Nathan, 57

Nathan, 57

Meet Nathan…

“I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges.”

Nathan, 57

Incarcerated: 15 yrs

Housed: California Correctional Training Facility, Soledad

My mom Jamie was 16 and my father Abe was 31, neither were honest about their age. They both claimed to be in their 20’s when they met. Abe was a heroin addict and my mom’s parents were both alcoholics. They loved Abe. My grandma Vivian was beautiful with a great intellect, she was kind and thoughtful when sober. When drunk she could get really mean. She told me Abe was a good man, overly intelligent, he loved me and took care of me. My mom said he was the one to get up with me at night. Abe was from a wealthy Jewish family, I’ve never met because they disowned him over his heroin addiction. Abe fled the country to avoid prosecution when I was two. I have no memory of this, but have to imagine this must have been traumatic, as I never heard from him again. My mom has never been a drug user or drinker. She had to take care of her own parents and mothered them at an early age. She never had any judgment about others drinking or using drugs. My mom met Bob and he promised her he would never have any trouble with the law and he kept that promise. I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges. Bob had a jewelry store, pet shop, pawn shop, antique shops, he ran a hotel and bar when he met my mom. He dabbled in stocks, cars, and real estate. He was successful at everything he did. Bob was not affectionate, but he always helped out and gave good advice. Bob was a good man, a better man than I have been. He tried hard to instill his good character traits in me. Though he did tease me when I was young, calling me Suzy because I was wimpy. I was a very scrawny and sensitive child. He was never unkind, he just grew up during a less sensitive time. To him calling me Suzy was innocent, maybe a little humorous, but with no ill intent. I can look back now and see where that might have been a contributing factor to my own distorted self body image, where my fall began. I believe I can trace back my fall to its very inception. One single thought that I believed to be true but wasn’t. All it took was for one doubt to sink in: “That I wasn’t good enough as God created me, that I was too skinny.” My mom met Tony when I was eight. Both Bob and Tony have been good fathers to me, Tony and my mom are still happily married. Tony is also a man of good character, honest and always ethical, but very proud and stubborn. I have a great love and respect for him. My mom went to catechism and her first communion until she was 10. At that age, she saw a car accident where a little girl’s head went through a windshield. She couldn’t understand how the God she was being taught about could let such a thing happen. She told her mom church was a waste of time. She never gave God or the Church another thought. My own belief in God was innate, it was as if I was born with it. My parents never tried to influence me in any way, however, I have been inquisitive. As a small child, I would contemplate the universe and infinity. I couldn’t comprehend infinity, so I would have to imagine what was at the end of the universe, there had to be something. I would imagine a wall. But then if there was a wall, there had to be something on the other side of the wall. So, I not only couldn’t comprehend infinity, I couldn’t comprehend not infinity. I thought, if this is the case then I had to believe I was foreign, and limited in my ability to comprehend. I would try to imagine what the world would be like if I no longer existed in it, I tried to imagine my non-existence. My conclusion was it didn’t matter. I knew my mom didn’t believe in God, so every chance I got to talk to a priest, a Christian, or a Catholic; I would always ask the same question: what happens to someone who doesn’t believe in God? The same answer always comes back; they go to eternal hell. I would always answer back; “but what if they are a good person?” I would get the same response; I’m sorry, I wish everyone could go to heaven, but non-believers can’t. None of this changed my belief in God, and I am grateful that God is not how man would make him out to be; because if that was the case, we would all be in real trouble. What it did do, is give me an unhealthy disdain for religion, especially the way Catholicism and Christianity were taught. At 8, I had a friend Bobby, who invited me on a one-week camping trip. Late the night before we were to leave, his mom dropped off a list of things like games and cards that couldn’t bring. My Mom thought it was odd and told me that she didn’t think I should go. I was packing my magic tricks and things that I would not be able to bring. She said she had a bad feeling about this and I really shouldn’t go. I whined and cried telling her Bobby and I have all these great plans. She gave in, thinking how bad it could be. She said if I had any concerns to call her and she’d come pick me up immediately. When I arrived, I found out it was a Christian camp. Which was deliberately withheld from me, my mom, and possibly Bobby by his family. I was deceived intentionally. I refused to cooperate in their games and demanded to be able to call my mom to pick me up. For a whole week, they never let me use the phone. I was basically kidnapped under false pretenses, and held against my will. When I was brought back home, my mom said I must have had a good time because I never called her.  I said, no I didn’t, everyone including Bobby had to give their lives over to God and I refused, because I thought it was stupid, and I’m never speaking to Bobby again. Can you imagine if this was done to a child today? Don’t get me wrong, I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus. I love Him as an elder brother.  My mom and Tony always do right by others, not because of any religion,  it is the right way to be, they are just really good human beings. Much better than I have been. Neither believe in or give thought to God or an afterlife or think there is any kind of reward for being selfless. It is just the way they are. My mom believes when we die that is it, we no longer exist. I cannot even comprehend that thought. My mom’s Christian friends tell her that she is a better Christian than most Christians they know. She has always had a great wisdom about her, much greater than could be acquired in this lifetime alone. She is always so busy, she barely has time to do the things she would like to do. She belongs to a women’s club and they do charity work for the homeless, cancer and heart patients, and work with other charities that bring aid to foreign countries. She is always donating her time. They give scholarships away for kids to go to college. Something she never had the opportunity to do herself. She is just such a beautiful human being.

