Pop the Socket FAIL

by Crane-Station with Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in Kentucky, first in jails and then in prison, during 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Inmate names are changed, except nicknames that do not reveal identity.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, sometime in February, 2008

Horse

Horse. Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. Colored pencil, magazine ink.

Pop the Socket FAIL

On the way out of a 15-minute weekly visit with my husband (behind bullet-proof glass), I stop in the booking area to wait for a guard to take me back to the cell. On the wall in this area is posted a laundry list of jailhouse offenses that can get us more time than we already have. I scan the list. Then I see an address in Frankfort for grievances.

My hand flies to my pocket, and I fumble for a no-shank pen and paper. I jot only crucial numbers, street names. I commit the Frankfort zip code to memory, quickly.

The guard approaches and says, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Are you writing the address to Frankfort?”

“Yeah.”

“They don’t do nuthin’ for you.”

“I want to get to PeWee as soon as possible.” (PeWee, or KCIW is the penitentiary for women in the Louisville area)

“I mean, even if you work for them they won’t do nuthin. C’mon now, let’s go.”

“…next bus. PeWee…”

“PeWee? You been final sentenced?”

“Yes.”

I think the guard was concerned that I might write a grievance to Frankfort, explaining some of the jail conditions. Which is exactly what I do. There is absolutely nothing else to do, in fact, but write Frankfort. I write everything down, names, times, dates, events, including the pregnancy disaster, and run it all in to Frankfort.

In the cell, back in my own insanity, I fix the towel back onto my head. I find myself in a very unusual situation. I am all alone in the cell. And I have tobacco. And a lighter.

I am so gonna smoke.

In honor of one of the religious in-cell handouts that pictures a multi-headed beast and labels it “The beast of Revelation 13:1-10 symbolizes the papacy,” I have chosen, from a pocket-sized book of rolling papers labeled “The New Testament” and placed in plain view on the windowsill, a page from St. John’s Revelation, to roll the tobacco in and smoke it.

The Beast of Revelation

I am seated at the steel table alone, with a towel on my head, surrounded by notes, papers, and origami cranes. Some of my notes are just random, the sort of thing that an insane, entombed person might write:

“Purest of gold walks through the hottest of fires.”

and

“Israelites’ journey in the desert has to do with poisonous snakes, their bite caused death. People complained to God. He told Moses to fashion a bronze snake- anyone bitten who looked at it would be cured. Modern symbol of medicine.”

I scan the hallway for traffic as though I am about to rob a bank, and seeing no one, I flick the lighter. Nothing happens. Flick flick click click flick click fuck FUCK.

My memory banks kick in. I recall bits of some early conversations in the cell about how to light things.

“…two double A batteries on a steel table and…”

Nope. No batteries.

“…ghost lighting. Guys do it all the time. Just roll the lighter backward….”

Here I sit, in an orange jail suit with a towel on my head, trying to roll a lighter backward on a steel table to create a spark, only the little roller thingies are stuck and they don’t even roll, forward or backward. I hold the lighter up to the light, turn it upside down and focus. There is no fluid in this lighter.

This is starting to suck.

“…pop the socket. Just take a piece of foil, or metal, hold it with tissue, stick it in the socket, and it creates a spark….”

I am a madman. By miracle, I find a paper clip and straighten it out.

“…or you can unplug the TV a little, then touch metal to the metal on the TV cord. See how the TV plug is damaged? Some jails paint the plate but not this one…”

Just about the time the TV wall socket plate parallaxes into my insane view and I begin to formulate a plan, the steel door opens and in walks Ruthie.

I look like the cat that ate the canary. She says, “What are you doing?”

I spit out a canary feather, adjust the towel and ask, “Do you have any idea how to pop the socket? Because if you do, I’ll share this with you.”

Ruthie is beside herself with giddy excitement. “Hell yeah I know how to pop the socket I seen it before! Hahahahahaaa, we gonna smoke!” She runs to her bunk, gets a cup, then goes to the toilet and fills the cup with water, brings the cup to the steel table, sets it down, and says, “Here. You’ll need this.” She also produces a length of toilet tissue and says, “and this. You’ll need this too.”

