Last thing I remember a bunch of us are sitting around the fire, it's cold outside, it's always cold on Halloween. Beach weather all but one day in October in Los Angeles. Halloween means long sleeves and bonfire.
Everyone's having a good time; laughing, talking, hangin out. I remember telling jokes. See? Told you it's not real. About 20 of us are out back where the fire pit is. There's chairs and rocks, large tree stumps positioned around the fire to sit on. Everyone's bundled up with a drink in their hand trying to stay warm. The rest of the party's inside, at least 100 people, we're at Carols parents house. They have a huge piece of property off Desert Spring, she asked everyone to park behind the house. There must've been 50 vehicles back there. We're all fresh out of high school, 1996, the first time I quit drinking.
The next several hours exist in flash photography only. The first flash I'm in a weird city. Next—back of a strange car, it's moving. The dude driving who later the following day I learned must've been a police officer and that moving vehicle I was in was in fact a police cruiser said "they got you on video." No video ever surfaced so whether or not that happened or if he even said it remains unknown.
:flash: Single person holding cell, it's tiny. I was in something like this one other time for being out of control but this one's different. There's no beds like general holding where there's two bunk beds against opposite walls divided by a stainless steel toilet where all new inmates promptly learn courtesy flush. No idea how I got here. There's a pay phone on the wall.
"This is the operator. State your first and last name and the number you'd like to phone collect."
That meant the person on the other end of the line would either accept charges or refuse conversation with me. I called Maleesa, we'd been dating for several months at that point, we went to the party together. It wasn't until I repeated her number to the operator I notice blood on my shirt. A lot. I'm wearing a white T-shirt, it's soaked in blood all down the front of me, down my jeans, even on my shoes. Maleesa accepted the charges.
"Where are you? What happened?? Where did you go last night?!!"
All valid questions. Unfortunately I had no fucking clue how to respond, 'I was hoping you could tell me.'
"You just vanished. One second you were there and then you were gone. Everyone's been looking for you."
'Did I drive my truck?'
"No, it's still at Carols house, where are you?!"
Well that's good, thank God. At least whatever I did did not involve driving but that doesn't explain all this blood on me. 'I'm in jail.'
"What?! Wtf did you do? Do I need to come get you?"
'Yeah, if you would please. Thanks. I have blood all over me, any idea what happened?'
As she proceeded to tell me everything was fine before I vanished and how she has no idea where the blood came from I can't see too well out of one eye. The vision in my right eye is blurry. I put my hand up to my face—ouch! Something's wrong. Touch all around my face, each press more sensitive than the last. All of this blood might be mine but there's no mirror to look. I called out to the jailer on duty to find out where I was so she could come pick me up.
'Hello, officer? Anyone home?' I can only see directly in front of me, the hallway goes both directions, I'm staring at concrete. If someone's there, I can only hear them.
"Yes? Go ahead" shouted a woman's voice on my left. All I wanted to know is where I was so Maleesa could come get me.
'Could you tell me where I am, please?'
With that I heard whispers and faint laughter coming from both directions in the hallway. I'm not the only one here, I'm just the only one in this cell. I still have Maleesa on the line, my ear's against the cell door. I put the phone against the door with me. The jailer yelled back, her voice echoed down those concrete corridors.
For the 50th fucking time!! Attempted residential burglary in the first degree! Assault and battery in the first degree! Trespassing! First degree vandalism! Resisting arrest!! Court arraignment's Monday morning at 9am! Bail's one hundred and fifty thousand!!
Shit just got real! Dollars?! 150 thousand what, push-ups? I put the phone back to my ear, 'did you hear that?!'
She's hysterical, "what did you do?!? Oh my God what happened?" Last thing I need right now is panicky anyone who can't explain how I got here. I tried calming her down, 'relax, it'll all get figured out soon enough. 150k however, I'm not going anywhere for awhile.' We talked a little longer, she calmed down before we hung up. I called her four or five times a week for six months, she accepted each one and even visited me once. I asked her not to do that again, 'unless I need a ride home, please don't ever come back here.'
