The Tulip Story: 2005 Flashback

I've got to tell the Tulip story.

John Tulip is the name of the hapless soul in the picture.

It was easy for me to get the picture of him because Jacksonville, Florida is very forthright with advertising the identities of sex offenders to the public at large.

Tulip was in the Duval County Jail (Jacksonville) at the same time that I was, in 2005, in fact, he was my cell mate for maybe a month and a half. I spent 123 days there, I think it was, but that's a story for another post.

Tulip was despicable. He was in there for having paid a 14 year old boy to make sex videos with him in a motel somewhere in south Georgia. All of those details were in the news stories that I read after I got out of jail and got to a library computer where I Googled John Tulip. At least there don't seem to be too many others saddled with that name, as he was pretty much at the top of a short list of "results."

For me, it was just fill-in-the-blanks because I had guessed it all the way down to picturing that Tulip would have gone "far away" from his St. Augustine, Florida home to do his deed.

Far away from his wife of 35, did he say? years, whom I'm sure he had a great relationship with. She didn't seem to be sending any money into his account at the jail. I can't get inside the head of any wife of 35? years, but I can see why she might not have sent Tulip a dime.

I can get inside the head of Tulip, because I was caged like an animal with him and, as I said, was his cell mate for a while.

For starters, Tulip had a lot of anger.

I think he was mad at himself for having waited until the age of 60 to live out his dream of having sex with a 14 year old boy in front of a camera.

Once, I was telling him the story of how my then girlfriend caught her 11 year old son playing around sexually with another boy his age. Tulip ejaculated "It was probably the best sex of his life!" with a tone that betrayed something below the surface.

He was the stero-typical super conformist middle to upper class white guy, who was in a marriage because that was the way to conform in the "little pink houses for you and me" era, the tail end of which Tulip came out of, to use an apt metaphor, and it was probably even crucial to his aspirations in the business world to be just a normal guy, a family man; a promotable man. Who would give the regional manager position to a guy who lived by himself in a house made strange just by dint of that situation, and who is always grab-assing with the paper boy?

So, yeah, Tulip would join in beating a kid behind the clubhouse, who had been somehow exposed as being gay, even though he germinated his own mustard seeds of musings on the subject. He would wail on another kid to keep up appearances. If you're found to be a sissy AND your name is "Tulip," they're gonna wail on you twice as hard behind the clubhouse.

But, Tulip would probably pull his punches, that way he would be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the other kids and be secretly gay right in front of them: "Look, I'm beating up the fag," when he is actually not trying to hurt him; his little secret...

The quality of his married life surely spiraled downward as neared his coming to honesty with himself over his desires; and I'm sure there wasn't much marriage to lose at the time of his scandal hitting the presses.

I think he hates his mother, by the way. And yes, there is no substitute for being caged like an animal in a 9 by 12 foot cell with a guy, when it comes to being able to make such postulations.

Perhaps the whole thing, the house, the job, the wife, the kids, the dog were strongly tied to his wanting to make her proud, and he ultimately felt betrayed, and blamed her. More on that later.

Taking the kid all the way up into Georgia; Tulip must have thought that was smart. No chance of anyone he knows seeing him coming out of the Motel 8 with a teenager, right?

Sure, always plotting, always thinking, Tulip but what about transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of sex, and then transporting the resultant child pornography back across state lines...OMG, Tulip, you fool!!

The reason that I am writing this 12 years after having been locked up with him, is that, because of the above special circumstances, he spent the next 10 years locked up. If he would have stayed in Florida, he could have gone 500 miles down the peninsula and wouldn't be breaking any federal laws, and would have risked a much lighter sentence..

I pulled his picture off of the "coming to your neighborhood soon" section of newly registered sex offenders that I still get notifications about, because I'm still subscribed to the Florida Times-Union.

The reason that I'm writing at all is because I really got to hate Tulip enough to write a story about him.

I had been in there about 40 days, living in another cell.

I had spoken with him and sort of fell for the fraud that he was trying to perpetrate amongst the other inmates. Well, half of it, anyways.

When asked the inevitable "What are you in here for?," Tulip would answer with some white-collar crime in the realm of High Finance, something to do with trading in false securities, but false securities with mystifyingly high values, endowing him with a modicum of hero status as I recall, and that mystified a large enough portion of the population to siphon off some of the suspicion that he was in for having sex with boys, as that is the only other profile that an older, soft white guy like Tulip fit.

And, I would have my chats with him, sitting in his cell; we both enjoyed whatever books we could find in there, and we would often both be walking laps around the pod early in the morning when we would strike up conversations. The fact that he could hold an intelligent conversation made him enjoyable to be around.

When it became apparent that they were going to hold me for up to 180 days, or whatever the statute was, I wrote a letter to my mom, who, in light of the circumstances, took pity on me and sent money into my account. She was aware that the police were "after" the homeless, and blamed me less for whatever got me in there, because of that.

It was right around this time that Tulip's cell mate was moved out, and this is when I believe he skeezed me.

I had just gotten the bag of commissary items delivered to me. This is very valuable stuff. The jail had eliminated sugar and salt from the meals served and the only sugar and salt that came in was in the form of honey buns, candy bars and those pretzels with the huge crystals of salt stuck to them.

My cell mate was also moved out, leaving both Tulip and I, who represented one third of the white population in the block of 36 men, waiting for new cell mates to be put in with us.

Tulip invited me up to his cell. There, pretty much on display next to him on his bunk were sundry commissary items. He must have traded meals for them, because nobody was sending him any money; but there they were, a bear claw or two, candy bars, and chips, sitting in plain sight as Tulip proposed that, since we knew each other, why don't we both share a cell, rather than each one of us taking our chances with whatever cell mate the Sheriffs Office throws in with us.

This seemed a good idea, and it didn't dawn upon me until later that he had put all of his commissary stuff in view, lest I think that he was inviting me to be his cell mate because I had started to get commissary money sent to me.

I could move to his cell, or he could move to mine. I took his word for the fact that his cell was a better one, based upon it's line of sight to the TV's, it's proximity to the air conditioning ducts, the amount of light for reading that seeped in after "lights out," the amount of traffic walking past, etc, and I moved into his cell. In hindsight, I have a good mind to think that he liked the cell because he was able to see another man undress from that angle, and he had just bullshitted everything else.

I became his cell mate.

I offered him a bear claw out of my commissary bag, which he graciously accepted. He still had all of the stuff that I had seen on his bunk, so I wasn't going to make a habit of it, but it was like a housewarming gift or whatever...

Then, later on that same evening, after we were all locked in our cells, I was sitting up reading, and Tulip was laying down on his side with his blanket mostly covering him from head to toe, but it was flapped open such that I could see the bottom half of his face.

I had just gotten a bag of commissary stuff after having lived for over 40 days on just what they give you, and I guess I felt like I still had some catching up to do, so I reached into my bag for another fudge brownie or something and was tearing the cellophane open when I looked over to see the most bizarre expression on Tulips mouth.

It was a sarcastic mocking expression of the tone that would go with the wearer saying "Duh!" at the most inane thing they have ever seen, or the way someone might react to a comedian that they hate that's making jokes that aren't even funny, that utterance of "Der!" made while mashing the channel changing button to get rid of the guy.

I was peeling open a brownie and Tulip was laying there, thinking he was invisible behind his blanket unable to keep that "der!" look off his face. This guy was 60 years old, making childish faces. And, again, "secretly," behind his blanket. Maybe, since I was trying to open the brownie quietly, so as not to wake him, not knowing that he was still wide awake and making faces, he got the sensation that I was trying to "sneak" a brownie from him; opening it quietly so he wouldn't know I was having one. Why I would have to sneak my own brownie from him is a mystery. It just communicated to me that the very guy who had invited me into his cell, but not (ostensibly) because I was getting money, would actually hold me in some kind of contempt.

This was one of the first glimpses into the mindset of the guy that I had.

The second one came after I had been there a couple of weeks, and had several chances to chat with him here and there. I no longer had any warm and fuzzy feelings for him. I had beaten enough around the bush of his "white collar" crime of "selling false securities" to determine both that it wasn't a very good lie, and that he wasn't a very good liar.

And then came "the message" from some other inmate.

I got to the cell one evening to find Tulip in a bit of a tizzy over some theft and vandalism of his property. It seemed that someone had gone into his secret stash of commissary items and taken some, and then had emptied the contents of a packet of catchup and one of mayonnaise onto his bed, applied in just such a way that I could read it like a book. It was just fill-in-the-blanks for me at that point, because I had already debunked his financial crime claim.

"You don't know what that means?" I asked him.

He muttered something about it meaning that people were jerks and did stuff like that.

This was a good chance for me to watch him squirm.

"It means that someone thinks you're in here for rape, and that they are going to come and take a candy bar here and there, and you aren't going to report it, or he will spill the beans to the rest of the pod. The catchup represents blood, and the mayonnaise represents semen in this little vignette. It's almost Catholic-style symbolism, actually..."

The fluid were dabbed onto his sheets in a manner (a little artistically, actually) that further suggested that particular crime scene, like whomever it was figured tulip had the pillow over the kids mouth to muffle his screams, and positioned it so.

Tulip began to stammer. First he started to deny that that could be the meaning of the exhibit -it's just a random condiment attack..."No, John, if he had any relish, he would have depicted the snots that you fucked out of the little kid..." I didn't say.

How feckless he was in trying to downplay the significance of it; at the same time it was hitting home that someone in the pod knew his secret. That could make make life more perilous for him, as inmates have been known to see in someone like Tulip a relative or babysitter that they would love to beat to a pulp, now that they are grown up enough to do so.

Then, Tulip pissed me off to the point that I almost snapped and went off on him.

My mom had mailed 4 books to me -the limit per each delivery.

Tulip seemed to use books as a way to dissociate, and as a form of escape. As soon as he finished one, he wanted to put his nose in another. He seemed to be trying to read them as fast as he could, but he might just have been trying to dissociate from his surroundings as hard as he could.

A few days later, my name was called by the mail officer.

"Those must be your books!," perked up Tulip, who took it upon himself to accompany to the mail truck.

The mail cart officer will call all the names of those getting mail so that they can gather at the gate, and then will open each item in front of the inmate, inspect its contents and then hand it to the inmate, if it isn't contraband. It probably has to do with some federal law which mandates that the mail must be delivered to the addressed person. They can then refuse to let it into the cell block, but at least that way it was technically delivered.

The mail officer called my name again, only softer because I was now nearby, and so was Tulip, hovering over my shoulder, as if wanting to get the first possible glimpse of books that he was acting like had been sent to him.

The box cut open, the officer removed the first book, a hardcover copy of the latest James Patterson novel. Hardcovers are not allowed in jails. Although, Patterson's paperbacks are very popular with the inmates because they are nice and thick, giving the illusion that there is plenty enough crime-drama-suspense there to keep you turning pages until a substantial chunk of your sentence has been knocked out; and that it should be a good long story, very deep, with a maze of twists and turns, this is accomplished by using a publishing technique whereby only about 44 words are printed upon each page.

This yields the 1,100 page Patterson thrillers.

I think the average Patterson fan likes to be able to hold such a book up to someone and say "I read all this!"

And I think it is further inducement to the average Patterson fan standing at the book rack to buy the book because, even if it's not a very good story, that's a lot, just in paper, for 8 bucks!

So, while Patterson's paperbacks are a huge hit with jail populations, his hardbacks would be case in point for why they and all others are banned.

Choose Your Weapon

Simply put, a nigga' could knock a motherfucker out cold with the latest Patterson thriller in hardcover. I mean, like: "We're sorry, the party you are trying to reach is unavailable, please try your call again at another time," out cold...ya feel me?

But how was my dear mom to know that. Bless her heart for sending it anyways, I thought upon seeing it. It was my fault for not having told my mom that they had to be paperback. I still had the warm feeling that someone had done something nice for me.

I didn't have long to bask in this thought because Tulip's reaction, upon seeing the book was to cringe and groan: "Oh, it's a hardcover, they won't let it in...Oh, and it's the new Patterson, oh, shit!," as if feeling the gravity of his own loss, and then he almost got himself punched in the mouth and myself booked on an additional charge of assault, by groaning out: "How could your mother be so stupid?!?"

I don't remember exactly what I said, after the rhetorical: "What did you just say?!," spoken with malice. I still wasn't sure I wasn't going to smack him, I felt like I had a hair trigger.

"Look, I forgot to tell her about the hardcover rule, so it's not even her fault. I guess your mother is so stupid her books never even got to you, huh? And what makes you so sure that I was gonna let you read them anyways, you're acting like she sent them to you?"

Yeah, I think Tulip has hatred for his own mother.

