Alcatraz was the name of the game today, and I was excited to visit the notorious prison which had become the stuff of legend. Being a bit of an Xbox geek as well, I was interested to see how similar one of the Call of Duty zombie maps was to the real thing (very similar, excellent design work).
En route to the ferry departure place, I spotted a doggo. Not much surprise there you might say. A dog. In a big city. Pretty standard stuff. Alas, this was no ordinary doggo. This specimen sported sunglasses – yes, actual sunglasses specifically for said doggo. They must have been from ‘Yap’, the dog clothing store mentioned previously, and they only served to reinforce my assessment that there was no point trying to understand America.
It was quite a complex process to get to the island. Pre-booked tickets and an extensive queuing system was all part of the fun, and I found myself standing amongst a coachload of silver surfers led by an all-American tour guide. However, it was quite nice to hear the English accents from within the group, knowing that they were just as baffled by this country as I was. Although they may have lived before the invention of the kettle, so perhaps they were not as enraged as myself at the lack of them.
As my British soul heartily enjoyed the fantastically organised queue (a zigzag layout with divider ropes – top notch stuff), I thought about the sea lions which were the residents of Pier 39. The pier used to be in use as a marina I believe, but since the seals took over, it’s now theirs. Quite literally, they have taken it over, forcing out yachts for good. These whiffy, loud beasts spend their days sunning themselves and pushing each other off the jetties. As I have previously stated, being a seal sounds great, and from my observations at Pier 39, being a sea lion sounds even better.
The ferry was quite packed, but it was a short journey to the island. Clambering up the steep hills towards the jailhouse, you get a sense of the isolation and mental torture that it must have been for prisoners, being able to see the mainland so close yet so far. Entering the Cellhouse, I picked up an audio guide and starting making my way round. Audio tours are always a bit hit and miss I find – sometimes they are excellent; other times it’s like watching James Milner watch paint dry. Luckily, this was the latter, and very informative and interesting.
There also was written information alongside the audio tour, and with this came the people who take pictures of the information and move on, in order to read them later. This baffles me, as they don’t read them later. And if they read them in the moment, they might actually understand what is in front of them. Rant over.
The coolest part of the whole island was the story of the notorious escapees. You get to to see the cell where an inmate used spoons to widen an air vent and escape the Cellhouse, making off into the cold blue waters of the bay. An impressive feat indeed.
Perhaps the most chilling part was the solitary confinement block, at which I took a photo of one of the cells, and walked inside. I later found out that this very cell, 14-D, was the most haunted of all. Allegedly people often find it to be a lot colder than the normal temperature, and hear voices and noises emanating from within. I did not experience this when I was in the cell, but I must admit I did feel a bit uncomfortable standing inside it.
Thinking about it, solitary confinement is a bit of a blessing for an incarcerated introvert. Obviously not for an extended period, but if I was in a crowded prison and given orders to spend time in solitary for a day or two, I would be perfectly happy I like to think. Unfortunely I don’t think confinement is for just one or two day.
Confinement was probably beginning to appeal to me because of a new addition to my hostel dorm – an old bearded snorer. He had a slight whiff of beer about him, and when asked where he was from, he replied ‘here’, which led me to believe he was on the streets a lot of the time. I kept talking to him to get a better measure of him, ending up discussing Trump, and luckily he seemed to be relatively sane, albeit an interesting character. Unfortunately however, this man could snore. I lie. He did not snore. He throttled like a motorbike, like the thunder of a thousand thunderstorms, like the roar of all the lions in the world. I had never experienced anything like it. I dealt with it by learning to fall asleep to my iPod at a very loud volume, which only just matched his thunderous tones*
All in all, Day 35 was excellent, and I would definitely recommend a visit to Alcatraz.
*Admittedly this was an issue, but don’t let this put you off sharing hostels dorms. At the end of the day, you’re only in the room to sleep (ok, on this occasion it was difficult to), and you can always find restorative niches somewhere when you are out.