My Personal Bank Robber
I met a woman, a bartender, a blonde with a husky voice. She
was a Texas blonde. This tall, blonde Texan was my spiritual guide in the early
days of my divorce odyssey.
I had changed jobs, changed my life, living in a hotel and spent
most nights on a bar stool across the bar from this guidance counselor blonde.
She was an alcoholic, dry since she had gotten out of prison for armed robbery.
“Armed fucking robbery” I said? “Yep, I was the getaway driver”.
I took her to a movie one night, Bar Fly starring Mickey
Rourke and Faye Dunaway. As we left she said to me “nothing better than being
fucked up in a bar at 2 in the afternoon while everybody’s at work, sometimes I
She introduced me to a local TV anchor babe by telling to
her “this is the only guy who can handle you”. Handle her I did until she
handled me and went off to New York and sent me back to the bar.
I had pneumonia, the bank robber brought me soup and said
“you shouldn’t ride your goddamned motorcycle without a jacket “. She was lying
on the bed next to me, propped up on pillows, her cowboy boots crossed at the
ankles watching MTV, she turned to me and said “White Snake really sucks, Duran
Duran is okay and George Michael is gay”.
She was on the money as usual.
Then, out of the blue she said, “Did I tell you Squeaky
Fromme was my cell mate”? “Ah, no you didn’t”. “Weird little shit, didn’t talk
much, but she was clean and tidy so I didn’t care, the one who was fucked up
was Sara Jane Moore”. I was stunned, my
counselor got up, straightened her side of the bed and said, “I have to get to
work, I’ll check on you later”, she patted me on the head and walked out.
“When I was in college at UT I was a dean’s list girl, but
heavy into pot, booze, pills any damn thing I could drink, smoke, swallow or
snort. I wanted to go to Jamaica on spring break but I didn’t have the money,
one afternoon while completely loaded my friends and I decided to rob a little
savings and loan not far from the campus. One of the guys had a gun, he went in
with my roommate and I drove and we headed for airport and the Caribbean. We
got just over 20k and we drove right by the cop cars flying to the Savings and
Loan. Beginners luck. A year later I was tending bar in St Bart’s and the FBI
showed up. My family tipped them off after my old roomie rolled over on me.
That’s how I ended up with Squeaky as my cellmate. I got 10 and 5 on a federal bank
charges and they paroled me after 4. Best year of my life tending bar in St
Bart’s, although the women’s prison was interesting too”. With that information dispensed she headed off
Little by little the story seeped out of my counselor. She
had been sentenced to the Federal Women’s Correctional Facility in Dublin
California. After processing she was assigned a cell with Squeaky. She thought
Fromme should have been in a mental institution, but there she was in a prison
with my bank robber. In the same building was Sara Jane Moore who had tried to
finish the job Squeaky had tried to do on President Ford and actually got a
shot off. Squeaky’s gun was loaded but had nothing in the chamber and she
didn’t even point it at him, simply waved it in the air. Sara Jane was
certainly more determined.
My bartender-councilor said her cellmate was quiet and
rather self-contained, so it really blew her mind when Squeaky attacked Julianne
Dusick, the airplane hijacker, with a hammer the next year. She thought it was
out of character; then again Charles Manson was her roomie’s idol, so anything
was possible with Squeaky. Fromme was sent to West Virginia and never got a
chance to say goodbye.
Sara Jane Moore was a jail house lawyer, activist and was
personally invested in holding her jailer’s feet to the fire. Somebody sent her
a food scale and she weighed the servings of food at every meal. If the rules
called for 8 ounces of green vegetables with a meal, there damned well better
be 8 ounces. As big of a pain in the ass as Moore was, she did get a few things
changed for the better. Things like more and better exercise and health care
Better and more nutritional food and she got the girl’s sweat suits to wear
along with running shoes. Moore also lobbied and got newer and R rated movies
in the theater.
There were tough cases in the prison; murderers, attempted
murderers, baby killers, armed robbers along with the run off the mill drug
dealers, swindlers, hookers and white collar criminals. My counselor said the
only prisoners who were delusional about why they were there were the white
collar types, you know the kind that embezzled 4 million from their firm and
weren’t the least bit guilty about it. She said if you asked them ‘how much of
that stolen cash were you able to hide? They just got a small grin on their
faces and walked away, whistling a happy fucking tune”. She said, “the rest
were about as warm, well fed and comfortable as they ever were going to be in
their life as it was going to be even harder when they got out of Dublin. Not
much of a market for a hooker in her mid-40’s with a recharged drug habit who
has spent the better part of life sucking dick in shitty hotel rooms and parked
cars. She sure as hell is not getting a job at K-Mart or as a cashier at a
grocery store, what the hell is she going to do to support herself?” Good point.
It took months of conversation to get her story, she told it
in short, brutal bursts. As far as her going to school and taking classes, she
did it because she liked it, not because she had any delusions about her
future, “anybody going to hire a convicted felon to teach 7th grade?
Didn’t fucking think so.” One day she told me she was going to do a work/apprenticeship
with a furniture builder-restorer-upholsterer. “I am so fucking glad to get
away from the bar, the drunks and the assholes, you’re the exception. I'm so
tired of creeps trying to get in my pants, the manager hinting around for some
naughty action from me at closing time. I am so happy and the first time since
I got out of Dublin I actually feel free!”
I was happy for her, she’d been good to me and a real help
in my life. I really liked her as a human being and she was damn good looking,
tall, strong with classic American looks and she had a nice sense of style. She
looked at me and said, ‘look you son of a bitch, I know what you’re thinking
and don’t think I haven’t thought about it too, but the last thing you need is
a girlfriend who has a year and a half of supervised federal parole left and
then another 5 of unsupervised, you’ll be moving on and when you do I wouldn’t
be able to go with you and my heart has been through enough shit for 5
lifetimes, let’s leave it like it is, okay?” We did and I moved back to Boston
6 months later. She owns her own business today.