Though this blog is was originally intended as a resource for offenders in Massachusetts, much of what I write about is applicable to sex offenders in every other state and many countries around the world, especially in Western Europe. Even other non-sex offenders trying to navigate prison, probation and parole, or employment and education opportunities can glean relevant information from this blog and apply it to help overcome their own struggles.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Personal Prison Story: Changing the Channel on Miss Pucci

Today I have no motivation to write a post about the do's/dont's/what to think abouts of being a sex offender and ex convict.  I'm sure readers could use something a little different, too.  As doom and gloom prison is, there are many moments of of humor and relative hilarity to be found.

In 1998, I spent the year in the Dallas County Jail as Massachusetts was transferring inmates to the DCJ due to prison overpopulation in MA and the financial incentives DCJ offered.  This being a county jail, the DCJ was not really designed as somewhere where an inmates was supposed to spend a year.  The jail was a hermetically sealed tower near downtown Dallas.  Slot windows might give you sunlight in your cell, if you have a window that isn't facing a brick wall 5 feet away like mine was.  The "pods" held 10 men, each (thankfully) with our own cell and closable metal/plexiglass door.  It was dingy, with flourescent lighting humming 18 hours a day and cigarette smoke staining the walls and everpresent in the recycled air.  Not an enjoyable or healthy place in many ways.

A single TV was the focal point of any pod, providing a connection to the outside world you could no longer physically experience.  It was up to guys in the pods to figure out what the schedule of the TV was, taking into account preferences from whites, blacks, latinos, and asians if you had them living with you.  Each person would also get their own TV time that was not to be screwed with unless agreed upon by the time slot owner.  Violating this arrangement is a huge sign of disrespect in prison. 

A predictable schedule throughout the week was the best predictor of peace in a pod, though big sporting events took precidence over everything else.  For example, it was very import to know every Saturday afternoon into the early evening was Latino heavy on the TV with Johnny Canales and Sabado Gigante.  This way, every week you knew what was coming and could smoke, drink hooch, and dance to the music or schedule that time around shutting your door and do something else entirely.  

Ronnie, AKA Miss Pucci (pronounced poochy) was a tall, black, thin, gazelle-like drag queen from Springfield, MA.  Rather than wear the dour and uncomfortable jumpers provided by the jail, she instead fashioned a "dress" out of a white bedsheet.  (by the way I use "she" and "her" since it is the norm when addressing or talking about queens like Ronnie). The single-strapped dress, with single breast exposed, was draped remarkably well with the hemline sitting an inch or two above her knees.  In this fashion, she would saunter about the pod, practice her runway walk, play cards, or cook, while other times she preferred the pink boxers provided.  The brilliance of the dress could be experienced whenever Pucci heard a classic drag song on the radio channels playing through the pods TV.  One such hilarious and skilled back-to-back performance reincarnated Gloria Gaynor herself, with Pucci performing the classic hit "I will Survive" followed by a spot-on crystal-shattering performance of Minnie Riperton's "Loving You".

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Any of Pucci's performances were something you could easily see on RuPaul's Drag Race - the girl knew what she was doing.  Whether he admitted it or not, every inmate and guard, gay/straight/solid or otherwise who saw these and other Pucci performances was entertained and impressed.  Besides the juxtoposition of a drag queen singing in such bleak and stale environs, Pucci was able to make you forget where you were and all of your troubles, if only for a song or two.

But this queen was not to be crossed.  A few months before I left the DCJ, Pucci transferred out two pods down from mine to be with some guy who would keep her company and cared for i.e. buy her food and cigarettes.  From my vantage, one could easily see what was going on in the day room of Pucci's new pod.  

One day, I was flipping through the local rag and looked up to see Pucci standing by his pods' TV, in full regalia, arguing with a rather well built latino guy.  Emotive as queens are, I could easily tell she was pissed at this other inmate for changing the channel on the TV as she was pointing back and forth to the TV and him.  With Pucci standing between him and the TV, this guy-let's call him "Miguel"- decided to ignore Pucci's tirade and again change the channel on the TV.  Immediately, Pucci grabbed the Miguel by the jumper and repeatedly pounded on his face with quick and rather painful looking jabs. She completely took Miguel by surprise.  Miguel tried to counter by putting his arms up to deflect the punches, grabbing her dress, or spinning away from Pucci, but she anticipated his moves and continued her assult. The dress was flowing and rippling with Pucci's moves and countermoves, adding a sort of elegance and confusing nature to the fight. (looking back now, the dress gave her a big advantage since it was difficult to grasp in a fight since as it was more slippery than the canvas-like jumpers which is easy to grab and hold onto.)  Less than a minute later, the beating was over and the CO's came in the lug both Pucci and emasculated Miguel back to the hole, with a triumphant and sassy Pucci letting everyone in earshot know who won the fight and everyone laughing at what could only be described bizarre.

Still laughing and bewildered, one of the more likable sergeants came around and said, "I don't understand how a dude can let a guy in a dress beat him up like that.  That's fuckin' embarassing!"  Apparently, the DCJ doesn't receive many staunch queens like Miss Pucci.