Through the Golden Gate…

Travel Info 13/10/2012:  Eureka, CA – Fort Bragg, CA

Travel Info 14/10/2012:  Fort Bragg, CA – Inverness, CA

Travel Info 15/10/2012:  Inverness, CA – San Francisco, CA

Travel Info 16/10/2012:  San Francisco, CA – Alcatraz Island – The Castro (District) – Haight Ashbury District

Hallo. And Thankyou for all your comments. It wasn’t expected. And it was appreciated. It felt double-plus good particularly as it preceded our arrival in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. The thumbnail. Both feeling a little less run down. A changed perspective. Out of the fields and back into the meadows etc.

Ahhh, so that what real fog looks like……

Okey cokey. Let’s crack on there’s a lot to catch up on. It won’t all be done tonight. Let’s ease into it – as the Obergruppenführer said to the bellboy – and see what comes out. He also said that last bit too.

Currently at the Park Hotel in San Francisco.  It is the kind of hotel room that a 50’s gumshoe would have crawled into, bleeding to death. To die. Pookaverse thinks its the solid blue colour on the ceiling closely followed by the solid blue colour on the wall. Look at the Tripadvisor rating.

…just rolling in…as you watch it…in the space of several minutes…Pookaverse drove across  ten minutes later..Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

To be fair it is very clean, feels safe even though we are smack in the middle of downtown, the formidable Market Street and next to Union Square. Quick Update at 22:46 PDT: Alison has just killed the first cockroach of the trip. Next!!! (Anything over 4 inches gets a photo. Ooooh-Errrr)

The latter used to be – up until a decade ago – a Mecca for the homeless (of which there are many here), the addled and the confused. Or typically both. Now Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue stand sentinel over a confused and poorly-lit. Half-baked concrete layer-cake. With homeless people, the addled and the confused.

On the subject of the homeless, when we were in The Castro this afternoon a fairly young homeless guy in soiled sweatpants  propositioning an oxygen molecule next to a newspaper stand on the street corner of 18th shouted “I am gonna show you time travel – right here” just at the point that Pookaverse passed him.

We never did see the result. However, Pookaverse can confirm that he was still there when we passed him an hour later after returning from the Buena Vista Park. But the coincidence of that statement being made at exactly that point in space and time raised a paradox.  More on The Castro later. It is just too good not to mention again.

If you are ever this way, you should go to Alcatraz Island. Officially. With tickets. Not because it is Alcatraz Island. And not just because it’s what you are supposed to do in San Francisco. Put simply. It is one of the best tours that the hoom members of Pookaverse have encountered in the US so far and for that matter on all previous travels. Why you ask?

The lowly fog-horn, continuously sounds on land.  To warn passing ships when the fog holds the Frisco’ bay in its thrall. The ships make quite a din too.

Well, it comes in three parts. First it incorporates a 12-minute trip (and return) to the island across San Francisco Bay where you can take in the views of the modest city skyline (including the masonic profile of the Trans-America Pyramid – it’s capstone lit at night) and the Golden Gate bridge being wound by one of its customary fog swirls. Itself a spectacular sight.

Secondly, it is Alcatraz Island. The place. It’s not as big as you think it should be but everything is where you think it would be. Does that sound nuts?

Finally, as part of the trip you are given you own personal device with headphones which you use (in these primitive times of external digital playback) to ingest a superb audio tour of the cell-blocks given by both inmates and guards. There were children on Alcatraz. Real people who were there.

The tour takes you through the cell blocks including Solitary in ‘D’ Block where Robert Stroud (Rohan’s favourite Alcatraz inmate and murderer) was incarcerated away from the general population on ‘Michigan Avenue’ and ‘Broadway’. He never did keep birds at Alcatraz. On the audio tape a guard’s voice: “I played checkers with Robert Stroud”. “He spoke three languages”, intones another voice. “Man was a genius” states another guard. And then an inmates voice familiar from the introduction where you look at the voices behind the faces. “He was a psychopath”.

