We’re heading to Alcatraz this morning and decided to take the Muni. Or maybe it’s just called Muni. I’m a tourist, so maybe I should simply say, “we are riding on a bus.” Our hotel is right around the corner from Chinatown, and the bus was PACKED until we passed all the Chinatown stops. Then it was quite roomy. I’m glad that we bought our tickets ahead of time because when we arrived at Pier 33, the ticket booth said the next available tour was three days from now. That wouldn’t have worked for us.
The ferry ride is quite nice. There’s a British family sitting near us and the youngest one of the kids keeps saying, “But, Mummy, I just want to finish my jellies! I don’t want to go to prison!” There is much giggling and eye-rolling from his siblings, and, indeed, from Mummy and Daddy too. There are also crew members for Alcatraz Cruises on board; I can’t help but wonder if their job is REALLY boring doing 30 minute ferry rides back and forth every 30 minutes all day every day.
The park ranger gave all of us a little bit of background about the island and the prison. Apparently Alcatraz was occupied by Native Americans in the late ’60s-early ’70s and their presence was instrumental in Native Americans’ receipt of the rights they have today. I had no idea! I really thought it was just a prison for really bad dudes that closed and then reopened as a tourist thing. I was wrong. There’s so much more here than that. There is such a contrast between the landscaping and the prison itself. Outside, it’s incredibly beautiful and relaxing – flowers, birds, trees, water… Inside it’s just steel bars and concrete walls. I sort of feel like being imprisoned here would be worse than being imprisoned in some max facility in the Midwest. I mean, I think the Midwest is beautiful too. But being able to SEE San Francisco right there, and the mountains, and the bay – it would drive me nuts if I wasn’t a crazy prisoner already.
I especially love that we are visiting right now in the final days of the Ai Weiwei art exhibit, which is found throughout the prison. I didn’t know anything about Ai Weiwei (I’m looking super educated right about now) but thankfully some of the signage educated me. He is a Chinese artist and political activist who has been imprisoned for speaking out about the Chinese government’s human rights violations. He’s still forbidden from leaving the country so this whole art exhibit was prepared after extensive research on his part. Smithsonian Magazine wrote a great article about it.
These hand-painted silk kites are all capable of actual flight, including the massive dragon one. But they have never been flown, nor will they ever be flown, because they are imprisoned.
The pictures on the floor are Lego portraits of political prisoners from all different eras and locales.
Aaaaaand I just realized I left my iPod next to the sink in the bathroom down by the ferry dock. It has all of our travel info on it, which I can’t access on my phone because it’s a Windows phone and it is the most stupid of all stupid pieces of technology. Cue anxiety. And tears. And anger. We can’t afford a new one and I’m not due for a new phone until December (COME QUICKLY). I’m walking back to the dock, tears streaming down my face, looking like this place has just really moved me so much. Naturally it isn’t in the bathroom sink because approximately a gazillion people have gone to the bathroom between me and now and hey, free iPod. I check at the ranger station where they reassure me that they’ve had all sorts of things returned – DSLRs, laptops, portable hard drives (who is bringing these with them to Alcatraz?), phones. It’s nice of them to say that but I am realistic and understand that the bathroom is literally 50 feet from the ranger station. If my iPod was going to be returned, it would’ve been already. So now I am trudging back up the hills to find Ryan again, still crying, trying to figure out how to change all of my account passwords on my rude Windows phone. Ryan, as always, is kind and gracious when he probably shouldn’t be and insists that it’s too bad but not to let this ruin the trip. He says this because he knows from experience that I will absolutely let this ruin the trip since I’ve done similar things before. We head down to the dock to wait for the next ferry. I keep changing passwords while hating this phone even more (I didn’t know it was possible). Ryan says we should check with the rangers one last time before we go – like a sensible person – because someone might have turned it in by now and I’m all, “WHAT IS THE POINT IT IS NOT GOING TO BE THERE I AM SUCH A LOSER IN ALL THE WAYS.” But I check anyway because I’m clearly not in my right frame of mind.
And there it is.
Cue profuse apologies for losing it in the first place and for freaking out and for crying and spoiling Alcatraz and… Sigh.
We’re heading to The Codmother for lunch over at Pier 39. In my fish-and-chips expert opinion, they’re quite good but not entirely my style as the batter to fish ratio is too large for me. I’d put them solidly in the top ten but probably not in the top five.
Next up is the Lands’ End trail. We were going to walk down to the Sutro Baths too but now that we’re here, we can see them from above just fine. Maybe we’re missing out big time but choices must be made. But again with the inclines! So many inclines! The view of the Golden Gate Bridge gets better and better as we go along, though. I can see why this hike is mentioned in so many guidebooks.
We finished the hike and have called for our UberPool (this thing is GREAT), so we’re just sitting on a bench next to the road enjoying the scenery. And I just got hit by a golf ball. There’s a hole right behind us and some golfer who decided this incredibly windy day would be great for golfing nailed me. Thankfully he hit my bag and not my head, but still. Rude. This calls for ice cream for dinner! Ghirardelli, here we come.
Tomorrow, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and redwood trees!