hurt them as much as it potentially could help us, and felt they would be better off in the long run. That being said, I had visiting to maybe get to if the quarantine was lifted! I started the drive back up to New York, which was uneventful and probably consisted of me singing along to the radio at the top of my lungs, and got back by 2:30am. Like I said, I'm a good road tripper. When I'm not getting hit by other cars and all that.

I got back from Atlanta in time to meet with our broker and a potential tenant at the house in the city. It was terrifying for me to be handling this without Dan. He had always been the decider for these kinds of things and the brokers had always dealt with him directly. I thought the walk through went really well, but later that evening I received an email from the broker with a lease and a list of demands and changes from the prospective tenant. I tried to explain them all to Dan in the ten minutes we had on the phone that night, but it was loud on his end and we both hung up completely frustrated. It didn't matter anyway, the next day the guy walked away from the deal. Back to square one.

We did learn something from that debacle- we set about getting a proper lease written up to submit to anyone going forward. Somehow even though we had been hoping for a new tenant for months, it had never occurred to us to draft the lease in preparation for one. I put together as many blank leases as I could find online and mailed them all to Dan so he could draft something usable. It was good to give him projects like that so he could use his skills and focus on something other than calendars and counting days and prison. We also let the broker, who had been a good friend to us and had helped us buy the house originally, know what was going on with Dan. We added her to his phone list so he could call her the next time we had a situation like this one. I had to explain that his recorded name was "Dan Rubin I Love You Chani" so anyone he called heard that. She thought it was adorable and promised she would press 5 when he called.

I started asking a few friends if they knew any new lawyers, fresh out of law school who had passed the bar. We needed an attorney who could come and go into the prison as we needed to help us with the lease for the house. Our other attorney's cost so much money, it was a waste to ask them to handle something so simple. Thankfully, one of my sister's had a friend whose brother fit the exact description and we paid him to go see Dan. Prisons have a funny way of being awful to visitors but extremely gracious to lawyers. As long as the attorney is willing to go, they have no problem getting in to see their clients usually. This lawyer always got in and out with no issue and it was a brilliant solution to our lease crisis because he could take in the drafts and mark them up with Dan and then let me have them back to edit and resubmit till we got it right. I am very grateful for his work and the way he made himself available for us. Thank you.

Finally, quarantine was lifted and the Off Pox Debacle was over. It worked out just in time for me to make it into the city for a visit (finally!). In hindsight, I don't know why I commuted the way I did, but my visiting routine consisted of me driving from Long Island into Manhattan. I would park my car at our house on the Upper East Side, then walk the few blocks to the subway and take that down to MCC which was located on Park Row. It's just south of Chinatown and east of Tribeca. I would wait in a bus stop type of enclosure located outside of the building with the other visitors until the officer came and announced we could start processing in for visits. After the visit I would repeat the entire thing in reverse.

I could have taken the sketchy subway from Manhattan through Brooklyn straight to Far Rockaway and transferred to the LIRR train and had someone pick me up or walk home from there, but I liked having my car in case it was a rough visit and I needed to cry. I was that douche wearing sunglasses on the subway, to hide my tears and red eyes. It wasn't so bad when I had an afternoon visit, but public transportation after my evening visits was a nightmare, and driving was so much easier for me. It also meant that at least once a week I was checking on the house. I usually went twice a week just to be safe anyway. Sometimes after visits I would drive home through Brooklyn so I could visit my sister's and their kids. I was trying to find positive things to fill my days with. At least it was summer, so the cold wasn't an issue...yet. I knew winter was coming though, and hoped that Dan would magically be home before it hit. Somehow.

I'm including a link to the Wikipedia page for MCC here.  Basically, it outlines very briefly that it was the first high rise prison used by the BOP. That sounds much grander than it actually is. And elevators in a prison are an absolute pain in the butt. I had to take one up to visiting and out of the four in the building one was always broken, so it would take forever. Plus, if visitors were using an elevator, it meant inmates could not, so it could take forever to get upstairs. The website also mentions how inmates are transferred from the prison to the Federal courthouse across the street via underground tunnels with US Marshalls. Dan was transferred this way and he always maintained how extremely unpleasant the process was.

