Jail Sucks

… in which Mr. John spend the night in jail in a bright pink shirt

I present a humorous, crude, and disgusting, sad, and ironic story. With all the sketchy, illegal and immoral things I had done up until this point in my life. I ended up going to jail for the stupidest reason in the history of the planet, in a pink dress shirt.

Setting the scene

Shortly before Hurricane Andrew, a rock flew up from the expressway and cracked my windshield. The police stopped me, issued a ticket and a summons for court. As luck would have it, the court date was a week after the hurricane, and by then, I was homeless and forgot about the ticket and the crack in my windshield. It wasn’t a priority in my life at that time, oddly enough. I was living out of my van with Donna. The van was severely damaged; there was a hole in the side, it was battered with dents and scrapes, and had a perfectly circular hole on the other side of the window from a tree limb.

Even if we had the money available, which we did not, there was no one around to fix the damage. We spent our days working our way north from Homestead (to see if my father, and our apartment, had survived the storm), begging, doing tree work, standing in aid lines and doing the odd roofing job. There was a curfew in place, and after dark, you couldn’t (nor wanted to) be on the street. Life was hell. We wore what we could find, and that evening I looked like a complete tool wearing a long sleeve pink dress shirt, cut off jean shorts, and flip flops.

Enter a couple of dickheads

One evening we cut it close and were heading “home” to our overpass, where a few the homeless had taken roost. It had just turned dark when I saw the flashing red lights, and I knew we were in the shit for breaking curfew. I chatted with the dickheads, law enforcement officers, explaining to them that we were caught in the food line and had to panhandle for gas money to get to our overpass. Initially, they were sympathetic to our situation and said we could go just as soon as they had run my license.

I was Public Enemy #470,000

Donna and I were chatting in the van, while the arseholes I mentioned earlier were checking what they needed to check. Suddenly, they sprang from their car guns and flashlights at the ready to apprehend what a bystander could only assume was a murderer or a rapist. I was arrested (not very delicately) and tossed in the back of the police car. No rights read, no telling me my crime, Nothing. Donna could leave with our van and go “home.” Only a bit of dialog was “enjoyed” on the way to jail.

“Why have I been arrested?”

“Shut up.”

“The fuck? You HAVE to tell me why I am here, and you HAVE to inform me of my rights.”

“You have the right to shut up, fugitive, or I’ll add obstruction and anything else I can think of to your crimes, do you understand asshole?”

“Not really, but you guys are the boss.”

In an uncharacteristic flash of self-restraint, I shut up.

The indignity continues at booking

At booking, the things you would expect happened did, fingerprints, mugshot, paperwork, and waiting, lots of waiting. What I didn’t expect was being heckled by “Miami’s Finest.”

“The guys in holding are gonna love you in that pretty pink shirt.”

“You’re going to be here for a long time. I bet a fag like you will love it.”

The booking officer was kind and told them to shut up and get out. He explained why they detained me. I was stunned. At this point, I didn’t know whether to go postal, cry, or start screaming.

Holding (it’s not like TV)

On TV, you see folks in a jail holding cell, maybe alone, maybe with a few other guys, but the reality is so very different. Hundreds of men in one large room. The toilet was a trough; there were some bunk beds for those brave enough or stupid enough to sleep, and the stink, an unreal, gut-heaving stench.

I’ve been in enough rough situations to know that you are safest in a corner, back to the wall, and as high as you can get, and as luck would have it, there was a top bunk in the corner of the room, free. Once I settled in, I started to take in the sights. Aside from the stench, there was the noise, screaming, moaning, talking, feet stamping, and banging metal. It was disturbing and made it impossible to listen to or even think as it was so overwhelming.

With sight and smell covered, now we turn to vision.


You had several naked men running around. One guy lay naked, prone on the floor while other men urinated on him. Folks were crying, fighting, and a few were even masturbating. A female impersonating prostitute was entertaining someone a few bunks over from me. I could go on, but you get the idea. It was gross, repulsive, and represented some of the lowest behaviors to which one could sink.

Dealing with your jailhouse neighbors

There was no sleeping for me. I spent the night on high alert. Thankfully, I was only bothered once when a guy clambered up onto my bunk.

“Can I be your friend?”

“No. You can, though, get the fuck off my bunk before I take your eyes out with my fingers.”

“You are tough for a guy in a pink shirt. I like you.”

