I get a text on Sunday night. “Are we still on for Monday?” It’s Kaja. I just had lunch with her last Friday. (But she did close with the words, “When can I see you again?” with a hug and a kiss.)
I tell her I go to Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse every Monday for lunch at 1pm. She agrees to meet me and it’s on. I get there around noon so I can do some work and edit the week’s blogs because I was so busy writing about her I forgot to do it. I really wanted to get her story down because it was so good. (See: Kaja – 2003 to Present – Out of the Blue)
She arrives at 12:45. I like that. To me, punctuality is imperative. She looks great as always. This is the most I’ve ever seen her in a small space of time. With Kaja it was always pop in, and then pop out for another two years. But what’s happened in the past year has changed everything for the better.
I hope for her sake it stays that way.
She tells me more about prison. She says the food you get the first few weeks is worse than they describe it in the movies. It’s small portions of gross looking and worse tasking grub you can imagine. So she was basically starving for a couple of weeks. Maybe that’s to weaken the prisoners at first.
After a few weeks you can apply for commissary. A prison commissary (commissary being a word taken out of context in such situations) or canteen is a store within a correctional facility, from which inmates may purchase products such as hygiene items, snacks, writing instruments, etc. Spices, including those packaged with instant ramen noodles, are a popular item due to the often bland nature of prison food. Typically inmates are not allowed to possess cash; instead, they make purchases through an account with funds from money contributed by friends, family members, etc., or earned as wages. Typically, prisons set a maximum limit of funds that can be spent by each inmate on commissary; in the U.S. federal system, it is $290 per month. It’s generally prohibited for inmates to trade items purchased on commissary. However, certain items tend to be used as currency. Cigarettes were a classic medium of exchange, but in the wake of prison tobacco bans, postage stamps have become a more common currency item, along with any inexpensive, popular item that has a round number price such as 25 or 50 cents. As prison budgets are cut in the USA, ramen has become a popular commodity to supplement food needs. Mylar foil packets of mackerel fish or “macks” are one such item. In 1930, the U.S. Department of Justice authorized and established a commissary at each federal institution. Some prison commissaries are staffed by government employees and inmates, while others have been completely privatized. Significant price markups are common in prison commissaries, although some prison systems set maximum markups; for instance, the Delaware Department of Correction has a 20% maximum markup. $100 million in purchases were made from Texas’ prison system alone in 2009. Prison commissary is a privilege that is often taken away for infractions.
She said once she had commissary she ate a bunch of food and a lot of it was carbs and sugary food. I think she just stuffed her sadness with chow. She said she ballooned up to 180 lbs. She’s 5’9″ so when she was a dancer she was 120 lbs. She says, “Too skinny.” I say, “Super hot.” But now she’s 140 lbs. and would like to lose a few more. I still think she looks good, but she’s right. She shouldn’t look like an Estonian matron by the time she’s 40.
She clarifies that she went in for two months and was released on bail. But had to go back in and serve seven more months for all the other infractions. I’m not clear on this but basically she did a total of nine months in the can.
She’s apparently living with this old guy who isn’t all there. I’m thinking she may have met him back in her stripper days. She doesn’t get into the details of how she knows him, but apparently he’s retired, bi-polar and not all there. He just sits around all day and chain smokes and watches TV. She hates it there because he’s nuts and she never knows what she’s coming home to. (That’s bi-polar for you!) Sadly, all of her clothes smell like filthy cigarette smoke.
Back in jail she was in a cell that was a big room, three stone walls and the front is all bars. But she’s in there with 19 other women. It’s all bunks. So take 20 women that are in for different offenses, throw them together. They’re sad, they’re depressed, and they’re angry. Throw in some PMS…That’s a powder keg waiting to go off.
So she said there was all kinds of drama, fights, and even some romance. Classic women’s prison movie stuff.
We go on and off topic and I’m sure more will come out as we hang out. Like I said, I’m just glad she’s okay. We have a delicious lunch together and I tell her my Monday ritual here at Cav’s. She says she has some more things to do, and has to make a few call and will let me know if she can stick around. Either way is fine with me. As I get older I enjoy most people in small doses.
Kaja goes outside and makes a few calls.
I continue editing phicklephilly until she returns. I get the last one finished, just as she approaches the table. She is such and elegant woman with such good manners I wonder how she got into all of the trouble she has. But if she sticks around long enough, I may get the story. I’m okay even if I don’t.
Kaja tells me she has to go. Now worries. I’ll do some writing and sip a Manhattan in a few hours. She drops $25 on the bill and a hug later she’s gone.
While I’m sitting there I get an email from Cavanaugh’s. It said that “You really like us and we really, really like you so we’re giving a free drink of your choice on us.” How brilliant is this small chain of sports bars? They must know I use their wifi every Monday and see that I’m a trackable regular. They sent me a reward for spending money there on a weekly basis. That’s the future of advertising!
I show the coupon to Karina and she says your drink is free. So when I walked out of Cav’s my bill was $10. Peanuts! Karina is now my #1 favorite female bartender in the city. Killer hospitality!
I text Roman over at Square and ask him if he’s working, and if it’s busy. (See: Roman – 2012 to Present – Rock and Roll Bartender)
“I am and it’s not.”
I pack up and head over. Normally I would have just gone home but I want to charge up my devices and write some more pieces. I have so many right now. I thought I’d be dry by now and writing about my past more but there are a lot of things going on.
I get there and sit at the end of the bar. It’s quiet. I plug everything in and I’m typing away. Roman sets a glass of chardonnay down and a glass of monster ice cubes. I like ice in my wine. Old networking trick. Water it down, and nobody knows what it is you’re drinking. It waters it down and you can keep going without losing your shit like everybody around you.
Almost like a magnet, people I know start coming in. They’re stopping by and chatting and catching up. It’s lovely. Even a server I thought didn’t like me comes over to chat. She’s telling me how she has been with an older man for over five years because he really appreciates her and treats her well. (Well done, sir! She’s 29!)
After an hour or so I crack off a couple of pieces and pack up. I had maybe three Chardonnay. My bill was $5.50.
I pay cash, tip heavily, and head home. I’ve had a lovely day surrounded by good people. That’s my life now. I’m blessed to have gotten to this place.
I go home and chat with my buddy Church on the phone. (See: Church – 2014 to Present – Brand Ambassador) Daughter Lorelei is over in Jersey at her boyfriend’s house. I have the place to myself tonight. I’m in the command center, (My chair and ottoman in front of my 50″ flat screen watching Netflix . I light a cig and pour myself another glass of Chardonnay.
UPDATE: Kaja is back to working as a stripper in New York City!
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