On June 29, 2009 two things happened. Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He was still at MCC during this time, and would transfer to court via the method on the wikipedia link I included above). And, while eating a soft pretzel, I cracked my crown. It was particularly traumatic for me because I often have nightmares where I clamp my teeth down very hard and all of my teeth break and splinter into my jaw. I know that sounds awful (it is a very awful nightmare to have) but as I was chewing I felt glass in my mouth and spit it out- and saw half of my molar crown staring up at me. It had been an expensive crown done after major root canal I'd had a few years prior. I literally felt like I had spit money out into my hand. I had two options. My dentist was in LA. I called his office and they said I needed to come in right away and get a temporary and that in three weeks I would have to come back for the real crown. That seemed ridiculous, to fly to LA to get a temporary to fly back three weeks later. Alternatively, I could see if Dan's dentist in Manhattan could fit me in. Which is what I ended up doing. He had a machine in his office that made the crown on site, so when they called me at 8am and said I could come in for 9am, I was already in the car rushing to the city before we had hung up. It was money we didn't have, and I felt horribly guilty about it. As I sat in the chair and he suctioned the rest of the crown away I felt like I was flushing even more money down the tubes. I do not eat pretzels any more, even the soft ones.

Dan had a tiny slit of a window that he could almost sort of see outside from, if he crouched on his bed and turned his neck a certain way. He told me all he could see was a fire hydrant and some sidewalk. So on my next visit, I walked the entire circumference of the prison and found a hydrant and waited by it, hoping it was the right one. I stood there for almost a half hour. I got a few funny looks from officers walking into work, but no one really bothered me. When I got into visiting, Dan told me he had seen me standing there and it had made him so happy. That became the place I stood before each visit until I had to wait in the bus stop to get in line to go in. After visits, I would stand there for ten to twenty minutes and hope Dan had made it back to his cell to see me. He doesn't know this but sometimes on days when there wasn't a visit if I had to go into the city to check the house, I would drive over to the prison after and park a few blocks away and watch the building. I hated that brick and steel structure with my whole heart, because it represented the literal physical thing that was separating me from Dan. I missed him every moment of every day and hoped desperately that a miracle or paperwork error would happen and he would be released.

Chapter 18

I realized I was going to be stuck in New York for a while, possibly until Dan came home. This was not something I was looking forward to. Instead of moping and hibernating in my attic cave, I tried to finish the repairs I had started at our house in the city. I called in a second handyman we had used and got him to quote me the jobs the first guy had left unfinished. I ordered a 15x30 astro turf carpet from Home Depot to cover the back deck so it looked grassy. When it got delivered, the guys brought it to the back but refused to unroll it. I was so angry that I had paid for delivery but they were being cheap about doing it right, so I asked them to just leave. I was actually scared to have two strangers who didn't care to follow their job rules in the house alone with me, and wanted them gone. Then I looked warily at the extremely heavy astro turf.

Somehow I managed to maneuver it to one end of the deck and started to unroll it. I almost passed out, it was heavy and sweat was pouring off me, but I got it almost to the very end- and then realized I had forgotten to account for a very heavy decorative fountain at the end of the deck. Rolled the astro turf back a bit, maneuvered the fountain off the back fence, and realized I simply did not posses enough arms to both hold up the fountain and unroll the astro turf. I did the best I could. It refused to stop raining in NYC and therefore my basement continued to leak. No matter how much self-leveling sealant I poured into the cracks and crevices, the water always found a way to seep in. It was enough to make anyone lose their mind. The upside was, I felt fairly certain mine had already been lost a long time prior.

