Alcatraz Pizzaz

I felt so alive on Alcatraz.

And this wasn’t because my senses were heightened due to the bone-chilling wind whistling through the glass-less windows of the derelict buildings and into my ear lobes. Coldness, may I add, that made my teeth and chest hurt as we were waiting for our tour to start.

A derelict former staff building, with San Frasisco in the background. Copyright, Lexa

It was more than that.

The island has a tangible energy.

And it wasn’t, as you may suspect, a bad energy. No, there was definitely an exciting air of – how can I best describe it? – “delinquent entrepreneurial spirit” whirling around the rock. I could sense it, buzzing excitedly in the harsh gusts. I guess I was really surprised I felt this positivity. I wasn’t expecting it.

This is the ferry we took to get to the island. It is about a 20 minute ferry-ride from Pier 33. Copyright, Lexa

My two highlights of Alcatraz

Taking a disciplined approach to describing our tour (apt given the former penitentiary use of the building!) and distilling my top 2 “likes” of our day (hard to choose but I want to remain focused):

Like 1: The stark beauty of the mix of symmetry and metal:

It may sound bizzare, but the symmetrical lines and dull metal I spotted all over the prison were so pleasing to my eye. Just looking back at the images I took makes me happy:


Like 2: Learning that the American Indian activists seized the island in 1969 and claimed it as Indian Land:

I genuinely didn’t know this before my trip; so I was pleased to be educated! The occupation started in November 1969, six years after the prison closed down – a political protest to focus attention on the plight of American Indians.

There really is just too much to write here about the occupation to do it justice – but to flag that the video at the end of this section is pretty cool if you want to hear more.

I love the fact that the graffiti on some of the buildings (and the water tower) serve as a reminder of the occupation:

Alcatraz aside

I realised whilst I was on the island that I have never actually watched a movie about (or filmed on) Alcatraz. I need to rectify this! So, if I was the sort of person to keep a “to do” list (believe me, I am not!) then somewhere near the top half of that list would be a reminder to watch at least 1 classic Alcatraz related movie in the near future. Any particular favourites, let me know!

Alcatraz had four different wardens while it was open. I like the way their photographs are arranged. Copyright, Lexa


Author: Lexa

Enjoying life and the crazy beautiful things in it.

29 thoughts

  1. That’s interesting, I did not know that either. The obvious film, but still a good one nonetheless, would be “Escape from Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood and Patrick McGoohan. The character of Litmus and his mouse will surely make you shed a tear or two.


    1. Glad I am not alone in not knowing that then! I am wondering if the occupation is why there is such a cool feeling on the island?! And every year since 1975 these has been an Un-Thanksgiving Day (also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunlight Ceremony) – to honour the indigenous peoples of the Americas and promote their rights. I love learning things like that. So maybe that adds to the spirit of the place too?

      I think I should watch ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ – probably a scandal not to have ever watched. And didn’t realise it could evoke tears. I love a good old indulgent film weep! Thanks for leaving a comment.


  2. Great story accompanied by magnificent photos! Loved the visual journey.
    ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ is a ripper. I think parts of ‘Shutter Island’ may have been filmed there…awesome movie.


    1. Thanks!!!! I have added a few more pics since I originally posted it late last night. Am really pleased that you liked the original ones though. You know, I didn’t realise that about ‘Shutter Island’ – agree that is an awesome movie – Leonardo DiCaprio Right?! That was fabulous….but oh my goodness nowhere near as unbelievable as him (Leonardo) in The Revenant. Unbelievable cinematography in that movie. Simply breathtaking scenes. Yes, as per the post above, definitely going to watch ‘Escape from Alcatraz’. Am sure it must be on Netflix.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison and commented:
    I found this post quite by accident this evening simply because she like a comment a comment I made else where. You never know what you might find. Because I write about prisons and prison life have a post and pictures about Alcatraz fits right in. I, too, had no idea it had been claimed by Indians after if closed down.

    I used to lifeve across the bay from San Francisco and drove within sight of Alcatraz more times than I could count. I often told myself to make time to go, but so often we don’t take the time to go to the places near us.

    I didn’t know then where my life was going to be today and that it would such a large part of what I do. Sometimes life takes a sharp turn to the left when we least expect it.

