How one woman served sweet, sweet justice on Muni

Gwen Carmen is a survivor: She’s taught middle school and beaten cancer. So you know she wasn’t going to let a creeper on the bus get off easy. When a man’s wandering hands met storyteller Gwen’s seat, she was shocked. But she didn’t spend too much time in wondering WTF—here’s how she tracked him down and got her own version of bus creeper justice.

Gwen told this story at Muni Diaries Live’s 10th anniversary show and our jaws were on the ground. Listen to her story here:

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Gwen is an activist, actress, educator, and writer whose work appeared in Essence magazine, Plexus feminist newspaper, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and numerous other small presses during the ’80s and ’90s. She was the editor/publisher of La Morena Women of Color bilingual newspaper.

Thanks to you, we’ve heard amazing stories of women standing up for themselves and each other—like this tale of riders who, one by one, walked over to support a woman being verbally harassed. Another time, riders on this bus collectively said No Way to body shaming.

Keep it up, San Francisco.

Got your own story to share? We are all ears! Pitch your own Muni or San Francisco story to us at muni.diaries.sf@Gmail.com. You can help us keep the light on at Muni Diaries HQ by supporting us on Patreon

Photo by Right Angle Images

Mona Lisa takes a ride on the M

This doppelgänger for the famed Leonardo da Vinci painting was seen riding public transit with a serene smile. Shall we caption this…the Muni Lisa?

(We’ll be here all week, folks.)

OK, OK, judging from the fabric of the seat we know this is another public transit system altogether, but it’s just too good not to share. Not for nothing, we’ve spotted other celebrities on Muni like Justin Bieber and Fabio. It’s a regular day of “Celebrities, They’re Just Like Us” here at Muni Diaries headquarters.

Thanks for the submission, reader Nandita D., via Fernando Meisenhalter on Facebook.

Got other important news for your fellow riders? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com is always open!

Milking a Muni seat for all it’s worth

Tracing the stories of objects left behind on Muni is a favorite pastime of ours. Going beyond the odd scarf or umbrella, we’ll occasionally get an item that begs an origin story.

A sloshy bowl of milk, spoon included, is pretty high on that list.

Maybe it’s an offering for transit-riding cats? (Don’t look at me that way, cats on Muni are totally a thing.) Could even be Part 2 of a joke that starts with “Fruity Pebbles walked into a bus…” — where the joke is ultimately on the rest of us contending with it.

Let’s just chalk it up to holiday week brain.

Thanks for sharing, mr9erfan. Anyone else have important dispatches for their fellow riders? Muni Diaries only exists because of your stories and submissions, so tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with your observations. Our email inbox (muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com) is always open, too.

Midnight madness on the Muni Metro M line

Steve sent us this dispatch from the M at midnight, when many of San Francisco’s creatures have gone to sleep—but not all of them.

Midnight. The platform at Powell Street is deserted except for a few derelicts and drunks. I jump on a M train outbound and take a seat near the front of the empty first car. At the next stop, Van Ness, an enormous man with a linebacker’s build and a shaved head boards. The sleeves of his grey sweatshirt are cut off to accommodate the rippling muscles of his arms that clutch plastic bags stuffed with water bottles, old clothes, newspapers and blankets. His eyes scan the rows of empty seats. Without a word, he sits beside me, his bags press against my face.

The train rocks into motion, he pulls out a yellow plastic walkie-talkie, the kind sold years ago in toy stores. Into the mouthpiece, he grunts, squeals, snorts and shouts gibberish. I lean forward and peer around the overflowing bags into eyes that are dark and intense. I raise my hand slowly in an effort to catch his attention. He shifts his gaze in my direction, but does not acknowledge me.

At Civic Center, I rise, push past the bags and exit the car. I walk quickly down the platform, step into the second car as the trains exits the station. Relieved to have escaped, I sink into a vacant seat.

‘Begone, Satan!’

I turn and see the car’s only other passenger in the next seat. He’s shriveled, hunched over with wild neon eyes, a mass of tangled hair and a wizened, tattooed face. He forms a cross with his forefingers, thrusts it at me and snarls, ‘I curse you, Spawn of Evil.’

I jump up, run down the aisle and, returning to the first car, retake my seat beside the big man, He holds the walk-talkie to his lips and rambles on in his secret language. There is much to report from Planet San Francisco.

Sometimes, taking a seat next to the guy with all the bags and the toy-store walkie-talkie is the right choice after all.

Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, is always open!

Photo by cbcastro on Flickr

From the literal mailbox: Quantum physics meets Pulp Fiction on Muni

Dana Grae Kane, 72, is a self-described scarred veteran of the L-Taraval, having spent 29 years on that Metro line commuting between the Sunset and FiDi. Now retired and recovering on the Oregon coast, (pass the Pinot Noir!) she graciously took the time to send us a story, via snail mail y’all, from her Muni-riding past. 

One morning in the 1990s, a young heterosexual couple sat across from me, each engrossed in reading a book.

He was about 6’4″ and 250 lbs. of muscle, dressed in a T-shit and Gorilla work jeans, arms showing serious tough-guy tattoos, wearing a hard hat and massive steel-toed boots.

Diametrically opposed, she appeared to be an archetypically fluffy delicate flower—frail, pale, and fragile—probably often suffering categorization among “dumb blondes.”

I could hardly contain my surprise and delight when I realized what each was reading. She was engrossed in something that resembled Annals of Physics published by the Max Planck Society, while he was riveted in a romance novel of lurid cover, something that could easily be called Passion Under the Plum Trees by an author named Euphorbia Spindrift.

Thus, we may, after all, be able to judge books by their covers, but not so Muni riders.

As true today as it was 20 years ago, San Franciscans rarely fit into Column A or Column B—more often than not, you’ll find that we sample a little bit of both, and then some.

Extra thanks to Matt from the Elbo Room, where we hold our live storytelling shows twice a year. Ms. Kane addressed her typed and printed story, with impeccable cursive on the envelope, to Muni Diaries Live, and Matt was kind enough to forward it on:

Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, is always open! And, for the record, so is our P.O. Box:

Muni Diaries
P.O. Box 640084
San Francisco, CA 94164

Top photo: juicyrai on Flickr

Being an ally in the fight against homophobia…in San Francisco

San Francisco-raised Nato Green is a comedian, union organizer, dad, and, per The East Bay Express, a “political sparkplug.” He’s also a Muni Diaries Live alum, where he threaded the needle with a comic spin on a BART strike.

Nato is on the podcast today with a story that takes us back to the early-1990s in San Francisco, when the city was still hitting its progressive stride. As the city celebrates Pride month, Nato recalls some way-early childhood memories at what was then called the Gay Freedom Day parade, as well as his experience in the fight against homophobia at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School.

Listen and/or download here:

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Check out Nato’s new album, The Whiteness Album, and follow him on Twitter @natogreen.

If you liked what you heard today, please support Muni Diaries on Patreon to help us keep telling stories from everyday San Franciscans.

Photo by RightAngleImages: Nato in 2013, performing at Muni Diaries Live at the Elbo Room.

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