My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 97

Where am I?  Prison.  What am I?  A Prisoner.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of this whenever a day like today hobbles along.  A day that sucked.

It all started, I believe, when a storm last night knocked out the power to our double-fenced, razor-wired perimeter.  As a result, there was no movement allowed on the compound, which was unfortunate as I usually take advantage of Sunday mornings to catch up on my newspapers and magazines in the library while most of the inmates are still sleeping (the library normally opens at 6:15 a.m.).  If I had known, I would have been lazy, myself, and slept in late.  Well, at least I could catch up on some e-mails, I thought…think again — the e-mail system was down as well.  I couldn’t even get breakfast as that was closed too.  Most outdoor recreational activities would also be cancelled, due to the weather and the problem with the fence.  What’s funny about the fence is that if they didn’t draw attention to the fact that it was no longer electrified, no one would have even known the difference.  Instead, they basically advertised to the compound that there had been a breach in security.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any visits scheduled this weekend as those were also cancelled at the last minute possible.  And for this I felt bad for the other inmates since many don’t get visits that often and the vast majority of these guys don’t have family anywhere near this place.  I’m assuming that many families didn’t even know that visitation was cancelled until they arrived here and were turned away.

For me, the biggest disappointment of the day, came at brunch.  It’s funny how we tend to sweat the small stuff in here…primarily because that is sometimes all that we have to keep our spirits in check.  When you don’t have access to all the things that would generally keep us entertained and sated on the streets, you have to find comfort in what’s available.  For some, that might come in the form of a regular television program or a workout routine…for me, that often comes in the form of food.

Our chow hall runs on a five-week schedule — with a unique meal served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during that cycle, repeating over again at its conclusion.  Over the course of those 5 weeks, I would say that nearly everything is edible, however, I have a handful of favorites that I usually await with baited breath…and a few that I avoid like scabies.

One of my favorite meals on the compound is the pancakes that they serve for Sunday brunch…a meal that is very much treasured and not served that frequently…and I was looking forward to this meal all week.  The pancakes are made fresh that morning and are often thin, yet fluffy, and oftentimes filled with fruit.  We get a healthy stack of four or five on top of which is ladled a river of (I think) real maple syrup.  On “the Streets”, I live in one of the largest cities in the country and I eat out quite often, and I’m telling you…these are some of the best pancakes that I have ever had.

But, wouldn’t you know it…because of the storm and the restrictions on the compound, the inmates who work in the kitchen were not allowed to leave for work early enough to start making the pancakes.  Instead of pancakes, we were served “instant” scrambled eggs…which, I realize that someone who was literally starving would kill me for, but for me at that very moment…it was a grand disappointment.

An even swifter kick in the nuts came that evening when I deliberately skipped dinner and ate Ramen noodles in my cubicle.  For dinner, they were serving Chicken Fried Rice, which is typically one of the worst meals of the month.  There are about 3-4 meals that are nearly identical which the prison comically calls something different and serves it several times a month:  Chicken Fried Rice…Chicken Chow Mein…Chicken Stir Fry…Chicken A La King…they are all basically the same pile of slop.  Of course, it only made sense that I overheard the inmates returning from the chow hall going on about how good dinner was and how vastly they improved that typically decrepit meal.


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