saying-472218_6401

Dear Jamie,

I was listening to some music on you tube last night and heard a singer who isn’t well known. Her voice was like silk, like running your fingers through honey. Lift your fingers and the words were pulled together. I don’t know if you recognize the words or can hear the melody in your head. It’s an old tune. I listened to it over and over and tears were running down my cheeks.

Sonni Quick   copyright 2017

This is not the music I was listening to that night. This is one of the first pieces I’ve recorded since the surgery on my arm from a fall in Oct. I was afraid I would be unable to play again. It’s painful and I can’t play for long but it should heal within a year. No gigs until then. Karma is a funny thing. It creates obstacles to overcome and it did a good job with this one. I had just decided to come out of retirement from playing professionally.  My last gig was 14 years ago. I decided age was not going to be a factor. I went in a new direction with my music and I liked where it was going. It was time to get back out there. I have not heard pianists be able to improvise the way I do and keep the continuity of a storyline going. It took the vivid emotions of what Jamie has been through to pull the music out of me this way.  The least I can do is play it for him. I destroyed my vocal cords and can’t sing anymore so I can’t use words to convey what I’m feeling. The music has to do that for me now.  I don’t really pay attention when I play. My fingers know what they are doing and play what I’m feeling. So Jamie, this is for you.

***************

I often think of you sitting in your cage with your life wasting away, not being able to choose for yourself how you want to spend your day. It makes me sad. Is this the result of a thousand years of justice for the black man? If it is America has nothing to be proud of and certainly can’t call itself a great nation.  Not with so much dirt on it’s hands. If you being in prison was going to do one positive thing for society, or if it was going to make you a better person, it could be different. But there is no value to what is happening to you.

Is the world safer with you locked up? Does it help anything anywhere? Have you “paid” for your crime and does paying with more years mean anything good anywhere? Are you ever done paying? Or are you just playing the part our society designated you should pay long before you were born? How would I feel knowing other people were getting rich by keeping me locked up like a caged animal and thought I had no worth. You should be the one to feel the benefit of being alive, because whether or not those in charge recognize your life has value, it does not mean it doesn’t. You, and so many like you were not born to be a slave for anyone to make a profit from. If they think the law of cause and effect doesn’t apply to them, and that their lives will escape the effect they deserve, they are sadly mistaken. No one escapes the causes they make. Their money will be no good and they will pay with their own lives instead.

I know there are many who are locked who are too far gone mentally to live outside those walls. Many were too damaged long before they lost their life to the system and can’t safely be let out. But that is only a percentage of those inside. The rest of you inside are only parts in their machine. But so little is done for you to make it possible to live on your own like free men. The adjustment between inside and outside is too great for many to make the transition no matter how badly someone wants it. They have no experience living the life they want and end up inside again where they want you. Where corporations get paid on the body count.

No matter how badly you want to be out here, the road blocks set up, keeping you from succeeding, are very high. Nobody gives a damn. In their eyes you are just another worthless, stupid, lazy, black man.  They don’t know you.  They don’t care if you have a chance or not.  All they know is you aren’t white, as though being white is all a person needs to have quality, as our top Republican racist, Paul Ryan, has been so pointed in telling us. All black people need is help from rich white men.  What a joke.

I don’t know what will happen before you get out in six years, but no one I have talked to has a positive feeling about the future of this country with the direction it is headed in.  Trump wants to make it easier to lock you up, easier for cops to kill you and lengthen the mandatory minimums. All I want is for things to be better by the time you get out. Good night. Sleep well. Meet me on the hill at 8 PM. I’ll bring a picnic dinner.

Meet you on the hill , riding bikes

***************

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29 thoughts on “How Lonely is Your Prison Cell, Jamie

    1. There is a phrase in Nichiren Buddhism – Be master of your mind. Don’t let your mind master you. It is hard to stay in control when the phrases in the back of your mind try to use negativity to convince you it is useless to create a better life. Give up. You’ll never make it. Many inmates want a better life when they get out but don’t know how to make it a reality beyond just wanting it. If you were an inmate locked up alone how do you acquire the tools to change your life? So many end up back inside. Some are habitual but there are also those that would do better if society didn’t make it so hard to live, eat and find a job.

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      1. I’m a believer that ALL answers are to be found within. The exterior world is literally a construct, built by each of us depending on the thoughts we continually think. I can understand the difficulty of seeing a better life when the world you see and experience is filled with either negatives or constant challenge, but this is where ‘mastering your mind’ becomes crucial. This one concept MUST become so important to you it becomes second to nothing else in your life. Gain this mastery and the entire Universe will bend itself to your thoughts… which it does anyway! Don’t focus on what you see, focus on what your think.

