A couple of days behind on posts, due to IT issues … ie the muppet at AT&T sold me a wireless broadband USB that doesn’t seem compatible with Jane’s MacBook.
SF offered up an unseasonally good weather day – blue skies, mild temperature and no fog – for our first day on the tourist trail. So like all good tourists, we rode the cable car to Fishermans Wharf and caught the ferry to Alcatraz, a mile and a half offshore in San Francisco Bay but a world away from the carefree city we left behind on the mainland.
The expectation this will be a grim place was reinforced by the quote displayed at the entrance to the cell block:
“If you break the rules, you get sent to prison.
If you break the prison rules, you get sent to Alcatraz”
The reality matched the expectation. Row after row of cells – 9 feet long x 5 feet wide x 7 feet high – and stacked 3 stories high. Despite the hoards of tourists, it’s easy to get a sense of how depressingly hopeless life must have been for the inmates locked in these little cages. How anyone could believe this type of incarceration could lead to rehabilitation is beyond me.
We got a chance to meet one of the last 10 surviving inmates, who was peddling his biography in this bookstore. Hoping to get some insight into what profound impact this place had had on the man, as Jane was getting him to sign a copy of his book, she asked him what life was like after he left Alcatraz …
“Well, I got a job, just like regular folk … ”
Riveting stuff … I guess we’ll just have to read the book …
Back on the mainland, after the obligatory photo of sea lions (which is difficult to take when you’re holding your nose to block out the putrid stench those bad boys throw off) and a bowl of clam chowder at Fishermans Wharf, we went back to the hotel in time to catch the last 5 minutes of the San Francisco 49er’s quarterfinal vs New Orleans, being played in SF that afternoon.
Apparently, this was a huge game for SF, as they hadn’t made it this far in the tournament for close to 20 years. I immediately became a lifelong 49er’s fan and enjoyed the agony and ecstasy of the most exciting final 5 minutes (which actually took 25 minutes) of a football game in living memory (well, my memory of American football anyway, which isn’t exactly vast …. )
We subsequently found out that “49er’s” refers to those who arrived in San Fran at the start of the gold rush in 1849. So when SF gained and lost and gained and lost the lead 3 times in the final 5 minutes, only to clinch the game with 9 seconds to go with a bullet like pass into the in-zone to score an heroic touchdown, the 49er’s fans must have felt like they had struck a rich seam of gold … (do you like that sporting cliche ???) On the field, rivers of tears flowed on the players’ faces and, I’m not ashamed to say, there was a lump in my throat in room 908 of the St Francis Hotel …. For some reason, Jane was less affected by this result …
Staying for the end of the game meant we were late going to a friend of mine’s place for sundowner drinks (ie we missed the sundown). Cameon Maddern, a friend from school, and his German wife Daniella, live in an amazing house high in the SF hills, overlooking most of SF and the Bay. Since I was last here 3 years ago, Cameron (a builder) has renovated and built a rooftop terrace which would have been ideal to view the sunset … I’m not sure why Jane was disappointed we stayed to watch the end of the football …
The four of us went to dinner at the steakhouse Daniella coincidentally booked on the ground floor of our hotel. Fantastic meal and great to be able to celebrate Cameron’s birthday with him a day early.
A good day in San Francisco all around.