I'VE BEEN SERVED

My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Archive for Holiday

Day 248 – Part II

Last week, I heard what could have been the most puzzling sound to ever come out of a prison toilet stall. Some guy in there was clearly taking a dump…and out of the same stall came the sound of him cracking open a soda…and pouring it into a plastic container. How refreshing.

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On the last day of Christmas, the prison gave to me:

1 Milky Way

1 Snickers Bar

1 M&Ms

Three Musketeers

2CocoaPacks

1 Bag of Pretzels

Roasted, Salted Peanuts

1 Chocolate Brownie

1 Pack of Cookies

Tiny Bag of Cheez-Its

Honey BBQ Chips

Small Bag of Cheese Curls

2 Soft-Baked Cookies

Plain Potato Chips

1 Coffee Cake

1 Marble Pound Cake

Peanut Butter & Cheese Crackers

Bag of Party Mix

White Cheddar Popcorn

Chocolate & Yogurt-Covered Pretzel

1 Plain White Bagel

1 Big Bag ofHolidayCookies

And…

1 Honey Buuunnnnnnnn.

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The holiday meals here are something to behold. Let’s begin this recap with the first in a string of big-meal blowouts — Thanksgiving.

My first Thanksgiving here was probably the most melancholic experience that I have had thus far, especially considering that it was my favorite holiday on the outside. I’ve always enjoyed this holiday because of its lack of religious significance, the 4.5 day weekend, the precursor to the rest of the holiday season, and the opportunity to flex my culinary muscle in the kitchen. This is also the one holiday that my wife and I typically do not have to travel out of town for and instead entertain her amazing family at our home in the city. I would also be missing the annual tradition of the long walk that my wife and I usually take through the quiet, cold, and deserted city streets (“a kind of hush”) on the morning of Thanksgiving.

In a rather pathetic attempt at recreating that walk, I took a few laps around the rec yard track before the big holiday meal, listening to tired pop renditions of holiday classics and admiring the double razor-wired fence. After jumpstarting my metabolism, I was ready to get stuffed. On the menu: one large, generous portion of succulent turkey breast, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, instant stuffing, palatable cranberries, salad, and pumpkin pie. Whoo-wee.

Afterward, I was ready to be carted out of the Chow Hall in a wheelbarrow. Being a Federal holiday and all, most of the compound would be shut down in the evening, so we were handed a bologna sandwich brown bag (for dinner) on the way out.

With my belly full of holiday tidings and my shit sandwich under my arm, I started the long trek back to the housing unit (“o’er the compound, among the hoods, my cinderblock house I go…”). Along the way, I began my mental countdown. 10…9…8…7…6…

Inmate: “MAN! That meal was trash. I remember when they used to give each inmate their OWN whole turkey…TWO kinds of pie…(etc., etc., etc.).”

Repeat, ad infinitum.

It never fails. And it normally doesn’t even take that long. Somewhere along the way, the inmates forgot where they were (prison) and who they were (prisoners). This isn’t some 5-star resort where they could lodge a complaint with the management. I suppose the ultimate “message” of Thanksgiving — being grateful for what we have — gets lost in an inverse correlation to the number of years that each guy serves.

Honestly, I was surprised that we had received anything special at all. A meal of this size and quality couldn’t have been cheap. Hooray for your tax dollars.

The Christmas holiday meal was even better. Aside from the very generous holiday gift bag that each inmate received (see above), the meal that preceded the gift distribution was nothing short of spectacular: a thick, Flintstone-sized slab of well-roasted beef, a small mound of baked ham (the first of which I had since my incarceration), mashed potatoes & gravy, pecan praline desert, mixed veggies, and salad. Considering the large Muslim population here (they don’t eat pork), there was plenty of extra swine to go around.

Surprisingly, I heard fewer complaints at this meal than the last. Not much praise, but fewer complaints.

The grand finale of this holiday meal trifecta was the bountiful feast served on New Year’s Day. My anticipation and excitement was, however, tempered with a mild disappointment. I’ve previously described my love affair with the infrequent Sunday pancake brunch…well, it just so happened that flapjack day landed on the same brunch slot as our holiday meal — and we obviously wouldn’t be receiving both. Beggars (or inmates) can’t be choosers, but the eventual meal more than made up for the bait & switch.

Perhaps “management” had listened to the “customer” complaints, as this time were all treated to our VERY OWN expertly roasted Cornish game hen, complete with the usual sides, and for desert — an extra-large slice of coconut creme pie, of which I ate the shit out of.

‘Tis the season to be hustlin’…and many inmates are chronically “thirsty” (that is, poor and looking to make some money.) The first thing that came out of their pocket when they sat down to eat was a clear, plastic sanitary glove in which they stuffed their tasty fowl and carted it back to the unit, ready for sale to the highest bidders.

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Remember when Snoop Dogg went from the “Church to da Palace”? Well, I made the same trip…when I got a new bunky a few weeks ago. You may recall my last celly was a guy named “Bless” — an older brother from theIslandswith a strong commitment to his Christian faith. While I was at work one day, the cops came through our unit for their weekly inspection and discovered some contraband among my celly’s belongings.

They found his spray bottle full of Pine-Sol which we used to keep our cube extra-sparkly prison clean. While I can certainly understand WHY inmates are not allowed to have a spray bottle in their possession (who wants a blast in the face with some caustic chemicals, anyway?), it’s unfortunate that something that is ultimately used for good would lead to my man being kicked out. You see, within two-man cubes, the bottom bunk is a privilege that is designated based on seniority and it can sometimes take up to 2-3 years to even get one. Nearly any infraction or sanction taken against you would be cause for having your bottom-bunk pass revoked for 90 days.

So, when I came home from work that day, I not only learned of my bunky’s fate, but I met my new celly who, oddly enough, was just released from the Hole where he spent 35 days “under investigation” — an all-encompassing umbrella category allowing the prison to hold any inmate in the Hole, at any time, for any reason, without actually imposing any further disciplinary actions. My new cell — I’ll call him “Knight” — was released without getting a “SHOT” (incident report) which thereby allowed him to regain his previously-held, bottom-bunk pass.

Apparently, my new roommate may hold the Unit’s record for the most write-ups and has racked up many trips to the Hole. The Bucket. The Corner Pocket.

But you know what? “Knight” and I have been having a great time. He’s actually a very kind, charismatic, young black man and he has been nothing but respectful of my space. I was a little nervous the first night of his stay when there were no less than 5 or 6 of his homies in our cube at any given time…complete with some impromptu rap battles…but those activities have quickly dissipated.

Actually, it will never cease to amaze me how many friends you automatically inherit in here, just by associating with someone. Now that Knight is my cell…I’m his “dude.” And all of HIS “dudes” are MY “dudes.” And vice versa. And I’m talking about the same guys that wouldn’t give me the time of day previously…but would now take a punch on the mouth for me.  My dude and I are the new “Felix & Oscar” of Unit B.