Jimmy Santiago Baca - Episode 165

James

00:00

Welcome to the behind the show podcast. My name is James Geering and this is episode 165 and I was honored to have on this week Jimmy Santiago Baca. Now Jimmy had, let's say, a troubled upbringing that you will hear, um, made some very poor decisions that ended up putting him behind bars. Um, and so as with many people with these upbringings that we've seen, especially if you're a first responder, um the kind of doomed from the beginning in many cases. And it's the remarkable ones that take a good path despite some of these journeys that they are given when they first come into this world. Well, with this particular story, Jimmy found books and reading and it wasn't specifically because of the prison he was in, sadly in this case, but the role models that were around him and he ended up getting out of jail and becoming a world acclaimed poet and script writer for a, for Hollywood.

James

00:54

So a very powerful story at just how, uh, what an impact a positive outlet like reading exercise. You know, Craig Hunaumi's, a community outreach programs, Pat R usso's, boxing program in New York and these role models and these outlets, um, are used to guide kids, they can go completely in the right way and it's, and it's this prevention rather than cure. It's trying to avoid filling our prisons full of people and get to these kids before they make these poor choices. And I think this story really underlines that principle. So as I always say before we start, go to your podcast Apps, subscribe to the show, rate the show, leave feedback, and most importantly use social media and share the hell out of this and help me make this project grow and grow and grow and get all these amazing stories to all the people that need to hear it. So with that being said, I introduced to you Jimmy Santiago Baca. Enjoy.

James

02:12

I want to start by thanking you so much for coming on the behind the show podcast. Where are we finding you today?

Jimmy

02:19

I'm In Albuquerque,

James

02:21

Albuquerque. Okay. And were you born in New Mexico?

Jimmy

02:25

I was in Santa Fe.

James

02:26

All right. Um, I would love to, if it's okay with you, kind of explore your early life because I know that really sets up and some things that happened later in life. Um, so if you wouldn't mind. Yeah. What was your family unit like? What, what did your parents do and what was your initial childhood like?

Jimmy

02:43

No family unit really to speak of. My grandparents took care of me first four years or so. Most of the most difficult, most difficult journey besides, I mean prison was really it, it was what it was. It's just a small part of my life, but the most difficult part of a of living was, oh my gosh, there's so many aspects to it, but one of the bigger ones was just learning responsibility, learning accountability. Uh, none of that was their learning, parenting and the whole idea of longevity and consistency and just things like that, you know, were you don't see beyond tomorrow. You just see today's one of the things when you grow up with no parental guidance or no family or anything like that is it's hard to. It's hard to see. It's hard to plan for tomorrow because you're so busy just trying to survive for the day and it seems like today stretches up through eternity. So yeah, I didn't have any family. So the repercussions of not having a family are pretty, um, sort of take you back to trying to create a foundation. Just a basic foundation, just a basic things, you know. So yeah. No family at all.

James

04:23

Right. It's interesting because as a, as a first responder, as a firefighter paramedic, we see these families that after watching the documentary, I can relate to that family unit, you know, whether it's drugs, alcohol abuse, whatever is in that initial, um, uh, dynamic from the outside. People see the paws of some of these, these teenagers and a younger men take off the way we're path as it were. And one of the things that I tried to highlight is if you've seen how some of these children grow up, where you know, that they're set up for failure. The ones that come out and, you know, ended up graduating college straight out. I go to go to a high school, go to college. Those are the anomalies, but when you were growing in this, this, uh, this family dynamic, you, you are not given any of the tools to then go and, and initially be what we would consider, you know, a, a responsible member of society and this, is that something that you now look back and see that in yourself?

Jimmy

05:25

Well, the interesting thing about what you just said made me think about how, how when you grow up very early as I did in a sort of crash and burn environment, where were, we're at the end of the day, people go into a self destructive mode. Uh, the people around you get drunk. Uh, most of the people that you know, that you're a young kid, most of the people that are teenagers, uh, when the, when it gets nighttime, they want to do drugs. They want to. There's no, there's nothing beyond that. Just self destruction. And this was very early on. Success is translated into failure. So if you're going to be successful, you have to fail. So whatever you created that day, you have to sort of sabotage it so that you can fail. Because, because you interpreted life, uh, being successful

Jimmy

06:32

by being a failure, you have to fail because failure in some way, it gives you a heroic ending, sort of gives you a, a, I dunno, it's a conundrum. It's sort of a, it's an irony of sorts. It's a, everybody you see is just falling apart at the, the center doesn't hold, there's nothing that's consistent and uh, and so you have to follow that path. And so you want something to change the contradictions. I really bizarre because you want something to change, but at the same time you're destroying any chances of having a healthy change because your, your mind works in such a way where you think that's, that's, that's what you're supposed to do to be successful as a man. That's, that's what the, what defines your manhood is a kid, is to do something that's self destructive. And that way your earmark is a troublemaker and your success. It just really bizarre. Everything's turned upside down when you don't have, uh, any parental guidance when you don't have any role models when you, when, uh, you know, and stuff like that. So it's kind of a crazy thing. You have to work your way out of all that other, that labyrinth, you have to somehow find your way out of it?

James

07:51

Yeah. Now I know you, you answered the, uh, I guess the orphanage system, for lack of a better phrase. Um, and, and, and my, my, my whole stance is not to demonize certain areas, but to just ask questions, you know, is the way we're doing a certain thing the right way. And we'll obviously talk about the prison system later as well, but as a, as a young boy, that basically, as you were saying, had no parents. What was your experience like through the orphanage system?

Jimmy

08:20

Well, it was very strange. I mean, you're at the mercy of these, these, these forces that are, that are, that are maneuvering you about because you don't have any place where you belong. So you sort of maneuvered, you know. So I remember going, I was in the orphanage for 12 years, so I went from living as a, as a indigenous kid. A little Chicano kid in Santa Fe was absolutely. No, no, I'm nobody watching us, me and my brothers and sisters from that until the authorities came in and took us away from me in an orphanage for 12 years. I went from that into this place where they had a 1200 kids from all over different tribes, different villages, different areas. And, and I, I immediately went into a discipline. I had to get up at four in the morning and go to mass every morning, uh, you know, and go to a give, get a chore and then go to class and stuff like that. It was, um, it was really, really confusing, but it was also made me wonder quite a bit about, um, where the hell am I parents, what happened to them because I wasn't, we weren't really told anything. They just vanished when they've just gone. And I was like, well, what the hell happened to him?

Jimmy

09:53

And then, uh, in the orphanage, I went there with my brother, my older brother, and he, they let him off into an older boys, uh, um, a place. So he, I hardly got to see him. So I was with kids my own age and uh, he went into the older boys. I didn't know what happened to them and to a much, much, much later, but he had some horrible things happened to him and, uh, and I didn't, I, it wasn't a aside from the confusion and putting my trust and strangers who claimed to have my, my best interest at heart, uh, you know, it was just, I was sort of floating at the whim of the waves so to speak. Um, and it's interesting too because, because when I take you to an orphanage, you're raised by women who were religious and then from the 12 years there I went to, um, I went to the detention center where I was dropped into this vacuum of this insanity.

Jimmy

11:03

I mean, it just made me wonder where all these kids in their sadness and their sorrow. I mean, Jesus, I had to sit and I could sense immediately that, I mean, nothing bad had happened to me aside from the fact that I didn't have a family or a mother or anything. And, but what very early on, I could see that, uh, I could see that I was among kids who have been deeply disturbed and deeply abused and uh, I understood them and I guess I wanted to be with them as a sort of friend and um, I don't know if that's the beginning of a criminal mind or what. I mean, I, I made a lousy criminal. I wasn't, you know, it was, uh, it was, it was almost cavalier. You might say I wasn't really interested in getting people's money or robbing people or stealing or doing anything like that. It was just something to be around these kids and they did it. So I was with them as a sort of friend and uh, yeah. So, you know, it's uh, it's, um.

Jimmy

12:15

You don't really have any ideas of your own. You don't really think of yourself as an individual. You think of yourself as part of a group you don't have, you don't have a form that identity. So after the orphanage I went to the detention center for three years and I was constantly told, you're not a criminal, you're just, you don't have a place to live, you don't have a home, you don't have a family. And I thought, okay, all right. Um, and then after that I went to Grad School for uh, for about a year, a year and a half. And there I got into a rougher sorta grew crowd. And um, uh, it was the first time I've ever, I ever heard anybody read book. It was interesting because I was immediately attracted to, to a storytelling and the power of it. And then from gladiator school, I went to county jail for three years and I'm from there.

