Home Sweet. . . Streets (Au Revoir #33)

“I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end. But i do not talk of the beginning or the end.”

~Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Somewhere in the middle, that is where i am today and i am very comfortable with that.  it has been a few months since i have touched down back into the real world, the place outside of the cinder block walls and barbwire fences.  a place where no one says excuse me and no one stops to be grateful for the small things life has to offer.  i look around when i am out and about and see all the sad faces and hard stares and i can’t help but wonder, maybe i am lucky to have gone to prison.  was i someone that never understood how something as simple as a normal existence was a blessing?  i probably was.  

i am back to making music, working on new songs and for the first time in years i am having fun again.  i am laughing and smiling and just enjoying every minute of it this time around.  i am doing really uneventful things like going to subway to get a sandwich and really enjoying it.  the simple things are the best things.  i got a phone call from my good friend that still has the misfortune to be behind the walls and it was an eye opener.  in prison time really does just standstill.  he gets home in about 30 days but from the sound of his voice, you know that his 30 days and our 30 days are totally different.  like we are in different dimensions.  when i want to get away or be alone and go to a place to relax i can.  we have the ability to live.  prisoners do not.  the worst part is hearing people say that they deserve it.  they don’t understand how that is only their perspective, and not truly based in reality, only the reality of their selves.  i am sure every terrorist believes his victims truly deserved their wrath, yet once again, that is only in their mind.  it does not justify it to the rest of the world.  the prison system is a money making machine, new laws every year, higher sentences, more innocent and undeserving people locked away and entered into the world of statistics. 

I find myself untrusting of people i don’t know and hesitant to meet new people at the same time.  over the last few years i have built up walls that i am only now seeing and that I think will take a lot of work to tear down.  i haven’t heard from my parents since i have been home which is kind of sad but as in everything, life goes on.  you think some people care and they don’t which really hurts, but at the same time, other people surprise you by their beauty and love, so i look at that, the good part, instead of focusing on the bad.  i don’t have the energy or the trust for anger.  after having someone betray you so badly, you almost chose to not let someone in ever again or the possibility of dealing with betrayal again.  yet in the long run, living like that can cause you to miss out on wonderful people and real happiness.  these are just a few more things that prison affects years after the time has passed.  

I am thoughtful of the things that will stay with me long after this chapter has passed.

I look to the future and walk away from the past, letting the bridges I have burned light the way. I have made enemies and i have made friends, and will do my best to continue making the latter. But regardless of what may be, I will continue to trudge this road of happy destiny.

i got nothing but love - and a little bit of spare change.

Keep on Rich Rollin,

Daniel Dart

Keep on Rich Rollin #32

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” – Milan Kundera

Everything is just business as usual, put one foot in front of the other and walk on down. I’m getting closer to the end of my bid every day, so close that I don’t even think it really clicks in my mind. Seems like just yesterday I got here and now it has been years but only feels like days. I was talking to my friend Ian on the phone telling him the hardest thing about being in prison; it ain’t the fighting or riots, it ain’t being away from your loved ones, it’s the fact that when you’re hungry there ain’t no way to get some food. Or at least that’s how I feel right now. When you’re hungry, really really hungry, and you got no food and you stuck in a concrete cell that is when the time really gets tough. You learn to conserve all food, nothing goes to waste cuz if you can keep you belly full that’s half the battle.

In prison news, word on the street is that we’re all getting moved again, this time back to California somewhere. Rumor has it the stated opened up more new prisons so they wanna send us back. I am at the point that nothing surprises me these days. It’s sad because it makes a fella feel like cattle, moved around and just a figure at the end of the day. You pull a string tight enough, eventually it will snap. Prisoners are no different, if you treat them like animals, can you be angry when they act as such? But that is the conundrum. You got the state treating us like shit, then when we push back they wanna cry about how we animals. It is a cycle that I see no resolution to anytime soon.

As Nelson Mandela said, you can tell more from a society not by how it treats it’s highest people but by how it treats its lowest.

It is like driving down the road and seeing a drunk driver swerving all over the road, you know he is going to crash. It’s just a matter of time but you are helpless to do anything to stop it. That is how this whole prison system is, it’s just so out of control and unsustainable in its current state, but you know that it's going to take a major wreck before any of it ever changes.

On a positive tip, myself and a friend of mine named Cowboy have for months been trying to get approval from the warden to start a music program where we can get instruments and teach people how to play as well as let inmates create their own groups and eventually put on shows. Just last week we finally got approval to start one. So now we just gotta get the equipment and get it going. I’m really happy about getting this started because if I can look back on this time knowing that I left something positive behind and helped raise the quality of life for my fellow man, that’s something to be proud of. I even told the warden that I’d like to be able to help with the music program after release. Help getting instruments to inmates and such. They say the best gift is the ability to give to others, or at least that is how I feel. I think that would be a nice legacy. When you’re old and someone asks you “what did you do in your life?”, I made life better for the people around me. That’s a good goal to work towards. Or as I said earlier, at least I think so.

Until next time, hold your thumbs high and always, always keep on Rich Rollin!

Your obedient servant – DART

Song for the day:
Artist: WZRD
Title: Efflictim

Keep on Rich Rollin #31

“Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete, since anything a person does, makes or says could be interpreted as abuse.” – Lenore Skenazy (Wall Street Journal 2/12/14)

We live in a community that every single day is becoming more and more sensitive and watered down. Everything is becoming offensive and any action can be spun into criminal intent.

I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Prisoners I Lose Sleep Over” that was written by senior U.S. District Judge from Massachusetts, Michael A Ponser. The article begins with Mr. Ponser explaining how he often loses sleep over people he has sent to prison and he poses the question: How did “the land of the free and the home of the brave” become the world’s largest prison ward? The U.S. now houses 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. Either our fellow Americans are far more dangerous than the citizens of any other country, or something is seriously out of whack in the criminal justice system. Those are words written by a man who sat on a federal bench for over 30 years.

He goes on to speak about the fact that our laws and sentencing guidelines have become so rigid that there is no longer room for interpretation. How laws designed for the worst criminals effect all, taking the actual judgment out of the judge’s hands. And although in theory this seems a good idea, in practice it has proved exactly the opposite. Resulting in massive prison terms for those who plainly do not deserve them.

With the ability to send a person to lengthy prison terms for minor offenses, district attorneys have been given far more power than was ever intended. D.A.s throw around years like pennies and use this to bully defendants into taking plea bargains regardless of guilt. And everyday people become more and more sensitive, creating an environment where to speak your mind becomes a risk. Where we must always be politically correct and must not be in anyway offensive.

Cultural critic Jonathan Rauch coined the term “offendedness sweep states” to describe our present condition: we’ve gotten to the point where almost any group can declare almost anything unnerving or politically incorrect and demand its removal. These censors automatically win because anyone who demurs is criminally callous. – Wall Street Journal

We have created a society where anyone can feel threatened for any reason, and can then in turn use this as a type of attack. If I don’t like something or someone, I can say that they threatened me, then retaliate with complete justification.

Not only can someone attack in this fashion, they can also plead the victim while doing so. Reality no longer matters, only interpretation.

We write laws for everything. It seems as though to hurt a person’s feelings, soon will be a crime. And as prosecutors rise they need convictions, whatever the cost. For the politicians to get elected they have to be tough on crime… tougher than whoever held office before. It is an abyss of escalation. A black whole of injustice…. And all in the name of justice.

This is why when I read the words of US District Judge Michael A Ponsor I felt some sense of relief. To have a federal judge agree that our nations justice system is out of control is very important to me. I’ve spent countless nights wondering this exact thing. Wondering if judges see the obvious faults of our justice system, and to know that some of them do is very comforting.

I know that change does not happen overnight but that does not mean it doesn’t happen. We have to learn and understand that justice does not always mean harsh punishment, it also means we must show leniency, forgiveness and understanding. Because as Mr. Ponser reminds us;

“Our prison apparatus is too costly, but more important, it is unworthy of us as a free people.”

