A Walk Through Eternity
Where Have All The Children Gone?
Welcome to Arthur Mack Jr.'s
MONIMAC PUBLICATION

Excerpts from: A Walk Through Eternity

 

Chapter 1

My mother, brother and I attended the local Kingdom Hall for many years. We would go to some of the other members of our Kingdom Hall homes to have both bible study and prayer. I remember going from one apartment to the next in our projects, holding the Kingdom Hall's religious Newspaper the Watch Tower.

There were many times that I would often feel a sense of embarrassment whenever we had gotten to and knocked on one of my public school classmate's door. Most of the time I would try to stand off to the side, with my head held downwards trying my best to be invisible. The classmate of mine whom had opened the the door would sometimes exchange looks with me and we would smile as if to say 'Yeah, I know this is a little strange, but this it my life at this time and I must embrace it.' When I was about nine, my mother stopped going to the Kingdom Hall completely. However she continued to get the Kingdom Hall's News articles and the Watch Tower for many years afterward. Vincent and I still went to bible study and to the Kingdom Hall without her.

I had asked her one day to explain why she did not attend the Kingdoms religious meetings any longer. She told me that while she believed in the ‘Word,’ she no longer believed in the Kingdoms way of delivering that ‘Word.’ I could not understand this, so she took it a little further for me and saying it in a way that I could relate to it better.

“When we go to a non-member of the Kingdom Hall’s house or home and knock on their door, we ask can we come in and talk to them about our Lord and savior Jehovah. We ask them to listen with an open mind and with blind faith. Are you with me on this, Junior?” she asked me, making sure that I could understand this line of answering.

“Yes, Ma I got you” I said.

My mother continued, “Some of these people allow us to come in and some do not. But if someone came to one of the members of the Hall’s residence and wanted to talk about their God to them, the Kingdom’s Hall member would not allow that person to cross into their home. I asked myself one day ‘What happened to the open mindedness that we ask people to have with us when we knock at their door?’ Are we not at some point being hypocrites? So, until I see a change in the Kingdom Hall’s policies and understanding I’ve decided not to go.”

“Okay, but why do you make Vincent and I go to the services then?” I asked her.

“Because until you can decide what church you want to attend on your own, the Hall seemed to be the best at that time. And you will go to church, so don’t go getting any of your so called bright ideas, Junior. Do you understand me?” My mother said, finishing one of our first discussions about the church and religion.

“Yes Ma, I got you.” I answered.

Chapter 3

My mother no longer felt safe in Tompkins Projects after the robbery. Not knowing who had set her up and/or perpetrated this crime was one reason. But more importantly she had no intention of endangering my brother and me.

The year was 1973 when we packed our belongings and were relocated to Lafayette Gardens, or simply L.G. as it was called by the inhabitants of this quaint little project.

Lafayette Gardens is a seven building housing tenement. There are three twenty story buildings, two fifteen story, and two thirteen story buildings. These buildings are all located on one New York City block.

When compared to the other nearby housing projects it was considered small or cramped. For instance the Fort Greene, Sumner, Marcy, and Tompkins projects were all located on and consisted of multiple city blocks. Although Lafayette Gardens was considered small in terms of size it was at the same time recognized as a leading contender in its ability to hold its own in battles (MC’s or DJ’s), beefs or during any conflicts.

We moved into building number 411 and into apartment 6-A. I had just turned ten years old and my brother Vincent was 8 or 9 years of age. My brother and I were born a year and a few months apart so it worked out that way.

I am not sure how the educational system works now (2014), but in those days (1973) they worked by a zoning process. This meant that if you lived in a certain zip code you were assigned to a designated school. While living in Tompkins projects I was designated to P.S. 23, now with the new zip code and the intergration laws in effect, I was placed in P.S. 127.

For anyone that has had to pick up in the middle of a school term at a new school, it is not an easy thing to do. Friends and allies have already been formed and made. So you are nothing more than a third wheel on a two wheel bike.

I entered P.S. 127 into the third grade. I recognized a few of my classmates from the neighborhood which made getting to know them a lot easier. When you’re a young kid easier is always a good thing.

For the first few months all I did was complain. I did not like the confines of a one block housing development, nor the smallish buildings and more than anything I hated the people that lived in and/or around it. One day my mother asked me, “Boy, why the hell are you always complaining and whining like a little B.I.T.C.H?” She said this with what had become known to both family and friends as her ‘Now you can kiss my ass and get the hell out of my face attitude.’

