In Phoenix, Arizona I was recently detained for suspicion of DUI (drunk driving) and was shuffled around the 4th Avenue jail holding-cell circuit. What a nightmare. Like you, I had never been arrested before. Wearing the dress clothes I wore to work at my office job earlier that day, and then to happy hour, I was thrown in a crowded cell full of people in stripes. Some resting their heads on toilet paper rolls they'd stashed in their pants, others tweaking about in corners. I found myself an uncomfortable seat on the cement bench along the room's perimeter. I sat directly across from a poorly-groomed Mexican who was grinning, showing off his mouthful of gold teeth. His eyes focused on my collared shirt and pleated dress plants. He looked up to my eyes and asked, "What you in here for, dawg? Some insider-trading bullshit?"
Much later, when our group appeared before the judge, I learned his charges included 18 counts of kidnapping and multiple gang-related murder charges. He was a real comedian. Anyway, the 24 hour stint was an eye-opener and it got me to thinking about my old friends who were capitalizing on the reemerging rave scene and making ignorant decisions. As I sipped my 2 ounce sugar water in that holding cell I began to think about the downfall of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano in his Arizona days, which prompted a Google search the following day ultimately leading me to your book and now this email.
I just finished Hard Time and am shocked by how easy it is to relate to your story. I'm 23 and I live in the Phoenix area. I'm a New Yorker born and raised but, like you, moved to this strange place where I've been for the past 6 years. Your comeback is remarkable and you have a tremendous family. Part of the reason I think your story is so relevant now more than ever has a lot to do with the resurgence of the rave scene here in the States. During my senior year of college the rave/electronica scene exploded. Clubs in Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix ditched hip hop and started booking DJs playing house and trance. I found myself accidentally in circles of good people taking stupid risks... "servants to the scene," as they would say. Finishing your book was like waking up from a dream in which my future self came to me and told me how the next few years would unfold. Luckily, I made some wise decisions before things got out of hand and now I keep the scene, and those friends, at arms length. The scene is there when I want to visit for a night, but it doesn't consume me.
As I notice old friends post pictures of their new BMW's to Facebook allegedly paid for by their minimum wage club-promoting jobs, I can't help but feel like doom is headed their way. Let's hope not. Strangely enough, they don't know anything about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. When the prison guard told you, "the world has no idea what goes on in here," referring to the MCSO Jail System, he couldn't have been more right. People in Phoenix don't even know what goes on in there.
I want to thank you for sharing your story. Naturally, it works as a reminder to avoid destructive lifestyle choices. But your story is not one limited to a message only about prevention. I found a great deal of promotion in admiring your writing ability and it inspired me to begin writing a story of my own. It has nothing to do with jail, but it certainly has elements of conviction as all good stories do. It's set in the modern day rave scene and it's about how I met the love of my life.