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#64 On the Inside

2016-05-12

For years, Paul Modrowski has been writing a blog from inside a maximum security prison. Only thing is, he was arrested when he was 18 and has never seen the internet. Sruthi Pinnamaneni reaches out to him with one small question that alters the course of her next year.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen on Spotify wherever you get your pot casts, from gamma, isn't reply on and he gave out and I'm Alex Golden Hair guys Vietnam and Amy? I too am here with a story. I live You have been working on a stray for, I think my whole life. That's definitely what it feels like. It started off, really small. It was last February I've been looking. I've been trying to contact somebody in prison.
This was for another story, and I just happen stumble upon this thing that altered the course of my whole. Next year it's a blog by disguising palm address, key he's in a maximum security prison. He has a life sentence and for years he's been keeping this blog where's over. The prisons call state well it's in Illinois. What does he do so PA He was linked to a murder that happened back in nineteen. Ninety two and on his blog Paul says he thing to do with it, but it's actually not at all the focus of the blog, which is why I found it so interesting. Like you don't let me show you blog. It looks very unpolished it's on blogs, but which is like- and it looks like a boys but blood like this was made using
ample it right and each one of these posts is like super along the skylight only guide yeah. That's just one post and here's the whole table of contents. If I get a bowler, the NFL under siege, the fireworks show simple pleasantries. Malaysia flight said team he's a blogger, potatoes and Paranoia Cosette, Dave's yeah. His ranges is pretty astonishing. Ok. So how does a person is in a maximum security? Prison read a blog, I mean I don't they don't have internet. Do that now that the prison that power? all is an doesn't allow any of its inmates to access it Not so no email, no facebook, nothing! So that's! Actually the first thing that interested me about Paul the fact that he was able to make this blog from a place where he couldn't or use the internet, and so it turns out that
He uses this arcane piece of technology called his mother. Ireland, thank you, get you some coffee, something this is Paul's mom Wyndham address. Key I sent produce Clearly how to meet her in her home in the Chicago suburbs, see only Bob I got here. Is this lava lamp Paul's novel window is sixty seven year old, retired accountant and she live. In a stately white, brick house, with her husband Colleagues, I said it was just filled with Paul Paul's underwear. I plan on some new things thing: can it be common home or are they all his books? I like that. It's like a book about Hitler and then Daniel Steel Book pricing, diverse range part, was arrested right after he turned eighteen. That was twenty three years ago. So limited
that is old pc that she has an office you're, not a edit yeah. What to do on the internet. Oh, how one o clock gambling. The brutal into the stock market. Some in the stock exchange concept, Oh my god I invested in this one and it's going down and you know, is addictive, and it's right here at this computer pc, where Paul's entire bog has been published years away, works Paul hand, rights every single post. He does a very carefully without any mistakes once he's done, he will mail, the posters and she types it out word for word and she gives it all this care and attention because
she's just so proud of our sons. Writing it amazes me how smart issues and so well written this a dead man's boots pirate this right after he turned forty since eighteen, I've languished in the maximum security presence of Illinois during this time, all my dreams, hopes and aspirations faded away. Everything. In fact once valued, is gone. Regularly. I try to recall the past when my life had meaning Those memories are blotted out by stark reality is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only growing black void I never wanted to see the day. My body and mind succumbed old age. Forty, and yet now I have gone the distance with nothing but misery hatred, an immense sorrow, those your right.
Impressive it so from the heart. He's not a fake. It also why it is so the reason that I got so into Paul's bog is not Paul's, writing now getting old. The reason got so into it is because it's just filled with all this wonder and peace size observation, for example, the found story. That's a post about Paul Maduro, ski versus a small plastic handheld fan one of the blades of the fan breaks and in order to fix the crack Paul need something like superbly were tape, neither of which you can have in prison and so the way he fixed at why's. He takes this the wires from inside the fan
he shorts them. He like puts them together to create little sparks. He takes a cue Tipp put vaseline on it gets the sparks on the queue took to make a little name, and then he takes a plastic spoon, melt the plastic onto the broken part of the fountain and fix it. So it's like God, that's incredible, resourceful yeah and at the end of this whole or to you, you know he spent half the day doing this, and then he writes the blade did not a pretty, but if it worked, this is all that matters. The blade stay together. Until I put the fan on high speed, it then broke violently I surveyed the damage could not melted back together again mission, impossible number one ends as a failure. However. I learned of a man who found died, and I convinced him to give me one of his blades, and so I find myself talking to myself this way. So, lives like I'll, be doing something in the kitchen I'll be like. I take a blade out and I shall,
in a real man has done you yeah, really, because I find it. I read: there's something about it. It's like there was a lot of emotion there, but that it was being kind of strapped in by these words, and so spent the next week devouring this entire blog, like hundreds of entries and just when I had finished all of, I see this new entry pop up on the blog. It's called my final post after six years of writing. This blog consistently Paul says he's done with it. There. We know more posts. Of course he called his mother Linda and she was very upset. She just couldn't understand and I wanted to talk am I signed up for the prison telephone system? I wrote Paul a letter
Saying hey! I'm a reporter I'd like to talk to you about this blog and then I waited and waited and then a couple months later, This is July of last year: hello, this is a pre paid, collect call from an inmate at they felt this caused hundreds reporting and monitoring to accept charges. Press why hello do type Paul. Can you hear me? Ok, you're, ok, I'm gonna do a thing that we always do when research according to check the quality of your line. Can you tell me what you had for breakfast today,
I don't remember at the girl, saw me off right: cereal, bread and butter. Some peanut butter, maybe profile for John there, or maybe you ah Soy Terry sounds like a balanced breakfast, I said sounds like a balanced breakfast ash silvery. So we talked for thirty minutes and it stayed exactly that occur. The entire time? My guess is, that is for this reason as Linda. Explain to me. Paul is autistic here Diagnosis, a child and he doesn't actually talk about it, a lot on the blog dimensions it in. Here there are,
I know that much about autism, but at that moment like during that phone call, I thought- oh, maybe that's, why we're having trouble or I'm having trouble, really engaging him right, because, like he like in person or nine percent, but over the phone, he might have our time freely. Canaan like on a page yeah, exactly he's in prison where super loud. I told me you know, noise really bothers him. Also like he doesn't know, who the hell I am like, who are you what supplied CAS so anyway, we wrapped up the com and then are we. Later Friday morning. Eleven a m. He calls me back: hey Palm How are you today? You want that day every day, every day increasing this time. The conversation goes much better.
The little staff, but we're having a back and forth we talked about daily routines, and I ask of course why he shot down the blog. It turns out that Paul and his mother, have been in this long, simmering argument which just boiled over so just refresh your memory on how this whole blog worked. Linda was opposed to transcribe the posts that he rode out. She spoke transcribe at exactly type it into the computer and then what she do once she had publish she print out the post and send it back to Paul so that he could see what the thing looked like on the internet
problem was Paul. Got this printout he'd notice. All these subtle changes like this thing, he'd written that was gone or this other thing it was softened he'd been edited, so what he did was he would take this printout market. All up Walter ratio make any remarks about how she took up and he would mail it backed his mother and understood me while to understand, but there were times when his mother I would just flat out, refuse she'd say: no, I'm not gonna change it, there's nothing! You can do about it, so she was. She was putting stuff up in his name that actually wasn't things that he said like how. How deeply wish you Jane,
There are some things that were just dispelling corrections, grammar corrections and then they were bigger things. She refuses to put on the block that I'm an idiot. I don't believe in God. I've never believe in God. I've been thirteen. She seems to think that people think I'm in here person because I'm an eight is not likely that I have more value within those hypocrites that believe in God,. I refuse to say, he's an atheist. I can't believe it. I won't believe it I won't have it and I am not going to publish, should for the world to see I should say the picture at hand is for you walking down the aisle in church, ok, every Friday. After school, we had Bible study every Friday, the palm those his Bible backwards and forwards is
He was just such a good kid. No I'm not telling the world my son Caesar Navy is itself either my heart, I'm in a cage very much twenty four seven, and I do everything, he's guards tell me, and I have very little ability to express myself or view I wanna be and Paul says that the one thing he had in this world was his blog and now he feels like. Even that is in his anymore. I gotta say I don't leave him for being upset about this. I mean he's in jail for the rest of his life. Only means of expression he has to the outside world. Is this block just this blog and his mom,
is making what seemed like totally arbitrary changes to arbitrary are not arbitrary, she's in her mind, she's, protecting her son yeah. Like a lot, I know people who could you someone not letting them both things on the internet? I don't know you could possibly be done here but if we also refreshingly, if I d send everything wandering online to my mom first yeah exactly and on top of that, imagine if you could never if this tiny studio that we're sitting in right now right, it's a you're you're editor actually feels like another warden and in some ways yeah. So Paul was understandably very frustrated at these fights with his mouth? they just kept escalating over male on their telephone calls when she would visit, and he got to the point where he said. You know what you think this is your blog. It is now
and I'm just gonna stop writing it, and you know what I want you to take this blog off the internet like delete it and his mother. She said no, it's a work of art. I won't do. It is awake. The fact that their value over is it contain fighters are like they can have conversations because they just are you not the boy, so Paul actually says that this This whole thing is a kind of wrecked his relationship with his mother. He can talk to her, didn't want to see her and when he- and I finish talking about this whole fight, we kept talking because there was something about Paul, he was just different than the person I'd imagine from reading the blog, and he was also different than my assumptions about a person. Serving a life sentence, so I thought you know, I'm I'm gonna keep talking to palm hell out a prepaid collect call from this
Can I be really interesting story about a man with a really interesting prison blog? That was my plan. It seemed easy, straightforward. I had no idea. This episode is brought few by better for it. A new podcast from eighty
he hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes better, for it looks at how mistakes have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working for you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his own, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck took some flyers business cards and later I had a business and in each hour, rule breaker, whose learn while we all care about work in the first place you proud of the work, Do you want to be able to tell your friends about it? You want to be able to feel like you're, making a different you'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for listen on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts Welcome back to the shell before the break through the empowerment risky,
prisoner. Instead, veal, Correctional Centre in Illinois started talking on the phone every week. So we Friday, eleven a m. He would call me I would go run to the studio hook. My cell phone into the computer Paul would sitting in a cell. His cellmate just a couple feet away, and he be using health unhand sad that the guard had brought him into resell. Paul would first wipe it off with a disinfectant and then we would talk for an hour and we would talk about a whole bunch of things are used to read a lot of love. My favorite rotors, Frederick Nature. I heard him we will talk about his favourite subject, which is politics, he comes off, is a very strong person. He comes out is dominating person, some people on the boy, but I want a boy to represent the interests of the United States, a broad these conversations about tramp when generally turn into Paul taking about race about Emma.