Until next time, keep your back straight, your eyes open and always KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN. – DART

Song for this:
Artist: TIME AGAIN
Song: Outcast

Keep on Rich Rollin #29

“Consistency, commonly thought of as a good thing, requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”                                                                       - Bernard Berenson

The end of another year is upon us. Thanksgiving has come and gone and shortly the same will be said of 2013. It is crazy when I actually stop to think that this will be my third straight Christmas in captivity. What is even crazier though is when I talk to people that haven’t been in prison for the last few years and in that time have accomplished nothing. It is a real eye opener. So many people, so little follow through.  There is so much in prison that is actually quite astonishing. How people can do so much with so little and how one can adapt to the situation and find ways to make things work with the tools that we have. For instance, in the California prison system, about 80% of the inmates, myself included, can speak in sign language. It is really kind of amazing to see. I can be in my cell across the building from a friend in his cell and we can have a full conversations. When I first got to prison there was a deaf fella in my building and we would sign, he was first termer like myself and he was totally blown away. He said for the first time in his life he felt like he could talk to everyone. If only people on the streets could sign, He would tell me every single day how great it was. It was really cool. Because in prison, so often you can only see your friends from different holding cells at a distance, through windows or across the yard. More times than not you won’t get the chance to get close enough to talk. So what to do? Learn to speak with your hands. The resilience of man is a wonderful magical thing. Another thing that is quite astonishing is the movement of information like the Ho Chi Minh trail in the Vietnam war when supplies were carried hundreds of miles by hundreds of different little paths with common destinations, it is amazing how something which appears to the outside as completely unorganized is actually anything but. How the whole ebb and flow is known and noted, What guards work in which buildings on what days. Which ones are assholes and which ones will look the other way. Which inmates work which jobs, and which guys from different buildings they work with. It is really pretty amazing and just goes to show the resourcefulness of the human spirit.   The community aspect is also pretty astounding. For instance, I get the Wall Street Journal everyday. After I read it, I pass it on, where it is then read and again passed on and so forth. So that in the end, anyone that wants to read the paper has the chance to do so. And when I see something I wanna read, all I gotta say is can I get in line and it is that easy. With very limited resources, we work hard to take advantage of the few that we do have. And to do that, we all work together. Far more than anyone really ever gives us credit for. All too often the media paints prisoners and ex-convicts in an awful way and the truth is that is not always the case. But we have little or no voice so it is easy to pain us any way they want. If you get caught shoplifting, they turn it into a burglary, give you a strike and now on paper you are a “violent criminal.” You have one drink too many at the bar and tell someone you’re gonna fuck them up, they charge you with criminal threats and now you too are given a strike and considered a “violent criminal.” Or maybe your girlfriend or boyfriend in in your face screaming and you put your arm up to distance yourself. Now you get charged with assault with the means likely to cause great bodily injury. That means that literally you did not hit or strike them, but you could have. Seriously, charged for what you could have done, not what you did. And again, yes, you are given a strike and you are now just another “violent criminal.” These are the majority of the “violent criminals” that the media talks about. It is easy to write prisoners off as mindless beasts, but that is nothing more than propaganda. I could as easily say that because Osama Bin Laden is Saudi Arabian, all other Saudi Arabians are terrorists, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. The same goes for us behind those walls. The overwhelming majority of us are neither mindless nor violent. We’re just regular people that found ourselves in bad situations and some are nothing more than simple victims of circumstance. At the end of the day though, the result was all the same for us. So we have to do the most with what we have. With those words I come back to the present. I’m about to spend my third Christmas here, and although these last few years have not been ideal, neither have they been wasted. And I hope that as you look back over the last few years of your life you can say the same thing. Because you can always make more money, but you can never make more time, Take time to enjoy the simple things in life. Don’t worry about the bullshit, because that is all it is and always… KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.

Your friend, Daniel Dart

Artist: KID CUDI

Song: RED EYE (feat.HAIM)

Keep on Rich Rollin #30

 "And look at me, Little Igor, the bruises go away, and so does how you hate, and so does the feeling that everything you receive in life is something you have earned.“ - From the novel Everything is Illuminated  by Jonathan Safran Foer

Another year has come and gone. It was my third New Years locked up and hopefully my last. It is crazy to think that it has been that long. It feels like just yesterday I was out there doing my thing, it is hard to really comprehend the fact that it has been years I wonder how much I have changed, probably a whole lot. I was talking to one of my friends on Christmas that I hadn’t spoken to in a while, it was wild, but kind of strange too. She was like, "you are the same person, but I can tell you have changed too.” I asked her what she meant, how have I changed. But she couldn’t really say. All she said was, “I don’t  know to explain it, but I can tell you changed.” It got me thinking, lying on my bunk wondering just how true that really is.

They say that the only true constant is change. Over time everything and everyone will change. It is inevitable. Like the leaves on the tree, the seasons of life carry us away like the winds of Autumn. We change colors, fall off the tree and fly in the breeze, only to do it al over again the following year. But during which time of the year does the tree have more meaning? In the spring when life is new and fresh and full of possibilities? Or in summer when it bares fruit that sustains and nourishes? Or maybe the fall when the colors show reds oranges and yellows, when it reminds us that even at the end of things there can be beauty? If not those, then it must be winter, when the branches are bare, reminding us that even mother nature has its us and downs. Reminds us that life is not meant to be lived in a straight line. In order to truly appreciate the summer you must also know the winter. In order to truly love a person, you gotta love them through all their seasons. 

On that phone call when my friend told me I changed I was kind of caught off guard. I didn’t really know what to say. Then when she couldn’t explain what she meant  I was even more confused. I mean, this was one of my oldest and dearest friends I was talking to. I’ve known her my entire adult life and I really value her friendship, so I was kind of hesitant. She must have felt it cause quickly she said, “I don’t care.” To which I responded, you don’t care about what? To which she laughed and said, “I don’t care that you changed, we have been friends for over ten years, I don’t care if you change, I love you and I got your back no matter what.” And I too have her back , no matter what, But still, the exchange got my wheels turning. 

How often is life do people say to others that they’ve changed. when we break up with a lover or when a business partnership just doesn’t seem to work. When a friendship from our youth just isn’t the same or when we hear an artist’s new record. So many times in so many situations we retreat from our former loves, passions and beliefs with an accusation of change. It is the easy out clause, it is the golden parachute. Change. It is you that have changed, it is they, it is them. The reason things are different are yours. You are to be blamed, you are the one at fault. How easily we can dismiss. How quickly we relieve ourselves of responsibility.  When we tell someone that we don’t love them anymore because they’ve changed, aren’t we really saying that we are the ones who have changed? Aren’t we the ones saying we want something different? And who is to say that it is change at all and not growth?

Without the advantage of retrospection can we even define the difference between to two? Have I changed while I’ve been in prison or have I grown? Maybe it is both, or who knows, some may even argue neither. I personally am not even sure how to conquer that question. All I do know is that when my friend told me that she didn’t care if I changed, that she still loved me and couldn’t wait for me to come home it felt really nice. Because no matter what changes there have been, the one thing that did not change was the fact that she loves me for me, and on even the hardest of days, that is more than enough. For there is something truly sacred about supporting someone at their worst, a bond that cannot be defined or pinpointed.

When in the deepest recesses of your heart you feel unlovable, ashamed of your circumstances and yourself. Hanging on with nothing but false bravado and a crooked grin. When you’re lying in bed with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company. We’ve all been through it one way or another. We’ve all had those long days and even longer nights.

One of the things about my time in prison that surprised me is the friendships I have built. I can easily say that some of the best friends I’ve had throughout my entire life I’ve made here. Someday when I  am old I will look back an honestly be able to say that some of the best men I have ever known were convicted murderers, drug dealers, car jackers, and junkies. Gang bangers, thieves and cutthroats. People that I met when I was at the most difficult and troubled crossroads of my life. But people who were also at their most difficult and troubled crossroads as well. There is something to be said about bonds built while dealing with adversity.

I  say this because when I came to prison years ago all of my closest friends were out there on the streets. I remember that first New Years in here thinking about my friends out there celebrating . But now two years later things are so much different. This year when I thought about my friends and mentally wished them a Happy New Year, I realized that not all, but most of my closest friends live with me behind these walls. People I’ve spent the  hardest time of my life with. People that don’t write me off for the mistakes that I have made. People that got my back not matter what. 

I’d be lying if  I didn’t think regularly about the obstacles I’m going to face when I get out. How are people going to react when they discover I was just released from prison. When I  work on music will people look at me or deal with me differently, or will the work with me at all? Will women look at me as a man they wouldn’t start a family with? What will the world be like? What will my world be like? I ask myself these questions way more often than I’ll ever admit.

So on Christmas when my old friend told me that she didn’t care if I changed, that she loved me regardless and would always have my back, it meant the world to me. It showed me that even though the world, the seasons,and our circumstances my always be in a constant state or change, one thing that never has to change is the love we have for each other, our brothers and sisters, our friends and families. With that I wanna wish everyone out there a Happy New Year. May this be your best year yet , and if not, don’t trip, cause there is always next year, and the year after that. Time stops for no one, and neither does change. Thank God for that.

Till next time, keep your back straight and your chin held high and always KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.

