Vertical Shadows:
A Bed and Breakfast Stay Inn

Kurt Erickson

This piece was written a fair while back. while Don Stripeke was Sheriff. He later retired taking a health disability pension, stress related.
With a new Sheriff or two, problems still exist.
One thing staying the same is that the people who end up in the hoose-kow generally remain unpleasant folks.
True, at times, some more innocent than others.
Most people would never wish to perform the necessary duties of law enforcement. Most doing the job, do so to thier best abilities. In some cases that's not adequate. Most, in charge of incarceration do the best job possible under dificult parameters, those who slip are the exception. The majority of Deputies had hoped or still hope to be out on patrol duty working thier way up the hierarchy of the system. This is not the best environment to place those not quite at the top of the troops.
When this happened it often struck me that some of these guys really felt lacking for missing Vietnam action. They brought a frustrated warrior attitude onto civilian streets. It's not easy to remember you're a Peace Officer, when daily, your work drops you in the middle of an unnatural culture. Thank goodness most keep thier heads on straight.

About ten years after this stay where Disney doesn't spend much hard time, guards refused an inmate liver medication. during his fifteen days on ice. He gained thirty-four pounds. He died not long after. He had filed a lawsuit about a week before his death.

In my case the facts are true. Only the adjectives and adverbs have been altered to protect any remnants of a failing grasp of sanity. That's the only clause. Like Groucho Marx, I believe in Sanity Clause.

Headlights, Redlights then Bracelets. Sonoma County Crowbar Hotel Blues.
For anybody thrown into the Slammer, it's the same anonymous receiving deputy and searches. Phone calls go out to sleepy friends or family who invariably go to the wrong jail or fall back into dream interrupted sleep.
The system is designed for control, incarceration. It's meant to protect those on the outside. It sometimes is lacking in protection for those inside the societal safety net. Back then, this counties Sheriff's Department had been characterized by an assistant D.A. as a bunch of Cowboys running loose on the town. John Wayne Justice.

After a tussle in my bar a few years back, the sheriff's report stated they gave us a "taste of River Justice". A"Taste" like that and I'll pass on "The Blue Plate Special".

Four Deputies had come into the saloon wearing lead shot gloves to deal with "a report of music after hours". The folks inside were listening to quiet music and telling stories. In the long run, after a rookie made a grave tactical error, "River Justice" amounted to the evenings musician, an old friend of mine, lying in a pool of his blood by the piano. Two others were in the backseat of the county cab arrested for various warrants long forgotten.
{Take notes for the quiz later girls and boys, don't forget warrants. Either take care of'em or split, but don't forget. } Everyone else was scrambling for bail money.

The Deputy left to guard the survivors promised to give anyone fourteen stitches if anyone so much as sneezed. All stated while slapping a recently used brain bone cracker in his palm as he leaned against the pool table. Somebody told him that Vern had put two or three scorpions on the table for a Scorpian Race just before the cops came in.
The fella's came in figuring they had to be plenty tough early to avoid problems. That's what sems to start the chain reaction of control, saving face and in-security.

Case in point.

Rainy night, funky registration, mufflered just fallen off the flange, taillight had been clipped by a runaway redwood tree. A stick of certified non-paraquat reefer in my shirt pocket filled out the bill. Darn if the cops didn't pass me on the noisy Bridge going into Guerneville just when the muffler fell, clanking and sparking and the engine didn't sound like the smooth running Volvo it had just been.

I got off the bridge and parked in a back slot of a once then but not now hippie restaurant. They'd spun and pulled behind me with lights flashing just north of the glowing red eye of the dinosaur at Pee-Wee Golf. <
They saw I wasn't after some late-night black beans, rice and comfrey sandwich.

Then the bad news came over the county mountie honker. A warrant for an illegal U-Turn ticket in Sebastopol ignored two years previous. A quick review of my under-acheiver wallet revealed I didn't have the requisite fouty-five bucks.
"Well, you're going to jail fella."

This Junior J. Edgar really had a way to cut to the short chase.

"Well sir, ... uh... yep..."

The Guerneville Sherriff's Sub-station has extremely bright lights. I was blinking and staring around when an officer pushed the by now found joint into my mouth.
Hands cuffed behind my back, the cell bars between us and me with a reefer pointing out of my mouth. I stood there looking like I had a golf tee sticking out of my mouth waiting for someone with a penguin sewed on a front polo shirt pocket to tee up a Top-Flite.
"You might as well get rid of this, We got enough on you as it is."

He couldn't have thrown it in the toilet and implied I shouldn't either. Power and Control-101. A regular Joe Friday is the professor. Politeness counts, I guess... Gulp...

Later in the county can holding cell it took eight more hours to get a phone call.
Twelve of us were in there. Available seating for five on the metal bench and one on the shitter which over-flowed real quick. Great way to cap off Date Night, not watching a guy take a drunken dump.

In with a varied crew.
Five kids who stole a Press-Democrat paper rack with a bicycle still chained to it. A real likable pair I chatted with for hours, caught with enough speed to feed Uncle Duke's Washington Redskins for a season and a half. And a small choir's number of after hours drinkers singing the unfairness of it all to each other.
I finally got to make my calls.

Reaching the radio station I requested "One Of These Days I'll Get Out Of These Bars", by Jerry Jeff Walker and a couple other jailhouse and barroom songs by Merle and Waylon. And fourty-five clams to spring me. Just about the only folks I know who're awake and will answer their phone are all-night DJ's.