Now, when you’re the ten year old son of a single (female) parent household with a younger brother, you try not to make waves. I mean how do you explain that all the kids my age had older brothers. Now because they had older brothers when the time came for us (my age group), to get our weekend ruff ups from the bigger kids, they barely got touched.

This was not the case with me. I had no older brother within their ranks to defend me and I often received the blunt of their assaults, the rage and anger from within them which was caused by some unseen violation suffered at the hands of another. Their outlet was yours truly... me. It became a normal part of life. Once the elder boys were satisfied that their dominance over us was proven beyond any reasonable doubt we were allowed to go about our business.

My philosophy was simple: What did not kill me, only served to make me STRONGER! It did not help being the new kid on the block neither. Hey, it is what it is, and at that time, it was what it was.

On the weekends when we were allowed to go outside, there were times that my mother would tell my brother and I to be back upstairs before 10:00 pm. She would also issue two strict warning before we left the house. “Okay now I know that you both heard me say, what time to have your butts back up here, because if I have to come down and get you I’m bringing my little friend,” as she held up the longest belt in the house.

You have probably seen them before, you know the ones that have three or four holes going across and these holes went the entire length of the belt. They were of the one size fits all variety. They were real popular in the sixties and seventies and even nowadays I often see them on the tables of the street merchants. My mother’s was black on one side and gray on the other.

The second warning, if not equally and probably more importantly, was “Now you two make sure that when you come through my door you come together,” making sure to put an emphasis on ‘Together.’ “Now what time did I say,” she repeated, looking for confirmation. “10:00 o’clock,” Vincent and I replied in unison as we dashed out the door and down the six flights of stairs and beyond to freedom.

Chapter 4

The year was 1975, and I was in my second year of junior high school. I attended P. S. 117, which was located one block away from Lafayette Gardens. All of the local children went there, which meant that 80 percent of my classmates lived in my projects.

My three best friends in and out of school were Ernest Trent, aka Eee, James Horton, aka Dinky (R.I.P.), and Samson Sanders, aka Punch. We were pretty much inseparable.

Together we were in five out of eight classes. The classes that we did not share, we would either time it so that we all got bathroom passes at the same time or played hooky altogether. We would spend the entire class period roaming the halls playing cat and mouse with the schools hall monitors.

There was a television show that aired back in the 70s, called S.W.A.T., and we would often pretend to be characters from that show. The show was about an elite team of police officers that always seemed to get the job done.

Ernest was always ‘Hondo’ the team leader, Dinky liked to be ‘Hooker’ and Punch and I always argued about being ‘Striker,’ arguably the coolest dude on the team. We would run through the school hallway’s jumping down whole flights of stair’s, and as a rule you had to go into a roll once you landed at the bottom of the steps. We had pretend walkie-talkies and all.

“Come in Hondo, Hondo come in do you hear?” Dinky/Hooker would say over our makeshift walkie-talkies.

“Hondo here” came the reply.

“There’s a target (Hall Monitor) approaching from the north end of the hallway, can you get a visual? Copy.” Dinky would ask.

“Affirmative on that visual, Striker and I are moving our position. We’re moving to higher ground. We’ll meet you on the second floor. Copy that” Ernest/Hondo would answer.

“Roger that, that’s a 10-4. Out”; Dinky would respond and then we would all run off in different directions. We would regroup on the second floor laughing, joking and punching each other playfully.

As I mentioned earlier in this story, I was not a good fighter at this point in my life. But I had a secret weapon. Her name was Veronica Smith, most people called her Smithy. Make no mistake, she often dressed like a boy or tomboyish, but she was one hundred percent female and could easily beat half our school, boys included. Her best friend who was Veronica Fillmore could fight also but her lip game was much better. She would often leave people standing there with their mouths wide open. Her bark was much worse than her bite, but when you had Smithy as your best friend you did not need to fight.

Whenever I got involved in an altercation the guys would often ask, “So are you gonna fight me one on one?” Naturally with a crowd standing around us I had to agree to that term.

“I hear you talking, but ain’t no dirt on my back yet,” I would reply in the toughest sounding voice that I could produce. This was hard enough to do in itself, with me having a high pitched voice to start with. With that exchange over, the fight would then commence.

In my mind all that I needed to do was hold my own until my girl and her crew of girlfriends arrived. I remember my fight with a guy named Carl Lewis. It had started in our science class; and the science teacher’s name was Mr. Corbett. Mr. Corbett was a thin, light skinned man about six foot two inches tall and really laid back. His wife, who also taught at P. S. 117 in the English department, was his complete opposite. She had one of the loudest voices among the teaching staff and was a little on the heavy side. Like I said, complete opposites, yet it seemed to work perfectly for them.

