Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Touring Alcatraz

Monday morning in San Francisco, Aimée and I caught the street car to Fisherman's Wharf for our sailing to Alcatraz Island, one of the popular attractions in the city. Before this journey, I had not realized that Alcatraz is THAT close to the city - indeed it is a 12 minute boat ride. The island has served a variety of uses over the years including military prison and an American Indian occupation (1964 and 1969 to 1971).

One statement about Alcatraz I saw that day was, "If you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz." Indeed as a penitentiary, it housed some fierce dudes. It was a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

The island was named by a Spanish explorer who saw the pelicans and called it, "Isla de los Alcatraces."

Our tour began at the dock with an introduction and stories by the Ranger. Apparently the first prisoner on Alcatraz was a Canadian from Montreal. Oh, our rowdy ancestors. From the landing area, we saw a guard tower - there used to be 6 on the island.

From there, up we went to see the features of the island - such as the cellhouse, warden's house, morgue, barracks, and various other buildings. One of the focal points is an audio tour of the cellhouse; at the beginning, each person gets a headset and MP3 player and listens to the stories and instructions. At any point, a person can pause the tour. We got to see the cells:

And Cell Block D (solitary confinement)...

This is definitely not her kind of place.

The prisoners spent their time:
- in a regimented way - for example, 20 minutes for meals, and did the same thing every day at the same time (not a good place for a Perceiving personality type).
- knitting, painting, writing.
- reading books!

To see a larger image, click in the centre of the picture.

The civilian population of "The Rock" was about 200 people, which included staff and their families. There were enough apartments and cottages for 60 families and 10 bachelors. At times there were up to 75 children living on the island; each morning a boat would come and take the children to school in San Francisco, and then they returned home every night. Apparently, the families never locked their doors... egads!

Here is a view of the entire island, from a Golden Gate viewpoint...

not a lot of space for 75 children... The tallest, long building is the cellhouse.

Three hours we wandered around Alcatraz, hearing stories of escape attempts, the famous prisoners, and infamous wardens. It was quite engaging, well put together, and worth the trip. There's lots of humour about the joint...

In the city, we saw t-shirts with this message: The Hotel Alcatraz - Guaranteed Room With a View - 24 Hour Security - Lifetime Accommodation - Catering to Select Clientele - Bars in Every Room - All Drinks Are on the Rocks.

After our tour, we headed back to San Francisco; this was our view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

This bridge is a two-tiered (traffic going towards San Francisco are on the up part of the bridge - traffic going to Oakland travel on the deck directly below), toll bridge that is 4.5 miles long. Technically it is two bridges. This was our route to go to the airport in Oakland. Apparently 270,000 vehicles cross this bridge every day!

When we landed, Julie met us - with a plan - adventure 2 of this day to follow....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Do You Know the Way to San José?

A week ago, I was sitting in the HP Pavilion listening and rocking to Tina Turner. John and Martha sat on my right - they had seen Tina in concert 8 times over the years, and had tickets for the following night as well. "If she can do a whole tour," John said, "then we can come two nights."

There was much to see at this concert - on stage and off. The audience was such an array of people - the couple in row ahead of us had just come back from a quiet journey to China - they were in shock in the midst of all this rock and roll; there were groups of gal-pals; one woman left her child and family at home and had come alone (she had apparently found the bar as well); there were many men (Tina had them sing - what's love got to do with it); there were dressed up people with expensive adornments; and mostly there was a whole lot of enthusiastic people.

The show was a massive coordination, with fireworks, shooting flames, acrobatics and platforms that rose up and out into the audience. For the second last song, Nutbush City Limits, Tina was in a "cherry picker" machine that extended out 20 rows into the audience. At some point, she walked the length of the two-foot wide "arm" of the machine and then danced her way back to the end with a basket.

Here is a YouTube view of her on the platform from a previous tour:

Nutbush City Limits

And what a lot of work! We bought the program for the event, and the credits include 18 truck drivers!

Speaking of all the background support, there were a lot of helpers in getting us to Tina. Josh and Al got us to and from the airports safely (thank you!), Ryan met us in Oakland and showed us around San Francisco (thank you!)

The day of the show, Ryan and Julie got us to San José, and now I can assuredly say that I do know the way. San José is one hour from San Francisco, and so once they dropped us off at the Pavilion, they entertained themselves in San José with dining and shopping and text messaging us. At some point, Ryan called and Aimée held up the phone and he heard some of Proud Mary.

And he took pictures for us...

Speaking of pictures, as you can see on the ticket, it explicitly says not to bring in cameras, so we left ours with Ryan. And then when we got seated, we could see that many, many people had cameras. (And Aimée had a picture-taking phone.) The ticket taker said, "oh, yes, small cameras are OK." Note to others: bring your camera.

It was quite the show that you would want to take pictures - Tina is one picture-taking kind of act. On some website, I read a headline, "What's age got to do with it?" Indeed, as you can see, Tina is looking pretty fit... (this picture is from this year's tour)

With dazzling clothing as well, and shoes! She came out with shoes by Christian Louboutin; the signature of his shoes is that they have a red sole. According to a show on Oprah, these are the most comfortable high heels a gal can have. The cost? Let's just say, they are bourgee.

I asked Aimée what was the most surprising part of the show - she said, "That it was so theatrical." For me, I was most surprised (and delighted) to find out that there was no introductory bands/singers - we got 100% Tina. And we got a view of the crowd that was spectacular. 14,000 people (this would be a good deal more than the population of Nelson). Tina is famous for having sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in music's history. And this all started when she was hired as a back up singer. Clearly that role was too small for her.