“One. Don’t make me get to three. Then you lose both your eyes and your dick.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

He departed, and I spent the rest of the night “chilling.” When “breakfast” came by, I remained in my corner. Men were battling over slop like starving rabid pigs. I had to pee so bad I thought I would burst a kidney.

The arraignment

At one point, they started herding small groups out of the hellhole for a visit with the judge. When they called my name, I eased over to have a pee (thank god) and paid for it the small price of some yelling and name-calling. My relived bladder (and I) saluted the guard with the middle finger and was then handcuffed and chained at the feet in a conga line of crims. Like animals, we marched to our judicial destiny. As I sat and waited, I was relieved to see Donna waiting in the gallery for me. One after another, the judge questioned and sent most of the men back to jail hell to await their trial.

After an eternity, it was my turn. I was ordered to stand up in front of the judge. Both cops were in attendance, looking smug and self-important.

The judge studied the papers intently. He then grunted, looked up at the cops and said;

“What the hell is wrong with you two? Did either of you see that his court date was a week after the hurricane? Did he not tell you he was homeless? What exactly was he supposed to do?”

The police officers were unprepared for this turn of events and started saying how I was “uncooperative” and “obstructing” their duty. They also said they had added tickets for various infractions, including (I shit you not) “Obstructing the sidewalk.”

“You two are to meet with me in my chambers when we finish here.”

He then turned to me.

“Mr. Laroche, I apologize for your treatment in this situation. The City of Miami deeply regrets this. All changes are dropped and expunged, and any tickets pending dismissed. When you leave, you will have post-arraignment papers. When you get back on your feet again, please fix your vehicle. Until then, if you get stopped again, show the law enforcement officers those papers. You may go.”

Life is grand

Donna and I went back “home.” I was extremely chuffed over the outcome of my nights’ festivities, nasty as they were. I had won, and that was all that mattered. I slept for the rest of the day and all that night. Sadly, when I woke up, post-Andrew life was still shit but much better than jail.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, which would come in handy later, but that is another story (or three).

The moral of the story is: Stay out of Jail, it Sucks.

Judas Priest – Breaking The Law

‘Breaking the law, breaking the law’

A Quick One

… in which Mr. John is left speechless

Kerry and I got together shortly before Adaptation started shooting. We shared a comfortable, if not microscopic, flat in Boston. It was perfect.

The phone rings.

Me: “What?” (as I was apt to answer the phone at the time)

Father: “John! John! You will never guess what happened!” My father gushed.

Me: “Hi Dad”

Father: “You won’t believe it!

Me: “Are you OK? (there was a short pause)

Father: “You won’t believe it!”


Me: Oh. Neat! (another pause)

Me: Well, Pop did you get the question right? (an uncomfortably long pause)

Father: Umm . . .

Me: Dad!!!!

Such is my life. I had no idea how to respond to that except say “I love you Pop,” hang up and bust out laughing.

Jeopardy Theme Music


Hi! My Name is John

… in which we discover who this “orchid thief” is

Like Adaptation features Charlie and a fictitious brother Donald Kaufman, my story involves two Johns. John Laroche, my given name and John Stafford, a new name selected for a new life.

John Laroche

John Laroche
John Laroche at 32 from The New Yorker Magazine.

The information given about the adventures outlined in both The Orchid Thief and Adaptation was carefully curated by me, as you will see throughout this digital account. I have done so many things in my life that had I disclosed everything, well I couldn’t.

Now it all will be told. I’ve been shot and stabbed, died and met God, had my penis caught in a crane, have hung out with rock stars, models, the homeless, and that was before I was 25.

Chris Cooper as John Laroche
Chris Cooper as John Laroche

As John Laroche, I had six months of infamy in 1994 when I was the “Antichrist of the Florida Everglades.” Another 15 minutes when Orchid Fever appeared in the New Yorker magazine, more when the Susan Orlean novel The Orchid Thief hit the stands and yet more in 2002 when Adaptation came out. I have been a carpenter, a gangster, a photographer, an ornamental fish collector, a pet shop owner, a fossil collector, a nurseryman.

John Stafford

57 years and still kicking

During the “Orchid Thief/Adaptation Period,” I was hated. Threatening phone calls, death threats, people calling or knocking on my door demanding how to make dope from Ghost Orchids. There was lots of bullshit, and, this got old quick. When I met Kerry, we decided to change the last name so that our kids would be protected, and the bullshit would stop. John Stafford was born. A mild-mannered computer programmer, a project manager, a father, and husband to the best family a man could hope to have, and now a blog posting and mentally challenged house elf.

