My kingdom for a cup of hot coffee - really, is that too much to ask for? I guess in all fairness I can't really blame anyone for not wanting my kingdom of steel and stone since it does kind of suck. But then there's the few simple pleasures even a condemned man can almost take for granted and for too many years every morning I will awake early, hours before most others around me, so that I can enjoy those few hours of relative quiet as I sit at my so-called "desk" and begin my day by writing whatever it is that has to be written that day as I sip from a nearby cup of coffee.
Sometimes I will already be long at work even before the sun comes up and as I sit at that desk I will watch out that distant dusty window on the outer catwalk as the new day gives way to sunlight, and imagine that I can actually see the sunrise itself, although I can't. At most, I can see the shadows as they appear on the adjacent wing across that narrow strip of grass that separates one cell block wing from another...and as I do, I'll slowly sip from that cup of coffee.
This is the time of day that I like to write those closest to me, and as I write whatever letter I'm writing I will place a picture of the person against my wall only inches away so that I can see their face as I write and it gives me a feeling that in some small way I am with them. And as I do, I drink a lot of coffee and will go through two or even three cups of coffee in those early morning hours that I cherish so much.
As the morning progresses the cellblock around me will slowly come to life, at first through the sound of the first one, then another and all too soon many more flushing toilets - and thank God for whoever it was who invented the flushing toilet as during the colder months all the windows are closed and the ventilation fans turned off and with a hundred other men living in too close proximity to me, absent that ability to flush, the cellblock would quickly become pretty rank in no time at all. And having to live with the smell of many men relieving themselves would seriously compromise the pleasure of my cup of coffee.
But for other reasons, it's been a bad week as the hot water went out and for days I could not have that most simple of pleasures - my ritualistic morning cup of coffee. Don't get me wrong - I didn't actually go without my coffee, as I'm the first to admit that I'm a caffeine junkie and can't even function without that cup of coffee. To give you a good idea of just how bad I got for my beloved caffeine, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to picture me waking up early each morning all but rolling out of my bunk and staggering those few steps to the sink to first splash a bit of cold water on my face so the small world around me will come into focus, and then push the hot water on as it has to run for a few minutes before it will even get warm.
And as that water runs in the sink, I've been known to put my MP3 player on, pushing the earbutts into each ear and crank the volume all the way up to the song "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton, and then in nothing more than my state issued white boxer shorts, I will kind of dance while whispering along with that song - except every time they say the word "cocaine", I substitute it for the word "caffeine". "If you wanna hang out, you got to take her out...caffeine - if you wanna get down, down on the ground..caffeine" (I'll be damned, I think I finally figured out why I regularly get hit with random drug test - which I have never once failed in the past 20-plus years...but it's starting to make sense why they want me to piss in that little plastic cup a lot more than most of the guys around me!) Oh yeah - and a shout out to Eric Clapton...you are a guitar God! :)
So where was I? Oh, yeah - they seriously screwed up my morning coffee ritual this past week when the hot water suddenly went out, and I had no way to get even a cup of barely warm coffee. And that sucked! All I could do was make my coffee with cold water, and it just isn't the same. Each week I buy, beg or borrow a couple of 4 ounce bags of generic instant coffee and it's already of poor quality but gets that much worse when all I got is cold water to make it with.
I guess I really shouldn't complain though...there's billions of people around the world that don't have any coffee at all and here I am a condemned man waiting to be put to death and I've got nothing better to do than whine about not having a cup of hot coffee? And I'm not really fooling anyone either, as those that really know me know that if they turned the water off altogether I would still figure out a way to get my caffeine fix, even if it meant having to pour that dark powder out into neatly sculpted lines on my so-called desk and snorting it up dry. yeah, I think we can all agree that I'm an unabashed caffeine junkie and damned proud of it - and most of those reading this can relate, if you're a coffee junkie too!
The truth of the matter is that even on the best of days the most I can hope for is a cup of almost hot, but not quite, coffee as the water in the sink really doesn't get hot - that would be a threat to security as we live in a world where the word "security" is too often thrown up to justify depriving us of even the most simple pleasures. The powers that be have decided that if the temperature of the water is turned up too high to where it might actually be hot, we could use it as a weapon by throwing this hot water on the guards. Of course, that has never happened on death row, but what's reality got to do with it when the true objective of the American prison system is to keep prisoners as miserable as possible and declaring hot water a security risk is only one of an infinite ways they will grossly exaggerated "security concerns"..that's all part of doing time and you just got to roll with it.
But for me, the past week wasn't all that good as I really do miss my morning cups of warm coffee. But I might note that with the hot water gone that also meant very cold showers too. Some might think that can't be too bad since I'm in Florida, but believe me, Florida does get really cold too. The death row units are up in North Florida, not far from the Georgia line, and even this week, in early April, it's going down to almost freezing.
The thing is, this creates somewhat of a paradox - I can deal with a cold shower, and often have, as long as I can have my cup of coffee. In fact, the tier that I'm housed onoften has cold showers as by law they must have one shower on each wing that runs only cold water so that when "chemical agents" are used on prisoners - which happens frequently here at Florida State Prison, the inmate who was a "gassed" must be allowed to take a cold shower to wash the pepper spray off - hot water will cause the liberally used chemical agents to burn. So, sometimes the only thing we get is a cold shower - but at least then when I go back to my cell I can make a cup of coffee.
Presumably, they'll fix the water in a few days and now at least I have something to look forward to. And as I await the uncertainty of my fate, not knowing if any day now the governor will reschedule my execution once again, I hope you'll forgive me if this opportunity, to whine just a bit about not having a cup of hot coffee, provides me with a much-needed momentary distraction