    Please take the time to go to the original and look at the pictures. Please leave comments for the original author. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sonni! I woke up this morning to find that you had reblogged my post! I was (and still am!) so excited and honoured! Thank you! 😀. It is the first time that I have ever been reblogged so I feel like I am walking on air today! I am also glad that I am now following your incredibly interesting blog too. As you say, it really is brilliant how you get to stumble upon other people’s blogs. I especially like blogs like yours – unique and bursting with original content. A great read. Re your comment – “but so often we don’t take time to go to the places near us”. I couldn’t agree more! I had been to San Fran a number of times before and was determined this visit that hubs and I went (to be fair, Aaron had been a number of times as he used to live in the Bay Area). There are also places on our doorstep here in London that I have not yet visited. Although I have actively tried to rectify that recently. Including Columbia Road Flower market that I visited with my mum. An amazing experience (and a, formulating a blog about this in my head!). Anyway, thak you again. Have a fabulous weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. London – I’ve never been to England. Actually I haven’t been to many places outside the US. Another reason I love blogging is the people I have met from all over the world. My mother – who is not very computer literate said, “How can you spend so much time behind your computer. I could NEVER do that!” But we come from different times. I love the fact that I’ve gotten to know people from everywhere. I just sent your post to all of my social media. I said in my post to make sure they read the rest of the post and to see the other pictures you posted. If we can get people to come to our blog then hopefully they’ll read other posts. The best sm for me is StumbleUpon. You should post your blog posts there – all of them – no matter when you posted them. This site works different than others and sometimes people stumble a post and then others stumble it and it starts rolling like a rock down a hill. It brings a lot of traffic to my blog – more than any other. I have 2 blogs. The other is Watch and Whirl. It’s where I post things that don’t ffit on a prison blog. It’s a big mix of things. I will be back to see more of your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Leading lines and repeating patterns are the stuff of great photographic composition so I can completely understand the appeal. And if you want some pure escapist nonsense in your film list – don’t forget “The Rock”; Ed Harris and Sean Connery if that’s your thing!


    1. Ah, now you have articulated that point re: leading lines and repeating patterns it makes absolute sense! Selfishly it is good that I am getting proper tips / tutorials from a real photographer! 😀 I will remember those great words – leading lines and repeating patterns. How cool. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the post and taking the time and effort to comment really appreciated. Enjoy Sarurday! 😀


  5. That’s a lovely, ultimately affectionate description, both word-wise and visually. And then the words create their *own* pictures. Plus, I learnt stuff too. Thank you. 🙂


    1. My pleasure! I am really pleased you enjoyed. I can’t believe I hadn’t been before so glad to have made the effort :-). There is a lot of around home (“home home” not London!) that I want to revisit and blog about in the summer too 😃. XXXX


  6. This is really interesting… Learned something new today! And I agree: it’s strange, but all those strong lines are somehow very, very appealing in your photos … Even if you’re photographing a prison!

    Lovely. Truly.


    1. Hi! Thank you!!!!! Am so pleased that you share my opinion re: the lines. And it makes me happy that you took something useful away from the post! Great that we are both following each other now. Your site is fabulous. Have a lovely day. 😀


    1. 😃 it is on our list of things to watch!!!! After our “Making a Murder” documentary marathon – have you seen it? If not watch! – we are keen to watch “The Staircase”. But then after that, Alcatraz movies!!


      1. It was mind blowingly unbelievable. Seriously. We binged on it over a weekend. The whole lot. And afterwards I had soooooo many questions! Do you think he is guilty or innocent????????


      2. We really wanted to believe he was innocent but something didn’t feel quite right. Hard to put my finger on what though!! If I was a juror and I saw that documentary as the complete case I’d have found him not guilty though. As there’s not enough to convict with out reasonable doubt for me.

        Brendon we thought was more than likely innocent though. Felt really sorry for him.

        What did you think??


      3. For about two thirds of the documentary, I was convinced he was innocent. But by the end, my gut said guilty. Like you, I have no idea why. Something just didn’t add up. And I absolutely agree – the treatment of Brendan was dispicable. I don’t think I have ever been more mad when that dreadful man influenced his witness statement. I don’t know how that “professional” lives with himself. What a waste of the best years of that young boy’s life. So sad for him.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Only he will ever know I think. And possibly Brendan. Oooh no haven’t seen this. Thanks for sharing. Will look at it on the way into work. My eyes are hanging out of my head this evening so need to sleep. Have a good rest of the week and nice talking all thing ms prison and murders!!!! Ironic given the theme of my blog! 😀


  7. Hi Lexa, nice post. I have recently come back from the USA and also visited Alcatraz. I found it an interesting place and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t a prison for that long. It was a military establishment for the most part. Well done with the photos too.


  8. Hi Mark, thanks so much for that great feedback! Lovely to come back home after a rubbish day at work and read that. Alcatraz is a great day trip out huh? I saw your amazing sunset of Sydney Harbour on your blog – so incredibly beautiful. Sydney and San Fran feel so similar to me. Not sure if you feel / felt that too? Thanks again for stopping by. Best wishes. 😃


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