Monday, December 17, 2012

The Sounds of Sirens

In between writing drafted stories and waiting until they are ripened to perfection, I forget to jot down streams of conciousness blogs because it seems that, well, that is what Facebook and Twitter are for.  But then this blog feels neglected lately.

I woke up this morning to a perhaps, "2 alarm fire", across the street from my apartment building.  When I first heard the sirens around 7:30am, I just thought they were the sounds of Oakland that I have grown accustomed to.  Speaking of, I keep meaning to pen down that parody about Oakland to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence".

The Sounds of Sirens- An Ode to Oakland

Hello loudness my old friend-
Did I just hear from you again-
An onward buzzing and HORNS blaring-
Woke me from my sleep I WAS needing-

to be continued.

Anyway, the familar sounds of sirens didn't faze me until they creeped up onto my street and two firetrucks landed right outside my window.  At first I thought maybe someone had a heart attack or stroke and I was looking for a stretcher.  But then, I saw a hose that was laying flat on the street.  I looked up and noticed red flames shooting out of the second story rear side window of the pink apartment building across the street from me.  I grabbed my rinky dink smart phone camera and missed my shot because my camera sucks. By the time I powered off and turned back on my phone, I only got a picture of black smoke:

View from my window

I would like to say that my first impulse was to pray, but I would say it was a tie between praying and getting my camera to work. And then praying my camera would work.  It's my personal battle of priorities between being a Christian and being a citizen journalist always looking for a story.  But I did pray for everyone's safety and in the end, no one was hurt.  At one point I saw the house next door voluntarily evacuate an elderly man and their black cat.  No animals were harmed in making this blog.

I had my eyes glued across the street for awhile.  A few hours later, after the fire department had left, I saw a man go into the half charcoaled building and salvage his Christmas tree.  To be displaced right before the holidays- wow.  There was no going back to sleep now, which kind of sucked because I woke up yesterday morning with a very sore throat and I woke up this morning with a full-on cold.  My Christmas cold came early.  Here's to hoping I get it done and overwith before December 25th arrives.  I should be okay- I got the stuff to knock it out:

It's the most wonderful time of the year:

But how can any of us really complain about colds and property damage when we have our lives?  And for all the sirens I have heard in Oakland through the years, I have never witnessed a mass shooting anywhere around here.  It's crazy to think that I was safer in Oakland this past Friday, than a group of kindergartners were in Connecticut.  You just never know.

Alright, the point of this blog was to pause and reflect and hopefully unblock the writer's block that plagues me.  

Until next time....

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Alarmist

IT WAS MY THIRD NIGHT IN A ROW BATTLING WITH INSOMNIA.  I woke up around 4:00am to the cold morning air, shivering inside my studio apartment with all my blankets kicked off my bed -again. What started out as a warm Indian Summer October evening had quickly transformed into a brisk early Autumn morning. I quickly sat up in bed, with my eyes still closed, and shut the window. As I scrambled for those abandoned blankets that were halfway to the floor, I noticed my eyes felt glued shut. I must not have properly removed all of my eye make up before going to sleep and my allergies were setting in. Going to bed with mascara on my lids would cause me to look like I had pink eye the next morning, which was the last thing I needed at this moment, not to ignore the fact that I also needed to go to the bathroom- again. Why oh why was it so much colder at 4:00am than at midnight and why were these late night trips to the toilet more frequent these days? Hadn’t I just been there two hours ago? I felt around my bed with my eyes still closed, searching for the abandoned thick tube socks that fit like slippers, compliments of an ex boyfriend. I slipped them back on my feet, attempted to open my eyes, and got up to relieve myself. It seemed that my bladder had become my new alarm clock these days, and as for my actual alarm clock that sat on the nightstand to the right of my bed? Well, it had taken on the role of something else.

I finished quickly and curled back into bed, this time with three blankets covering every inch of my bodily frame. As I began to get cozy again with hopes of drifting off into a deep slumber, I heard the sound of a car speeding down my street and then I heard it stop and slowly back up. I sat up in bed and perched out the window to my left in time to see a newspaper come flying out of an old white Toyota Celica, hit the front steps of my apartment building, and then dash away. Not many folks around here received good old fashioned newspaper subscriptions anymore.

I laid there in bed fully awake and stared at the ceiling while listening to wind chimes whistle from the apartment building next door . I looked over at the alarm clock--4:45am. And then the refrigerator in my kitchen, a mere 12 feet away from my bed, started to run.

Hoping those buzzing noises that came from that oversize appliance I made little use of, (except to house old Starbucks coffee cups and Chinese take-out) would lull me back into a deep sleep, I closed my eyes again.

“If you fall back asleep now, you should still be rested enough for work,” I assured myself.

Conversations of the day before, the week before, came tumbling up towards the surface of my mind. Then thoughts about the last minute email I read at 11:30pm before going to bed began to emerge. It was that last minute inconsequential email that would get my mind going at this God forsaken hour.  Why was this the time my mind chose to process things? I began to notice the subtle pain in my lower right back letting me know that the Tylenol PM had already worn off.

“Should I take another one? Half of one? Do I have the sniffles? Should I take a little Nyquil? Just a little maybe….”

In the faint background I could began to hear the sounds of early commuters whizzing in their cars on the freeway overpass about a quarter mile away. Was it that time already? What is it that they do for a living anyway? Were they stockbrokers? Were they club bouncers or waitresses just getting off a late shift? What is this- Vegas? Why weren’t they all in bed like me? That way, it would all be quiet.

It was now 5:00am. I grabbed my smart phone off the bedside table and checked my Facebook home page, but even my fellow Facebookers were not up yet as an outdated expired newsfeed from the night before sat there- dormant. People hadn’t posted for hours. Boring. And then I decided to catch up on my Words With Friends games, which only occupied me for another 15 minutes.

I noticed the sounds of increasing cars on the freeway almost sounded like ocean waves. “Yes, those aren’t actually cars,” I told myself, “but high tide instead, and hey, maybe those waves will lull me back to sleep”. Then I noticed a train’s horn in the distance. Society was up, but I refused to participate.

Then I heard the sounds of a person shuffling around outside. Knowing about a recent increase of burglary in my neighborhood, I quickly sat up and looked out the bedroom window again, only to see a professionally dressed businesswoman sporting a blazer and a hair bun, turn off her car alarm, climb into her Audi and drive away. Freak. I laid back in bed. I am NOT GETTING UP THIS EARLY. What time is it anyway? I shifted my head towards my alarm clock again- 5:30am.

"It’s not too late to fall back asleep," I assured myself, knowing that my alarm clock was set for 7:10am. I started thinking about the work meeting I had scheduled later on that morning. Was this the real reason I wasn't able to fall back sleep? Because I knew I couldn't afford to oversleep? I never had thought about work outside the office before- what was happening to me? I tossed and turned.

