Last weekend, Maya asked if she could miss school on her birthday. My first reaction was, No, go to school. Then I thought about it and realized, who cares if she misses a day of school to celebrate her birthday? I mean, if a teacher is absent, they just show a movie in class, so if they can waste her time (once in awhile…not ragging on her school…it’s a good school, with very dedicated teachers), then so can I. Anyway, it seemed like SUCH a good idea, that Ted and I decided to take the day off as well. So we took a vacation day from work, and went into San Francisco for the day. What a good idea that was!
We started out with lunch at a sentimental favorite of Ted’s. He remembers going to Alioto’s (on the wharf) with his father, and really liking their crab spaghetti. Turns out that a Tuesday at 11:30 in March is a great time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. When we lived in the City, we pretty much avoided the Wharf like a plague. Far too touristy, far too crowded, everything mediocre and over priced. But on the first really gorgeous day of spring, playing hooky from work and school, it’s actually a pretty nice place to be. The restaurant doesn’t have crab spaghetti anymore, but they did have a ‘fruits de mer’ pasta that filled in just fine for him. Maya and I had a big pancake breakfast, so we weren’t as hungry. I opted for a crab cake appetizer, which was lovely and just the right amount of food. The sauce was really good, as was the sourdough bread, so I pretty much licked the platter clean. Maya had the very SF dish, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Mmmm. San Francisco sourdough is the best, bar none.
Anyway, after lunch, we walked over to Pier 33 and boarded a ferry to Alcatraz. I’ve lived in California for most of my life, spent several years as a concierge in San Francisco, and I had never been before. Again, too touristy for the natives. But I found that if I thought of it as California history, instead of a tourist attraction, it didn’t feel so cheesy. And did I mention that it was a GORGEOUS day? San Francisco is such a beautiful city, and on a bright sunny day following week after week of gray rain and clouds, it sparkles like a jewel from the vantage point of a ferry boat. The Rock itself was a mixture of interesting history, a sad reflection of what cruelty humans are capable of, and again, beautiful views. I learned a few things, such as that the lighthouse on Alcatraz island was the first on the west coast, constructed in 1854, at the height of the gold rush and California’s boom period. It later became a military fortification, then a military prison, then the Federal prison for which it became famous. It was retired in 1963, and has operated since then as a national park.
Ted has been before, probably most recently in the late 80s, and back then you were guided through the prison by a park ranger. Nowadays they start you off with a lecture about the decaying buildings and the importance of staying out of areas that are sectioned off (and yeah, you could fall to your death if you’re being stupid), then you go inside and watch a brief Discovery Channel video about the history of the U.S. occupation of the island. Then you pick up some headphones and begin an audio tour, narrated by former guards and prisoners. It’s depressing to see what people can be reduced to, life in a tiny cage like that. But while it made me sad to think of life on The Rock, the beauty of the outside surroundings, and the fact that I wasn’t cooped up at work made it much more palatable.
Overall, it was a truly lovely day. And kind of like a field trip more than skipping class. I think we should maybe play hooky for Ted’s birthday next month. Hmmmm.