Organism– “.” –Dictionary.com
I am usually mixed up within the chaos to not even notice one precious moment to the next, but now I was able to just sit back and observe its existence as a whole. I examined it from the pier afar and even walked from street to street to spy around some more. I was watching this organism thrive like any other in its natural state. I was watching San Francisco.
I saw the city function as a whole. From a distance I could see the traffic flowing in as the toxins poured out and within the scurrying pedestrians and bicyclists flowed along to their destinations. These people were like the antibodies to the city, sparing each other a breath or two of fresh air. The majority of cells (citizens) strive anyway possible to keep San Francisco healthy, but unfortunately it is the combination of energies from both fuel filled smog and dream driven willpower that sustains the city. Leaving an entire day to just wander and soak up the atmosphere was a brilliant way for me to feel San Francisco and create this crazy idea that I have detailed.
With nine hours to kill, I wanted to know what occurred between the morning rush hour commute and evening news headlines that defines an average day in this city. I figured if the exploration became boring, I had reading, writing, or napping in the park to preoccupy my time.
That night I stayed with a local Couchsurfer originally from Pennsylvania. Phillip had lived in San Francisco for quite a while now and I felt he was simply one to just float wherever life may take him, but never in a rush. I admire this. His college years in Minnesota solidified the bond we created over our dislike for the Midwest. He hosted me the first of two nights I was dominated by metal.
Black Label Society crushed my eardrums Friday night, so I plugged them for Meshuggah the following evening. A bonus included decent supporting bands for both shows and hearing Zakk Wylde (BLS) play songs from all different albums, which I was not expecting. Meshuggah rocked the venue hard celebrating twenty five years of playing insane, crazy metal. To listen to them play songs that span their entire career (and my life) live was something I hoped to hear.
Luckily, thanks to my mother (once again) I was able to do more than just wander the city and rock out. Before she went home, we saw many of San Francisco’s top tourist attractions. We had tickets for a hop on/ hop off bus tour that ran throughout the city, allowing us to explore Golden Gate Park and walk across Golden Gate Bridge. The bus also provided a nice tour of the city, providing multiple stops and eventually passing near our hotel in Chinatown. Tickets to Alcatraz Island were included with the bus deal as well. The historic prison was a must-see for me while traversing California and it surpassed my expectations.
The actual prison had an audio tour to guide visitors throughout the building, but the island is mostly free to roam. Alcatraz originally served as a military fort before it became a prison and then later on was the base for Native American protesters. Even when it was a prison, a community grew on Alcatraz from the families of the prison employees. The kids would take a boat round trip each day to the city for school.
The tour is impressive and does a great job explaining exactly what occurred within the prison, debunking random myths and elaborating many stories. Former inmates and officers provide extra detail to the penitentiary’s history at different points throughout the tour. A former inmate was actually at the bookstore autographing copies of his book describing his time on The Rock.
The history and existence of Alcatraz Island is almost unbelievable. Prison is awful enough, but then being on display in the middle of the open Bay would be even more humiliating. Walking through this dungeon and standing in the cells of this once maximum security prison emphasizes how cruel this world can be between the monsters in it and the houses we have to build to contain them. I felt the unwelcoming, frigid air pierce my skin as I stood in the rec. yard, surrounded by cement walls with only jagged rocks and freezing, “shark invested” waters beyond. I daydreamed a minute. Even if I got past the cement walls, barbwire, tall fences, and guard towers; the one and a half mile (two and a half km) swim would do me in. Besides being a sloppy swimmer, the hard currents would possibly double my swim and then hypothermia would set in. On that tragic note, Alcatraz Island is a great place to visit if you are ever in the Bay area.
For not being a city guy, San Francisco is probably one of my favorite. I was here many days, but only needed one solid day of observance to know how I truly feel. It is easy to get around, people are friendly, and it has a lot of energy. I can walk anywhere and guarantee having a bike would be perfect. I love how the city comes right up to the Bay with pier after pier running along the coastline. I love the collective energy that fuels Fisherman’s Wharf, from the flocks of seagulls fighting over bread scraps left by tourists to the screaming vendors slanging clam chowder bread bowls, which is a must-eat in San Fran. Overall, I love San Francisco.