Wednesday, May 30, 2012

California Dreamin': Day 4 & 5. -- The Rock and a hard base.

"You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege."
- Number 5, Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations, 1934.
Where: AT&T Park, Alcatraz (day 3); Golden Gate Park, Lands End, Haight-Ashbury (day 4).
How: More walking with camera equipment.
Tired yet?: Yes.
So tired that you'd go back to your hostel, sleep 12 hours and still feeling like you've just fought a bear?: Yes.
Utterly random thoughts of the day: Living in San Francisco is a rich man's luxury.

I've always found the American love for baseball a bit fascinating. For one thing, it's a game that most Canadians probably don't give a toss about (except if you're from Toronto and suffering from Leafs Denial Syndrome (what's this thing you call hockey? never heard of it.) -- then the only sports team you can really cheer for is the Jays).

Take me out to the ball game.
I haven't sat through one single game in my life, primarily because it's a bloody slow game. You have a guy in the middle throwing a ball at the guy with the bat. If he swings it and the ball goes really far then everyone cheers. If he misses then everyone cheers as well (depends on which team you're rooting for, obviously). But then if he hits the ball really far but then the other team caught it before it touched the ground, he's out too. But then if the ball goes far enough that the fans will fight over each other, spilling beer in the process, to grab that baseball, then he does a loop in the park and then walks back to the dugout.

Yep, sounds great.

I am more of an ice hockey guy. More action. Much faster. Much more brutal in some ways. More interesting story lines too. However, since the San Jose Sharks are eliminated in the first round (along with the team I cheer for...), the only major sports team playing in town is the San Francisco Giants, the MLB franchise that won the World Series in 2010. People around here are nuts about the Giants.

So I decided to give it a shot.

The first two innings were filled with action -- The Giants hit a home run and jumped to a 3-0 lead. Then they got one more run in the second inning. After that, the whole game was just kind of... slow. I guess in hockey terms it was like watching the Tampa Bay Lightning playing the 1-3-1 (a.k.a. trap) system. For the rest of the 7 innings (9 innings in total) the Giants sat on 4 runs, while the other team could only muster 2 runs.

2 hours and 40 minutes later, the Giants won the game 4-2, in a game that was, well, pretty boring.

That said, I do see the appeal in baseball though. The atmosphere at the ballpark was just ecstatic. It was also memorial day on May 28, so they gave tribute to the men and women that served the country with national anthems, two jet fighters hammering across the ballpark, and more patriotic anthems. The game did have its exciting moments too, albeit a little spaced out and... well, slower paced. I guess major league baseball does have its charms.

After the baseball game, I spent the rest of Memorial Day on Alcatraz Island for the 6:45 night tour (not that I could get anywhere anyway -- everything was closed on Memorial Day). Alcatraz was well known as America's most mysterious penitentiary, housing guys like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun"Kelly. Alcatraz was also the subject of numerous Hollywood movies, most notably Sean Connery and "The Rock". The tour was $35 for the ferry ride, and it is well worth every penny.

Simply said, the Alcatraz night tour was phenomenal.

Small wonders, one of America's once most secure prison was only a 15-minute ferry ride away from the city. Inside the prison was numerous cells that were smaller than my own bathroom -- imagine being stuck here for 10 years. The prison itself was well kept and preserved -- even the mechanical doors for the jail cells were working to this day. Our guide -- Al (who was wonderful by the way) --  offered to open a selection of doors for us, and man, was it loud. The mechanical doors do make a deafening sound as they unlock and open -- as if it serves to intimidate even the toughest criminals.
Welcome to the Rock.

As we were the last tour of the day, we had most of the island to ourselves -- at night, the island and the jail cells themselves were quite eerily quiet. Outside, the SF Bay Area was still booming with life. If it gets quiet enough in the prison, you can almost hear the sound of people playing on the beaches. The island also featured a jaw-droppingly beautiful panorama of San Francisco.

As a park ranger pointed out, Alcatraz was more of a torture of the mind, not the body.

The tour itself was around 3 hours long. Alas, even that I thought wasn't enough for me to satisfy my photo-fetish. Some amazing shots were made on the island though, and I couldn't be happier. Today, Alcatraz is a national park within the SF Bay Area, and in my eyes a treasure in the American history books.

By the time I made it back to the hostel at the end of the day, I was so drained that I spent most of day 5 (May 29) sleeping and chilling at the beaches -- after all, lugging 3 lenses and a tripod around the city for the whole day was no easy job. I did manage to meet up with my cousin Jessie though, so that was great catching up -- and the Burmese food we had was delicious. Other than that though, nothing much to report.

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