Month: September 2014

Jeffrey Meranto’s My Best Worst Day Part 6

Jeffrey Meranto's Blog

Skinny Skinny

Skinny Skinny

As one might imagine there are large men in prison. Men who’ve spent years exercising, lifting weights, and taking whatever type of steroid they can get their hands on. But inch for inch ‘Skinny Skinny’ was the largest man I ever saw in prison. Skinny Skinny stood a whisper over 5 foot tall and weighed just under 400 lbs. After I got to know him I asked how he got the name, ‘Skinny Skinny.’

“My Mom was from Mexico,” Skinny Skinny said to me, “she used to watch those TV preachers all day long. Once she sent in a few dollars for some book about ‘Creating Your Own Destiny.’ It said in the book you needed to do something called a ‘Positive Confession’ for whatever you wanted in life. That and send in your best ‘Love Offering’ so they could agree with you.”

“So she sent in a couple pesos and made her positive confession that she would go to America. It happened. No running the border either, she got a visa man. She was legit! So she sent in dollars this time and made her positive confession for a car. She got a Cadillac! When she had me she wanted a skinny kid, so she sent in her money and every day she would make her positive confession over me, ‘Skinny Skinny’. This went on every day my whole life, and the kids in my neighborhood just kinda’ picked it up, I guess.”

Not being able to keep my mouth shut I asked, “So what happened with you bro, I mean you’re a pretty big guy. . ?”

“You know I asked my Mom that the last time she came for a visit. She told me she tried an experiment. She sent in half of what would’ve been her best love offering and would give two times the positive confession to see if it worked out. So instead of sending in $50.00 she sent in $25.00 and instead of claiming ‘Skinny’ over me, she would claim, ‘Skinny Skinny.’ ”

After a long pause I said, “Sorry it didn’t work out, bro.”

“That’s ok, my Mom told me that she never really liked skinny kids anyway.”

 

 

 

Early Retirement – My Best Worst Day, part 4

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                                                                   The Ride . .

No one can prepare themselves for incarceration, ( although I surely tried! ). The one thing I learned before going in was, “Keep your mouth shut, don’t ‘see anything,’ do your own time, and your ride won’t be too bad” These were words that were given to me by a ex-con whom I met at some seedy bar prior to going to prison. The “Ride,” he was talking about was the sentence that The Judge was shortly to impose.

Doing time, being imprisoned was somewhat like a surreal carnival complete with rides, unusual food, and a group of individuals who could easily staff any Ol’ Time Carnival Sideshow. . or Pirate Ship.

Nearly 3 years had gone by since I first “went down,” that is to say, I had been in prison almost 3 years. I was a porter inside my cell block swinging a mop back and forth up and down the cell block with the other porter, ‘Joe Taco.’

“Dirty dogs, the dirty dogs,” exclaimed Joe, “can you believe it? They gave me Cancer. The bastards.”

‘Joe Taco’ got his name from his business. Joe owned hundreds of Taco Trucks and Taco Stands from New York to Los Angeles.

Every year since he’d been in prison either the I.R.S. or The Immigration Dept. , or both, would come to visit Joe and try to get him implicated in new charges. To everyone, especially Joe, this was absurd since Joe was doing ‘all day’ meaning he had a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But still the Government Agents would come and threaten him. Mostly trying to implicate his family in wrong doing since his was a family owned and operated business with Joe making all the big decisions from inside.

He’d been in prison for 19 years, had 3 Heart Attacks, one minor Stroke, and now Cancer. Joe attributed all of this to the stress caused by the continued ongoing investigations he went through for 19 years.

“Can you believe it? And honest Jeff, I’m tellin’ the truth. . ” said Joe, ” They’re killing me with all this stress. And me Jeff, you’re lookin’ at a man who is doin’ time for somethin’ he didn’t do.”

I met lots of guys who said similar things to me about they’re incarcerated for something they didn’t do but, when Joe said this to me I could tell he was being truthful.

Over 25 years before Joe owned several Taco Trucks in New York some local toughs were forcing most of the vendors to pay for protection. Joe refused and according to him one of his trucks got torched. So a few short days afterwards 4 or 5 of the ‘tough guys’ were found shot to death. The best suspect for the murders was Joe.

Not that Joe talked much about what he was in for, he didn’t. Mostly he’d just say something like, “Look how they treat me, and I’m a guy who’s in for somethin’ he didn’t do.”

The I.R.S. would come after him because his business dealt mostly in cash. Immigration came after him because he employed  a lot of people who might not be in the Country Legally.

“I’m tellin’ you what Jeff. I ain’t gonna do it no more. Gonna go for early retirement and cheat these pricks outta a few years. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

What Joe was saying was he refused all treatment for his Cancer and was going to die, Intentionally. Thereby cheating The Government from taking the rest of his life a day at a time. “Early Retirement”

Weeks went by and Joe’s health failed rapidly. I’m not sure if his Cancer was super aggressive or if Joe just willed himself to die.

