Not a University

Just north of San Luis Obispo we passed the California Men’s Institution. This is their Level II unit, a medium-security facility with open dorms.

Something I have long wondered about California prisons nestled in picturesque settings is the degree to which the setting itself is a form of punishment. To be incarcerated amid beauty that you can see but cannot enjoy makes me wonder if it is harsher to be here, or in a facility in the Mojave desert like USP Victorville.

As we pass by, entrained in comfort, I hear the Man in Black singing in my head.

I hear that train a comin’
Rolling round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a-rollin’
On down to San Antone

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
But I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me

 

 

Songwriter: Johnny R. Cash
Folsom Prison Blues lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Sabbatical Day 7: Waiting for the Starlight

Standing on the platform of Oxnard Station on a cold January day, waiting for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to carry me to Portland.

I look up at Topa Topa and there is snow even on our local mountaintops. The Amtrak stationmaster, following my gaze and knowing the course of my journey, nods. “You will see plenty of snow on this trip,” she said.

“I know,” I replied with a smile. “Especially between Portland and Chicago.”

I can look at snow all day long if I am seeing it from out of a window of my warm train.

Sabbatical Day 2-5: Garage

The last four days have been spent building steel shelving, going to my local Home Depot often enough to get to know the staff, cleaning out five years of accumulated junk in the garage, putting away all of our camping and sports gear, and shelving 2,500 books.

The good news: no email, no conference calls, and I didn’t have to go to CES in Las Vegas.

So even though I managed to get only a couple of things on my list taken care of, on the balance I’d have to say it was a pretty good week.