By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Prison is a strange place, you never know what’s next or who you will meet on any given day or in reality who you’re really even talking to. I know you have probably heard the saying, “there are no friends in prison.” Well, for decades I thought that to be the truth and just the way it was. But…there was Jimmy Coleman, my friend, “Donkey.” We met and became true friends in Beaumont before I went to Coleman Low in Florida.
Now let me tell you about my close and good friend, “Paints On The Rocks.” He and I first met in the evening of my arrival at Coleman Low. Paints was actually the cellmate of Vernon, another guy I knew from when I had been in Coleman Medium before going to Beaumont Low. I didn’t know Vern well, but he and I had been in the band program together, and at one time had been in the same band for a bit, so we spoke and played music together.
I was in the sink room, washing up and trying to get my act together after just getting done with the bus and con-air and all, when Paints came walking in. He greeted me with the usual, “Hey, how ya doing, are you new? Where are ya coming from?” Just making conversation. Finally it came out that I had been in a band over in the medium, and Paints was like, “OH! do you know Vernon?!? He was over there and played guitar.”
I was really happy to hear that Vernon was Paint’s cellie. I think Paints must have run back to his cube and told Vern about the guy, “Walks On The Grass” that had been in the medium with him and had just gotten here. Right after that Vern rolled into the sink room. We immediately started up with the usual conversations when a guy gets to a new spot. How’s the food? Where’s the band room? Are there any good bands?
It was good to meet an old friend and we strolled back to Vern and Paints’ house. Vern asked me what I needed, which is kind of a silly question actually, but one that always seems to come up wherever you go. When you first arrive somewhere, you have nothing but the clothes you have on and the little bedroll they give you in Receiving and Discharge (R & D).
So as Vern is giving me my first shot of coffee, a bar of soap and a pair of shower shoes to go take a shower, we’re talking about commissary, and me being the sugar fanatic I was before the diabetes got me, I asked about fireballs, a hard candy jawbreaker that is amazingly delicious and addictive.
Paints pipes up with, “Man, I’ve got some of them in my locker box and I can’t eat them, you’re welcome to them.”
If he only knew then he had really done it; he had fed the stray cat and you know how that goes, he wasn’t going to get rid of me after that! So as time goes by, Paints and I hit it off and I find I’m down in his cube more and more frequently, talking and just “kickin’ it.”
Paints seemed genuinely interested in me as a person. He was getting out soon and I think was doing his best to see me on a good path before he left to go home. He talked with me quite often about the world and all the issues out there, and about going home.
Now, at this time I had a lady friend from Germany who swore she was in love with me. She was even planning to come to the U.S. to visit me and we’d see where our relationship went. I don’t know why I always attract the neurotic ones, but it seems to occur more than not.
Anyway, all during this time I’m also conducting sweats and pipe ceremonies and teaching the youngsters. My life is moving forward and my acceptance of the Creator’s ways is becoming stronger in every day. So months pass and Paints goes home, in fact I walked with him to R&D, to see him to the door as it were.
A few more weeks go by. I stay busy with the daily do – work, chow, making my jewelry – life goes on casually, the band is rockin’ and the lodge is moving in the good way. Little did I know the wheels were turning for me to be blindsided – guilt by association with “Chains” who threatened another inmate over the sweat lodge.
And then BAM! I’m in lock up!
All of a sudden, I can’t call anyone and I can’t get on the computer to email. Without question, I knew my German lady friend was going to go nuts if she didn’t hear from me. I can write letters, but it would take two weeks to get a letter to Germany. Then I get a brainstorm. I would write a letter to let her know what’s going on, send it with another letter to Paints and his lady Karen asking them to scan the letter and send it to my girlfriend’s email address. That way we could get letters back and forth in a matter of days rather than weeks or a month.
Paints and his beautiful Karen came thru for me on this like champs. Not only did they soothe my ruffled feathers and help me keep a clear head about the entire situation, but they also helped ease this distraught lady’s mind thru the whole ordeal.
This was the first indicator that when Paints said he was my friend and he and Karen would be there for me, he meant it. I could not fathom that they would turn out to be my best friends in the free world! Since then the two of them have been there for me so many times and in so many ways that I’m sure there is a golden statue for friendship somewhere and they are on it in the friendship hall of fame.
Without fail, whenever I need something they are there and times when I don’t need anything in particular, they are there with a friendly note or email or voice on the phone. They know I love to read so they are quick to send me books when I’m without.
And Karen, bless her heart, she’s the best! As CEO of “Rocks On A String,” Karen does it all, from shipping and handling to public relations. Anytime I need to get a piece of jewelry sent to someone’s daughter or wife, I’ll give her a description of what is ordered and she will personally select appropriate pieces from the inventory they are holding for me and send it off. Inevitably she gets the right piece to the right place and right on time.
These two people do not know how very much they mean to me, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve been in prison for a very long time and they have removed all the worry about what I will do when I get out. They have offered me a vehicle, as well as household goods, and things I would need, blankets, spoons, cups, plates, you name it they’ve got it for me. All I’ve got to do is pick it all up and stay at least long enough to visit. But if I need a place, yeah, they have offered to let me live out in their camper, a beautiful camper ready for company, hooked up and free of rent till I get on my feet. All I would have to do is cover my own utilities.
Just knowing this has freed my mind and heart of a lot of worry, allowing me more time and energy to dedicate to what’s really important in this moment – my Creator, my life and future as a messenger of his ways and magnificent reality. I know this when I wake before dawn to greet the new day and sun boy with a prayer for the people, the world at large and all the goings on in it.
So I was just thinking, that saying about “there ain’t no friends in prison.” It’s not so. I’ve found and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life right here in prison, and what makes it all the better is the fact that we are all from totally different backgrounds, different places and different lives, and if it wasn’t for prison, we probably would have never ever met, or become friends.
I’m happy to say that I talk to Paints and Karen every week or so. They are living a wonderful life in their little piece of heaven in a secluded spot in Florida. As soon as I’m totally free and it can all come together, I plan on going there. My wish is to be able to get a place, a camper to live in or out of, and enough room to maybe, just maybe, build my own lodge and be able to have my own sweats on my own land. And although it may seem strange, I would love to share the medicine and the power and the beauty of the sweat lodge with my friends.
Peaceful At Night
You say you want freedom, yet you refuse to be free
You say you want liberty but are too blind to see
You scream for peace as you slowly wage war
I had my fill; I can’t take any more.
A politician’s promise of this and that
But children are hungry near where we are at
Add the morals instilled bought and paid for
With Justice’s scales held by a blind-folded whore.
And what I’ve done wrong, ain’t never claimed right
I’ve come to terms with the cost and sleep well at night.
You say you want love, but then act so cruel
You say you hate ignorance, then act like a fool.
And what you claim you hate, you protect all day long
So if the truth hits the bone, then you’ll hate this song.
And maybe my life’s not the beacon of light
But at least I can sleep peaceful at night.
Peaceful at night, peaceful at night.
Peaceful at Night lyrics C-sharp © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)
Walks On The Grass wrote Peaceful At Night after a prison counselor made a comment about how the government and its employees were better than other people and faultless in comparison to incarcerated men. “He then went on clipping his nails and I was furious.”