"Should I just get up now before my alarm goes off?" I wrestled before another voice quickly protested, "NO! You will feel worse. Just lay in bed with your eyes closed. When your alarm goes off, at least you gave your eyes a chance to rest." I acquiesced with the second voice. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…

My alarm finally went off to the tune of many voices of talk radio and I didn't hit the snooze button. I found the banter comforting. Stories of traffic accidents and weather reports filled me with vivid dreams. In the calamity of it all, I fell back asleep....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Justice In America

“Veronica stole my pants!” my friend Julie told me one day in Junior High School.

"What do you mean?" I asked her.

“I let her borrow my Jordache Jeans, you know the ones with the white swirly stripes on the back pockets…”

“I love those jeans.”

“Yeah, me too- well, she borrowed them, stretched them out with her wide-ass hips, and then when I asked for them back, she said they were hers!”

We stood there by our lockers as I listened to Julie rant on and on about her favorite designer jeans, shocked that Veronica could be such a bully. Well, I wasn’t that shocked, truth be told. Veronica had developed a bit of a scary reputation to the point where I had avoided any direct contact with her altogether. But not Julie- Julie wanted to be friends with just about everyone- even the mean girls, and now she was paying the price for it. After this incident, I decided that Veronica had crossed the line. Taking my friend’s favorite new pair of Jordache Jeans- the ones that Julie was planning to wear to our 8th Grade Graduation Party a week from today? I became enraged at the injustice of Veronica’s actions and thought, “why, she can’t take my best friend’s pants and get away with it! This is America!”

“I’ll get your pants back for you,” I assured Julie, “don’t worry about it.”

Well, I don’t know what came over me that day, thinking I could just confront a girl who I had always been afraid of. Veronica may have not been a big in size, standing a mere five feet, zero inches tall, but she was a feisty little thing and was known for getting into fights with girls much bigger than her - and winning. And I, possessing a whole four inches over her, had never been in a fight in my life, until possibly now.

But I couldn’t even think about the possibility of me getting my ass whipped, the potential consequences of my soon-to-be actions. I was too busy hatching a plan on how to get Julie’s pants back. Through the rest of school that day, I sat in my classes, dreaming up a scheme of how to get our little revenge on Veronica. And then finally, during my 6th period History class, it came to me- it was perfect. I knew Veronica had P.E. class during second period, and I knew that she had a habit of leaving her clothes on the benches in the girls locker room, rather than putting them in her actual P.E. locker. I decided the next time I saw her wearing Julie’s pants, I would get excused to go to the bathroom during my second period English class, walk over to the locker room, grab Julie’s jeans off the benches and put them back in her hall locker for her.

The next day at school I noticed Veronica had Julie’s pants on again and I knew that I had to move swiftly. During the beginning of my English class, I stared at the clock on the wall, waiting for precisely 10 minutes to pass before asking to be excused to go to the bathroom. I figured this would be enough time for Veronica to change into her gym clothes and be out of the locker room and for me to snatch the pants back. But when I entered the locker room about 13 minutes into second period, Veronica was running late and was just then exiting. We made eye contact and I smiled at her sweetly as we both said hello. “Darn it,” I thought, “she would now know I was at the scene of the crime."  It was a wrinkle in my plan for sure, but I wasn’t about to change my mind.

Sure enough, as I walked towards the benches, there they were- Julie’s coveted Jordache Jeans with the white swirly stripes on the back pocket, folded neatly next to Veronica’s other clothes. I grabbed them quickly, exited the locker room, and rushed over to Julie’s hall locker, dialed her locker combination that I knew by heart, put her pants inside, and went back to my English class. The plan went perfectly- for the moment.

But it didn’t take long before word began to travel that day that, “Veronica’s pants had been stolen during P.E. class and that she had to be sent home to get more clothes.” “Serves her right,”  I chuckled to myself.  However, by the end of the school day, rumors had already begun to spread that Veronica wanted to fight me.

“I knew it was you that took those pants,” she confronted me the next day at school, “I saw you in the locker room.”

I didn’t say a word.

With less than a week away until our 8th grade graduation, I begin dreading going to school, wondering if Veronica would try to start trouble with me. Other girls, who had gotten into fights with her in the past, began to approach me.

“She’s strong,” a girl named Cindy warned me, “if she pins you down, you won’t be able to get up!”

“She’s not that tough,” insisted another girl named Jessica, “she just talks tough!”

“What do you mean she’s not that tough?” Cindy shot back, “didn’t you see what Veronica did to Mandy Peters’ face? She didn’t come back to school for three whole days!”

My heart started to beat outside my chest. What had I done? Would I make it to the end of the school year alive?

As each day passed, I managed to avoid any confrontations with Veronica. I found it suspicious that she wasn’t seeking me during lunchtime or after school on the walk to the bus stop, and then I heard the news.

She was waiting until our graduation party to fight me.

The party of the year, the one where all the cool kids were going to be at, the one I had been looking forward to for months- would be the boxing ring of our so called rumble. I couldn’t believe she was going to ruin the party over this, but I wasn’t about to back down. Nothing would keep me from going to the social event of the school year.

“I am wearing my stretch jeans,” I quietly told Julie, as we rode in the backseat of my parents’ station wagon that fateful afternoon on the way to the party. I wanted to make sure I had enough flexibility if I ended up being pushed to the ground somewhere. I may not have ever been in a fight before, but I had wrestled with my older sister Lisa plenty of times and I knew how to tumble.

“And I,” Julie declared, “am wearing MY JEANS jeans!” She was so happy to have her pants back.

After my mom dropped us off at the party, we walked around the side gate and into the backyard. About 30 kids were there, mingling, sipping punch from a drink fountain and eating snacks while Quiet Riot’s “Come On Feel The Noise”, played loudly in the background.

As I reached for a red plastic cup to get myself a drink, I scanned the place in search of my nemesis while trying to not be obvious. And then in the corner of my eye, I saw her- Veronica, standing on the lawn against the back fence, talking with her posse of three other tough girls. She was glaring at me, with her arms folded. She was probably deciding when she should make her move. I pretended to be undaunted. But the night was still young.

I chatted up with my friends and laughed and joked and even danced a little as the party went on. But a couple of hours later, Veronica still hadn’t tried anything. Was she waiting until it was dark outside? And just how was she going to start trouble when the parents of our party host, were right inside the house? How did she think she was going to possibly get away with taking a swing at me while parental guidance threatened us just a few feet away? Maybe she didn’t care. I heard that about tough girls. And just then, one of her friends approached me.

“Veronica is ready to fight you now,” she said as if it was something I had agreed upon.