Jimmy

13:12

I went to prison for six and actually, you know, 25 years had passed and I hadn't been out in society. I've been, I've been kept away from society for 25 years. Um, and it's really, really confusing to be able to come out in an environment like that. And you don't even know how to get on a bus. You have to stand and ask somebody, well, what do I do? How do I get on this bus and you don't know how to talk to people and you don't know what to do with yourself because your identity formation comes much later in life because you keep attaching itself to what people are saying, and so that keeps changing and so you're constantly confused. A really a victim of self doubt, lack of self esteem, fear, naivety, all those things. You know,

James

14:02

You mentioned about you were in the orphanage then you're in detention center. What was your level of education when you got to, you know, let's say 18.

Jimmy

14:12

Oh, I didn't have any education. I didn't. I didn't, you know, I had no clue. I mean, I, you know, it, it's an extraordinary world that it's an extraordinary world because I didn't. I didn't know that you go to school to study, to get a career so that you can get paid so you can get a family. You can live in a nice neighborhood and get some good friends and have a life. None of that. None of their connected with me. I didn't know, I wondered why are people going to school? I mean, what, what sense does that make? It does. I never connected school with jobs. I thought, well, you know, if I can get a job at the local plumbing company and go out and dig ditches, I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. You know, I'm, I'm, I'm ahead of the game. And uh, when I saw people with books and going to school, is it a, it confused me. I mean, why are they doing this? What is it? What does education do? He goes, nobody. I mean, nobody from the orphanage to prison had ever given me any reason to believe that education might help me. You know, it just, it didn't make any sense.

James

15:24

Yeah. Well, end of the documentary is what you, you said something that really struck me as I think it was an interview is an interview with NPR, I believe, but you said that if you couldn't read, you aren't taught so many of the things that most of us take for granted about how to function in life. And obviously now people will say, well, you just go on youtube or whatever, but when you were growing up, there was no internet, there were no videos out there. So that really struck me as if you take away the ability to read, you literally take away the ability to learn and grow for a child.

Jimmy

16:01

Yeah. Yeah. It was, it's phenomenal. It's phenomenal how much, uh, the impact that reading has reading came to me. Language came to me when I couldn't make sense of my experience. I had all this built up experience. So have a dramatic end of life, beginning of birth type experiences where I saw kids, emasculated, I saw the spirit strip to the shivering core. Uh, then you're not supposed to ever witnessed. I mean, those are the things that happened in asylums in a, in a room where people are screaming and yet that became the norm. And, and, and loneliness seemed to be the underlining score of my life. And, and, and, and, and, um, when, when, when did you, when you grab a word, when you, when you start to learn how to read, suddenly suddenly your entire experience acts like an avalanche or some sort of a tsunami eruption or something. Suddenly it comes pouring in from all sides that you have a way of making sense of the madness, you know? And so you, you know, when I started learning how to read or write, people often tell me, well how did you do that in nine months? And I'm like, it's not a question of, it's not a question of time. I mean people, people learn a language and they go to school and stuff like that. In my case,

Jimmy

17:39

so many kids learn language but have no experience. They don't, they don't really care about it. It gives you a sort of blank slate with words, don't carry any blood. But when, when you bring all this experience to it and then he would get language later, then suddenly the words of palpitating impulsing with blood from the heart and you know, you want to find something and you stay up 18 hours a day studying language and writing and figuring out sentences and verbs and adjectives and suddenly you know, that you're onto something, you found some sort of gold vein and you want to keep digging and pan in and finding out those little nuggets and you know, that it's there, you feel it, you sense it in your arm or something and it becomes an extraordinary adventure, you know, it's just amazing.

James

18:30

I'd love to set the stage for people who haven't been been lucky enough to either read your book or seen the movie yet and, and I recommend it now of course. Um, but if you wouldn't mind just from, from the detention center age, just kind of lead us through the events that took you into prison. And then what that initial experience was like.

Jimmy

18:47

Oh, the initial experience with going in.

James

18:49

Yeah. And then what took you there in the first place?

James

18:53

I went to prison because I was, it was after a breakup with a woman that I thought I had loved and at the time I did love her. I guess if you want to put that word on it, if it really was just two kids, a 15 slash 16 years old, she was being, she was being sexually abused by her father. I didn't know that, but at the time and, and um, my brother had gone to school. I didn't go to school. I was working 14 at 14 $50, amount apartment a room and my brother had gone to school because he was always the better looking, better dresser. He was really nice. He was a sweet guy and uh, he decided to go to school and that was all great. And, and, uh, and uh, so really picked on him. So I went to school and I was working as a plumber's helper or a plumber at the time.

Jimmy

19:53

I lied about my fixed, my birth certificate so I could be bonded and stuff. So I went to school, my plumber's truck with a pipe wrench and I walked into school and I told my brother who's picking on him and he pointed the guys out and I started beating on him and I'm in the hallways and stuff and that's where I met this girl and he just grabbed me and said, let's go up to my car because the cops were coming. So I left and um, I met her and, and you know, for a kid who didn't have a mother, only macro, I put it all on her and she was heavy into drugs and she was being sexually abused by her father. And uh, Gosh, you know, so I was, it was, we called it love. It was really just to really deeply disturbed kids.

Jimmy

20:43

And uh, so anyway, so when we broke up, um, I took off to California. I had been out there a few times already there in the haight Ashbury and stuff like that. During all the big major concerts and stuff. I went out to all the concerts and she, a lot of drugs and stuff like that. When I went to San Diego and uh, I was um, mentor friend of mine, I didn't know the guy, but I met him, his name was marcus from Michigan. Uh, and uh, we started bringing in weed from Mexico in San Diego and selling it to a car salesman. Guy had a dealership there and uh, after we sell the, we did that for about anywhere from 40 to 100 pounds or something like that. A trip was from Michigan, so he had a really hard cars. We're blasting it. It was cool.

Jimmy

21:38

And um, we've blasted through the borders. We blasted across the desert. Uh, you had a duster and um, um, and I met her, I met my new girlfriend there and we decided to start a landscaping business. So we went to Yuma and it was working great. And then one of my buddies from Mexico came over and said, hey, you want to, are you still want to smuggle? And I said, sure, why not? So, uh, uh, we were doing that and I quit. I decided I was going to quit. I had enough money to come back to New Mexico with this girl that I'd met Lonnie. I was going to get married to her. We're going to settle down and I'm on the good night. On the goodbye night. We had a goodbye dinner at this. I had a friend of mine that was running away from me. He was a kid from Kentucky who, uh, who had just come back who was in the service and uh, he had some work experience behind them I guess is a little older.

Jimmy

22:37

Uh, anyway, it was his roommate got involved with selling heroin and some mark and then some dea agent. And then the night that we went over our last dinner before we left, um, they were doing a deal and uh, and there was a shootout and uh, the one of the dea agents got shot, got his arm blown off and um, his hand rather. And I escaped. And when I got back to Santa Fe, the, a friend of mine said, uh, who was a judge who I had done some scans for a. I used to ride motorcycles on purpose and collected and he'd give me $5,000 for every motorcycle that I collided with into a car or something.

Jimmy

23:29

Yeah, it was, it was. He was a lawyer at the time I was doing that. I was doing scans for. He told me, go to this bar tonight, there'll be a guy there and you got gotta wait till he gets really ripped and when he comes out and starts his Cadillac and drives off, you know, you reckon the ham. I said, all right. So I did that a few times. Um, anyway, I knew him. So anyway, when I got back here I called him up and he was a judge and I said, hey, what do I do? And he said, well, let me check. And he checked and said, turn yourself into because they have a suit on site. And I said, well why do they have a shoot on sight? Is said because they think that you shot the DEA agent. I said, oh.

Jimmy

24:10

So I said, right. So I went and turned myself in. I, I wasn't even 18 years old yet. I was turning 18 and uh, so I went and told the guys at the cop, at the police station and I got you guys. I'm here to criminals, so open and they checked the computer and the guy told me he thought I was just after some sort of notoriety and eats only get lost. And I said, well, you should probably check again, you know, I mean, um, you know, check again. And he checked the second time and he thought I was a nuisance and he told me to get the hell out. And I was standing there by the elevators thinking, well, what do I do? This guy doesn't want to arrest me, you know, and uh, I'm standing there with a 100 cops passing them around me and, and my judge tells me that I'm wanting us to on site these guys and I'm standing in and all of a sudden the guy looks up at me from his computer screen with a look of horror.

