How did I wind up at such an awful place? It’s a long story. My friend Don and I came to Hawaii from America to find the Golden Monkey. We found it, and I stole it, but then it was stolen from me by my Uncle Lou. I was arrested, tried, and sent to Aloha State Prison. I guess it wasn’t such a long story after all.
The Hawaiian justice system is really unfair. If you steal something, but then someone steals it from you, shouldn’t that erase the first stealing?
I was sentenced to twenty-five years, with credit for the one week I had spent in jail. So it was actually only twenty-four years and fifty-one weeks, which I thought was pretty good.
In Honolulu, a big group of us convicts were made to change out of our regular clothes into the prison uniform: a flowery Hawaiian shirt, cutoffs and flip-flops. It’s well-known that if you see someone in a Hawaiian shirt and cutoffs, he’s probably an escaped criminal.
We were loaded on a boat and shipped up the mighty Aloha River. As we passed the House of Forbidden Aloha, the girls came out and waved. I waved back.
We continued upriver. The sun was shining bright and the birds were singing in the trees. The air was filled with the scent of fresh boat exhaust. I started thinking, Maybe going to prison isn’t so bad.
One prisoner jumped ship and tried to swim to shore, but he was attacked by crocodiles. It was horrible! The water was strewn with blood and pieces of flip-flops.
The guards herded us into the main yard at Aloha State Prison. The warden was waiting. “Welcome, gentlemen,” he said, but the way he said “gentlemen,” I felt, was a little sarcastic. I hate to judge someone, but that’s the way it seemed.
The warden said no one had ever escaped from Aloha State Prison, and that we shouldn’t even think of trying. That’s when I noticed the main gate was
still open, and I just walked out. Then I ran.
The guards caught up with me, beat me, and threw me into a cell. To this day I still wonder what the rest of the warden’s speech was about.
At Aloha State Prison, the most terrifying sight was when the dump truck drove in and dumped a huge load of flowers. All those flowers had to be turned into leis* by us, the prisoners.
After making countless leis your fingers would grow numb and you’d lose all sense of good color combination. If you slowed down, you were yelled at and whipped. You might be trying to decide between an orchid and a carnation when KA-RACK! YOWW! The cat-o’-nine-tails!
One bad lei and you’d get humiliated. The guard would rap you on the back of your head with his billy club and hold up your latest effort.
“What is this?” he’d snarl.
“I wouldn’t wear this to a dog fight!” he’d shout and throw the lei in your face.
If you tried to point out that the leis were just for tourists, so they didn’t have to be perfect, the guard would yell: “You don’t think tourists have feelings?!” Then he’d whip you again.
Too many bad leis and you’d be sent to solitary. And you’d have to attend a Johnny Cash performance. Every few months Johnny would come to the prison and sing a song about what it’s like to be in prison. “Please, please, not another Johnny Cash concert!” you’d beg. But it did no good.
If people knew that leis were made under such
horrific conditions, they might not buy them. Every time I see a photo of a smiling tourist wearing a lei, it makes me sick to me stomach.