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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Streams of Conciousness

In an attempt to bump the last blog down because I desperately need a new one, I will write off the top of my head just to get the ball rolling again.

1. I am working on a blog about my recent trip to Alcatraz and I also started a travel blog.

2. I am taking a class on creativity every Saturday afternoon through April.  This catepillar is becoming a butterfly.

3. I am taking a history class every Tuesday night at Merritt College in Oakland and it's very time-consuming, reading wise- and this comes from a girl who reads as little as possible. Okay, that makes me sound bad, but sitting still and staring at words on a page lulls me to sleep.  I would rather watch a documentary.  And this truly bums me out because I like history- but I am a tactile learner.  Perhaps we can do a skit in class about communism? I will play the bad guy- Stalin, Mao, etc., 

4. I am saving my nickels so I can travel abroad and I am very excited about that.  I am finally at a place in my life where I am able to put money away instead of just getting by.  Hallelujah.  I want to see the world, and what I mean by world, is mainly Europe and some parts of Asia.   This small town girl needs to fly.

5. Occupy Oakland has been relatively quiet lately.  They still do actions, but I don't see them as much. I still follow them on Twitter.

6. There are way too many birthdays in April and I have been losing track.

7. I did not spell-check this blog.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.  Work, then driving in the rain to Merritt College to listen to my history teacher from Chile tell me what's wrong with America.  Whatever.