Tuesday, August 14, 2007

our excellent adventure part VIII

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Maybe not such a nice place to visit when you consider what it was built for. Alcatraz is both fascinating and frightening. And cold.

At 11:30 this morning we boarded the ferry that runs out into the bay and takes its passengers to the "Rock", as it is affectionately called around here. At the loading dock we were enjoying a nice warm sunshiney morning, wondering if we had needlessly overdressed in our sweatshirts. But once out on the water, the sun was dampened by a layer of high fog, and heavy breezes that dropped the wind chill into the forties made us wish we had worn our snowsuits. But we toughed it out on the upper deck just so I could get a few good pictures of both Alcatraz in front of us and the San Francisco skyline behind us.

Once on the island we were instantly engaged by the story and legends that hang in the air, giving ethereal life to the many souls that once inhabited this awful place. It's hard to feel sorry for the despicable criminals who were locked up in those dingy cells, but seeing those bars and touching those walls gave credence to the term "hard time." The cold that permeates the place is not just from the cold winds that blow across the bay, but also from the cold-blooded crimes that those cold-blooded criminals committed to get them locked up inside the frigid confines of this prison. If you listened closely you could almost hear the plaintive cries of the men who suffered through their time here. Prisons are supposed to be punishing, and this one was most certainly that.

The audio tour provided by the National Park Service was essential to understanding just how Alcatraz functioned. It provided the stories of some of the inmates and guards in their own words. Hearing those voices only made the atmosphere tht much more eerie and alive. I was fascinated by the hardships they endured while trying to put myself lin their place inside a 5'x9' cell of concrete walls and floor and ceiling. If ever there was a deterrent to crime, this place is it. I feel the need to return that pack of bubblegum baseball cards I swiped from the five and dime on the corner of twelth and Geele Ave. back in the fourth grade. I promise to be good. Please don't lock me up in this place.

As stated before, Alcatraz is a "nice" place to visit, but living there is out of the question. I'm glad I got the chance to experience it, if only from a tourist's detached perspective. It brought to life the realization that there are bad people out there who need bad places to keep them. Trust me, you don't wnat to be bad.

1 comment:

Kat said...

There is something that just clings to Alcatraz. I remember looking out at the island and shivering when I was a girl.