“So?” I said nonchalantly, trying to not appear scared, but really my heart was beating outside my chest again. Was I actually going to go through with this? Was I really going to let the bully of the school come at me? It was one thing if Veronica had come up behind me when I least expected it and I had to rely quickly on my reflexes-- but to allow me time to become afraid was just too cruel. I gazed back over at the fence to see her still standing there with the other mean girls, just staring at me. Was she expecting that I would make the first move? My mind was still racing when just then, I saw Veronica begin to walk slowly towards me and I had to think fast. I grabbed Julie and told her to come to the bathroom with me inside the house, but really I was going to call my older sister and tell her what was going on. At this point I hadn’t told anybody in my family yet but enough was enough. From the kitchen phone, I confessed to my sister about the whole pants debacle and once she found out, she told her tough friend Tiffany about it, who happened to be with her when I called-- and then it was on.

“Get Veronica on the phone right now!” Tiffany told me.

At this point Veronica and her posse could see me on the phone through the sliding glass door that separated the backyard from the kitchen. Julie nervously motioned to Veronica that she had a call, while I escaped to the bathroom.

I don’t know exactly what Tiffany told her over the phone, but whatever it was, it worked. I exited the bathroom just in time to see Veronica hang up the phone, avoid eye contact with me, and walk back to the backyard. She ignored me for the rest of the party, and although she didn’t quite raise a white flag admitting defeat, I felt vindicated. Crisis averted.

I never did see Veronica after that night. The school year was finally over, and rumor had it that her family was moving out of town. She would be starting high school 50 miles away from us, never to be seen or heard from again. And as for me- well, I never had a problem with anyone ever messing with me after that. I may have not had to physically fight my own battles, but I didn’t care. I was just happy that Julie got her pants back.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Those Were The Days

THE PET SHOP BOY'S HIT SONG "WEST END GIRLS",  always reminds me of my older sister's friend, Heather, laying out in her backyard, while the scent of coconut suntan oil filled the air, back in the summer of 1986.   My sister and I had stopped by her place for a visit and this song was playing on her radio.  No, actually, it wasn't on the radio, but on a mixed tape of the radio. Heather had taped the radio because that's what we did back then.  If memory serves, I think she also was wearing these funky red sunglasses.  I have such happy memories of the 80's, I really do. We were carefree teenagers. Life was simple. It was cheesy pop music and suntan lotion for the most part. We were not overly burdened with the cares of the world yet and considered ourselves still kids. Meanwhile, back in East Berlin, Germany, young people our age, who looked just like us with their acid washed jeans and big hair, were fighting for their freedom from a repressive communist regime.  Middle class American teenagers were criticized for being shallow back then, but I believe it was because we didn't have a common cause to rally behind at the time. We didn't feel like cold war kids.  We had our freedom already, relatively speaking, and if our freedom was what made us shallow, then so be it. I mean, wasn't that part of what the East Berliners were fighting for? Their right to be shallow if they wanted to be?  Their right to be kids?  It all made sense looking back- why Irish band, U2's music was so rich with political meaning- meaning I didn't understand at the time. They grew up in a war-torn country. I didn't have those memories. I only remember the suntan lotion, the pool parties, the permed hair, and the Guess jeans. So sue me. I was being a kid for as long as I could before I had to go out into the "real" world.

As a fourth born,  being a kid was what I did best. I milked that season of my life well into my twenties. I clung to the walls of home. And when I wasn't clinging to those walls, I had a short leash, just a half hour away, while cat-sitting full time for an employer in Oakland. I never strayed too far from the nest. So when a series of unforseen circumstances came upon me at the age of 35, in the summer of 2006, when I could no longer squat in my home away from home....I came home.

I just needed a place to stay through the holidays was the plan. And then the holidays turned into February. Then I started looking for what I could afford on my own in an area around my then workplace and the results were disheartening. With my paycheck, I could only pay for the smallest of accommodations, and at one point,  was presented with the saddest, loneliest of unfurnished rooms. A simple make-shift studio space that someone had converted from their garage. And it felt cold like a garage. Staring at that room, I got depressed and just thought, "why- I could just sit on that floor all by myself and think about my ex-boyfriend for hours."

Apparently I wasn't ready to re-leave the coop just yet, but I always found comfort in knowing I wouldn't be homeless. I would be an irritant, a rash for sure, to my parents, who had now become grandparents.  Grandparents who just wanted to enjoy their Golden Years with the occasional visit from their offspring, and their offspring's offspring, but nothing more. They were done raising us kids. So whenever one of us took advantage of the revolving door that was home, they hesitantly let us in. Especially me.

"I'll never leave," I thought as an 8-year-old girl who shared her room with her 9.5 year old sister. A 9.5 year old sister who was already collecting dishes and towels and putting them in her Hope Chest, for "her own place when she was going to move out." She was so independent at such a young age.  We couldn't have been more different.  I thought that all sounded so scary. How would I make it on my own? How could I ever afford a roof over my head? It was so grown up. I thought you had to be rich in order to live in a house. I thought my parents must be rich, but I knew I wasn't.

I finally did permanently leave their nest in the summer of 2007 and my old room has now been converted into my mother's art studio space.  But there still is a bed in there, for you know... visitors.

Looking back, as a young person, I have always been fortunate to have shelter, clothes on my back, and the freedom to be shallow. Long live liberty and the pursuit of not having to worry about being homeless. Those deep politcial song lyrics written by U2 went right over my head in a middle class American suburbia bubble. The Vietnam war had ended by the time I was 3 years old and there would be no protesting during my youth. Hippies had become yuppies. Those were the days when we didn't have causes- we had designer clothes.....and we liked it. But mostly, we had suntan lotion.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Creative Writing Assignment #1: The Room

I am taking a Creative Writing class at Laney College this Fall semester.  Last week we were given a writing prompt requesting that we simply write about the atmosphere in our classroom.  Here's what I wrote.

Theresa Donahoe
English 210A

The Room

I hate jazz. He had to pick a jazz cd for us to listen to, to take in, to digest, and distract us from writing our papers. The whistling sounds of that gut wrenching genre of music that brought back negative memories of a former jazz appreciation class I took years ago. I did not appreciate it. Busy saxophones and trumpets over took the classroom and drowned out the more pleasant buzzing noises of what seemed to be air circulating through a vent. Just air circulating through a vent would have been more peaceful. The squeaking of students shuffling in their chairs, with pens in hand, writing fervently on their notepads, would have been enough of a background chorus for me to write to. No soundtrack of annoying horns required. The occasional cough uttered in the room was more welcoming to my ears than any music played by Thelonius Monk or John Coltrane. The soft waxing lull of the teacher’s black marker as it apologetically screeched against the dry erase board, was more compelling than the sound of whiny horns blowing aimlessly in the wind. I looked around the room. Was this how it was going to be all semester? Was this part of the standard required uniform- the proverbial creative writer’s checklist? Long hair in a ponytail. Check. Liberal opinions sputtering about on political issues. Check. Vacant jazz music humming in the background. Check. And there they were- a room of writers, deep in thought, staring at their pieces of paper, feverishly gripping their pens, oblivious to the evil music that filled the room and undoubtedly spawned the likeness of Kenny G.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

They Came To Pacifica

I HAD A FULL EVENING THAT FRIDAY NIGHT IN OAKLAND, filled with eating sushi, hip hop clubbing and late conversation with my girlfriends.  After all was said and done, I finally hit the pillow around 2:30am and was ready to dream.  I was exhausted from the long work week and had pushed myself to go out that night.  I figured- no worries- for I had my entire Saturday to sleep in, lounge around the apartment, doodle on my smart phone, relax, and finally get some writing done.