Your servant, DART

SONG FOR THE NEW YEAR

Artist: Phoenix

Song: Trying to be cool

Keep on Rich Rollin #28

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself."  -  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I sometimes forget that I’m in prison. I don’t mean that in the sense that i am no longer aware of the electric fences or cinder block cells.  I mean it in the way that I’m just another cat, in another village, trying to have a good time.  Trying to make it to tomorrow, and in that I am succeeding.  We all have struggles in here. We all have hard days, but that does not mean that every day is a bad day.  Some days I laugh so hard that my coffee shoots out my nose. Sometimes my head hurts and my stomach aches and tears stream from my eyes.  All this from laughter, all this from the good times.  Some of the best times of my life.  Some of the best friends a fella can have.  Sometimes an overwhelming, heart warming sense of peace.  Like a buddhist monk in a hilltop monastery I have endless time for reflection and the long pursuit of understanding.  A simple act of kindness is worth the world.  Material things mean nothing to me.  What can I do with a car I can’t drive?  What can I do with a diamond bracelet?

I’d rather have a cheeseburger.  
 

I have felt loved and appreciated throughout my life, but I can tell you from first hand experience, nothing makes me feel more loved than when I call a friend collect and they accept the charges. It is worth more to me than all the Bentleys in the world. It is simply wonderful.  This time next year I will again be free. Free in the sense that I will no longer be in prison.  And with every day that passes and as the time gets closer to me leaving this place, I come to appreciate my time here more and more.  I notice the positives and pay more attention to the good things it has brought to my life.  Things like friends, and how I have a totally new perspective on society and what that entails.  
 

For instance… I’ll tell you about one person that I have met that has opened my mind to so much and in the process become one of my dearest friends. His name is Draws and he was convicted of 2nd degree murder when he was 16 years old for shooting a rival gang member that was shooting at him.  He was tried as an adult although he was barely 16 and sentenced to serve 15 years to life.  That was 21 years ago.

He still has no release date.

Draws is one of the few people that I trust completely in this odd little jungle I call home.  He is at my old prison, which is a bummer, but I can and will continue to consider him as one of my best friends.  It is strange how life works sometimes. Here was a guy that has been behind bars more than half his life, yet has twice the wisdom of anyone I have ever come across in the "free” world.  So humble, so patient.  Always ready to listen to me vent and drop some wisdom.  He would always open my eyes to a different perspective or turn my thoughts into questions. We would be like Socrates and Plato.  Modern day philosophers inside cells of a fallen empire.  We would always question.

We would always seek truth.

All too often we would find that truth and understanding have nothing to do with reason. 
 

I would question everything. I wanted to know why we are so quick to accept the wrongs of our world.  And I found too often that it is only when an injustice effects an individual does it get them to look into it faults.  One question always came to my mind.  Why do we try minors as adults?  I am having trouble as to why we as a society have not found a better way of dealing with minors.  For instance let me use my dear friend Draws.  He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. His neighborhood and school district is one of the poorest and most violent in the United States.  It is easy to say that he falls into the category of under privileged and underachieving.  Yet he was deemed an adult and tried as such. Now you say it was because of the crime.  But in California they try juveniles for murder quite often.  If found guilty they serve 10 years flat.  A much shorter sentence due to the fact that they are not mature enough to comprehend the ramifications of their actions.  Yet with cases like Draws who was a gang member, they are deemed especially incorrigible and tried as adults. This is where I think we need to reevaluate our approach.  If a boy or a girl gets straight A’s in 9th or 10th grade or sets a scoring record in the state finals of a basketball game when they are only 16 do we give them the right to vote before they turn 18?  Because of their great achievements?  If a person gets a perfect score on their SAT and gets a full scholastic scholarship to Harvard when they are 16 do they get the right to vote before they turn 18 because of their genius level of intellect?  Here are just two examples of the best reasons a minor can be thought to be wise beyond their years, yet in our society, nothing you can do can make you an adult before you 18th birthday. . . unless that nothing is a crime. And there lies the problem. We take people from the worst backgrounds and propel them to adulthood. We hold them to a higher standard than any of their peers.  We elevate them far beyond their years.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way minimizing the horrifying impact of their actions.  Nor am I trying to say that they do not need to serve penance.  I am only saying that a minor is not an adult. And I don’t think that we should hold our worst minors to the standards of adults, A 16 year old at the end of the day is just a 16 year old and should be treated as such. We need to look at more than the crime and individual. We must question the society and circumstances that breed such things.  It is conversations like this I share on a daily basis.  My days are often tough, often repetitive, often long, but overall things are not so bad.  In the grand scheme of things I have so little to complain about and so much to be grateful for.  I got friends like Draws to remind me to look at everything from all angles and to never stop learning and dreaming and more than anything else I got today.  And today was a good day. 

So keep your thumbs held high and KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.

Your student of philosophy,   Daniel Dart                                                                                                                                                                                  
Song: Today was a good day

Artist: Ice Cube

Keep on Rich Rollin #27

“It is closing time in the gardens of the west and from now on an artist will be judged only by the resonance of his solitude or the quality of his despair.” -Cyril Connolly

It has been almost a month since I have arrived here at yet another new prison, this one being located in the great state of Oklahoma.  On arrival, myself and the rest of the lonely travelers on that fabled prison bus were sent into orientation housing, where we remained on 24hr, in cell lockdown while we waited to be classified and housed.  It took me 3 weeks to get housed, and it is in this cell that I sit as I scratch these words upon a sheet of paper.  It is the final piece to the puzzle that is the process of being transferred.

The beginning is much different.

At 3am a guard comes to your cell and pops the door and wakes you up and tells you that you have about 5 minutes, your ride is here.  A few minutes later he returns and escorts you to a holding tank where you join up with the rest of the fellas that are going to accompany you on the journey.  There were 28 of us on my particular day.  After being counted to make sure that we are all there, they prepare us all for actual transfer.

The first step is they have everyone strip down completely naked and make us all squat and cough, run our fingers through our hair, open our mouths wide and look under our tongues, check in and behind our ears, and check the soles of our feet.

After this step, they return to us only in our boxers and shoes (minus the laces, they are returned upon arrival) and issue each of us neon orange paper jumpsuit with the word “PRISONER” stenciled on the leg and chest.  These suits are so thin that they are almost completely transparent and we spent the next half an hour or so laughing and making fun of each other, lightening the vibe in the morning light, but underneath the surface, you can feel the anxiety that is shared by all, because you never can know exactly what to expect when you move to a new prison.  Every prison is its own individual version of “The Lord of the Flies” so you never really can know what you might be stepping into. 
 

After we all have our orange jumpsuits on they begin the chaining process. We are all shackled on our ankles with handcuffs that have a chain about 18 inches long connecting them, so that you can't really walk, you have to shuffle awkwardly. Then they wrap a thick chain around our waist and attach the cuffs on our wrists to this chain, so that you can barely move your hands at all. You have just enough movement to feed yourself, but barely, and not without the cuffs digging into your arms (more on this later). Once everyone is chained up individually, they then separate us into groups of two and they chain up the pair of us together with another chain, from handcuff to handcuff. We are now ready to board the bus. 
We are then led, shuffling out the building into a giant sally port where the bus is waiting.

As we walk out into the early morning light, special transfer guards are waiting and directing us where to sit as we board the bus. They are telling us the rules of the bus, which are pretty much, don’t stand up for any reason unless you are told to do so and also they point out all the cameras and microphones on the bus.  The entire ride will be recorded on audio and video.  Just to reinforce what they are trying to convey, they remind you of the guard in the cage at the back of the bus holding a shot gun.

They don’t want any problems.

They then tell us that we will be fed twice on the ride and will be able to use the bathroom at the back of the bus every 4 hours or so.  They are’t allowed to tell us the time, how far the drive is, or how much longer till we arrive, so we shouldn’t even ask.  We’ll get there when we get there.

And thus our journey began.
 

I tried my best to sleep and found myself falling in and out of a restless sleep until after who knows how long, we pulled over for the first of our two meals. Its was McDonald’s.  A double quarter pounder with cheese, small french fries and a small sprite.  It has been more than 2 years since I’ve had anything like this, I had forgotten what fast food tasted like.  It was a strange experience, like being in a fish bowl and looking out at the world.  Like a flashback to civilization, however fleeting it may have been.  The most sobering part of the whole moment, was the fact that the handcuffs were so dug into my forearms that my hands began to numb to point I almost dropped my food.  Food eaten, trash collected, we continue on our journey.  I again try to sleep and again I am rewarded with a restless attempt.  As I watch our the window, morning becomes day and day fades into night.  Rocky desert becomes wooded mountains, becomes fields filled with crops. And as the sun finally slips from sight we stop for our second meal.  Again we stop at McDonald’s.  This time it is a Big Mac, small fries and a medium sprite.  But this stop the energy of the entire ride has shifted noticeably.  By our estimates we’ve been on the road for upwards of 12 hours and we can see from the signs that we are still somewhere in New Mexico, still two states away.  

My knees at this point have begun to throb and ache like I never knew was possible.

My feet are tingling and my ankles feel like they are on fire where the shackles are digging into them.

And to top it off I’m having a tough time closing my hands and they are beginning to get puffy from the tightness of the wrist cuffs. I have completely given up any attempt at sleep and just try to keep from losing my mind. 
 