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        1. I honestly could not have said that better myself. You hit the nail on the head. You are what you think. Today I wrote a long email to a girl in her 2nd year of college. She lamenting that although she has an idea of what she wants to do with her she doesn’t have it nailed down yet. Oh, being that young again. The youth have great skin, but with age comes wisdom. i could have used some of that wisdom at her age because i sure messed up my life. But those experiences off climbing those mountains made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Almost 30 years ago is when I first heard the phrase “cause and effect” What? We are responsible for the things that happen in our life? My life was my fault? It changed my entire outlook when I took responsibility for my own happiness, and my own sadness, and anger and everything else. I couldn’t put it off as someone else’s fault. It wasn’t easy, especially when the people around you don’t understand that and blame you for their unhappiness, but we can only change ourselves. Through that we can effect others but they are ultimately responsible for their lives. Some people need to believe there is something “up there” who decided their lives because the thought they are responsible is beyond their comprehension. Life is so darn interesting.

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          1. Oh! I understand “cause and effect” the way you described it. We learned something else in school that would possibly soften the blow if we screw up and that was called, ” checks and balances”. What ever happened to the idea that if something failed or someone that they would have a way to recover from it. 

            Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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            1. Could you explain what you mean a little more? I know checks and balances no longer exist in govt. Now people buy sides and stack the deck in their favor. The idea of having govt balanced – for the people’s benefit is long gone. Were you talking about something else?

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          2. Along with these beliefs, I’m also a believer that some souls here on the planet are simply younger than others. If so, could it be they are the ones bound to make more ‘mistakes’ early in life and have the harder time learning the lessons the lessons intended from the experiences?

            The angst of youth becomes the wisdom of the mature in time, but time to the soul will always be relative…

            I read somewhere and have begun incorporating into my experience, the idea of going back to ‘mentor’ my younger self through his dis/misunderstandings… It’s a powerful practice!

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            1. Yes to your first paragraph. Life is cause and effect. The condition we leave this life is the condition we are born in. What other reason could there be for who we are, our nature, are we ugly, beautiful, hungry rich, poor, angry, mentally ill, etc. Is it the luck of the draw? that would be a bad joke for many people. Just like the woman who constantly draws alcoholic men into her life, we all keep redoing the same mistakes until we learn what we have to learn to change it. People who can’t or won’t take responsibility for the things they do and blame something else for why their life is screwed will keep repeating the mistake. Whether someone says God did it or makes everything someone else’s fault, he ends up unhappy and can’t figure out why. When you look at the quality of certain people they are so far ahead in the wisdom department – because they have lived through. In a single life it is so easy to see, as you said, looking at the mistakes of youth and the decisions they make and how it changes with age. Oh! the things I would tell my younger self now. Older people should be much more valued for their wisdom alone. It used to be that way. conversation with a 90 year old person is so much more interesting that with a 19 year old. But the many mistakes I made in my youth created the mountains I have had to learn to climb. I am still paying for those mistakes today. But if I hadn’t made them, how would that affect who I am today? What do you do when you mentor your younger self?

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            2. You have a very clear perception of Life and the truth behind cause and effect. I was very fortunate to have had the wisdom of two elderly women pass through my childhood. I recognized then and carry with me now all the grace and wisdom they each possessed and readily shared.
              As for mentoring my younger self? I tend to envision him in the midst of a challenging or even painful situation and simply create a peaceful space for us to talk and more importantly listen to each other. I treat him respectfully, allowing him to express whatever he needs to express, then I share from my experiences- especially those which relate to what he was going through. I don’t try to manifest any particular outcome. I just allow the meetings to unfold as they will each time…

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            1. Going well, thank you. My arm is almost an arm meaning it no longer feels like a Frankenstein appendage someone attached. No cartwheels, but I can play my piano ( and pull up my pants!). If interested in hearing go to soundcloud.com/sonni-quick. Playing Through Pain was the first recording post surgery, and Picking up Broken Pieces was the last recording before the injury. Little did I know I really would be picking up broken pieces, like a crushed roll of Ritz Crackers. There are 33 pieces in all. I’m also in rewrites of my book, Inside The Forbidden Outside and I posted the Prologue on my other blog, mynameisjamie.net

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            2. Good to hear the arm is getting back to feeling more like an arm every day. I too play piano (keyboards actually) so I know what a relief it is to be playing again after a serious injury. I’ll check out the soundcloud too. I need to get a few of my pieces uploaded! I’m more vocalist than instrumentalist so I utilize software to help me compose my pieces. I’ll also check out your other blog. Wow! you’re very creative.

