Doing time for 45 days is going to be the best thing that ever happened to Paris Hilton. I did a little time in L.A. County in the late ’70s for some unpaid parking tickets, and it sure as hell clears the clutter out of your head and leaves you with something that feels a lot like focus and fortitude. And if there’s anyone on the face of the planet who could use some of this more than Paris Hilton, I’d like to know who that is.
Jail is awful but if you can grim up and face it down, you come out feeling as if you’re a better and a somewhat stronger person. I only did three or four days so I don’t know about hard time. But I know enough about the sound of clanging steel doors to recognize the truth of a line that Dustin Hoffman said in Ulu Grosbard‘s Straight Time: “Outside it’s what you have in your pockets — inside it’s who you are.”
45 days in the pokey won’t be a walk in the park for a ditzoid like Paris Hilton, but if she’s smart she’ll read up about how Robert Mitchum handled his jail sentence in the late ’40s for marijuana possession. He did it quietly and didn’t squawk. He swept the floors, stayed out of trouble, took his medicine and had won everyone’s respect by the time he got out. I don’t think for a second that our very own empty- headed, barren-souled heiress has the character to “do a Mitchum,” but the most potentially profound spiritual experience of her so-far-useless life awaits nonetheless.
And there’s nothing like getting out of jail to make you feel like Jesus’ son. (Or Mary Magdelene‘s daughter.) It reminds you what a wonderful and blessed place the world outside is, and what a sublime thing trip it can be to walk around free and do whatever you want within the usual boundaries, and what a serene thing it is to be smiled at by strangers in stores and restaurants. People you wouldn’t give a second thought to suddenly seem like good samaritans because of some act of casual kindness.
Jail doesn’t just teach you about yourself but about your immediate circle. “If you want to know who your friends are,” Charles Bukowski once wrote, “get yourself a jail sentence.” Or go to a hospital. As foul and bullying as he often is, David Poland nonetheless called and left a get-well message when I had that systemic poisoning episode a few months ago. I’m just saying.