Or so I thought.

The next morning at approximately 8am, I woke up to the sounds of beeping construction trucks and busy maintenance workers speaking in Spanish while drilling into the street's pavement directly outside my bedroom window.  If the sunshine of the predicted 90 degree weather forecasted for that day wasn't going to wake me up in these wee small hours of the morning  (that's right 8am is wee), the sound of trenchless sewer plumbers would.

Rise and shine!

This has to be some sort of a joke.....

Grumpy and defiant,  I laid in bed trying to go back to sleep until 10am, which was my normal weekend hour to rise. When I could no longer take the noise anymore, I rose from my slumber with my eyes burning.  This was not what I had in mind. 

There went my original plans for that Saturday.  With my need for silence and complete solitude in order to create, I would get no writing done if I stayed in Oakland.

I started to entertain thoughts of staying in a secluded hotel room on the coast as my little landlocked studio apartment began to heat up and I began packing an overnight bag for the sleepy little ocean town of Pacifica.  Pacifica: a frequently fogged-in locale that refuses to succumb to any heat wave the rest of the nation may be experiencing.  And although I had visited there many times before, I had never stayed overnight.  So I quickly read some hotel reviews online and figured I would wing it once I got down there.

I hopped in my car and sat in the typical East Bay traffic for a half hour on my way to the Bay Bridge. I sailed passed San Francisco and onto the coast.  As the freeway ended and highway 1 became a four lane road, traffic begin to pile up again.

Surely all these drivers weren't headed where I was headed, were they?

As I made the right turn into Rockaway Beach, I followed a row of other cars in.  Apparently my secret destination had become all the rage.

Since I couldn't find street parking, I went ahead and parked in the "customers only" parking lot of Nick's Restaurant, telling myself I would patronize the establishment later.  I climbed out of my car in search of my first task of the afternoon-  a vacant cheap hotel room.

BEST WESTERN LIGHTHOUSE looked pretty good as it sat practically on top of the ocean.  It coudn't have been cheap, but I thought I would ask. 

"Sorry, all rooms are sold out this weekend," I was informed by the front desk clerk.  I nodded and left suprised.  Pacifica? Sold out? What's going on?

My next stop was a rickety two star place that had mixed reviews on Yelp.  THE MOTOR LODGE INN aka PACIFICA MOTOR INN.  I couldn't help but chuckle- would there be any more room left for me at the Inn?

Well, I almost did get turned away at the Inn as they were originally booked out, but then I heard those coveted words: "We had a last minute cancellation, " and I began to perk up.  Then it was followed by, "it's a smoking room."  I mused at the thought of this, thinking about how I had just stayed up past 2am the night before at a friend's place, talking about random things, while she experimented smoking inside her house for the first time.  I thought about how we laughed at the smoke rings floating above her head and how it reminded us of the 80s.

In an adventerous and somewhat desperate moment, I looked at the front desk clerk and responded: "I'll take it!". And then my curiosity got the best of me.  "Can I see what the room looks like?"

"It won't be ready until 4:30pm," he told me, "but here's a key to the non-smoking room next door, room 303. It's the exact same set up."

At that moment a short Mexican cleaning lady came wandering in.  The hotel clerk tried to confirm with her that my room would be ready at 4:30pm.  She started to haggle with him and insisted, "No, 5pm!" in to which he shot back, "No, 4:30!"

I took the key and went to room 303 and unlocked the door. As promised from Yelp, there was a cramped bathroom immediately to my left.  I saw the "uncomfortable pillows" that were also written about, but no one mentioned the four flies that were circling above the bed.

I took a deep breath and exhaled.  Note to self: ask for a fly swatter when you receive your key. I did like that there was a table and two chairs against a window, and I knew I would be able to plug in my laptop there. It would have to do. As I returned the key to the desk clerk, he told me I was lucky to get the last room and that all the hotels were sold out "because of the golf tournament".  "Tiger Woods is 10 minutes from here,"  he informed me.  As I stood there thinking about how I couldn't care less about some golf tournament, another straggler looking to escape the heat of the East Bay entered the hotel lobby looking for a room. "Sorry", he told the 50-something year old woman, pointing at me,  "she took the last one.  You might want to try a hotel by the airport".  "Yes", I thought, "and they probably have less flies."

Needing a way to kill time until my smoky infested room would be ready, I decided to make an honest parking lot patron out of myself and walked over to Nick's Restaurant to grab a bite to eat.  I opted for a window seat in the bar lounge overlooking the ocean. I was determined to make this last minute weekend excursion relaxing while waiting for all the dust to settle (pun intended) and I could get into my room.

I noticed the locals who were seated around me had their eyes fixed on the two televisions that were mounted on the walls above.  I never understood what was so great about watching golf.

I ordered crab cakes and a cherry coke and was playing Word With Friends on my smart phone when I heard a familiar song being sung by an unfamiliar voice over the radio speakers in the bar:

So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star?
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time and learn how to play

I sat there listening, dead in my tracks.  I had been humbled.  It was the original version of a song I thought I knew.  You mean Adam Duritz did not make up these lyrics on the live version of the Counting Crows' hit, "Mr Jones", a version that my ex-boyfriend had put on a mixed cd for me all those years ago?  Apparently Adam was quoting another song, that I looked up immediately on my smart phone.  A song recorded by the Byrds and released in 1967 literally titled, "So You Wanna Be a Rock n Roll Star".   And all this time I thought Mr. Duritz was being clever.  I was realizing I was not the rock n roll trivia aficionado I thought I was.  How did I miss that one?

As the bar filled up with people and I filled up on my crab cakes, I managed to burn an hour and a half away, pay my check, and move my car into the parking lot of the two star hotel.  You would think I would have just walked over to the beach and stared at the ocean waves to pass the time, but lately I have been on a "does your beach have sea-shells" kick and I knew Pacifica's did not.  I was strictly in it this weekend for the cool weather and hopefully peace and quiet. 