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            3. My piano is really a keyboard. I do use most of it’s different piano sounds but it actually has 360 sounds and even some nice rhythms and many other functions. I have used some but not enough. I can layer 5 tracks, or just record 5 separate pieces. I usually record whenever I sit and play, unless they are just exercises to warm up, because everything I play is improvised. When I feel something strongly I sit and let my fingers tell the story. I really don’t pay attention and I don’t play it back for sometimes days. I want to listen to it as someone else would to see what I said. If it catches me in my chest Then I know I can feel the story. I try to listen to improvisational music when ever I can find it and most of it is garbage. People trying to play fast or show off technic and they bang from one idea to another with no continuity. No beginning, middle and end. That is not music if it doesn’t move you. It could be a series of notes where the tones blend together and the sound makes you cry. I try to explain it by saying I crawl inside the piano and play it from the inside out.

              When I was very young, maybe 7, I already knew I would compose music. I dreamed about writing the most beautiful music in the world. Of course I was barely past knowing the names of the keys. I started dragging my friends in from outside to teach them how to play what I was learning. I was a horrible student because I didn’t want to play what my teachers wanted. I wanted to do it my way. consequently I’ve had only spotty formal training. One teacher fired me, so I taught myself and went back to him at age 17 and said he had one year to clean up my mistakes because I was going to teach. Up to this point I had thrived on classical music and idolized Van Clyburn. I left for college. A local conservatory called the college looking for someone to teach and they recommended me. I’ve been teaching for 44 years. I started playing piano bars at 21, singing and playing. I taught myself chords.I played in ever hotel, Hyatt Regency, country clubs etc in Texas. I’ve been writing music and lyrics my entire life. I hand wrote piano charts by ear because there was no computers to spit it out. Keyboard players no longer have to learn how to do that. Then I went on to front bands and drug my young kids from rehearsal studios to band apartments. I ruined my voice. I developed callouses. Removing them surgically doesn’t always work and I didn’t have the money. Even though there was nothing wrong with my hands my immature ego wasn’t going to be someone else’s sideman and I stopped. To support my kids I started dancing in strip joints for ten years until I was 40. At 45 I started playing again but my voice wouldn’t hold up. The callouses would swell and sound wouldn’t come out. Instead of lyrics I wrote poetry. Search on the word poetry on either blog and much will come up.

              Something happened a few years back. My keyboard – a different one – was in a case and I set it up. Before I had needed words to convey a story. The piano accompanied the story. I stopped “trying” to put together a story. My fingers knew the keyboard inside and out like a typist who knows her keyboard. I know the key signatures like the back of my hand so I know what what keys work inside any key whether it is the key of A flat or B. But I stopped thinking in keys. I let my hands play the emotions I felt and I stopped when it was done. When I later played it back I heard the story. BTW I’ve never tried to write out an full explanation. When someone learns to play the piano or any instrument your teacher will make or break you. In piano a teacher will take you through method books increasing in difficulty. They only teach you how to read music and any theory you need to play it. Eventually it leads to playing classical music if you get good enough, which most don’t. I have talked to many adults who took lessons as a child and not one can play the piano today because they only learned how to play notes on paper. Maybe they memorized it but as an adult they can’t remember it. What a waste. Their teachers had never learned how to create music so how could they teach it. The student then fears making a mistake. I talked to an 80 year old piano teacher who had been teaching since 18. I asked her, “Can you just play? Just sit and play off the top of your head without music?” She said “Oh no!” How many students had she taught who can no longer play? Because they never really learned to play. I have to record everything I play because I can’t play it twice. If I wanted to I could write something intentional and memorize it and there may be a need to do that for some reason. But instead you could close your eyes and I could play for and hour or two and take you all kinds of places in your head as the background of your dreams – and put you to sleep. Sometimes if I can’t sleep I put on head phones and listen to my music. There are a couple pieces I’m going to take off soundcloud because they don’t work right. My mom has a grand piano in her home and I’d play for her. She said, “Where does it come from.” Everyone has feelings. I give my feelings a form to express themselves. My life has been very hard and physically painful for a very long time. I live with it and can’t get rid of it. I have to accept it or it wins. There is a lot of pain the music. Minor sound. And I play when I am upset or sad about what happens to Jamie in prison because his sadness breaks my heart it comes out in the music.