My head's still foggy. I don't know what time it is. I'm in a lot of pain I know that much. I'm an emotional, spiritual and physical wreck and, according to my physical appearance, I should probably see doctor. Whatever time chow time is, that's what time it was. They slid something hot under the door, I don't remember what it was. Can't forget the two slices of stale bread though, they're on the side, ducks won't eat that bread. Behind the toilet is a sink/drinking fountain contraption; stale bread with something hot and tap water—bon appétit.
Shortly after chow time I was moved to general holding where I'd share one of four bunks in a 10x10 cell with three other dudes. It's Saturday morning, court doesn't open until Monday. This is where I'll eat, sleep, shit and mind my own business all weekend.
I laid down and stared at the ceiling. Both men and women would come and go, some louder than others. I heard heavy, mechanical steel doors open and slam shut all weekend. Doors and metal key rings, jailers wear a lot of keys. Dudes came and went from my cell too, they either got bailed out or were released the following morning, not me. As new bunk mates arrived, residing prisoners were eager to learn their charges, "what'd you do?" I heard horrible things like wife beaters, armed robbery, car jacking and worse.
I didn't ask questions. I don't care and it's none of my business but I did respond once. They'd ask what I did and explain their situation, tell me how they're in there for drunk driving but they weren't drunk. Home invasion but they didn't rob anyone, they only received stolen property or whatever the charge was, not me. I only knew what the jailer told me, 'I have no idea' I said.
"What do you mean you have no idea?"
'I mean I have no idea. I woke up here this morning, now leave me alone.'
Monday morning rolled around, my name's on the docket. I'm being escorted down those echoey concrete corridors into the court room alongside about 10 other criminals. Each of us have shackles around our waist, our left hand is cuffed to the prisoners shackles on our left, right hand cuffed to the prisoner on the right. We were escorted single file like that, no use of our hands, there's two rows of seating inside the courtroom. The judge began calling names.
My mother attended that hearing, both she and my grandfather, I wish they didn't do that. I asked her please don't do that again. The judge went down the list of names, most everyones charges were reduced, "time served" and they were released. Others had another week or two to serve but at least they were given a release date, not me.
DanDays, these are serious charges. Three of the five violations constitutes a strike, if I allow you to plea for yourself you'll never see the light of day again. I'm hereby entering a plea of Not Guilty on your behalf. You have the right to an attorney, if you can not afford one, one will be appointed to you. Good luck to you sir.
And slammed his gavel against the bench. That was it—over before it started. I wasn't given an opportunity to speak. I didn't have a chance to ask to be released on my own recognizance or anything, no reduced bail, nothing. I'm no closer to knowing why I'm here and still no release date. I listened. My rights to a speedy trail just expired.
I was transferred from overnight holding to general population as soon as I got back to my cell. There's a bus waiting outside with blacked out windows and bars on them, it's a short drive. Shackle left, shackle right next stop—LA County.
Well at least I got to get out of my bloody clothes, still don't know how they got like that. A couple arresting officers looked at me, "what the hell happened to you?"
'I have no idea.'
Strip, tongue out, socks inside out—shake them. Bend over, spread'em, cough, shower. Everything you see criminals go through on TV when they're sent to County.
The dorm's huge, there's at least 9 dorm rooms in whatever tower I was in, each one houses 40-50 inmates. "Up, Brown! Brother, Casper down!" Shouted the dorm room shot caller, a big ass thug, he's pointing at all of us who just arrived. "Up, Brown! Brother, Casper down!" Which meant Latinos/Mexicans/Asians upstairs - black/white downstairs. Each of us were handed a blanket and toiletries, the rules have been laid out, the time to serve time is now.
It took a couple weeks to decide on an attorney, both Maleesa and my mother were interviewing. It's tough for a lawyer to defend a client when only the arresting officer knows what happened. Finally I chose one, she and I have the same last name which is odd, it's not a common name. When my day in court finally arrived, the judge asked her if we're related, "to the best of my knowledge, Your Honor, we are not."
We spoke on the phone a few times, I couldn't remember anything that happened, she was still trying to access the police report. She didn't get her hands on it for a couple months. Then another six weeks passed before we had a formal sit down and she could explain my charges to me. It wasn't until another month after that I received a court date—six months after the arrest date. Not a release date, just a trial.
93 days, not hours passed between our first phone call and meeting in person. 93 seconds is a long time to be restrained without a clue as to why.
