How we invaded Bernal Heights

You may remember Molly from a recent episode of the Muni Diaries podcast. She returns with a throwback story that recalls her eviction from the up-and-coming Castro neighborhood to her new home in the budding lesbian enclave of Bernal Heights.

This is part of our newest project, San Francisco Diaries, which features stories about our city at large that run the same gamut of good, bad weird, gross, great, and poignant. Here’s Molly.

We had been powerless tenants, evicted with no recourse, and then we became agents of displacement. There was no in between.

My collective household of four lesbians had found a place on Castro Street, one of those original Victorians with high ceilings and elaborate wood trim, an abandoned coal fireplace, and a parlor whose big sliding doors opened to double the size of the room. It was rumored that the apartment had come up for rent because the previous tenants had been busted for selling weed and were all in jail. We embellished the story to claim that the famous Brownie Mary had lived there. She may not have lived there, but she had certainly been there in spirit. It was the 1970s; the Castro was becoming a gay men’s mecca. During our time there, a housepainter contracted to paint our building ran a brothel, turning tricks in the building’s storage room. He painted that building for months.

We fondly remember political gabfests at shared dinners, Seders in which we sang all the way through, and inventive costumes at Halloween parties: in the year of Anita Bryant, I came as an ironic lesbian “recruiter” for her hateful cause. For a time, our costume du jour at home was simply a vest, a way to show off a billowing bush and legs as thickly furred as animal pelts (we were hairy and proud!). We danced and sang along to Stevie Wonder and Lavender Jane Loves Women. There was much laughing and also much crying. Passionate love affairs abounded. Creating a new culture calls for invention. We tried out non-monogamy and polyamory. We felt we were on the cutting edge of a cultural transformation.
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Thea Selby’s got nothing but ‘Love in the Lower Haight’

Muni Diaries Lower Haight mural

Thea Selby has lived in the Lower Haight (or “Hayes Valley” depending on who you talk to) since 1999. Thea is way busy, as a mom and member of the City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees. As you’ll learn in this new podcast episode about the Love in the Lower Haight neighborhood mural, she’s also a tireless advocate for the art and artists that has defined her neighborhood for decades.

This is as much a story about art as the constant regeneration that defines and redefines life in our city year after year. Ears up for mentions of artists Ursula Young, whose piece is pictured above, and Jeremy Fish, who recounted the unexpected drama behind his Silly Pink Bunny on an earlier episode of our podcast.

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This story is an installment of San Francisco Diaries, our spinoff series that just celebrated its first birthday! Thanks to your support on Patreon, we’ve been able to record lots of new stories in our podcast studio. If you like what you hear and can spare that coffee money for a day or two, we’d appreciate your help. Find us at Patreon.com/munidiaries.

And if you or someone you know has a great story about San Francisco, we are all ears. Pitch your piece at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by torbakhopper on Twitter

Meeting Joan Didion in San Francisco right after 9/11: One grad student’s tale

How do you go from humble grad school student to being on stage with one of America’s literary icons, all in a matter of days—especially when those days are ones following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001? This is exactly what happened to one San Franciscan, who met his intellectual idol, Joan Didion, who was speaking at City Arts and Lectures soon after the towers fell.

Our storyteller, Judson True, was a journalism grad student at the time. After a series of nerve-wrecking events, he ended up interviewing Didion on stage at the Herbst Theater. For this podcast episode, he unearthed an ancient email thread from his Yahoo inbox, taking us back to how he got plucked from his classroom and placed onstage with his favorite writer.

Having moved from the midwest to San Francisco, Judson says that “everyone has their own San Francisco. That’s one of the great things about a real city.” Meeting Didion that day marked a significant moment in his time here that defined what San Francisco was, and is, to him.

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You might remember Judson from one of our early Muni Diaries Live shows, which took place right after he left his post as the SFMTA spokesperson (perhaps one of the most stressful city jobs ever?). He’s currently the chief of staff for California State Assemblyman David Chiu.

This story is an installment of San Francisco Diaries, our spinoff series, which just celebrated its first birthday! Thanks to your support on Patreon, we’ve been able to record lots of new stories in our podcast studio. If you like these stories and can spare your coffee money for a day or two, we’d appreciate your help. You can find us at Patreon.com/munidiaries.

Know someone with a great story about San Francisco? We are all ears—submit your own story at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by @goincase

=== Transcript ===

I found out about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, from my wonderful but soon to be ex-girlfriend who had just moved to Taiwan on a Fulbright. She lived in the future, so she saw the attacks on TV while I was sleeping. She called and told me what was happening and I turned on the news in my rented San Francisco apartment. I spent those devastating hours in shock with the rest of the world. Read more

A tradeswoman explores international relations on the 14-Mission

Muni Diaries podcast

It wouldn’t be a cross-town Muni line if manspreading, drinking, and impromptu history lessons didn’t factor in somewhere, right? Today’s storyteller, Molly Martin, is a tradeswoman and longtime Bay Area resident who takes us back to simpler, but familiar times on the 14-Mission. Here’s Molly:

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Molly previously served san activist and organizer for Occupy Bernal, a neighborhood group focused on fighting evictions in Bernal Heights. She’s currently working on a book about the history of women construction workers in the Bay Area.

We met Molly after she pitched her story to us via email. Be cool like Molly and pitch your own Muni or San Francisco story at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. And if you like what you’re hearing, help us keep the lights on at Muni Diaries HQ by supporting us on Patreon

Pic by Flickr user Michael Patrick

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 also help us keep the lights on at Muni Diaries HQ by supporting us on Patreon

Photo by Right Angle Images

Artist Jeremy Fish finally shares the story of the Silly Pink Bunny heist

Some of you may remember Silly Pink Bunny, a sculpture by local artist Jeremy Fish, which held court in the Lower Haight until 2013. Jeremy joined us on the podcast to tell the story, in his own words, of the bunny’s evolution from a goofy pink (and occasionally peed-on) neighborhood fixture to the revered bronze bunny sculpture it is today.

Jeremy himself says that the story behind the bunny is almost more interesting than the actual piece of art. Seeing as how this story connects art, taggers, grand theft bunny (that’s a thing, right?), crowdfunding, community, and condos, we’re inclined to agree.

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Spoiler alert: Though the demise of the original Silly Pink Bunny was captured on video for posterity, many (us included) were very curious about how the icon was preserved. Read more

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