Oracular Journey
The Prison Outlet is right across the street from the state prison. No, it isn't where you go to get half off your prison sentence. It's where you go to get arts & crafts by prisoners: paintings, greeting cards (these are really weird!), bird houses made of license plates. Scary crap like that.

(See also)

Gail and Burford perform their impression of Life Inside.
The inmate working behind the counter noticed I was wearing this bike helmet (here kindly modeled by Gail). "No-leese?" he pronounced. "No lice," I corrected. I explained to him that I'd picked up the helmet at a yard sale for a buck. Originally it said "POLICE," but I figured that if we ran into problems on this trip, it might not be wise to be wearing a cop helmet--whether dealing with cops or criminals. So I changed it to "NO LICE," in honor of a relative's recent triumphant battle with head lice.
"That reminds me of something that happened to me," said the inmate, laughing. "One time I bought a bike, late at night--I was dealing drugs at the time. This guy had a beautiful Cannondale for real cheap, so I bought it. The next morning, I was riding it around and a friend of mine said, `Hey, you better take a look at what you're riding!' I was pretty messed up then. So, I looked and guess what? I'm riding a policeman's bike!" He laughed, then his mood turned suddenly reverential. "I really hated to chop that one up," he said with evident regret.

I considered buying a prison blue shirt (like the cons wear). "How far do you think I'd get if I put this on & started riding my bike down the road?" I asked. "About two blocks," he said. "Maybe. With those jeans on?" (Jeans are what a lot of the cons wear inside.) "Plus, you'd have a whole lot of new friends who wouldn't be very happy with you. See, there'd be a general lock-down while DOC made sure you didn't belong inside." I considered buying a customized license plate, until I found out I'd have to pick it up days later, after it was made within the prison. I didn't know they still made license plates in prison.

Outside we chatted with a DOC officer who was putting a customized license plate on his vehicle. He admired my rented Mongoose. He also backed up what the convict had said about wearing prison blues around Florence. After the guard left, the convict came outside (he's a high-level trustee, obviously) and practically salivated over the Mongoose. I could almost hear the voice of Homer Simpson saying, "Monnnnnn-goooooose...."

"How far do you think you'd get on this thing?" I asked.

"They'd never catch me," he said, and went back inside.