I ask a question that made sense at the time: “What do you do with the water? I mean, I don’t really think it mixes too well with electricity.”

Ruthie says (I swear to God): “Yeah. You wrap the paper clip in tissue, then dip it in the water, and then jam the wet part into the socket!”

I think I am actually living inside of a Roadrunner cartoon, where there is always something that you want but cannot get, so you are always hungry and pissed off, and in the end there is always an explosion where you die and everyone laughs. The steel door opens again. In walks Christie and Tina. Christie says, “What are you guys doing?”

“We were just about to pop the socket.”

“Rachel! God dammit, I thought you were smarter than that! Y’all are going to kill yourselves!” says Christie.

“Don’t ever use God’s name like that again,” snaps Tina.

“Yeah, Christie,” I say. “Use motherfucker instead. It’s more polite.”

“I can’t believe you guys,” she says.

“Well, quit runnin your dicksucker and show us how to do this right, then,” I say, “Before two more people walk in and then we gotta share this thing with six people. This is not a six-people cigarette. And I’m not cutting it with banana peels again, so don’t even go there.”

“Okay,” she says. “But keep the water. You’ll need it.”

“What for?”

“The explosion.”

“What explosion!?”

Christie addresses me as if I am a child. “When you pop the socket, it creates a huge spark. You catch it on a Maxipad. The pad catches fire. You will need the water to put the fire out.”

“You cannot possibly be serious.”

She is.

“And stick that paper clip into a plastic no-shank pen sleeve,” she adds. “To keep from getting electrocuted.”

We partially unplug the TV, lay the clip across the prongs and there is, quite literally, a huge popping sound, a spark, and a Maxipad fire.

But there is more. We have knocked out the television to all of the cells in the hallway for the entire weekend and, of course since everyone knows who the idiots were, the guards were not at all amused, so they just went ahead and left our TV off for ten days.

The yells start coming from the other cells: “MotherFUCKER!! You bitches knocked out our TV!”

And Harry, down the hall in his isolation cell, “Let me out! Helpmehelpmehelpme HELP! SOMEBODY!! Hellllllp me!”

While the TV is off and I am coming up with insane plans because there is nothing else to do, I decide that a TV show called, “How To Survive Jail Hellhole.” Today we will discuss all of the uses for toothpaste, tomorrow, we will make dominoes out of toilet paper, and the next day we will be popping the socket.

25 Responses to Pop the Socket FAIL

  1. colin black says:

    P S Crane I love true life prison books.

    Off the top of my head favourates.

    Six against the rock.

    Executioners Song

    A sense of Freedom

    Pappilion??? Don’t know where fact leaves an fiction enters.

  2. colin black says:

    To me Prison was a breeze apart from the company .When you have grown up in the Family I had .

    A Father full of anger an frustration an violent an very quick to use his fists feet or slam your head off a wall.

    My Mother would get it rarely she knew how best to avoid pushing his buttons .

    An the thing is his beatings were tottaly random depending on his mood.

    For instance I could have been sent home from school for some reason an be expecting a beating an nothing happened.

    Few days latter I may be at the dineing table an end up with my head smashed into my plate because I was mashing my food together .
    An my Dad would roar your making your food look like pigs food you little bastard,Well eat like a pig.

    I LOVE my Father an understand now the anger an hurt he held inside him .
    The person whom turned my home life/child hood into a nightmare was an older brother.

    He was a sociopath phycopath call it what you will.But I was his captive victim for the first ten years of my life.

    He was eight years older than me reason being three prior sibblings had died of what they labelled cot deaths.

    Or far more likely the monster smothered them.He tried to kill me on at least three occasions the first I remember was aged three.

    Took me mile or so from our house to a water treatment plant an pushed me into a huge deep pool of water covered in froth like foam.

    An he ran off luckily for me a fault had ocoured in the pipes so a maintance guy was there fixing it .

    He heard the splash an turned to see a wee boy going under the water,.

