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Rocking The Rock in San Francisco

These past few days I’ve been running around San Francisco as Mere Mere and Brooklyn Mike flew in for an audio convention. Previously, I’d only made quick jaunts through SFO with thunderheads looming overhead. But this time, the weather was all gorgeous sunshine. I met the duo at the pier (don’t park in the well-publicized Pier 39 parking garage, it’s a tourist-bilking scam) and we hopped on a ferry to Alcatraz Island, which is operated by the National Park Service.

Alcatraz Island

Entrance to the park is free but you have to pay approximately $18.75 (more or less, given the time of day) for the ferry service operated by Alcatraz Cruises. Advance reservations are recommended due to the volume of visitors interested in The Rock. Also recommended is booking a Cellhouse Audio Tour which offers an informative and entertaining window into the souls of Alcatraz’s notorious prisoners: Al Capone, The Birdman, the standards. I found Alcatraz to be a surprisingly humane institution, even though a couple guys where kept in solitary for 13 years. And it’s hard to see what made The Rock such a secure fortress. I think one could easily bust out and swim a mile to shore. The sharks in San Francisco Bay aren’t even man-eaters.

After Alcatraz, we walked past a few rock-n-roll Navy recruitment posts interspersed with homeless veterans, got inspired by a pigeon eating a soft pretzel and bought some snacks. We hopped on a boat tour around the Bay.

Golden Gate Bridge

The views of The Golden Gate Bridge and wild windsurfers were excellent but the boat’s audio guide was all laughably bad and offensive to the audio geeks. We hopped off the boat and onto a trolley which was 90% not that cool since the line was so long and disorganized. But the roller-coaster climbing of the SF streets was pretty fun since we had standing seats. And oh yeah, our trolley was covered with Rice-a-Roni adverts. Personally, I care neither for Rice-a-Roni, orzo and any other sort of pasta masquerading as rice and vice versa. The Rice-a-Roni trolley took us to the top of Lombard Street, “The Crookedest Street in the World.”

Lombard Street

Interesting fact: The Steepest Street in the World is not located in San Francisco, or even in the Northern Hemisphere. That recognition goes to Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand. So Mere Mere, Brooklyn Mike and I walked down Lombard Street with a bunch of other tourists and ended up making a big loop around The Fisherman’s Wharf trying to find a restaurant that did not serve seafood. Mere Mere made me buy a bag of saltwater taffy at some tourist shop. Finally, we finally settled for something resembling an Islands Burger Joint on the pier. Quite frankly, not really a great place but we were having some map-reading problems. So that was that.

I was supposed to leave early early the next morning but most of us wanted to see the Muir Woods, accessible by a picturesque drive over The Golden Gate Bridge. Entrance to the woods, $3, return toll on Golden Gate $5. The giant sequoias were very beautiful and Mere Mere said it smelled like Christmas.

Muir Woods

I suggested that the park rangers atomize the forest at dawn with a giant vial of candy cane smells. Then I discovered that I have an uncanny ability to map out the creative direction of hard core metal bands. I shared some of my best ideas with Brooklyn Mike’s ensemble which include their release of a Death Metal Holiday Songs album and a music video featuring a bunch of Haight Ashbury hippies. He might have just been humoring me when he said he digs it.

Then Mere Mere shared some forgotten memories of my childhood, like when she’d drop by our house and my sibs and I would be calmly watching TV until a spontaneous four-person knock-down drag-out fight would erupt. Hee hee, good times. Or when Buddy rescued her cat Snowball, pitifully stuck in a tree. Man, those were the days!

But it’s late and I must return south. I dropped Mere Mere and Brooklyn Mike off on a San Francisco street corner and say goodbye. I shirked Interstate 5 and took the Pacific Coast Highway past Monterrey and Carmel and Big Sur all the way down the coast. I wasn’t quite aware that this would add an additional 3 hours at least to my trip but hey… I got some great photographs.

PCH

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