Jimmy

25:01

And next thing I know the elevator's open. I'm thrown against the wall, kick to the floor, handcuffed and dragged across the street to the FBI office. And uh, um, you know, so there I am sitting in the chair and the FBI office and one of the FBI guys, I'm dials up, the guy that was shot in the hospital and then they put the phone to my ear and say he wants to talk to you. And I said, all right, so he tells me what he's gonna do to me. He pretty much tells me what he's gonna do to me when, when he, when he gets better and I pretty much tell them that the effort, you know, to f off. And then after that I just blank out because the guys in the office locked me out. And um, anyway, so the next thing I know I'm in county jail awaiting expedition to go back to Arizona. And um, I stayed there for 90 days. They have a 90 day window in which they can do that or otherwise they have to release me. And um, so I'm there and uh, you know, portering and stuff. And here's this girl at the booking desk and, and I'm flirting with her and I got her phone number and we got plans. He's going to college and we got plans to go to go out and stuff and they bring this guy in, he's drunk and they're kicking the shit out of him on the floor and she starts to laugh at this guy and the guy reminds me of my father. When my father, I would see him from time to time on the streets. He was drunk.

Jimmy

26:37

And um, so this guy reminds me of my bed so I don't know what to do to this girl for her laughing at him. So I reached through the bars and grab her book. She's a girl, so I grabbed a book on top of that book. Happened to be, uh, an anthology from norton on the romantic poets. Wordsworth, Byron, Cooler Ridge. Um, uh, so I take the book upstairs to my cell after I'm done portering. I started tearing the pages out to make a, to heat up coffee for the guys on tear. And uh, one of the pages before I tear it out to a few of them. One of the pages reminds, I see something and it sounded out the word. And then something happens to me, I'm not sure what, but they just decided not to tear out the pages and then that for the next couple of days I, I try to flog myself through this page and it really blows me away because every single word is igniting and triggering memories from my past.

Jimmy

27:43

And these are all good memories. Me With my grandpa and the Village taking the sheep out. Me With my grandma around a woodstove. She's cooking tortillas, me taking the pond and the village were all the sheep and everybody would come and play the beautiful skies and the clouds and dogs and all those cool things. And uh, so, you know, so, so, so I, I don't, I don't know where this guy got his name from, but the, but I thought it was a game name at the time. I thought, you know, can we used to use the word word up all the time and I guess this guy, his mother named him Wordsworth and I thought, well this is maybe this guy is a gang member. I don't know. But anyway. Yeah. Right. So it was a Wordsworth, I thought that's pretty cool tag, you know.

Jimmy

28:30

So anyway, so, so, uh, my sister comes to visit me and I tell her, hey, you know, um, any chance you can get me an a dictionary? And she thought she thought I was giving her a codename for heroin or for coke or for, for, uh, for a night. And I said, no, no. I said a real dictionary, you know, and she couldn't get it. And I said, I said, Tina, I need a, I need a book, a real book, not a knife or drugs or anything. Give me a book so I can learn these words. And uh, she was horrified. She said she'd go to the dealers and pick up any amount of drugs that are needed or, or smuggling or knife to me or something like that. But there was no way in hell that she was ever going to go into the bookstore. It was like, it was more threatening to her than any drug den. Any drug dealer's house.

James

29:32

The fear of the knowledge she hadn't been given?

James

29:35

Yeah. And none of us had ever been around books. We would see Christmas carols, Christmas and movies and stuff, Ben Hur and Jesus Christ and all that stuff. Uh, you know, anytime we saw somebody in a movie with a book, that person had authority and power and could, uh, could have decisive impact on your life. So people that went to bookstores were the people that we wanted to stay away from a and books were, were, were truly weapons of that were very menacing to us. They used by society against us. So when I asked her to go to the bookstore, it was like asking her to the, you know, the blow, but building soon she said, no, no, I'm not going to go to a bookstore. I said, all right. Um, so, you know, I decided to try to figure it out on myself, just sounding out the words and stuff like that.

Jimmy

30:33

And um, it was funny because, because that was the porter and I was given out coffee, my job was to get up at 3:30 or four and get everything going and go up, go all the, all the guys and give everybody caught in their. They put cups on the bars and you fill it up with coffee in Styrofoam cups and they have one cell where they brought in transfers some prison for court and um, you know, I was given this get coffee and he says, give me four more cups. And I told them I'll, I'll, I'll come back down and give you all the coffee you want. That's, that's no problem. I said, just let me make sure everybody gets caught and I'll come back down and any threw coffee at me. And he says, I want my coffee now. And I said, Oh boy, here we go.

Jimmy

31:14

So, um, so the guard, they were instructed never to interfere with any with fights and stuff. So the guard opened up excel gate, all the guy to come out. And then he closed the first cell gate and then opened up the holding cell gate. And the guy came out in the garden, the other porters took off and me and this guy got into a fight. And the way I used to fight as a kid, I would bum rush. The guy just starts swinging like crazy and just overpower him immediately, you know, if I could. And that was the only thing that saved me from getting a good ass whipping, which I got 90 percent of the time, but you know, I mean, so I did it and the craziest thing was that was the first time in my life I was protecting my eyes, which really, really was not good in a fight. You don't. The only way you can win a fight isn't. You don't care about yourself. You just have to get in there. And here I was here, I was doing the rope, a dope and dancing around so that this guy wouldn't hit me in the eyes because I wanted to finish up the book.

James

32:18

So I didn't do very good in that fight.

James

32:20

Did you protect your eyes though?

Jimmy

32:23

Yeah.

Jimmy

32:25

My eyes and getting hit. And I was like, I like, this is not good dude. This is not good at all. So, uh, I went into a room by myself and I cried because I thought that I was becoming a coward. I that. What do I mean? Here I was stuck in love with the book and I couldn't read it because I felt that I would say that the book was making me a coward and I couldn't survive in that environment is a coward. So I was really at odds with myself on what to do. And, uh, thank goodness I didn't have to make a decision because around that time, the, uh, the, uh, the feds got some guy to take the stand against the up. You signed a piece of paper saying that I had sold the guy that heroin and stuff and he was already in prison.

Jimmy

33:15

So I guess they released them if he signed a piece of paper and that gave, uh, that gave the marshals the authority to come pick me up on the 90th day. They picked me up, drove me to Arizona, dropped the charges from federal to state because I do more time and um, went in front of a judge. And before I knew it I was off to Arizona for five or 10 year sentence or a possession with the intent to distribute heroin. And so when I got to prison, I was pretty. Yeah, I mean, you know, it was.

Jimmy

33:53

I walked in, you know, all the guys want to pick out somebody, they're going to rape. I was picked up by this one guy, big, big old Bozo guy. Uh, and uh, when I went into the diagnostic center, a big Ole big huge building, when they put all the guys, when they first get to prison, he was there, he transferred to become a porter. And he kept looking at me and, uh, I asked this guy who was, who was a veteran that I know, asked him. I said, hey, what do I do? He says, you got to kill that guy. And I said, all right, well, I mean, can I fight him? You said, now you gotta take that. You got to go do that, dude. You got to get them. I said, all right, I'll do it. So he gave me a shank and a, uh, within a week I was outside and I was in line and I saw the guy and I just rushed at him and I totally forgot about the shank. I didn't even, I didn't even use it, I was, I just rushed at him and I hit him and his head, went into a grinding wheel that was on, in the wood, in the wood shop and it, it came a pretty good gash. And uh, next thing I knew I was being carted off by these goons isolation and I looked to the line and I'm the guy that gave me the Shank, gave me a sort of thumbs up. He gave me a nod of his head that meant I did good.

Jimmy

35:25

You did really good, good job. And I was like, okay, you know. So I went to isolation thinking I had, I had fulfilled my role as a man and a. and that started my whole, my whole six years in prison defined the administration, not one in the work and you know, um, you know, I had a little policy with me at about 12, 15, 20 guys that were following me everywhere. Wanted me to kind of be a leader and stuff. And um, you know, I got into that for a couple of months maybe. And then, then I, then I didn't want to do it anymore, I wanted to read, I want them to write just because I wanted to just improve myself. I just wanted to figure out what was going on and um, and you know, and the more I read and wrote the least, I was inclined to go along with the system.

Jimmy

36:25

And, uh, eventually I just said one day I'm not going out to eat and I'm not going out to work. And the guys that were following me, you know, they were like, what's going on? I said, no, just don't want to do it. They said, were you afraid to go out and fight? Are you afraid of people? I said, no, not really. I just don't want to do it. I don't want to go along with the system. And it was really hard for them to understand because in their eyes the system was normal. The system was what he came to prison for. The system was where their friendship and comradery and you know, fill their days, hours and the system was their life. And here I was telling them that I don't want to participate in that and they couldn't understand why, why would I do this, why would I bring, why would I break the link in the chain and screw everything up?

Jimmy

37:10

Everything was going great. We're starting our own gang and here I was balking at it, you know, so, um, yeah, unless they, you know, they came to my cell after about three weeks and not eating or working and they send some of the, some of the, some of the pit bulls up there, some of the goon squad guys, one guy named meg dogma. Drill is really bad. And when they sent him up there and drag me back in isolation and from there on end it was just a, I refuse to work. I refused to go along with the system unless they let me go to school. I did compromise. I said I'll go to work if I can go to school. And they said no. They said, you're here, you're behind the walls that a maximum security state prison in Arizona in the desert. And it's probably the worst prison in America at that time because that's where they brought all the other major gang bangers, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Nazis, the skinheads, the black guerrilla family from Detroit and Chicago, nearly a Mexican mafia.

