>> self-portrait

chronicling my adventures at the 2003 journalcon in san francisco, ca.

journal entries

part one
part two
part three
part four
part five
part six


part one
part two
part three
part four
part five
part six
part seven
part eight
part nine
b&w alcatraz shots


journal con
other attendees


pictures & text © 2002 lmj (hez)

journalcon 2002

Part Four: Alcatraz Island
Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I'll step down from my soap box, and move on.

We reached the waterfront without further incident, and headed down to the Pier 41 where we'd catch the boat to Alcatraz Island. The day was sunny and beautiful, and it wasn't until we were on the boat that I realized I had no sunscreen on my face, and was getting fried. I had completely forgotten to pack sunscreen, and wasn't wearing make-up (which has sunscreen in it) because of the sweating problem I was having, and my face, therefore was totally unprotected. My lame attempts to shield my forehead with my Alcatraz ticket and/or my hand were useless, and by the time I got back to the hotel, I was quite pink. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Alcatraz is actually a pretty cool place, for an old prison. Okay, it's really a National Park, now, but still, it's an old prison. I'd been there before, several years ago with Batty (ex-BF), but thought it might be fun to go again. Because we had journal readings at 5, a group of us decided to skip the introductory movie, and other Park offerings, and just take the audio tour. The tour is just fantastically done! You're wearing headphones and listening to the guided tour, and it's more than just some voice droning on and on and on about which criminal was in this cell or that cell. The narrator guides you through the prison telling stories about the people who lived and worked there, and comments from people who were there at the time are interspersed throughout. There's also background noise, such as the clanking and clattering of plates and silver wear when you're in the dining room, men's voices in mumbled conversation, footsteps on the concrete floor, and the slamming of the cell doors when they're closed. Some of the cells are set up as they might have been back when the prison was in use: beds are made up, and toiletries, books, and packs of cigarettes are displayed on shelves. Three of the cells also had "dummy prisoners" in the beds. Apparently three of the prisoners used a spoon to dig out of their cells, and had made dummies of themselves to fool the guards during the bed check. It worked: the three men escaped, and managed to get off the island. However, no one ever heard from them again, so they very likely didn't make it to shore.

The solitary confinement block was very creepy! They had some of the thick, steel doors open, and the narrator invited you to go inside. I politely declined. I have a thing with small spaces, and although I'm pretty sure they have it fixed so the doors don't actually close anymore, I was terrified that if I had stepped in just to see what it was like, some smart ass would slam the door shut on me for shits and giggles, and I'd never get out.

Okay, calm down. Breathe. That's right. Stupid panic attack! I'm sitting at my desk having lunch, and I'm freaking out just thinking about it. Gah!

Anyway, the tour wove around the prison through the cell blocks named Broadway and stuff like that, to the now-empty library, the dining hall, and the barber shop. Along the way, a poster hang on the wall with added information about some of the most notable prisoners such as Al Capone, and the fights and uprisings and escapes that occurred. Some of the old black and white pictures showed what the rooms such as the library looked like back then, and what the people looked like. The tour told stories of attempted, successful, and failed escapes, riots, and murders. Voices from the past told of life on "The Rock", and how, in the solitary confinement block, they could see the sunset over the water, and on New Year's Eve they could hear the sound of partygoers on shore. They told of how baseball games were piped in over the radio, so the prisoners could listen to them, how miserable it was to be there, and how there was nothing to look at but water, sky, fog, three small walls and metal bars.

How sad, frustrating, and depressing that must've been! Then again, the men in this prison were all really horrible people, and probably don't deserve my sympathy even now.

After the tour, we spent a little time in the gift shop, where I found an Alcatraz spoon, and key:

to add to my collections. Amanda picked out a few things that would be included in the gift bags we were giving to the organizers of JournalCon as a thank you, and Bitter Hag was amused by the fact that surrounded by various books about the prison, Indians, prisoners, criminals, etc, was a Gary Larson Far Side book. I believe she even got a picture of it, and it really does look out of place!

We headed back down the hill to catch the boat, and when we arrived, we discovered that Beth's baby - the adorable, charming Vic - had shat explosively all over himself, his carrier, and his mother. Those of us lacking in maternal instinct beat a hasty retreat, but a few brave souls stayed to help out.

Once back on dry land, our group split up to find sustenance: Kymm lead her group to Ghirardelli Square in search of chocolate, while Bev, Bitter Hag and I stuck around the near vicinity for crab. Bev and I went with the shredded crab cocktail, but BH was fearless, and got a whole crab, which she picked out herself, and had steamed and cut up by an expert crab-chopper with a great sense of humour. I was fascinated watching BH dig into the crab! She tore into it like a pro, ripping the shell open to get to the delicate, flaky crabmeat. She offered me some, and initially I declined, because I'd already had some of my own, but finally realized that she had a lot of crab meat there, and accepted a piece. Oh. My. Lord. It was melt-in-our-mouth good! Nothing better in the whole, wide world than fresh, fresh, alive-just-fifteen-minutes-ago fresh crab. Nothing. I was beginning to wish I'd thrown caution to the wind, and ordered my own!

Getting back to the hotel turned out to be a bit Amazing Raceish, with Bev, BH, and I running back and forth first trying to take a trolley, then when the trolley didn't stop, trying to find a taxi. We walked for several blocks and contemplated hijacking one of the guys dragging tourists along in a small coach behind his bike (with Bev and I in the coach, and BH, an avid cyclist, on the bike!), and telling him he could pick it up at the Galleria Park Hotel, but we finally ended up running into another No. 15 bus, which after a few minutes of just sitting there, finally took off back into the city. By now, it was nearly 5:30, and we'd missed a half hour of readings. Both BH and Bev were reading; I was not. Still, I had wanted to hear the readings, so I was in just as big a hurry as they were to get back.

We arrived in the middle of Javina's reading, then BH and Bev did their readings (both about boobs, which was ironic since they were both wearing their "I'm a Boob" T-shirts). Kymm and her crew hadn't arrived yet, either, and when no one else wanted to read, the party broke up. I headed back up to the room to collect my mom, and we went down to partake of the free wine. This time, I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, because I had already decided I would stay in for dinner, and was still unsure about attending Karaoke. As fun as it sounded, I was sunburned, dehydrated, and very, very tired. I figured if the combination of the wine and the Vitamin Z made me sick, at least I could just crash in the room, and sleep. In the lobby, I saw Karen and Mr. Karen - who had been on our Alcatraz tour, but whom I hadn't seen since. They talked about going to Ghirardelli Square with Kymm, and having the darndest time getting back. A couple other journallers joined in our brief conversation, the people started splitting off into different groups for dinner. I declined a couple dinner invites, and mom and I went into Perry's (the restaurant attached to the hotel) for a delicious garden burger! After that, we went back up to the room, I stripped out of my heavy, sweaty jeans and sweater into my lighter, more comfortable knit jammies and tank top, and lounged on the rollaway bed going through my super cool swags! I had debated going to karaoke, but in the end, decided I was too tired, and would just get some rest and be ready for the next day. Now, of course, I wish I had pulled my lazy ass up and out to karaoke because, from all accounts, it was a blast and a half, but I guess I couldn't get through the whole weekend without any regrets. Missing karaoke will just have to be one of them.

By the way, pictures of JournalCon and my adventures in San Francisco can be found starting here. Enjoy!

Part Five

lmj (alias hez)