But peace and quiet would continue to allude me.

I got my key to room 302 from the front desk clerk, and took my overnight bag with me up to the third floor.   As I was walked down the hallway towards my room, I noticed the cleaning lady's cart parked right outside my door.  It was 4:50pm and she was still working on it.  I approached her and she smiled and insisted that she had just finished.  But before she could push her cart away, I took a peak inside my room and sure enough I had to alert her of the flies that circled above my bed.  She knew very little English and I had to just keep pointing at them, and saying, "look- mira!" 

She went back to her cart, and I thought she was going to grab a fly swatter.  Instead she grabbed a can of bug spray.

I stood there mortified as she started squirting bug spray in the air right above my bed to kill the flies.  Then she took a towel and started to wave them out of the room.  All I could think about was how there would now be the scent of bug spray and cigarettes mixed in on my sheets and pillow. 

When the flies and maid were gone, I went downstairs to my car, got into my trunk, and pulled out my emergency sleeping bag made for such occasions as this.  The hotel already had my money and I wasn't going back to Oakland so I figured I would make the best of it and besides, at this point, I knew I would be getting another story out of this.

Once I settled into my room it didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't going to get any writing done.   Turned out the loud noises of motorcycles and other vehicles from the four lane highway directly behind my hotel, drowned out any blissful sounds of crashing ocean waves that were a mere block away from me in the other direction.  Only the sold-out Best Western Lighthouse stood a chance of providing me with the ambiance that I so desperately needed in order to create.  So I took off again in my car and headed to my favorite coffee shop in Pacifica that was two exits away- the Chit Chat Cafe.  It overlooked the ocean.

I pulled up, plugged in by a window, ice coffee in hand, and was getting ready to write when I saw and heard the dreaded familiar noise of a microphone sound-check of a woman and her guitar.  Of all the times I have visited this coffee shop, I had never been there for a live music set, and the place was getting loud and packed.  Really?  Pacifica?  Why are you so loud this weekend? Why is everyone here? Why did they all come to Pacifica?  The one weekend I needed it to be the loner town that it normally is,  was buzzing with people.  I got cranky. I thought that maybe if it was just a woman playing instrumental pieces on her guitar, I could still get some writing done.  But when a man with a saxophone showed up, I immediately powered down.  Not gonna happen.  By this time it was beginning to be sunset, so I drove my car back over to the hotel, walked to the beach and took pictures of the ocean instead.

Maybe I just needed to do this all along. Sure there were no seashells worth a darn, but look, so pretty.

After staring at the waves, I started to feel relaxed.  The highway noise wasn't so loud now, so would at 9pm on a Saturday evening, finally be the time to start writing?  It was.

I opened my hotel room windows and started typing away.  It was late enough at night that the real work would begin. Some say the process of writing is 10 percent actual writing and 90 percent staring at the walls.  I say that this time it was 10 percent writing and 90 percent getting in the mood for writing.  I guess that means the same thing.

Around 10:30pm I started to get hungry and walked back over to my go-to Nick's Restaurant to see if the kitchen was still open.  It wasn't, but the bar lounge was in full swing with live music and drunk locals.  I asked one of the staff if there were any leftover dinner rolls that I could snag.  He checked, and came back with garlic bread on the house.  Happily, I thanked him and took it and walked outside to stare at the evening waves crashing against the rocks.  I thought I would have another peaceful moment, but it was marred by the sounds of a drunk couple arguing in the parking lot.   Completely unappreciative and clueless about how amazing the atmosphere was around them, I overheard the man yell at the woman, "and this is why they call this town PATHETICA!"

Munching on my garlic bread back in my room, I continued typing until about midnight, and then  decided to retire for the evening.  I hoped that at this time of night, as the town went to sleep, that I would finally be able to hear sounds that I was looking for.  Instead what I heard was the overspill of more drunk locals walking down the street yelling unitelligible phrases.  When I woke up around 2am to go to the bathroom, I only heard the occasional car zooming past on the highway.  As far as the ocean- not so much.

The next morning, I decided to check out early and get on the road, but as I was throwing my sleeping bag back into my trunk, the ocean reminded me I needed to visit her one last time.  As I walked past the Best Western Lighthouse, I realized I wanted to envision what my ideal hotel room should look like-so I walked into their lobby, past the front desk, and up the stairs as if I was a guest staying there.

I roamed the first floor halls in search of that one ocean view room that would have the money shot.  A cleaning lady pushing her cart saw me wandering and realized what I was looking for and pointed me in the right direction.

I came upon room 125 and the door was already open.  I made eye contact with another cleaning lady who was changing the pillow cases and she nodded and motioned me inside.  She knew what I wanted.  I started taking pictures from inside the room.

View from Best Western Lighthouse

Meanwhile, back at The Motor Lodge...

The Best Western Lighthouse hotel room was everything I imagined it would be.  A room that sat right on the ocean complete with a soundtrack of crashing currents that could lull you to sleep.  As beautiful as it was though, it didn't quite compare to a reoccuring dream I have been having lately.

I have this dream that I am staying in a hotel room that is very low to the ground and practically touching the beach sand. The ocean water is warm and a deep turqouise color. It’s very tranquil and peaceful.  It makes me think it might be in Hawaii.   When I first started having these dreams, I was always staying in one of the more modest, no frill rooms, but I would steal a peak inside the master suite that was located at the far right end of the hall on the bottom floor. But as the dreams progressed, the last couple of times I have had them, it is me that is staying in the master suite. I have yet to find that actual room in real life, but I keep searching. I have a feeling it is not on the California coast.

After finally getting the breathtaking hotel room view I was looking for, I left room 125 feeling a little more satisfied.  I got into my car and drove back to the East Bay.  With a 15 degree drop in the weather that day, it was finally safe to head back to Oakland.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Confessions of a Closeted Recluse

I GOT WIERD SLEEP THAT NIGHT I SLEPT ON THE FRONT PORCH.   Although I was bundled up in my sleeping bag with extra blankets to shield my face from the cool midnight air, I still woke up to the sounds of garbage cans banging and dogs howling around 2am and then again around 4.  The second time was probably because I am such a light sleeper than when my porch camping buddy got up to go to the bathroom, I followed suit.  Then it was back to having wierd dreams until the sun begin to greet me some time after 6am.  I ignored the sunlight that hit against my sleeping bag, nature's little wake up call, and forced myself to drift off again until after 8am. When my friend sat on her futon and started playing Scrabble on her i-Pod,  I knew I needed to get up.

I was proud of myself though.  As someone who doesn't share space well, especially while sleeping, I managed to get through the night.  It would be an unusual thing for me to become such a privacy rat when it came to personal space.   As a fourth born, growing up, I shared a room and bathroom with my older sister for many years and I knew how to share.  It wasn't until I was 28, while cat-sitting on a regular basis for an ex-boss of mine, that I got a taste of living in complete solitude.  And I loved it.

I loved it a little too much and hadn't realized what kind of reclusive creature I had become until I went on a ladies church retreat in the summer of 2002.  At 31 years old, I still considered myself somewhat young at heart as I claimed an upper bunk bed in the cabin I was assigned to among eight other women.  In my mind I still saw myself as a 12 year old girl, so imagine my surprise when I couldn't fall asleep the first night of the retreat while being in a room filled with so many other people. This coupled with the fear that I would roll off my bunk and hit my head on the wooden floor.  Toto: We are no longer at junior high camp. 

"There are too many people here," I thought to myself as I took my sleeping bag with me and climbed down to the vacant bunk bed below me.  All of a sudden, I felt crowded, like I couldn't get any downtime to just chill and relax.  As long as people were around me, I felt busy and occupied.  I recognized that the presence of people gave my Sanguine side energy, even while they were sleeping.  I couldn't come down from the high, and I was exhausted. 

And so the years went by in my thirties where I would occasionally experiment with taking an overnight weekend trip, here and there, while others loomed around me.  I could never quite relax and chalked it up to "well, no one sleeps well when they are not home."  But this put a dent in any travel plans I wanted to do.  More and more I started daydreaming about taking a trip to Europe...alone.

Alone, where I could sleep in at my own pace.  Wake up late without anyone telling me I needed to be up so we could get to some art museum on time or start a hike before the sun came up.  To be on no one else's schedule, where I could just sit in a coffee shop with my laptop and people-watch for hours with no particular place to go, in a foreign land.  Yes, that sounded good to me. 

I felt like such a fuddy duddy, turning down group trips, especially anything missions related with the church.  I had done the whole missions trip thing in my twenties- group travel riding in a van, sleeping on floors, wherever you could find space.  I kept thinking I would get used to it, but with each trip I grew more and more grumpy. While others saw it as an adventure, rich with meaning and deep moments, I just wanted to leave.

I would have my deep moments later- about two weeks later- when I finally got home had time to myself to reflect about my trip.  Reflections of handing out food and clothing to those more needy than me.  Reflections about how others living in a third world had materially nothing compared to me, but were content with what they had.  Memories of cramming 30 young excited kids into an old rickety school bus and taking them to a playground in a park just a few miles away- kids who almost never left their small village.  They were good trips with good things,  but those thoughts never hit me in real time.  I was too tired and busy being cranky.   And don't get me started on the whole "one outhouse for 25 people" type of thing.  I just about cracked.  This was the total opposite of privacy.  You can't say I didn't try.  I tried for years.  I think it was safe to say that overseas missions was not my calling.

So there I laid, in my sleeping bag out on the front porch, a few feet from my friend as she played Scrabble.  I had made it through the night, without being too wierded out.  And I considered it a personal victory.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Road to Bolinas

They say the road to Bolinas is paved with good intentions.  This is probably because you will need them in order to locate this quirky little town that's tucked away among the outskirts of Marin County where all the directional road signs have gone missing.

While in search of buried treasure, (and by treasure, I mean seashells), what started out as a last minute day trip that one fateful Sunday afternoon, became more of a real life treasure hunt.    I really would need a secret map if I was to ever find the elusive "Bolinas Lagoon" that was listed as #10 in the "Top 10 Places to Beachcomb in the Nation", according to some article I found online that dated back to 2007.

After a failed attempt at sea-shelling on the south side of Stinson Beach out "by the rocks" (where  I heard was also a good spot for finding shells),  I packed up my water bottle and flip flops orthopedic sandals and headed north on highway 1 to the town of Bolinas.

Well, the Yelp reviews online made it sound like Bolinas was part of Stinson Beach and I almost thought I could walk there from the south end, from all the reviews I read.  But something inside me told me that I needed to get into my car.

I drove out of the beach parking lot and onto highway 1 for a few minutes and saw no road signs to Bolinas, but only for the town of Olema, which I knew was too far.  I pulled over on the side of the road and punched in "Bolinas" on the GPS on my phone.  Thinking I had past it already, imagine my surprise when the automated voice told me to head north for three more miles.  "Three more miles," I thought, "why are there no signs?"  I got back on the road and a few miles later my GPS alerted me to turn left at a point in the road where no streets to turn left on were obvious.  I trusted my virtual compass and made the hair pin turn out onto the dirt road. I was informed by my virtual guide to "keep driving" and then I finally hit town.   The downtown of Bolinas, California.

I parked my car outside a small general store, got out, and began walking.  Why was this place so hard to find?  I had done my homework online, via Yelp, but even in the few reviews I read about Bolinas written by weary backpackers and international visitors, no one knew exactly how to get here.   Even the City of Bolinas official website gave vague directions on where to find them.  It was all very suspicious.  Why so secretive?  My mind began to wonder.  What were they hiding? Did they all become vampires at night?

Life Lessons from the Lagoon

I walked past a cute little restuarant called the Coast Cafe.  I knew I would be getting hungry soon, so when I first saw the CLOSED sign, my heart sank.  I got a little closer to it and realized they would re-open at 5pm for dinner.  I made a mental note.

As I walked along the main drag, the street began to curl to the right.  Locals walked in the middle of the road, some pushing baby strollers, some wearing beach towels wrapped around their waists.  Not alot of traffic in these parts.  I had passed some cute houses, when I noticed one of them had adorned their wooden fence with seashells.  "Wow", I thought.  "They are so trusting to leave really cool shells out in the open like that.  I would worry that someone would steal them."  This would reveal two things about me.  1) I live in Oakland where people steal stuff. 2) I had no idea the level of abundance of shells that I would soon partake in.

Shortly after, I arrived at the public access entrance of the beach and it was exactly how I pictured it would be.  Only a handful of people walked along the sand, with some young bohemian folks huddled in a spot playing instruments, while others walked their dogs.  I saw only a few surfers riding the waves.

But what I really noticed when I looked down along the wet sand, were all the sea shells.  I got giddy.

It was like manifest destiny as I began picking up shells immediately that had washed up on the shore.  I couldn't believe it.  Entire whole shells, just sitting there, all for the taking.  I realized I had left my plastic bag that I had brought for collecting, in my car.  I would have to put the shells in my purse. 

At first I started putting shells in the side pockets of my purse. I was not anticipating finding so many. But soon, I just started dumping them directly into my purse.  I just didn't have enough room.  Shells that were white, brown, big and small and different shapes.  Some clam-like, some half-conch shaped.  Pretty soon I was being picky, not grabbing just any shells, like I used to at other beaches, but only the ones that I didn't already have.  It was there that I felt like God spoke to me.

