Covid-19, Pier 39, and a World Shut Down | Christopher Warren

Pier 39 San Francisco California | Christopher Warren | Resilience2reform

So while the world has begun to burn with Coronavirus madness, the wheels of justice continued to turn, and I moved home from the Bay to Sacramento.

To live on home confinement until I terminate the last bit of my bid which ends officially July 15th, 2020.

It was bizarre to be in San Francisco, #3 or #4 in the “hot zone” lists in the United States these last two months. Much of that journey I have told you about in previous posts.

So one thing I did to stay cash-flow positive while I was in San Francisco was wait tables. This was a good way for me to meet people, get out of the halfway house, have a job, and just keep moving. Once someone, or something, is moving, it tends to stay that way. And I wasn’t going to let delays in my next career stop me from earning now. 

The drink we sold the most of was the Coronarita. Not Kidding. It’s a Margarita with a Corona poured on top. So while I am selling Coronaritas I could look out the window and see Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock”. So, to recap: I was an inmate living in a halfway house under federal custody selling a drink with the same name of the current pandemic virus while looking out the window at a former BOP prison. Life is weird.

The Rock

It took me back to when I was a kid. I was a Boy Scout. Earned my Eagle Scout when I was 15. One of our trips as a troop (Troop 1, the oldest troop west of the Mississippi River!) was to Alcatraz. 

I remember thinking: God these cells are small. Little did I know I would live 29,000 hours in very similar cells until I made it to “camp life” (those hours were booked from 2009 to 2012, when I hit my first camp, Taft). 

Nor did I think I would be looking at the Rock from a restaurant window serving tables and meeting people from Germany, Ukraine, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Philadelphia, Texas, Oklahoma, and Modesto! Life is a trip and people are cool.

I have learned to embrace it – all of it. From learning how to tell a man I placed his order wrong in the kitchen to dealing with being laid off because of a virus that is killing hundreds of people a day all over the globe.  Living in a level of uncertainty that forces me to live intentionally and be present in the now.

Part of the journey over the last 11 years has made me suited to deal with things like government “shelter in place” orders which sound a lot like a “prison lockdown” order. So while now I am back in Sacramento and hearing people struggle with the restrictions we currently face, it is as if I have been granted a gradual transition instead of a mad drop into freedom. And I remember to focus on the major event: not my personal struggles, but the suffering of humanity with sickness and death, and the common effort that is unifying us to overcome that common enemy.

To recap, I was:

  1. in institutional living in San Francisco in the Tenderloin;
  2. using public transportation to go to groups and work;
  3. my groups were in the heart of China town;
  4. and my work was around tourists from all over the world.

And to think I am sitting at this computer right now healthy. Blessed.

What is the patience that is being asked of me other than my thanksgiving for this blessing?


My commute daily.

I had offered to not go home to my parents. They wouldn’t hear of it. The facility took my temperature and followed the protocols. No fever. No symptoms. But we have learned, with COVID 19, that doesn’t mean much. 

Ever wondered what Pier 39 looks like with no humans? This is a Pier that was a hub of activity, open every day, 365, until late, past 11 pm each night. Now: no one. To pick up my last check, I had to be let in by SFPD and let through a barricade. Below are dozens of shops. With dozens of workers each, like me, who are all laid off and furloughed. 

Pier 39 Post- Newsome Order
Pier 39 Post-Gov.  Newsome Order

To think about my life as a kid, when my parents brought me to Pier 39. And then as a returning citizen when it represented an opportunity to get employment. And to see it like this. With no kids having fun, with no families taking pictures of the carousel, it is sad. Then I think of the hospital beds overflowing, and it is more sad, more tragic.

There is a lot of sadness in the world. The sadness that comes with disease and death. The sadness that comes with prison bids. The sadness that comes with being victimized by crime. The sadness that comes with financial insecurity and unemployment.

This current sadness can bring fear. And a lot of it started with that word: Coronavirus.

But I sit and wonder: what if this period in our history is a forced lent. For the religious and nonreligious alike. A period of reflection and self-examination. Where people ponder and spend time with relationships that matter. As the environment gets a breath of fresh air from reduced human activity. As we get forced into pausing and breathing and thinking.  As people try to stay healthy and pray for those who are sick or getting sick, or who have passed.

That kind of reflection is what lent was always about. Was the timing coincidental? I can’t help but think about the connection.

My mind is restless and then comes back to that drink…the one I was offering on that pier. The Coronarita. I wonder if they will change its name after this is all over.

The drink reminds me that even while the storm rages, and while the visiting rooms of prisons and hospitals are shut, and while loved ones hurt, we are still here.

We are here together. We will fight together. And we will overcome together. And then….we will share a drink together.

To remember those lost and to be presently looking forward in hope. 

For some Champagne, others, Martinelli’s, but still, a shared drink from a shared struggle, and a shared victory.

The Rock didn’t stay open forever. The pier won’t be closed forever. The future is still bright.

Signing off from Northern California,


Smell of Freedom | Christopher Warren

Our Shared Freedom Dream | Christopher Warren

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