I spent my first two months in the investment unit. There were no windows or opportunities to breathe fresh air. I rarely got a chance to see sunlight, other than brief glimpses walking down the hallway going to and leaving school. They food was always served up cold on plastic trays, as our handlers would be sure to wait for the last minute to feed us. I was in a power struggle with the Bishop (my therapist). When I decided to play ball, he would sign my release into general population. Due to my stubborn-arsed teenage rebellion mindset, that would take a little while.
I saw a lot of crazy shit down there. Broken down mentally-ill adolescents strapped down to mattresses and shot full of thorazine in cinder block isolation cells. Kids slammed on the floor with knees in their backs and elbows pressed forcefully into their temples. Chronic masturbators would rattle their bunks half the night in a desperate attempt to escape their mental and physical enslavement (much like the soldiers in Vietnam).
One kid from Arizona had been violently beaten in a gang initiation rite before being locked up. He had a huge scar on the top of his skull where a crow bar had been buried. Another bloke desperately seeking peer acceptance had been kicked in the scrotum over 500 times to get into his gang. He had a pair the size of grapefruits and had to walk around with a toilet seat shaped pillow to sit on to ease the pain. One day in science class I hid it from him when he was talking to the teacher.
Most of the teens there were wards of the state from California and Texas. Their treatment costs were subsidized, and as a result, they were usually gonna be there for a long time. For the most part they were throw-aways from broke families, had been heavily abused, and were kept heavily medicated. It wasn’t hard to spot the institutionalized lifer crowd. They had nothing to look forward to and this joint was probably a cake-walk compared to the horrors of their prior lives.
There were a lot of kids from L.A. One of my best friends was a hardcore Mexican gang-banger, and incredibly gifted athlete, with a huge tattoo on his stomach honoring his East-L.A. hood that read “Carmellas.” Another good buddy of mine was the privileged son of a famous attorney who spent his pre-incarceration days smoking grass and fondling Southern California nubiles on Catalina Island. Another cat was a spoiled little cry-baby sonabitch whose father was a executive at Columbia Studios.
Oh yeah, investment. So after school, and on weekends, we had to work off points as a form of punishment. This required everyone to stand silently for 30 minute increments every waking hour. At 1 point every 2 minutes, I must have worked off about 5,000 of them in a 2-month period. There were no books to be read, and my mind went into a depressive hibernation period.
All of the counselors were built like brick shit-houses. Illema was a huge muscle-bound Samoan who had played professional football for the San Diego Chargers. I tempted my fate one day standing in investment with him at the helm. He was kind enough to allow us to play a form of hangman while we worked off our points. There was a running inside joke that a few of my peers and I had concerning Illema’s appearance. The thing was that he looked like one of the gorillas from the movie Planet of the Apes. The brow, the shape of the skull, even his mannerisms were spot on.
So it is my turn to come up with a word for the hangman game. Instead of choosing a word, I came up with an acronym hoping my buddies would guess it. After a few round with no success, our 30-minute standing round was about up and Illemma told me to give up the word. I pondered for a couple of seconds and shouted out “POTMFA – planet of the muthafuckin’ apes.” My buddies started howling with laughter while Illemma and the rest of the kids stood there dumbfounded. Thankfully, this broad-chested ass-beating Somoan machine did not catch on that he was the butt of my joke, and render my ass physically demolished.