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  • Writer's pictureNick Janicki

PIER 33: The Inspiration

PIER 33 was born in San Francisco. I'll admit, I knew nothing about the city (or California, really) until I visited for the first time. Before that, it was just 'some place out west.'

My family and I used to go on a lot of vacations growing up. I mean . . . a lot. We touched upward of 40 states by the time I graduated high school. That was primarily due to the fact that we were the classic road trip type of family. "We're leaving at 3 a.m. sharp," my dad would tell us. "That way, you guys can sleep in the car. By the time you wake up, we'll already be a few states closer to our destination." Those family vacations stopped sometime after a few of us kids were off in college. That is, until our impromptu trip in the summer of 2017.

I don't remember why, but we landed on San Francisco. It was a mysterious place to pretty much all of us (there were eight of us on the trip)—a foreign land within our own country. I was fresh out of college and it was at the start of my phase of craft beer snobbery, which I've still not been able to shake. Needless to say, my #1 priority was visiting the coolest craft breweries in town in addition to getting my hands on some over-flowing lobster rolls. You know, the type where there's more meat than bread.

Then Alcatraz popped into the picture. Alcatraz Island. Unless you've lived under a rock (pun intended) your whole life, you know a little about Alcatraz. It was a prison—and a damn infamous prison at that. We got tickets to tour the island weeks in advance due to its popularity among tourists. I didn't think much of it until we stepped onto pier thirty-three and saw that distant island floating on a bed of water and fog. When I saw that sight, a brewery operated by God himself couldn't redirect my focus.

Everything was fascinating. The ferry ride to the island, my first step onto the dock, the mossy buildings, the little galleries, the audio tour—you name it. I walked around that island thinking about how much had gone down there, actually trying to put myself in the shoes of prisoners or guards. The island was so aged, yet looked as though it was still an operational prison. I got in my own head, and I loved that.

I asked myself what it'd be like to live like one of these prisoners, if only for a day. I wondered who had stepped in the exact steps I walked on—who had touched the walls I rubbed my hand on. Each thought became a little stranger than the previous until I hit the mental jackpot of a question at the end of our visit: what would happen if I were among these prisoners? What would guards do if they found a tourist—dressed in Nikes and a baseball cap—wandering around their island? You can get an idea what developed from this point on.

Stephen King, along with many artists, find the concept of good ideas coming to specific people rather ridiculous. There are no 'chosen ones.' Instead, it's an artist's job to recognize good ideas as they're presented in life. The concept for PIER 33 didn't come to me in a dream nor was it a gift from some higher power. PIER 33 originated from an experience. I simply recognized that experience as something more and ran with it.

There are ideas all around you. Keep your eyes open.

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