Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Weekend in Val Verde County Jail: Part I - A River Runs Through It

Within 30 seconds of crossing the border a pigmied Mexican national approached…

Jose: "Gringos! Gringos! Que paso!?! Que paso!?! What you want… Llello? Marijuana?"

Me: "Nandrolone Decanoate?"

Josh: "Dude, seriously… do you honestly think he's taken a biochemistry class?"

Me: [turning back to the pigmied Mexican] "Donde esta la farmacia?"

-- -- -- -- --

In case you haven't realized it or have just always given me the benefit of the doubt, I, dear friends, have a near superhuman ability to be a complete idiot.

Once upon a time, I was a 19 year old honors student at Abilene Christian University. I stood 6'1" and weighed 194 lbs with 8-10 percent body fat. I could run 3.2 miles in less than 20 minutes and had a resting heart-rate in the low 50's (obviously, that has all pretty much gone to shit in the last 7 years).

For reasons that truly surpass understanding I did not like my physical condition or the fact that I had to work so hard to maintain it. As such, I decided to pursue what some call "better living through chemistry".

My decision to drive from Abilene, TX to Acuna, Mexico for the purposes of crossing the border and purchasing anabolic steroids was, at best, ill-conceived and, at worst, mentally retarded. This bastard conception had its beginning when I was made to write a 40 page research paper for a biochemistry lab. My randomly assigned topic? AIDS Wasting Syndrome (AWS).

Remember the freaky-as-hell public awareness campaign of the early 90's that featured a 17-19 year old kid in a hospital bed covered with purple sores? Yeah, well as destructive as that campaign's scare tactics may have been to the general public's attitudes towards AIDS patients, it wasn't too far off the mark of showing somebody suffering from advanced AWS… which is essentially when your body is so starved for nutrients it has eaten through all your fat reserves and begins chowing down on its own muscle.

During the course of researching the various forms of treatment I came across the standard procedure for "steroid therapy". Come to find out, anabolic steroids can be pretty useful in treating AWS and cause virtually no harmful side effects provided a high quality, mild steroid is used in the clinically suggested dosages for the clinically suggested periods of time. "So you're saying I can gain 10-15 lbs. of muscle that I basically will never lose and have no harmful side effects? Well that's DANDY!"

So, I decide to try it out.

Yeah, I know… brilliant. You know that "superhuman ability to be a complete idiot" I mentioned earlier? That is very closely linked with my savant-like skill in outthinking myself. I would say that I am too smart for my own good but anybody who has gotten themselves into some of the situations I have cannot be said to be smart at all, let alone too smart for their own good.

But, there was a problem. Purchasing or possessing steroids in the United States without a prescription is illegal.

I am a terrible liar and knew that if I couldn't effectively lie to my parents about walking unescorted to a Love's to get a Mountain Dew before one of my 7th grade football games then I couldn't even entertain the idea of getting a medical doctor to give me, a perfectly healthy person, an illegitimate prescription for anabolic steroids.

Luckily, Abilene was only three and a half hours away from a place where prescriptions were not needed in order to purchase steroids… Mexico. I had zero interest in going to Mexico by myself so I called my best childhood friend who had just so happened to have gone out to ACU with me.

Me: "Hey man, you wanna go to Mexico?"

Josh: "Uhhhh, when?"

Me: "Like, this afternoon."

Josh: "Dude, finals start next week."

Me: "Yeah, I know… but we could get down there and back in like 8 hours."

Josh: [having quickly calculated drive time] "Uhhh, why the crap would you want to go to Mexico for an hour?"

Me: "I wanna see if I can't get some of those steroids I wrote that paper about."

Josh: "... … … "

Josh: "You realize that would require you to somehow smuggle them back into the United States?"

Me: "Well, yeah."

Josh: "You realize you would probably have to do that while interacting with the Border Patrol?"

Me: "Well, yeah."

Josh: "You realize that you have the guiltiest conscience of anybody on the planet?"

Me: [knowing I had already out kicked my intellectual coverage and not thought this through] "Seriously man, I've thought this through… you wanna go or not?"

Being the best imaginable friend he his, Josh decided that there was no way he could let me do this on my own.

We leave for Acuna, Mexico in the early afternoon of Thursday, December 9th. The drive was as uneventful as a drive could possibly be… this is south, south, west, west, southwest Texas for God's sake.