He said sure on the songs and send a cab to pick up the bucks for delivery.
As "One of These Days" was winging it's way into audio-land, The Dispatcher of Veterans Cab hung up on me as I was trying to describe where KVRE's studio sat.
That jerk wouldn't even look in the phone book.
I did that sort of stuff all the time when I drove a hack in another town. Pick up booze, cigarettes, groceries, betting slips, sweet hookers. Usually friends of mine. Cops cabbies, hookers and crooks. We got along just fine. A delivery was a delivery.
After the Dispatcher hung up, I was hauled back to the cell, yelling at the phone for the him to just ask the driver to just look up in the air for the damn tower lights. You know red? Blinking a couple hundred feet high?

My last call 'till ten-thirty the next morning.
There wasn't a whole lot to do until then but be uncomfortable and watch more of societies marginal cases march into the cell.
They all got out. Not me.When it came to brunch time, I called the publisher of the paper that listed me as a writer.

"Help! I'm playing Rock-Hockey with Recidivists!"
Upon no immediate response, I was sent upstairs.

Turn in my civvies and pick-up the suit d'inmate at the jailhouse haberdasherie.
Dried-up after the "Oh I'm glad I'm alone shower' and pulled on my bright Orange Sonoma County stencilled sensible coveralls. Blue slip-on sneakers filled the bill. Winner and Still Champeen! Best Dressed Western Sonoma County Cowboy. Three years runnin'.

Mike's a Trustee handing out good advice at the clothing exchange.
"This place is run by the biggest, meanest mother in the cell block and you'd better believe it! The guards just stay out of their way and maintain a low profile... you'll see.
As soon as you get up, ask for a green card right away. That's a request for a phone call. Otherwise it could take days.

A kid hung himself last night when you were in the holding cell. You must have seen the Doc and the gurney go up.
'I'm gonna kill myself'. That's what he told his sentencing judge. Said he couldn't take jailhouse time. Later on said the same thing to his floor guard. Told'em he couldn't take it anymore.
His block came downstairs to switch clothing and he stayed behind. Found him strung-up.
Poor scared kid. Didn't have anybody to talk with.

This kid from Petaluma didn't have to die. Told the world he'd kill himself. That's what we need in here. Someone who really listens to tell that he's scared, maybe half nuts, and can't take it.

Later on a blanket party rape turned into a fight approaching a beating. Nearly killed a guy, called two ambulances.

Everybody's on edge tonight, hairpin trigger hostilities from past imagined slights. Pent-up testosterone rages.

The way these guards bait and cause trouble is unbelievable. The guards are mostly deputies who just couldn't quite meet up too the higher standards for patrol duty. The fact bein' implicit to both the kept in and kept down. They take thier lack of professional respect out on the guests. A guard told me thier job was to make it as hotta hell as possible, to make it so miserable nobody comes back.
Either go nuts an' wild, be sent to the high wall State places or else they get straightened out and don't want to come back.
In reality though, most in jail are made to feel they were processed so foolishly, the guards such a joke, that they laugh at more serious indiscretions.

Nobody knows the shit that goes on in here. And they can't find out I'm telling you this. I'd lose my good time, Trustee blues, have to put on the upstairs jailhouse whites and hit the cell blocks. I made Trustee and got to the sixth floor after only four days. Never want to go back down."

Upstairs, a Neanderthal; sagital crest, callaussed knuckles, protruding forehead... wearing a badge, put me in the day social ramble cell in the very early morning hours.
The Tee-Vee was blaring Lloyd Thaxton's Junior Dick Clark type Dance Show, thirty or more men sitting around, wearing whites.
These were tough folks. Most of the tattoos were misspelled. Some words probably, were thier names. Many written upside down. They were leaning over thier leg with something sharp and something with ink and it looked right side up at the time.

In my bright orange misdemeanor outfit fitting a little too tight, looking younger than my years, I stood out from the established crowd.

From the color code it was obvious I didn't belong with this crew. Hoots, leers and whistles greeted me, the new kid on the block. A composed outlook seemed the path to survival. Small talk was stilted.

"What are you in fer?...Murder, Assault, Deathly mayhem?... What'd you do?"
"U-Turn in Sebastopol."
Pause... eyes looking at me from under scarred brows.
"But in a business district at four on a Sunday morning and I ignored the ticket for a couple of years."
Knowing smiles and a pat on the back.

The others however were still drawing straws for the finalists to drag me into the shower. Finally, after some tense and uncomfortable time passed, a Ralph Bunche humanitarian whistles for the guard and tells him to get me out of here before somebody else gets killed!

It's been a heavy twelve hours in the joint.
Jeez, it would be a damn tough trick to try and come to the reality that this was really goin' to be where I'd, "now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, 'cause if I die before I wake, I wouldn't be all that surprised".

I walked behind the surly, mono if not non-sylabic guard, out from the cage, waving goodbye to Sonoma County's version of Disney's cartoon The Beagle Boys, down a hall to the misdemeanor block.
Everyone was in the same color-code orange as me, in thier bunks, dreaming the dreams of angels in the clink. I ask the guard what he was trying to do by deliberately putting me in with mighty darn unpleasant folks. All I got was a dull glassy stare and a grunt.

I climbed into the bottom of a bunkbed that squeaked a spring song. Covers up over weary eyes. My golly... I'm here for an expected short stay and just through the legal system almost get killed for an illegal U-Turn.
In a Business District.
And neglected the ticket.

After a few hours, just before we get breakfast, I get sprung.
A friend found-out what happened and immediately woke his brother who lived closer to the jail to bring fourty-five bucks to the cashier's window.


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