Thirteen years after Michener left Alcatraz, the prison was shuttered. The beds became overgrown and birds established nesting colonies there. Plants, including nine rose bushes, did their own hard time, surviving austere conditions and neglect.
In 2003, the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service combined efforts to restore the gardens. More work remains, says Shelagh Fritz, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s project manager for Alcatraz. As they have toiled, park staffers and volunteers have unearthed evidence of inmate life — including 100 fugitive handballs, escapees from the prison’s rec yard.
Low-power nonprofit FM stations are the still, small voices of media. They whisper out from basements and attics, and from miniscule studios and on-the-fly live broadcasts like KBFG’s. They have traditionally been rural and often run by churches; many date to the early 2000s, when the first surge of federal licenses were issued.
But in the last year, a diverse new wave of stations has arrived in urban America, cranking up in cities from Miami to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and especially here in the Northwest, where six community stations began to broadcast in Seattle. At least four more have started in Portland. Some are trying to become neighborhood bulletin boards, or voices of the counterculture or social justice. “Alternative” is the word that unites them.
“New year, new me” is one of those lies we tell ourselves like “my parents did the best they could’’ or “wearing sweatpants in public is acceptable.” I should know, I usually made it to about January 9 before I was up to my neck in deep-fried ice cream covered in Jack Daniels with my new gym membership on fire in a paper shredder. But I’ve learned that beating an addiction is not impossible. In 2009 I was a 240-pound, alcoholic cocaine addict who lived in my mom’s basement. I fully expected my addictions to kill me before I turned 30. And they almost did.
Their designs recall radical pamphlets of yore. Their titles suggest what might have once been unfashionable didacticism or naïve breadth: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Demagoguery and Democracy, A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time. They are reasonably priced: either to be accessible to the people or to be impulse buys — it’s not clear which.
The books are on display at my local bookstore in the front section by the registers. It is the section I like to call Progressive Identity Items, which also features reusable shopping bags with clever slogans and pretty designs, handwoven baby slings, a variety of leftist lawn signs, political coffee mugs, and bumper stickers.
I buy them all. I can’t help it. They’re so cute.