But, a little over three hours later we arrive at the last bastion of civilization… Del Rio, Texas. We decide there is no way we are making that drive twice in one day so we check into a hotel and stow all valuables save a few hundred dollars cash and our driver's licenses… and duct tape… with which we planned to tape the steroids to our inner thighs… before we walked past US Border Patrol agents… let that sink in for a minute then realize exactly how not thought through this whole thing really was. Why we didn't think to just stay in Mexico and get hammered 'til 5 in the morning and take an unassuming taxi back into the States like every other idiot American college student is beyond me.

You would think that somebody who didn't have an aversion to buying steroids without a prescription in Mexico would not have any reservations about under aged drinking in Mexico. But, you would be incorrect. You would be incorrect because like I said earlier, I am an idiot and had somehow got into my noggin that legislators were stupid and steroids were a good idea so long as I followed what I had read in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Plus, I grew up in the Church of Christ; drinking is wrong.

-- -- -- -- --

Jose: "La farmacia?!?!"

Me: "Si, si… la farmacia."

Jose: "You got de flu?"

Me: "Where is it?"

Jose: "Juss down de road holmes..."

Sure enough, Pedro was right.

Josh and I enter the first brightly lit pharmacy of satisfactory cleanliness we see and begin perusing. Viagra. Xanax. Oxycodone. It was an impotent pill popper's wet dream. Tellingly, these highly recreational and highly abused medications seemed to represent the bulk of this "pharmacy's" inventory.

Me: "Excuse me. Sir, do you carry Nandralone Decanoate or Deca-Durabolin?"

"Pharmacist": "Que?"

Me: "Steroids?"

"Pharmacist": "Ahhh… si, si, si… [pointing to a bottom shelf] … aqui, aqui."

I look to the shelf.

Apparently, the Mexican National Steroid Taking Team calls this place home.

Seriously, what I saw was a collection of the most harsh synthetic muscle builders known to man. For those who wanted to make their arms explode… Dianabol. For those who wanted to annihilate any trace of fat… Winstrol. Honest to God folks, Winstrol (or Stanozolol) was originally developed for Thoroughbreds… freaking RACE HORSES… I could be wrong, but I don't think Acuna is Mexico's Louisville.

Me: "Dude, these are all heavy man… I don't wanna grow boobs or have my nuts shrink."

Josh: "I guess you've made peace with the fact you're already losing your hair."

Me: "Ass."

Josh: "What about this… [picks up box of Sustanon 250] … This is what Sean takes (mutual friend and pitcher for ACU's baseball team)."

Me: [picking up a box as though I know what the hell I'm doing] "Yeah you're right. This is a little more powerful than what I was going for but if I decide not to take it I guess I could always sell it."

Josh: "Yeah, for sure dude… if this smuggling gig works out why not just start dealing too?"

Disallowing enough time to pass to reconsider what we were doing, we buy two 3 month supplies and make our way into the streets of Acuna in search of some place to duct-tape 24 tiny glass viles to our thighs.

I just laughed out loud as I typed that. This is shameful.

Me: [cramped in North America's most disgusting bathroom, trying not to touch the walls] "Dude… this is gonna hurt so bad when we pull this tape off."

Josh: [focusing on more urgent matters] "I don't care about that. All I care about is getting back across without any of those Border Patrol agents thinking anything is up."

Me: "Dude, don't talk about that… I'll get nervous."

Josh: "We got offered coke and bud from a beaner who is probably on the DEA payroll. As we speak we're probably getting Hepatitis C from this 'bathroom' and in about ten minutes we're gonna walk across the Mexican/US border with illegal controlled substances taped to our thighs and you're not already nervous? I don't care if you get nervous. Just don't be an idiot."

As I considered the chain of events that was just recounted for me, I could literally feel the blood drain from my face.

From there we made our way from downtown Acuna back to the border station, purchasing 2 traditional Mexican wool blankets and some pure vanilla along the way so as to minimize suspicion.

Unfortunately, there are only two reasons 18-25 year old American males go to Acuna… 1) under aged drinking or 2) buying prescription drugs. We were two young, muscular American men who had asked a DEA informant directions to the nearest pharmacy and were now walking back to the States stone-cold sober in the middle of the afternoon. Had we been vomiting out the windows of a Mexican cab at 5 o'clock in the morning the following conversation would have most likely never taken place…

Border Patrol Agent: [Literally, first words out of his mouth] "So uh, you boys been to any pharmacies?"

Josh: "No sir, just checking things out before we head back over there later this evening with the rest of our group."

Border Patrol Agent: [recognizing that I had begun to sweat profusely and tremble violently as I gazed skyward in search of a SWAT team rappelling off the adjacent rooftops to take me down] "Really? Well what do you say I have a talk with your buddy here while you stick around and talk with my partner."