After teaching, Mrs. Corbett, whom years later became an ordained minister at the New Life Church, became my spiritual leader. With her husband still by her side, she became a stronger force delivering God’s word.

Carl Lewis and I had agreed to settle our beef in the school yard after classes were over. After school in the yard was the usual place and time that all problems were solved. Carl wasn’t a well known guy in school, as a matter of fact he and the fellas that he hung out with were what we at that time referred to as ‘Goodie-Goodies.’ But I guess he saw an easy opportunity to upgrade his status with a victory over me.

Now I’m sure that he started this beef because Smithy, who was also in our science class, was absent from school that day. This meant that it would be just he and I, and no interruptions from my girl. As the school day came to an end I’d be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t stressing about this new ass kicking coming my way. I mean so far I think that I may have won ‘ONE’ fight and that win was debatable. So I did not have a very high confidence level and it showed all over my face.

Win or lose I never backed down from any challenge. When the 2:45 pm school bell rang I made my way to the prearranged arena, wobbly legs and all. My friends from the projects had come along to keep things fair but I knew the real reasons. First, what teenager doesn’t want to see a fight and secondly, they would be provided with food for jokes, at my expense.

By the time I arrived at the school yard my friends had tried their best to prep me on what not to do and most of all what I needed to do to win. When I got to the yard Carl and his friends were already there. Carl was standing there with a smile so wide he reminded me of the Chestier cat. “So, what’s up, Mack? You got problems?” he asked.

“Man what the hell you talking about bro? You da one started this shit” I answered.

“Naw man, I heard you in the back of the class cracking jokes. So tell me, where are the wise-ass jokes now?” With no more words to be said Carl and I began to fight. There was nothing pretty about this fight; we were grabbing one another and fell to the ground where we began to wrestle. I would be on top one second and moments later our roles would be reversed. I was winning but not by much. Carl suddenly sunk his teeth deep into my left shoulder. I hit him with a punch so hard that it left his tooth embedded within my shoulder, leaving a wound that I carry with me even till this day.

Chapter 6

I was once again transferred back to the Brooklyn House of Detention. I was waiting inside of the bullpens for about six hours before Captain Wheeler came to talk to me. I wanted to know why it was taking so long to find me a cell. Captain Wheeler told me that there were concerns about having me inside their building again. He wanted to know if I still held a grudge towards Officer Jackman.

I have always been the kind of person that if asked a serious question, by someone that I respected, I would provide an honest answer. When Captain Wheeler asked me about Jackman I had to keep it real.

Captain Wheeler was the highest ranking officer that had responded to the alarm the day that Jackman had removed the handcuffs from my wrist and following that punched me. When Captain Wheeler had asked me what had happened I chose to tell him the truth. I was caught by surprise when he said that he believed me. Following that incident, the very next day officer Jackman was taken off of his regular post as the O.I.C in the Bing and placed outside in the cold manning the jail’s front gates. I told Captain Wheeler that the first opportunity that was presented to me, I was going to return officer Jackman’s kindness and with interest.

The smile on my face was very visible. The gleam in my eyes was bright. It was a pleasure to see these officers shaking. On top of having me stabbed and almost killed they had handicapped me by having one of my testicles forever damaged.

However, I was not surprised when two transportation officers stopped in front of the cell that I had been in for almost ten hours and pedigreed me. “Okay, can you please tell me where are you guys taking me and to what jail am I going to next?” I asked politely. I was getting tried of being inside of these bullpens. There was a name for this kind of treatment which was ‘Bullpen Therapy.’

I had been held inside of bullpens countless times before and for much longer periods. But there was always an incident which occurred before the commencing of the so called bullpen therapy.

The officer looked down at the movement card as his partner finished putting on the leg shackles and said “You’re going to Rikers Island.”

The ride from the Brooklyn House of Detention to Rikers Island took about forty five minutes during the rush hour traffic. As the transportation vehicle made its way across the bridge the smell of backed up sewage penetrated my nostrils. It was a smell that seemed to always remind me of rotten eggs. After the officers had gone to the sally point to check in their weapons I was taken to H.D.M.

The receiving room officer that was on duty at that time was a good friend of mine. He was at least as good as any inmate and officer could ever become under the current circumstances. “Hey The Mack is back,” officer Johnson said with a smile on his face, after asking me my name, date of birth, as well as my address.