    He ran over dived in an saved me we were both covered in the foam stuff an looked like creatures from the black lagoon.

    He put me in his truck an drove to some near by shops to find out if anyone knew whom I was..

    Someone must have as he then drove me home.I remember it being the first time Id been bathed in the big bath as opposed to the kitchen sink..

    Bath water cost money so on bathnights the water was shared.

    Or the wee one could be bathed in the sink with a kettle full of hot water.

    Imagine my brothers disapointment he thinks he has killed his wee bro an gets home to find me in the bath.

    Batard came in for a piss an pissed in the bath.

    But he used to piss on me in bed most nights along with burn me heated up coat hangers were his favourates to this day I have tiny little burns all over my body.

    I did not have any love for my older brother nor did I enjoy life at home wich is why I left at ten or to more apt was ruled

    As unruly sec 48 unable to be controlled or disciplined by natural family an is placed in to state custody.

    Wich meant childrens homes Id simply abscond/run away lived off my wits .

    There were a gang of us about 15 or so aged from ten up to teens some lived at home .

    An we could use theres for baths ect an the rest of us lived in squats derilect emty houses.

    Life wasn’t bad or harsh at all infact the opposite.

    When you grow up in misery every thing else is a bonus so Im gratefull for my upbringing.

    We broke into shops shop lifted our biggest earner was conning drivers that they had knocked us over.

    You wait until they are entering or exiting a parking spot an being wee your blind from there wing mirrors.

    You mate would then thump the car hard an the driver stops to investigate an your lieing there crying holding you leg in agony.

    One of the older guys would say …you’ve just hit that kid…

    An rather than get insurance police involvement 70 or present would bung you ten bob or a pound to keep quite .

    As there nothing broken it just a bruise here take this.

    Best thing ever happened to me was getting locked up at twelve for burgalriseing Boots Department Store on Princess Street

    I was sent to approved school an met Max Patterson my mentor an a Saint of a Man a very compassionate soul.

    Aproved Schools were harsh at the time but he was a reformer an
    I was lucky enough to land in Wellington Farm where he had just been appointed Head Master..

    I spent 4 years there finished my schooling there learned how to weld an lay bricks learned how to cook .

    At age 14 I was living in a prefab with two other boys although within the grounds of the School.reformatary I suppose is the American name.

    We had to fend for ourselves cook an clean ………

    Unfourtunately a lot of bad shit ocoured to me at an age I couldn’t process it heck at three I couldn’t even verbalise what my brother was doing to me an believe you me Ive only skimmed the surface concerning that monsters depravity .

    As I grew an reflected on my child hood there was so much I just wanted to burrie an especialy when you move on an encounter your friends familys an see the bond an closeness an love that you never had.

    You don’t want to talk about it an although you were blameless you somehow feel ashamed .

    An I didn’t want to deal with it mysels so I self medicated never could stomach alchcohol luckily or I expect id be dead if my drug of choice were legal an also a liver destroyer.

    Nup maryjane was my drug of choice but opiates were my drug of deneial an addiction.

    Puff made me think to much where heroin didn’t make me think at all an total oblivion was what I craved for about 15 years.

    An inevitabley dealing drugs using drugs class A like heroin is agin the law an now an again you find your self behind bars .

    But as I said at the beginning Prison was a breeze to me just another way just another place where one doesn’t have to face reality as when one is addicted to drugs as a way to deal with past traumas.

    Rather than have the bravery to face your demons head on then one is always in a prison of there own construction.

    An a self imposed prison is a lot harder to walk free from.

    Than one constructed with steel bars concrete an high fences an walls topped with coils like giant slinkys bristling with razors.

  3. Soulcatcher says:

    Best one yet Crane. I found myself laughing imagining you all trying to get a spark, and at the same time sad you were in the situation.

  4. Dave says:

    Holy mackeral, Colin! You’re stuff cab be hard to read but by God it’s worth it! Keep up the good work, amigo!

  5. colin black says:

    I once saw an alchoholic get a tin of black boot polish an melt it down to obtain a thimbilfull of what he assured me was spirt.?