I got real good at Spades. I got real good at handball too, we'd play in the yard three times a week. I got so good at handball actually that when I got out, I convinced all my buddies to play at Long Beach Polly with me on the weekends. We did that for years.
It was impermissible to leave our bunks in disarray. Unless we were physically in them, they had to be tidy, all four corners folded evenly and tucked under the pad. No paraphernalia of any kind in sight, no commissary, no nothing that wasn't a permanent fixture. Everything had to be clean and orderly. Gotta piss? Make your bed first. Thirsty? Make your bed first.
I watched beds and drawers, Top Ramen noodles, shoes and inmates get flipped upside down regularly. Guards would get tipped off I guess to drugs or weapons in the dorms and storm inside all decked out head-to-toe in body armor and helmets unannounced. Blue strobe light sirens rang painfully loud which meant drop everything immediately, get on the ground, shut your mouth and stare at the floor while they ransacked something. That happened just about every day, some days more than once. I got my first taste of "lockdown" in LA County.
I met some cool people. I learned quickly who to steer clear of too. Nobody's your friend in there. Nobody's guilty either, that's another one, everyone's innocent in county. I had a Spades partner, Benton, his story was his twin brother did it and used his name. Everyone has a story. Everyone except me.
Nearly five months passed since my initial arrest without a formal sit down with my attorney. I still haven't seen a police report—still don't know what happened. 50 dudes in there with court dates, charges, release dates and me, 'I have no idea.' Finally I get a meeting scheduled with her. It's been a long time. She's been gathering information for my defense.
She's wearing a gray suit, 60'ish years old. Gray hair and glasses, she's a sweetheart. I'm glad we have the same last name otherwise I wouldn't have hired her. We shook hands. I barely had time to stick my hand out and she's apologizing all over herself.
"I'm so sorry it took this long to meet. The court system is backed up something unlawful, it shouldn't be this way, sorry, sorry, sorry." She said something about cases are 6 months to a year out. "The D.A didn't forward your case to me until last week, have you seen it? I subpoenaed the arresting officers report too. I don't think you'll be charged with a crime, I think we'll have you out of here contingent to alcohol rehabilitation."
'Alcohol rehabilitation?' I told her I didn't even drink that much that night. 'Everything was normal that night, I would've been fine.' I explained 'I drank some liquor, a couple beers, a little yayo, some yesca, that's it.' That was all normal I told her. 'Halloween was different, I had allergies that night. I mixed all that stuff with allergy pills and don't remember anything.'
"Do you remember the name of the medication?"
'Sine-Off.' Ironically named, I know this, trust me I've played back that night a million times in my head. Sine-Off is legibly written right on the front of the damn box and I took them anyway.
We're sitting across from each other in a private attorney/client room. She read me the police report.
"According to this report, the homeowners are husband and wife, they're laying in bed watching TV when they hear keys at the front door. Do you know these people? Is there a reason you went to that house?"
'Where's the house? What's their last name?'
She read the names to me, I don't know them. She told me where the house is, I hardly know the area. I know the road but I don't know anyone who lives there. According to the report and, according to the Mapquest image I envisioned in my head, I walked a couple miles from the party. No idea what I was thinking or where I was going, glad I didn't drive. To this day I can only hope I thought it was my grandparents house. They lived in the same direction and both houses were yellow. It's the only scenario that makes sense.
As they hear keys rattling against the front door, the husband grabs a shotgun and tells her call 911, "call the cops!" They had a six foot tall chain link fence around their property, by the way, nobody ever could explain how the hell I managed to get on the trespassing side of that fence.
There's a lot of commotion at the front door; banging, slamming, loud damaging sounds of things breaking, they must've been terrified. What I assume happened is my keys obviously wouldn't open the door, that's why they heard keys rattling around. They had a security door, one of those metal screen doors between me and the main door. According to the police report I ripped that metal door off the hinges and now I'm trying to get my keys in the main door. That's where first degree attempted residential burglary and vandalism came from, that security door—strike 1 and 2. The husband greets me at the door with a shotgun in my face.
"Wtf are you doing?!" I can only imagine this dudes rage. "We called the cops already, you better get the fuck outta here!"
