Eyebrows, heroin, and unrestricted telephone calls.
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In the heart and mind of a 21-year old wanna-be career criminal there is a lot of room for malformed thoughts to run amok. Take me for example. When I was 21 I was living in a huge 2 bedroom apartment, 35N. I had stopped paying rent. The apartment had a grand view, facing Manhattan's lower east side, Brooklyn and Queens. I had a diseased worldview, facing up to five years in prison for crimes I had committed all across the Northeast. Late at night, from my terrace, I could see the blinking lights of both airports. There I would often sit, high, smoking and contemplating the small bits of my future that I allowed to enter my consciousness.
To make things simple I decided that I wanted to go to prison. Actually this wasn't my first idea. Originally I was going to jump out of my kitchen window. That just seemed silly. Then I tried to convince my girlfriend to go on the lam with me. We would take $30,000 and go start a new life with new identities somewhere in the Northwest. I would shave my head clean, get lots of tattoos, and work at a skateboard shop, running white-collar scams on the side. She didn't like the part about never talking to our friends or families again. I was too chicken to go it alone. I stayed in New York and went to court, in a suit, like a good boy.
Prison it was. I wasn't far away from an eviction, I felt unable to work, certainly unable to hold a normal job. I had an expensive drug habit. Even without paying any bills my funds were rapidly diminishing. Since I really had no say as to whether or not I was cell bound, I just went along with it. Prison sounded like a place where I wouldn't really be expected to do much, in a real world sense. Reality was an infrequent visitor. I spent a lot of money on a good attorney, "the best litigator in the state," or so they said. He was an old grouch, he didn't seem to like me much, certainly he did not respect me, but could I blame him? I never told him that I wanted to go to prison. I don't think I told my family. But if my memory serves I told my friends, and told them often. Yes, I was crazy.
So, what does a crazy person do to prepare themselves for a stay in prison? Plan. Plan and Plan. I had three main concerns when it came to my staying in the big house. Eyebrows, heroin, and unrestricted telephone calls. So, I meditated and planned, and I'll share some of the fruits of these efforts with you now.
Please keep in mind that in my past version of reality everything always works out as planned. Please don't try to be clever and poke holes in my faulty logic with your 20/20 hindsight. Like they say: Don't shit on our curb, we don't break jaws on your toilet bowl. Tweezers and dental floss. These were the answer to my first two dilemmas.
I have been getting my eyebrows cleaned-up at the Kenneth Salon (now located at the Waldorf-Hysteria Hotel) since I was about 19. Cleaned up means waxed and plucked. First they wax the thicket and then they expertly pluck crisp the line. This all takes place through a magnifying glass and a very bright light. I lie back and relax, close my eyes, and after 15-20 minutes I'm a new man. It means the world to me. It's the difference between my having beautiful, striking eyebrows or one thick, dull eyebrow. So now imagine if you will, what an unwaxed, imprisoned me would look like: Like a fucking Yeti. Not even an option.
PLAN #1: I found out from Difa, my eyebrow specialist at Kenneth, where I could purchase professional tweezers at a good price. I would need at least one pair per year as the precise edges tend to dull. 10 pairs would be sufficient. Practice would be necessary before hand. When I was leaving for prison, I would have an expert wax, and from that point on, I'd be on my own. Kind of a DIY plan. I didn't need to rely on anyone on the outside to keep my eyebrows going. Short of having my tweezers mailed to me when needed, I was self sufficient.
I had nice eyebrows, but I was a heroin addict. This is less of a problem on the outside, but I was wary of getting involved with in-prison drug trade. It seemed scary, a good way to wind up getting fucked in the ass, or having my teeth knocked out so I would suck dick better. Not to mention getting killed.
At this point I was doing about $40 worth of heroin a day. Keep in mind that those were street prices. I knew little about drug pricing inside, but it stood to reason the it might have been anywhere from twice to ten times more expensive. This is where the dental floss came in.
PLAN #2: It was the old wax your own dental floss routine. Ingredients: waxed floss, unwaxed floss, Knox unflavored gelatin, warm water, and lots of heroin. In a large shallow pan mix a small amount of warm water with some gelatin, and generous amount of heroin. Stir with fingers until it form a thick white paste.
Taste frequently. Unravel several spools of the unwaxed floss and submerge in the paste. Chill. (Oh, yeah forgot to mention that you need a refrigerator and electricity.) Allow for some trial and error to get the right mix. Roll the unwaxed floss back onto its little tube and place them into the containers marked Waxed floss. This plan requires someone willing to send or bring the occasional dental care package. In the case of longer incarceration they might be required to procure heroin and prepare additional packages of floss.
Besides being a traditional junky, I was a telephone junky; and still I am.
The prison phone system seemed unacceptable. From prison you can ONLY make collect calls. No calling cards. And they gouge your friends and family on the rates, because they can. Fuck you, you're in prison. Well I for one was not about to receive dictation on my telephone usage and privileges. Sometimes they only let you call a set list of numbers. No good, but I had a plan.
PLAN #3: Have two phone lines installed a friends house. One for incoming collect calls, one for unrestricted outgoing calls. Bridging them would be
a device that would answer the phone with a recording saying, "Yes, operator I accept the charges." The rest was simple. I would enter my access code via the touch-tone pad on my prison payphone; I would then be able to dial calls over the second line. This would, of course, require a friend willing to host my contraption and cover my phone expenses until I returned home triumphant.
Fortunately in the end I was too out of it to put any of my plans into action. Luckily for me, I was sentenced to 5 years probation. That meant zero jail time. I remained on the streets, where as hard as my life got, there were no restrictions on my movements within these five great boroughs. I was able to retain my apartment for 5 months rent free. Man plans, God laughs. I stopped taking drugs just before my 25th birthday, and I have continued to stay clean for the past 6 years. I still have my eyebrows done, and I've many times been spotted talking on my cellphone. But not in a restaurant, those people are just rude.
this is in or around The Early 90s