The last time I saw Joe he was being wheeled out of the cell block on a gurney. I was sweeping the bottom tier and as they pushed Joe past me he grabbed hold of my arm and motioned me to bend close so I could hear him.

“Tell everyone Jeff, tell everyone I’m in for something I didn’t do.” His voice barely a whisper.

“I will Joe, I will.”

“Tell ’em I didn’t wipe the prints off the gun I used to kill those pricks with Jeff. That’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t wipe the prints off the gun.” His smile wide and peaceful as they pushed him away.

So for the years I spent in prison, I met at least one man who truly was in prison for something he didn’t do.

 

 

Mrs Jeffrey Meranto. . . The Planner

Jeffrey_Jeff_Meranto jeffreymeranto.wordpress.com

Jeffrey Meranto

When one is first sentenced to prison there is a feeling of being completely out of control.You’ve lost your fight for freedom and now you have to come to grips with it all. But how do come to terms with something so beyond anything and everything you’ve ever known? Believe me everyone comes to this point and most everyone knowingly or unknowingly develops some strategy for coping – for getting through the first part of the nightmare some plan of action. And that’s what I did. I’m a guy so I did what guy’s do I developed a plan.

This is not to imply that Ladies don’t plan. My wife for example plans out everything. She plans events, she plans things to do, she even plans time between things to do so we can do things that just come up while we wait to do other things that she has previously planned for us to do. She is by far the best planner ever.

 We recently went back East to visit relatives in Minnesota and my Bride, as is her way, planned out the entire trip for us. She planned dinners, lunches, places to stay and places not to stay, she even planned allotments of time between planned events so we might catch our breath or do something fun and wonderful that we hadn’t planned to do. Got it?

One day between seeing her Cousins and sleeping at some lake we had “nothing  planned” and she asked me if I had any ideas. I had, since childhood wanted to see “The World’s Largest Ball of Twine Rolled By One Man” and once when she and I were in Minnesota years before I had made attempts for us to go but, she had always had other plans, (this was before she added into her planning strategy plans to do nothing or plans to do other things theretofore unplanned). So I, being aware of her meticulous planning methods, and her complete lack of desire to join my quest, had kept silent concerning The World’s Largest Ball Of Twine Rolled By One Man until we were between plans and being between plans I pounced –  made mention of my long-held desire and waited for her rebuff.

“Seriously? You want to drive an hour to see a ball of string? Why?”

“Look, you know I mentioned this years ago when we were here before. And it’s twine not string.”

“Twine, string who cares? It’s just a ball made out of rope Jeff, er. . Twine a ball of twine. Ok so we’ll go. But only because you never did get that Schwinn bicycle you wanted when you were a kid. Twine. . Seriously?”

So off we went to my delight. Until we got there at Darwin Minnesota and I discovered that I had forgotten my camera. But I did have the opportunity to fulfill a boyhood dream! I recommend it to any guy out there. Imagine the years of the years of time dedicated to this. It weighs in excess of 9 tons. Unfortunately I, as I stated had “forgotten” my camera so all I have to show you is what I could pull up on the internet.

Jeffrey Meranto's Dream Vacation

 Driving back my lovely wife say’s to me, “So, did you enjoy yourself?”

“Are you kidding, that was great!” I exclaimed.

“I knew you’d like it, that’s why I planned for us to go there today.”

“You planned,” began my retort, ” right, you can’t stand it that I finally got to see it! But I love you for going with me.”

“Jeff baby, look in my day planner,” she said to me.

And sure enough she had it scheduled in our her plans, listed as ‘MUST SEE’

Sitting back watching the scenery I asked her, “So . . why tell me now? Why didn’t you just say something ahead of time?”

“Because honey, I had to plan that you wouldn’t have your camera. We’d still be there with me snapping pictures of you with your ball of string. You know how you are!”

“So where is my camera?” I asked.

“I let my nephew David  use it!”

“The kid with the blue Mohawk?”

“Yes.”

“It’s not a ball of string. .”

“I know honey, I know I was there. Twine, it’s twine. Happy now?”

And I was.

Jeffrey Meranto – My Wife, My Bride

 

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The Meranto’s

“Jeffrey Meranto, Mrs Jeffrey Meranto,” my new Bride said again and again as she gazed upon the ring I had just placed upon her finger. A ring that had less than a hint of a diamond set in it.

“Mrs Jeffrey Meranto Your Honor. . ,” my mind returning to the present as my Wife stood up before The Judge to give testimony concerning why I should not be sent to prison for the rest of my life for my marijuana charge.

