Chapter 24

Ok so maybe God and I weren't on the best of terms. I sort of gave up on Him after a girl I went to school with passed away in 10th grade. That was a defining point for me, with regard to religion. It was a tragic story. She had been walking to the bus stop with a group of girls- a bus stop I also walked to. I had skipped school that day, in a fit of teen angst and probably would have been walking with that group at that time. She crossed at a crosswalk, and another student driving by didn't see her. Someone called me and told me what had happened, and I raced down to the school to join the prayer group that was ongoing. I hadn't prayed properly in a while, but I remember standing there and making promises. I promised God if he would just save her, I would try to find my peace with Him. I promised I wouldn't hurt my parents any more. I swore I would stop wearing patterned knee socks and stop passive aggressively attending classes, actually participate. I cried and I begged and I read the words on the page from the little white siddur (prayer book) I had gotten as a gift for my Bat Mitzvah. It was the first time that I really read every word of the Psalms and meant them. I hadn't prayed with that sort of intention ever, as far as I could remember. She passed away shortly after. And I parted ways with God internally, He wasn't listening, not to me.

So now I had to face Him again. Because Dan was in a place of faith himself and he needed me to support that. It was awkward for me, like bumping into someone you really wanted to avoid at a party. You have to smile and be sociable but really you are wondering why the hell you have to maintain a facade when you want to scream and yell at them. The ultimate irony was that Dan was now leading the Friday night services for the Jews in 5 North. On Sukkot he was able to stand in the makeshift prison pop up Sukkah on the roof of MCC and listen to the prayers. Dan got to shake a lulav and esrog. He wasn't quite sure exactly what to do but sort of played it by ear. The guys had matzah and shared a juice box of grape juice. Dan brought Nutella to round it all out. He wrote to thank the organization Reaching Out, since they had been credited with providing the pop up Sukkah- and Dan was extremely proud when his letter made it into their newsletter, which he received every month.
Dear Rabbi Spritzer,
...Sukkot has actually been wonderful. Four inmates stood in the "pop-up" Sukkah every day at noon! I understand that this was your doing. I think it is important for us that you know what this meant for us. Here at MCC, inmates are generally restricted to their units 24/7. Most inmates are pre-trial. To be able to go anywhere and do anything is liberating. The roof of our building is a recreational area. Units of 100 inmates are allowed 3-4 hours a week of "roof recreation" in one-hour increments every other day.

This Sukkot the Jewish community felt Jewish. We were taken to the Sukkah, able to make the blessing on the Lulov and Esrog and eat. You helped us to have a little home in the midst of everything around us. Thank you.

There is some honor to be told about the Sukkah too. The roof at MCC has a small storage area, it is no bigger than a walk in closet and it is stuffed with, well all kinds of stuff. A five foot by five foot area was made for us to keep the "pop up" Sukkah. Can I tell you something? Yesterday the sun came down, beaming through the gates on the roof as we huddled inside the Sukkah and felt sunlight! This feeling of "sun light" had to be one of the best things a prisoner locked all day into a building feels. In the simplest felt cool!

Reaching Out made it happen. I am in awe of your accomplishment.

The same day as the Sukkah, Dan called me and told me he had accepted a low ball offer from a tenant I had previously vetoed because I felt they were a risk and they wanted a long term lease. I was ready to murder someone. Not really, since I was not willing to do time for it and I've decided I'm too delicate for prison. But I was furious. The tenant had appeared difficult and I knew if there were ever a problem it would be an absolute hassle to resolve it. A problem I would have to handle because Dan was away in prison and wouldn't be able to deal with it directly. Dan had added our broker to his phone list and called her and accepted the offer without talking to me first. When he called afterwords and told me, I had to scramble to beg a lawyer to go see Dan with a lease so he could mark it up for us to submit to the tenant. I couldn't even verbalize my frustration to Dan when he told me, I just cried and we hung up so as not to waste minutes. I knew he was accepting the offer because he was trying to make it easier on me. Getting some rent was better than it sitting vacant. I was afraid we had just agreed to something that would cause us further grief down the line.

I spent a few days running around like a lunatic, between the broker and lawyers and the house. I had a lawyer go see Dan while I waited outside the prison, so he could revise the lease and sign it just in case, then I would take it to the broker and she would submit it to the tenant... it was a logistics nightmare for me. But then, after a crazy few days, it was done. The checks were cashed, the lease signed... and suddenly this 100 lb gorilla that had haunted me for months was gone. The house was rented and I had nothing left to do every day except write to Dan or visit Dan. After everything that had happened over the past week, I was very much looking forward to our next visit.

But even that was taken away from me. I sat in the bus stop waiting for visiting to begin for hours with the other visitors. Dan and I were so low on minutes this month, between calling his lawyers and brokers he couldn't also call me. We restricted ourselves to the hang up "I love you" calls. We 'spoke' through letters instead. Waiting in that bus stop, I had so many things I needed to talk about with Dan. And then, without warning, visiting was cancelled. The officer came out and told us all to go home. No explanation. I sat there and cried. I cried for a long time and then when they said I had to leave the bus stop, I stood by the hydrant and cried some more. I didn't know if Dan could see me (he could) but I wanted him to know I had come, waited, that the visit hadn't been cancelled because of me. He wrote me that he had seen me waiting, and crying, and that visiting had been cancelled because the elevator was broken. Because of an ELEVATOR I was denied seeing my husband. I cried all the way home. Those loud burning cries, the kind that leave your throat raw and your eyes itching. I was shattered from it all, just completely gutted.

