Thursday, February 14, 2013

2/14 in the 2-1-4: V is for Valentine

Some inmates wanted more "typical" portraits for Valentines Day.
Valentines Day is a big deal at prison camp. My room -- 214, ironically -- was no exception. For guys like Mush, from L.A., but with "lady friends" from all over, it was an especially big deal. After the Super Bowl (another big event in prison camp) Mush spent almost every waking hour from the minute the Giants walked off the field, leaving the stunned Patriots and osteoporotic Madonna behind, until just hours before mail went out Valentines Day morning cranking out cards.

He had books of poetry, he had old cards and letters that he'd written to use as templates, he hired people to make cards for him. He was a card writing machine. And he wasn't just doing it for himself. There were plenty of word-weary guys in Unit 209 who came to Mush for help with their Valentines Day mojo.

One evening, about a week before Valentines Day, I was in my usual spot... My chair, pushed against the wall, under the window at the foot of my bunk -- technically, I guess, it was the foot of Fons' rack, since he had the lower bunk, but his chair was alongside his mattress; I got the end spot near my locker.  I was drawing a heart on a card for my kids.

That's when it happened. Mush looked up, stood and came over to see what I was doing. "You're good," he said. I thanked him.

"Jonas, you think you could draw a big dick inside this card?" I looked at him. I looked at the card.

"Yep. Sure." I sent Mush down the hall to borrow some colored pencils from Dent. When he came back, I sat down at the desk and half an hour later, he was the proud owner of a penciled penis. He was quite happy with the outcome.

He took it down the hall and showed a handful of the people he was writing for. I practically had a line out the door. Over the next week, I cranked out nearly a hundred cards for more than a dozen guys. They were decorated with hearts, genitals, flowers and every sexual position that my clients and I could brainstorm. Some would come up to me and ask for exactly what they'd seen on another card. Others, though, wold look at all the other cards and say they wanted something completely different: a one-off that I would promise not to repeat for anyone else.

In spite of all the cards I worked on, I myself only received one valentine while I was at FPC Duluth. But I gained something much larger than Hallmark Holiday gratification could ever give me.

By the time Mush came to me and asked me to sketch that skin flute, I'd been at FPC Duluth four months. It'd taken that long for me to find my hustle, my incarceration calling: I was a prison pornographer.

No comments: