I have no connections in Hollywood. I don't know the chick at the Thai massage parlor who beats off Brett Ratner. I do have connections that can get me into San Quentin with the assurance that I can leave when I want to, which tends to be the right way to see a prison. So I took a field trip to the maximum security penitentiary... San Quentin is a level 4 prison which really means that your chances of getting shanked are 4 out of 4. I recognized the guard at the main gate as the guy who told Metallica that there's a no hostage policy in their bullshit St. Anger video. I figured if a bitch like Lars can do it, so can I. No one actually tells you about the hostage policy. You have to read a sign to learn that. I was among a small number of non-prisoners who sat in on an experimental therapy session. Free people seeing other free people in a maximum security prison is weirder than being the only white guy at a Sista Souljah concert.

All were invited to attend unless they were on death row or in the hole. We sat with the prisoners in a large misshapen circle. In fact, we were tightly packed because 60 inmates, 45 of whom were down for murder, showed up. Being seated knee-to-knee with convicted murderers in a prison rec room with no guards and no direct line line-of-sight with the nearest guard tower is a bit disconcerting. The session ran for 5 hours, and I grew fond of the place. During breaks I chatted with some inmates. In the fountain opposite death row some ducks landed and playfully splashed one another. I almost said, "Now this is the place for me!" The inmates were nicer than my co-workers and twice as polite as the fuck-asses driving on Sunset. I left eager to return because I didn’t leave with a weaponized toothbrush protruding from my neck. I spoke affectionately of the experience not knowing that the personal info I submitted for the security clearance was on a flash drive secreted in an inmate’s ass, on its way to the street.

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