              I want to find a way to incorporate the music with the book I’m writing. Have certain pieces be able to download at different places. Movies have music. Can books? This is all happening for a reason, which takes us back to our original talk. What effect will this cause have? And I would love to hear your work. I really enjoy the Soundcloud platform. Nothing like this existed when I was young. No record contract meant you were a starving musician no matter how good you were. No musicians – and book writers can be in control of their music and get it out there for people to hear and that is great. Well, this was a long comment! It was good to try and find the words. And if you listen to it now you will think to find the story. I like talking to you K’lee. These platforms bring the world a little closer together. One last thing. My mother has no use for computers and thinks it’s a waste of time. Last time I saw her, the first words out of her mouth, said in a very ugly way was, “I hate your blogs. Why do you have to put your personal life out there for anyone to read.” Of course watching game shows and re runs on TV all day are okay. She thinks people should talk on the phone or face to face. But how would we be talking or any of the other people we get to know we would never had had a chance to know they existed? Life is for the living. The moment you stop, you die. On that note, Good night.

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            4. You wrote another comment started with meeting two women when you were young. I answered it but before I hit the send button it disappeared – everything. Can you see it on your end?

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            5. I can’t. It disappeared. I just realized I didn’t check in the spam folder. Maybe I knocked it in there. I wanted to ask you for your email address. I want to tell you something based on that comment.

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            6. There is something I’d like you to go read. You will understand why. There is something else there – my gift to you.
              The post is at my watchandwhirl.com site. It is called Talking To My Younger Self. What you said you were doing – and I haven’t checked spam yet, I worked all day on this endeavor – was about the most necessary pain I have put myself through. My son, who is also a keyboard player who carries my karma – I read it to him. I will explain more at your email address. It may take a day or two. I’m working on a chapter of my book but had to stop to do this today. My piano was calling me. It nearly knocked me off the stool and I broke my 2 day wait to listen back. Enjoy.

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            7. Thanks for the gift! I look forward to reading it. It must be wonderful to have your son play keyboards too! I’ve been away from playing for a while too. I need to set some time aside soon… Thanks again!

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            8. I just finished reading AND listening!!! Wow, Sonni. I left a reply as best I was able (Lol!) but my words right now can’t possibly do justice to the literary and sonic gifts you’ve created in that post. Brilliant, sad, potent, powerful and full of hope. Thank you again, Sonni. I look forward to more visits at your site and more communication as we continue to traverse this existence!

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            9. I had a feeling life got busy. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. I can make that able to download -if you wanted. That day was overwhelming for me. Life changing really. The only person I could talk to about it was my son and it was almost a little too intense even for him. I made some decisions for myself to begin planning a change of direction. I live for me, not other people. When I was young my grandfather told me, “To thine own self be true.” I didn’t know at the time it was Shakespeare. It took a long time to understand what that meant. I had mentioned earlier, I play emotions. When I feel something deep inside that expresses what I feel. When I played it back I made my husband listen. I mean listen, not just walk through the room and listen. Close your eyes and what do you see? Usually my music bothers him. He tolerates it.But this time he listened. He said he imagined himself outside on a mountain overlooking a valley as the sun began to rise until the bright colors exploded into brilliance. I forgave him for all the times he told me to turn the volume down.

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            10. Thank you, but I’m okay enjoying it at your site. It gives me one more reason to visit! It must have felt great to have your son respond to your music like he did. It’s a great piece.

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            11. Thank you. Some pieces mean more than others. Picking up Broken Pieces is one. Remembering my Life. Silence is so loud. For The Children. My son is incredible on keyboard. I wish we could play together – and he doesn’t know why he can do what he does without understanding it. I refused to teach him. He gravitated to boogie woogie with a classical edge because of my playing. He has one of the fastest left hands I’ve seen, but he didn’t go pro. His 10 year old son has his gift. I would like to teach him. Parents can’t teach their children, but i could teach him – if I were closer. A short story. When Robo was 15 he performed in a talent show at his school. lip syncing rap was all the rage and was just about every act. He was last to go on and they wheeled out a grand piano. His music teacher told him he was to play a piece that was more classically oriented and he told me that he really wanted to play his boogie woogie. What should he do? I told him to let it rip. Do what he wanted to do. He started out playing what she wanted – stopped -and tore into his boogie woogie and had the people in the auditorium on their feet screaming. I knew he had the talent. he was lacking the confidence. Of course, the teacher took credit and that was okay. The lesson – sometimes you have to break the rules. Because of things going on in my own life, I need to break other people’s rules of who they think I should be – for them. I need to get physically closer to my own family. Even though my mother is getting old, she has people who dote on her. Should I feel guilty enough to give up my life when there is no appreciation for my own? I met a man two days ago. I wrote about the meeting. It’s called Happiness Is. I added a piece of music I recorded last summer. A musical duet. 2 melodies. Life is so interesting when you stop and look at the people who pass through.

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            12. You have a wonderful perspective on life! I really like this story about your son. Ah, we could all learn something from it! Thank you as always for sharing the wisdom. It’s greatly appreciated.

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