Dan, meanwhile, was finding use for his ninja skills. He heard a female CO screaming and ran to help her, thinking she was being attacked. What he thought were death cries was actually just a case of an errant mouse finding its way into the unit. Dan had experience catching mice. My entire family once watched him dive headfirst around a tiny room to catch a baby mouse under a shoe box, with his hands. Those suckers are fast! Once again, his lightning quick speed did not fail him and he trapped the mouse in an empty milk carton and threw it in the trash. Not one other inmate offered to help. They would easily throw a punch hard enough to knock teeth out but when it came to capturing a rodent there were no other men to be found.

As I read his story about the mouse I was reminded of another rodent related adventure we had experienced during the construction stage of our townhouse a few years earlier. We had just finished gutting the entire property- there was nothing left of the house except three walls and four floors. We had knocked down the back wall to extend the house.That meant no plumbing or electrical either- we had taken them out all the way to the street (city property line). So when you went down to the basement, the plumbing was reduced to a pipe that was approximately a foot wide and open (not capped), and that was the sewer main leading down to the Manhattan sewer. Picture a giant pipe that would theoretically connect you to where the Ninja Turtles live. Theoretically.

Because these sewer mains slope down at such a steep angle, we had been assured by the plumber that the main could be left uncapped until we were ready to install all of our new plumbing. I was sitting on the steps to the basement while Dan was checking the basement walls and putting away tools. I heard a noise near the front corner, near the main, and saw eyes watching me, and lost control of my lungs. I screamed until Dan came running, but by then the eyes were gone. We deduced it must be some type of rat and promptly set out to good old Home Depot to buy glue traps. Once we returned, we laid out the traps and sat on the steps to watch and see if anything happened.

Nothing happened. It was very boring. I wandered off to find coffee down the street but Dan sat and waited silently in the darkness. When I returned there was still nothing but this was an adventure and I was curious what would happen, so I sat back down to wait. And then, like a lumbering beast awakened from a deep slumber, the rat appeared. It was the size of a kitten. A mean ugly kitten with a very long tail and huge paws. It stepped into the glue traps, wiped its feet without missing a beat and appeared to glance over at us with a shrug and a fuggedaboutit type of nonchalance only a giant NYC rat could pull off, and continued across the basement floor.

At this point I realized we were outmatched, but I had underestimated Dan! He leaped across the room before I even knew what was happening, with an empty 40 gallon paint bucket and electricians thick plastic gloves on his hands and grabbed the rat. It was not amused by Dan's invasive hands and tried to turn it's massive neck around to bite him, but the gloves protected him and he managed to get it into the bucket. Then he put another bucket on top of the first bucket. After pausing for a moment to make sure there were no friends of cousins following, he took it upstairs and set the buckets out by the curb. I don't know what became of that rat but I do know that the next morning the plumber capped the sewer main until we were ready to install the plumbing in the house. I also know that nothing in New York City lasts long on the curb- so if you were the unfortunate person who took the buckets... oops.

Back to prison... Dan had been in for just over 200 days, and now it was June and my birthday. I was able to visit him twice in MCC before my birthday and he somehow managed to buy a birthday card from commissary and mail it to me- not an easy task. Happy 26th birthday to me.
Sometimes the smallest things are hard to achieve.
Today I am blessed. You were born on this day. I wasn't there, but I am now and will be here for every birthday you have and share with me for all time.
"I am yours and you are mine." This simple expression that I learned from one of our wedding gifts has stuck with me each day as I go through this time. This card was difficult to get, but it means so much to me to send it to you. I only hope and pray for your life to be blessed.
With love,

Visiting at MCC in Manhattan was complicated. Depending on your floor and unit, you got one day a week for visiting. Dan's was on Friday's. Then, alternating each week, you were allowed a one hour visit either from 5pm-8pm or from 12pm-3pm. It worked out that on Friday, June 12th, visiting was from 5-8pm and it was on my birthday. The visit was great, although getting into visiting at MCC was an absolute nightmare. There was an actual rule that women were required to wear a bra HOWEVER you had to clear the metal detector so you had to remove the under wires and hope the tiny hooks didn't set the machine off. You could not enter until the metal detector did not beep- no jewelry, no pants with metal closures. I mostly stuck to sports bras. After our visit I raced back to Long Island to spend Friday night dinner with my family. Dan wrote that he ate a Kit Kat in my honor (it seemed more cake-like than a Snicker's bar).