I realized, as the shells grew in abundance, that I could be selective, and hold out for only the best shells.  I didn't have to settle for broken shells, or even cute rocks, like I had over at Stinson Beach.  I could pick whole shells only.  In fact, any broken shells I had collected earlier that day, I dumped back onto the beach.  It was life lessons from the Lagoon.  Hold out for the best.  Do not settle.  Your day of abundance is coming.

After combing the beach for about an hour, I was really hungry.  My purse was heavy and I needed to eat.  I followed the locals through a short cut back onto the main road and stopped off at a yard sale briefly. I may have been tired and hungry, but I am always a sucker for a yard sale.   From there I walked passed an old small Episcapalian chapel, and then landed at a antique/bookstore/hostel called "The Grand Hotel."

Local House of Worship

The Grand Hotel

As I stopped inside the The Grand Hotel, the man running the place asked me where I was visiting from.  "Is it that obvious?"  I asked.  "I know everyone in this town," he boasted.  I wanted to ask him, "so are you all vampires?"  But I held my tongue.

I did ask him why there were no road signs leading to Bolinas and he simply said, "we tear them down."   Ah, I thought - must be a vampire thing.

I finally arrived back to my car and dumped all my seashells into my plastic bag to make room in my purse again.  I felt a little lighter as I entered the Coast Cafe for dinner.  I ordered the fish and chips, as I sat by a fire place inside, for it was beginning to getting chilly.

I felt completely serene as I looked around this place.  The locals might be a little wierd with their exclusivity and torn road signs tacked up on the cafe walls for display, but I was definitely coming back here.  Bolinas had become my new favorite spot.

As I finished dessert - a berry pie and some coffee, I decided to snap a few more photos of the downtown and then get back on the road to the east bay before it got dark. It was going to take me about an hour just to get back to the freeway and I wanted to get home before the witching hour begun I turned back into a pumpkin.

Art in Bolinas

The Local Watering Hole

Turns out the long and winding road to Bolinas is paved with good intentions.  Well, it's either that or seashells.  Or vampires.

No, but really...It's the seashells.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ready To Exhale

Well, I never thought a history class over the course of the Spring Semester, would become so consuming that it would zap me of my creative energy.  I turned in my final paper this past week as it was the last of three consuming projects taking up all the room in my brain.  That paper plus a team building project at work and a dance/rap performance at the Berkeley YMCA-  they all were due within a few days of eachother and this time last week, I thought I was going to spontaneously combust.  Yes, I know, compared to people with real problems, that sounds like nothing, but even good stress is still stress.

And now...I exhale.  I finally have time to catch up with a Memorial Three Day Weekend of Rest, that I have been so looking forward to.  While others head out of town or head to San Francisco to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Carnaval Parade in the Mission District, I chose to do not much of anything and I love it.  I chose to space out and stare at my messy apartment or gaze out my window.  I slept in til 10:30am this morning. It was glorious.

When Donna Summer died a couple of weeks ago, I was going to blog about that, but then another Bee Gee died and then I was going to blog about "The Week That Disco Died", and then I found out a good friend's mom died and I sort of hit a wall.  What is up with all this death?  2012 has already greeted us with too many R.I.P.s than I know what to do with.  Starting with my aunt's death in January, to Whitney Houston's death in February, then Ronnie Montrose's death in March, then another friend's parent's death in April, and then three deaths in May- I am SPENT. AND IT'S NOT EVEN HAPPENING TO ME.  I keep thinking I will write some deep blog once I have time to reflect, but I am not there yet.  Everyone quit dying, already.

2012 - the year of loss. Who would have thunk it?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mom, You're Just Jealous, It's The Beastie Boys

In the Fall of 1986, during my junior year in high school, I attended a Regional Lip Sincing Contest, where high schools from all around the East Bay competed for the coveted top prize: a trophy and a gift certificate to some local ice creamery.   That's right, the stakes were high and had Britney Spears been alive back then, she would have taken it all.

As corny as this event was, it was the first time I ever heard a Beastie Boys song.  Three young black guys from a rivaling high school got on the stage and started lip sincing to a song tilted, "Paul Revere".  I remember thinking three things: the beat was awesome, their dance moves were cool, and the Beastie Boys were black.  Their team ended up taking 2nd place.

Those kids from that other high school were ahead of all of us.  Pretty soon "Paul Revere" blew up at my own high school and was being rapped at a talent show during our homecoming week by two white guys in my class.  A mod girl (80's hipster) who sat in front of me in my English class also raved about the song.  The Beastie Boys started getting played at dances.  Everybody- black, white, hip hopper, punk rocker, liked this band.

After a string of hits from their debut album, "License To Ill", apparently the group hit a Sophmore slump.  I remember standing in line at Tower Records, the following year in 1987, waiting to purchase Madonna tickets for the "Who's That Girl" Tour, when the the record store employee announced, "I have 2nd row Beastie Boy tickets!"  and nobody in the Madonna line wanted them.  Were the Beastie Boys already over?

Not so, as their career quickly shot back.  I didn't keep track of their hits after high school, but I remember the group continuing to be popular.  I asked a drummer friend of mine in 1994 who was a fan, what he thought the reason was behind the Beastie Boys comeback success after their initial slump.  He casually replied, "they put out a good album."

Could it have really been that simple? You mean it actually is about the music?  In an era where hype, costume changes, and music videos dominated pop culture, could good music still be appreciated?

The Beastie Boys continued to be popular, and in 1998, when I was 27 years old, a 17 year old high school senior gushed about them one day after seeing them at a music festival.  "Both black and white people love them," she declared.  This band was still going strong.  And she, as well as her friends, knew all the "older" songs from their debut album - the one that was released back when I was in high school.

The Beastie Boys continued to headline concerts, release hits on popular radio, and stay relevant. With the exception of the band U2, I don't know many acts of my generation who have continued to garner this type of long lasting success.

A few years ago, as a joke, I started performing parody raps, after being inspired by Amy Poehler's "Sarah Palin rap" on Saturday Night Live.  I watched her performance over and over again and then did the rap myself at a company work party.   I started getting requests to do more raps and I even rewrote and performed the Beastie Boy's hit "She's Crafty",  for an announcement for a "Ladies Craft Night" at church.  That's right- The Beastie Boys during church.  You couldn't get rid of them.  Then I teamed up with my friend Peggy from my hip hop dance class and we became rappers "Tmoney and Pegeisha."  We performed at various friends' birthday parties and we still perform today. 

In March of this year, during a friend's birthday outing at a Berkeley burger-joint-turned-karaoke-club, Peggy and I rapped "Paul Revere" in front of a small crowd as they ate their tater tots and sliders.  We picked the song because it was one of few songs that we both knew the words to.  Peggy is 14 years my junior.