Hours pass and  a quick glance around the bus tells you that we are all facing the same test for patience. The minutes feel like hours and the hours feel like days. Till finally the feeling permeates the guard in the cage and he tells us to hold tight, we are almost there.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain to someone the feeling of relief and salvation that swept through that bus the moment it began to exit and we saw our destination on the horizon.  We had finally arrived and as the sunlight crept into the eastern sky, I got my first look at my new home.  My new home is called North Fork Correctional Facility and it is located near the panhandle in Oklahoma.  I’d like to be able to describe it so you could picture it in your head, but really all I can say is there is a lot of concrete, a lot of chain link fence, and a whole lot of barbwire.  Once the bus pulled inside the prison walls, and stopped in a massive garage, we were quickly removed from the bus and lined up against a wall in a section containing numerous holding cells.  At this point, my ankles and feet hurt so badly that I could hardly walk.  After being asking our name and CDC#, we were finally unshackled, told to once again strip naked to be searched and finally given a set of clothes.

The clothes were given to us in a mesh bag that was labeled with a size, and in each bag was 3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of boxers, 2 pairs of bright red pants, 2 bright red tops, 3 white under shirts, 2 blankets, 2 sheets, a tooth brush, a bar of soap, a pair of shower sandals, a ballpoint pen, 5 envelopes and 10 sheets of paper (no stamps) and one small white towel. We then put on a set of clothes and head into a holding cell where we wait to go through processing and get our temporary orientation housing. I looked at the clock in the housing office and it was 7am.

We had been on the bus for 26 hours. 
 

The next few hours passed in a blur. Set up like a D.M.V. office, going from window to window, speaking to nursing,medical, psych, housing. Answering questions you’ve already answered over and over until finally around 1 in the afternoon, they tell you to pick who you want to cell up with for our time on orientation.  A few moments later, everyone again paired up, we were led to our new home, a cell that we will occupy until we have all gotten classified and gone to what is known as committee.  Committee is the final step of classification and it is when you go into a room with a case worker, a unit manager, a prison guard captain and his clerk and you are told your sentence term, your release date, and your custody level, security level. Having finished this final step, you are then put down for transfer to the mainline of general population. Over 3 weeks after this move all began I’m sitting here writing these words. I am finally on the mainline and I can get back into my routine. I can finally put that part of my time behind me. 
 

Everyday prison is a challenge.  Everything inside of prison is designed specifically to take away a persons identity.  We have very few decisions we can make on our own, almost everything is chosen for us.  We are moved like cattle, my hand and feet hurt for days from the cuffs on the 26 hour trek and housed in a little concrete block.  The prison population in California is so out of control that we are sent  to privately owned prisons such as my current prison, that are halfway across the country.  The prison I am at right now is owned by a company called C.C.A. (correction corporation of america).  Just last month in The Wall Street Journal I read that this same company spent upwards of 985 million dollars on political donations and state lobbyist all in their attempt to toughen sentencing laws for lengthier prison terms.  More people in prison means more profit on their bottom line.  

We are merely figures on a paper.

It is even more profound when you try to sign up for school and they tell you the waiting list is almost 2 years. I  don’t understand it.  I’ve had a lot of up and downs in my life and I’m sure that will always be the case.  I believe that is what life is all about.  Take the good with the bad and the bad with the good.  We hope that somehow, someway it will all balance our in the end. Knowing this and having lived the life I have, I can easily say that being shacked on a bus for 26 hours without being able to move at all is one of the most dehumanizing things I have ever experienced.  My simple words will never be able to explain it.  How prison strips down systematically everything a person is to make them a better prisoner.  Easier to control.  But doing so also makes a person that much more likely to return, because by stripping them down, it makes them forget how to live. It makes you forget how to be you.  I am getting closer to coming home every single day, and even though I still have quite a bit of days left I’m pretty happy that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  These years have taught me a lot of things but just recently I feel like I’ve decided which one is the most important to me and that is this… It’s not always easy being yourself, but it’s always worth it. 

Until next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN Your Friend- D.A.R.T.

Song for this diary: 

Artist: John Mayer

Title: Shadow Days  

I’d love to hear from you: 

Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076

North Fork Correctional Facility

1605 E. Main St.

Sayre, OK 73662

Keep on Rich Rollin #26

“All central beliefs on human matters spring from a personal predicament.”                     - Isaiah Berlin

As of today I have been at this new prison (Red Rock Correction Center) in Arizona for two months.  It feels like a day, it feels like a year, time will never be the same. All things are relative, it may be easier for me to do 3 years in prison than it is for the next guy to do only 3 days.  We all have such varied thresholds for the obstacles we all have, for the mountains we all must traverse and for the rivers we all must navigate.  This being said, these past few months have been especially trying for me.  From the first month, of being locked down 24 hours a day for over a month, to this the most recent month, where we once again found ourselves on lockdown, yet this time for entirely different reasons.  Some of you may have read about in news online, or some of you may have seen it on the television. Recently, around 30,000 inmates in the California prison system (myself included) took part in a hunger strike.  The largest in American history.  At my facility, we refused food for 7 days and 7 nights.  It was and I’m sure will remain one of the most memorable times in my life.  I am not saying that as a good thing or a bad thing, only stating a fact.  

How will I ever be able to forget being part of a hunger strike?  Part of a peaceful protest against the injustices prison inmates face every single day. How can I ever really explain what that is like?

How do I ever really tell someone what prison is like?

Right now as I write this, the clock say 3:03 am and I’m awake after having trouble sleeping.  Rarely do I ever have a full nights of uninterrupted sleep.  I feel melancholic and alone.  I’m writing this using a miniature book light in an otherwise dark concrete cell as my cell mate sleeps.  I am listening to the ‘Night Visions’ album by Imagine Dragons that I borrowed for the night in exchange for my J. Cole 'Born Sinner’ album.  I just ate a roast beef flavored cup of noodles and I’m drinking a room temperature bottle of wild cherry Pepsi that I bought from the prison canteen.  My thoughts wander from old loves and past mistakes to what the future my present.  The best part of most days is the few minutes when I speak to friends and loved ones on the phone, the collect calls that act like a life preserver in 20 foot waves on a moonless night, holding us connected to the ship that is the free world, letting us know that although we may be floating and thrashing by ourselves, we are in fact far from alone.  There are those on board that vessel that are pulling us to safety.  There are those that are waiting for us to come home.  Every time I get a letter or a photo something that only takes a moment out of your day.  Those are the moments that us in prison live for.  We find deliverance in the little things in life, we redefine the things that society says is the most important. As long as we have each other what else do we really need? 

Until next time, keep your thumbs up and KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN

Humbly yours, Daniel Dart

song for this:

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Song: Every Night

To write: 
Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076
North Fork Correction Facility
1605 E Main St
Sayre, OK 73662

Keep on Rich Rollin #25

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.”  - Lil’ Wayne

Today is day 34 at the new facility and I was finally able to get out of the cell for some regular program.  I had been on C.T.Q.(confined to quarters) for orientation until earlier this week, but once I got off that , the entire facility went on lockdown for cell searches.  Luckily though, today we were finally taken off lockdown and I was able to get on the phone and talk to my people and catch up on the outside…“free”… world.  Sometimes the littlest and most overlooked things such as a phone call are the best.  It is crazy how desensitized we become and how we take so much for granted.  Other than getting off of lockdown, nothing really has been going on.  My brain feels a little worn out from being in a small confined space for such a long time and I just feel a bit exhausted, but for no specific reason.  Now begins the new acclamation period that one must always go through at a new prison.  Learning the ropes so to speak.  You see, every prison is run a little different from any other prison.  So there is always a kinda feeling out period to see how things operate.  There ain’t nothing to it, but to do it.  Right?  So I’ll be like Nike and “Just do it.”  

Thats all for now… stay tuned and if nothing else…KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN!   

Your friend - Daniel Dart

Song for this diary

Artist: Johnny Cash

Song: Man in Black

Keep on Rich Rollin #24

  “The blues is an act of ambiguity, an assertion of the irrepressibly human over all circumstances, whether created by others or by one’s own human failings.”                                                                                                                         - Ralph Ellison

Somedays I get the blues.  Its hits me like an uppercut to the jaw and knocks me to my ass. Today has been one of those days.  It is day 19 of C.T.Q. ( confined to quarters) at the new prison I’ve been transferred to and spending 24 hours in the cell the size of a bathroom is taking a toll on my spirits.  No movements, no sunlight, no phone calls, no nothing.  Breakfast tray slid into the cell at 10 am, dinner tray slid into cell at 4 pm.  Upon arrival we were told we would be on C.T.Q. for more no than 14 days, but as usual, that has not been the case.  So I had mentally prepared myself for 14 days, and now at 19 it is disappointing to say the least.  To think that almost a month has past is a bit crazy to really fully comprehend.  Even crazier is the fact that every single day is another day closer to coming home.  I feel like I am walking across the Sahara desert and all around me is sand.  Everyday i see the same thing, sand dunes that appear identical mile after mile.  With every step I take it feels like as if I’m getting nowhere.  Like i will never get out of the desert.  Yet that is only in my head, because from the outside looking in everyday and every step is getting me closer to the other side.  Although to me every sand dune may appear the  same, they are not.  Although everyday in prison feels the same, they are not.  One day I will walk out of the desert, one day I will make it across a seemingly endless journey.  So I must fully appreciate the blues for what they are.  I got to relish the fact that it is the blues that make me reflect on the good as well as the bad. Although doing so is not always as easy as saying so.  Sometimes my mind can runaway from me, so during those times I do my best to occupy it with something. How I do that right now has been staying busy with what I have at my disposal.  I have a cell, I have a bar of soap, I have a toilet.  I have multiple state issued toothbrushes.  I have an outrageous amount of free time.  