As my Wife spoke memories of my Aunt Stella and my Mother filled my thoughts, “Oh he’s such a Prince your Jeffrey is.” My Aunt Stella said to my Mother. My Aunt Stella who would announce herself on the phone as, “Hey it’s your Fat Aunt Stella, put your Ma on the line.”

“He sure is a keeper your Jeffrey. He’s gonna be a real prize one day, that’s for sure,” Aunt Stella went on.

“True enough,” replied my Mom. “He’s gonna be a prize all right, but whether he’s gonna be The Grand Prize or The Booby Prize only God knows.”

Looking into The Future through my past, as my Wife sat down beside me, I sat there with the understanding that I had become The Grandest Booby Prize of All.

Jeffrey Meranto. .My Best Worst Day, “Sam I Am. .”

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Typical Prison Cell in America

As I read the news a few days ago I noticed that Electrolux had acquired part of G.E. as in General Electric. The large corporation that manufactures every appliance one needs for today’s home, from refrigerators to stoves and washing machines and all things in between. The name Electrolux rang a bell in my head. Electrolux the manufacturer of vacuum cleaners sold quite often door to door by down on their luck types trying to hustle some homeowner into purchasing one of their latest models. So many bells were ringing in my head that I a got a headache thinking back not so many days before.

                                                       Stress The Big Killer

While serving my sentence for Marijuana I was diagnosed with Cancer and transferred to a medical unit for treatment.

“Stress, my good man. Stress is a killer. This is why, in my humble opinion, you have Cancer.” So stated my Doctor as he pinched, probed, and otherwise examined me that day.

My Doctor was from India, he stood something under 5 feet tall and came complete with multi-colored Turban, white lab coat cut in a Nehru style, and a red dot in the middle of his forehead. In his office he wore small yellow and red colored slippers that looked to be made of velvet. His highly polished wingtips sat on a shelf where he would occasionally pick one up to brush off a speck of dust or pluck some something from inside it. His gloved hands would then inspect the shoe place it back on the shelf and he would silently glide back before me and continue with his examination of me, his patient. “Please to be sticking your tongue out and open wide your mouth,” his fingers moments before handling his shoes now inside my mouth. My thoughts went to pictures I had seen of the hordes of people washing in the filth of the Ganges river but, I was too weak from the Chemo to complain.

“You must to be cautious of stress, my good man,” the Doctor went on fingers deep inside my mouth. “People in my country live in poverty of the worst sort and they live to be 80, 90, even over 100 years of age. Why, I am asking of you, Why and how? Stress I say to you, they have much less stress than you in your country.” His fingers ever in my mouth raising my level of stress until his India dialect and banter somehow mesmerised me into submissive bliss and my thoughts went to my buddy Joe Taco who had just the year before “retired early” from his prison sentence due to Cancer.

Enter Sam The Scam

Later I discovered myself back in my cell wrapped up in my painful delirium as my cell door slid open and the words “Hey buddy, hi. Sam I Am,”  rang out from the mouth of my new cell mate. The cell we lived in was designed for one person with no room to spare. Sam drug his mattress inside the cell then the cell door shut and for the next 8 or 9 months he became my daily entertainment.

I had never met Sam before but, I had heard about him from my first cell mate, “Bits and Pieces.” Bits and Pieces had told me a tale of how he and Sam had years before run a mail order business from inside of prison where they would sell, through the mail, coupons provided free by any number of large Casinos in Las Vegas.

Sam’s wife lived in Las Vegas, she would gather coupons for everything from free drinks, discounts for Top Name Acts on The Strip, to price discounts for rooms then Sam would have her take out ads in a variety of magazines selling them “At Discounted Package Prices.” Bits and Pieces worked in the prison print shop where he would reproduce all the coupons and even crop in pictures of Sam in an assortment of flyers and they would package it all up send it to Sam’s wife and she would mail these “Discount Packages” to anyone who mailed in the $9.99 they were selling it for. According to Bit and Pieces, they made “A KILLING” on it. That was until Sam got into some trouble in prison for selling fake Rolex watches to some King Pin Drug Dealers from Mexico and had to leave the yard for his own safety.

Prisoners could not have expensive Rolex watches, at least not in that particular prison. Sam would sell the watches and have them shipped to relatives of the Convicts he sold them to. One day one of the Cons went to a visit where his Father came in to see him wearing his new fake Rolex. Now this guy may have been raised poor on a corn farm in Mexico but, he knew enough about Rolex watches to know that the second hand did not go tic tic tic. It’s second hand has a continual sweeping motion so, when he saw the tell-tale tic tic tic of “You’ve Been Scammed” he came back into the cell block yelling, “Sam I Am . . Going To Kill You!” After Sam made his get away he forever afterwards introduced himself as, “Sam I Am” although by everyone else inside of prison he was known as “Sam The Scam” or “Sam The Sham.”