The next three books out of the box were paperbacks, with one, to my increased delight being a Charles Dicken's novel, something that didn't suit the taste of the seller of false securities, and something which truly has plenty enough crime-drama-suspense to keep you busy and should be a good long deep story with a maze of twists and turns...

Then, I started noticing a peculiar thing that Tulip did, which was to position himself well ahead of the arrival of the food cart, so as to be first in line. He stood there, so hungry (apparently) that he couldn't wait for the second tray to be passed out a few seconds after the first, and had to be at the head of the line.

I watched him standing there, a quarter hour before the cart was to arrive, each evening, and then I figured it out. He was on a mission.

As soon as he got the first tray handed out, he would do an about-face and speed walk -quick, big, rigid strides, similar to, those guys that have walking races. He would afford the guy 3 seconds behind him no chance of overtaking him before he got to "his" seat, at the table where he could be seen spending huge chunks of time playing cards, each day.

He must have foisted the impression upon his card playing buddies that he is such a creature of habit that he's only comfortable sitting in the same seat all the time when he plays cards. He must just be the kind of guy that will pick a seat and be loyal to it, "I'll bet he parks in the same space every day and gets pissed when there's another car there," they must have thought, without thinking twice.

"Tulip's seat" faced the shower, which was basically a few nozzles coming out of the wall that shot water out into an open bay, which exposed the bather to the view of the guards in the central console, and to anyone sitting in -you guessed it- the seat that Tulip raced to with his tray each evening.

It was as if, when they built the place, they had tried to arrange all the card playing tables to not have a view of the shower but, in order to fit them all in the room it was a necessary to put one within sight of the shower, but with only one of its seats facing directly into the shower bay.

That would be the one that J.T. stood for 20 minutes staring down the hall from whence the food cart came, as if starving, every evening.

The tipoff to me was the ridiculous speed with which he took his tray to the seat. He could have walked half that speed and been assured that the next guy in line wasn't going to overtake him unless he (the next guy) did the Olympic walk racing thing and got around him -that is assuming that guy happened to be making a beeline for that same chair.

That started me wondering what the hell that was all about. Of course, the evening showers. When Tulip could sit and go through the motions of playing cards while secretly (again) watching guys take showers.

Upon further observation of him, like he was a specimen on a slide stained with iodine, I noticed that he would time his eating so that he would finish his tray just about simultaneously with another guy at the same table, that way he could say: "Hey, could you bring this one with you?," as the guy was getting up to return his own tray. That way Tulip wouldn't have to get out of the shower seat and risk losing it.

I think in his mind it was absolutely possible that someone else might try to grab the seat, that he had won the seat through guile and wasn't going to lose it the same way. Did he think he had been really smart? Smarter than when he transported a minor across state lines to engage in sex for hire, that is?

I Decide To De-Throne Tulip

Well, I decided to beat Tulip at his own game

It turned my stomach to see Tulip, a grey haired, 6 foot 2 or so, guy, whom upon close inspection appeared to be almost too wide at the hips, giving him a feminine aspect. There was something kind of mother-hen like about him. Standing there, rocking from side to side a little, perhaps, all about getting his seat.

To sit and play cards with the same couple guys, always taking the same seat.

It was kind of like unstated jail etiquette that, if you were sitting at that table in that seat and some guy went in to the shower, you would give him his privacy, even go in your cell if there isn't any other place to sit....

I'm surprised that no other inmate had noticed those peculiar habits of Tulip. I can just imagine what kind of stuff he had going on in the outside world, what he was substituting his bullheaded possessiveness of the seat for.

The guy was looking at 10 years in prison, trying to make the best of it and that, along with submersing himself in books, seemed to be a pretty big obsession with him, enough to have him rocking back and forth for 20 minutes before the cart, which is never 2 minutes early, never mind 20, arrived every night.

Tulip, with his businessman's haircut, and tan lines on his neck from shirts and ties and dinner jackets; trying to own the place. Even though he had no wealth in the form of just one person in the whole world sending him 20 bucks every once in a while so he could live like a king; he kind of wanted to stake his claim, and take his throne

One evening, I took a position at the food cart gate even before Tulip posted up there. I brought a book.

Sure enough, he was soon second in line behind me; commenting that I must be hungry, lacing it with sarcasm pertaining to the fact that my "stupid" mother was sending me money so, how can I really be that hungry when I've got a supply of Dunking sticks and Yodells. And there was a "how dare you?!?" tone to his voice.

