Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Freedom Road: A Bridge, Prison & No Baggage





Day Two – San Francisco

We woke up fairly early and had a delicious and nutritious breakfast of Doritos. We could hear banging and what sounded like a power washer coming through the open window. Mere seconds later, an English accent was heard shouting: ‘Come on mate! It’s Sunday!’ You travel thousands of miles and you still can’t get away from people.

Overnight, I had started a bathroom trend. The night before, I left our barrel o’shampoo and horrific, greasy Dove shower gel in the communal shower room. I was a bit annoyed with myself because I was fairly sure someone would have stolen them. But, lo! I went into the bathroom just to see if they were still there and they were! And they had made friends with other people’s shampoos and shower gels. It warmed my blackened little heart.

Today we were meeting up with D & J – Jo went to school in Ohio with D. We found them after having a close encounter with a man shouting that if we didn’t love Jesus we would go to Hell. After queue jumping a nun in the Vatican City, I’m fairly sure I’m already heading there.

We went for lunch and Jo had one of the most disturbing sandwiches I have ever seen. It was roast beef but the man dipped the bread into all the juices and fatty bits from the meat drip tray. The bread soaked up all this brown liquid and I have been waking up in a cold sweat thinking about this ever since.

We then got the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. En route, we saw a row of houses called ‘The Painted Ladies’ which were original Victorian houses. One of them was used in the television series ‘Full House’. The Olsen twins’ first crack den – how sweet.

The bridge was pretty impressive and has a massive highway running across it. Walking out onto the bridge was interesting. We only walked a bit of it as D didn’t like heights (and I don’t like walking) and parts of it were a bit shaky because of the traffic speeding by. You could see Alcatraz from the bridge and it looked pretty imposing even from a fair few miles away.



Me & Jo gurning at the bridge. Myspacin'. Why is every photo on Myspace in this pose?!


It was windy as fuck on the bridge – my hair was so knotty that by the end of the day I virtually had dreadlocks. The weather in San Francisco was fairly erratic and we only had our limited wardrobe of one pair of jeans, two t-shirts and a hoody. One minute it was really sunny, the next extremely foggy and at night it was freezing.



The Windy City. Oh. Wait.


On the way back to the hotel, we walked past an incident at a Crate & Barrel store. A guy was being dragged by a group of men into an SUV in the middle of the road, screaming that he “didn’t do nothin’”. He clearly did not know the men and members of the public were telling the group of guys that what they were trying to do ‘isn’t a good idea’. I had no clue what was happening but people were filming on their phones and generally gawking at the scene. Note to self: check Youtube.

We got on the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf to get the ferry to Alcatraz. On the way we passed a hotel called the ‘Westminster Hotel’ which was an English theme hotel. Who knew?! All the porters and receptionists etc. were dressed as Beefeaters. It was pretty funny. And could probably only exist in America.

We decided to go for the night tour of Alcatraz. We sat on the top deck of the boat and were thankful for our hoodies. We had a little bit of an introductory talk about the prison – why it was built, what type of prisoner was sent there and other general stuff. The tour guide was a complete nerd (a kindred spirit then!) and was extremely enthusiastic about Alcatraz – he clearly loved his job. Even if he did look like one of the people from the Local Shop in ‘The League Of Gentlemen’.


The Rock.



We then got these audio headsets to listen to the tour. The narrator was an ex con who had spent time in Alcatraz for armed robbery. The tour was actually pretty good – very informative and lasted quite a long time. We went into the solitary confinement cells and shut the door - the cell was the size of a cupboard and pitch black. Some crims were kept in there for 22 months. 22 seconds was enough for me, thank you very much!



The Hole


We also heard of the people who escaped after digging out the back of their cell wall with spoons and then climbing through the ventilation system. They then put fake papier mache heads in their beds and used brush bristles for hair. The guards were completely taken in by this and didn’t notice the prisoners were actually missing for hours. Some raincoats, which had been used as flotation devices, were washed up after the escape but no bodies have ever been recovered and the prisoners were never recaptured. I like to think they escaped. Even if they were armed robbers.

When we got on the ferry to go back to San Francisco, it was freezing cold. We had not eaten because we had not had time, so we wanted to get Subway. En route to Subway, Jo nearly stood right on a homeless guy’s head. Actually on his face. How very Patrick Bateman of her.

Subway was closed so I had to do something I had not done for 7 years. I had to go into a McDonalds. My only menu option was a Filet-O-Fish. I felt like I was a total failure at life, throwing all my morals away. (My theoretical morals anyway – we all know I don’t have any *actual* morals.) The guy behind the counter tried to engage us in a borderline pervy conversation about what we were doing later. Luckily, he had a fairly impenetrable accent so we could just pretend we didn’t understand him.

We had to get a cab back to the hotel and I swear to God that the cabbie had Tubular Bells on the stereo. The sounds of my childhood. Exorcist much? The slightly demonic cab ride was forgotten, however, when we returned to find our luggage had arrived! I actually hugged my suitcase. My entire wardrobe was in that case, it was worth at least 25 quid. We could change our clothes! Joy!

San Francisco had a lot of very little rat dogs. We valet parked a car for the first time. We saw a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt. I ate McDonalds for the first time in many years. There were surprisingly few gay people (not that we would be able to tell if 99.9% of people were gay or not). We sent Chan the first of many postcards. Jo cried to get a free phone call in a Mariott hotel and then proceeded to loudly name the hotel we were *actually* staying at.

The next day we had our first big drive. If I could use the map to get us out of San Fran …


Bye Bye San Francisco!


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