Jimmy

38:12

They brought them all in there and they transferred. A warden from Ohio that had just taken a tank into the prison, killed a bunch of guys that are taken out of the prison. So they brought in warden cardwell. And then here's this little snotty kid who thinks he's not going to work. So you know, that's the last thing they needed on their plate. So it was this head to head, fight up constantly with the guards and other inmates for the next three years and maintain. I figured out how to write and writing and stuff like that. And the more I wrote, the mind loves it, the more I loved it, the more enroll. And then I began to get a bunch of books from other convicts and people began to send stuff into me. Good Samaritans and stuff, you know? And the world looked brighter. The world looks great even at its deepest, deepest our, I was deep in the, a segue administration across on death row and, and I was with the worst people you could imagine.

Jimmy

39:10

And yet that was the happiest I've ever been. I was able to get up and read and stuff and there were some guys will come in there and they were trying to reassemble the ward and they were to, they will try, they will turn the knife meter, it will try to take me out of myself. So I had to fight them and uh, but I could do that, you know? And then when I, uh, when I went to isolation, um, I don't know what happened, but when I got to isolation and begin to experience amazing, amazing experiences where my, my spirit will leave my body and I find myself a traversing the village. I grew up there, I'd be back with my grandfather, I'd be back with my grandmother. I was happy. I mean I passed entire days like that. It was crazy. And then when they let me out of isolation, it continued.

Jimmy

40:02

Like, I would continue to close my eyes and meditate. And before I knew it, I was standing on top of the prison looking down and that was really intense because, um, I dunno, and then I could read. And that meant that I was getting books like a hundred years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez . I was reading Melville, I was reading some of the great Russian authors, some of the great, uh, Central Americans and the great Spanish artists, the German philosophers. I just read voraciously and I was writing so, so it was, you know, it was good. Um, and then when I got out of prison, uh, there was a lot of hubbub because the warden in one let me go and said I hadn't worked. He was going to keep me there. And there was a lot of guys that were there many years after the sentence was completed. It was pretty arbitrary.

Jimmy

40:53

And uh, so I got really, really, really worried that he was going to keep me there for, for a long time. And I was on the verge of doing some really bad things to some really bad people that are out of sheer frustration because my, my time for release had come and gone. And then I, I, I projected the wardens, a dictatorial hatred of me onto other convicts that acted like him. They acted like bullies and stuff. So I thought, oh, I'm going to go after those guys. And thank God it didn't happen. Thank God. You know, when I decided to do it that a friend of mine stepped in and did it and did a couple of them. He said a couple of them really bad, but he was already doing two lines for murder. So for him it didn't matter, but he, he, he, he, I pretty much saw it to him.

Jimmy

41:49

He said, um, he said, you need to get the hell out of here and um, you need to write about it. So when I came out, I came out, I wrote the story, bled and bled out that movie for a Hollywood pictures and uh, became a huge international blockbuster. What I think 20 years later, I think it's been 15, 20 years since I did it, uh, it's ranked in the top five best, best sewing video movies in the world still. And um, uh, you know, since then, I mean, you know, it's just been a, it's been, it's been a grain to turn to figure out the emotional aspects of living free and being a father of five could be incredible kids having an incredible wife and you know, it's been good. It's been good.

James

42:38

Listen to your story, that kind of subtext. Oh, so you went to prison and you got educated and you came out about a person, but that, that isn't actually the journey that you took. Is that the, when you were trying to educate yourself, and again, not, not demonizing the prison system as it is, but this particular experience that you had in that particular period, you were being withheld from the very education that ultimately would allow you to turn your life around and get off this, these, these tracks that you were on?

Jimmy

43:10

No, he didn't. He didn't. He didn't let me. I don't know why they didn't allow me to go to school. I mean, it was so bizarre. I went to reclassification committee and told them, you know, hey, look, just let me go to school and I'll work. I'll work till midnight for you guys. Just let me go through those gates and go to one of the barracks and learn how to read and write. I want to learn about science and math. You know, I want to know how windows are made, how cars are made. I want to know what this whole thing about jobs means and what does school mean and what does all that stuff mean. I'm all, I know, you know. And uh, he told me, nope, ain't going to happen in your lifetime. So I said, well, I guess I got to just educate myself. I don't know. So, you know, I, I mean everybody, everybody was sending me books. I had books from guys that were scheduled that day on death row and, and they were getting good books, you know, that, you know, that's funny because a lot of the guys on death row, we're reading Emily Dickinson and Ernest Hemingway a. So unless you're, if you before you face death where you want to rebuild the not, but they were, you know?

James

44:22

Amazing! So what I want to ask you is this. I had um, a, a, a prison governor of a prison in Norway, and I've talked about this several times on, on previous episodes, but they have, and this is not the absolute maximum security. So they had a horrible mass murder in, in, in Oslo that, that man is, is locked away in, in the same kind of prison model that you guys were in. But the next step down, they have the model where, for example, this one Bastoy is on an island just off Oslo and they've lost their freedom, their prisoners, but they live in a community. So there's houses they live in, you know, in these houses together. They have to cook, they have to clean, they go to work, they go to school, they are, you know, they exactly what you want to do.

James

45:06

If the, if they show a desire to learn a profession, then they get trained while they're there, which to me seems like an incredible, um, system. Their results are mindblowing and some of the, the US prisoners have actually done exchanges and trying to bring those models over here, but they're re, they're a rear fender rate is extremely low. They have no violence pretty much in any of the prisons. The guys aren't even armed. And so then I look at not just America, I mean most of the world does it, the call the Philadelphia model, which is how you were and obviously it's, it's progressed and it's definitely not the experience that you were going through. Most of them I would think, but in your journey of, of prisons, what is your view on how we do it and how can we do it better?

Jimmy

45:56

You just reversed the model, just reversed the model. There are some people that need to be locked up that are just total idiots. And you need to lock them up, they don't belong in society, something broken, um, long time ago and they need, they need special care. But I'd say 90 percent of the inmates in prisons in America don't belong there today. And he just reversed the model. Instead of putting a pipeline to prison pipeline to a PhD, uh, initiate community, satellite centers and every neighborhood make accountability for crimes primary. In other words, a lot of these guys, or go to prison, they have a lot of skills that they can use in prison. They were roofers, they were carpenters, electricians get these guys out there. I mean, I mean, if you're going to be an idiot, then there's going to be consequences for being an idiot.

Jimmy

46:59

But I get these guys out there to start repairing some of the elderly homes that have broken rules and the rain comes in and broken windows, you know, and start, start getting them into educational, uh, satellites where they come in and the, uh, you give them the tools and you give them the resources and you give them the models, the guy or the, the guidance counselors and stuff. Most of them are just looking for a reason or a place to have meaning. Most of them are looking for meaning. I just give them meaning and that starts with education, given them purpose and that starts with education a good that put the meaning and put the purpose back in the community because there's so many people in the community, they can't afford electricity. They can't afford a plumber. Let these guys come in and do it for him, just like they do with the wildfires in California.

James

47:55

It bust them out to the wildfires. They have a purpose. They get out there and they help and it gives them meaning. At the end of the day, when they look at that check, they looked like, okay, I can send some stuff to my kids. You know some money. I mean, Geez, it's so simple, man, but boy, do we use the excuse? If you do one, one wrong decision, a urine slave for the rest of your life while somebody else makes money off of you. There are these systems set up, man, that men, if you make a mistake, I am going to make money off of, you know, and if you make a mistake and not get caught where you'll be with me making money off of them too. But if you get caught, I'll be making money off of you. And that's really, that's really the, that's really the crazy thing.

Jimmy

48:40

For instance, I did a project, I've done a lot of them. I have a book, a book, a bookmobile when we give out hundreds of books every month. But anyway, uh, I got some of these guys that are certainly great artists. They do tattoos and stuff and uh, I got some of my poems, uh, that have to do with growing up in the barrio, growing up in the neighborhood growing up and the price had gone. I've grown up in a trailer park and I got some of my poems and I gave it to these guys. And I said, here, I want you to illustrate these in the children's books instead of doing your tattoos on your arms. I'm not saying stop it. I'm just saying add to your portfolio rather, you know. So they, they, they did that, I paid them. They, they, they, uh, they, they illustrated the books, we printed them and we ran out in the first two weeks handing them out to people in the neighborhoods because winning, we're like, that's his father.