I was angry. Furious that Dan had been kicked out of Taft and I was stuck in New York. Miserable and frustrated and unable to find a way to cope properly. So I turned to music. I listened to everything that brought me peace. Lyrics that spoke to me. I made play lists and handpicked every song. I wrote to Dan and told him to find the song "Fireflies" by Owl City on the radio. It was a new-ish song that was just starting to gain airplay and I was obsessed with it. The chorus was beautiful and delicate, the lyrics optimistic and sweet. I asked him to listen for it on the major radio stations, and told him to imagine I had dedicated it to him when he finally heard it..

On to Fireflies by Owl City. I'm listening to 95.5 and 100.3 quite a lot trying to find it being played. Is it a slow song, a fast song? Tank has seen me holding the lyrics and he offered to help try and find the song being played. I'm determined to know this song.

IT IS PLAYING. It is #6 on the countdown! 100.3!
Very cool. Techno a bit. Yea!

Keeping fireflies in a jar?

Hey! It is a happy song. I like everything from you to me.

Tank says that the song is about me going home, it is saying "Please take me out of here." (He says P.S. it is nice you dedicate it to me.)

Well, it is nice to finally hear the song after trying for the past 24 hours!

We move through this world together as one.

What was even cooler was that a few weeks later Dan sent me a newspaper clipping. I have a talent for predicting what songs will be hits. It doesn't mean it is good music necessarily, I just can tell what will be really popular. Fireflies hit #1.

When I finally got to see Dan the next week at visiting, I sang him the song quietly. I also sent him the lyrics to another song on the album called "Vanilla Twilight". There was a lyrics that goes "Empty spaces between my fingers where yours are supposed to be". I found that hauntingly real.

She probably won't remember me, but as I was waiting to get into the visit, a beautiful blonde woman came in and sat down to wait. She seemed very fragile and delicate, not the typical sort of visitor. I decided to keep an eye on her- I knew how hard it could be to not fit in here. We exchanged smiles and talked a little bit, I told her to let me know if she needed help with anything, and she said it was very kind of me to offer. When we got upstairs she sat down and visited with a young guy. Dan explained that the guy was Cameron Douglas, and he was awaiting trial. The blonde woman was his mother, Diandra Douglas. Dan and Cameron didn't interact much, but he was ok. Because of who his family was, he had a rougher time with the other inmates and staff. It was not fair, but it was reality. Dan had worked on some charities with his grandfather, Kirk Douglas, years before.

It was always the same. Every time I thought things were leveling out, something new happened. Dan was moved back to 7 North. He was not happy that Tank was not his bunkie or in his unit anymore. I was not happy either. It meant visiting changed back to Wednesdays (again) and that Dan didn't have a body guard any more. The phones on 7 North were more difficult for Dan because the lines were longer so we couldn't talk as easily. This was extremely frustrating because the tenants were supposed to be moving in shortly and they were texting me constantly with questions, complaints and demands. I had to respond nicely and quickly and hope I was saying the right things. There was a mural I had painted on one of the doors and the tenant had their painter paint over it. It broke my heart to know that it was gone. But I had to be grateful they were paying rent so we wouldn't lose our house.

Dan had use of a typewriter on 7 North. He stated typing all of his letters to me, and it made writing to friends and family a lot easier for him. Dan somehow became the guy in the unit who typed letters for other inmates who couldn't write. It took him thirty minutes per letter, but he did it because he felt it would gain him favor with inmates who might otherwise cause problems for him.
Prison lesson: Create a commodity or utilize a skill where there is opportunity.

November was always a good month in prison- the holidays brought extra perks. In December, the BOP also gave 100 extra phone minutes to the inmates, which we definitely needed! I realized Dan had now been in MCC for six months- which was as long as he had been in TI, Taft and Lompoc combined. Since I was basically sitting around my parent's house most days, I started babysitting my nephew while my sister worked. It was a decent gig- he was so little and easy to be around and I got naps. We would play all morning, feed him a bottle, take a nap together at 2pm and then play again until snack time, another bottle.

There was a lot of downtime so I started to focus on new projects to keep myself occupied. Dan had asked me to try to get a modification on one of our mortgages. It was a long shot, something he wasn't sure he could do if he were out and now it was something I was going to try to do on my own. If it worked, it would resolve a lot of the money issues we were having. If it didn't, Dan thought he could always try again when he was home.

I went ahead and bought the domains for a book idea I had started to write... you might be familiar with it. (insert winky face emoji here). I wasn't quite sure if I was going to write my actual story, or a fiction story based on my real life story, but I felt like there was a definite lack of a female point of view in all these white collar stories I was reading in the news. I knew firsthand from visiting, I was usually the only white collar wife waiting to get in. Most of the women I encountered were moms or wives visiting their sons or husbands for drug related crimes. I wrote a few versions and mailed them to Dan. He loved them. He liked the real version best, but since he was IN prison, we agreed not to do anything with the story until he was out. Just in case.