Jun. 19th, 2010

wlotus: (Face)
I still owe you an explanation for why I was at Sing Sing last week. What a naughty tease I am. :-) Thank you for being so patient.

Last Saturday morning I typed in the address for the baby shower I would attend late that afternoon. When Google Maps showed me the location I looked twice in disbelief. "QWC Annex: Sing Sing State Penitentiary" was in bold, black letters under the location marker. T and I studied the map in detail, sure there was a mistake, but there was none.

My mind immediately thought up the worst case scenario. "If I find out this young lady with an engineering degree and the job to match is having her baby shower at the prison because her baby's father is an inmate there, I am going to slap her as soon as the baby is born! I raised (mentored) her better than that!" I see that phenomenon a lot in the black community--professional, upwardly-mobile people (usually women) pairing themselves with jailbirds--and it burns me up every time. But I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt as we drove up there, thinking there must be a good reason for all of this.

Sing Sing Prison
Sing Sing Correctional Facility,
Ossining, NY


My resolve to give her the benefit of the doubt wavered as we drove alongside the walls of the prison, however. First of all, there were the walls: concrete walls three or four stories high in places, topped with barbed wire and overlooked by guard towers at intervals. The only break in the walls was a green door large enough to drive a bus through. The structure was downright depressing from the outside; I can only imagine how much worse the energy would be on the inside of the walls. I had never been that close to a maximum security prison before, and I hope the pleasure of a repeat experience is indefinitely postponed.

After getting directions from a guard who saw us drive around the walls more than once in search of the party, we drove across the railroad tracks and along the water towards the annex. The sight of the water on my right eased my mind.

The sight on my left of the three stories of barbed wire filling a driveway-sized gap between two chain-link fences topped with barbed wire sent my eyes a-rolling anew.

I parked my car nose against the concrete wall on the other side of the annex, took a deep breath, and went to greet my acquaintance...and find out what the heck led her to pick that location.

As it turns out, there was a perfectly good explanation. Even the expectant mother had been taken aback by the location, at first. Furthermore, her fiancé is not an inmate there. Her cousin lives in Ossining, and her cousin's church does a lot of work with the prison. Because of this, her cousin was able to use the fellowship hall behind the prison for the event. The hall was decorated beautifully and was located next to the water, with picnic tables outside, so we could sit inside or out, as we wished. One only had to ignore the fact that we were in the shadow of an infamous penitentiary, OMG to enjoy the scenery.

Enjoying the view of the water.


A word of advice: if you ever decide to throw someone a party in the shadow of a penitentiary, let them and their guests know in advance. It will lessen the shock.
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October 2010

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