September 18, 2011
The city of San Francisco has a goal that by 2020 they send zero trash to landfills. Everything will either be composted or recycled. Sounds to green to be true, but every trash receptacle area now has three options: recyclables, compostables, or trash. For example, at the hospital cafeteria, there are four cans for compostable stuff (paper, food, wooden stir sticks, etc), three cans for recyclables (cans, bottles, etc) and only one can for trash. The "trash" can is never full and the other seven cans are stuffed. It is a genius system and I don't know how the rest of the country hasn't caught on to this yet. Or maybe it has and Louisville has just been living under a rock and hasn't picked up on it. Either way, this idea needs to spread because it is working.
September 17, 2011
A couple of days ago I had the day off and decided to go take a walk in the park. I was walking along my usual route, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I go around a curve and there are literally thousands of people. About half the freaking city was gathered about 5 minutes from my house. Of course I go check out what is happening and as I walk through the mass of people all I see are protestors, dogs, and groups of people with wine, cheese and hummus. Whatever it was, it was soooo San Francisco. Celebrities start talking on the stage, then the mayor gives a speech. Turns out it is a free public orchestra concert given by the Interfaith Council dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and the heroes who sacrificed their lives that day. I hung out for a little listening to the speeches and was going to continue on my way when the music started playing.
Suddenly the wacko "9/11 never happened" protesters shut up, the pop of wine bottles stopped, and a hush came over the huge crowd. It was the most surreal experience. Well my plans changed that day. This was the most stereotypical San Fransisco thing I could possibly imagine and a great show at that. I went and got some wine and crackers and stayed for the whole show. When in Rome...
September 16, 2011
Below is a picture from our seats. Center field, 3 rows up from the field. Awesome seats for home runs and, as I already mentioned, Carlos Beltran hit 3 homers. We didn't catch any but one came into our section and I participated in the boo's and angry scowls directed at the fat drunk man who caught it and refused to give it to the 4 year old boy sitting next to him. Shame on you fat man.
September 14, 2011
They would then be walked to their cells where, to their knowledge, they would spend many years alone. They inmates got two showers per week and privacy wasn't exactly a priority in the prison. There were actually partitions between the showers in the early days of the prison but too many inmates were getting stabbed with prison shanks and other unfortunate happenings so the guards removed the partitions for the prisoners' own safety.
This is a picture of the typical cell. It was shockingly tiny. Like 5 feet by 9 feet. I'm not even claustrophobic but I got chills standing inside one of them.
There are several rows of cells, each row being three stories tall. There are more favorable rows/levels based upon the obnoxiousness your neighbors, sunlight, windows with a view, etc. This is the D-block, which was apparently where you went if you were being a jerk. The most well-known criminals housed here were usually in D-block. On this side of cellhouse you could hear the sounds of the city if the winds were blowing the right way. Apparently they could almost always hear music and girls laughing at the Yacht Club's New Years party every year which was right across the bay. Ouch.
If you were really being a butthead, they put you in isolation. Yeah. The longest anybody stayed in here was 14 days straight. Imagine if that door was closed and it was total darkness. A commentary from one inmate said that to prevent from going crazy he would pull a button off his shirt, flick it in the air, turn around 3 times to disorient himself, and then try to find the button in the darkness. Then he would repeat. Yikes. Better behave.
This is a picture of "The Yard" where inmates were allowed to go for a bit if they earned the right. Apparently there were some crazy games of chess and bridge out here. Reminds me of Shawshank....
This is the view of the city across the bay. So close but so far for the inmates.
There were several escape attempts but it's said nobody successfully made it alive. One man actually escaped and survived the swim across, but was so close to death upon making it to the other side the authorities simply picked him up out of the water and took him back. The most famous attempt though, was made into a movie, fittingly named, "Escape from Alcatraz." It was 3 guys (can't remember their names) but they used spoons to dig through the concrete around the air vent in the back of their rooms. They then climbed up pipes in the narrow utility space behind their cells to get to the roof. They got off the roof and made it down to the water where they were never seen again. Some people say they made it and were living in South America (they were learning Spanish before they left), but most people say they drowned in the icy water. This is the pic of one of their cells. They air vent is removed in the back of the cell. They made dummy heads out of soap and concrete to put in their beds to buy more time.
Okay, this is where this story takes a turn. Up to this point I was just minding my own business with my audio tour and informational pamphlet like the hundreds of other tourists. I was reading some stuff about Whitey Bulger at a table about famous inhabitants of Alcatraz when a kindly old security guard walks up and we start chatting. Whitey, fugitive Boston mob boss, was just recently caught in California and this guard was full of interesting information about him. Turns out he was an FBI informant, but was playing both sides- the Boston mob AND the FBI. Like a double agent. The FBI caught on and was going to lock him up for good but the FBI agent directly communicating with Whitey tipped him off and he fled and was on the run for 20 years until several months ago. The FBI agent who tipped him off got like 5 years in the big house.
Anyway, the guard asks me where I'm from and what I'm doing in the city. I tell him I'm here for a month doing a rotation in EM at the General and he goes, "Oh cool, do you want to go upstairs and see the hospital wing?" There is a second floor to the cellhouse that was used as the hospital, pharmacy, OR, dentist office, etc that isn't open to the public because of peeling lead paint. I say absolutely, but isn't it closed to the public? "I have the keys..." he says as he pulls out these HUGE keys from about 1930 and unlocks the bars to the second floor. This guy is awesome. So that's when I got a private tour of the second floor of Alcatraz from a trained tour guide. This was probably the coolest thing I've done this month. These are two pictures of the old OR table from about 1930. The fashion and function of these tables haven't changed a whole lot in 80 years.
