Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the tale of alcatraz jack.

The main thing Sarah wanted to do while in San Francisco was to visit Alcatraz Island and tour the prison. A reasonable request, I was on board to make it happen. Unfortunately, I was not aware that Alcatraz tickets sell out several weeks in advance, especially in the summer months because only one company owns the rights to ferry visitors to the island. So when we tried to buy our passes the day she arrived, they were totally sold out for the entire time she'd be visiting. I felt awful. In hopes of finding tickets, we headed to Fisherman's Wharf (via cable car - weeee) where several tour companies have booths and tour packages.

Sarah looking fly on the way to the wharf. I love riding the cable cars.

At Fisherman's Wharf, we meet Griffin, a fast-talking salesman from the Florida Keys who assures us he can get tickets for Sunday, repeatedly referring to his friend "Alcatraz Jack" who apparently is the underground godfather of Alcatraz tickets. The catch, however, is we will also have to buy a hop-on hop-off bus tour package (and pay double the price for the Alcatraz tickets).

Sarah and I discuss silently via the fantastic marvels of female nonverbal communication (a series of glances, sighs, eyebrow raises, and nods) and decide to go for it. We follow Griffin across the street to meet this Alcatraz Jack - I expect a older man in an office, perhaps wearing an Alcatraz baseball cap but generally professional. The reality, actually, is a unkempt man in a mini-van with fast food in the passenger's seat, crumbs all over his sweatshirt, and the dirtiest ipad I've ever seen. He says we can pick up our tickets from this sidewalk location on Sunday morning. And he wants cash, by the way.

Sarah and I "go to withdrawal money" where we speed-talk our way through pros and cons. Amazingly, we decide to pull the trigger but negotiate some conditions like the hard hitting ladies we are: Griffin consents to lowered bus tour prices with an extra day added to the passes. Also, we agree to only pay for the bus passes up front and will pay the rest once our Alcatraz tickets are in hand. Sarah and I figured if nothing else, we found an excellent deal on bus tours. About 20 minutes later, we see Alcatraz Jack walking down the road. The man has on high-top basketball shoes about 4 sizes too big. His shoes are flopping all over the place as he scuffles across the street in his sweatpant uniform. I'm not gonna lie, our confidence was a little shaken. This fellow did not seem like an outstanding professional.

So, we took full advantage of the hop-on hop-off bus tours and pretty much used the buses for all our transportation needs. As a result, we heard the same information repeatedly & I am now an expert on the architecture of downtown San Francisco and the history of the Italian district. 

Here we are enjoying ourselves:

Sunday morning we go to retreive our promised tickets and our names aren't on the list. I can feel the hulk inside of me coming awake when the gentleman helping us says a couple just canceled and we can have their tickets. Amazingly, it all worked out and we got to visit the infamous island.

We really took our time exploring and the different tours were all very well done - organized, informative, and entertaining. Sarah loves history things and I especially love hearing about the escape attempts (a few of which I suspect were successes). However, I will not be recommending Alcatraz Jack to other patrons. The moral is if you want to visit Alcatraz, get your tickets early and don't trust a man with floppy shoes.

. . .


  1. Great story Beth! And it all worked out, despite Alcatraz Jack pulling a swift one. Terrific pictures!

  2. hahaha, I love the part about 'female non-verbal communication'. Glad you didn't have to hulk out!

  3. i am going to send matthew some size 18 black nike high tops so that he fits in with the natives. i think they will make him seem more legit.