Jimmy

49:36

His father is in prison. Can I take this? I said, sure. Oh, that's what's his name. He, he reformed, he's a recovering addict and he's now a janitor at the local community center. Can we have this book? Sure. So they took all the books home and they begin to read them to their kids. I ran out of money, but it was a great project utilizing with these guys in prison, you know, and we pay them, which is really cool. And uh, we had a lot of responses from we're from the spouses and the children and stuff like that, that their fathers wrote them saying here's some money and stuff like that. Which you know, I mean if you give them a reason not to go, not when they get out, not to go to the dealers first, they'll stop by their families first and give them something like, okay, go inside, let's do a journal and I want you to do a journal. Starting from there, you're going to be doing a journal and it's going to be directed and addressed to your children why

Jimmy

50:28

you did certain things and what you think about these kids and what the memory is of you and your children. So before you go to the dealer's House, take this journal, go see your kid handed to him or her and say, here, this is a gift I did for you. It, it, it, it, it gives you an explanation as to why you know, and we need to start humanizing stuff. It's just everything's backwards. Don't lock up the people. You have to start creating environments where they can begin to learn how to trust again, especially themselves. To be able to learn how to trust that they won't be betrayed or deceived or ridiculed. So many of them are just God. They've been ridiculed where they can't even stand up and say anything to anybody as honest, you know, uh, and that's the whole thing with drugs. Did you got to get drugs out of the equation? It has to have to get rid of that shit, man. You can go nowhere and do nothing if you got 100 belly and a drug addiction, you know, there's no way you're going to learn. You've got to get drugs out. That means all call to, you cannot, it just won't work with those two ingredients if you have alcohol and drugs. You know, what, don't even start until the person is clean.

James

51:47

Well, I had another guy on looking internationally to try and find some, some people that are doing things a lot better than us. I mean, to put it bluntly, Portugal decriminalized drug use. So this is the addicts. So instead of throwing them all in prison, which they had done years prior, um, and so the policing really is, was pretty much a arresting that, that level of people, obviously they're trying to get higher, but usually it's the addicts that get thrown in jail. Um, they made the addicts, uh, um, uh, a patient instead of a criminal, so firstly you don't have a criminal record when you're, you know, because you'll get start, but they will basically bring you into an office and give you a, um, that path to addiction recovery. So you will actually be fast tracked into their recovery sensor. There's job creation down there.

James

52:39

Like I said, you're not criminalized so you don't have a record that doesn't stop you from getting work. You know, there's, there's job training and they had an amazing success where they went from the highest level of addiction in Europe to the lowest in less than 10 years. And then all that money is then focused on the traffickers and the dealers who, you know, once you've cut the head off the snake supply and demand, if you haven't caught a lot of addicts, obviously that's going to shrivel down organically anyway. But that's, that's another thing is there, there are these models in the world that will have a dramatic effect on not just the addict themselves, but the safety of, of families. You know that if drugs aren't in there, then there's going to be less domestic violence is going to be safer for the police officers and the firefighters and the medics. It affects everyone, the community.

Jimmy

53:29

This whole thing, this whole thing of criminalizing somebody for an emotional trauma is like, wow. I mean you can afford emotional traumas. If you have money and can go to a therapist. You can afford them. If you could live in a nice neighborhood and have your doctor prescribe the medicine, the drug so you can do it at home, but when you're born poor, you've got nowhere to go. Nothing. None of those. None of those things to do and then people have to start criminalizing new for your decisions that you make a based upon something that happened to you that you couldn't handle spiritually or emotionally. An incident happened to somebody that was so traumatizing that the person couldn't deal with it, and the only thing that can handle that, the only person that is the number is to get some drugs and numb yourself out and then to be called a criminal and then it'd be criminalized after that, when there's so much resources available.

James

54:21

And that one human being to be a really purposeful leader in the community. Wow. What a shame. That waste that, you know. So man, it's just amazing how many people in prison you can use to do good in the community. Uh, but man, we demonize them, we brutalize them, we criminalize them and then we'll press them. It's just, man, I don't get it. I really don't. Um, I'm not a therapist or anything like that, but, but I've been in prisons around the world and I traveled. I have a, I do tours around the world and stuff twice a year. I do a lot of luck. I have two tours a year, lectures and stuff like that with my books and stuff. But, uh, I'm thinking about prisoners. Is that.

Jimmy

55:16

When you, when you give them the opportunity to tell a story or when you're given the opportunity just to listen to them talk about the cottonwood tree that their grandfather admired so much about the time they went up hunting with their uncle or the time, uh, uh, when the kid, when his, when his, when his dad died and he walked out of the hospital and leap in front of a bus. When you give them an opportunity to talk about those things, uh, and you began to see the, uh, underlying strata of emotion that created this individual. I'm just little things like, like I asked this guy once, you know, um, I had all these guys were writing stories and stuff and writing poetry and I had this guy come into the room who is a leader of the southern Mafia. And he controlled a lot of the stuff from Mexico coming in. Big Guide. It was like a Mohammed Ali. He walks in and I tell them, why don't you sit down and join us? And he's like, Nah, that's okay. I just want to make sure I was going to give these guys the. Okay, go ahead and write.

Jimmy

56:24

I'll give you permission to write for this man. And I said thank you. I appreciate that very much because I know if he said no they wouldn't. Right. And uh, so they were also writing and they were amazing stories. But eventually over my, my visits there, I asked them, I said to him, you know, you're such a, you're so charismatic or why, why did you, what happened to you? I mean, what happened? And he said, uh, he was, uh, he was grown up and as, as mom, single parent and as a mom, I always told him he was beautiful. He was the most handsome kid. He was the most brilliant kid and he was doing great in school, but the teacher loved them. He had schoolmates that loved them. He was doing great in his studies. And then one day in class he intercepted the note and he got to know and the inner supposed to pass it on.

Jimmy

57:15

But he opened it up and there was some of these two girls and they were grading who was the most handsome in class and who was the ugliest and his name was at the bottom of the ugliest one in school and it devastated him that his mother had been lying to him all these years. And when. Then when he went home, he looked in the mirror and he realized that he had all these marks on his face and he told his mother she lied to him, that he was really agree, that he wasn't good looking. And the next day he went to school, he beat some kid, the death almost with a bat because he had been made a fool of and he was the ugliest person in school. And he said that one incident, that one deception at one betrayal by his mother. And I said to him, dude, your mom loves you, man.

Jimmy

58:05

What else is she going to think? And he says, yeah, I do. But she never to the of how ugly I was, you know, because I thought I was beautiful. And when I realized that wasn't, I realized that he said that I just didn't want to do anything good anymore. So it was just that one thing that caused them to turn against people violently. And he never recovered from it. I don't know what the answer is to something like that, but I know that we don't have a, we don't have offices or agencies to accommodate a traumatized kid. Uh, we wanted them to criminalize them and stuff. You know, yesterday I went to a school that hand out books and a kid that was with the teacher that came, they came to pick up the bosses of books. I couldn't tell where the kid was, a girl or a boy and this was mid school. And uh, I asked the teacher, I didn't know what the, how to address this child site. I, as it were, is he a boy, a girl? And she said he's a trans. I said, oh, that's cool, you know, and when she said he's a trans. And I said, oh, that's cool. The kid was standing next to me gave me the biggest smile in the world and he said, cool man, I'll carry those boxes for you. And then he says, yeah, I'm a girl and a boy. And I said, cool dude, come on. So it was just that simple. But he was waiting for me to condemn him. He was waiting there with a defiant stance with his arms out and he was waiting for me to say, Oh dude, you're a, you're a, you're perverted. And I said, no, dude, that's cool man. You know, you're both. I was, I was both, you know. And uh, firstly I'm stuck in this old man. So anyway, you know, I thought I looked at that as a, I look at it as like a really cool thing, you know, and a lot of these guys that I, that I, that I know in prison, I mean if I could only use them just just for one year, I have these neighborhoods looking so beautiful, you know, we could pay them, we could get them into community recovery programs, we could get them in school and it's all about money. It's just, there's so much money spent on board and just nothing. If we could just take some of that money and use these and you know, it's funny because the men are in prison or are in the prime of their youth in the prime of their strength, in the prime of their. I want to get my life going in the prime of their hope in the prime of their dreaming is the dreaming state.

Jimmy

01:00:37

It's when you develop a family and get kids and that's the precise time that we cut them out from under the. We've kept the flooding out from under them. Wow. No wonder they're angry. No wonder they want to do drugs or if you want to, do you want to get somebody to do drugs, just make that person feel worthless and you've got a great, great customer the rest of your life, you know, so just reversed the model versus the programs instead of sending in the prison. First column. Okay. I did a program in the bay area. I walked in and uh, it was about 300 black kids, a bunch of Spanish kids, a handful of white kids are growing up the prison. And I said, look guys, you're screwed. You don't know how to read guys and you're not a right, so let's do this.