    To obtain a light we used a flint melted into a toothbrush handle.

    A bot of charred rag cottons the best .

    An a bit of thin razor taken from a safety razor.

    You simply strike the flint with the razor an a spark falls onto the charred material glows as you blow an then you stick your joint or roll up onto it an suck till youre sparking.

    Used those condenced milk cartons to brew up tea an coffee as well.

    You rip a bot sheet of smear it in the prison margarine circles they give you at chow.

    Roll it up an this becomes your wick.

    Then you put the waters in the sides are carboard so its easy to make a billy can with a thin sheet as a rope going through to pierced holes in the side,

    Bottoms thin aluminium so when you get your wick alight it boils in about three minutes.

    I tell you a cup of tea or coffee never tasted so fucking awesome than at three am in your cell tokeing a joint an drinking hot sweet tea

    An you knew your not supposed to be doing either.

    I was lucky as UK Jails tended to bang people up in single solitary cells when I done time late seventy early eightys.

    An most people dreaded it but to me that was the best time of day in prison,

    At night or over the weekend when they kept you behind the door.
    I loved it as the thing that bothered me most abourt jail .

    Wasn’t the loss of liberty or the screws the stuff the laughingly refered to as food.

    Even a boiled egg in jail is impossible to imagine

    A rubber ball if you manage to get the shell off as its welded on.

    Your left with a greyish rubber ball with a yoke that black an usealy green under they black or the palest shde of jaundice yellow you’ve seen an has the consistency of powder if you attempt to eat it

    Youd need a gallon of water just to be able to produce enough saliva to swallow it.

    An if they can do that to a boiled egg just imagine the other culinary frights they dish up.

    But no the foods a breeze compared to the number one head fuck in British Prisons.

    That’s the other inmates Ive never severed time in a womans prison but I know the dynamics are tottaly different.

    But mens jails are 97 percent populated with freaking losers.

    Guys that have killed there wifes or Girfreinds domestics as there called account for more than half the lifers .

    An there always first offfenders an the most compliant subseviant cons in prison.

    There kept a way from us roughty tuffty criminal types.

    As are the nonnces / nonsence..sex offenders….

    Because to Criminals there crimes are vile an make no sence hence nonces.

    As I was always an E Cat Escapee I d a history of escapeing police custody an approved schools borstals .
    Even jumped the dock an escaped from a Magistratyes Court once .

    I was opened up at the same time as A cats we shared the wing with other cons but exercised an took wreck an meals at different times .

    Theres me faces a realitvly short time behind bars 30 mnths or so

    An thease guys were either doing life or faceing life.

    Some absolute brilliant trustworthy people in Jail but theyre few an far betwwen.

    Then you get the bff jail pals whom funnily enough seem to have no friends on the out ?

    An yet when they get out here going to be your bff they will write every minute of the day they will send you money.

    Magazines if you need any thing let then know

    If your case needs work they will find the best lawers money can buy blah blah blah .

    An of course they say this crap to everyone an anyone gullible to believe them .

    As soon as they walk through the gates they forget you ever existed .

    Well Thease people don’t exist to me in jail good bad or indifferent I go through the motions with 99 percent of cons I encounter dureing the day.

    An at bang up when the doors are slammed its sheer bliss alone again I can chil listen to the radio read write letters

    Or just roam through my own head.

    Whilst all those nut jobs climb the wall when the door slams behind them.

    There screaming out the windows telling each other fucking lies about how cool they are on the streets .

    How many women they got .

    Though funny enough if I see them int the visiting room its the Mums visiting /

    Or throwing kites here an there out the window was were I liked to have some fun.

    If I heard a cell above me an within my reach was t kiteing a joint down to a cell either on my level or next landing down.

    Id get my ready made fishing pole stroke grappling hook ready.

    Kiteing b t w is a way of sending notes an contraband between differing cells using long thin ropes/lines made up of blanket wool .

    With the use of my mirror a short pole an superb aim I intercepted more than a few drugs meant for other cells .

    A best of all no one knew theyd even been robbed as lines can an do break .