So what do I do?  

I clean.

I literally clean the entire cell with a bar of soap, a towel, and a toothbrush.  I make the most of it.  After an hour of scrubbing, my cellmate “Realize” scrubs and I talk shit, then after another hour, I scrub and he talks shit.  We laugh and bullshit and before you know it, 7 hours have past.  We had a fun time too.  I can already see myself telling this exact story 10 years from now and laughing, cuz really, it is not too bad.  We have to always practice the mentality of focusing on what we do have and being grateful for that and not being troubled by what we don’t have.  If I spent all day being sad and angry because of all I don’t have, I would have been a suicidal wreck.  I focus on the positive, so instead I’m a hopeful, mostly happy wreck! HAHA! I’m a guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously, and I’m grateful for that.  Sometimes it is good to have the blues.  Sometimes it is good to make mistakes.  Think about the famous story of  Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team.  Just imagine if he let that failure keep him from trying again the following year?  Think of  how many of us have had our hearts broken just to go on and meet someone ten times better?  I like to think that someday years from now I’ll have a family and one day my kids will run through the house and track mud all over everything.  They’ll look at me with the uh-oh, oops face. And I’ll look at them and smile, cuz I’ll know there is no place I’d rather be, and nothing I’d rather be doing more, then cleaning up after them.  I spend these days in this cell, having the blues and counting the minutes.  I spend these days in this cell, cleaning and cleaning.  I spend these days in this cell, thinking of all the great things in life I will never take for granted.  I spend these days in this cell, doing everything I can do to make myself a better man.  I use this time here and this pen and pad to confess in the blues   Confess in the blues and step back, slow down and enjoy the ride. Till next time KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.  

As I confess in the blues- DART  

Song for this diary

Artist: Phil Collins

Title:Another day in Paradise

Keep on Rich Rollin #23

“I’ve always been a word man. Better than a birdman.” - Jim Morrison

Today is day 12 on C.T.Q. (confirmed to quarter), A.K.A. Orientation Row, A.K.A fish row. 24 hours in the cell. No movement… none…nada…zip…zilch.

Just wait.

Wait for commitee, where a prison official will then tell us where they plan to house me, or ship me, one can never really know what can happen on any given day.  Ain’t make no sense to let yourself get comfortable, ya got to stay on your toes, ya gotta stay on point, prepared for anything, like a boyscout.  Rumor has it that this prison is just gonna be a layover until bunks open at other facilities but I never know anymore and to be quite frank, I don’t care.  I’ll go wherever they send me and I’ll make the best out of it.  Even this stop on C.T.Q. hasn’t been too bad. Of course there are some hard hours where a person feels trapped, but there are times like that for everyone everywhere.  Hard time isn’t just reserved for us here in prison.  For instance, I’d rather be in a cell with the homie ‘Realize" laughing and talking shit than be on the streets in some toxic fucked up abusive relationship.  I know what I’m dealing with and I will overcome it.  Think of all those that won’t? This prison life is only a tear drop in the ocean of my life, on the overall scale it ain’t shit and it don’t define me, it just helps to refine me.  Cuz when I get out and start making records again and succeeding and then use that to set an example to people, that if you fall down it don’t mean you have to stay down, how great is that gonna be?  Who knows, maybe I can inspire people to do a little better and try a little harder. 

Thats a little peek into my mind here in this concrete cell.  

My thoughts are happy, they are full of hope.  I live in an environment jam packed with anger, hate, loss and despair.  I want nothing to do with it.  I can’t control what I eat or where I am or where I go.  I’m in a cell and stuck here for the time being and i can’t control that.  I can’t control what anyone else thinks or feels, but I can control how I think and how I feel.  I choose to believe in hope.  Hope that the best days of my life are yet to come.  I like to look at life like it is a basketball game. Some days or even years you are winning, making every single shot you take.  Then some days you miss every shot you take and you go down 20 points.  No matter what you do, nothing seems to work for you.  But the thing is that at the end of the day non of that matters because even if you’ve been behind the whole entire game, if you make that last second shot to take the lead then nothing else matters.  No one cares who leads the game at halftime because at halftime the game is far from over.  Just like my life.  The days I spend in this cell are just seconds in a much bigger story,  just like the moments you take to read these words.  We are both just gathering more paint to use on the canvas that is our life.  Sometimes the paintings that are most beautiful are created out of chaos.  Sometimes you have to step back from a painting and look at the whole thing from a distance to truly realize how beautiful it really is.

So to all my fellow painters, have fun, enjoy yourself and until next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN! 

From just a finger painter, DART

Song for this diary

Artist:KID CUDI

Song: Day N. Nite

Keep on Rich Rollin #22

“He who makes a beast out of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man.” – Hunter S. Thompson

It has been a hell of a week.

On Thursday morning of last week I was woken up at 3am and transferred to a prison in Arizona, about an hour outside of Phoenix. In the dark of the morning I had a chain wrapped around my stomach and my hands were cuffed to an attached chain tight against my tummy. Then they put on ankle shackles with only about 12 inches of chain so you cannot walk normally but must shuffle your feet. Then I was put on a bus and driven 16 hours straight with no water and no bathroom to a prison in a different state.

After arriving at 9pm to this new prison, Red Rock Correctional Center, I was tossed into a cell along with the other 30 fellas for intake processing till about 2am. During this time they give our IDs to us and ask us an array of questions with the first being, if you die, who should they contact. Not really what you would call an exciting day. Then when we finished at 2am we are led to cell’s on “orientation row” or what is commonly referred to as “fish row” which is an area where every inmate goes for 2 weeks before getting housed in general population. They put 2 men in each cell 24 hours a day for 2 weeks. As I write this, I am day 4 and I can tell you it feels like time is standing still. No books, no mail, no phones, nothing but an 8x10 cell with a toilet and a sink and two bunks. My one consolation is that I was lucky enough to have one of my homies come on the bus with me so we were able to cell up (his name is “Realize” and he says hello!). That has helped. Then a few hours ago a guard walked around and gave us each 2 pre-paid envelopes and a pencil and a few blank sheets of paper. Apprently it is all we got until we get off of orientation row. But it is just temporary, because as we were getting our IDs the guard processing us told us that his information was that our busload was only going to be in Arizona for a month of two and then we would be getting transferred to either Mississippi or to a new facility in Michigan for the remainder of our time. So now I am in a sort of prison purgatory not really able to understand where I’m going next. All I know is that I have a release date. It may not be tomorrow it may not be next month even, but it is there. And it will be here before I know it and I can get back to living my life and chasing my dreams. I feel like this time right now stuck in a cell is just a way for the system to psychologically break a fella down so ya gotta not let them break you down, you got to be strong and have patience.

One more day.

It has been a hell of a week.

One more day.

I has been a hell of a week.

One more day.

Other than the move and the new location, I’m doing well, feeling good and keeping a positive outlook. I’ve been working a lot on lyrics and new song ideas and just staying focused on being productive when they finally pop that gate. I love hearing from y’all with the letters and I hope you keep them coming, they mean the world to me. My new address is:

Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076

Red Rock Correctional Center

1752 East Arica   Road

Eloy, Arizona85131

I hope to hear from y’all and until then, keep ur thumbs up! And KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’!

Humbly yours,

Daniel Dart

Song for this diary:
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Song: Fortunate Son

Keep on Rich Rollin #21

“Sometimes saying nothing, is saying a whole lot” – Unknown

Today I received my endorsement papers to be sent to a prison outside of California to finish my time. Since the possibility was brought up a few weeks ago, I had kept a bit of hope that I might somehow avoid being shipped halfway across the country. Apparently that is not in the cards. 

So here I go for just another chapter in an already amazing, wild, mesmerizing life. Always eventful, but not always easy. One hell of a ride though. And now I’m to add to the tale… one more day, one more line, one more chapter but not even halfway through the story. Although at times it may be difficult, my life is not a tragedy, it is a love story, cuz I love life. The good, the bad AND the ugly, I love it all, cuz you need two halves to make a whole.