It pissed him off to see me getting anything, as if he had been conditioned through having everything go his way, out in the world, and it was a slap in the face to him, the reality that he had been abandoned.

The irony being that the very people he associated with, and whom he thought he could expect favors from were the set most biased against a man who would have gay sex with a 14 year old. That's where Tulip got his thrill; "I know what the guys at the club would say; but fuck 'em, I'm Tulip, and I'll do what I want!"

I got the first tray, and made a beeline towards Tulips prized seat, not so fast that he couldn't pass me from his position 2nd from the post, but he would have to make a spectacle of himself with an awkward dash in order to impolitely thrust himself in the seat ahead of me. And that would beg me raising my voice: "Geez, Tulip you seem to want that seat awful bad, what's up with that?!?" And that could put a damper on his shower gazing.

By then, he must have figured out that I figured out his little game. What a pathetic loser; probably doesn't even like playing cards, and was all about his secret little game.

Tulip sat at a nearby table and stewed while I enjoyed the company of the other 3 guys who were his card playing dupes.

When I finished eating, I got up to return my tray. What a coincidence; Tulip got up to return his tray.

I dropped off my tray and then returned to the same seat, where I cracked my book open and began to read.

The other guys, seeing that I had started to read, just shrugged and picked another table to start their card game at (you can even see the TV better from here; I don't know why we've been sitting at that table by the shower every night...) with a very red-faced Tulip joining them; I guess to keep up the ruse that he actually likes to play cards. I hope so, because he endured 3 hours of boring "spades" that night without one glimpse of a penis.

Tulip was visibly mad that night, but trying not to show it.

I was released on the 123rd day. By then, Tulip had become a nuisance.
My mom had continued to send books every couple weeks and one time, I returned to the cell to find Tulip reading one that I was in the middle of, after he had finished the one he was reading.

He had marked my spot with a bookmark at the page where I had laid it face down on my bunk; and he was reading away; without even having asked me. Things like that become magnified in confinement.
If I was looking at the same amount of time as him, and at the prospect of being disrespected by him like that the whole time, then I would have nipped it in the bud, by giving him that "Don't you ever go on my bunk or touch any of my shit without asking, or we're gonna have a big problem" talk.

He was just imposing his will, putting himself ahead of others and, basically trying to shape the environment to suit himself; to be the alpha-male. Even though he was past his physical prime at 60 and didn't have any money; he still wanted to do as he pleased.

What better way to say: "I don't care about you, just your books?"

When they called my name and our cell door popped open (they were electronically operated) meaning I was being released, Tulip said: "We lost you..."

I don't even think I said goodbye. The fact that being given my freedom after 123 days was cause for relief and happiness for me, and congratulations and well wishing was in order, but that Tulip could only frame it with reference to himself losing a cell mate that had books sent to him, and is good for a bear claw every so often, well I guess a guy who pays a 14 year old boy for sex is going to have some quirks to his personality; comes with the territory...

If Hitler was confined in a cell with just two or three other guys, for any length of time, he would probably have started lecturing to them, trying to impose his way of thinking and perhaps even his will upon them.

But, he is out now (see photo). 

The End of Tulip Story

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  1. Everytime I read this, I can SEE and hear that scumbag, and his little hehehe laugh.

    Hope you're doing ok.


  2. Everytime I read this, I can SEE and hear that scumbag, and his little hehehe laugh.

    Hope you're doing ok.


  3. Hi, Bill, good to hear from you. I might consider adding to this story to flesh it out more.
    I will never forget him "hiding" under his blanket with his face screwed up in a mockery of me, the way adolescents might do, because I was unwrapping a bear claw and not offering him any...
    It's all related; food, his "mother" issues, the fact that he thinks he is hiding when he is in fact transparent as all hell...
    I know where he lives, in the Senior Center in downtown Jacksonville, and I'm sure he is up to his old tricks, in possession of a forbidden-to-him-by-a-judge computer.
    I should "by chance" run into him on the street there, ingratiate myself so he invites me to his place and then rat him out by snapping a covert picture of his computer and e-mailing it to his parole officer...the least I can do for such a worthy lol
    I'm doing pretty good, certainly compared to how well I was doing when I knew Tulip! Hope you are well, too.


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