Texas incarceration, august 30


Yesterday, David and me planned to hang out together, but David had to call sick because of a terrible migraine (not a hangover: he is sober for a long time now :-)) so I used this free day to walk through Houston, do a lot of adminstration and start to prepare my article on the situation in Greece/Ukrain/Holland. If you wonder how that is possible: read it when it comes out. And learn Dutch, because I am writing t in Dutch! For me that still works a lot quicker!

I also had contact with my collegues at the prison in Heerhugowaard. An incarcerated person on the mental health unit stabbed another incarcerated person three times: two in the back, one in the belly. Staff took care of the situation i a very profeesional manner and cooperation with police and ambulance went well and quick. It looks like the victim will survive. the attack. For what we know now it is one of those incidents which you can hardly avoid: a guy has some fantasies about the other guy molesting children, borrows a small potato-knife from the staff and steps into the cell of the other guy……..

This morning I woke up very early to go to San Antonio and the Alamo! At the Greyhound Station there is a concentration of homeless and mentaly disturbed people. There must be thousands of them in Houston. People sleeping everywhere, asking for money. An old lady is not well at all and taken care off by the staff.  I have a coffee and a sandwich on the station and give a dollar to a guy asking for money for food. Two hispanic guys of my age talk to a girl from about 25 years old. She is slim and has long blond hair in a pony tail. Her face is pretty but you can see she had her nose broken. In her eys you see signs of a hard life. The guys talk with her and find out she works as a dancer in clubs. When she leaves for her bus one of the guys says: “I am sure you get a lot of tips at work!” Then another guy is asked to pay for a few food-items in his hands. He claims he already paid and refuses to put it back. In a moment he is surrounded by staff-members asking him to pay or to put the stuff back and leave. After ten minutes he seems to want to put the items back, when a policecar passes by. The guy I just gave a dollar runs outside and winks the policecar to come over. The guy in the shop sees that too and starts running, followed by several staffmembers and the homeless guy to the street and further around the corner. The policecar puts his sirene on and I feel like stepping into a movie scene.  But, you know, a hungry, skinny, homeless guy refusing to give back food costing about three dollars in total, hunted down like a notorious criminal……

And Murphy’s law rules this morning. I bought ticket for the six o’cock bus to San Antionio and found out that this Budbus does not leave at the busstation where Uber dropped me of. Bought tickets again for the greyhound wich acquires to step over in Austin on the bus to Sant Antonio.  After ten minutes driving the busdriver told us that we had to return due to technical problems. We went back and changed buses.  I tried very hard to get the insurance that I can catch te bus to Sant Antonio, which the manager gave in a way that did not feel very trustworthy: he just wanted to get the  bus on his way. So, right now I am on my way to Austin with a big chance to spent my day in buses not reaching San Antonio. Will find out soon enough!:-)

I catched the bus from Austin to Houston which at arrival left in thirty seconds. “You are lucky” the driver said, because I was the one with the problem. Not Greyhound with his broken bus or de manager in Houston who assured me I could get in time for  this bus. In the hurry the busdriver also took my return return ticket by accident.  So they refused to take me back to Houston and I had to speak to managers to get me in the bus where I am sitting in right now! People are friendly over here, but very strict on rules and regulations. People on the working floor (bus drivers, security-staff, guards, waiters etc.)do not have the competence to make any exception or act on their own judgement. Everybody seems to be fascinated by laws and rules and law enforcement. Bus-drivers tell you you cannot drink alcohol on the bus, because of the law and that you could get arrested, somebody not immediately responding to instructions is told he or she could be arrested, and a sign at the highway says: “drink, drive, go to jail”. And the public seems to be used to that and supports it, like there are dangers everywhere and we all have to fight with this enemy who, by the way, is just another citizen losing his temper, making a mistake, being poor and hungry or drunk.

In the bus from Austin I met a 67 years old guy who had been a teacher for thirty years and wanted to stop working when he was 58 years old. Wanted to travel but could not affort it. He found the ideal concept by driving trucks from Mexico,, where they construct these vehicles to about every place in the US and Canada. “I could travel all over the country and they payed me to do it!”. We talk about our children, Alaska, Canada and, of course, Texas. Peter was brought up in Houston.  The views of this guy showed me a more attracticve side of the Texan way of thinking. “Everybody is welcome to become an American as long as he pays his tax and when a person is disabled I do not mind taking care of him.” We talked about the business-climate, the enormous amount of un-developed territory in Texas an the beauty of cities like Sant Antonio, New Orleans and Austin. We shared our holistic view on the world:everything and everybody is interconnected, it is all about relations and people are all basically the same, also those from Holland and Texas. I confront Peter very gently with some statistics on poverty and incarceration. It is strange to experience that Peter thinks that the living standard for people from abroad is always better then where they came from and that poverty and incarceration happen to people who do not want to work while they and contribute to society. Peter had to admit that it is hard to find a job after doing jail time and that there are probably other causes why people get homeless. And that the immigrants and illegal workers are exploited. He is an intelligent guy, but it is also clear that he is rarely personally confronted with this way of thinking. I saw a Fox News broadcast about the latest cop-killing and I can imagine how people get poisoned with fear and prejudices.  When we split after a few nice hours he says:”It is great to meet someone who speaks from a total different perspective. Thank you very much!” I told him I am grateful too. And I am: Texas people are people too, like you and me.  They just happen to have  a pretty peculiar way of looking at things: life is great over here, as long as you are capable to take care of yourself.

The guy who serves my lunch (Gumbo: great food: thick soup with herbes, rice, vegetables, meat) finished school in Chicago and wants to see more of the world. He bought a cheap car and drive three days southward. He want to stay here for a year, but finally end up in Atlanta: “Everybody says that thats the city where you find the best cultural atmosphere of the US with music, theatre and other performances everywhere”. A real American story of exploring new territory: one does not know what is going to happen but you trust that everything will turn out okay!

I spent the day walking through San Antonio. Beautiful city with a lot of Mexican and Latin influence in buildings food and the majority of the population. I visit Alamo, of course and do the River Walk: by foot and also by boat. Great atmosphere with numerous restaurants and people enjoying themselves on a sunny Sunday! I end up in an Irish pub, attracted by the sound that come from inside: an old Irish singer and piano-player: great entertainment.alamo1 Alamo2 riverwalk1 riverwalk2 riverwalk3 riverwalk4

A nice, young Mexican looking couple ask me for fifty cents to buy water. Guy, 21 years old with girl, intelligent, polite. I give them some money we talk and walk up to the bus-station. I ask them why they are broke: “we spent our money on other things and became thirsty!” the boy says. They are both looking for work:”I have a job-interview tomorrow” the girl says. They dream about visiting New York and ask me all about it. They are living with their parents and leaving Texas for the first time seems to be lightyears away…..

The Greyhound busstation at 11.15 pm looks like a warzone. Hundreds of eople running, screaming evidently homeles, addicted, mentally disturbed. A few people approach me. The seem to be in such a horrible condition that I fear they could disease on the spot. My african UBER-driver confirms that there are thousands of people in a desperate state and that the situation is explosive.  Only the massive presence of security staff and police all over the place can control this situation.Doug told me before: care and treatment is not available for these people, only for some of them after being incarcerated. Repression, persecution and incarceration: thats the simple reaction of the administration…….

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