Stephen Newman

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…grape?! By Stephen Newman

(Originally written December 6, 2016)

You know it’s been a slow week when I’m writing to you about grapes. But the big excitement of the day happened when we picked up our typical Tuesday peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sack lunch. It usually includes the sandwich, a bag of Tim’s Cascade Potato Chips, celery and carrots, and either an apple or an orange. But today, the kitchen worker in charge of passing out the fruit, handed us each a baggie filled with grapes. Cold, green grapes. A simple thing, really. Something that, ten years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about, and certainly wouldn’t have written a blog about. But as I was eating the first grape, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a grape in almost nine years. The simple task of pulling the stems off the tops of some of the grapes — I still remembered how to do it, but somehow it felt a bit foreign, like a child discovering this fruit for the very first time.

Someone offered to trade me their bag of grapes for my peanut butter sandwich. In hindsight, I wish I had taken him up on his offer. We get peanut butter three times a week. I’ve had grapes once in almost nine years. But my stomach was in need of some fat and protein, so I reluctantly declined.

As I was eating the grapes, I was reminded of my ex father-in-law, Lou, who introduced me to frozen grapes in 2001. During our marriage, Jennifer and I would freeze grapes in a tupperware container and pull out just a few at a time, like a small popsicle. I thought about freezing a couple of these today, but they were too good. I had to devour them immediately.

I’m listening to Christmas music as I type this. Willie Nelson is planning to have a Blue Christmas. As for December 6th in Orofino, it’s definitely white. I woke up this morning, around 9:30, looked out the window and said, verbatem, “Holy Shit! Where’d all this snow come from?” My new cellmate just ignored me. I guess the snow isn’t as exciting to an Idaho native as it is to a southern Californian.

It’s beautiful here today. The hills, the ground, the trees, the buildings…everything is covered in snow. If it wasn’t for the razorwire and this ugly brick building I’m in, it would be a picture-perfect scene. An Ansel Adams December…except in color.

Eric had another seizure on Sunday night. Remarkably, I am now able to predict his seizures the day before he has them. I can tell by his behavior, his sleeping patterns, his snoring, his eating habits, and his lack of conversation, that a seizure is imminent. Of course, nobody will ever believe me. If I were to tell the medical staff, “Hello. My name is Stephen Newman. Number 90843. I wanted to let you know that I am now able to predict Eric’s seizures the day before he has them,” they would laugh at me. Laugh all you want, but between you and me, I’m some sort of seizure Nostradamus.

We finally got a new cellmate in Hamilton’s old bunk. It was the guy who used to be the prison barber. He gets to go home a week from today, at which point the wheel of potential cellmates will spin yet again. As always, I hope to get a quiet older guy who keeps to himself, showers regularly, laughs at my jokes, and doesn’t want to watch my TV or eat my food.

Just a reminder to everyone who hasn’t gotten the memo: we can no longer receive mail with colored envelopes, nor any envelopes or paper with colored pencil or markers on them. We can’t receive any letters with perfume sprayed on them. Lipstick kisses are also no longer allowed. To be on the safe side, send all your letters on boring white paper, in a boring white envelope, and don’t kiss the paper!

Today at 3 pm, I have an appointment with one of the Case Managers. She is going to interview me for my “Violence Risk Assesment,” called a V-RAG. I’m not sure what the G stands for. Luckily, I typically score quite low on the violence scale. They ask me if I’ve ever gotten in a fight at school, tortured animals, stuck pins into voodoo dolls, punched a wall, etc. As long as they don’t ask me if I’ve ever thrown a vacuum cleaner across a dorm room, I should be ok. Wish me luck.

On that note, I hope you all enjoy your grapes this week. And by that I mean the simple things. The little things in life that you take for granted. A hot shower. Shoes that don’t give you blisters. A spouse who smiles at you when you come home from work. Your soft pillow. For all those little things that you never think much about, do me a favor and think about them. Take time to appreciate them because you never know when you may be eating your last grape.

Stephen Newman
DOC #90843


Categories: Stephen Newman

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