    Well what do you expect I was in jail an liked my drugs an as I said thease pricks were just fools anyway as was I.

    • Tell it Colin, that’s what I’m talkin about.

      Wow, that reads like poetry, or lyrics, or prose…
      In that it gets to the heart of the experience, with vivid images.

      Escapes, fishing, cell to cell, jail vs prison, etc…
      Food.

      The men’s thing is way different than women, that’s for real sure. On meeting and being locked up with losers, I can relate…only not so much because they committed violent crimes, many didn’t. Many were simply horrendous, egregious people to begin with, so ungodly manipulative and annoying, it makes you want to scream.

      I think I’ll look for a post related to food, you inspired me…

      Thank you so much.

    • colin black says:

      kiteing in jail is throwing lines with a weight you can swing it like a pedulim an gain momentum.

      So a cell on level 4 can reack a cell two floors lower using the swing.

      They then reach out an catch it.

      However if someone over hears you can intercept it an hijack there booty.

      Kiteing on the out is the fraudlent use of checks used to be deposting worthless cheqe in one account that taked three day to clear an bounce.

      Then going to another bank an withdrawing cash against the uncleared an worthless cheqe.Thought thease days any form of check credit card fraud is refered to as kiteing.

      But its originates in floating paper =the worthless check

      Kites = floating paper in the wind

      Thus kiteing.

      Come to think of it kiteing in jail is the same bits of paper on string.

      Funny old thing is languge especialy slang.

  6. Two sides to a story says:

    Love!

  7. fauxmccoy says:

    excellent, as always, crane. i probably will not comment on all of the frog gravy posts here, because as you know, i read them all at frog gravy and commented there. please know that you have my full support in getting this important work into publication, even if i may be quiet in my commenting here.

    • Was it you who turned my attention to Jaded Ibis? Because that is what I am shooting for. I have their submission guidelines, and plan to try them first.

      Thank you faux.

      -I have come across more notes that will make for a couple of new hair-raising entries..

      • fauxmccoy says:

        no, that was not me who pointed you in that direction, crane. my publishing contacts are through lawrence ferlinghetti at city lights bookstore in san francisco. i got to know him through his daughter and when i’ve got the nerve together to submit, his publisher is waiting to hear from me.

  8. William Walton says:

    Crane, you might find this interesting as it points out how incompetent law enforcement officers can be. Back in the late ’50’s there was a deputy sherrif named GG. The sheriff’s name was Hick N. GG was on patrol and found a guy passed out along the road, his breath smelled sweet, GG figured he was drunk,took him to jail and threw him in a cell. About 2 AM GG called Hick because he could not get a response from the guy. Hick went to the jail and also could not get a response from the guy so Hick called Dad. I being the designated driver drove Dad to the jail. Dad took one whiff of the guys breath and told Hick to call an ambulance because the guy was not drunk but in diabetic shock. His breath smelled like new mown hay. GG started arguing with Dad and Hick chimed in. Dad’s response to Hick was that the next time he had a medical situation go see GG and don’t bother me. Hick respounded by saying no Doc I will come and see you. Dad told him anyone drunk or not should be taken to the hospital where they can determine the medical problem. Took him to the hospital and sure enough he was suffering from diabetic shock. He recovered. On another occasion, GG was playing quick draw and blew off three of his toes. Early that morning Dad and his sidekick in trauma surgery were called to the hospital to amputate the toes. GG had stopped and gave speeding tickets to several of the nurses, their husbands, and kids. They would go in and grab that foot and twist it causing GG great pain. Told him that Doctor want to make sure it was healing. Dad finally told them ladies I think you have caused GG enough pain. Keep in mind GG’s pistol was a single action so he had to cock it each time he fired. Dad’s sidekic in surgery stated in Brit accent, “I say BC one would think after the first shot he would have said, That Hurts and not do it again. I say, I think this guy is not too tightly wrapped.” Needless to say. GG was fired from the Sheriff’s Department.