With the pedigree process over, I was now officially part of the H.D.M. inmate count. “So tell me, Officer Johnson, when can I go to my unit?” I asked. I had been held in one bullpen after another for close to fifteen hours without a chance to bathe, rest, or eat something hot. I was beginning to get cranky and I knew that soon I would be adopting my ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude.

“Mack, grab your stuff and let’s get you out of here,” someone said as they walked over to the holding cell. It was a new CMC escort officer named CO Western. Once again I was reminded that I was back in the so called ‘Belly of the Beast,’ as officer Western removed the handcuffs from his belt and said “Okay Mack you know the routine.” Western was young and very arrogant, he would often boast about him being ‘like us’ (criminal minded) except that he never got caught.

Officer Western and I walked out of the receiving room and into the rotunda, which was also where the entrance to the CMC unit was. I came to a halt. CO Western turned and asked me why I was stopping. “I thought I was going to the CMC housing unit Western, whats going on?” I asked.

“Naw man, you’re going to the disciplinary Unit in 3 block; so come on Mack, and please don’t start anything. It’s almost time for me to get off and I do not feel like working overtime or doing any paperwork. Let’s go!” Western replied.

I was tired after the long day of bullpen therapy and wanted nothing more than to shower and get some sleep. I complied with officer Western’s request simply because of my need for food and rest. I had long ago learned some valuable lessons, one of which was that you never engaged in a battle without either proper subsistence or rest. At that moment my body was in dire need of both.

Once I had gotten the rest that was needed and eaten something that was not a stale cheese sandwich, which was all that was offered to me the day before, I asked to speak with the deputy of security Dep. Grillo. The officer that was working inside the Bing or disciplinary block was new. He told me that he doubted very much that the Dep would stop what he was doing to come see one inmate. Any other time I would have introduced myself to this rookie in a completely different manner.

There was a time that officers would have to wear raincoats while working the tiers that they were assigned to, because the inmates would often throw human feces at them. I must admit to at one time in my life behaving in this animalistic fashion. But that was, I am glad to say, only in the most extreme circumstances.

“Listen officer, whats your name?” I asked. As I looked at his name plate attached to his shirt just above his shield. “Roberts” we both said at the same time. “Can you just tell him that Mack is in the building and I want to speak with him,” I continued. As an after thought I told him to ask the front desk officer in charge of the block that I needed to talk to him also.

The rookie officer turned to walk away and as he did this he mumbled something about “You’re sure asking for a lot for someone who just got here.”

I chose to let his little sarcastic remark fly over my head. I had more important fish to fry, fish that could possibly lead to my freedom.

I had been granted a phone call by the O.I.C. The rookie seemed to be a little confused with the ‘special’ treatment that was afforded to me. I’m sure that he was told to give me the VIP treatment, because his demeanor did a 360 degree turn around.

I used that phone call to contact a Ms Dorothy Washington at the legal Aid Society.

Ms Washington was in charge of the prisoner rights department. She was a very good person to know and an even better ally. I had known her for a year or two and she had proven to be worth her weight in gold.

I explained my present situation to her and she gave me her word that she would do everything within her power to see that it was taken care of. She had been following me and my case from afar and was impressed with the escape thing that I had pulled a year back.

After that phone call I called my wife Monica and reassured her that everything was going according to plan. Monica was a worry wart and would not be completely satisfied until I was home safe and sound. I had decided to get some rest while the plan that I had set in motion worked itself out. It could not have been more that an hour or so before the rookie came running up to my cell looking nervous. “Fleetwood hurry up and get ready, Dep. Grillo is in the block. I think he’s here to see you” he said. A smile, although a small one but still a smile, appeared on my face. It would seem that this rookie was not as simple as he appeared. By him calling me by my street name could only mean one thing, that he had done his homework.

“Thank you, CO Roberts,” I said. He started blushing at the mention of his name instead of me calling him ‘Rookie.’ But he had earned that. It was the method in which a veteran convict broke in a new officer. With each ‘good’ deed completed he became more of a pawn.

“Okay, you have to accompany him on his rounds. I’ll talk to you later,” with this said he was dismissed. Officer Roberts, the rookie, was officially on his way to becoming a bonafide vet. It would take time but I was sure that he would be alright.

A veteran officer learned that as long as no one was escaping or hurting anyone then their job was was just that, a JOB; put in their eight hours and go home.

Thanks for reading and be sure to buy the book!

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ARTHUR MACK Jr.