This is the "psych" room where they put unstable patients. Nowadays they at least put some padding on the walls to make it a little more comfortable. That is the kindly security guard...
This is the room for "hydrotherapy," which I don't think is an actual thing anymore. He said it was for arthritis, etc. Less well known to the public, he says, is that the guards used to take inmates who were being hostile and agitated, wrap them in a bedsheet, and stick them in this tub that was full of water from the bay (~45 degrees) until the inmate was shivering with hypothermia. Apparently you can't fight guards when you are incapacitated from shivering.
This is the general "medicine" ward of the prison. Really not all that different from the General today. The guard told me that Al Capone contracted syphilis when he was 15 and by they time he was in Alcatraz he had full blown neurosyphilis (when it goes to your brain) and he was completely off his rocker. He couldn't find his way back to his cell a lot of times and ended up spending most of his time in this hospital room.
This was the pharmacy, where the old doctors would make their own medications. A doctor would sign a year contract to work on the island and had to live here for the whole year.
This guard told me another interesting story about the absolute worst inmate during the lifetime of the prison, a man named Robert Stroud aka "The Birdman." He was such a pain in the butt for the guards, he spent almost his entire 17 year stay in a private room on the second floor. He was never allowed to leave and the guards were never allowed to go inside. He got his food through the bars in his door. He apparently spent the 17 years walking around naked and yelling things at the guards fluently in 3 languages. He started his career of crime in his late teens by murdering a family in Alaska. His mother protested to the prison to give him a parole hearing. Even though he was the worst inmate they had, they humored her and gave him one. When asked, "What would you do if released from prison?" he responded: "Oh, that would be great! I have so many more people to kill." Parole denied. This is the view of the city on the boat back in to town. Thank you, Mr. security guard/tour guide/history buff man for a great day on The Rock.
September 7, 2011
I had a splinting workshop today so I could learn how to properly immobilize broken/dislocated body parts. After that, I headed to the museum of modern art because it is free on the first Tuesday of the month. The real art museum was on the other side of town and I didn’t have time to get there before it closed, so seeing as I had nothing better to do, I decided to check out this “museum.” To preface this, I have zero art knowledge. None. I am 100% ignorant on all things art. But still, these are the types of things at this “art museum.” I mean, a black rectangle?A blue arc? I know for a fact that I did that exact same drawing in kindergarten, except I added several more colors and called it a rainbow. My parents still have it on the wall going down to the basement. Sitting on a freaking gold mine and don't even know it...
I have decided a modern art museum is a place one goes to stare for a significant amount of time, with one’s head slightly tilted, at something extremely simple and stupid on a wall like a black rectangle. As far as I’ve been able to gather, the only point to this activity is to try to get other people to notice you staring intently at this simple black rectangle and think, “Wow! That guy is a genius. He must be divining the meaning of the world through that black rectangle. Or maybe he has found Nirvana through its blackness. I certainly couldn’t find the meaning of the world or Nirvana through that simple black rectangle, so he clearly is a better person than me. I bet if I find something equally as simple on a different wall in this museum and stare at it for a long period of time with my head slightly tilted other people might think I am very smart and interesting as well. Oh hey, there is a blue arc on that wall over there with nobody in front of it! Maybe I can pick up a hot date this way…” And so it spreads like a virus. Idiocy.
Now, good old Wake Forest has properly taught me that every time I exert an opinion I need to discuss the opposing view as well, so as to not look like I haven't thoroughly thought about the topic. So I must say, that in my flight to get out of this mad house I found a room that actually had some cool pictures. Some photographer had traveled around the world taking pictures of random things that other people would probably never think to photograph. It might have been worth seeing. Here is a refugee family in Africa. That father has crazy eyes.
After a brief pause in this room, I couldn't find the exit fast enough.
September 6, 2011
I also found a little cave along the cliffs that had a cool view of the surf coming in below me.
There is also apparently a coyote problem in the city. Who knew?
I ended the evening downtown at a little speakeasy for some Jazz. I was that sketchy guy sitting alone in the corner. That's what you get when you are alone in a city for a month with no cable or internet. Anyway, it was a great show...the saxophonist looked like Miles Davis after several hundred Big Macs.
Not something you find around the corner in Louisville and not a bad way to rest your tired feet.
September 2, 2011
So, my free days of exploring the city without a care in the world are now over. Real work is hard. I have some time this morning and should be memorizing every antibiotic regimen used here at UCSF for every common infection (as my attending advised), but instead I'm on the internet at a coffee shop. I can memorize on my walk in to the hospital this afternoon. Anyway, yesterday I had a couple hours of procrastinating time and headed down to Chinatown for some dim sum. I decided to pay a little extra for the sample platter so I could get a little bit of almost everything on the menu. That picture is only one course. $18 for about 3 meals? Deal. My to-go box weighed 4 pounds. Breakfast AND lunch today. I also headed back up to Coit tower to read with a view, and actually got a pic of the walk down the steps this time. The wooden steps are technically a "street" and the people who have little walkways off the stairs to get to their houses have addresses on this "street."I'd hate to be the mailman or movers who have to trek up/down 1000 stairs to get to the front door.