    • Lord have mercy! A hilarious but at the same time awful account: trigger happy, power happy and dim all at the same time! What’s not so funny is, people can, and do, die like this- being taken to a jail when they actually need a hospital. Without your dad, the diabetic man would have surely died.

      A wake-up call as well as a wonderful historical account.

      Thank you so much.

      • William Walton says:

        Crane, on another historical note, Dad was speeding to the hospistal because he got a call that a patient was in the ER suffering from a heart attack. GG was on patrol and pulled Dad over stating that he was speeding and needed to give him a ticket. Dad told GG get on with it. GG went back to the patrol car to get his ticket pad. GG stuttered and when he went to get a pen out of his pocket found he did not have one. He turned to Dad and stammered Doc Doc can can I I borrow borrow your pen pen. Dad gave him a pen and stated just write the damn ticket so I can get to the hospital to treat my patient. GG wrote out the ticket and we arrived at the hospital. Fortunately, the patient’s heart attack was not that serious. After Dad treated the patient, he called Hick and told him what happened. Hick told Dad, Doc bring in the Damn ticket. We went to sheriff office, Dad presented Hick with the ticket. Hick told GG to go out to the partol car and get his ticket book. GG did and presented it to Hick who tore out the original copy and tore it up. He then told GG, you know Doc’s car, you should have used common sense and knew he was headed to the hospital, and just let him go. Hick then told GG You Do Not Give a Fucking Ticket to a Doctor enroute to the hospital. This was before the previous incidences. This occured also in the ’50’s but it appears that not much has changed with law enforcement.

        • Oh, this is such a glorious story. You could write an entire medical history book, recounting and recalling these lovely memories…I hope you keep sharing them.

          Last night I spoke to my parents again, and we are planning the next essay in that historical series.

          Theirs was an era that made sense, in terms of people in small communities with so few resources helped each other out.

          I can see GG doing something like this, for real:

          • William Walton says:

            Crane, one even better was when a neighbor who was teaching his wife how to drive. They had a convertible and went to turn the corner at the end of the farm. She turned at too sharp an angle and the car went in the ditch. The husband grabed the wheel and she floored the acelerator. The car came out of that ditch and hit the opposite ditch head on and the car rolled over. We were just about to sit down to lunch when the wife arrived, knocking on the door, stating that her husband was under the car. Dad briefly examined her and told mother to call Cooper whose funeral home had the best ambulance, and had the bag Dad had told him to bring on all emergency calls. He also told mother to clean the wife up as her abrasions were not life theatening. Grabbed his bag and told me to bring the tractor and a chain. Arrived at the scene and told Dad that Cooper was on his way. Dad stated that it was too late for an ambulance because the guy was already cold. The ambulance arrived, I had attached the chain to the underside of the car when a young state trooper arrived and stated that the car could not be pulled off the guy. He stated that he had to call the coronor because he was the only one who could pronounce someone dead. An older state trooper who was a patient of Dad’s arrived and asked why the guy was still pinned under the car. Dad stated that the young officer had to call the coronor so he could pronounce the guy dead. The older officer responded by telling the young officier if a physician pronounces you dead, you are dead. Now go down the road, pull your patrol car across the road, and keep the spectators away. I pulled the car off the guy, he rolled in the ditch, so had to help bring him roadside, help get him on the stretcher, and load him in the ambulance. Dad told the officer patient that you would think that the young officer saw my bag, would know that I had completed 4 years of Med School, completed internship, and therefore was a physician. The older officer stated Doc we need to train these young officers better. They get a badge and a gun and the authority goes to their head. Called the young officer up to the accident, told him to use common sense, and call a wrecker to come get the car. As I have said before, law enforcement has not seemed to change.

          • fauxmccoy says:

            interesting story granpa walton 🙂 keep them coming!

          • Wow, what a great story, and yeah, seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  9. crazy1946 says:

    Grrrreat as usual! 😉

    • Thank you so much, and we are welcoming blog ideas and topics! If there are any cases/legal issues…anything that may be of interest, please let us know.

      Also, we are going to try to open up the site so others can post. It’s done by invitation, so let us know if you (or others) would like to post articles (on any subject).

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