He's obviously confused and irate and who knows what else, he doesn't know me and I don't know him. He's got a shotgun in my face, he's screaming. According to him, he told me they called the cops already and they're on their way, even told me "get outta here" he said. So what do I do? :boom:
I punched him in the face and, like a psychotic animal completely deranged and out of their mind, screamed back as loud as I could, "wtf are you doing in my house?!?" That's where first degree assault and battery charges came from. Had I punched him anywhere other than his property, it would've just been assault but since it happened at his home, it's a first degree felony—strike 3.
He wound up like Barry Bonds in the bottom of the 9th and hit me in the face with the butt of his shotgun. G'night! I still can't believe he didn't shoot me. If Pura and I were trying to go to sleep and some psyche ward escapee is trying to break in, I won't ask questions. I'll call 911 only after I know Pura's safe. I'm glad he swung for the fences instead.
So now I'm unconscious, several minutes pass as I slept on their front porch. She called 911, the law's been dispatched and both he and she are outside now, they have weapons drawn on me in case I wake up. I woke up. They said I tried to get up, the husband's trying to keep me down, he's screaming at me "stay down!!" I'm still freaking out, 'why are you in my house?!' According to the homeowners and this is the part that really saved my ass, they both reported I was "unresponsive as though on mind altering drugs." Sine-Off. That and they weren't pressing charges against me is what saved me.
:boom: He hit me again. Lights out. Two shots upside the head with the stock end of a shotgun explains all the blood on me. I was bleeding from my nose, my mouth, my ear, I had a huge shiner in prison the first couple weeks. I looked like a guy who tried to go in a house that wasn't his and didn't die.
Cops arrived, I'm still unconscious. They cuff me and buckled me in the back of the car, wrote up a report with the homeowners or whatever police procedure is. :flash: Weird city :flash: Strange vehicle :flash: "They got you on video," wake up in jail.
"You recorded a blood alcohol level of 0.29," my attorney said. "That, in combination with the allergy pills, since they're not pressing charges, I'll motion to have the case dismissed contingent you enter treatment immediately following release."
0.29? That didn't sound right. The legal limit is 0.08. I was more than three times the legal limit according to that and I didn't think I drank that much that night. I don't remember blowing into a breathalyzer either. '0.29?' I asked. 'I don't remember blowing into a machine.'
She told me I didn't, "they drew your blood at the police station." I have zero memory of that. According to the report, I was unable to properly blow into the breathalyzer after countless failed attempts so they administered an I-V and drew my blood. They said I consented. I find that hard to believe.
Alright, well, at least I know what I'm up against finally. Attorney said she'll get the charges dismissed. I told her I'd like to apologize to the people who live there. That and I'd like to replace their door. She said it'll never happen, "I'm entering a restraining order preventing you from ever returning to that residence."
She'll meet with the judge before the end of the week and schedule a court date. I'll receive notice some time after that. Her recommendation to the D.A which she assures me they'll accept is to release me, order restitution for replacement of their security door, enroll in alcohol treatment, and remain distanced from the property. All I heard was release.
We stood up, shook hands, "do you have anymore questions for me?" I didn't, 'thank you for representing me.' She went back to her world and I turned around, placed both hands behind my back and was escorted to the dorm.
Four more weeks, I received word a couple days later. I'll have served 186 days the next time I'm before a judge.
I stayed out of trouble. Spades and handball as often as possible, mind my P's and Q's always, pay attention to nothing that doesn't concern me. Blue strobe light daily, deafening siren, commissary cart weekly, I'm counting the days.
One thing you do not want to do in an LA County jail is touch the television on Spanish day. Essays get the TV once a week, they can watch whatever they want that day and sometimes that was too much for some people. There was always something someone else wanted to watch on Spanish day. I saw more fights that day than on the yard or anywhere else, even fight day. That's another one—UFC fights and boxing matches.
Correctional officers always had the fight on in the dorm. Whatever fight it was, it was on, even WWF. 50 criminals caged inside a room with live fights on TV always intensified an already intense situation. Fight night we're almost guaranteed a brawl in the dorm room but not like touching the television on Spanish day—guaranteed violence.
One dude told me never write anything or draw on the bunks. He was a "high power" guy which meant red jumpsuit so the correctional officers knew to pay extra attention to him. High power inmates are typically in there for murder or attempted murder, whatever the crime, it's heinous. He told me unless I want to return and see that same bunk or that same cell again, never write on jail house structures. Noted. A lot of gang tags on prison walls.
