Ah, the holiday season, that traditional time of tinseled trees, pretty poinsettias and catching up with friends, family and …
“Merry-X-mas Mr. Clark.”
So begins my prison letter from Eddie Ray Hall. I found it waiting for me Sunday like an unopened present in my newsroom mail slot.
Well, deck the Hall; Santa came early this year.
“Hey there Douggie ol boy,” my literal pen pal continued.
“How the hell are ya?”
A lot better than you, Eddie Ray, if you want the honest gospel truth. After all, I’m not the one who’s serving 16 years on a drug charge in a federal slammer.
That’s the sentence Judge Robert Whaley gave Eddie Ray two years ago in Spokane’s U.S. District Court.
But I understand what’s going on: Eddie Ray is suffering from a condition that a performer pal of mine calls a “fame hangover.”
He uses the expression to describe how he gets the blues whenever he returns to humdrum Spokane after the excitement of being on a stage or a TV show in some more appreciative location.
So I’m thinking that Eddie Ray misses all the press and poetry he inspired when he roamed our range as Spokane’s No. 1 methperado.
Beginning his life of grime in the mid-1970s, Eddie Ray went on to rack up nearly 50 arrests, 16 felony convictions and at least eight trips to prison for a hodgepodge of dope and burglary-related hooliganism.
And that’s not factoring in the bail-jumping or the jail-escaping when the softy system wasn’t letting him go fast enough.
Or the time Eddie Ray got shot full of holes during a failed 1987 burglary attempt.
All these hardboiled exploits prompted me and my buddy, Joe Brasch, to produce three parody songs about Eddie Ray that I sang to the tunes of “I Walk the Line,” “On the Road Again” and “Yellow Brick Road.”
But that was then.
Today, inmate 13107-085 is living a more law-and-orderly life inside the “Federal Correctional Institute” of Littleton, a suburb of Denver.
That’s what a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman told me, which confirmed the address and inmate info on the envelope.
I won’t predict whether Eddie Ray will ever straighten up. But he certainly appears to be rubbing shoulders with a higher class of criminality.
“Just the other day,” Eddie Ray wrote in red ink on white paper that made me think of Santa, “me and a couple of my new friends, Mr. Enron ‘Himself,’ Jeffrey Skilling and ex-governor of Illinois Mr. Rod Blagojevich, were sitting around shooting the ($%!!) reading some of your articles on me and having a good ol laugh.”
Honest to gawd. Say Keith Richards snorted five lines of pure coke and then followed it with an LSD chaser.
He still wouldn’t be able to hallucinate a more psychedelic scenario than the image of Skilling, Blagojevich and Eddie Ray Hall hooting it up over Clark columns in a federal pokey.
“A couple of good ol’ boys there, I tell ya,” added Eddie Ray.
As nutty as it sounds, I’m inclined to believe him.
Especially after an Internet search confirmed that both Skilling and Blagojevich are doing time at the FCI.
The Internet also described the Littleton lockup as a “minimum-security” facility. That struck me as somewhat troubling, given Eddie Ray’s propensity to grant himself a pardon every now and then.
I hope he’s done with that stuff. If anyone should know that jailbreaks never end like “Shawshank Redemption,” it’s Eddie Ray.
Besides, Eddie Ray said he’s planning on leaving prison and entering “a half-way house in 2021.”
Just “a hop skip and jump away” as he optimistically put it.
“Hopefully, your ol ass will still be kicking!” he wrote. “If not I’ll stop by your gravesite and say hi for ol times sake.”
You know, that may be the nicest thing a federal inmate has ever said about me.
Or maybe this con is trying to con this columnist into something.
“I do enjoy a good newspaper article on myself!” he added.
Oh, well. It is the giving season.