I Come to Know My Enviornment (and the People)

Those are the days that are most difficult around Solano County.  When someone leaves, and people are leaving all the time one way or another, either discharge from the County, transfer to the state hospital, transfer to the state penitentiary, death, or something, it leaves a void. The time you use to spend hearing about someone else’s life becomes a time of reflection, the worst kind: quiet reflection.

I worry about the future more lately. That is something I never used to do. I worry about work, and having money in old age: those were never concerns before and although they dominate my thoughts now, it’s probably something that should have dominated my life when I was twenty. There was just too much life to be lived then, than to worry about it ending.

I worry about my children; not so much about their welfare, as to know that they are at peace with life. Their lives are theirs. The course it takes is now dependent on the judgments and choices they make. I wish them happiness but I have long believed that the world I know is not the world they will inhabit. Their decisions will be determined by circumstances and opportunities I couldn’t begin to know. The decisions are ultimately theirs and I believe they are best made without my prejudices: old things for old people and new things for new.

I think about paperwork being in order, which is very odd because I have resisted paperwork my entire life. It has always seemed to me more important to be present, in the moment, than trying to document it. I just remember missing the professor’s next thought in a lecture while I was scribbling down his last. Besides it never seemed to serve me – doing paperwork – only someone else, mainly that somebody coming behind me with malice in their hearts, the administrator or the reporter with the “I got you attitude and confirmation bias in his heart”. Perhaps that was just another of my prejudices.

It’s been more than a year and a half since Donda West died, and I think about her a lot lately. I feel like I’ve let her down. In the midst of all the crap, she’s gotten lost, and although I was cleared of any wrong doing, I resent that her nephew and her family never had to answer a single question. I still see him now, sitting across from her son at family outings, pretending that he doesn’t realize it was his negligence that led to his aunt’s death. I resent seeing him cash in on that relationship, all the time laughing at Kanye behind his back. My judgment is harsh; perhaps Kanye really does know and his silence is his way of dealing. Perhaps he and his cousin never speak. Perhaps also, he has gotten a new set of lawyers and moved on.

I keep waiting for someone in the present to get it right but it’s never going to happen. I guess I’ve watched too many movies where the out-on-a-limb reporter gets it; fights for the right and wins over his or her editor to tell the story correctly and justice is served. No such luck. They’re just not as insightful as Mike Wallace led me to believe.

For me, knowing the facts and being prevented from disclosing them is frustrating, but its torture to see the facts sitting right there and watch the press step over them. I can’t believe the stupidity, but perhaps it isn’t stupidity after all. Perhaps no one really cares.

It’s kind of  like – at the risk of appearing an egghead –Hubble’s discovery in 1929 that the universe is expanding. Newton’s theory of gravity should have allowed scientists to predict it at any time over the preceding 300 years, but the belief that the universe was static was so strong, even Einstein ignored it. The fact of the matter simply is that people see only what they are looking for; people hit only what they aim at.

Intellectually, and philosophically, I tried to temper my feelings by reminding myself that people didn’t, and aren’t, seeing it (the facts in Donda West’s death) because, perhaps, it is my job to point them in the right direction. Perhaps that is what to take away as I move forward. What I’ll do is put together a seminar or workshop for doctors that instruct them how to deal with the press in the information age. We’ll use the media frenzy surrounding Donda’s death as the case study. The mission will be to teach them how to interact with the press, how to become part of the press in their specialty in their community, and how to get the story out in an atmosphere where the sanctity of the doctor-patient privilege takes precedent, and everyone else out there is telling it wrong. I have to face the fact that that still stings and may always.

Maybe not, who knows?  While I am sitting here writing, lunch was being delivered at Solano County: bologna sandwich and an apple, along with a Jim Jones drink. I was sitting with my back to the door. I heard the slot open and continued to finish my thought. When I turned around an officer I had not seen before, a black female, asked, “You want to get this?’

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied, “I was just finishing up a thought.”

“Well, I need to close this so I can move on to the next door.”

“Really, I didn’t know that. Some of the officers leave that open while they’re dispensing things.”

“Well, it needs to be closed, and that’s an order from Lieutenant Marsh.”

“I didn’t know….”

“Just get the stuff so I can get out of here,” she barked, “I’ve got other people who are hungry.”

“Don’t try that,” I said.

That was enough to even arouse my bunky. “What the hell was that?” he laughed… “like she cares if the rest of these guys eat.”

“I’m not buying it,” I said.

Mike continued, “I’ve watched that woman ignore guys standing right in front of her, and now she wants us to believe she cares whether guys get lunch…I’m not buying it either!”

We both sort of laughed and then drifted off into our own private thought. We both knew the guard was “full of shit”. For my mind, this was once again a demonstration of the problems which arise when there is subjective, but no objective, implementation of the rules. It may very well be true that the guard’s orders are to only  have one slot open at a time. It is also very true that over the last three months that’s the first time I’ve heard it expressed and really enforced on that level. With the presentation of some meals, the slots stay open until trays are retrieved. The laughable part of this women’s presentation, at least to Mike and me, was the posture on the part of this concrete thinking, anticonceptual moron that she had concern in any way for any of our colleagues, the same guys she looks past as if they were pond scum when they ask her a question. The real answer was that she wished to return to the desk of the floor officer and return to playing solitaire on the computer and socializing with her comrades.

I know I need to turn the page and move on, but Donda West deserves more, and so does her son. I’m appalled at the fact that the LA County Coroner, whose information officer, Ed Winters, told me he believes Donda’s nephew, Stephen Scoggins, is criminally negligent and should be prosecuted, the LA County District Attorney’s Office, and the Nursing Board of California all have documented information of misconduct and have refused to act. I hate the fact that immediately after her death her son’s lawyers Allison Finley, and Brad Rose of Pryor Cashman LLC in New York, had this information also, and yet hired Ed McPherson to represent Scoggins; and was charging Kanye for the legal services. That’s right, his lawyers, using his money, hired another lawyer to protect the man most responsible for his mother’s death. Beat that one! Just the thought of it makes me sick.

But I guess I can beat it. Maybe it’s the lights and cameras of television, and wanting the approval of the hosts and producers that make people lie. My uncle – if you can call him that – went on Dr. Phil to make himself look authoritative, and when asked by Phil, would he let “Dr. Adams do surgery on you”, replied that Phil had put him in a bad situation. His answer was that he “didn’t think so”, but the fact of the matter is, I did his eyelid surgery eight years ago. It was done at his office. His staff assisted. So there you have it. People are capable of anything.

By the way, at dinner tonight, the guard opened all the slots in the doors and then – graciously – helped the servers quickly pass out trays. The slots were closed not one at a time, but after all trays had been delivered. The officer didn’t stand over each slot, closing them one at a time. He didn’t slow the process down by harassing any one particular inmate. No one went without a meal, not even the “other inmates who were hungry”.

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