Stephen Newman

A Memory’s Worth a Thousand Pictures by Stephen Newman

In prison, inmates have a lot of time to think. It’s safe to say I’ve done more thinking in the past ten years than I did in my first 33 years of life. Most of that thinking is spent remembering better times from my past — the good old days.

I’m luckier than most. My first 33 years of life were action packed. I have plenty of memories stored up, allowing me to reminisce on a regular basis. When I’m remembering the past, I’m simultaneously forgetting the present and not worrying about the future.

What are some of these happy memories?

I remember taking an R.V. trip with my parents, as a young boy, and picking wild berries along various highways.

I remember working as a radio DJ for a night, at Power 106 in Los Angeles, while I was still in high school.

I remember the room service cheeseburger at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras, which to this day is the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten.

I remember my first love, Sharon, and flying from California to Virginia, at age 19, to meet her for the first (and only) time.

I remember the exact moment when the direct deposit hit my checking account, after selling in 2001.

I remember sitting next to Carson Daly’s mom, on a first class flight from Oakland to Palm Springs, and having her insist that I change my dog’s name from Daniella to Bella.

I remember sitting in the audience at the Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas, as Michael Jackson walked in and sat two rows in front of me.

I remember my now ex-wife getting me a helicopter tour of the bay area for my 30th birthday, and us flying underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

I remember traveling to St. Louis in 2001, and standing on the sidelines with my field pass, watching the Rams devour the Bears on monday night.

I remember my first night, live on the air at KFRC FM in San Francisco, knowing I had finally “made it” in the radio business.

I remember taking my dad to the Staples Center for the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics, just weeks before my trial.

I remember the historic taxi tour in Belfast, Northern Ireland, not knowing if we would survive the potential strife between the Catholics and Protestants.

I remember being interviewed on a nationally televised PBS show about technology. I have no idea the name of the show anymore, but I was there, I swear it!

I remember a lot of things. Many guys in here don’t have that privilege. Their memories are filled with crimes they committed, drugs they did, baby mamas they argued with, or juvenile correctional facilities they grew up in Many inmates have never even traveled outside the state of Idaho.

I remember once, at the prison in Boise circa 2012…we had just watched a particularly long movie on the prison movie channel (a staff member would bring DVDs in on the weekends and play movies on channel 3). I had to pee, but painstakingly held it until the movie ended. Afterwards, as I was peeing, I said to the 58-year-old man at the toilet next to me, “Man I felt like I was in the theater, having to hold it for hours because I didn’t want to miss anything.” His response: “Oh, really? I’ve never seen a movie in a theater.” That was the moment that it hit me — up until 2007, I had a pretty great life.

Of course, some would argue that if you haven’t done any of these types of things in life, that it’s easier to cope in prison, simply because you don’t know what you’re missing. Guys who grew up in correctional facilities won’t feel bad about not being in a helicopter under the Golden Gate. They never did it, they won’t think about it, they won’t miss it. If life truly is all about playing cards, watching sports on a shitty TV, eating honeybuns after each Thursday’s commissary delivery, masturbating in the shower (when no one is looking) to a sexy and waterproof “booty pic” wrapped in cellophane, lifting weights, and sleeping, then I suppose life in here could be heavenly.

For me, even though I can’t do the things I remember, and even though I may never be allowed the opportunity to travel again to places like Northern Ireland, I’m incredibly thankful I had the chance. I’m proud of myself for seizing the day, each and every day that I was free, and for embracing all that life had to offer. You never know when those opportunities might end, so make the most of them while you can.

I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice: instead of recording your life by taking pictures and videos on your phone, try experiencing life, instead. You miss out on so much when you’re more concerned about taking a picture of your meal for Instagram than you are about eating and enjoying it.

Stephen Newman
DOC #90843


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