A friend from high school has her birthday on June 16th, right near mine. We had a great group of friends we had grown up and gone to school with who over the last few years had all relocated from Toronto to New York. Since I was in New York this year, we decided to have a joint birthday dinner in the city. It was stressful for me. I explained that Dan couldn't make it, but I felt like a lowlife for not telling them why he was absent. It was much easier to cover for him with my new friends in LA who had never actually met him. These friends knew him, loved seeing him, it was rough. The dinner was really fun, once I stopped worrying about covering and after it ended I walked with one couple through Times Square.

She is someone I have known since pre-school and her husband and Dan had become very good friends over the years. They knew the truth and asked me a lot of questions about how we were really doing. Then the husband reminded me that he was the one who drove Dan to various banks to get the bank checks together when Dan proceeded to pay the restitution in full, because he had been promised a letter from the prosecutor's stating there would be no prison time if it were paid off entirely. He wanted to know why Dan went to prison after that, if he had kept up his end of the deal. Trust me, so did I.

Sometimes I would request a song on the local radio stations (Shout out to Z100 in NY for this part) and Dan would be able to listen and hear them. On my birthday I requested a song Dan had told me he liked called Come on Get Higher by Matt Nathanson. We continued this tradition throughout his time in New York when I knew he would be listening. It's always the little things that mean the most.

People don't realize where MCC is located in Manhattan. You can see the top of it from the Brooklyn Bridge and you can see it when you drive on the FDR around the south east tip of the city. I don't know if the Verizon building is still there, but it's the tall building next to the Verizon one. I saved it on my car navigation with a little heart icon and sometimes when I drove into the city or to Brooklyn I would see it on my screen and feel close to Dan.

You know what really sucks about prison? When visiting is cancelled and units are on lock down because an inmate has possibly got shingles. Or as they called it on 11 North... Off Pox. Dan's entire unit was put on lock down (no phones, no movement) and quarantined for an undetermined length of time, which turned out to be 21 days. Dan mailed me a letter asking me to call his dad and find out right away if he had gotten chicken pox as a child. This quarantine also interfered with an important legal meeting he had scheduled for the next day. People. Vaccinate your children. Stop being selfish and brainwashed. It really and truly messes things up for so many people across so many platforms. Bah Humbug. Anyway, BOP logic applied to this situation meant that lock down was enforced (no phones) but RECREATIONAL TIME was still happening. Dan wrote a detailed assessment entitled "The Off Pox Debacle" addressed to myself and my mother.
 "Sheesh. The drama continues to unfold. The best analogy I have to describe this spectacle is that I'm watching a train wreck in progress, in slow motion. The venerable BOP, in its infinite wisdom, has locked us up in our cells in "quarantine" for 3 weeks. If you believe the young, impressionable CO, we re not allowed to use the phone but we will be allowed one hour a day of communal recreation time.
No phones during quarantine! Let us think about this! To the best of my knowledge, my relatives can NOT get Off Pox via telephonic transmission. This makes sense. So, why can't we use the phone? Let me take the idea of communicable diseases to the extreme limit...
By using a phone that was used by someone else with Off Pox, I could theoretically become a carrier from the communal use of the telephone handset. Well if the infinitely logical BOP is being so careful that communal handset use is forbidden, I am proud of my country.
So, according to the young CO, we are required to receive on hour a day of recreational time. Hmmm...96 inmates piled into one small recreation area, running around, sweating profusely, playing on two small basketball courts, bumping into each other, all sounds quite communal to me for transmission of communicable diseases.
The logic of 'no telephone' vs. 'one hour recreation time' just escapes me.

