Thursday, November 13, 2014


   Where does one start when contemplating how to say thank you for over six years of support and friendship?  This is my last Thanksgiving in captivity.  I will be home for Christmas.  I know these six plus years would have killed me if not for the support of so many.  Perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact that so many people who wrote and encouraged and supported me are literally strangers, or people I have never met, and yet I feel close to many of you.  I think this may be the most difficult piece to write of all those submitted for your appraisal.

     I came to prison a broken man...physically and spiritually.  It was that brokenness, and a refusal to recognize it, which created an environment where poor choices...stupid choices...bad judgment...runaway ego...criminal behavior...were allowed to grow, fester and flourish.  Over these years, I have worked to fix the brokenness and to restore my humility and humanity.  I have used this time to emerge better than when I surrendered.  I had to admit to myself that I was capable of immoral behavior and then figure out how to apologize and to ask for forgiveness from all those I hurt.

     During this entire process, you were there to encourage and support and react and offer your comments and observations.   You, who only knew me as a disembodied voice on the radio, stepped up to become friends and caregivers and together we created a community.  When I missed so many important events in the lives of my wife and children, you allowed me to write and express my sorrow and pain.  When important people...dear people...friends...colleagues...passed away, this community was there for me and watched while I wrote about Fr. Floyd Lotito, Susan Prather, Gene Burns, Lee Rodgers, Tina Henry and others.  We addressed politics, war and cynicism along with calls to arms about rebuilding this nation...saving the middle class...caring for the poor and calling out the hypocrisy of the 1%.

     How was all this possible?  In the eyes of society, and maybe even some of my family members, I committed a crime worse than all others.  (save for maybe Michael Vick)  I was labeled deviant and perverted and the natural response to my crime was supposed to be to shun and condemn.  If many had had their way, I would become a pariah who slinks away in the night never to be heard from again.

     It was not to be.  I admit to a terrible mistake and accept the consequences which separated me from those I love and care about the most.  I acknowledge all the pain and suffering I caused them and the embarrassment and humiliation the public nature of my crime caused them, friends and other family members.  I did the crime and did the time.  You refused to let that be the final act.  You were angry at me...puzzled at how I could put my career and family into such jeopardy...outraged that I gave aid and comfort to those who want our republic to morph into an oligarchy...sad I showed such horrible judgment and for the hurt I caused by exploring a world of pictures which should not exist and which causes a great deal of pain for those depicted.

     However, you refused to write me off.  You refused to let one mistake define what you thought of me.  You hoped I would learn from this and you wanted to know what I learned and how this all affected me.  You wanted a dialogue, a give and take...a chance to explore all of this and so off we went.  No one would have believed this was possible to sustain over years and years.  Thank you...thank you...thank you.

     I have to thank two people who made this all possible.  Little did they think, when they wrote to me in Texas and offered to help me in any way they could, they would spend almost 6 years posting pieces and setting up and maintaining this blog.  These lovely people, both with very busy lives, took on this project.  In the early days it took so much time just to get one piece posted.  I would type it...have it edited by an inmate in Texas...snail-mail it to them...hope they could read my writing over the edits...they would then have to re-type it and, finally, post it.  Despite this immense amount of time, and the effort this consumed, they never complained and always offered encouragement.  They know who they are and I hope they know I owe them a debt which cannot be estimated.

     I want to thank James Howell.  He wrote to me so frequently...offered to teach me chess by mail...encouraged me to try to meditate and I did not write back to him frequently enough and yet he continued to correspond.  James, thank you.

     A woman, Linda Hadaad, wrote and was so supportive of me.  Her one-woman campaign, after the government turned down my pleas to be transferred out of the hellhole which is Texas, is why I was finally transferred.  She beat the federal government and I benefitted.  (one day I will be able to tell the story about Texas and how horrible it was and how traumatic for it to be the first "joint" I was sent to and how if I had not gotten out of there I would not have survived this experience.  I will need some help to work through all that fear and tension and isolation.)

     There are so many others I could thank here, but I am deathly afraid of leaving someone out.  Every person who wrote to me...sent cards...magazines...commented on the blog...sent me encouraging articles and more, to all of you, on this special Thanksgiving, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  ( I have no idea how to meet you all, but I so want to shake your hands and hug you, and probably cry, and personally thank you for all you have done to help me get home)

     On Thanksgiving, I will sit in a room with hundreds of other men sharing some turkey and stuffing and they will have no idea how special this day it to me and no idea of the hundreds of you who will be right there sharing the meal with me.  I will recall 18 years of Thanksgiving days that were spent at St Anthony's Dining Room and the joy I experienced sharing with all the folks benefitting from that amazing place.  I will smile knowing you, and so many others, donated over $5 million, through the KGO Thanksgiving Charity Drive, to help those who were in desperate need at that time.  I will tear up knowing I will be home for Christmas and that this is my last Thanksgiving as a prisoner.  I will spend some quiet moments thanking God for allowing me to see my sins and shortcomings, and knowing that in spite of them She loves and forgives me.  I will be expressing gratitude I made this journey from start to finish and I am a better person because of it.


Read The Lion of the Left's Thanksgiving Prayer next...


     All loving, wonder filled and creative God.  We come together to celebrate a day of thanks and gratitude.  We understand on any day there are numerous reasons to give thanks and chronicle our blessings.  We realize how giving thanks humbles us and reminds us of all we have been given and our responsibility to give back to others.

     On this Thanksgiving Day, we keep in mind that for many a rising tide has not lifted all boats.  While our nation attempts to help those in need, this day reminds us the real work...the real aid...the real sustenance so many need will come from individuals...from we share our bounty with others...with strangers...with anyone in need.

     Please bless all who work to grow and market all the glorious food we lay out on our tables today.  Extend your grace to those who spent countless hours to prepare and present the recipes and dishes we love and which give us so much comfort.  Help us to appreciate the friends and family who gather together with us on this day to tell and retell stories which reveal who we are and the love, which binds us all together.

     Oh source of all that is good...please keep close to your heart those today who are troubled, sad or alone.  Inspire us to remember all those who don't have a roof over their on their table or clothes on their backs.  Never let us forget how lucky we are to live in a land of plenty with so much for so many.

     As we look around this table, we give thanks for all those who know our faults...see our shortcomings...recognize our limitations and yet love us.

     As always, when we stop to give love welcome the stranger...feed the hungry...clothe the naked...heal the sick... and visit those in prison, it becomes much easier to realize the world is alive with the grandeur of God.