Sunday, August 2, 2015

’13 Things you must give up to be Happy – and how I feel about them’

Recently, I was watching a television program that raised the topic of happiness. The following 13 suggestions of things to abandon were mentioned. It got me to think about how those suggestions related to me personally. 

1.   Give up bad spending habits
This is not an issue for me. I have adopted a really good amount of self discipline in spending and deciphering what it is that I need vs. what I want. (But I also love a good deal when it can be found…)

2.   Give up waiting for the perfect moment. Do it now
Given my current situation, this is really not something I can put in motion…at least not in the areas of my life that I would like to see affected.

3.   Give up your Social Media obsession
I don’t even know what that would entail for me since I do not have any access to social media.

4.   Give up living in the past. Those times may have shaped you into what you are today, but they don’t have the power to control your future.
This is something I struggle with. I am conscious of it, but it is so easy to revert back to the past. I know that I have grown and changed in more ways than I can count, so I need to focus on the future and being the man that I have become.

5.   Give up your yearning to fit in
Not an issue for me since I have never exactly ‘fit in’. I have come to embrace this train in myself. For me, fitting in is boring and lacks personal identification.

6.   Give up your disorganized lifestyle
I am obsessive in my life and meticulous in all that I do so disorganization is not an option for me. Personally I find disorganization unacceptable because I cannot function in life if things are in disarray.

7.   Give up your overanalyzing of situations
I fall short on this habit. I analyze a lot and can easily find myself overanalyzing situations. Ironic; I am even overanalyzing my analysis of this habit. Not a good sign.

8.   Give up your need to have the “best” things. Don’t forget about the wonderful things you already have.
This is easy for me because I remind myself of the things that I do have in this situation. All of the material stuff has become less and less important to me. I still enjoy some of the best things… I just place less emphasis on them now that I did before.

9.   Give up toxic relationships
At the moment, I don’t have any.

10.       Give up your hesitation to indulge.
Indulging for me is putting my feet up and reading a good book. I do it every chance that I can get.

11.        Give up comparing yourself to others. Embrace who you are because there isn’t anyone better than you can be.
Not until coming to prison did I open my eyes and begin to move forward in becoming the best David, the best man that I know how to be. It’s something I wish everyone could do.

12.        Give up your packed schedule. Choose a day a week to dedicate to yourself.
Easier said than done and I think most people would agree – but duly noted.

13.       Give up relying on others to make you feel happy & fulfilled. You are in charge of your own wellness. Know what you want out of life.
I know intrinsically that this is true. I have had my own issues with happiness and think that I have yet to discover what it feels like authentically. One thing is certain; I do not rely on others to make me feel happy or fulfilled. I know that only I can do that.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

‘The Boston Bomber’

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The verdict is in: Guilty. And the penalty?  



I must have watched and re-watched this on every news channel over the weekend. People around me would ask how I felt about it and I would say to them that I expected the guilty verdict, but nothing else. What I do not agree with is the penalty of DEATH. When people hear that, they are clearly shocked or confused.

First. Let me say that I am a supporter of the death penalty. I believe there are people who commit heinous acts that need not continue breathing. My issue with the death penalty however, is the process of appeal. Many people live on death row for decades and the appeals cost millions in state tax dollars. I feel that one appeal is certainly warranted but not 3,4 and so on.

In Tsarnaev’s case, I feel he is better suited in some dark, dank cell for the rest of his natural life. He is young, which means he will have a very long time to live in complete isolation. Let me tell you, as someone who was in isolation and a single man cell for years, that it can, and will drive you crazy eventually. 

My biggest concern however, is not for Tsarnaev, but for the victims. The victims will have to relive their experience at every appeal his attorneys file. It is unfair to them. This justice system is meant partially for the victims to have closure and that will not happen if there are 20+ years in appeals. So for those reasons, I hope he does not allow his attorneys to continue in appeals court. It would be idiotic of me to expect him to think of others though and so, for that, I will not be surprised to see this ordeal continue on into the years.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed. No matter what the outcome, we will still remain Boston Strong.

‘Unlikely Friends’

Monday, May 18, 2015

Throughout the months of March and April, I was experiencing a significant amount of disdain for the people I lived around. The particular hut that I lived in was no longer seen as an ‘Honor Inmate’ location and therefore, was used to house anyone. I became acutely aware of the fact that almost everyone around me was smoking the synthetic drug ‘spice’. If they weren’t smoking it, they were friends with others who were.

Spice is an epidemic in prison and I am sure it is outside these walls as well. I am not going to elaborate on drugs in prison because. I assume that my readers are intelligent enough to realize that drugs are a problem here. The unfortunate thing about spice is that it is impossible to test for it in here. It literally makes people act insane and frequently, they simply fall out and stop breathing. All in all, these are not good things – and living around people that partake – was really not a wonderful experience. The ‘Spice Heads’ (as I call them) combined with the drama from work and being on call 24/7, caused me to reevaluate my situation.

I drew the conclusion that I needed to move across the street to Yard 2 and live around individuals that I have not only known for many years (at various prisons), but also, knew that there would be no drama, no spice and a certain amount of camaraderie. This is a much better situation except for one detail. The individuals I live with now are skin heads. When you take that into account, someone like me should not – in any way – be accepted as a friend, or into their fold. I pretty much stand for everything they don’t and you would think that it would be the basis for a big, big problem. Oddly however, it has never been an issue and believe me when I say, that these are not new friendships in the making. I have been friends with a few of them for over 12 years now.