Can someone who has never known sorrow truly appreciate joy? 

Can someone that has never tasted defeat truly rejoice in victory?

Like any good story, the most important part is how it ends. The journey is how we get there, but the end is what matters most. In a baseball game or football match, it is only the final score that matters. So I can’t really stress. Am I anxious about going to a new prison? Hell yes. I am human and in being so, sometimes change can be a really scary thing. But that by no means translates that it must also be a bad thing. For all I know it could be much nicer than my current prison. It could be fantastic. The point is that I won’t know, and until I do I’m going to keep a positive outlook and just going to believe that it is all going to work out exactly the way it is supposed to. It can always be worse, so focus on the positive and focus on the people in your life that got your back.

Don’t worry about the people that knocked you down, they ain’t worth your time. Just worry about the people that helped pick you up. Those are the ones that matter. Those are the ones we gotta hold onto.

In other news, one of my close friends may be going home soon. He was convicted of a third strike on a misdemeanor 17 years ago, and due to a change of law that the voters passed last year he may be eligible to go home. So as I plan to go out of state he plans to go home. It is a beautiful thing. One more thing to be grateful for. As a matter of fact, the quote I began the blog with was bestowed to me by the fellow and I gotta say I am a better man having met him. I wish all the best and hope that the tough times will soon be nothing but a memory.

Another thing I wanna say is this: It is okay to be afraid. We are all afraid sometimes. It is okay.

Till next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’

                        Your friend – DART

Song for this diary:

Artist; The Killers

Title: Be Still

Keep on Rich Rollin #20

“Rememeber, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

It has been quite a while since I have written. I think maybe a month and a half although I can’t be too sure. During the time I have celebrated yet another birthday in prison and seen a winter end and a spring begin. It is so hard to attempt to explain to someone what goes through ones mind on a day to day basis while in prison. It is an experience I wish on no one. It is human warehousing and just so very disheartening. Not only for the men and woman who are incarcerated, butalso for the public in general who truly believe that the “system” is just and fair and that it helps anyone. 

To elaborate on the overwhelming hypocrisy that consumes the Justice and Prison system. I was told last week that within the next month, I will be sent to a prison over 600 miles away in Arizona, or over 3,000 miles away in either Oklahoma or Mississippi more than half way across the country due to the over-crowding of the prisons in California. The worst part of it all, the craziest part is that the United States Supreme Court ruled that California needed to release around 20,000 inmates because they found that the overcrowding constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. And California refuses to follow the court order and is now sending inmates out of state while pretty much telling the courts to screw themselves. The court ruled that regardless of sending the inmates out of state, the California Department Of Correctionsstill needs to release inmates, and the state flat out refused.

Does this make any sense? 

These are people that are supposed to hold law of land. The people that should be bound to the court more than anyone I should think? How then can they blatantly disregard the ruling of the United States Supreme Court?

So now after being at this prison for a little over a year, I am being uprooted and sent who knows where to serve a sentence that a judge imposed, while the people carrying out that judgment totally disregard their own. 

Another day in the life.

Another Day. 

In other news, I am still here, I am still laughing and smiling.

I am still dreaming. 

I am still alive.

I have been getting a lot of letters from a lot of wonderful people and I am very grateful for that, and for all of you out there who have been writing to me, thank you so very much. It helps pass the time more than I can express. The time, although at times passes slowly, nonetheless is passing. And everyday is one day I’ll never have to do again, and for this I am even more grateful. I am constantly writing and planning my future and planning my return and I know it is going to be epic. I mean, I’m in prison and I still won’t be stopped, I’m gonna get out swinging. This is just a sabbatical. I’m gonna chill out and do this time, hang out with the homies and get out laughing. Cuz the longer I’m here the more I realize that this whole thing is just a bad joke. They aren’t going to break me. They are not gonna knock me out. They can knock me down as much as they want, and I’ll just keep getting back up. And people can hate as much as they want. Cuz haters make us famous. We gotta find our own source of strength, we gotta discover our own spirituality and we gotta hold on to our own faith. 

Me and my homeboys on this yard, we hold each other up in here, because some days we are all we have. And even though… we all got… we all need.

I’ve learned so much here that I never could have learned out there. In the free world. And although that is a bad trade off, I choose to look at it the other way. I am learning to change the game, because I have to. 

Take a minute and think about one of the worst times in your life. Now imagine that you would be judged on that one instance for the rest of your life. That is what all of us face. We will be judged on our worst. So I say this, if you can’t love me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.

In my life in the music world and in punk rock I heard so much about how if an artist went to a major label then he was a sell-out. And he was no good. Or if you wanted to do a different style or dress in a different way then you were lame. Well I think that is the most stupid fuckin’ shit I have ever heard. And if you think like that then you’re an idiot. When I get out I’m gonna record a new Time Again record ASAP. But I can’t wait to record some rap shit too. And I’m gonna love every second of it. I look forward to it every single day. Getting back into the studio and creating, with no rules, no boundaries, no expectations. Just having fun. Cuz ain’t that the point of life? To be smiling a lot more than frowning? You tell me. 

Till next time… KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’! KEEP UR THUMBS UP!

-         Daniel Dart = D.A.R.T.

Song for this entry:
Artist G.O.O.D. Music
Song: Clique feat Kanye, Jay-Z, Big Sean

Keep on Rich Rollin #19

“Beyond watching eyes with sweet and tender kisses our soul’s reached out to each other in breathless wonder and when I awoke from a vast and smiling place I found you bathed in morning light quietly studying all the messages in my phone.” – Banksy (French Street Artist) 

I read these words about 10 months ago when I first arrived at North Kern State Prison, just another of my seemingly endless stops during my current incarceration and it made me laugh. I wrote it down on a scratch piece of paper knowing that down the road I’d use it someway. For a while I had planned on using it for a Valentines Day blog/journal entry but as the day came and passed the inspiration for writing said entry never struck. So here I am over a month later finally picking up my pen and putting words to paper. Writing about love and loss, prison and freedom, loyalty and betrayal and how all of those things came to hold so many different meanings and interpretations. How it seems that everything in life has the “small print” and such lofty expectations. How I will never look at “love” the same. How you would likely feel the same if you stood in my shoes.

Everyday in this place you hear of another fella losing their girl. Just one day they stop writing or stop answering the phone. The story is always the same… it is just too hard. And I can understand that fully, because when y’all met we weren’t in prison. Things were totally different, right? 

Yes, right. Totally different.

Unfortunately it seems as though now-a-days it does not only include prison, it goes so much deeper. Maybe you gained 30 pounds or you work too much. Maybe you don’t wanna have sex enough or you don’t wanna be a stay at home mother. Or you’re losing your hair or you don’t make enough money. Maybe you’re just not young or sexy enough anymore. It could even be something as little as not picking up your socks or going grocery shopping together on Sundays. IT could be anything that just makes things… too hard. 

Rihanna and Chris Brown.

I love the fact that they have gotten back together. I think that it is really just very powerful and has such a redeeming quality about it. I am in no way condoning domestic violence or trying to negate the past by supporting this. I actually am constantly blown away by the stupidity and immaturity of Chris Brown with his words and actions, but I find it nice to realize that it is okay to be human. It is okay to make a mistake and to get past it. I find it magical that she can forgive him and he can have the courage to fix it as well. I think that what they do is for them to decide, and whether or not things work out this time around, that too is their business. 

Now I bring this up because during this time there has been so many times that I just stop hearing from people; people that for so long I considered close friends and even more than that and the days go by and the weeks pass until you become accepting of the fact that you are no longer a priority, no longer have relevance. I’ve even heard that “I was gonna wait till you were closer to getting out before I wrote” line of reasoning too. Like the years prior to that don’t matter at all. And it brings me back to where I started.

Love and loss, prison and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, and how all of those things come to hold so many different meanings and interpretations. So often people fight. So often people cheat and lie. So often people simply just fuck things up. 

But far too often we are judged far too severely for our transgressions.

I think that people seem to believe that by judging others and finding fault or “guilt” in others it makes them feel superior. It makes them feel as though they are better than. 

And this brings me back to Chris Brown and Rihanna. I think the only people that can decide what happens in that relationship is Chris and Rihanna and more power to them.

I know that I am far from perfect and I know that if I hold former friends and lovers actions against my friends and lovers actions in the future I’m just gonna be miserable. Cuz love is a verb, noun and adjective. It is up and down, right and wrong. 

And I’ve also come to realize that although we must be willing to overlook certain things and forgive mistakes big and small, we must also learn to decipher which of those things or which of those people we must also leave behind. We gotta learn that at the end of the day the most important love to us all is the love we have for ourselves. Because we must always remember…

As long as we got ourselves we are never alone. 

Till next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’!