"The Off Pox Debacle Continues... (the Rules get Changed)"
Well, lock down was lifted for medical testing reasons for 20 inmates that said no to the "Do you or did you ever have chicken pox?" (The question itself is illogical, but who cares.)
Then all of a sudden the nurse and CO confer and say that there will be no visits, court appearances or roof recreation for 3 to 7 days. After that time, the situation will be re-evaluated.
Until then, I remain on 11 North.
Oh yes, we are allowed to use the phones again. Yea.
I am sequestered, in quarantine, but not in lock down.
Should I survive the Off Pox debacle, I will remain your son-in-law and husband!
Until then, I am faithfully yours,
P.S. I got a peach with my breakfast today. I think I will eat it now.

Chapter 17

My first and only contact with Dan after he left Lompoc was via a letter he wrote me twelve hours after our visit, mailed to me from good old Victorville. Right after our visit had ended, he had been sent to R and D and put in a holding cell for a few hours. Then, with shackled hands and feet, Dan walked outside to board the waiting bus… in the visitors parking lot. He wrote that he finally understood why I used to run across the parking lot when he got to see the distance I had to run to get a place in line for our visits (reread The Running of the Children in Chapter 15 if you don’t know why that is hilarious).

When he got to Victorville he was initially placed in a cell with a bunkie who was being shipped to Vegas to face racketeering and murder charges. After a legal call with his attorney, Dan requested his own cell. They moved him to one that had previously housed an alleged child molester, and the reason the cell was now vacant was that the guy had been attacked and put in the hospital. Dan had to clean up some of the blood but was thankful to have his own cell at least. It was sad actually, he only had it for the one night, the next day a new bunkie moved in. The reading choices in Victorville were pretty limited but somehow Dan procured a copy of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and decided to start reading it to see what all the fuss was about. Fifty one pages in, twenty five of which had been an introduction, he decided he was unimpressed and gave up reading it. An orderly had told him there was a plane leaving for Oklahoma the next day and Dan sincerely hoped he would be on it.

If you watch MSNBC on your TV, you may have seen a show called “Lockup RAW”. I secretly became obsessed with the show. It's an investigative series covering different state prisons throughout the United States. State and Federal prison are very different, but orange jumpsuits are the same in both places and I felt weirdly comforted watching the show. Except it made me cry. It usually aired late at night, when I was most lonely and sad. Even though I logically knew I should change the channel, it was like a compulsive need to watch each episode, and frequently they would run a few of them back to back. For a solid three to four hours I was able to lose myself in a prison themed planet all alone and I consumed the series like I was starving. Sometimes they would cover a facility I had been to, or talk about a rule or something that I had witnessed and I would just sob endlessly. As sadistic as I was being to myself by watching it, I couldn’t stop. There were real bad guys in those places, and it freaked me out that somehow Dan had become lumped in with the dregs of society like that. I learned to avoid turning on the TV altogether, so I didn’t get sucked into accidental marathons.

None of that mattered when I moved back to New York, because I didn’t have a TV in my parents house. I also respected that they keep a kosher and observant house, so come Friday night, I left my phone upstairs. That freaked me out a bit. What if Dan called and I didn’t have my phone on me? I would run upstairs every thirty to forty minutes to check. It had been a week since I had heard anything from him and there were never any missed calls...but then one Friday night there was. There were two missed calls actually, and I knew it was him. It was a New York area code, so at least I knew he was in the same state as me. I wasn’t sure why he wasn’t calling back so just in case I transferred money to his account via Western Union. Then the number called again- it actually wasn’t Dan. It was a woman who had a son in MCC and Dan had asked him to ask his mother to call me to say where he was. Welcome to New York City.

It was a strange weekend to begin with. My parents were away at a conference so it was my unmarried siblings, myself and one of my married sisters with her husband and kids in the house for Shabbat. On Sunday, my nephew was finally having his bris after having been in the NICU for months. I was very much looking forward to him having a name. I discussed it with one of my other sister’s and she stated that she wanted to get cleared to visit Dan as soon as possible. She said she would bring the kids as well- which was very exciting. He had not met her second son yet at all! There had been three births since he had gone away, three new lives he had never met yet. It was starting to add up!