Jimmy

01:01:22

I'm going to give out 50 bucks every single person that writes a review of a book of a poetry book. I went through the review of it and I'm a never knew how to read and write. So I said, that's going to be a problem for you to get that 50 bucks because you're going to have to learn grammar. And they were like, yeah, we could do it. Well, you know, they are there. The system is set up so it doesn't encourage learning grammar. So none of them. I didn't have to give anybody 50 bucks, but later on there's a whole lot of instances, like a later on, one of the kids wrote me that he was going to Berkeley and his mother was a crack, was a crackhead and she, he came to his apartment and she had robbed him of everything. And she was sitting in the corner with a book of poetry that I had given him and he didn't know how to thank me because he said poets don't get paid.

Jimmy

01:02:16

So he sent me a bunch of, pocket change dollar bills and stuff. I'm working in a Thai restaurant as a server. He said, I don't have very much money but this where I want to give you for saving my mom. And also for say to me, he said the poems my mom read that, uh, gave her enough of an impetus to get her into recovery. And of course this is the time you came. I've never forgotten it. He says, and I've always kept in mind and if you could do it, I can do it. And I'm here going to school now so that I have a lot of those stories. I was in a Mississippi prison and I was in a room that was a series. It was. These guys were serious. I don't know why I do that. Sometimes I'll, I'll provoke some of these guys. And I said to them, you know what, if your daughter was coming on a bus with her grandma, your mom, and she has come in and see you, and the visit was today and what have I walked up to you and pop you in the mouth right now?

James

01:03:14

Oh boy. The temperature in that room went up and they told me, you know, Mr. Bucket, don't even play that way, man. I said, well, look on the surface of things that might be at play, but deep, deep underneath that is not. I said, because we have to re define ourselves as men in an environment like this and the reason that they can do what they do to us it was because we keep clinging to this archaic definition of what a man is. Stop how many of you in, in other words, in biblical terms, how many of you would be willing to train and cheek

Jimmy

01:03:47

so that you could go see your daughter and then you can take care of business later. But for right now, now if I were to come up and hit you in the mail, how many of you would say, no, I'm not going to do anything because it means that my daughter who just traveled six hours on a greyhound bus to come see me, won't be able to see me. So I'm not going to let that happen. Because a real man would show up and say, hey honey, what's up? So how many of you want to be a real man a day? None of them. Every single one of them said, Nah, that's not happening. Somebody hits me. I don't care who's coming to see me. I'm going to fight that dude. I said, well, they have it, you know, they, when they define man and we fulfill it, and that's why we're all in this prison. And uh, there was this one guy looking at me from the corner and looked like a Malcolm X young man. He was kept studying and looking at me and he writes me a letter a year later

Jimmy

01:04:46

and he says to me, I want to tell you a story about a illustration you gave us about the, uh, I want to tell you about that, that her getting hit in the mouth. He says, I came out of prison and I did. He said, I, I, I went up to tell this guy. I went up to tell this guy to get out of this rental that I was, that I had and he hit me. I immediately turned around with one of my sons with me and I went to pick up my pistol. I was going to kill this guy, Mr Baca. I was going to shoot this guy and take him out of existence for what he did. And I went back to my apartment and picked up my pistol. I was, I was heading out the door when my daughter stopped me and said, Daddy, Daddy, come over here. And so he, he said I had to sit in a chair and when my dad, when my daughter looked at my face, she compared that the welt underneath my eye to arose and she kept saying what a beautiful rose this is daddy and she kept kissing it and he said, never in a million years would I ever be acquainted with this man did to me as something that my daughter would find beautiful. And he said, I just, I just took the pistol and told my son, put it away. And he says, dude, you're right. He says, I never thought you'd be right, but you're right man. I was there for my daughter when I would be in prison. Had that not happened. And my daughter not stopped me going out that door and I had my daughter not leaped up on my lap and started fingering her bruises around my eye and saying it looked like a rose. And it actually made me smile when she said that I'd be doing life in prison right now. He says, now I just got to follow up with the rest of my life like that. So he redefined what it was to be a man and that was to be there for your kid.

James

01:06:34

Our definition of what a man is is so warped, whether it's, you know, growing up in the hood somewhere and your definition of a man is the biggest thug in your community, you know, who has the, the, the car and the role of, of uh, you know, $50 bills or if it's in the business world, again, the same exact person but the bully that, that, you know, works in the stock market. But the, the other thing is also the kind of Rambo Terminator, you know, men never cry bullshit that we get preached to as well. And we see this affecting our soldiers are police officers or firefighters. These role models where we're supposed to be tough and impenetrable. And then these, these men and women end up, you know, if they, if they're not a veto feel, they can reach out. They ended up taking their own lives because of that same thing that, that facade. That is what is a man or you know, or version of a woman if you want to put it that way too. Um, and the reality is, you know, a real man is his violent when he needs to be to protect his family, God forbid, but then as compassionate and kind the rest of the time

Jimmy

01:07:46

When I said that I didn't have any guidance and stuff like that, I actually, I actually include almost every state in every country in the world. There's so much, there's so much that we expect society to do for us that it can't and there's so much that we need to do for ourselves that we really find that we can't. I don't know how that got reversed, but I knew that in trying to develop myself as a human being then was so much more I had to reach for it than just what people were offering me. If a teacher has said, here's a book, Jim, and once you read this, I would take the book and then I would start to find out its references and take another 20 books behind that one. Because it was something I needed to get to, I need to get to all of that.

James

01:08:35

While most people would just be satisfied to read the book because it was just for the greater, the lesson plan of the curriculum I was reaching for life, meaning I wanted to find out those 15 books that created this book. So there's so much more that needs that we all need to do to reach the place where we're at, our highest potential as human beings and life givers in the community. Now. When I went through a lot of crazy stuff, I was in Hollywood making movies and stuff like that at one point. Make so much money. If it weren't even funny, I couldn't spend the amount of hours. It was crazy. I was doing drugs. I was having affairs with actresses every single week even though I was married. Uh, it was just insane. Anyway, I quit one day. I'm sitting there in an office with Oliver Stone and I'm sitting there with the xxxxxx brothers in New York and we're talking about doing Scarface Two. And um, I just hit it. I had a major blockbuster movie and this and that, and I say, well, I got to get up and use the bathroom really quick, and I got up and left.

James

01:09:40

I got in my car and I just kept driving and I just kept driving and driving and driving heading uh, east of La. And then my agent calls me and says, you know, what are you doing? He cussed me out, told me I was worthless. I was no good. I was blacklisted. I said, I didn't know what I'm doing now. I have no idea what went down just now, but I think it's called a breakdown. And he says, well, you know what, you're never going to be doing another thing here that, uh, all that. I got home and my wife met me at the door and she said, where's the contract? I said, I don't have it. Where's the money? We don't have that either. What happened? I said, I don't know what happened. I just, I had to come back. I don't know. So anyway, she, uh, she told me I went to out, now I'm filing for divorce in the morning.

Jimmy

01:10:31

I said, well, you have every right to do that because I ran into every single day for the last three years in la, so she said, I want you, I want you out of here. I said, all right, so I. I went from having that meeting to being homeless the next night and I went up to a wall. I went up to a kmart and I was standing there and all these guys were coming up asking me for money because I was dressed all nice and again, whatever money I had in my pocket, and then I took off walking and I found myself walking down the same dirt road that I used to run away from the orphanage. I ran away a lot from the orphanage and I would always run down this one road to go see my grandma and I found myself that night, 30 years later, walking down that road, assuming that I was walking back to my grandma when I suddenly stopped and realized he was dead and there was no street lights, no salt, no nothing. So there I am standing there and I started crying and then his temples that start coming up and I'm afraid to get my scenes because they were made in Venezuela. I'm afraid to get my $3,000 pair of shoes. So I kicked the pit bull with my knee and started throwing rocks at this guy and they ripped my half of my knee cap off. And I thought, well, you got to be a sick dude man, yet to prefer your kneecap rose shoes get bit.

Jimmy

01:11:49

But that's the kind of guy you become in LA. But anyway, so these guys great drive by in cars and they start yelling at me in Spanish obscenities like I'm a punk. And um, they started throwing beer bottles at me and they don't realize that I just made the movie, which they'll consider to be the greatest movie ever made about them and their culture for the next 20 years, you know? But they don't know that. And they start throwing beer bottles. They don't cry you little punk pussy or not. And if they're. And I turned my back and I, I'm in there. And then they leave. And I start walking and I call up a friend in La and I say, I need to borrow some money to get an apartment. I got no money. And he said, I heard what happened. And uh, uh, anything that I can help you with.