We saw her on Day 19 of her tour - she has several more weeks, and then after the new year is heading to Europe. Lots of time to get your tickets. It is definitely worth the trip!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Simply the Best

Tina Turner is AMAZING! Her newest tour is a full blend of her powerful voice, glittery costumes, and delightful theatrics, in the midst of her familiar songs. Memorable songs: Proud Mary (this brought the house to their feet), Simply the Best, We Don't Need Another Hero, What's Love Got to Do With It, Better Be Good to Me...

Actually, they were all memorable.

When the curtains opened, there was a roar from the crowd- I felt a rush of excitement. And then, she was there!

She danced, and she walked the stage; she was lifted in the air on platforms, all of this in several pairs of the most colourful high heels. I doubt that her legs have changed at all in the last 8 years since she did performances - they are compelling, and I am guessing, 100% muscle.

Inspiring - perhaps because of her age (69) or her voice or how she has weaved her way through our lives - a few decades of great dance music - her music has transcended age.

I will always treasure that Aimee and I did this together - what a grand shared memory!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day Two in San Francisco

Woke up this morning in Ryan's sunny apartment, and then went downtown via Muni - the train system. I have officially taken planes, trains and automobiles on my vacation. We got to see Ryan's new work digs...

Here is the greeting at the door entrance to his work...

Then we were off to the shops. We found our way to cosmetics at Bloomingdales.

And many other shops. I needed to find shoes for the big do tonight. And I was out of facial tissues (yep - the cold is still with me).

After sunset, we all took our cameras and went out into San Francisco at night. This view is from a place called Twin Peaks.

And the Golden Gate Bridge - the bridge that brings us from the north into San Francisco...

View with Ryan's camera...

And here we all are...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

8 Hours Later

after I landed in Oakland, I got to see Ryan's new apartment in San Francisco (which is very funky and comfy with the new couch and furnishings).

What happened in those 8 hours is the topic of this posting.

The mother-daughter team are off on their grand adventure!!

Here are our hosts...

who did their move to San Francisco between our big adventure plans and our arrival - gotta love that synchronicity.

I arrived in the mid-afternoon, pre-planned to avoid all the traffic. I had Immediately, I could see we were in a different land...

On our way to San Francisco...

We found our way to the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco where we found a delightful Thai place for lunch. Then we were off to the beach...

We came across this gal... (we know this because Julie has gone crabbing with her parents - when you crab, you have to know which are male and female because the female ones over a certain size have to go back into the sea). In the spirit of doing one thing a day that I have never done before, I followed Julie's lead.

And then it did this... (Click on the arrow at the bottom left corner of the screen.)

We saw many gifts from the sea:

Update on the cold: The plane had one stop and the up and down twice was a pain - literally. Luckily when I was in Spokane, Al had given me a blister pack of decongestants - I took another in Portland. There was a moment at the beach where I realized that maybe being in cold ocean water wasn't such a good idea...

If you happen to be one of those people who want to do it all, then walking in the California surf is a GREAT idea!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What I Brought Home

It is always interesting the things there are in the city, and that come home with me. We made a trip to Costco, which I rarely do, and I got BIG things because that is what Costco sells. We stopped in Creston and I got a bag of apples (anybody got any apple recipes because I was shopping as if I had children at home) - perhaps I shall have an apple dinner... appetizers, main course and dessert, made of apples. I also bought a gallon of apple juice - this is a large amount of apple juice.

The most unforgettable thing I brought home was - a cold. Unforgettable because most of my days since I got home on Monday, I have been consumed with sneezing, and blowing and finding quick-fix remedies. Because.... tomorrow I catch a plane, and I don't want a congestion headache on that baby.

Though I technically got this cold in Lethbridge, it really is a Nelson cold, by my figuring. Elizabeth's son also came to visit for the Thanksgiving weekend; the first morning he woke up, he was sniffling and looking dragged out; looks like he brought it with him from Nelson where we both live. So I went away to a new land, and came home with a local cold. Go figure.

Sometimes colds can have their own entertainment. This one has its own pecularities in that I am in a constant state of wanting to sneeze. So as I am talking to people, I am making faces and scrunching up my nose - sometimes I am twitching it, like the daughter in Bewitched. Well, if I had a wish, it would to be not having a twitching nose. I am off now to find a decongestant. In about 12 hours, I will be on a plane. I'll keep you posted.

Wide Open Spaces

For me, the essence of Thanksgiving this last weekend was encapsulated at the Farmer's Market in Lethbridge. How amazing was the stalls of fall harvest - tables full of squashes, corn, potatoes, carrots, onions - well, really, anything you would want! And then some! What an abundance! I had forgotten about that - the prairie harvest - and I was suddenly taken back to the days I went to the farmers in Manitoba and the delight in each discovery! And later, making vats of borscht (the recipe without cream).

Elizabeth invited us for the long weekend for our now annual euchre tournament. I am thankful, too, for having such a great host for a friend. (or is that a great friend for a host?) She prepared a most magnificent feast, for each day that we were there.

Heather, her daughter Madison, Julia and I travelled the 6-hour journey to Lethbridge. We were captivated by the big wide skies:

I had a great time - laughing with friends, playing cards (my memory is that each team I was on won), shopping at Costco (having a conversation with Murray who was selling Shiatsu massage gizmos), tasting foods (the chocolate marble cheesecake was the best), watching the sunset (that is a big deal for a mountain girl), walking on flat land (this cannot be underestimated), and finding a great new coffee place (Cinnamon Bear Bakery & Cafe in Coalman, Alberta).

Indeed the weekend, for me, was all about wide open spaces - the land, and the space inside of me - thankful for all of the gifts in my life.

I am packing to go south - soon I will see both of my children - for this I have tremendous gratitude.