Listen to the Storm

Late night, loud music, lots of people, and dancing have never been things many people would associate with ME. Rightly so to! I have never been one to last long into the late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Large amounts of people seem to just suck the energy right out of me. And dancing… where do I even start? I am a dumb white boy form the mountains with no rhythm, soul, or moves! I still have a hard time clapping and singing at the same time. There were those times in college where I tried to get with the groove but I have long since given up on trying to be that kind of “cool”. But when Gaelic Storm comes around it’s a whole other story!

Even with my rhythmically challenged appendages, my ten o’clock bed time, and my ability to avoid a crowd, Martha and I went to a Gaelic Storm concert last week at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was by far the best concert I have ever been to. I’ve seen headliners such as Alabama, Bare Naked Ladies, Alanis Morissette, and even DC Talk, but all of them pale in comparison to this internationally renowned Irish band. If you have no idea about whom I’m taking then you need to check them out. For you movie buffs, they were the Irish band in Titanic! http://gaelicstorm.musiccitynetworks.com/index.htm

Well, with all that said, we had an amazing night out. We stopped off at Harry’s Bar for a great dinner and then off to the show where we stood and danced to songs such as Darcy’s Donkey, Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story, Kelly’s Wellies, Don’t Go For “The One”, and Kiss Me I’m Irish for hours! If you ever get the chance to see them in concert you wont regret it. If that seems like a long way off… then try one of their cd’s… mine never leaves the car!

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The University of San Quentin: Welcome to Class

Henry Miller once wrote, “The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over.” For it is not the menacing stone walls and towers, nor the iron bars which holds a man prisoner. It is the nature of mans own mind and heart which torments his soul the most.

As many of you have noticed, it has been quite a while since I last posted to my blog. This is not for a lack of subjects, for I have had many idea floating around in my head which I would like to share with you, however, none seemed as pressing as to find the right words to share my experience at San Quentin. I have been there six weeks now and have only recently been able to process through enough to be able to share with you.

The expectation of what life one might find behind the walls of San Quentin scarcely matches the reality of what is found there. As I made my first clearance through the gate and started the three hundred yard walk to the main prison I found myself immensely humbled and partly terrified of what I had committed myself to. My path led me beneath the shadow of the west tower, under watchful eyes, and through the main gate which appeared as a dark hole in the side of the prison wall. There I was searched by an intense guard, let into a holding cage, checked over once again, and then led through into a courtyard which sat in the middle between Death Row and the Protestant Chapel. Vulnerable is the only word I can use to describe what I was feeling as I stood for the first time within the walls of San Quentin. It is not a feeling I will soon forget.

As I entered the Chapel I immediately became aware I was now the minority, the outsider, the one who did not belong or know the rules. Everything in the world of San Quentin was new to me and I was noticeably ignorant as I followed closely behind my guide who was to introduce me to the class. I stood there looking over the class which would soon be mine to teach and found myself feeling as if I were the new kid in school who had just been drug before the class by the teacher, only these were not a bunch of first graders, they were convicted felons. All eyes were upon me and I could feel their prying questions. “Who was this guy?” “Why was he here?” “What makes him qualified to teach us?”

The introduction came to an end and the room was opened up for questions before I was given the floor. One of the men raised his hand and asked, “He’s never been here before has he?” “No this is his first time,” answered my escort. The room erupted in laughter. “Why do you ask?” The mans face lit up with a great big smile, “his eyes are the size of tennis balls, it’s sixty degrees in here and he sweating, and he is standing as stiff as a board. You would think he’s nervous or something.” Again the room burst into laughter but this time there were shouts of encouragement. “Don’t worry man we aren’t goin’ to hurt you.” “Relax, we’re all brothers in God’s house.” I myself had to laugh as I must have been quite the sight.