Hence about how their destroying the country, which was a little awkward for me, I am not a white person, as you probably figure. Out from my name. I say I'm an emigrant, not worried about you. The caucasian I know you're from South India, where the big differences between the immigrants at our poring over the border and certain people such as yourself that have skills as Donald Trump with say For not sending their best to America. If I disagreed with him, I pushed back and he started. Making of assumptions about me. You liked the true social ignited socialist, the eye I don't know I'm not an american citizen. Duple. Did you vote for your report? the Socialist Party there. No, have you ever voted in India
I left India. No, sixteen I've never voted. What a cry. We'd have these, you know cut off, he he was funny funny and this bone dry way of speaking? I couldn't help it, but laugh. Sometimes, This goes on through August one little as you, so you should write on up on my part and huge. Your bed wake me up and then September. I want to assure you that your fan when I was a kid specially one that movie corner the border and came out It had been sending me letters every week, sometimes two or three letters every week, these handwritten, you know long piece of writing which were very detailed colleague of on purse stories about his life before prison when he was a teenager hey. So I got a letter and I like how you put a smiley face in there
I never use, but I don T know where I was joking decisions, but I found it. I love but because used a smiley face, and I thought that was funny that you dead because you're, not you not happily a smiley face kind of person. You know now I have more or less. Over the course of these conversations. I noticed this big contradiction in Paul he'll, say anything racist, offensive that comes to his mind, even you once but same time. Here no concerned about how he comes off to other people who I come across. Having offered him, I thought that when we first started talking, you did have a way of speaking. That was really,
monotone, but it's really changed over the months. Like I feel like now, and we talk a your sound, I represent like anyone else. I noted that I come across as during the week indifferent and cold strangers. You take a while to. Understand a person to connect with them and then I'm more explosive in that way, but to people of strangers I probably do come off it very cold and aloof. I know I know that happened during my trial by jury. They believed that I so called an indifferent an care about this person and then state's attorney. When he's in closing arguments he went on and on about look at it for me or look how he he doesn't show any emotion he's looking to his eyes. He solace
Paul claims to be innocent, and this was the crazy thing for me. Realize about Paul that he thinks Only reason he's in prison is because heap pulls his face a certain way or express his emotions differently, so much. U S. Talk about his case would actually come up a lot and power gets so angry. It's almost like he would short circuit and me I'm not a crime reporter. This is a show about the internet, but at some point I realized everything with Paul. Just comes back to his case. It's all he cares about, especially now that he does have a blog and so last far, I started to really look into pause case It turns out that its wrapped up in one of the biggest cases
in Illinois history. Its notorious. It's also really complicated. Every time. I thought I understood it. The whole thing would change Rubik's cube like into a different thing. It started off when Paul was a senior in high school. With this thing called the Browns Chicken mascot. In the north, Chicago suburb of Palatine police, are still searching for clues in this week, Bizarre bizarre mass murder adored the restaurant was open. The victims were mostly high school students who work there. At night somebody went into fried chicken restaurant shot, the seven people who work there and put their bodies in a freezer, no clues. All the blood in the restaurant had been meticulously mopped up and nobody had any idea why somebody would do this farewelling. Emotion in Palestine is still fear, because the killer or killers have not been caught. I remember this. I was very
but I mean I lived not far from Chicago US. It was almost local news, you know and we would get a lot of child stations so I remember being the news all the time and they put they put the bodies of the people. In the freezer at the restaurant. Yes, so yeah this house all over the news, all the time they are trying to catch the guy. Who did this no idea? No sir, look between may have a weapon shortly. After the Palatine massacre police find really close by in the woods another body. This time with the head and arms cut off yeah, and because these horrible crimes to happen just within weeks of each other, so close together, people are convinced that whoever is
kind this body, whoever killed this person, must be linked to the person who shot up the Palatine Chicken restaurant. It sounds almost like farming like the movie and the tv show, like words, is this like small midwestern, town and then horrible stuff starts having fully visit by evil yeah top they day. Actually ended up bringing in the FBI. So there's the special you of the FBI that deals with serial killers- it's it's the one. It's the same. Ass? Far ass, you see in silence of the lambs, so they are brought in to help the police find the people who did this months go by fine we, the investigators gotta lead, which takes them right to Paul's door but that's a story for next week surely benefit any, is a producer for our show next week on the inside part, two
The bizarre case of Palmer drastically Reply all is Peter Vote and me Alex its golden shows by TIM, Howard, truly put him abandoned, and our brand new producer clay Proceed Chloe welcome to the shell. Sorry that we were so much we're edited by Peter Clarity. An assistance by Mervyn begun. Yours, our show was mixed by requiring that, where is the sausage answer emerging special thanks this week Who Vasco and coolly withhold our free music break, Mr Cylinder and our add music, is by build buildings.
On Saturday May. Twenty first in New York City, I will be doing a live conversation with comedian, Paul sheer who you may, From a, how did this get made? Podcast the league? a million other amazing things if part of New York magazine vulture fast and and get tickets by going to a website or just by googling vulture fast reply on you should come it'll be a lot of fun. Thank you for listening, we'll see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-13.