San Francisco’s essentials

“As a general rule, you will work eight hours a day, five days a week, with Saturdays, Sundays and holidays devoted to recreation.”
– Alcatraz regulation #20

To celebrate being free of the car I headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf and ended up in a bar called Jack’s at The Cannery. 68 beers on draft awaited me and it was Happy Hour. It turns out that most of the people in there were British. There were people from the Lake District, Manchester and Leeds. With the exchange rates as they are I think that this is going to be a common occurrence this Summer as tourists shun Europe.

I soon got talking to a family from Michigan. The son was interested in traveling after he’d finished his studies but was apprehensive at the same time. I told him that he should just go for it, it would be one of the best things that he could ever do and that I felt exactly the same way until days before I left.

After they left the bar my next conversation was with a big, bald, bearded biker from Alabama who was a really nice guy. We went on to drink a lot and I don’t have a clue what time I left. I’m fairly sure that I was way under the strictly enforced 40 drink limit though but I felt like I’d smashed clean through it this morning.

Once I was feeling vaguely human again I set off down Market Street to the wonderful shops in the Ferry building and then on to book myself on a boat for a tour of Alcatraz. It turns out that I’d picked a special day for a visit. Darwin Coon was incarcerated here and today was back for a signing of his book. It smacked a little of profiteering to me – akin to the recent glut of autobiographical books from reformed football hooligans of the 1980s. It really is quite an eerie place but outside the cells – thanks to the lack of predators – it has returned to be home to the birds that gave the island it’s modern-day name (derived from La Isla de los Alcatraces). I also learned the somewhat startling fact that 1% of the US population is in prison and of those, 40% are functionally illiterate.

Once back on the mainland I continued walking along the shoreline until I stumbled across the Sea Lions on K dock of Pier 39. There are hundreds of them, they’re noisy and they stink but they’ve been drawing a big crowd since 1990. I would say that they’re the best thing about Pier 39 which is mainly devoted to selling trinkets to tourists.

The day was pushing on so I queued for a ride over San Francisco’s hilly streets on one of the famous cable cars. I wasn’t expecting to have to wait in line for quite so long though. A good 30 minutes is apparently the norm for the Powell and Hyde route but it’s a damn sight easier than walking!

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