I guess being in America, it's reinforced a belief I've held for quite some time, and that is, that one thing cannot be denied is their fierce patriotism.
The Stars and Stripes fly proudly from many buildings, and not just public ones. A Blue Angel US Navy fighter jet flew over San Francisco today very low during their birthday celebrations causing ear splitting noise and ordinary Americans stood in the street and cheered openly and a those with hats waved them and one man shouted at the top of his voice, 'Come back home safe boys!' An ordinary American mind you, a man in a suit.
I don't think us Brits are any less patriotic, perhaps we just don't demonstrate it openly. Nevertheless, there is no holding back the very open displays of their love of their country and their respect for their military and public servants. Proud is a good word to use.
Why the hell do people then criticise those who fly Union Jacks and flags of St George as racists and xenophobes? Americans have a few things to teach us - not least of which is to love who we are as a nation of people.
It's manic here in San Francisco. The weather has been a hot but comfortable 75 degrees and Alcatraz Island was an amazing experience. Manic - in a positive way with so much hustle and bustle. There are thousands of families out with young children in arms to old retired folk and people SMILE! Yes, smile. It's an absolute delight. People shake hands, ask where you are from, when they see me taking a picture of my wife, or her of me, they spontaneously ask if they can take a picture for us with both of us in it.
The smell of food pervades the air wherever you go, seafood, steaks and a lot of salads too; the word 'healthy' appears on lots of food adverts and flyers - well at least it's a token gesture in some cases. Footpaths are thronging and you can't walk anywhere in a rush.
Crabs (dead) waiting to be cooked at one of many seafood restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf. Saturday 9 October 2010.
Alcatraz is something else. It wasn't quite as big as I imagined it, and in part that's probably due to Hollywood's artistic licence. Nevertheless, it was humbling and not a little emotional at times. Conditions must have been dreadful at times with little in the way of rehabilitation. Some of the cells are just 5' by 6' and bad guys who didn't like to conform with the rules sometimes were locked away seven days a week and let out once a week for exercise and shower in the early days. Believe me, there are still spirits from those days walking the landings.
The Recreation Yard at Alcatraz, you could imagine Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris on the steps. Saturday 9 October 2010
The Island is part of the National Park which seems to have done wonders in preserving the fascinating and varied history of 'the Rock.'
Time for a soak in the bath!