-         Daniel Dart

Song for this diary,

Artist: Taylor Swift

Song: We Are Never Getting Back Together

Keep on Rich Rollin #18

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of control and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King JR

I live my life inside prison. It is odd to really just run it through my mind. It is even more odd because it ain’t even that bad. 

Today is a Friday and it is about 11pm as I write this chronicle of my life, this reminder of my life. I got my radio turned up loud and I’m in an exceedingly good mood. I haven’t written in a while, for no real reason other than the days here just blend into each other, so at times months feel like days… although the same kand be said in reverse. There is a patience that a person develops in prison that is completely unique to this environment. How one can truly become content living inside an 8x10 cell for days, weeks, months.

You learn to rely heavily on a routine that you follow to the exact minute, day after day and for some, year after year. You plan time out for things people might normally think mad. For instance one may wax their cell floor everyday from 10-11am, then at 11-12 do pushups, then take 25 minutes for lunch and clean, then 1 hour and 10 minutes to practice sketching, then an hour for sit ups and jumping jacks. 

By creating a busy schedule (what we refer to as “program”) you can make time tick by faster than you’d imagine.

These past few weeks have been going by even faster for me for another reason. One of my closest friends “L-Macc” is going home in a few weeks and although I’m happy to see him be released, it is also a bit sad to lose a friend. It is difficult to try and explain the type of bond that is formed in a place where being friends with someone means that you’re also taking on a certain amount of responsibility for that individual. When you may be called to defend that person at a moments notice and vice-versa. It is similar to what I imagine soldiers share in war. Only this is a different kind of battle. A place where every action is based on respect and there is an invisible line you must always pay attention to and a tight rope one must walk. So the few friends that a person does have become very valued, or at least that is the case for me. So for that reason I’m going to miss having a friend around that I was able to relax a little bit with. I’m gonna miss the motha’ fucka’! Dirt Gang! Dirt Gang! Dirt Gant! Haha 

So I will just keep on doing what I’m doing and laughing this whole scenario off. This whole justice, prison and legal system is such a joke that it all just seems absurd. A few days ago one of the guards even made a comment about what C.D.C.R. means (the true meaning is California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) since it is written on our clothes – pants, jackets, shirts. He says what it really should stand for is California Department of Corruption and Retaliation.

I sometimes just laugh because I can’t believe that people really take our legal system seriously. I mean really? Come on people. You really can’t buy into this can you? 

Shit. To be completely honest, I don’t really give a fuck if ya do or not. It is your choice to make.

If you’re reading this and you’re wondering what I’m up to right then, I can’t tell ya! Haha! But if you’re wondering what I’m doing at around 2pm on any given day you can be pretty confident that I’m walking laps on the yard with my homies, laughing, talking shit and drinking coffee… talking about when it will be our time to go home. But until that day, I’m gonna just KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’!

-         D. Dart 

A quote to think about: “In the Soviet Army it takes more courage to retreat than to advance.” – Joseph Stalin

A song for this entry: It has nothing to do with this entry but I just think it is a beautiful song, and sometimes that has everything to do with everything.

Artist: Chrisette Michelle
Song: Best Of Me

Keep on Rich Rollin #17

“Lord make me pure, but not yet” – St. Augustine

I find myself in a moral dilemma. 

I feel like we are all a bit lost.

Today I spent the day with my friends, walking laps and telling jokes underneath a guntower, behind miles of barbwire. My friends ands I are “lawbreakers, criminals, throw-aways” and the such, but none the less many of us are not “bad people”. 

Today I read the Wall Street Journal. I read about a great nation, the United States Of America, piling up a massive national debt and how our counterparts, the European Union are going broke having to bailout a handful of other members. So is it any surprise that the rest of us can’t avoid going into debt? Is something fundamentally wrong with our society? Is it not only that we are following the example that is being set?

I read about a Michigan State Supreme Court Justice being charged with corruption and resigning after pleading guilty to fraud. Yet they face no jail time, which I find odd. Should someone in such a position not be held to a higher standard? I feel like they should do double or triple… they are the ones that set the reality of justice, yet they have complete disregard… odd. 

I find myself in a moral dilemma.

I feel like we are all a bit lost. 

I see an Archbishop of the Catholic Church stripped of his position after covering up hundreds (HUNDREDS!!!) of instances of sexual misconduct on kids over 20 years, yet he is the man that “god” has deemed the guide for our eternal soul. This is the same person that says gay marriage is an abomination (wow).

These are the moral dilemmas I think about everyday as I have lunch with my fellow “criminals”. 

Why do we live in a society that condemns gang violence, yet does not condemn the circumstances and poverty that breed it?

Why if a District Attorney coaches a witness or falsifies evidence is it not punishable with prison time? Why is it only a mistrial at best? Why don’t they make the Attorneys do the time they are seeking for the defendant? Why is it that there is no self defense law in California, so if you kill someone in self-defense you still face Manslaughter charges by law, yet members of local police forces regularly shoot people and claim “self-defense”? How can a police officer claim self defense but a private citizen cannot? 

I find myself in a moral dilemma.

I am not sorry for the circumstances that brought me here. What I am sorry for is that I am part of a society that allows such things to transpire.

I feel like we are all a bit lost.

And if not lost, then at least a bit confused. 

At least I know I am.

This is just a little something to think about… and always remember, sometimes we just gotta keep ON RICH ROLLIN! 

-         D. DART

Song for this diary…

Artist: MEEK MILL
Song: IN GOD WE TRUST

P.S. – I always love to hear your thoughts or even just a quick hello is most appreciated, so if you have the chance, feel free to write me at: 

Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076

C.M.C. West Prison

P.O. Box 8103

SLO, CA 93403

Keep on Rich Rollin #16

 “It ain’t hard to look behind you an’ see mistakes.” – Larry McMurtry (American writer & Pulitzer Prize winner (from his novel Horseman, Pass By)

 Another day passes and although it shows the signs of being a day just like the one before; it is not. Everything has changed and will forever be changed.

I woke up this morning and made a cup of coffee, walked some laps outside on the track and brought it back inside to read the paper. My new daily routine involves setting aside one to two ours per day, in the morning, to read the Wall Street Journal. It is part of my “education” for lack of better terms, and I look forward to it eagerly with every day.

Today seemed to be the same but I was wrong. Today had something completely else in store.

I have a bunkmate named Billy. He sleeps on the lower rack and I sleep on the upper rack. He is what we often refer to here as “good people.” He works in the machine shop here in the prison and is known as one of the nicest guys on the yard. He is 49 years old and he has been here about 5 years, he only has about 6 months left. I’ve been bunkies with him now for about 6th months myself and I couldn’t ask for a better guy to live with, and since he has a son and daughter about my same age, we often joke around and I call him dad and he calls me “son”. He actually just found out a few weeks ago that his first grandchild was recently born, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more proud. I can go on and on but the point I’m trying to make is that Billy is a good solid guy, and just an all around good fellow. So with that being said I’ll get to the next stage of this story.

A few months back Billy noticed some blood in his urine. It is kind of a scary thing for anyone, and like anyone else he went to see a doctor. Well the doctor here ordered some tests done and it turned out Billy had some tumors on his bladder.

 Things here got a bit more scary. I have never been good at saying the right and compassionate thing at a time like that, but I can say it was really hard just seeing a friend learn he has tumors, so I can’t even begin to imagine what he felt like, bu ti know it must not have been easy.

So the doctors order a surgery so that they can go inside and see what is really going on, so they can tell if they are cancerous, and if so, how bad of a situation he could be in.

Well last week they call Billy out and cut him open, take out a piece to do a biopsy and tell him they will know more about where everything stands in about a week or so. Once they get back the results they will call him in and figure out what the next step will be.

Well today was the day he got his results.

At around noon as I’m sitting at our bunk drinking my coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal, my Bunkie gets back from the hospital to me and some of the other fellas eager inquiries of “Well, you got your results? It’s all good right?” What we heard next was exactly what we didn’t want to hear.

My bunkie has the worst kind of high risk bladder cancer that is possible, and since it is in the bladder it is impossible to do chemotherapy. It is very, very serious and highly likely that they may have to do a bladder transplant / removal procedure. It is very risky and very dangerous. It is not looking good.

He tells me that when he is told, the first question he asks the doctor is “I just had a grandkid, I got 6 months left, till I get out, will I make it?” To which the doctor just sighed and put his face in his hands.

It is not looking good.

I didn’t know how to respond, what do you say to someone who has just received such news? When you can’t say “this too shall pass” or “it’s all gonna be fine, just be patient” or “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh”. It turns out that the moment was just as difficult for him as it was for me and I just let him know that I’m here for him if there is anything I can do.

But he obviously is somewhere else inside his head and he turns to me and says to me “Do you know what the craziest thing is? Everything is brighter, everything is more alive.” He tells me how the grass seems greener, every leaf on every tree seems to blow beautifully, the sky is the most majestic blue he’s ever seen. Everything is so vivid, everything is so amazing.