Anthony, 38

Anthony, 38

Meet Anthony…

She told me I was a great writer and that my pen would get me out of the… pen.

Anthony, 38
Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison Death Row, San Quentin, California

I wrote and recorded my first song at 11. From there, I became passionate about my goal of one day being the best rapper. I worked hard to achieve that title, but I also worked  harder at the “gangster” half of the gangster rapper. It eventually ended my life as I knew it. I was in jail facing the death penalty at 25. There was a lot to unpack and adjust to. I had been arrested a lot, but never had to do a lot of time. The thought of having to go through a trial that was expected to take a few years was a lot. I had the pressure of having thrown my whole life and career away and the frustration of not being able to be the best father I could. I was just a young angry person with an F the world attitude.I met a guy who had been in jail since before I was born and was on appeal from death row. He helped me see that getting into it with the police all the time would only make my time harder. As he got me to calm down, we got to know each other and I would let him hear my raps. We would talk about life but he was the one who pushed me to get started on  writing my book. My paralegal who came to visit every week offered to make a copy for me. Instead of returning it, she gave it to my lawyers who decided, although it was fiction, there was too much of a criminal element which could possibly hurt me in trial. It took me two years to get the pages back. It took me forever to get back into the story and dive back into the characters and emotion. I finally finished the first draft, but that was only half the battle.

By this time, I had been sentenced to death and was at San Quentin. Publishing the book has been as hard as it was to write it, if not harder. It’s been a blessing in disguise because I got to learn this business. When I began this project it seemed like I was alone. I knew it would be a special someone that would help me execute this plan. Not long after I finished that first draft I met the lady who would later become my wife. She has been that special someone to help me with anything and everything, like making phone calls, copies, emails…Things that may seem insignificant until you need them done and don’t have any way to do it. I am extremely grateful to have her by my side every step of the way. Unfortunately tragedy has been the driving force to push me across the finish line. In 2020 I lost my great grandmother who was very dear to me and implored to continue writing. She told me I was a great writer, and that my pen would get me out of the… pen. I never could have imagined I would one day write a book. Recently. I lost my big cousin who was influential to me. She was a teacher and librarian and I know she would be very proud of me. I dedicate this to you.

Anthony, 57

Meet Anthony…

The best part was seeing how happy my customers were. I really thrived when customers gave me the freedom to do what I thought was best.

Anthony, 57
Incarcerated: 11 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, California

He brought me this 1990 Corvette. The only good things about it were the motor and the electronics. I spent three months redoing the exterior and interior. The paint job was my favorite part. I love doing custom paint jobs. He wanted a NASCAR-inspired look, so I did some research to avoid trademark issues. He liked it so much that he asked me to sign the car. I took it to a car show in Sacramento and it ended up winning first place. I gave him the trophy. He asked me to do the same design on two other cars. I first started working on cars when I was 12. I enjoy every aspect of it, from fixing transmissions to creating custom paint jobs. For 26 years, I owned my own body shop in Sacramento. I worked almost every day, putting in 16-hour shifts. It was my whole world. The best part was seeing how happy my customers were. I really thrived when customers gave me the freedom to do what I thought was best.

Cars are like life and death to people, so dealing with expensive repairs and delays could be challenging. Sometimes, people would come into my shop and threaten me, but most of them appreciated my work, and I enjoyed working with them. Even when I was in prison in San Diego, some customers would drive all the way from Sacramento to visit me, and we still keep in touch. Some customers even flew to Denver to let my grandmother know I was okay, and that she would be okay too. My grandparents had a big influence on me. They taught me self-confidence and a strong work ethic. They also sparked my interest in Native American spirituality and jewelry. Now, I make Native American jewelry as a creative outlet. Working on cars has been more than just a job for me. It’s been a lifelong passion. I’ve seen how my work can make a difference in people’s lives and create lasting connections. Even behind bars, I continue to pursue my love for cars and hope for a better future.

Demetrius, 56

Demetrius, 56

Meet Demetrius…

I’m no saint nor an angel. I want to be around genuine, caring, optimist people. I am just trying to be the best me.

Demetrius, 56
Incarcerated: 31 years
Housed: San Quentin Death Row

I’ve been on death row since 1992. I am currently dealing with the loss of my mom. She died on Valentine’s Day and now my grandmother, she died last week. Life is constantly giving me challenge after challenge, more hurt, more pain, more sorrow. I’m just doing my best to keep hopeful, and not give up on people.

I keep it real just knowing there are caring people out there. I’m no saint nor an angel. I want to be around genuine, caring, optimist people. I am just trying to be the best me. Despite all of life’s ups and downs, I am trying to not drown in pain and loneliness, but to swim in peace, happiness, joy and a positive state of mind spirit. Nothing is promised but physical death, so live and build bridges of friendship and humaneness. 

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