Candy Potatoes Magee: Thanksgiving in Jail with a Service Canine in Coaching
Magee says it’s not Thanksgiving with out candy potatoes, and I agree. Magee (pronounced MAH-ghee) is an cute 11-month-old black lab from a service canine coaching program that I’ve been elevating and dealing with since January.
However candy potatoes, that are one in every of Magee’s favourite particular coaching treats, gained’t be on my menu, as prisons all through New York State not permit canned meals. This will probably be my 24th
Thanksgiving behind bars.
I’ve written in regards to the vacation earlier than. Akin to the 100 unhealthy poems everybody has in them, these earlier recountings have been within the breathless method of hyper-detailed meals porn, after which later, as a self-satisfied treatise on familial roles performed by native stand-ins. Now, although, I write by the lens of gratitude. However gratitude, as Pink stated of “rehabilitation” to his parole board in The Shawshank Redemptionis simply one other bullshit phrase deployed by meme mills, so let me present you what I imply.
The vacation is widely known in jail—not less than the prisons I’ve been in: Attica, Nice Meadow, Auburn, and now Fishkill—simply as it’s within the free world. However not fairly. For some, it’s simply one other day, both by alternative or due to a scarcity of assets. For many, there’s meals, a day without work work, and watching soccer. I’d even really feel a fleeting air of easiness grasp the darker corners of Attica, the place I spent my twenties. However there’s a palpable sense of straining to recreate, with all the trimmings, one’s pre-prison Thanksgiving.
Of late, my ideas have gone retrospective. You see, I am going earlier than the parole board in July 2024, and I’m hoping this will probably be my final Thanksgiving in jail (lengthy odds, however one can hope). So, I, naturally, look to Thanksgivings previous. If I could be permitted a David Foster Wallace second of “that is water,” it’s exactly in locations like an American jail the place one learns gratitude.
In Attica’s upkeep division, we loved a office potluck, with civilian bosses offering venison and cookies from residence. My boy Ant obtained a bowl of meals from his good friend of a good friend on the storehouse dock and shared it with me, even steven. He gave me actually half his decadent bowl of meals. Later, in Attica’s honor block, the place we had entry to electrical skillets and fridges, I cooked with Jason, Whit, and Doc, and we had a correct turkey (courtesy of Doc’s bank card) with facet dishes galore: clams on line casino (my aunt’s recipe), candied yams, and stuffing constructed from scratch. In Nice Meadow, I loved a south-of-the-border Thanksgiving with a crew of Mexican and Ecuadoran males; we shaped an meeting line for black bean burgers to accompany the platanos with hen and lime. In Auburn, Paris made a West Indian-inspired stuffing with cornbread and curry that was so good I ate till discomfort, and Dan baked me a private pecan pie from scratch. These males grew to become household. To paraphrase Hemingway, you meet good individuals within the trenches. To not point out the belated Thanksgivings spent with my spouse throughout in a single day visits, with extravagant meals consumed in human parts. As for the state-sponsored fare, the mess corridor has minimize prices annually, and now the vacation menu is processed turkey loaf, a small (medicine window-sized) cup of cranberry sauce, salty stuffing, and a dinner roll.
My loveliest Thanksgiving in jail was in Fishkill in 2019. I had been within the pet program for a number of months, and our housing unit, with purple tile flooring and picket doorways to our rooms (not cells anymore), recalled the free world. I included all 21 individuals—an train in herding cats that I gained’t attempt once more, because it was such a trouble to make use of child gloves on guys who didn’t need to break bread with particular others. However the cooking, with 4 individuals in a tiny kitchen, was exhilarating. I made garlic knots (Dan’s recipe, a crowd favourite), and there have been candied yams, candy potato pies, turkey breast, pasta salad, and lavish quantities of fish rice. Canine crates coated with sheets made a banquet desk. Our canines, unstuffing marrow bones, had been characteristically well-mannered round meals, a coaching train in itself.
Organizing the occasion was, I now see, an outward expression of gratitude for these superb canines. I’ve at all times been a canine particular person. (Full disclosure: in the intervening time, Magee is loud night breathing—little lady, huge snore—from her nest of blankets beneath my mattress; her leg bounces periodically and her tail simply wagged. A tableau of cuteness.) I’m unendingly grateful for Magee’s presence in my life; for the religion positioned in me by the instructors who assigned her to me; for the household, mates, and mentors who helped me grow to be somebody able to doing the arduous work of elevating and coaching canines; and for the blokes like Joe, who, about each different day, take a protracted have a look at Magee and ask if I understand how fortunate I’m.
Gratitude has grow to be my MO, and never simply on Thanksgiving. For 4 years, these labs have taught me their gratitude, which happens within the second, like when their eyes widen earlier than you hand them a particular deal with: “For me?”
As to how I’ll be spending the vacation this 12 months, my Jamaican good friend, Grimm, can do with out the Hallmark schmaltz, however we’ll take pleasure in some good eats and a day of relaxation. That morning, I can sleep in and snuggle Magee, whose lustrous black coat is highlighted in opposition to a peach sleeping towel as I rub her tummy and scratch her ears as darkish as felt. She smells like peanut butter cups. Then we’ll play fetch in a quiet, tree-filled yard, Magee skidding throughout colourful leaves. For dinner, she’ll benefit from the stuffed Kong toy I’ll put together for her, with candy potato treats, dehydrated beef liver, and different goodies.
This will probably be our final Thanksgiving collectively. Instructors will determine Magee’s profession path by summer season, so subsequent 12 months will probably be her first Thanksgiving out of jail and, if I’m granted launch, my first in 25 years. I’ll go ahead with a gratitude discovered over many years and honed by Magee, my newest trainer.
Adam Roberts, a founding member of the Attica Writers’ Workshop, is a peer counselor, educator, and dealing visible artist. He has been in jail since 1999, and at present resides in Fishkill, New York, the place he trains service canines. You may learn an excerpt of his forthcoming memoir, The Squeeze Machine, at medium.com/@adamrobertswrites. He could be discovered on Instagram at @Adam_drawseverything.
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