I'm counting down the days. I didn't shave my face off the whole time I was in there until day 185. I ordered a razor and put on my best face for the judge. They called my name at 4:30 in the morning; shackle left, shackle right, single file to the gray goose—bus with blacked out windows.
Back to the station I woke up in the first day. I'm in a large holding cell this time with about 20 other dudes, each waiting to be seen by the judge. Court opens at 9am, they began calling names one by one.
My attorney came around and found me, she said my case will be heard within the hour. The D.A already agreed to terms, she said, we just need the judge to order it and make it official. I'll be released some time that evening if all goes well, it's been a long time coming, inmate release requires just as much processing as booking. The bailiff called my name.
I stood next to my attorney, we get sworn in, "raise your right hand and repeat after me." The D.A's on the other side of the court room, in walks the judge, "all rise!" He sat down, we sat down, he began reading my charges. I don't know anyone in the courtroom this time, I asked everyone please don't attend. They listened.
Honorable Justice C. P. Mathis residing, I'll never forget that name. He didn't look much older than I am now, late 40's at the most. I wasn't terrified one time the past six months, not even during the riot, but I was absolutely terrified that day—could hardly walk. He held the master key to my freedom. I'm aware although my attorney and the D.A came to an agreement, he has the authority to shitcan the whole thing with or without explanation.
Welcome back to my courtroom, DanDays, how many times are we going to meet like this before you learn drinking isn't your forte? You're not even 21 years old yet are you?
'No Your Honor, I'm not.'
Both your attorney and states evidence recommend I release you back into public on the condition you pay restitution for the replacement of a security door and mandatory drug and alcohol treatment. I'd like to know how you feel about that young man, do you agree with the states recommendation?
'Yes Your Honor, I do. The last six months have been more than enough substance abuse and alcohol treatment, I'm done. But I understand the states position and agree to enroll in classes immediately following my release.'
Are you telling me you don't believe you require drug and alcohol treatment?
'Not at all Your Honor. I'm saying I'm done with all of it. Six months in county is plenty of treatment program but I'm willing to accept the states recommendation.'
It says here you don't believe you have a problem and the only reason you're in my court room today is because of over-the-counter allergy medication. Are you aware how ridiculous that sounds Mr Days? Has anyone explained to you a blood alcohol level of 0.29 is 1/10 away from legally dead?
That was the first time I heard that. Nobody said it like that to me, I was unaware. Judge Mathis made me aware. I honestly didn't think I drank that much that night. I guess 1/10th from legally dead is a lot more than not that much.
'No Your Honor, I did not know that. I should know that. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.'
I agree with you Mr Days, I do not believe you require drug and alcohol treatment. I think six months stripped of your freedom was just the treatment you needed. I hereby dismiss your charges on one condition: restitution for the replacement of a security door and, young man, listen to what I'm about to tell you: If I see you in my courtroom one more time for even the slightest infraction, you'll wish you never met me. I'll turn a traffic violation into a community service sentence, do you understand?
And slammed his gavel against the bench. I never saw him again. That's it. I'll be transferred back to County, they'll process me out, put me back in my bloody clothes, etc. Maleesa's coming to get me. I asked her to please bring me whatever subway sandwich it was they wouldn't stop advertising on TV—I saw that commercial every day for six months, even on Spanish night!
I stopped drinking that time for 10 years, 10 months. For more than a decade my buddies would try to get me to drink a beer or take a shot, hell to the no! I stopped drinking and all the stupid substances immediately following release—10 years, 10 months.
Not sure why I took a shot 10 years later but I did and really liked it. I forgot how great whiskey is when shit goes south like an IRS notice in the mail. Just take a shot. Can't sleep? Take a shot. Can't wake up?? ....
I stopped drinking about five more times between my return to the bottle 10 years after the fact and August 2, 2014. That was a crazy night too! I just hit seven years clean in August. All I can do is keep practicing. Haven't woke up in a strange place since! That's incentivizing. That and I haven't had to call anyone apologizing the next day for saying or doing something I don't remember saying or doing. I have plenty of success making terrible decisions when I'm sober, alcohol makes it way too easy.