MCA, I can't believe you left us so early. You made rap legitimate to a group of young white kids from the suburbs. Without you, we may have never listened.


I hope no bad people show up...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Escape to Alcatraz - The Local Tourist

Back in March,  I learned that I needed to write a bucket list.  "50 things that I wanted to do before I die", and one of them had to happen by March 17th.  It was all part of an exercise for a class I was taking at my church titled, "Emerge: Claim Your Creativity"    Reaching the given deadlne presented a challenge since most of my bucket list consisted of goals such as, "Go to Denmark" and/or "Go to France".  I was pretty much just naming countries.  How was I going to get to Europe and back by the 17th of March?

So I put in a call for help to one of the teachers.  She, herself, was going to "ride a mechanical bull", before the 17th, so that put it all in perspective.   I realized I could do something pretty cool on a local level.  Then it hit me, "why not take advantage of the fact I live 15 minutes from one of the coolest cities in the world-  San Francisco?"

So I booked a ticket to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz.  A place I kept meaning to visit, and a historically notorious landmark.  A destination that inspired many books and movies, and a tourist trap that currently has a television show named after it.  It seemed like a no brainer.  It was the one Bay Area experience that I had not taken part in while filming on location on a movie set. 

I had already been to Coit Tower while doing extra work on a television pilot.  I had already ridden a cable car during a four night shoot on the Sandra Bullock movie, "The Net".  I had already been to Lombard Street while doing stand-in work on the television show "Party of Five."  I had already worked at The Palace of Fine Arts doing photo double work for Juliette Lewis on the movie, "The Other Sister".  And I already visited Legion of Honor while working on the Jennifer Lopez movie, "The Wedding Singer".  And the list goes on and on.  But the location of Alcatraz had always alluded me.

Until now.

So on March 11th in the late morning, I put myself in a touristy head space and left my Oakland apartment for The Rock.  I hopped on a BART train using my new Clipper card for the first time (and now my new best friend).  From there, I grabbed the F Muni Line (via Clipper again thank you) and arrived at Alcatraz Landing by 12:15pm.  I normally avoid group travel like the plague, assuming that I would be surrounded by loud families from outer space  the midwest other kinds of places, but I decided to suck it up and take my place in line with the rest of the out-of-towners. I refused to be too cool for school. But at times it was hard.

Like while I was waiting to get my tickets at the Will Call Booth standing behind these people who were taking way too long to explain to the cashier why their reservations weren't in the computer.  All I heard was, "but our hotel said..." 

So I got bored and took their pictures.

What not to wear in San Francisco if you want to blend in


Once I received my ticket we were corralled into another line to get our picture taken against a fake backdrop of Alcatraz.  Really? But I was going to snap a bunch of beautiful shots against a REAL Alcatraz backdrop, so I refused. I mean, this was just tacky. 

Yeah, I don't think so.

We boarded our boat at 12:45pm and we were off and it was the most relaxing part of the trip.

How giddy was when I found a window seat facing forward, over looking the beautiful bay, complete with a wall socket for me to plug my smart phone in? Now THIS was traveling.  This boat had bathrooms, snacks for sale, AND electricity. "Someone pinch me," I thought as I played Words With Friends on my phone, looked out the window and stared at the beautiful bay waters.

Not being much of a "getting back to nature girl", I had previous visions of roughing it on a small ferry, amongst crashing waves, strangers, and sea sickness while holding my bladder and praying for the next bathroom break.  Instead, I was cruising in the lap of luxury.  I better be, I paid 26 bucks for this trip!

Rough'n it!

The boat ride was too short and we arrived at Alcatraz in about 10 minutes.  I waited to be one of the last people to leave the boat, to get maximum usage of the outlet charging my phone.

Once we arrived, tourists were given the option to be part of a informative audio tour.  I tried to stand still and listen to the woman as she gave us an overview of her knowledge, but I kept straying from the pack.  I wanted to take pictures, roam around and be free. I figured I had already seen the movie "Escape From Alcatraz" a couple of times, so that qualified me as an Alcatraz historian, right? Right?

Tour Guide

Aaaand, I wandered off....

Fly birdy be free!!

The birds pretty much run the joint now

Once I went inside the old prison building, I noticed a long line had formed and I didn't have the patience to stand in it so I went around it.

Apparently it was a line to get a pair of headphones.


As I walked among a group of people with compromised hearing, I snapped pictures out of order of the tour.  I think it's safe to say I don't do organized group activities very well.   I prefer to work alone.

Luxury accomodations at the Alcatraz Inn

How some of the prisoners escaped through the vent in the back.

Apparently this prisoner liked music (set dressing compliments of ??)

And this guy played dominoes...

Group Shower Everyone!

I would think that between having to do your toilet business inside a cell block the size of a hall closet, with only bars used as a door - and taking a shower in a room full of naked criminals, that the complete lack of privacy would be enough incentive to never break the law again.  But I guess some people were willing to take that chance.

And then you know, there was the fine dining....

All you can eat buffet...

Can you read this?

And then years after Alcatraz closed down, the Native Americans came back to to claim the land.

Apparently their occupation didn't last long, but may we offer you your own"exhibit" in one of the spare rooms as a parting gift?

And then I rounded the corner and realized I had come to the end of our audio tour.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

This book author grew up on Alcatraz

I also bought myself a little sumpin sumpin, but I forgot to take a picture of it.  But hey, you see one purple hoodie with the word ALCTRAZ decal ironed on the front of it, you've seen them all.

And then I was outside again to take in the fresh air and enjoy the views.  The same views the prisoners of this place were tortured with as they performed outside work duties.  What do you think is more cruel? Being so close to such beauty and knowing you will never taste freedom again, or being tortured in a North Korean Gulag?  Yeah, we still win.

You like those views, do ya prisoner?  Don't even think about leaving! Because I am always watching you.

And the water down there is pretty cold.

But they tried anyway.

About two hours later I was ready to catch the next ferry and get back to the mainland.  My lower back was beginning to hurt and I realized that if I wanted to keep taking trips I would need to get a better pair of walking shoes.

The Looove Boat...

Women overboard!!

Coit Tower greeted us upon our return to the Landing.

After we landed back at the pier, I exited quickly and whizzed past the display of tourist photos that were finally developed and waiting for us upon arrival.  I wandered inside the Alcatraz Landing Gift Shop to use the bathroom and then got on the next F Muni bus line back to the BART station.  From there I took the next east bay bound train and was back at my car within 20 minutes.  So fast. So easy.  I love the Bay Area.

As I drove the 10 minute ride home from the train station, I pondered my next local tourist destination.  Where would it be? Angel Island?  Half Moon Bay?  The Wine Country?  Who knows....  Stay tuned.