I have debated for awhile on whether or not I should write about this particular subject because I do not want to come across as a total hypocrite to my own people. I also do not want to appear to be a supporter of skin head nation. What I do want to do is to open peoples eyes. We all have different beliefs and ways of life. We all judge and have our limits. Many of us believe we are ‘right' and that others are ‘wrong’. Sometimes, we have no sensible explanation for things and when people ask me how I could possibly be ‘friends’ with these guys, or why I think that they are friends with me, I give the reasons as I see them. Unfortunately, they have never experienced the same things I have and cannot understand what I speak of. For you reading this, I will try to break down the reasons and maybe, just maybe, you will understand why we have come to a place where we accept one another.

Before coming to the North Unit in Florence, I was always unlucky to have been housed in some of the most violent prisons in the state. 95% of the time, I was the only homosexual accepted because of how I carried myself. Also, I have always straddled the proverbial racial fence because of my mixed heritage, of how I speak and behave. My overall prison demeanor has always pretty much been testosterone storming, masculine, and very “take no prisoner” in disposition. Tough characters relate to one another. 

In addition, when you go to war with someone, or in our case a riot – you learn a lot about people in their most vulnerable form. A couple of these guys I am living with now have literally pulled me out of harm’s way because they respect my character. They have fought for me and stood up for me at times when I was unable to do so for myself. That is really the only explanation that I have and all I can hope, is that somehow you can understand how this very unlikely group of friends has developed.

I moved to Yard II on the 21st of April and decided I would rather be at peace, around people I knew and trusted then to stay and deal with the nonsense of where I was.

Since relocating, I have been able to hear myself think. I am not bothered by a bunch of immature inmate shenanigans and a huge bonus here: nobody smokes spice. There are only 200 men living on this particular yard so I have a small circle of friends. Really – that’s all I need.

My new mailing address:
David R McKinney

#169947 YD II - 4E 16

ASPC Florence – North

PO Box 8000

Florence, AZ 85132-8000

Saturday, April 25, 2015

‘Defying the Laws of Categorization’

Monday, April 6, 2015

It’s seemingly impossible to put me inside of a box. It would be easy to say I am a convict, a gay man, a person of color or simply a Jew. There is nothing simple about placing ourselves in a particular category though because, as human beings, we are deeper, more complex that just that. For me, I remember a time when all I wanted to do was ‘fit in’. I think a lot of kids and young adults do. It wasn’t I began to really know and accept who I am, who I wanted to be, that I was happy to be different. Within the 4 categories listed above that people use to define me. there are also inner categories that have evolved. Some, mind you, are black & white. Some, more than not, are very grey. It is for that reason that I believe that the majority of human beings, myself included, have begun to defy the stereotypical laws of categorization.

A Convict: The greater majority of people would think that all convicts are hardened, career criminals lacking in moral fiber in all areas of life. In fact, that presumption is true in only some instances. A great majority of convicts are 1st time offenders who made an very poor decision in life and regret it deeply. Some are guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were simply involved with the wrong people, be it romantically or platonically. Then you have men like myself, who have adopted some convict-like institutionalized behavior as a means of survival – but also, maintain a firm grasp on reality and a very strong moral compass. As far as the convict prison population is concerned, I will forever be an anomaly.

A Gay Man: Nowadays saying that ‘I sleep with and am attracted to the same sex’ works, but there is a lot more to the inner workings of being a gay man. The basic stereotype, I believe, is that we all well groomed, fashion forward, effeminate and outspoken. The truth is that the gay community has a number of sub categories such as bears, twinks, leather men, body worshipers, muscle heads etc.. A lot of gay men try to fit into one of these categories and it works for them. It has become apparent to me however, that I do not easily fit into any of them. If I don’t, then I believe it is safe to say that there are many other gay men who do not as well. Somehow, I have bits and pieces of all these categories within me, but I have no idea what it all means. I am pretty meticulous about my grooming but I do have body and facial hair most of the time. I am strong and masculine in my everyday life, but can also be submissive in my private life when called upon. I have worn a harness of two in my day and I do take pride in staying in great physical shape. I also play sports, enjoy the outdoors, getting dirty and a slew of other things that are not typically associated with the gay community.

A Man of Color: It took a very long time for me to stop caring about whether I was seen as a Black or White man. Unfortunately, I have never been accepted entirely by either the Black or White communities. The reasons may seem trivial, but they are real and they continue to happen to most people of mixed race. I have never fit a stereotype of any particular race or ethnic community and that fact became very clear to me when I came into the prison system. I am not Black enough…I have swagger but it comes from confidence rather than from being a Black man. I am not at all interested in Rap or Hip Hop music and lean toward alternative music instead. The Ebonic language is foreign to me most of the time. Racially, my differences, the reasons that I do not easily fit into a category, are the most prevalent. They were also the most tough for me to swallow. Now that I have embraced how I am different and have become proud of it, I can say with confidence that referring to myself as “swirly”, doesn’t bother me a bit

A Jew: Stereotypically, people categorize Jews as being thrifty, large nosed, intelligent, deserving and, for the most part, Caucasian. Some only recognize the Orthodox versus the Secular Jews and that is their prerogative. There are however, a great many converts to Judaism as well. Madonna and Amare Studemeire have both converted, to name a couple. They believe in what works for them, for their own faith. I do the same and I am proud of it. I do not need to shout it out loud it to the world for validation but rather, I will tell people, when solicited, about it. I share it with them with pride because it is what makes sense to me and, it’s what I believe.

You see, I am all of these things, and they make up me as a human being. I am not just a convict, a gay man, a person of color or a Jew. I am proud to not be categorized into a box.

I am proud to be just me.