Josh, God love 'em, he really did try. But he knew I might as well have had a sandwich board around my neck advertising "Free Arrests".

The Border Patrol Agent lead me into an interrogation room complete with bolted down stainless steel chairs and one-way mirror.

Border Patrol Agent: "I am about to pat you down. Are there any objects on your person that pose a danger to me?"

Me: "No sir. But I would like tell you that taped to my thighs are 12 glass viles of anabolic steroids I purchased in Acuna approximately 45 minutes ago."

Barry Goldwater put up a better fight.

Moments later I found myself hand-cuffed and seated in a United States Border Patrol waiting room next to my best friend, who was also hand-cuffed. Brow-beating us was the largest law enforcement official I had seen or ever will see in my entire life.

Black felt cowboy hat. Black cotton t-shirt with the letters "D.E.A" printed on the left breast in yellow, blocked letters. Over-dyed wrangler jeans so tight they made Chuck Norris look like Young Jeezy. Boots that had clearly been forced into somebody's ass.

DEA Agent: "I'm runnin' your numbers. You shit stains best not say a word."

Me & Josh: [Nodding quickly and affirmatively]

As DEA Agent runs our social security numbers he informs us of several interesting bits of information… incredibly useful bits of information… incredibly useful bits of information such as the statutory amount of controlled substance that constitutes a felony as opposed to misdemeanor and how interested seasoned inmates typically are in new arrivals… particularly, new arrivals with uniquely red hair.

DEA Agent: "WELL WELL WELL… Abilene, Texas. Hey Jerry, looks like we got us some more flyboys from Dyess."

Josh: "Sir, I…"

DEA Agent: "What did I say? WHAT DID I SAY?!?! Not a WORD boy!"

Josh: "Yeah, I KNOW… BUT WE'RE NOT IN THE FREAKING AIR FORCE!"

Me: [not knowing I was partially verbalizing my prayer to God for my best friend not to be beaten to death with a felt cowboy hat] "Lor… ple… humina, juss uh… ple dear.. oh nev ev, juss ple…"

DEA Agent: "You think I'm tarded out? We got sixa yer buddies from Dyess in the back, had 'em for 2 days… that ring's busted to hell but you all just keep comin' in. Now, tell me everything I wanna know 'bout Dyess."

I guess " tell me everything" and "about Dyess" are pretty much all I heard DEA Agent say because I let loose a flood of quite literally everything I knew about Dyess Air Force Base like I was about to get my hand shoved in a blender.

Me: "SirDyessAirforceBaseissituatedjustwestofAbileneTexasandishometothe7thBomber
Wingconsistingofover30B1bombersthelargestB1groupinournationsairforce.Ihaveacousin
namedBradleyBowenwhowasamechaniconB1sandIthinkhemighthavebeenstationedat
Dyesssometimeintheearly90sbutIcan'tsayforsure.HonesttoGodSirthatisallIknowabout
DyessandIdon'tknowanybodythereoranythingaboutasteroidring.Ineedtopeepee."

My verbal diarrhea was so pitifully pitiful, DEA Agent actually laughed out loud.

Stress does funny things to memory. Namely, completely erases it. I suppose the prospect of having convicted felons wagering a pack of Lucky Strikes on whether or not my cuffs and collar matched was simply more than I could bear. I suppose this because the four to five hours following my soliloquy on the 7th Bomber Wing can only be recalled in the form of random still photos snapped by my mind's eye… the wind-swept Wal-Mart sack that hit my leg as I was being placed in the back of a police cruiser… the deputy's "Val Verde County Jail" shoulder patch… the field of blue-bordered white light that persists in one's vision after their mug shot is taken…

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "What phone numbers would you like to call?"

Me: "You mean I get more than one?"

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "Of course… what if nobody answered?"

Me: "Wow, that's really considerate. I had no idea."

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "First time?"

Me: "For what? Getting arrested or being an idiot?"

Sheriff's Deputy 1: [Laughing with her partner] "What number should I dial?"

Me: "Well, that depends. Is there anyway you can tell me how much trouble I'm in? I really have no idea where I stand."

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "You are being charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, Possession of a Controlled Substance."

Me: "So I'm not a felon?"

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "Nope."

Me: "Ok, then I guess I need to talk to my dad."

Josh: [to the deputy who is taking his mug shot] "You might wanna hold off on taking my picture and listen to him talk to his dad… it really could make your day."