Everything is just alive.

When I woke up this morning I had no idea that something like this would happen. I had my own little world with my own selfish petty little problems. As I got to sleep tonight I think only of how grateful I am for today. How grateful I am for my health and I just reflect on how fragile life can really be. Nothing is every guaranteed and we gotta be thankful for all we have today. We all have wreckage in our past, we’ve all hurt others and we’ve all been hurt ourselves, we can’t control our past, we can only do what is necessary now so we don’t make those same mistakes again. In my bunkie Billy I have a good friend. Regardless of us being in prison or how we came to be here, his crime in the past for mine, I respect him as much or more as anyone I ever met. Tonight when I go to sleep I’m going to do something I don’t often do, and that is pray. I’m gonna pray for Billy, pray for myself and my friends and family, and I’m even going to pray for my enemies, whomever they may be. A little help never hurt anyone.

Until next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’
-         D Dart

Song for this diary:
Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
Song: Sounds of Silence

Keep on Rich Rollin #15

“Any damn fool can bet up some job; it takes a wise man to make it without working. Out here we call it ‘hustling.’ I’d like to be a good hustler.” – Charles Bukowski (American writer & poet) – Except from his novel “Post Office”

When I get released and I go to apply for a job, how should I fill out the application? When it says “have you ever been convicted of a felony, if so please explain.” 

Do I write, well I took for years for kidnap/robbery/carjacking with an assault, but I actually didn’t kidnap anyone, my lawyer just told me to plead to it because I would receive ½ the time? Then do I mention in fact I have to do 85% instead of 50% because my lawyer wasn’t aware of the 3 strikes and penal code 667.5? (Although this legislation which decides which cases serve 85% and also what crimes carry a strike is widely considered the most important criminal legislation in the last 100 years). Do I explain to my possible employer that my laywer told me that he knows I could beat the charge in trial but that he thought I should take it anyways, cuz “ya never know.” I asked why we don’t plea to a lesser charge, something that was realistic, and he said “it is all the same as long as you get 50% why do you care?” He didn’t explain the fact that getting a job with “kidnapping” on my record would be significantly worse than “grand theft auto with a prior.” He actually acted surprised when I arrived in prison and was told I had to do 85% (he had not even looked at sentencing guidelines). His reaction was, at least we beat a street gang allegation. But wait; now I gotta do an extra year and you said I’d get half time. His response, “Oh, you’re young, a year will fly by.”

That was the man that held my life in his hands. 

I am reminded everyday that I got a really, really bad deal. For a case with circumstances such as mine, people are astounded with the outcome. And it is a really hard thing to cope with. Now I’ve learned that it is better to have a murder on your record than a kidnap-robbery. How is it that a lawyer can go to sleep at night pleading his client out to something that he agreed his client did not do? Where is the morality in that? How is it I had a lawyer that did not even know of sentencing guidelines established almost 20 years ago?

This is my life. 

I cannot go back in time and undo what has been done. I don’t have that power. When I get out of here next year will this ever return to the way they were before? No.

Things will never be the same.

I will forever have to lie on a job application. :) 

I will get out and make music. I will be recording a new Time Again record immediately upon release. I have also begun work on a new project with DJ Pone of the Transplants, I look forward to releasing, however it is unlike anything I have done before. I have been writing constantly for it but as yet it is still unnamed, next time he visits we might nail one down but who knows. We have ample time, haha. I do my best to stay up to date on recording and studio gear so I have the option to go back to producing, which I am very likely going to do and for that I am very grateful. I am just now, more than ever, forced to succeed in a non-conventional way. I will have to find a way to make things work, I will forever be playing against a stacked deck and that is the frustrating part. My lawyer significantly stacked the deck against me; more than it should have been and that brings me a lot of sadness and hurt. The trust was totally abused and violated.

Would I be able to get a 9-5? Or will I in a sense be forced to “hustle”?

Things always seem easier on the outside looking in (watching Mike Tyson fighting on TV is a lot different than getting into the ring with him). What if I can’t or couldn’t make music but society at large ostracizes me? What if the rest of the fellas I live with inside these walls and I can’t get the second chance because we can’t pass a background check? I don’t know what it is going to be like. I have no idea how people will respond. I just know that when I think about it today I am overwhelmed. It is hard to think about and impossible to not think about. Like a fella said today, our release dates become our new birth dates, but counting down instead of up. Looked forward to all year long and celebrated just as readily. We’re happy to see the days fly by, but nervous none the less.

Just something to think aboutwhile you’re out there hustling.

‘Till next time… KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN’!

                                 The unemployed, but still inspired,                                                            Daniel DART

Song for this diary: Welcome To The Jungle

Artist: Kanye West & Jay Z

Send me a letter, I love hearing from all of you!

Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076

C.M.C. West 1-24up

P.O. Box 8103

SLO, CA 93403

Keep on Rich Rollin #14

“I gave myself a start, by giving myself a start.” – Madam C.J. Walker (first black millionaire and cosmetics magnate)

So I guess I should start by saying “Happy New Years”, even though I’m writing this a few days after the fact and by the time you read this, it may be weeks since we all entered into this year of 2013. So with all of that aside… Happy New Years.

This New Years is the second year in a row I’ve been incarcerated and 2012 marks the first complete calendar year I spent as the property of the people of California. It is kind of stranger to think about it; I am truly under the ownership of the state. We literally, for all intents and purposes belong to the state. It is just something to think about. 

So setting that aside to ponder, let me proceed to fill ya in on my jail-house New Year’s resolutions. It is a time for reflection as well as forethought, where we all like to take an honest look at ourselves and make an evaluation on how we can improve ourselves or change something about our day-to-day living that may help someone else? Is it not the time when we ask ourselves “how can I make a better, happier, healthier, wiser person of myself?”

So that is what I am trying to do this year. 

I have thought, that although I will be spending these next 12 months in prison, how can I finish this year a more complete person or an improved person? I have the obvious ones, such as eat healthy, exercise and such. I have the spiritual ones of trying to be a positive and empathetic force that will aim to help bring peace and smiles to those around me. And to make a continuingeffort to always look at the upside of every situation and do my best to inspire those around me, but what about something a little more concrete? What about something a little more tangible? This brings me to my main resolution.

First a little background information to lead up to how I came about with my main goal for 2013. 

At the beginning of the NFL season this year a dozen of us drafted fantasy football teams and battled it out every week pouring over stats and injury reports to try and learn anything that may give us an edge on an upcoming week to trade or release players. To help us decide which players to start against which team and what defenses stop the run, what players do well in December, etc. We broke it all down. Just think, we have about as much freetime as is humanly possible. We read any and all information we can get, and working together we can gather damn near everything. We can answer pretty much any statistical question about any player, coach, team, offense, defense, you name it, one of us 12 have the answer, and now as the season is coming to a wrap, pretty much all of us can be said to have an incredible amount of knowledge of all things NFL. It is a beautiful thing, and it is what leads me to my 2013 New Year’s Resolution.

I came up with the idea around Christmas and the more I tossed it around the more I got excited about it. So I finally brought it up with a friend ofmine. I said hey, we are almost done with this Fantasy Football league and I got an idea, so I can it down to him and he quickly jumped at the concept. So we took it to some of the other fellas, they were also on board. So we are going to start a new fantasy league. A stock market fantasy league. Where each player gets a set budget of 10k and we compare growth gains and losses each week. We have been deciding the rules and so far we have some loose ideas, such as you must own at least one technology firm, one bank, one retail and one energy. How many shares of each is up to you. We are going over ideas as to how much you are forced to trade, because we want to make things a little difficult seeing as how this is a tournament in the end. We are only allowing people to buy starting at a minimum value and no “penny” stocks. And as in football we’ll have a commissioner, just as the U.S. government have the SEC (Security & Exchange Commission) that will have the power to veto any trades and as full oversight. We still have some kinks to iron out but I am sure you get the gist. 

If we have no opportunity to make ourselves better, we must create our own.

So now that I have told you my resolution for this year, what may I ask is yours? 

I watched on the television some of the festivities in New York and the mass of people partying and felt so detached. It was like looking at an alien planet, it seemed unreal. I felt a million miles away. Life has changed so drastically making me question myself, and who I will be when I leave. Will I be so different? Will I be withdrawn? Will it matter? Will I want to be in a crowd like that in Times Square? A few short years ago I would have loved it. Now just the thought of all those people gives ma anxiety. Life is amazing.

It is not only the destination we seek but the journey we take to get there that makes everyday special. 

To all the resolution makers and breakers… just remember in 2013 KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN!

Happy New Year – DART 

Song for this Diary: Swagga Like Us

Artist: T.I. and Jay-Z feat. Kanye West and Lil Wayne