I was uncomfortable, I still hadn’t touched base with Dan personally and hadn’t received any letters yet either. Then one of our lawyers told me he had seen Dan in a legal visit at MCC and that aside from needing a shave and a haircut he was ok. MCC is the Manhattan equivalent of the Brooklyn MDC, where Dan had self surrendered. I knew it was a rough place, and that conditions were not great. The lawyer told me Dan was being held in SHU until they found an empty bed for him in general population. And then, Dan called. SHU was pretty rough there- the walls were dirty and rusty and it was too hot or too cold all the time.

In the first letter I got from Dan out of MCC Shu he wrote about the conditions of his cell

His trip from Oklahoma had taken 18.5 hours, and he had been shackled and black boxed the entire time. MCC Shu was an orange everything place- the sheets, the towels, the clothing- everything was brilliant blinding orange. Dan was nervous about being in MCC- it was a rougher crowd than MDC had been and he worked out non stop, trying to bulk up quickly. He wrote that he was grateful he was locked in SHU and didn’t go to REC or leave if he could avoid it because there were always fights.

He also wrote that he had met the Somali pirate. I don’t know if anyone will remember the story but there was a ship that got attacked and four pirates took over ( It was a weird six degrees for us because one of the sailors on the ship that was attacked was a resident of Lake Helen, Florida, the city we had lived in. The claim was that the pirates were between the ages of 17-19, and were Somalian. Well the nationality part was correct but the ages were absolute lies. Dan sat next to one of them after his legal visit and the guy pretended he didn’t speak a word of english. Later on they got to talking though. The pirate had his own WING in SHU, so did Bernie Madoff who was being held there at the same time. Abduwahli Musa (google him) and Dan became bench buddies as they would sit waiting for legal visits every few days. There wasn’t anything else to do, so eventually they got to talking. Dan figured out that his alibi was a joke and he really WAS one of  the actual pirates, and not just a kidnapped fisherman who the pirates forced to drive their boats, as he had claimed in court. You definitely meet a lot of strange characters in prison.

In my alternate universe, I finally got to hold my nephew for the first time. He had been in the hospital NICU for months after he was born because he was too preemie to go home. Even once he was released, the hospital staff had warned my sister not to allow too much exposure since he was so delicate. I held that little bundle of human in my arms and wondered how I could possibly love something I had just met properly so very much. For those few moments I could almost forget the absurdness of my situation and just breathe newborn scent and watch him sleep.

I also spent a lot of time at our vacant house in Manhattan. I got fed up with handymen who flaked and did everything I could myself to repair the place. I got up on the ladder and changed light bulbs. Which doesn’t sound like it should be that hard- except the bulbs were in a ceiling fan 12 feet up and to change the bulbs you had to remove the really heavy glass cover. I was ok climbing the ladder (as long as I didn’t look down) and getting the cover OFF- but once I had changed the bulbs I discovered I didn’t have the upper body strength to lift the cover back ON and screw it in place. I cried in exhaustion and refused to give up, and finally managed to secure the cover. And then, I lay down on the floor in defeat when I remembered we had at least six more ceiling fans for me to work on. At least the new carpet looked pretty.

I decided to focus on caulking the showers and painting the walls instead. Basically, if I ever need a backup career, I can be a lousy handyman. I borrowed the air hockey table from my parent’s house and put it in the empty pool room along with some board games, a couch and a table. Ta da- instant game room. Our back deck looked awful with peeling paint so I returned to good old Home Depot and ordered astro turf for it. I was going to get this house rented if it killed me.

Dan and I hadn’t seen each other in four weeks- it seemed like so much longer and also like no time at all. I finally got approved to visit when he was moved into general population and I was anxious for the first visit. He just had to wait to be called into visiting, but for me, a new place meant new rules to figure out, new procedures. It never ends. At least I could look forward to amazing home cooked meals. That was a definite plus.