Jimmy

01:12:33

And I said, it was Dennis Hopper actually. And I said, no system. This, I just need some money for an apartment. So he sent me five grand gamma apartment that night. I'm sleeping on the floor. Nothing. No schools. I'm not even a plastic spoon. I made a pot in there. I mean I'm eating potted meat spam with my hands and I go sleep on the carpet and I just turned down a million dollar advance deal to do Scarface. And now I'm homeless, sleeping on a carpet in the same clothes I was wearing two days ago, three days ago. And there's a knock at the door. And I open it and it's my two little boys and some dudes. You guys blow with your mom and you guys gotta get Outta here, man. They said, no, she brought us. We want to stay with you. So we fell asleep at night, the kids had their heads on my stomach and you know, we're sleeping on the floor and that's how it all started.

Jimmy

01:13:25

And then I went to by myself a typewriter, got some food and the mattress where we all three slept on. And uh, I started writing a book and I thought, well, you know, my grandmother always said right from the heart. So I decided to write from the heart and uh, I finished the book and then turn it in and they're not. It was a place to stand for another. Was Me walking away from that meeting that day, uh, made me talking to you today, happen. I'd never met here about her. I stayed in La and accepted that deal. So I wrote a place to stand. That was the book. I wrote one international prize in Frankfurt, Germany, book festival, went on to become a best seller. And, um, has given me a great, great career as a writer. I've got 28 books now in 37 languages and

Jimmy

01:14:12

uh, I have the five of the most beautiful kids in the entire world. I mean, they all excelled in their careers and uh, I'm still learning how to be a pack. I'm still learning how to be a father and I'm still learning how to love myself and that's a big one, man. I'm still learning how not to go to drugs and you know, I'm still learning yet. It's going to pass, dude. Just one step in front of the other brothers. Do it. Get up at 4:00 in the morning by 5:00. I've got the kids' lunches made. Boom. Got Two kids left at home, still got three that are doing fabulous. I'm got a great wife, got amazing home care, a great farm, an organic farm. I mean, all of us, just, you know, what, if it doesn't happen today, so what? Just keep moving, just keep working.

James

01:14:57

And, and it's crazy because when I was in that apartment, uh, I was ridiculed by everybody saying, look, he used to be a great writer and I was being used in an example is who not to be. You don't want to end up like him. That's what drugs did. Look at him. He's a worthless failure. Look really stupid apartment where all these derelicts limb and so there I was living with all these people and are, they all came to my apartment and I said, okay, let's do this guys. I'm going to buy a machine. We're going to start reciting poetry and uh, and we're going to make them tapes. And then some of the really rough gang bangers came by and I said, look, what I want you guys to do is, you know, have those corners where you sold drugs at less. Go ahead and hire somebody.

Jimmy

01:15:44

These guys, these guys you know, that know how to draw and make some beautiful, beautiful murals on the back of the t-shirts. And with that, let's put some poetry. Then I want you guys to go out and sell these tee shirts. And then that turned into like a rappers coming in. Hip Hop guys come and saying, Hey, we want to join your group. And so before we knew it, we were traveling with, with, with tapes of poetry, with, with a performance poets, with selling tee shirts were poems on it with beautiful graphics that they had drawn. And they were all paying their rent retina, everybody was bringing back your old ladies and taking care of their kids just on the money we were making. And then all of a sudden the impossible happens. One guy shows up and all the kids changed. I don't know what happened to them, but you could feel it as thick as a jam in the air.

Jimmy

01:16:35

And I asked the kids, who is this guy? And they said he's his father is the main main guy who flies in and trucks in all the math for the southwest west and, and, and we used to kill for this guy. I mean, whatever this guy said we would do, because he was like the main crown jewels in the drug world. And I said, yeah, wow. Is it really that big anything? Yeah. Yeah. Is that big? I said, okay, well you guys want to let them into the group because that's what he's come from. He's going to ask if he can be let into the group. And they all had a powwow and agreed that they would let him in. So he became the treasurer for our little group and he had brand new vehicles. Yeah, brand new car, a brand new van. So we were able to use those vehicles to go travel around to all the villages and perform poetry and handout tee shirts and so tapes and stuff. And then, and then uh, something happened with the guy stole some of the money and when we had a powwow, everybody agreed that they didn't want him in the group anymore. So I told the kid, look you, they don't want you in the group because you stole the money dude. So, and that's odd because you have thousands of dollars you can take our money. So we told the guy, just go your own way. So he did, and about two weeks later we hear the glass, the glass, the glass packs on the mufflers have a brand new convertible Mustang drove, pulled up to the place where we were living and working and it's him and it comes up the staircase and he's got a huge gash on his forehead. And we asked what happened. He said his father hit him with an ax and holy crap, but he wants to be back in the group and he brought us $20,000. So I'm like, alright, well let's see what they say. All the girls and the guys got together in a circle and every single one of them said no. And I was shocked. I said, well, I mean the guy's redeemed themselves with 20 grand. This is no, we don't want them in the group because he betrayed us the first time. So the guy had to leave and when he left he took off.

Jimmy

01:18:47

Uh, one of the leaders in this group of kids I had was a guy named joker and he had stabbed a couple of teachers and he was a really bad kid, had done some bad stuff, but since he's joined the group, he was doing great. He got back to his girlfriend, hey, the ramp, got his baby, bought the diapers, the formula, and he was happy and Smiley and quit drinking and drugging, quit gang banging. He was doing great. He was a leader, but that day he got real somber and went out to the to the balcony, second floor balcony, and I want to know what was going on. So I go out there and Holy Mackerel, I find the guy crying

Jimmy

01:19:28

and he's got his head turned away from inside. I'm a joker. I said, look at me, man. Look at my face. And he's like, Nah, no. You know what ms dot bucket. You got to get out of here. Get out of my favorite plan. Something happens. I said, what are you going to do? Hit me. I said, I don't think you're gonna hit me, dude. I said, why are you? Why are you crying man? I don't get it. I don't understand why you're crying. Did I say something to somebody else? Say something? And he said, no, no, no. And then so finally he tells me, you know, that guy we just got rid of? I said, yeah. He said, do you realize I would would've killed you for him six months ago? He asked me to take you out. I would have done it. I said, well, I'm glad you didn't and I'm really that you made the right choice.

Jimmy

01:20:08

He said, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that he wanted to be part of something I was doing instead of me always wanting to be part of what everybody else is doing. This was the first time in my life, even though it's a bunch of little stupid tapes and tee shirts, he wanted to be part of this and I'm at the top of the game here. This is my game, and he wanted to be part of something that I had started because you know how important that is to me. I said, no. He says, you know what? The reason you don't is because you've gotten all this stuff in your life are free dude, all this stuff, Hollywood and books and do this to me right now. What we're doing with these little tapes and these tissues is the most important purpose I've ever had in my life, and the fact that anybody who wants to be part of this makes me feel like I'm a giant, makes me feel like I'm a man. It reaffirms everything that I've ever dreamed of being. And I'm like, wow, wow. I said, okay, let's just keep it going. Then, you know, and that's when he turned around and heard me and I think, I think doctor was telling me it was the first time you ever hugged anybody. He felt like he belonged in this truly part of something that was positive and amazing. Something so simple and mundane, but most of us don't even give it a moment. Consideration was to him the most important thing in his life. And that's something I never, I, you know, the day came when I had to stop and move on and uh, I told him, you know, this is life brother. Sometimes you know, the best things in life, we just have to move on, you know? And he understood it. He said, yeah. And then today is doing great. He has a friendly, isn't just something that small is like, can you believe that?

James

01:21:54

I do. The observation I make is you look at a kindergarten anywhere, I don't care if it's in Albuquerque or Nepal or wherever. They're going to be a bunch of two, three year olds running around chasing a ball, giggling, you know, playing totally oblivious of whether there's a physical difference in their skin pigmentation or their size or you know, whatever it is. And then something happens where we start changing and I think we lose the fact that fundamentally when we're born that we do want to be with each other and we do want to be kind in and F and we can return to that. But if we create an environment that takes these kids and then shows them that there is no love and kindness and the only way to to get ahead is to have the bigger car or be the most feared of all the gang bangers, you know, then then you drag that way. But if we nurture these kids and like you said, take that money from prisons and invest back into the communities, that's how we fix so many of the issues that we see in this country and other countries too.

James

01:23:05

You remember that DEA agent that got shot that I told you, he had his hand blown off the drug deal that I was involved in when I was 17. Well, uh, every year for the last 30 years, I go on to international Lexa, two words and they're there. What's kept me afloat through all the hard times of poetry writing because I really love poetry. I'll write a novel or write a short story collection or a screenplay to the to get my wife a nice car or something like that. But, but my real passion is poetry. But so anyway, so every year for the last I've been blessing, it's just absolute blessed. This, the blessing that people call me, they email me, can you come to a university and see, I've never once went after it had just been this really amazing pull the king of hearts out, man at the decades is.