It wasn’t so much a tour as an experience. You can enter certain cells – including ‘the hole’ – walk in the exercise yard, view the gun gallery where the guards overlooked their charges and also where the ‘Battle of Alcatraz‘ began in 1946 and see a display of cells previously occupied by Frank Morris before he and his accomplices tunneled their way out to an uncertain fate.

A view of the exercise yard and the ‘Bleachers’, Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

He doesn’t look much like Clint Eastwood does he? However, Patrick McGoohan didn’t look much like the warden at that time James A. Johnston. Though the ruthless regime that he depicted in the film bore more resemblance to Edwin B. Swope – the warden that followed. At least according to the inmate on the audio tour. Living, Breathing history. Right in your ears. Wonderful.

The second piece of wonderful today was The Castro. It is a District at the end of Market Street where through the early 1970’s and beyond saw the rise of gay activism. And at it’s head – Harvey Milk – the first openly gay official to be elected to public office in California.

Just out of reach…even from the top of the Bleachers…the rest of the world.

Pookaverse knew that there was a film about Milk with Sean Penn (who does seem to bear a passing resemblance to the person he is portraying) but had little to no information on the real-life Harvey Milk.  Or The Castro. The predominantly gay population of which elected him into office and led a candlelight vigil to City Hall following his murder.

As Pookaverse exited the street tram at the Market Street terminus under the rainbow-coloured flags flipping above the Harvey Milk Plaza, you begin to understand that this man virtually unknown to ‘straight’ culture was a big deal for this area, San Francisco, California and the Western World for that matter.  an important, brave and worthy human being. More investigation required.

It still appears to be a hotbed for activism, individuality and freedom. As Alison would testify. after witnessing a completely naked (nudist) man sipping iced tea in his sandals outside the Twin Peaks Tavern – one of Harvey Milk’s drinking holes.

Then next door to Orphan Andy’s for meatloaf sandwich and for the delightfully camp and hysterical banter between Andy (Pookaverse assumes) and his young protege as they diva’d up against each other and the various clientele that traipsed in – be it tourists  or locals.  It was a delightful place to just ‘be’ for an hour and listen to some quality, and quite loud, remarks.

“Little Joe was blowin on the slide trombone. The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang, The whole rhythm section was the purple gang.” Question: ‘Jailhouse Rock’ as sung by Elvis Presley is a thinly-veiled anthem of homo-erotic practices amongst long-term inmates within the US prison system. Discuss (10 marks)

For example:  “Andy, I just dropped a pencil and hurt myself” was a classic, “Young men – always in too much of a hurry” to a young well-groomed tourist while his girlfriend stood by as well as the outright sarcasm dispensed to one group of (we assume) local customers: “Oh do, pulll-eeeaaaseee come again”. It was bloody brilliant. Rohan really liked being called “Honey” at the end of each sentence. Scant attention was offered to Alison. On the tram back up Market Street we passed the “Squat and Gobble” restaurant. It’s breakfast there tomorrow.

Tomorrow we take this tour at 9.55. Not even a mention of the third kind of wonderful – the ‘hanging outside’ cable car rides over these precipitous hills. We’ll let you know what happens…Honey


4 Responses to “Through the Golden Gate…”

  1. Rach Says:

    Heehee that’s hilarious guys!!! A whore-off while you’re having a butty! Did Mr Slave or Paris Hilton turn up to join in??
    You gooooooooo girlfriend!

    Reeeeeaaaalllllyyy not sure about the Squat and Gobble!!! Probably not a good place for you bro, as being called “Honey” a lot may have made you confused 🙂
    I wish you had let that man show you time travel “Right here and Right Now” (bit of a Paracox really)
    I would have encouraged him and video’d it (and probably have got stabbed)
    Glad you’re both rested now and can continue enjoying your trip
    All my love

    • pookaverse Says:

      It was hilarious and you would have loved listening to them. Couldn’t quite assemble the courage to go back in there a second time…so fenced with the bull-dykes instead. Apologies for using that term ‘bull-dike’. Only because I spelt it incorrectly the first time round. 😉 xxxx

  2. jose Says:

    Loved the photos and the history of alcatraz can’t believe the bird
    story didn’t happen, how do you know the time traveller hadn’t been and come back in that hour?

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