I’ve seen and done things that would fill several “normal” lives. I’ve led a life of adventure, sorrow, love, joy, and hell on earth. I’ve not only come out on the other side but thrived.

I share my life story with you as entertainment, a morality play, and as a memoir of sorts. I also intend to editorialize on life and teach what I can about late-century life and our natural world.

Not all the material here is flattering to myself; some might be embarrassing to my friends and family who thought they knew me. I completely understand if you disavow any knowledge of knowing me. (Except for my lovely wife, you’re stuck with me)!

I am what I am, and that is all I am

Popeye the Sailor Man

Let the fun begin!

Pink Floyd – Free Four

“The memories of a man in his old age, are the deeds of a man in his prime”

Cast of Characters

… in which Mr. John introduces a motley crew that have passed through his life

It’s been somewhat of a challenge to find a way to get started with my life story. I don’t like the idea of “I was born, stuff happened, funny stories, married, things happened, some events occurred, married, more funny stories, the orchid thief stuff, other things happened, the internet, married and here I am today.”

Mommy Dearest

The first crazy woman in my life. On the one hand, she was terrible, cruel, and did horrific things. She could be enjoyable, engaging, and nurturing. She mellowed out after I got married to my first wife. She died tragically after the accident.

My Father

Thanks to good ole Mum, I have no idea from whose loins I sprung. None of her stories made any sense, and she was crazy, and I mean that in the literal sense. While not knowing who it was would eat at some people, I’m sure, and it doesn’t bother me in the least.

My Adopted Father

He was a hard-working man. He tempered some of the craziness of my mother. He fell off a building and broke back in five places. He miraculously survived the fall above, however rather than taking pain killers, he selected beer. This was when our family changed and grew dark. He lived to see my eldest son born, and for that, I am thankful. He never did acknowledge all the bad stuff and ultimately died as an old man of small cell lung cancer.


My sister, who tragically died three years before I was born in my mother’s arms. She was three years old. I lived in her room as a kid. Everyone that goes into that room has the creeps. Legit.


The brother I never wanted, but my parents adopted him anyway. Although he was a sociopath, they kept him around for a few years until he tried to kill me. It seems he was still under warranty, and they promptly returned to the agency.

Antoinette (AKA Annette or Suzy)

“We were two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year.” We saved each other from hell. We might have lived happily ever after had I not been a selfish, blind idiot.


Partner in Crime during my “Rough Patch.” He was a giant mountain of a man. Quiet and polite even though he could rip your spine out and beat you with it.

Cindy Ann Smith

My first wife. She was an incredible woman before the accident. A honest to God Hippy. She will play a massive part in our stories. Her mother, Jo Laura, was some hell-spawn sent to earth to torment me. She did everything in her power to ruin my life and marriage. She even tried to destroy the movie.


Number two. We were together long enough to be considered Common Law married. She was addicted to drugs and never grew up. God knows I tried to save her. In the end, I had to walk away. She was my penance. She eventually quit the drugs, only to die several years later from narcolepsy, which she inherited from the years of abuse. Incredibly sad.

Mr. W

Son of Ms. D. He was such an excellent kid and now a grown man that I am so proud of. I love him and consider him as a son. He got a raw deal in life, and I hope that in some way, I made it better. Appears now to be thriving and successful, although I don’t see him enough. Yes, that’s a hint!

Miss A

The girlfriend of Mr. W (during the period if much of my stories). She was a nice girl who lived with us for a while. Today she isn’t with Mr. W has an excellent family, and a beautiful daughter. I am so proud of her, even if she did block my wife on Facebook because of differing religious views.


My brother from another mother. We met at the dawn of the Internet and built some crazy stuff together. We have floated into and out of each other’s lives over the past some 25 years.


My wife and mother to my children. The absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. I love her and my kids more than anything. She deserves so much better.

Mr. John – The Orchid Thief

That’s me. When my oldest was young, I was a Cub Scout Den Leader. The kids called me Mr. John, and the name stuck. I like it because it reminds me that the person I was before Kerry is long dead and buried. An alligator did not eat me.

There are many other bit players in my drama, and we will meet some of them along the way. For now, this should give some perspective to my ramblings.

The B-52’s: Tell It Like It T-I-IS

From the album ‘Good Stuff’. Kate is AWESOME!

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