San Francisco: Alcatraz

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Prison.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s a really funny concept?

I mean, who said, “ok, we are going to take all these people who made stupid choices and did bad things, and put them next to each other in little rooms with bars on the front. And they can all hang out at meal time, and we’ll make them work out together everyday, because, you know, physical fitness is important. So yeah, their punishment for what they did is that they have to stay here for a certain amount of time.”

Alcatraz takes this idea to a whole new level: ” Let’s take the most dangerous master minds this side of the Atlantic, and have them sit down to lunch. Because that won’t end badly.”

I imagine I would actually quite enjoy sitting at one of those tables at lunch. Those people would have some exciting and unique stories to tell.

And if you were feeling really anti-social and just didn’t want to deal with anyone, there is always solitary confinement. These days they’re even nice enough to pad the walls for you.

Free housing and food, interesting crowd, plenty of time to work on your memoirs.

Not that I’ve thought about this much. I would never do anything worthy of getting sent to prison.

Obviously.

Anyway, Alcatraz.

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We took a boat out to the secluded island off the shore, iconic bridges on either side.

The place is old, but probably more pleasant now than it was back in the day. With all the pretty flowers and the ocean it doesn’t seem so bad.

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Until you get inside, and learn what it was actually like for the prisoners. The coveted cell was the one in the corner, where light from the small excuse for a window would shine through, and you could hear sounds from the city across the bay.

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They offer an audio tour now, that guides you around the facilities and tells you stories from the guards and the inmates.

Alcatraz was the place you get sent to when you get kicked out of normal prisons. The guys locked up there were the baddest of the bad.

Al Capone, “Birdman”, George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

We’ve all seen the movies. Cruel guards, crazy escape attempts that nobody can confirm or deny as successful. Of course, what do you expect from con-artists?

Having guns pointed at you all the time. The strict schedule. Showering with zero privacy. Maybe they deserved to be there, but you can’t blame them for trying to get out.

Pock marks left by grenades dropped from the ceiling.
Pock marks left by grenades dropped from the ceiling.

What I found most interesting was that The Rock was more than just a prison. Families lived on the island. Those of the officers and guards. It was like its own little town.

And it wasn’t all bad for the inmates. They had a library, they could work on their degree, or develop a hobby.

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The dining area was considered the most dangerous room in the whole place. What with dozens of convicted murderers, armed with forks and knives. Apparently they got a bit tired of the menu sometimes.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I commiserate with the prisoners there. But I like to think that everyone has a story. Every villain is the hero from their own point of view.

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