Jimmy

01:23:56

I don't understand why God did it, but, um, I'm really grateful. Uh, so anyway, I get it. I get an invitation to the University of Utah that go speak. And uh, I, it's great. I love the people there. They're amazing. Wonderful people and suddenly I get a call saying, you can't speak at the university, and I'm like, why? Well, it just happens. If the guy who got shot in that sheet out, teachers police science there and you're going to be protested out of the entire city if you fill up. I said, well really the guys still holds a grudge. I mean, after this long of time, the guy hasn't gotten over it and he said, no, I do. I've been stabbed. I've been shot. I got over it. I mean, some of the guys that are stabbing, couple of guys is shot me. I meet them today and they asked me for a job.

Jimmy

01:24:47

I'm not gonna say no. I say, well see what I can do, you know, or bring some books by for your son. I'm going to be an advocate for books. But the guy said, he's demanding that you not show up on campus. And I said, okay, and then his daughter is a writer and she writes me and she says, you're the most horrible person that could. I just want you to know that had I lost my dad in that shoot up, you know, you're the most horrible human being that ever walked the earth. You're a monster. And I thought, well she has the right to have feelings. And I sat and I thought, well, some people just never ever change, you know, they are what they are, what they are. And I've looked back to the kid that I was that night and I think I galaxies have changed, has happened, have happened to me and just amazing, you know, so I go anyway, I go up there and they moved the venue so it wouldn't interfere with this guy's a problem with me.

Jimmy

01:25:44

And when I got there there was a group of people that were yelling at me and screaming and stuff like that. And I stopped and I said, look guys, luck. Instead of protesting and here, why don't you just go inside, say, you know, I'll pay your ticket. Come on in. You guys can come in and scream all you want inside. So we go inside. About 15 of them decided to take me up my offer and they come inside and uh, and there's about 200 people there and they find a place on the corner and I opened up my lecture by saying, I want you people to come up and speak. What's your feeling about this whole this whole night? And now one of them would, we're not. One of them would stand up and speak now. One of them would say anything. And I thought, wow, that's curious that if you get like minded people together, they're all going to be like minded thinkers.

Jimmy

01:26:31

But the second you put them in a car with different people with different opinions, suddenly they begin to dominion ties their stature into silence as some people would call that cowardice. And other people would call that a, I don't know, just don't want to cause problems and stuff, but they didn't say anything at all. They didn't criticize me, they didn't throw anything at me, nothing so other. That was very curious that all these years later I would need the men that I was shocked that evening. And that he still harbored the same hatred toward me that he had that night and I looked at myself and I thought, well dude, I said to myself, I'm so happy with you, Jimmy, I, I want to congratulate you for changing so much. And I just couldn't believe it. I said, thank you God for allowing this to happen to me.

Jimmy

01:27:17

Thank you God for allowing me to be filled with hatred right now toward this man. I just, I don't know how to say thank you for what you did to me. So anyway, that was that one store. I want to talk about some, you know, sometimes that's going to happen in society where you're going to meet people that are going to hate you and you're going to be the one that's going to be called upon to change and to live that change and to walk that change. And that's what I've been. That's what I've done. And it's not me. I don't have an ego and I just get on my knees every morning. I say, thank you, thank you for allowing me to be a father and be here. Now that's one. The second story is I got invited, I don't know why they even invited me, but I went, I go to the University of Minnesota and some outlying villages in Wisconsin, in to the school. When I get there, it's a kindergarten school. Then I get there. And um, uh, as soon as I walk in, I'm the prince, the secretary does a check on me and within minutes the entire community knows that I'm an ex convict. And uh, uh, I go to the library with all the kids together and all these people walk in and the line, the walls.

Jimmy

01:28:33

And I realized, holy crap, this is the KKK. I mean some of these guys are wearing KKK insignia. I'm like, holy crap, this is crazy. So I'm sitting there and the principal comes and he tells me sit in the chair and I do. And he said, you will not be conducting anything today. You're just going to sit and listen. You have to take the check and go.

Jimmy

01:28:53

And I'm like, wow, this is crazy. And it was right before thanksgiving. So all the kids are sitting there and the principal goes off on these kids and I'm looking at this, all these people along the walls glaring at me and I'm thinking, wow, I wonder if their parents, teachers, what are they? I don't know, but the glaring at me with hatred, I'm like damn, this is really a curious situation and the kids keep looking at me and I keep looking at these kids and the the totally bored with what this guy is doing. So on impulse I just yell out monkey pile and I leave in the middle of all these kids and they all leap on top of me and we're all 20 kids arresting library floor and all these adults don't know what the hell to do with this situation has gotten out of hand and we're all like, everyone's yelling and then I sit on the floor with the kids and before they can do anything before they can order me out, before they can tell me to command me to do what they want me to do.

Jimmy

01:29:52

I tell the kids, you know, where I come from, there's no such thing as chestnut, I can't believe you guys roast chestnuts in fires and what else did you do before thanksgiving? And then they go crazy babbling about, oh my God, about leaves and jumping and lead piles and all these other things that they do and the birds that they cook and the hunting that they do their fathers and all that. And I look up and boy, the principal's assuming and the parents are red seek with rates and the guys, whoever they are, they're wife this, that they want to take me outside and put me out. But I finished my lesson with these kids and I'd tell them, you know what, where I come from, Santa Claus is not white. He doesn't have rangers. He's an old Mexican dude or some blood. He's got a bunch of mules and uh, he, he lives right in his little Manzano mountains where I live.

James

01:30:40

And he comes out with his news and the kids are like, really? He's not white. I'm like, no dude, the guy's Brown. And so these kids are like totally fascinated with the fact that there's two Santa clauses and there could be more, it could be three, it could be four, there could be five. I heard this act clauses in Africa, there are some in China, there's some in Norway, you know, there's all these different center closet. They don't really have to just be one. And the kids are so wrapped up in this idea that wow, there's a lot of different sized closet. I'm like, yeah, not only rained there, they got a bunch of other stuff. So even grabbed chicken's done. I here anyway. So the kids like the kids are like going crazy. So I know that the principal doesn't get the hell out.

Jimmy

01:31:19

Here's your check. I leave when I get back to the hotel, uh, I walk in and I noticed that when I left there was this really big stocky Norwegian, a woman at the desk, a big German woman. And I figured, well I don't want, I don't want any business with her. I just kind of slide by, you know. So I walk into the hotel and I say goodbye. I just glanced to my right and she's way at the far end of the corridor and a small office reading a paperback book and she glances up and sees me and she goes, Hey, get over here. So I backed up and I'm like, yes. And she says, are you that guy? That guy that went to the school, that poet? I said, yes. She says, I want to thank you sir. And she comes out and see him.

Jimmy

01:32:07

She says handling her hand and I shake it and she's like, well, I'm just so thankful you came. And I was just like, why? And she says, you know, my daughter came home for lunch and her father was sitting at that table has ever done is about blah blah about Mexicans, how bad they are, how this, how that, and you know that my daughter came back and she stayed up at this table and she stood up and she said, no, I'm not going to hear about it. That man is Mexican and he is a beautiful Mexican man. He taught us, he taught us, he taught us this and the lady said to me, thank you so much for telephone, for teaching my daughter something that she was that she gave my husband and lesson on and that's being accepting of other people. You told my daughter, my daughter taught my husband thank you. And this little girl went home for lunch. It was her father, you know, and that gave me the idea that, you know what, I got to work more with kids man and send them back. I got to send them home with messaging.

James

01:33:12

One thing I talked about a lot of traveling to you hear you hear about other cultures and then you know, my little boy's been around the world now and let's say the French say take South America or Central America completely. You hear a lot of French bashing and you go to France and there are beautiful people too. So friendly and you know, obviously there's assholes in France and we all have them. But um, but yeah, when there's no better way to, to, to grow ignorance than to not read and not travel.

Jimmy

01:33:44

Forty years later, man, my whole purpose of getting up in the morning is reading and writing. It's never changed. I'm just real, real simple kind of guy. Just reading and writing and I'm still going to schools, school, working with kids, still handing out books, still teaching, reading and writing. I've got insurance that I send out to help teachers with reading and writing. I send out books to rural areas where they didn't have books and same thing. I started 40 years ago. I still doing it, you know, it's just all about that man and it's all about, like I said, uh, not expecting people to do it for me, you know? Well, for me just to do it and do it with joy.

James

01:34:23

Yeah. Well this has been such an amazing conversation. Thank you so much. To go from, you know, the, the, the pretty traumatic childhood that you had to now mentoring kids, you know, and the journey you've been through has been so great to hear. So thank you for that.

Jimmy

01:34:39

You're welcome. Anytime, anytime you need anything from me, you got my email. You seem like a really wonderful guy man. You look like a really stand up guy, so if you need anything, you let me know. If I can do it, it's a done deal.