Where convicted criminals were housed in cold, bare cells and isolated from the world. It’s said that at night they could hear the music and clinking of glasses from the city across the Bay, especially New Year’s Eve. I wonder what that felt like.
No matter how many times I visit Alcatraz its mystery and history engage me. The audio tour is world-class, enhanced with narrations by former guards and inmates. It’s a must-see for any visitor and even I have been at least half a dozen times or more. So when two of our nephews visited us from the East coast I had to take them.
This is pretty heavy-duty reading for anyone, much less for prisoners in a maximum security prison. In a world in which all of our mass media cater to the lowest common denominator, this fact makes me wonder: how far short have we sold our society? Because when given all the time in the world and the ability to read a variety of books, prisoners both educated and uneducated seem to have chosen the higher ground. This is one of the more fascinating thoughts to come out of my many visits to Alcatraz.
And while we could ferry back to the mainland, they had to stay behind bars in this damp, foreboding place until their sentence had been served. This place always takes me back to another era and another kind of life. It makes me consider and reconsider the effectiveness of our penal system and what it must mean to live without freedom. Like I said, Alcatraz is a mystical place. If you haven’t been, I hope you will make it on your next visit to San Francisco.
Oh, one more thing: Does anyone remember this episode in our history?