You’ve seen The Shawshank Redemption, a screenplay adapted from Stephen King’s short novel of a similar title. Maybe you haven’t. It’s worth renting, purchasing, downloading, or boot… nah, nothing’s worth bootlegging. Piracy is a crime. I watched it last night again for the umpteenth time. Fine specimen of a film. I’m not sure how many people can say their favorite movie is set in a prison. Mine is. The Shawshank Institution happens to be as fine a backdrop as any for a story that is timeless: Man finds hope in the face of adversity. Yep. That’s it. You thought I was gonna say something deep and profound, didn’t you? Actually, the premise in its base form is extremely deep and profound. Hope in the face of adversity. I remember many instances in my life when the darkness seemed to envelope me, when there seemed to be an endless string of events destined to choke me into desperation and despair. Yes, me. Happy, frickin go-lucky, bouncing through life like a beach ball on a summer’s day, me. We none escape this life without trials. Ask Michael. Shoot, ask Moses. Those Israelites were no joke. So, the main character in this movie is a guy accused of shooting his wife (and her lover) and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. (I never have really understood how that works… are they going to catch you once you’ve reincarnated and make you serve time all over again?) Anywho, in a pretty hopeless situation he finds hope – the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel that keeps you moving on.
There’s a saying in the movie that resonates in my soul – Get busy living or get busy dying. It is a well known fact that the day we are born we begin dying. I don’t know many people who dwell on that. I know I don’t! I’m barely trying to acknowledge this so-called monumental birthday looming over my head, let alone the fact that each day brings me closer to my grave. I focus on living and try to make the most of each minute. Sometimes it’s intentional and other times it’s not. Somedays it’s easy and other days it takes a conscious effort to turn my frown upside down. That’s life. I was driving down the road the other day and I thought about the person who coined the phrase, “Life sucks, then you die.” It’s hardly optimistic. But, at that exact moment, I knew how he or she felt when they said it. It’s an overall feeling of defeat. It’s the cold hard facts of your solitary life hitting you in the face and then posting the picture on TMZ. It’s Shawshank without the redemption. That’s when I pulled myself together, swerved around the car that was momentarily stopped in the middle of the street for no apparent reason, and remembered what a joy it is to live and drive in L.A. I always have a choice. A choice to negotiate the obstacle or be overcome by it. The choice is always there – half empty or half full – hope or despair. We choose.
It was with this optimistic attitude that I began my morning cleaning, writing and listening to Ledisi. I was fooling around on FB – “Facebook” for the novices – and checkin on my peeps. The thought hit me to search for a friend I’ve lost touch with over the years. No such luck. The Facebook phenomenon has yet to grab him. Then, another friend, a childhood friend with a very peculiar name, came to mind. I instantly typed it in. No profile surfaced. However, at the very bottom of the search results a link to an article appeared. The word “inmate” stood out like a pink elephant at a parade of geese. I was frozen, baffled, mystified, unbelieving. I clicked on the link and there was his picture next to a request for a pen pal. It was him – all 6’4″ 225 lbs, former college football star drafted to an NFL team but waived in the first year, him. This, of course, sent me into a spiral of viral research about the crime committed and subsequent conviction. Mortgage fraud. I mean, you were wondering, weren’t you? As I read the details of the crime, gross monetary figures leaped off the page – 4 million here, 750 thousand there – astonishing. I couldn’t help wondering what he looked like in his hay-day. BIG BALLIN, no doubt. But, in the face of his newly brandished federal prison pic, I saw the same guy I played touch football with on the neutral grounds in New Orleans. His youthful boyishness was there albeit buffeted by cornrows and a white tee – a “Shawshank” facsimile revisited on my computer screen and remanded to pay restitution in the amount of 2 million and some change. That’s to deter any of you wonderful women who lusted over the stats I posted earlier and don’t mind dating jailbirds. A harmless search on facebook resulted in a penpal request from an inmate. Welcome to my world.
My heart tells me to write him, my childhood compadre found guilty of white collar crime. (After all, he may have had bank accounts in the Caymans. I could possibly pass for a “Juanita Sanchez” in a third world beachside community, if I learn more than my numbers 1 thru 10 in Spanish and keep a fresh perm in my hair.) My head tells me I’m too green to touch this with a ten foot pole. He may need more than I can offer at this time or ever. But maybe, just maybe, he could use a friend who knows a little something about hope in the face of adversity. And that, my dear readers, would be me.