Sam was doing time for some Dry Cleaning Hustle. He’d go to the Library of any city and look through phone books from different large towns near by and copy the addresses of restaurants. Then he’d send them a short letter saying some waiter or waitress had spilled something on his suit jacket, explain that he hadn’t wanted to cause a scene at the time, had it dry cleaned himself, please see enclosed a phony dry cleaning receipt, and would you mind ever so much to reimburse me for this amount?

It all worked well for Sam until he sold the idea to some guy who owned an Ethiopian Cab Company. One day the Cab Company Owner ran into Sam at the Post Office and noticed Sam had a fist full of letters from different restaurants and correctly assumed that Sam was running the same scam that he had sold to him.

Someone tipped the Postal Authorities to Sam’s doings and he later got arrested for over a Thousand Counts of Postal Fraud. “It was that Ethiopian Cabbie, I know it was,” Sam wailed one day. “No sense of enterprise that guy. Hell, this Country’s so big he could have sold the idea to half his family and we’d all still have a big enough piece of the pie!”

“I started selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners back in the Fifties door to door,” Sam one day told me. “I should’ve stuck with them. I’ll bet I could be some kind of a Manager by now. .” His voice quietly rings in my ear now.

Yes Sam, I think you should have stuck with Electrolux. Who knows where you’d be today.

 

 

Jeffrey Meranto – My Best Worst Day part 1

Jeffrey Meranto Slipping Into Darkness

It’s odd how a person’s mind functions under stress. As I was placed “Under Arrest” and the Agent told me, “Mr Meranto you are under arrest for narcotics violations,” I didn’t think of my family, I didn’t think of the possibility of years, even a lifetime in prison, I didn’t wonder about what they were saying, or the fact that DEA Agents were swarming into my business like so many uninvited ants invading a picnic, I thought about our cat.

My wife and I had gone down to an animal shelter looking to buy a puppy and we walked away with a mangy old cat. She was secluded in a small cage away from the other animals due to a horrid case of ringworm that made her appear like something come back from the dead. Seeing her all alone and defeated in her small cage we knew she would never be adopted so we asked about her. We were told that her ringworm was “aggressive” and that she had not responded to treatment. Long story short she was slated to be “put down.”

7 months of salves, ointments, emollients, balms, creams, lotions, and dips. 7 months of scratches and bites. 7 months of plastic then rubber then finally leather gloves. 7 months of searching under beds, chairs, cupboards and cabinets to find her so we could continue her treatments. 7 months of playing “Mad Scientists” and she was finally free of her mangy coat.

And I sat with my hands cuffed behind my back watching the DEA thanking God that our cat was healed from ringworm.

Meranto – Jeffrey

Processed Into The System

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Jeffrey Meranto Mugshot

The events that follow an arrest are to be best thought of as being written by some far away Russian Novelist. The only thing missing was the sound of the wind blowing across the snowy steppes as I was placed inside a van that had no windows only steel mesh where the glass should have been.

Hours of waiting, being moved from holding cells to interrogation rooms then on again to the same cells only on a different level then back to the same interrogation rooms rearranged and repainted each time but, the same none the less even though they were in different buildings. Always the same cell always the same room just in different locations.

As I was being marched towards the camera for my “booking” picture I caught a glimpse of my reflection and I was 10 years old again. We had gathered for some family event. Well fed and eager to be away from each other we scrunched together so some balding Uncle could take a Family photo. My Mother in a moment of madness attempted to tame my wild hair.

“MOM!” I exclaimed loudly, as she was using the one sure cure-all that all Mothers use for everything from cleaning a smudged face, to putting the shine back on your Sunday School Shoes, or, as was in my case, to slick down some cowlick – Saliva. My Mother had spit in her hand and was applying it with vigor to my head.

Satisfied and looking at my hair she gave the nod that all was in order. Click. One month later when our copy of the photo had arrived my Mom said, “Oh Jeffrey.” My hair had a mind of its own and while I might behave for fear of having my Mom tell my Dad, my hair had no such inclination and the picture proved it. There I was my head sprouting horns left, right, and center. The photo was framed and set on the mantel and for years I had to look at it with my many sets of wet horns.

As I stood there in the jail having my picture taken I remembered that old family picture and thought to myself, “This one’s going to look even worse.” And I think I was right.

We all have bad days. We all have worse days. From the time of my arrest until after my release from prison I view as one day, ” The Worst Day” of my life. Time stopped. I woke up, went to work, and got arrested. I went to sleep that night in a jail cell trying to determine how old it was by peeling away the successive layers of paint. Year one white, years  following yellow, beige, grey, black, and blue. Years later I wake up in a hotel room with green and gold drapes after being released from prison . . next day the alarm rings – stretch then yawn. Day two.