...the Journal

Refrigerator Door

Another picture of Paul

Household Hints


A Medieval Home Companion:
Housekeeping in the 14th Century

Take care that there are no fleas in your room or in your bed

Some people say that if you spread alder leaves about the room, the fleas will stick to them. Also, I have heard it said that if at night you have around the room one or more trenchers smeared on top with birdlime or turpentine, and with a candle burning in the middle, fleas will stick and be caught.

I am a theatre critic

OK...so it's a new "career", but if you're interested in reading my reviews, go here

Updated 3/10/01


In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson

I was able to get into this book while waiting at the doctor's office yesterday. Fascinating book!! Fascinating country!!


A&E's Biography:
The Muppets

That's it for today!


19 March 2001

Whatís the proper attire for prison?

I didnít realize this was a consideration. Iíd never been on the grounds of a prison before. Peggy and I agreed it would make good fodder for a journal entry, at least.

Well...not quite as I anticipated.

Last week when I drove Priscilla to the doctor, she told me that she was very worried about her son, who is in prison serving a life sentence for murder (he is in his 30s; he has been in jail since he was 17). He suffers from sickle cell anemia and has not been doing well. She is afraid he is dying and was frantic to get down to see him.

Priscilla and I live in such different worlds. For me, a trip 20 miles to the prison to visit someone is a no brainer. Hop in the car and youíre there. Priscilla has no car and so must travel by bus. The bus station is in downtown Sacramento, several miles from her house. The bus doesnít take her to the prison, but to downtown Vacaville. From there she has to take a taxi to the prison itself. The entire trip costs her $40 and itís usually money she doesnít have. To get to the bus station, she either asks her neighbor for a ride, or she walks. ("I sing to myself and it makes the time pass," she explained, cheerfully.)

I watch her walk to the car, in obvious pain from the cancer in her "butt" (she refuses to find out where in her "butt" the cancer is growing because it scares her when doctors talk big words to her) and imagine her singing to herself as she walks the miles from her house to the Greyhound station.

And so I offered to drive her to visit her son today. It was only a few hours out of my week, and it made all the difference to her.

We had a good drive. Blossoms are still on the trees and she loves to notice everything, and wonder about everything. She wondered, for example, where in the world someone came up with a name like "Vacaville" for a town. I explained that "vaca" was Spanish for "cow" and that "ville" meant town, so apparently many years ago when the settlement was a real "cow town," they came up with the name. She mulled that over for awhile and said sheíd never think of the town in quite the same way again.

We talked about her mother, who has had a more serious stroke, and about whom she is so worried. She feels that the mother is not getting the mental stimulation she needs and Priscilla is trying to find a way to move the 100+ miles to be near her mother. The mother canít come to live with Priscilla, "because I have all this cancer, you know," she said, matter of factly.

We reached Vacaville and found the signs to the California Medical Facility. Iíve typed reports for inmates at the prison for years, but never really had any idea where exactly it is. Itís not visible from the freeway.

The complex is grey and sterile and the cheery blossom-filled orchards are surrounded by tall fences topped with lethal looking coils of barbed wire. Priscilla was in her element. She knew the ropes.

She explained that she had to be careful of what she wore because if they decided she wasnít wearing the proper clothes, she would have to change her clothes before being allowed to visit her son.

As we entered the grounds, guards in the towers watched the car, and a sign†warned me that photos were not allowed to be taken on the grounds. There went my "photo essay" of the experience.

Another sign†informed me that if I was carrying firearms, I had to turn them in at the guard station before proceeding further. Fortunately I was not packing heat today.

We pulled up at the visitorís entrance and noticed there was a long line of people. Priscilla invited me to come and stay with her and promised to get a visitorís pass for me, but as she planned to stay five hours, I decided not to. I told her Iíd be back at 3 to pick her up. She asked if she could borrow some money so she could get something to eat while she was there. I gave her $10.

I then drove by a nearby arboretum and went for a long walk. The sun was out, the trees were in blossom, and it was perfect walking weather. I was grateful I had the freedom to enjoy the day.

And then, realizing I still had a long time to kill, I decided to just drive home, get some work done, and return to the prison later to meet Priscilla.

When I returned, she was feeling more relieved, and said she felt her son would weather this current health crisis and would be OK eventually. She then told me that there had been some problem at the prison earlier in the day and so they were not letting visitors in. She had arrived at 10 a.m. and it was 1 p.m. before she was let in to see her son. There are no benches. I imagined her standing for 3 hours. Because of the late hour, she was not able to see her other son, who was picked up on parole violation last week.

But she was happy. She had her visit and she can feel content about her sonís health for another week. She leaned her head back and napped a good part of the way back home.

I left her at her house and I returned home to my quiet suburban neighborhood where I know nothing about the workings of prison, or visiting hours, or whatís appropriate to wear to visit a son in prison.

I wonder who learned the most from whom today.

~~ The Last Session ~~
at Ensemble Theatre Company in Cincinnati
Dates: Friday, July 11 - Monday, July 27

Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati
1127 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45210-1926
$10 per show
Time: 8 PM
Call: 513-421-3555

Some pictures from this journal
can be found at
Club Photo

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Created 3/16/01 by Bev Sykes