Posted by: krusty505 | June 5, 2011

Lil’ Joey T

For awhile last winter, we had a rash of really messed up guys in the pod, medically speaking. One guy had been shot in the face, so most of the left side of it was pushed in dramatically. My carpool buddy and I called him “dented face guy.” Another guy had about 30% of his skull missing, “dented head guy” (you gotta have some system of recognition because they roll through rather quickly at times). His story was that he beat his girlfriend up severely enough that she ended up in a coma. He felt so remorseful about it that he threw himself in front of a moving car in a failed suicide attempt. The resulting pressure on his brain forced doctors to remove a rather large portion of his fractured skull in order to allow his brain to swell without consequence. He probably should have been wearing a helmet or something to protect him from accidental blows and/or falls (he tended to have random seizures and to collapse from them), but the jail doesn’t roll that way, so he just had an exposed brain.

The freakiest attribute of this guy’s appearance was that in the middle of his forehead, you could see the surgical precision with which his skull had been cut away; there was simply a perfect line under which there was skull material and over which his skin and hair collapsed into his brain cavity. The thought of it still creeps me out. He was young, harmless and fairly brain damaged, so the guys mostly protected him (there is some honor among thieves), though I imagine his commissary (food they can order with money placed in an account at the jail from the “outs”) and his “trays” (food the jail actually supplies for free to inmates) were subject to some larceny.

Sadly, he and his girlfriend reunited after she woke up and forgave him. In celebration, he got her name tattooed on his chest (they make tattoos with homemade needles and ink that is a blend of burnt toilette paper and deodorant. Oh, and usually a healthy dose of hepatitis C). I kept thinking, “Great! This guy not only beat his girlfriend unconscious, he is also going to give her the gift that keeps on giving of a chronic disease because of his ill-fated attempt to honor their ‘love’ with an eternal expression of his undying loyalty to her,” but in the end, she came to her senses and broke up with him again, thus, saving herself, but leaving him with a permanent reminder of what he did to her and to himself.

Anyway, I digress. The freakiest guy of all at this particularly dysfunctional time in the pod was ‘Lil Joey T.’ He came rolling (literally) into my classroom one morning carting an IV pole with a large bag of yellow goop attached to it. A tube ran from the bottom of the bag to an electronic pump then under his oranges (jail clothes) and into his intestines. In the middle of this throat, was a rather large scar from a tracheotomy that had been performed at birth and removed years later, after LJT learned to breathe on his own. He was diminutive in size, no taller than 5 feet, and he was so slight it looked like a stiff breeze could blow him over. Weeks later, after I had gotten to know him, he lifted his shirt up and showed me his abdomen, which was a spider’s web of varicose veins and long healed surgical scars with a port for his feeding tube down near his navel. Birth had not been kind to LJT.

He was in jail for, get this, attempted murder. Apparently, LJT was receiving Social Security, so he had access to limited money and a residence. As a result, the local low-lifes in his ‘neighborhood’ would use LJT’s apartment as a party house. So one night they were all partying and things degenerated to the point that someone got assaulted (I never got all the details, but the injured party-goer ended up in the ICU). Well, everybody split when this guy went down, except LJT. After all, it was not only his apartment, he physically couldn’t leave the scene. Since there was no one else to blame, LJT took the hit for attempted murder, which brought him to the jail and ultimately my classroom. Gotta love our justice system.

Among many lessons LJT taught me, one in particular stands out.

The guys in the jail commodify everything and anything they can. LJT had never eaten solid food in his life. In fact, he basically couldn’t swallow; having the trach for so long left him with severely atrophied muscles in this throat. Never-the-less, as per jail policy he still got a tray of food 3 times a day. Once the guys in the pod figured this out, LJT’s tray became  a source of all kinds of trading. LJT got phone cards for his tray, indigent inmates who couldn’t afford commissary traded God know what favors for some of LJT’s food, and bulldogs (guys who bully and/or threaten for their own gain) turned LJT’s tray into profit for themselves. For me, it was a harsh lesson in freakanomics, but Lil’ Joey T didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he got a high school diploma out of the deal. It takes all kinds, I guess.

Just as a sidebar, a few of the guys would actually eat LJT’s yellow goop just for “fun.” A couple of times in class his tube came detached, the pump ruthlessly sprayed the stinking mass all over the floor of my room. It reminded me of cod liver oil, so I can only imagine how it tasted.



  1. When is your book coming out, dude? This is fantastic!
    BTW- I fixed your link on my site.

  2. I’m glad you liked it. WTF does linking mean? See how novice I am?

  3. Great posts babe. Glad to finally see them in writing! 🙂

  4. Ah, Lil’ Joey T… You seriously could publish these stories. With names changed to protect the um (guilty?). Good stuff! Keep em rolling.

    • Thanks for the positive input. Pass it on. I’d love more comments and more people to read!

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