Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Failure of the Day: More Tourist Attractions About Death, Please

Sunday was Chris’s birthday. He put on a good show of pretending to be surprised that I got us tickets to Alcatraz, but it was hardly a shocker—he’s been begging to go there since we lived in Seattle. It’s kind of amazing that neither of us had ever been there before; you’d think some teacher at some point would have shlepped our tot asses on the boat for a field trip. It would have been a lot more fun than damn Mission San Juan Batista in 4th grade, which I knew inside out after having constructed my own version of it out of sugar cubes. But I digress.

Alcatraz was a pretty cool trip, I have to say. Happily, we like boats more than we dislike tourists so although it was crowded, we got to see scores of seagulls suspended completely still in mid-air, just riding the air current over the bay.

The prison itself was kind of smelly. We shuffled through the cell blocks following the instructions of our audio tour. When we got to the part of the tour where we could go into one of the cells, I marched right in the tiny room, spun around to face Chris, and squealed “I LOVE it in here!” And I did; it was very cozy! I felt super comfortable and right at home. As an inmate, you got the cell to yourself! And you could read books! Your got your own little bed and toilet and sink, and all in a tight little box. That’s more amenities than I had during my entire 20s.

So right from the get-go, my sense of the tone of the place was a little skewed. And that’s on top of how strange the tone is on its own, even without my claustrophilia. On the one hand, they try to make it grim and dire, and they keep making you stand in the exact spot where some poor guy got killed by the guards for trying to escape. But on the other hand, they know it’s a bunch of Ghirardelli sugar-hyped vacationers who just want to see the sights and get back to the City and queue up for the cable car (and what a scam that is—the best we have to offer tourists is…Muni? For three dollars? …but again I digress). So it’s a quick tour with goofy mannequin heads, and at the end you can buy genuine replicas of the spoons some inmates used to carve through the walls.

All in all, it was great; totally another thing I make fun of Chris for wanting to do but that turns out to be completely cool. And really, all I want to do is go back to the cell and curl up in the little bed.


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