There is a saying… "A good friend will bail you out of jail, but your best friend will be sitting next to you saying, 'Damn that was fun!'"

While that may be true for some, it is my experience that the your best friend will have to have his mug shot taken 3 times because he is laughing at the conversation you've just had with your dad… who tested the outer limits of just how closely a person can come to killing their offspring through telephone lines.

Dad: [sounding like you expect somebody to sound if they had been awaken at 1 a.m.] "He, hello?"

Me: "Dad, this is your son, David (I have no brothers). I am calling you from the Val Verde County Jail. I was arrested after purchasing anabolic steroids in Acuna, Mexico and attempting to bring them back into the United States. I am now being charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, Possession of a Controlled Substance. I need your help."

Sheriff's Deputy 2: "Well there it is."

Josh: "Wait for it…"

Dad: "Well, Dave… I have a tee-time at Las Colinas tomorrow morning at 10. I think your mom is heading up to Tulsa. Maybe she can help you out."

Me: [to Josh and the Deputies] "He says he's playing golf tomorrow and my mom is out of town."

Sheriff's Deputy 2: "Good call Dad."

Josh: "Wait for it…"

Mom: "David??? Dad said you're in ja, ja, ja [slips into complete hysterics… sound of telephone being quickly grasped and jerked away]"

Dad: "DID YOU FORGET WHO YOU ARE!?!?!?! YOU ARE STEPHEN WELLS' SON!!! YOU ARE DAN WELLS' GRANDSON!!!!!!!!!!!"

Me: [consumed by complete and total guilt and shame, desperately needing to cry yet realizing from movies and Discovery Channel shows that crying in jail is typically associated with anal rapes] "YES I DID FORGET WHO I AM! BUT I AM ABOUT TO BE PUT IN A JAIL CELL WITH ONLY GOD KNOWS WHAT AND I DON'T NEED TEAR STAINS ON MY FACE WHEN I GET IN THERE! YOU GONNA HELP OR NOT?"

Dad: "Well I guess we'll just have to wait and see." [sound of phone disconnecting]

Me: [to anybody, to nobody] "He said 'Well I guess we'll just have to wait and see.'"

Josh: "THERE IT IS!!!"

Sheriff's Deputy 2: "NICE!"

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "Smart dad."

Me: "I… He… This is all my fault… all my doing… please don't think I have bad parents."

Sheriff's Deputy 1: "I don't even know you."

Again, stress does funny things. I cannot clearly recall anything that occurred during the following period of time I cannot specify. I am guessing I was finger printed and had my blood alcohol level tested. I am also guessing I given a set of heavy weight, hunter-safety-orange scrubs along with a hygiene kit and told to go into a bathroom and change because it is there that I had my next lucid thought

Me: [sound of record being numbly played backwards then quickly being corrected] "mmzzz zhafta dionzzACKS! Razor? RAZOR!?! WHY THE $%#@ DO THEY GIVE YOU A RAZOR?!?!"

The make-shift weapons menagerie that was the Val Verde County Jail hygiene kit was simply jaw dropping. The aforementioned razor… full-length molded plastic tooth brush… soap (hey, I was alarmed… everything looked dangerous).

As I exited the bathroom I was given a twin-sized mattress and pillow then told to stand next to Josh and wait for an escort to our new home.

Me: "Dude, they give you a freaking razor and toothbrush handle… all anybody in there has is time…"

Josh: "Dave. I could not care less about some flimsy safety razor or how long some dude has had to form an edge on the handle of the toothbrush he never uses."

Me: "Huh?"

Josh: "Dude, look…"

Josh, who was blessed at birth by God with more than just a dry sense of humor and considerable musical ability, then turned and removed his shielding mattress. In so doing Josh revealed the following: 1) The pants he had been given by the deputies were at least 2 sizes too small; 2) The crotch of said pants had been ripped along the seam; and 3) Josh had worn a pair of blue boxers for our trip to Mexico, never anticipating a Sheriff's Deputy would tell he'd have to remove all none-white clothing for fear of instigating a gang war within one of our nation's busiest county jails.

Yep, my best friend Testaclese was about to be introduced to the Texas State Department of Corrections while free-ballin' in a pair of snuggly fitting crotchless pants.

As this realization swept over the both of us our escort, Sheriff's Deputy 2, called for the security doors to be opened. Immediately a tidal wave of cat calls and whistles from what lay before us flooded the holding area.

Josh: "Goodbye 'anal virginity', hello 'lifetime of loose stool'."